6. Chapter 6
- Chapter 6 -
Elladan kicked a small stone out of his way, watching dejectedly as it ricocheted into the bushes bordering the alley. The plants were beginning to grow out of hand, he noted absently. The last elf with an interest for gardening had sailed several years ago, to the greatest joy of Imladris' emancipated gardens.
He strode down the narrow, stone-paved path, until he arrived at a wooden door. Elladan paused, listening for an instant for sounds coming from within that would indicate the current occupation of the person inside, then knocked.
'Come in,' called out a voice, and Elladan obeyed. As he closed the door behind him, he looked around the familiar room. Often had he come here in his younger years, and even more after his first battle. The desk was, as usual, covered with unread parchments, and the golden armour that he and Elrohir used to admire so much as elflings still collected dust in a corner, an obsolete reminder of glorious days long past.
He saw that Glorfindel was looking at him in expectation, sprawled out in his chair. An opened bottle of Dorwinion stood before him. The warrior straightened and turned around to reach into the cupboard behind him for a second cup. Elladan settled into a chair on the other side of the desk and took the proffered drink, watching it swirl in the silver goblet. He tasted it and, for a while, they said nothing.
It was as before, as every time that Elladan found himself in need of advice or comfort, when his father's wisdom or Elrohir's perceptiveness of his feelings made him uneasy and shy. The ancient warrior, first and foremost an elf of action, would always give a piece of his mind when asked about a problem, and offer a solution. He possessed none of Elrond's wisdom or Galadriel's foresight, and little knowledge in comparison to Erestor, but he'd always come up with some piece of advice. If not a good one, then at least something to do and make the one asking feel less helpless. And whether one heeded it or not, he took no offense.
Elladan studied the old warrior sitting across the table. Currently clad in an old, worn tunic, Glorfindel sipped on his wine with silent determination, his ageless eyes sad. A hero, a mentor, and then a friend Glorfindel had become, and now it seemed he felt as miserable as Elladan did. And Elladan remembered how much the older warrior hated feeling so at a loss.
Elladan could recall the night when he and his brother had brought their mother back, bloodied and fading, her immortal soul broken beyond repair. Their father had spent countless hours trying to heal her; and in the privacy of his study, Glorfindel had smashed half his furniture and gotten roaring drunk. It had been the same years before, during Arwen's birth - a long, difficult labour for their mother, and a dreadful agony for their father, who had feared for his wife and his daughter's lives. While Elrond had held Celebrían's hand and prayed to Elbereth, Glorfindel had drowned his fear in a bottle of Dorwinion.
Elladan emerged from his thoughts to see Glorfindel offer to fill his glass again. He watched as his friend poured him more wine and, grabbing the cup, swallowed the dark liquid, ignoring the velvety, slightly bitter taste. It wasn't the sensations he was seeking, only the blissful oblivion of an alcohol-induced stupor. He mentally apologized to the Dorwinion for such a lack of respect.
They drank in silence, cup after cup as though frozen in some endless cycle; only the decreasing amount of wine in the bottle indicated the passing of time.
'Where is he?' Glorfindel asked.
Elladan shrugged, smiling bitterly: 'With her, of course.' He set his feet on the edge of the desk, imitating Glorfindel's careless position. 'With his beloved.' He realized he had almost spat out the word, and felt guilty. He held no grudge against the girl, or against his brother, in fact. But he was hurt, and jealous.
Glorfindel cocked an eyebrow. 'What did you tell him?'
It was Elladan's turn to look surprised.
'I heard you argue,' explained the golden-haired warrior, 'Like anyone from here to Bree. I did not listen too closely, though.'
Elladan clenched his jaw at the mention of the dispute. To know of his brother's choice was one thing, but to feel it accomplished in such a fashion… He felt the cold dread grip his heart again. It had been as though he had touched Elrohir's corpse. 'He is dying,' he hissed. 'The light… It is leaving him.'
'Was it not something to be expected?' objected Glorfindel sadly.
'It was… But not now! Not so soon!' Elladan rose from his seat. 'It's as though I do not exist for him, anymore… As though I am a wraith he can only distinguish with effort when he looks back…' He looked down. 'He is forgetting me.'
'He is in love.' Glorfindel set down his goblet and glanced out the window, his eyes suddenly veiled. 'Nothing else counts, anymore… Friends, kin… Everything cast aside for that one being.'
Elladan opened his mouth, then closed it, troubled. He glanced at his mentor, who was still staring out the window, and pondered his words. Strange how he had never considered that the ancient warrior could have loved someone. In Elladan's mind, Glorfindel was a hero, unreachable and unmoving, frozen in an aura of glory and might. Now Elladan noticed the lingering sadness in his eyes, the bitter lines around his mouth, the wry, disenchanted smile. I do not really see those I love, he realized in shock. Just like I did not notice Elrohir's growing feelings for a mortal.
This new discovery threatened the fragile equilibrium of Elladan's inner world; everything he had thought he knew for certain had to be reconsidered. Starting with what seemed to be in the air: love. It appeared that Glorfindel knew something about it, which made him an expert in the matter compared to Elladan.
'Is there something that can be done?' Elladan inquired cautiously as he sat down, loathe to rip his friend out of the distant reverie where he seemed to dwell.
Glorfindel shook his head. 'Alas, it is too late,' he sighed mournfully, filling his goblet. 'Our world and that of men have shifted places in Elrohir's mind. He will never be parted from his beloved, not by force or persuasion.' He smiled sadly. 'Remember Amroth.'
In his chair, Elladan shifted impatiently. 'But… Then what? Should I just give up on him?'
'Give up?' Glorfindel looked from his cup, surprised. 'He is your brother, Elladan, and…'
'I know this!' cried Elladan, leaping from his seat. Blood was pulsing in his head more painfully with each beat, quicker and quicker as the effect of alcohol finally overruled his self-control. 'He is my twin. By Elbereth, he is me!' He hurled the empty goblet into a corner. 'And I am scared, Glorfindel. I am terrified to even look at him, let alone touch him. It feels like he is dying, and I am merely standing here, watching! And I can not stop telling myself that I must do something, yet I know he does not wish me to.' Elladan clenched his jaw, and added quietly: 'I can not let go, Glorfindel. I can not. How do you do it?'
'I don't,' replied Glorfindel just as quietly.
Elladan sank back into the chair.
'There is no way to make it easier,' continued the golden-haired warrior. His speech was slightly slurred. 'The pain, the anger, they will not go away. Long Years will thicken your skin, soothe the guilt, but it shall never completely fade.' Elladan looked at him in astonishment and Glorfindel shrugged. 'At least, it did not for me.'
Elladan leaned forward, drawn by the solemn grief hiding in his friend's eyes. How did he not notice it before? And how long had it lurked there, dormant and unseen?
'What did you do, then?' he asked.
Up to her elbows in cold, dirty water, the pile of crockery teetering dangerously beside her, Wyn was beginning to reconsider her brave, but foolish decision. Not that she would ever admit it aloud: what was left of her pride would never allow her to back out of a promise. A word given not only to the tavern owner, Beinon, but also to her father and, most importantly, to herself. She had sworn she would not be a burden anymore; that she would stop her pointless dreaming and take a hold of her life. Life was now; fantasies would never be.
She sighed and went back to work, listening distractedly to the noise in the main room. The crowd hooted and cheered and laughed, and demanded always more ale.
'Here,' breathed out one of the serving girls as she returned with more dishes, and began a new pile. 'They won't stop eating, the pigs.' And she was gone before Wyn had the time to think of an answer. This sentence had been more or less the only acknowledgement of her presence by the staff, but it suited her just fine: she'd rather be ignored than stared at, as when she had arrived earlier that evening.
The tavern had been less crowded, but still the air had been misty with smoke. The whole room had seemed to pause as she opened the door, conversations growing lower, making the hurtful words all the easier to distinguish. Dimwit. Ugly. Pitiful.
Biting her lip, Wyn had blocked the nauseating shame and pain that rose inside, and limped over to the counter. Beinon had grunted out a greeting, then pointed to the back of the tavern: 'Go see Ciara. She'll show you what to do.'
Wyn had turned around to obey.
'Hey, pretty fairy!' a too familiar voice had suddenly called out. 'What are you doin' in a place like this? Ain't no elves here…' The mockery had been echoed by a chorus of raucous voices. 'Only real men here, darlin'… Want some?'
Someone had scoffed. 'Of course she does! But do you really want a piece of that?' Laughter erupted in the back of the tavern, and the young woman's face had blazed red in embarrassment, earning only more hooting in return.
Yes, anonymity suited her just fine, and the work was not as difficult as much as unpleasant. Wyn rinsed – uselessly – another mug in the dirty water and reached out for the next.
The voices in the main room seemed to grow in number and volume, and a breathless Ciara ran into the backroom where Wyn stood. 'Hell of a night.' She shook her head in disbelief. 'We're going to need you out there.'
'Me?' Wyn almost dropped the mug. 'But… But I can't!' She panicked at the prospect of walking amongst the people who could already find so many ways to hurt her even in a less drunken state.
'You work here.' Ciara's tone bore no arguments. 'You do whatever you're told, or you walk out.'
Wyn clenched her teeth, fighting off tears of humiliation and anger. They would not see her beg again. 'I'll do it,' she whispered.
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.