6. Celebrimbor's Folly Part Two
Despite the urgent nature of their duty and the grim faced elves surrounding him, Elrond found that being on the trail had its merits. For Erestor proved to be more than a worthy companion. The Chief counsellor could talk serenely about the weather even while riding hard alongside Elrond. Once or twice Elrond’s mount threatened to topple him as he laughed helplessly at Erestor’s sarcasm which seemed to have no bounds. Erestor’s black stallion, a gift from Glorfindel, which the counsellor named Ebony aptly was yet another source of amusement. For Ebony seemed to believe that it was the most eligible amongst all the stallions in the army to win the affections of Elrond’s brown mare, Dance.
Now, as they rode across the undulating plains towards Eregion, Elrond watched Ebony inching closer to his mare and tentatively rubbing his nose against hers.
“He seems to think it’s the wooing season,” Erestor remarked as he prodded Ebony back into a straight line.
“It is,” Elrond smiled, “Gil’s mare and Glorfindel’s Aslafoth were fornicating in the stables earlier yesterday. Aslafoth is a good foundation sire. Gil insists on the foals always. I still remember the days when Glorfindel and Gil would wrestle for hours on end. To the winner goes the foal.”
“They are both worse than Elflings sometimes,” Erestor admitted, “Tenacious, hard to manage and hopelessly insensitive. Guess Oropher was the only one who was blessed with the perfect son around here.”
“Thranduil wasn’t so perfect when he was dancing yesterday with his soon to be fiancée!,” Elrond reminded him, “They were both so ensnared by each other. Oropher knows his son more than anyone else!”
“How?” Erestor’s mien became sombre again, “How do you know that the other is the exact person for you for eternity?”
Elrond shrugged uneasily, “Guess you’ll have to ask Celeborn or Oropher. I have always wondered why Celeborn bonded with Galadriel and why Oropher risked damnation for Princess Vanima. Oropher’s love must have run deep for all that they endured.”
“Yes,” Erestor said pensively, “I have heard Círdan say that Oropher looked more dead than alive when they returned from the battle carrying his infant son in his arms. He told Círdan that the only thing that kept him alive was his vow to Vanima; that he would raise Thranduil as a worthy descendent of Ingwë. And he has succeeded, I daresay.”
Elrond’s thoughts once again turned to his parents. Did his mother love the Silmarils more than she loved her children? Was his father so obsessed by the route to the west that he could not be there for his kin? And did Elros want mortality and kingship more than his brother’s love?
Erestor said sharply, “The outriders are back, I’ll ride on and meet them, marshall our forces. We are nearing the borders of Eregion.”
Elrond watched uneasily as Erestor galloped towards the two riders hurrying to meet the main host. His mind gave one of its alarm signals as Erestor met the riders and conversed with them excitedly. A shriek sounded from their north and one of the riders fell from his mount limply, an orc arrow protruding from between his shoulder blades. As Elrond watched in mounting horror, Erestor wheeled about instantly to face the threat, his sword drawn. A group of fifteen orcs surrounded him quickly. The remaining rider panicked, broke through the enemy lines and cantered back to the main host leaving Erestor alone.
Elrond raised his sword and shouted, “Archers! Take them down but harm not the Lord Erestor!”
He charged with twenty of his men, their swords drawn. As he rode madly, he could see Erestor swirling about in a deadly circle, trying to prevent the orcs from nearing him, Erestor’s face was set in a death mask, the features cold and so reminiscent of Finarfin and Fëanor. Elrond watched with a detached sense of admiration as Erestor took down orcs with a fearlessness and skill that rivalled even Glorfindel’s. Through a gap in the ring of orcs, Elrond rode to Erestor’s side. Together, back to back, they went through the motions of the ancient dance of death, swirling, thrusting, parrying, until not a single enemy breathed.
“We ride in formation!” Elrond bellowed to his captains, before him he could see the walls of Eregion.
All that separated them was almost two hundred orcs, their ugly faces set with determination. Erestor dismounted and ran over to the fallen elf and closed the open, unseeing eyes, muttering a prayer as he did. Elrond watched passively. Death was something he had seen from an early age and it did not affect him anymore.
Erestor vaulted onto his mount and rode with Elrond, his orc-blood stained sword raised in defiance. As the orcs launched their charge, Elrond exhorted his men, “For the King!”
“FOR THE KING!” the elves shouted as one and they plunged into battle.
The familiar battle fury heated Elrond’s visage as he mercilessly slaughtered the orcs that blocked them from the barred gates of Eregion. From the high walls, elvish arrows cascaded in a flurry as the troops within the city aided Elrond’s host. But an hour later, the odds had not improved. The endurance of the elvish ancestors had passed onto the orcs and they fought untiringly. Elrond knew he should get his troops inside before dark. The outriders had news of a bigger orc host from Mordor approaching even as they fought. The elves needed a new idea to change the odds.
Erestor shouted to Elrond, “I’ll get the gates cleared! You keep them engaged here!”
“How many men?” Elrond asked. It was a good idea.
“Forty,” Erestor calculated, “Those who are not afraid to get sprayed by orc blood.”
Elrond grimaced, close combat with orcs was something as Thranduil often commented, the fastidious Noldor of Lindon avoided. They preferred long bows and horses. But still, Elrond watched the sun droop lower towards the horizon, they were running out of time. The horses were tired after the long, hard ride and the riders were not much better off.
Erestor took forty swordsmen with him and slowly circled around the orc host. Elrond intensified the attack on his side. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Erestor swing his sword through the air until it met the neck of an orc. Blood lust maddened Elrond again as he led his elves further into the orc ranks shouting, “For Elbereth!”
Half an hour of exhausting fighting later, Erestor and his group had reached the gates, though more than ten had fallen in the siege. Most of the elves and their horses had sustained injuries. They stood defensively before the gates keeping the orcs at a distance. Elrond sighed in relief as the gates opened inwardly and a fresh troop led by none other than Glorfindel rode out of the city to aid them in dispatching the rest of the goblin army.
“What were you thinking? YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!” Glorfindel roared at Erestor as they slowly made their way from the Healing Halls.
Elrond was sure that even a Balrog would have second thoughts about facing Glorfindel now. The usually calm tempered warrior was almost unrecognisable as he gestured angrily with a clenched fist at the dozens of wounded soldiers attended to by the healers.
Erestor said soothingly, “Glor, You know I’m not inclined to suicide. It was the only way then.”
Elrond kept his eyes carefully averted from Glorfindel as he stitched up a nasty deep cut on Erestor’s hand made by an orc scimitar. Glorfindel pushed Elrond aside impatiently and growled, “You have been wounded.”
“An unfortunate aftermath of battling the dark forces of Mordor,” Erestor shrugged. Elrond wondered how he could be so calm with an angry Balrog Slayer around.
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Glorfindel cut him, “How did Gil agree to let you come here?”
Erestor smirked, “He was sleeping off the First Ager. So that left me in charge, Glor.”
“He’ll have our hides when he hears about your heroics today,” Elrond remarked. Gil-Galad’s reaction was likely to be far worse than Glorfindel’s given his customary lack of self-restraint.
“Don’t tell me you agreed to let him come,” Glorfindel scowled at Elrond.
Before Elrond could think of a suitable answer, Erestor intervened in a honeyed voice, “Glor, where can I find Celebrimbor? We need to discuss matters. Another orc host is on its way.”
Having sufficiently distracted Glorfindel, Erestor made good his escape leaving Elrond to deal with a doubly irate Balrog Slayer.
“Count?” Glorfindel asked wearily, dark circles shadowing his eyes.
Elrond shrugged, “Fifteen wounded enough not to be able to hold a weapon, thirty in the Halls of Mandos, five almost there. The men and the horses need a long rest if we are to ride out for battle soon again.”
Glorfindel sighed, “The refugees of the human settlements that the orcs burnt down are headed here as we speak. On their very tails come chasing the host of Mordor burning down everything that stands between Eregion and them. We cannot save the city. But we can try to save the citizens.”
Elrond straightened saying, “We should hold the defences steady until they reach safety of an Elven realm, Lothlórien or Greenwood. Is there any hope of aid from those realms?”
“We cannot expect anything from Amdir. He’s too worried about his borders. I guess he’s right. He’s not a strong King. And the Golden wood has rarely seen peril,” Glorfindel reasoned, “And Greenwood,” he paused wryly, “Oropher has always disliked Celebrimbor for the matter of the rings.”
“But he is honourable,” Elrond said quietly, “And a great King. He will send us aid if we ask for it.”
Glorfindel looked at Elrond curiously, “Since when did you become an admirer of Oropher? The princeling is flexible and I can thus to some extent understand your regard for him, but the father! He is stubborn as an ox! I guess Gil’s nightmares star him regularly.”
Elrond smiled slightly, a picture of the handsome Greenwood King arising unbidden in his mind, he said, “Glorfindel, Orophe is an amazing elf whatever differences of opinion he may have with us. We Noldor bear the doom for kinslayings. But he, he suffers the doom for daring to love.”
“Elrond,” Glorfindel smiled sadly, “Being in love has made you more receptive of others who love truly. But let me tell you, a true love, a true soulmate will not be easily found. It is a torturously long path for any elf to embark on. Most settle on one they like and choose to lead a relatively calm, peaceful and happy life.”
“Will you do that?” Elrond asked Glorfindel challengingly, “I know you are in love with Erestor’s sister. And that she loves you as much. And yet you resist the very idea of a bonding ceremony.”
Glorfindel sighed, “Elrond, she is young. Far too young compared to my age. I’m bitter and tired of Arda. Life here drags on till I can fulfil my vow to you and sail to Aman,” his eyes misted over with a thousand memories each bringing more pain and pleasure than the last, “I cannot force her into a bond where she will not be the first priority in my life though it may be in my heart. If she will receive yet another chance at happiness I want her to choose that person over me.”
“Will you be able to live wholly after that?” Elrond asked shocked, “Will your conscience give up on your love for her?”
“Who are you to counsel me in love?”Glorfindel smirked, “Untouched are you in matters of this topic.”
“Maybe in body, but not in heart,” Elrond said quietly, “I know what it is to love unrequitedly. To love and lose is what Oropher did. To love and suffer is what Celeborn does. To love and let go is what you wish to do. To love and watch my heart’s keeper love another is what I am content to do. We are all different yet same.”
“The arrogant, rusty old smith,” Erestor muttered under his breath as he joined them on the ramparts. A frown marred his handsome features further made remarkable by an ugly scowl.
“Why has a diplomat, the best diplomat in Arda, lost his calm?” Glorfindel teased.
Erestor graced him with a baleful stare before saying furiously, “He refuses to vacate the city. Says he is capable of defending it even if the Noldor of Lindon feel afraid to tackle Mordor.”
“Nobody has doubted his capability to do so,” Elrond said fairly.
Erestor shot him an incredulous look before saying, “Nobody ‘insane’ has doubted his capability to do so. I don’t presume to know much about his two thousand artisans’ weaponry skills. But I do know that Celebrimbor’s smithy furnaces will not be an insurmountable defence against the orcs!”
“Come, Erestor,” Glorfindel reminded him, “You speak of the one who crafted your wedding ring!”
“Unlike me, Sauron does not fancy wedding rings,” Erestor said scathingly, “The rings he is interested in belong to a different kind.”
“Since you have had no luck persuading him, I suppose we should call for reinforcements,” Glorfindel sobered up, “We are in trouble. We cannot hope to hold the city unless we amass the whole army of Lindon.”
“I had not luck persuading him as of yet,” Erestor corrected him irritably, “That does not mean I will not succeed ever. He will see sense when he sees battle before the gates of his own keep.Elbereth, may it not be too late then.”
“Shall we send word to Greenwood?” Elrond queried worriedly, “We need more soldiers to hold our lines.”
“And what is it to say they are not in a worse plight?” Erestor asked him sighing, “Greenwood the Great has always been alone in its battles. If we are to ask help, it must be of Lothlórien. Amdir has more than sufficient forces and the power of Galadriel’s Ring. He has excellent neighbours in Moria and the river Anduin and Gondor lies to his east. Greenwood will have to fall before he is attacked. To his west are the Misty Mountains. He has nothing to fear, yet he fears.”
“Greenwood will not fall as long as the King and Prince of the Greenwood command their armies,” Glorfindel said confidently, “They are excellent leaders whose men follow them to whatever end. Oropher is too stubborn and proud to be worried by orc invasions.”
“Yes,” Erestor conceded wearily, “That is what I am scared about. Amdir has no qualms about calling for aid. But Oropher and Thranduil would rather die than do so. Before we know of their peril, Green wood would be no more. Sauron knows this and will not hesitate to exploit this weakness as he sees it.”
“Does being the Chief-counsellor mean that you have to be the chief pessimist?” Elrond grinned, “Have faith in Oropher. He’s not scared of Sauron.”
“That is his failing,” Erestor retorted, “He does not fear anything. Fear is what makes us prudent. And that keeps us alive.”
Glorfindel laughed saying, “’Res, you are overwrought from your journey and the subsequent talk with Celebrimbor. Go, take a nap.”
Elrond agreed saying, “Yes, Glorfindel is right. You should rest. That will take the sharpness off your tongue.”
Erestor shot them dark looks before slouching back towards the main keep. But he could not resist a parting shot as he remarked, “Maybe my tongue will be the only weapon that retains its sharpness when Sauron knocks on the gate.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.