The Song Of Sunset
7. Celebrimbor's Folly Part Three
Glorfindel had ordered Erestor against riding with the patrols. Elrond had quickly seconded him leaving Erestor no option other than to obey them. He took and sent messages from other realms whenever riders managed to reach the city.
Amdir had asked atleast six times for the host in Eregion to move to his Woods and make a stand with the Galadhrim. It seemed there had been ‘random warg sighting’ near his borders. Elrond and Glorfindel had been hard put to assuage Erestor after he worked himself into a towering rage on reading that particular missive from Amdir.
From Greenwood fortunately, or as Erestor would say ‘unfortunately’, there had been no missive. None of the riders he had sent thither had returned. Elrond saw this as a sign that Thranduil’s kingdom was faring much better than Eregion. And he could not understand Erestor’s reluctance to ask for Oropher’s aid.
From Lindon, however, there had been a steady inflow of messages. Gil-Galad was being restrained by Círdan with utmost difficulty as the High King sought to join his army in Eregion. He had not taken matters easily when he was informed of his newly bonded mate’s decision to go off to war without him. Elrond and Glorfindel had both received long letters that promised them a taste of what awaited them in Lindon should they survive the battle. And Glorfindel was heard to remark after reading through a particularly colourful paragraph that he preferred to have a sojourn in Lórien before returning to face the King’s wrath. Elrond decided that he too could profit from a vacation. His cousin would take years to be appeased and he was going to leave Erestor to manage the wrath.
Erestor, however, did not fear Gil’s anger and thoroughly relished his time in the city remarking to Elrond and Glorfindel about how thick headed they both were. It was truly frightening how he enjoyed managing an entire city single handedly as Celebrimbor had long left the affairs in his hands. The ancient elf spent most of his time reading through lore as if hunting for a long lost deeply hidden clue that would save his land. Appeals by Erestor to leave for Lórien had no effect on him.
Elrond sighed as he tossed about in his bed. Celebrimbor had asked Glorfindel to stay with the men in the barracks. So the dinner that night had been a silent one. At the Ring crafter’s table, there were only a few of his counsellors, Erestor and Elrond. Erestor had been called away half way through the meal by a messenger’s arrival. That had left Elrond to appease the anxious counsellors who had no clue about the futility of continuing to defend the city. He had been relieved beyond measure when the meal finally ended and hastily retired to his bed.
They would ride out tomorrow again with the dwindling number of troops and sacrifice more elves for just holding off the retreat that was the only solution. Thinking of the countless lives lost made Elrond’s mind churl. If only Celebrimbor agreed to leave. But a part of Elrond’s mind told him that as the founder of the city, Celebrimbor would die with it. Which left the matter of hundreds of women and children in the city. Elrond sat up in his bed massaging his weary temples. He would not find sleep tonight unless he fixed himself a sleeping potion. As he bustled about with the ingredients, a sharp knock sounded on his door.
Glad of the company, Elrond quickly opened it, finding himself face to face with an anxious looking Erestor.
“Elrond,” Erestor said worriedly, “the orc host is two days’ ride away according to our outriders. Celebrimbor has refused to reconsider. We must do what we can for the rest, buy them time enough to escape.”
Elrond nodded numbly, and asked, “What of the refugees from Human settlements?”
“They come. They will reach us before tomorrow noon. We need to be prepared for a siege,” Erestor said decisively.
“Our army is not at its best, Erestor,” Elrond said pensively, “And Glorfindel too has been uneasy. I think he is reminded of the siege of Gondolin. The troops are easily demoralized. And so am I. I see no hope here. And how do I lead my elves into battle knowing that each time the number dwindles?”
Erestor looked at him one long moment before saying softly, “Then I shall hope for us both. Eregion shall be no Gondolin. We will ride together, .”
Elrond stared at him stupidly before he recovered his composure and said quietly, “Glorfindel will not be happy if you ride to battle.”
“As much as I love Glorfindel, I don’t consider my life’s aim to keep him happy,” Erestor smirked, “And,” his sharp eyes caught sight of the half prepared sleeping potion on Elrond’s bed side table, “I would be glad if you gave me something for sleep. It has been evading me for days.”
Elrond smiled and said, “That makes the two of us then, , Come, be seated. It will take awhile.”
Erestor seated himself before the fire and they started talking in a desultory fashion as Elrond mixed up the ingredients. Half an hour later when a pleasant silence had fallen, Elrond, who had been watching the kettle said quietly, “It is almost done.”
There was no answer. Elrond turned back to find Erestor hunched up in the chair, his eyes closed in fatigue. As elves rarely slept with their eyes closed, Elrond could easily understand the chief counsellor’s state of exhaustion. Smiling, he took the kettle off the fire and walked over to the sleeping elf. Erestor’s face seemed relaxed and innocent in reverie. His hair had come loose out of the braids and messily covered his face. Elrond sighed and quietly carried him to the bed. He was amazed to find the slender form heavier than he expected. He silently snuffed out the candles in the room and arranged the blankets over the sleeping form of Erestor. Then he settled himself against the bed pole deciding to watch over Erestor that night.
Elrond remained where he was till the grey rays of dawn permeated the thick curtains. Erestor woke quietly and his eyes roved about the unfamiliar setting till they settled on Elrond. The black eyes suddenly filled with guilt as Erestor sat up in bed saying, “I fell asleep on you yesterday!”
“You were fatigued, . You did not even need the potion,” Elrond smiled, “And Maer Aur.”
“I kept you from your rest,” Erestor said sadly, “You could have just woken me up and sent me to my rooms. I stole your time, rest and bed.”
“You needed the rest more than I, . I don’t mind as I wasn’t sleepy in the first place,” Elrond assured the dubious looking Erestor.
Elrond made his way to the barracks after seizing hold of a loaf of bread from the kitchens. Erestor had left for Celebrimbor’s study wearing a harried look. They had received word that the refuges from Human settlements had arrived.
“Elrond!,” Glorfindel called him, “Come here.”
The reborn Balrog Slayer was atop a rampart and staring pensively across the plains. Elrond jogged up the stairs and joined him. When he looked out at the plains he could see a lone dark spot moving fast at a distance of nearly twenty miles away.
“A warg!,” Elrond murmured, “An outrider, then the host approaches.”
“The main host will be there before our gates before tomorrow dawn,” Glorfindel said in a subdued tone, “It is lost.”
“ , let us not talk of losses before we meet them in battle. The Human settlementsians have arrived and are bring escorted into the city as we speak. Even if Eregion has no hope, we must take the innocents into safety even if we perish doing that,” Elrond said determined.
“Thus it was in the siege and eventual fall of Gondolin. It is ironic how my present life seem to end the same way as my past life,” Glorfindel said bitterly in a rare display of vulnerabiltity.
Elrond was about to say something reassuring when the shrill cry of a bird sounded from above them. He looked up curiously. It was a lone hunting falcon. It swooped down onto the rampart and stared wisely at Elrond.
“A friend of yours?” Glorfindel asked wryly.
Elrond ignored the sarcasm. It was well known through out Lindon that Elrond had no affinity with any creature other than horses. So wondering why this bird should act out of the ordinary, Elrond watched the bird more closely. A note was attached to its left leg.
Elrond said to Glorfindel, “Does Gil feel like sending bird messengers when he gets very angry?”
Glorfindel shrugged, “Its your cousin you are asking about. He shares your aversion for creatures like these. I have never seen him successfully training even a hunting dog far less an intelligent creature like this falcon. Take the letter, it might be from Galdor. He keeps some messenger birds though I had no idea he owned one so magnificent.”
Elrond obeyed Glorfindel’s command and held out his arm nervously for the falcon which came with an alacrity that surprised him. No other bird had ever taken to him so. He gently pried off the scroll from its leg and set the bird back on its perch at the rampart walls.
Glorfindel whistled, “The royal seal of Greenwood the Great. Finally, a message. Erestor will be pleased.”
“For?” Erestor’s disgruntled voice came from behind them, “I am certainly not very pleased about the two of you watching the plains like sentries while I handle the refugees, the messengers, the soldiers and Celebrimbor all at once.”
Elrond unscrolled the parchment saying, “A message from Greenwood,” A familiar scent of pine and fresh dew assailed him, “From our ernil.”
“Read it aloud,” Erestor ordered irritably, “Let us see what excuse the idiot has for not sending back any of the six riders I sent thither.” But Elrond could detect a slight undertone of worry and concern for Thranduil colour Erestor’s irritable tone.
Glorfindel murmured, “Yes, Elrond, read it before Erestor bursts with anxiety over his best friend and teacher in the finer arts of seduction.”
Erestor scowled but remained silent as Elrond started reading, “I hold a certain Peredhel responsible if my falcon does not return to me,” he stopped in astonishment before staring at Glorfindel.
“And?” Glorfindel asked impatiently.
“Nothing else. Just one sentence,” Elrond waved the paper before Glorfindel’s disbelieving eyes.
“I have always said that the Sindar are partly insane,” Glorfindel said wryly.
Elrond would have defended his friend, but even he had to admit Thranduil was not in a right mental state!
Erestor took the scroll from Elrond’s unresisting hands and observed, “Vintage Thranduil. Short, brief and precise. We cannot expect aid from Oropher’s realm. He is probably finding it hard to hold his own border perimeters.”
“Is that why Thranduil wants the falcon back?” Glorfindel asked innocently, “To fight the orcs?”
Erestor spared him a ‘What do I do with these kind of morons?’ look before gathering up his robes and sprinting down the stairs. A minute later, they saw him sending a rider with a scroll to the west, to Lindon.
Glorfindel remarked, “I suppose that explains why he is the chief counsellor and we are not and Valar be praised for that. I will probably grow bald trying to decipher stuff from letters like these!”
Elrond looked at the falcon still staring sombrely at them, “Should I send him back now?”
“I suppose so, ,” Glorfindel drawled, “Lest you want an angry son of Oropher hunting for your skin. But, wait till you can ask Erestor himself. An angry Erestor is an immediate cause of concern than an angry Thranduil.”
Green wood the Great :
Thranduil Oropherion rode his stallion into the keep of Oropher’s fortress. There was a cold grimness in his usually twinkling jade-green eyes. His tunic and leggings were spattered with blood and dirt and his beautifully crafted quiver was empty. He dismounted with a feline beauty from his horse and nodded to his stable boy who led the horse away. He stretched himself before turning to view the rest of the elves who had followed him. A shadow flickered in his eyes briefly as he saw the wounded and dead being carried in to the Healing Halls. But he composed his features into its customary fearlessness and walked forth to hold counsel with his captains.
Through the window in his study, Oropher watched his son sadly. A mixture of pride and fear crossed his handsome features.
“My Lord?” a low voice reminded him that he was not alone.
“Yes, Thalion?” he sighed not bothering to hide his emotions. Thalion, his healer and fellow warrior was one of the few he trusted with his life and with his son’s life.
“The Prince is a fine warrior and our best leader. We need him on the field where the fight is,” Thalion reminded him quietly, “He knows this and will not stay away from his duty even if you commanded him so.”
Oropher watched the handsome figure in his courtyard once again and said bitterly, “Sometimes I regret that we taught him to honour duty above all else. I have no idea how I endure each time he rides out to meet the Mordor threat.”
“Oropher,” Thalion approached the window and looked out at the Prince who was now checking the next patrol regiment, “Even if we had not taught him duty, he would not have acted otherwise. He is your son.”
“My son, my anchor, my hope,” Oropher said with infinite sadness, “For him I live.”
Thalion turned to look at his Lord and friend and said softly, “It was not always like this, Oropher. Once you lived like an elf, not like a ghost. He loves you and will do anything to see the shadow in your soul lessened. How many times has he asked you to give love a chance again? Atleast for comfort’s sake?”
Oropher smiled, “ , has he sent you to aid his cause? I loved once and though our time was short, I have never regretted that love though I regret the consequences deeply. I cannot love again, Thalion, not that way. And I don’t regret it. Though sometimes I find myself wishing she had taken the child to Valinor. Maybe then she would be still happy and with her family. And my son too, the innocence would have never left his eyes. His hands would not be tainted so by blood. And I would know he was happy.”
Thalion sighed sombrely, Oropher had always blamed himself for not letting Thranduil go with Vanima. Maybe the King was right, if she had taken the babe, she might not have lost hope and faded. But Oropher would have reached Mandos’ Halls. He frowned, Oropher rarely, if ever, spoke of the past. Something was troubling him.
“What is it, my Lord?” he demanded quietly.
Oropher turned back to the window and watched his son once again, a bittersweet pain etched across his features.
“Oropher?” Thalion asked again.
“There is a letter bearing Círdan’s seal on my desk, Thalion. Read it and then speak,” Oropher said wearily. For a moment he looked as lost and vulnerable as he had the day Ingwë’s host had sailed from the Havens.
Thalion complied and unscrolled the parchment. It was written in Quenya, in a hand he recognized not as Círdan’s. He raised his eyebrows. Not even the Noldor used the Ancient Tongue these days.
“To The King of Greenwood the Great,
We have received news regularly from Círdan concerning you and your son, my ill-fated grand-daughter’s son. Though my son, Vanima’s father, has never forgiven you for the grief you wrecked in our family, I have surrendered my anger. He may have lost his daughter, but you have lost more and your innocent son has lost even more. They say he is the pride of the elves, and his father’s son. I am heartened, to know that, despite everything, you did not hate the child for the grief he unwittingly caused you. Círdan tells me that he is the finest warrior of your kingdom and so much more. He said you love him so and fear for him above all else. Arda’s a bitter place. If you wish, you may send him to me across the sea, I will do all I can to make sure he never knows grief. I know your time to sail will not come anytime soon. Think on my words and May Valar forgive us all,
Ingwë, Lord and King of Aman.”
Oropher said quietly, “He is right. I love my son. And I cannot bear to see him become weary and grieving. It will kill me outright. I am going to send him to his mother’s home.”
Thalion stood stunned and started to retort, but Oropher shook his head, “No, Thalion, I have decided.”
“What have you decided, Ada?” Thranduil asked teasingly as he entered the room and watched his father’s face become softer as they fell upon him.
“I see you have not seen it unfit to bring orc grime into the King’s study, Seneschal?” Oropher asked in a falsely gruff voice.
Thalion smiled at Thranduil and left quietly. As the door closed behind them, Oropher opened his arms to his son who ran into the embrace like an elfling. As their arms enfolded each other, Oropher noted with pride that his son was taller than him by an inch. Thranduil was no longer the elfling he used to rock day and night and told stories to. His son was now a fully grown elf, a warrior, a diplomat and would soon be betrothed. He felt a brief pang of jealousy. He would have to share his son after the marriage. Then he sighed, he would lose his son soon.
“Ada?” Thranduil stepped out from the embrace frowning worriedly, “You have lost weight and you seem as if you have not rested for days.”
Oropher smiled, “The same can be said of you, ion. Your bones are out.”
“I was on the field, Ada,” Thranduil retorted, “I had a reason. What of you?”
“I had a reason too,” Oropher argued, “I was worried about all of our warriors out there. And not to mention the fact that it has been raining ravens here which come bearing Amdir’s messages. He wants aid.”
“Shoot the ravens,” Thranduil said darkly, “The Lórien army is not even bothering to secure the elf-paths. I have put the best warriors there. If Erestor and Celebrimbor retreat from Eregion, the paths must hold.”
“See to our southern borders, my son, they are weak,” Oropher said seriously, “Maybe I should take charge there while you secure the paths.”
Thranduil said sharply, “You are remaining here, Ada! I will not have you risking your life there at the borders! The only consolation I had was that you were not in the battle.”
Oropher raised his eyebrows good-humouredly, “Isn’t overprotection supposed to be a parental instinct, my son?”
Thranduil muttered glowering, “Sometimes you act like an elfling without thought,” his face became more serious as he said, “I cannot lose you, Ada. Even the thought scares me so.”
Oropher sighed as Ingwë’s words came unbidden to his thoughts once more. He poured out wine for his son and himself and ushered his famished looking son to the dining table.
“Ada?” Thranduil had not touched the food and was now staring concernedly at Oropher again, “You should tell me whatever bothers you now so much. There will be no peace for either of us until you do so.”
And there shall be no peace afterwards, Oropher mused grimly.
“Ada?” Thranduil’s voice was gentle.
Oropher took a deep breath and explained, “I am sending you to Aman, my son. Your grandfather and King Ingwë want you there. You will leave for the Havens as soon the roads are safe.”
Thranduil said scathingly, “You were never good at joking, Ada. If you want me to laugh, just say so.”
Oropher watched the golden hair of his son shine blindingly in the dark room and said softly, “I am never good at joking, Thranduil, that is why I never joke.”
The expression of shock, disbelief, betrayal and white hot pain that suffused his son’s features made him lower his eyes in grief. He had never hurt his son all these centuries. Now, he had betrayed his son, and would see it done.
“Ada?” it was not his proud son’s voice, it was the voice of the scared elfling, whom he had soothed after nightmares, all those years ago. It broke Oropher to hear that voice of helplessness.
“Ada, how have I angered you so that you wish to send me away?” the voice asked him, “Why have I lost your love?”
Oropher said softly, “My love for you is what makes me do this. I will not see you grieve and lose your happiness in this harsh world. Remain whole and safe in Valinor, and I shall be at peace.”
In an instant, Thranduil was kneeling before him, clasping their hands together. He asked quietly, “How will I be whole when I leave behind you, Ada? Do you wish me to fade even as Naneth did?”
Oropher was shocked by the depth of emotion he saw in his son’s green eyes, that so mirrored his own. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he realized he would never be able to win this argument with his son. A vague feeling of loss and grief pervaded his senses. He wept openly as he realized his son would know sorrow, hate and defeat.
“Ada?” Thranduil’s arms enfolded him securely, “I will never leave you. We need not discuss this if it upsets you so.”
Oropher rested his head on his son’s shoulder and sobbed silently. He begged the Valar to strengthen his son for the trials that he knew Thranduil would face.
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.