3. Silver and Gold, Black and Grey
In the 461st year of the Fourth Age...
Elladan and Elrohir, on the deck of the ship, could not resist asking the new Lord of Imladris a final question. "Will you ever weary of these lands, Daeradar? Thranduil will stay in Middle-Earth for as long as Arda lasts, as will Lenwë. We fear you will do the same."
"The decision is different for all of us, penneth nin. Lenwë will never weary - would that we all had his strength! Thranduil is bound by an oath to stay, and though it does not weigh on his heart yet, it will, before the end. I remain because ... I am not ready to sail."
"Go now to your parents, while you can! You will surely see me again. Though it may be long, I have heard time passes differently in the Undying Lands. I expect to see you well, when I arrive. Now go!"
Elladan and Elrohir gave the tokens of the Lordship of Imladris to their grandfather, who received them with grave dignity. Celeborn managed to keep the grief off his face as he recognized things once held not only by Elrond, but also Celebrian and even Luthien. He even managed to hide his discomfiture at being the heir of his own grandsons..
But for final words, he could only manage "Tell your parents and your grandmother ... I miss them all!"
The ship bore away the sons of Elrond, and the Falathrim and remaining Elves of Imladris gradually departed, until only four remained on the quay. Long they stood in silence.
Cirdan finally spoke. "I also stay because of an Oath, much like Thranduil's. Yet I begin to weary of my task."
The bearded Mariner paused and stared out to sea as if expecting Ulmo to join them, or at least Ossë. Finally he continued. "Almost I begin to wish I still had Narya. You say Lenwë draws strength from the Earth? I remember him drawing strength from trees even at Cuivenien, before any others learned to do so. But Arda itself? Do you know how?"
"I had thought to ask you the same question." Celeborn replied. "He tried to explain to me, but I understood him not at all. Thranduil, who can draw strength from trees as well as any, comprehends Lenwë's gift no more than I. Truly I wonder whether Lenwë is fully an Elf."
All turned to Glorfindel. "Do not look at me." the golden one replied. "It is true that I can walk in Tirion in spirit if I wish, and draw strength, but I am no more connected to the bones of Ennor than the rest of you. Indeed I am less connected, for I have not your gift with trees."
Erestor replied. "I look at trees and see firewood. But let us not start down the path of the Numenoreans. We are Quendi, and that alone gives us all the strength we need, though " - he smiled grimly - "perhaps less than we would wish for."
A few hours into the return journey, Erestor reluctantly turned to Celeborn. "My Lord? What would you have me do? Even as our recent past slips through our fingers, our distant past still stalks us. I admire your forbearance in not mentioning the ancient days, but I doubt that it will extend so far as asking me oft for counsel."
"Indeed, it does not. I do not forget, but I would be a poor leader to cast out those who have dwelt in Imladris for two Ages. You may remain or leave as you like, but you need not call me your lord."
The Noldo replied in a whisper, indicating the small eight-pointed star tattooed on his wrist with a quick glance. "I cannot claim lordship of our House while the rightful leader remains in Ennor, no matter how long he hides himself and refuses his duty. Yet I have proven useful to Finwë, Feänor, Curufin, Maedhros, Celebrimbor, Elrond, and your grandsons. I would still serve Imladris, though I agree you and I should not dwell in the same small valley. We need an ambassador to Gondor. You recall that I long served as Celebrimbor's ambassador to ..."
Celeborn replied tiredly, "Mithlond. Gil-galad. Yes, I remember. That is a good idea. Understanding between Elves and Men declines again, even in Gondor. You could re-teach them our shared history, if any are willing to learn. At least they will be happy to hear tales from one who knew Aragorn all his life."
The former Prince of Doriath managed a smile. "So be it! Take Hithriel and any others that wish to go with you. It is sad that fate and history prevents friendship between us, but that is neither your fault nor mine."
"Thank you, Celeborn." was the simple reply. "It will be done." Erestor galloped ahead.
After he was lost from sight, a young guardsman approached his new lord, ignoring Glorfindel's warning glance. "The hostility between you and Erestor saddens me, hir nin. What grievance lies between you?"
Celeborn did not hesitate; this was not the first time he had taken up lordship of a realm in which others had held sway, and such questions were to be expected. "Many grievances, penneth nin. Erestor was the messenger sent by Maedhros to demand the Silmaril. At first he offered alliance and aid - which Doriath sorely needed at the time. Dior refused him, though we counselled him to give up the cursed Jewel. We spent a long day in negotiations, and only at the end did Erestor deliver Maedhros' threat of force. You know what happened after. Yet Erestor did his lord's bidding that day, and Dior was a fool. To sacrifice so many of his people .. my people, for a ... jewel!" Anger grew in Celeborn, the wound that never healed and never would, yet he forced it back down.
"Later, Erestor supported Celebrimbor against me when there was strife in Eregion. That I am less inclined to forgive, petty though it seems. Yet that too was an accident of fate - Celebrimbor was the brother of his heart, and who of us would not be loyal to family above all?"
"And to top it all, our wives detested one another, and had since their youth in Valinor. Though I found it amusing while Galadriel was by my side - there was one elleth who was not daunted by my Lady! now seeing Hithriel is an unpleasant reminder of what I have lost."
"But all that was very, very long ago, and now other problems are at hand. Our alliance with Gondor has grown cool. Erestor is the most effective diplomat in Imladris. If anyone can help us to live in the world of Men without difficulties for a few more ennin, he can."
The Elves rode on in silence, granting their new lord his solitude. Finally, Glorfindel approached his new-old liege. The golden one had long dwelt in Lorien, training Celeborn's warriors for many yeni after Celebrian's marriage, returning to the Captaincy of Rivendell only when the Shadow fell on Mirkwood. "My apologies for Adraher's impertinence, mellon nin. He is very young yet, not even three yeni. As you saw, Elladan and Elrohir were most informal in their rule. And, in our education of those few born to us in this Age, we have ... not dwelt on the unfortunate past, feeling some things are better for young hearts not to know."
The silver one smiled again; this time it was not forced. "And I suppose you have not told them about the Battle of the Eagle's Cleft?"
Glorfindel sighed - he would be the Balrog Slayer, reminded of it by every young Elf and most of the not-so-young ones until Ardhon Meth, whether he willed or no. Even the ancient Lenwë had wanted to hear the tale when they had finally met.
Now, more seriously, Celeborn added "Neither do I have any claim to lordship over you, mellon nin. The question remains the same in this Age as it was in the Second. Why do you not reestablish your own House? You are no vassal. Sauron is defeated, and even your other, private mission is now ended." Well Celeborn knew of Glorfindel's fierce protectiveness towards Celebrian's children.
The golden one frowned. "To what purpose, mellon nin?"
Now it was Celeborn's turn to whisper. "If you desire it not, perhaps little in these days of peace, but when war returns to these lands, as it always does eventually, who will our charges follow? My archers and swordsmen who have followed me through the Ages will continue to do so. Those who have served under you will continue to do so, no matter who is nominally in command. You know what such confusion leads to. I would rather have you as an ally than a subordinate."
The sense of these words was plain. Celeborn had ever been a practical lord. Yet a House without a Lady was doomed to fail. That had been the lesson, repeated ever since the Exile. One thought sadly of Elenwë, Amarië, and Anairë, while the other thought similarly on Melian and Galadriel. And both, in their very different ways, mourned the departure of Celebrian.
Each perceived the other's thoughts, but the silver lord turned angrily on the golden one. "That is a problem for me, but not for you. The House of the Golden Flower would have its Lady in a Sun-Round, did its Lord but lower himself to choose one."
Then, softer, "I am very sorry, Glorfindel. I know of your sacrifice to duty. But surely you are free from it now. Can you not free yourself? Does no maiden catch your fancy? I would be the last to suggest you sail, but Vanyarin types run short in these lands, as do all of the Amanyar."
"It is not that, Celeborn, so much as it is age. 'What is age to an immortal?' the young fools say, but you know that is nonsense. All the ladies who remember the days of our youth yet remain here in Ennor are bonded, whether their husbands remain here, alive in Valinor, or imprisoned in Namo's Halls. Am I to marry a child of two ennin, or even twenty?"
No indeed, Celeborn thought. I am to be the Itinerant Lord, and you are to be the Balrog Slayer, and Erestor is to be the Dispossed Counsellor, as long as we remain here. At least, that is the way it will be if Noldorin fatalism prevails!
"I think, Glorfindel, you should visit the Greenwood. There you will find, among the healers of the Nandor, a few daughters of Ossiriand, who remember even the Ambarussa, and fondly! yet by custom have remained unwed. They have long borne duties not unlike yours; perhaps you will find a kindred heart among them."
Glorfindel rode silently for a while, but after a few miles he broke into a smile. Perhaps there was personal hope for him after all.
A/N: Reasons for the old enmity between Erestor and Celeborn are explored further in my stories "Until the Sun is Dead", "Bear Not the Devices of Imladris", and my drabble collection. The idea of Erestor's taking Celebrimbor's part during the revolt in Eregion comes from Marnie's "Dancing in the Darkness." In my 'universe', Hithriel is the wife of Erestor, sister of Celebrimbor, daughter of Curufin.
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