14. Wisdom in Hindsight
I dedicate this to my darling beta, who reads when I ask her to, and finishes almost as quickly <grin>
[…] and the heirs of Valandil removed and dwelt at Fornost on the high North Downs, and that now too is desolate. Men call it Deadmen's Dike, and they fear to tread there. For the folk of Arnor dwindled, and their foes devoured them, and their lordship passed, leaving only green mounds in the grassy hills.
Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Chapter 14 Wisdom in Hindsight
'I do not think it is wise for you to go.'
Had it come from anyone else, Elrond might have turned and left, but this meant more to him than anything.
'You have a family, a people, a task that goes beyond Fornost, to take care of… This is the blessing of being a ruler. You can send others.'
Elrond pressed his lips together and tried to give the other Elf a piercing look. It somewhat failed. He didn't let it bother him.
'I sense somehow, Elladan and Elrohir are involved in this… That you promised the sons they could come if the father didn't.'
Glorfindel nodded, not hiding anything.
'You were the same age when Gil-galad sent you to Eregion.'
Elrond succeeded admirably in relaying his piercing look this time.
'And what good did that do us?' He said, shaking his head, a warning in his eyes.
Glorfindel did not fear it, he had known Elrond long enough.
'Eregion was lost even before you took to the road. Gil-galad knew that, and I think you did too.'
Elrond turned away and took a deep breath.
'I was younger.'
'I thought it wiser to let you bring that detail up yourself. But you were no child then, and your sons are not now.'
Elrond slightly tilted his head. His voice was thin but sharp.
'I am well aware they are not children anymore.' Very well aware…
'They wish to go, Elrond. They hear about all your heroic tales but are not allowed to have their own.'
Elrond turned back to Glorfindel and attempted a faint smile.
'You have Elladan and Elrohir waiting, I expect?'
'They wished to wait for your answer, yes.'
Elrond nodded, pausing for a moment.
'Very well, but you shall be partly responsible for them.'
Glorfindel nodded shortly, a smile broadening on his face.
'If we are to meet Eärnur and assemble with Círdan at the assigned place, we shall have to ride within three days.'
'You will have enough volunteers, leave as soon as you are ready.' Elrond replied, turning towards the windows. 'And send in my sons, on your way out.' As Glorfindel was halfway through the room Elrond called him back.
'Do not tell them yet.'
Glorfindel smiled and nodded.
Elrond went over the scenario once more, as he had done so often already.
Little over two years ago, Arvedui, fifteenth King of the Arthedain, had asked for help against the advancing Witch-king, but the fleet from Gondor had not been in time. Arvedui had directed his sons to Lindon, remaining on the North Downs until the very last. Círdan had sent a ship to Forochel to rescue Arvedui, who had sought refuge in the mines of Ered Luin, but when he and his men had boarded the ship, it had been trapped in the ice. All had drowned.
Eärnur, son of Earnil, King of Gondor had now come to avenge the loss of the Arthedain and Arvedui; his kinsmen of many generations removed.
And had requested the help of Imladris.
Careful not to turn until he heard the sound of footsteps stop, Elrond was confronted with not only his sons. Arwen stood beside them, no doubt present to help influence him.
He knew Celebrían would not aid them on this front; she would have rather kept them at home altogether. So, the next in line who held some influence over him was indeed their sister. He smiled. Such cleverness…
'And what gives me the honour of all my children visiting at once?'
Elrond observed a glance from Elladan to Elrohir. Probably something along the lines of: Did Glorfindel not discuss it?
Arwen in turn observed her father's smile, seeing through it, and came towards him.
'You shouldn't tease them so, ada.'
Elrond ironed his face, running his fingers over one of the books on the table.
'Who said I was teasing them? I do not believe there is anything that needs to be discussed.'
Elrohir bowed his head and Elladan observed his father closely.
'Glorfindel did discuss Fornost with you, didn't he, father?'
Elrond nodded, sitting down on one of the chairs which stood around the table.
'We discussed it, a force will leave from Imladris within three days, to meet Eärnur's host.'
Arwen rested her hand on her father's arm.
'You are not going yourself, are you, father?'
Elrond raised his eyebrows.
'Would it not be appropriate? After all, I am the Lord of Imladris.'
Arwen mimicked his facial expression, but Elrond wasn't certain if it was on purpose.
'Does mother know of this?'
'I was going to discuss it with her presently. Before you entered.' Elrond replied, folding his hands, sitting back. 'Was there something you wished to ask me?'
Elladan looked at Elrohir before shaking his head.
'We thought Glorfindel would have brought it up.'
Elrond feigned ignorance.
'I do not believe he did.'
Elrohir cleared his throat.
'Do you plan to take Glorfindel with you?'
Elrond nodded, raising his hands to chin-height, placing his elbows on the armrests.
Elladan straightened his back.
'So, there will be the need for volunteers to accompany you to Fornost?'
'I believe we have quite some as it is. More than enough.'
As he spoke the words, their faces showed a distinct glimmer of disappointment.
Elrond was surprised, since the twins were usually very direct. How long ago was it that he had learned them how to ride? Watched them fight their first mock-battle? Sent them on their first long errantry? And now they stood here, afraid to tell him their minds. Surprising to say the least…
'But I suppose you have already fitted your armour?' He added, with a smile, watching Elladan's eyes grow large and Elrohir almost forgetting to breathe.
Elrond smiled broadly.
'Glorfindel has defended you already, and I will not forbid your going, as long as you promise me you will not attempt anything rash.'
Both Elladan and Elrohir positively shone.
'We promise,' Elrohir smiled in return. Elladan simply nodded.
Elrond rose from his chair and offered his arm to Arwen, who took it, her cheeks red with amusement. He looked at his sons.
'Now, you two get your gear ready, and do not mention this to your mother until I have discussed it with her.'
'Which is right about now.'
Both Elladan and Elrohir left as quick as Elvishly possible. Their sister was more brave and stayed, but released her father's arm. Elrond smiled at Celebrían, motioning Arwen to leave. She gave him a supportive glance before following her brothers. Celebrían noticed and sent him a glare.
'Elrond, how could you?'
The Lord of Imladris, even after so many years, still reasonably new to arguments with his Lady, extended his hand, but Celebrían did not immediately take it. He lowered his eyes for a moment.
'If I had forbidden it, how long could we have kept them here? I wish to protect them as much as you do, gwilwileth, but they are not children anymore… In the end, they would disregard both of us, and leave without any word of where they were going. At least now we are aware of their location, and that Glorfindel is with them.'
'You are not going?' She asked, sounding more vulnerable than she probably intended.
'And leave you unprotected?'
Celebrían fled into his arms and smothered a sob with his clothing.
Elrond embraced her closely. The last time they had had an argument was when he had wanted to teach Arwen how to ride. A long time ago… He had understood her feelings then, and he did now. Softly he kissed her head and rested his own against it.
'I would not forgive myself if anything happened to them.' He heard her whisper. Elrond released her and gently caught her head in his hands.
'Do you believe I would forgive myself? But they will be fine… And we shall not let them go without the best Imladris can muster. They will go as Lords. Agreed?'
Celebrían looked up at him, trying to gather a smile.
Elrond put his arm around her.
'And now we go and unearth some of my old equipment, to see if some is still useable.'
Celebrían knew full well, that all of Elrond's equipment was 'still useable'. Although it was stored away, they were dutifully oiled and kept, almost as heirlooms, most of it still in the same chest that had held them so long ago, during the Last Alliance. The room, light shining in from a small, high window, was dusty, with a sense of… She wasn't sure. Searching her mind for a moment, she recalled discerning the scent when Elrond left for Mordor, getting into his riding gear.
'It's the oil for the leather.' Elrond whispered, letting go of her hand and pointing at the leather armour that had been hung over a wooden foundation many years ago, still waiting for its owner. Next to it was its dented metal companion.
Kneeling beside the large chest, Elrond inhaled the air that came from inside, and frowned.
'The smell of the dust is still here, can you imagine?'
Celebrían smiled, sitting down beside him as she collected a leather portfolio, carefully bound up, practically air-tight. Elrond carefully took it from her and undid the bindings. The paper inside was fragile after so many years, but Celebrían could easily recognise Elrond's handwriting. It appeared to be a journal, but not the one which she knew lay in the library, neatly scribed. That one was a business-like day-to-day account of the events, unemotional and dry.
'This is my personal journal…' For a moment he seemed lost in thought, but then handed it back to Celebrían, returning to the chest. 'You might find quite some expressions of my love for you in there.'
'Can I read it?' Celebrían asked, already starting, not waiting.
Elrond meanwhile collected a large, long object from the bottom.
'Certainly… But first look at this.'
He slowly unfolded the whitish wrappings, uncovering a sheathed sword. As he partially drew it, Celebrían ran her finger along the flat of the blade, where writings in Quenya decorated the metal.
'It is beautiful.'
'Gil-galad gave it to me…' He smiled, re-sheathing it and laying it aside. 'But I speak too much of the dead as it is…'
Celebrían rested her hand on his thigh.
'I do not mind.'
Elrond looked at her for a moment before taking up the weapon again.
'He gave it to me when I left for Eregion. I had my own sword, but this one was different… A father is to bestow a sword upon his son, a special object… But my father never had the opportunity…' Silently he turned it in his hands, the metal reflecting the light at every rotation.
Two swords rested on the table of Elrond's study, together with two bows, and several other objects neatly arranged in twos, waiting.
Elrond led in Elladan and Elrohir, who were already clad in their blue and silver garments. Elrond smiled, taking up his old sword.
'I did not wish to favour one of you above the other… And so I have tried to decide according to that which either of you excels in…' He offered the sword to Elladan. 'I received this from Ereinion Gil-galad… And now I pass it on to you… Hoping it may aid you in achieving victory in battle.'
Elladan accepted the elvish sword, which lay almost weightless in his hand.
'Thank you, father…'
Elrond had already taken the bow, a beautifully crafted specimen, made in the glory-days of Lindon.
'And for you, Elrohir, may it be as swift and accurate as it was when it helped establish Imladris.'
Elrohir's eyes glittered, as he took the light, but solid bow from his father.
'I didn't even know you still kept these…' He looked up at Elrond. 'Thank you…'
Elrond nodded, beaming, as he took up the other bow for Elladan, the second sword for Elrohir.
Presenting them with the additional equipment, including daggers and quivers and such, Elrond finally arrived at the two pendants. 'Your mother gave me an identical one when I left for battle… She had these made for you.' He fastened each around their individual necks. Then he stepped back, a proud father watching his sons, no longer boys, tall and strong, ready to go to battle. He cleared his throat.
'Most of these gifts have been made here, at Imladris, and no better weapons have ever come forth from the hands of the blacksmiths here… For only the best is good enough for the Lords of Imladris…'
Two pairs of identical eyes rested on him, growing large, before they both leaped towards their father. Receiving both his sons in his arms at once, Elrond pulled them as close as possible, fully realizing he had to let them go in a moment.
But this instant, they were, once more, the elf-children that he had collected from trees when they had climbed too high. Those who he had plucked out of riverbeds by the backs of their tunics.
Releasing them, he smiled, placing a hand on each of their shoulders.
'Come, you must go now.'
Walking down, the three of them, they met the others at the stables. Celebrían spoke with both of her sons privately for a moment, and watched them say goodbye to Arwen, meanwhile returning to Elrond's side. Galadriel and Celeborn exchanged some words with their grandsons as Glorfindel arrived, last. Elrond embraced him shortly, before catching his arms.
'Take care of yourself, meldir.' His voice lowered to a whisper as he released him and took Celebrían's hand. 'And take care of our boys…'
Glorfindel nodded, solemnly. He was the last to mount before they all rode off.
Celebrían might not have the patience to embroider, but braiding her husband's hair was different. She could do it all day.
Elrond sat on their bed, his back towards her, his eyes closed.
Both seemed as if they were caught in this moment, the sensation only enlarged by the warm rays of the sun, shining through the large window of their bedroom.
Celebrían had finished a while ago, but had not indicated it to Elrond, enjoying his presence too much.
Elladan and Elrohir had arrived back the evening before, after being absent for almost a year, together with Glorfindel, Círdan, Eärnur and Aranarth, son of Arvedui. A little bruised and tired, their faces had been shining with pride.
After Aranarth, who chose to seek refuge in Imladris, abandoning the title of 'king', had presented the heirlooms of Arnor, officially giving them into Elrond's keeping, the celebrations had commenced. And the endless storytelling. Elrohir had been lyrical.
They had met the Witch-king's army not at Fornost itself, but on the plains to the west, towards Lake Evendim. Together with the aid of a remnant of the people of Arnor, they had utterly overthrown the Witch-king, eradicated his army, shattering the power of Angmar.
The Witch-king, Lord of the Nazgûl, had fled into the falling night. Celebrían considered the most ominous part of the story, Glorfindel's prophesy; that the Witch-king would not fall by the hand of a man.
With a deep, content sigh she kissed Elrond's shoulder, resting her head against it, her arms around his waist.
'I am glad they are safe and sound.'
Elrond, fully conscious that Celebrían had finished with his hair much earlier, turned around and smiled, guiding her back into the pillows. Her arms were around his neck now, as his lips flew over her collarbone, and every other uncovered part of skin he could detect. Then he looked at her, slowly coming towards her face, until his lips were only inches away from hers. With a smile, Celebrían moved to meet him, but he pulled back, just out of reach.
'Not fair, Master Elrond.' She pouted. Elrond tried to shift his weight, but with a quick movement, Celebrían took advantage of the weak spot in his defence, ending up with a leg on each side of him.
With a broad grin, Elrond, now on his back, looked up at her, silver hair spilling over her shoulders. Then he raised his hands up to her face, which moved so her lips would meet the palm of his hand, her fingers on his chest, following the muscles underneath the thin tunic. One of Elrond's hands slipped down to her waist, following the curves of the body he knew as he did his own. Holding her hair back, his eyes grew darker than ever, passion burning behind them.
'Lenited-nîn o menel…*'
'Do you think flattery will get you anywhere?' Celebrían returned with a grin.
Elrond grinned broader, using one hand to sit up, the other behind her back, keeping her close.
'It usually does…'
The disaster in Moria had had something to do with it, Celebrían mused, even though the main reason for her parents return to Lórien had been the sorrow that had hung over the Golden Wood, after the tragic drowning of Amroth.
'Be careful,' she had warned them, watching them mount.
The proximity of Dol Guldur had scared her then, but not nearly as much as it did now.
Years later, fearing it was soon becoming a stronghold of Sauron's power, Mithrandir had travelled there, and the Shadow had retreated, hiding in the east.
Elrond had called it the Watchful Peace, those years that followed, and Celebrían could do nothing but agree. It had been watchful, and peaceful.
But now it had ended.
On the higher terrace, her husband, her parents, Círdan, Mithrandir and Curunír, together with Glorfindel and Erestor, and some other of the Eldarin Lords, were discussing exactly that.
Elrond had invited her to join them, but she had declined. If there was anything important, she would rather learn it from him personally. He had been the first to inform her of the Enemy's return, with increased strength, to Dol Guldur. It had been her mother that called the council. Now called the White Council apparently.
Arwen wrapped her arm around Celebrían, supplying the comfort she needed to shed her worries. Elladan and Elrohir were probably sitting upstairs, in case Elrond needed them.
'Will father go, if it is true what they are saying?'
The question compelled Celebrían to suspend her thoughts. She smiled at Arwen, folding her daughter's hand into her own.
'I think not, pen-nîn tithen*.'
'He will send Elladan and Elrohir?'
Celebrían watched her daughter, if possible, more like her father than her brothers, his eyes, his face, all so obviously represented. She had inherited much of his ways as well. Elrond's patience had already been present in the girl when she was young, while it had surfaced in Elladan much later. And Elrohir… Well, he unquestionably showed more of Celebrían's own eagerness, but patience was growing within him as well.
Above them, the Council continued.
The sun had long gone, and the stars were, one by one, appearing in the night sky. Elrond watched Mithrandir, noting the worried look in the Istar's face.
'Do you wish to call a Council?'
The wizard shook his head.
'It took three years to call it last time… And we cannot undo what has transpired already. Osgilliath is ruined, its stone bridge is said to have been broken.'
Elrond sat down at the head of the table, one hand on the wooden surface, the other on an armrest.
'They issued from Imlad Morgul*?'
'The walls of the Tower of Sorcery shine with a pale frightening light.'
Elrond sat silent for a moment.
'You have heard of Hadhodrond*?'
'If you mean the Dark Lord of Mordor peopling the mines with his creatures, yes, I have indeed received that information.' Mithrandir replied, sitting forward.
Elrond sighed almost unnoticeably.
'It seems as if the Power of the Black Land wishes to bar all passes into Eriador…'
Mithrandir did not answer, cogitating, his mind no doubt travelling the same path as that of the Lord of Imladris. After a long silence he shook his head.
'But I do not wish to keep you from your celebrations this evening. We can discuss this in the days to come.' Rising from the chair, he looked down at the Elven Lord.
'It seems strange to celebrate a departure, and yet we always do.'
Elrond woke by kisses being trailed over the bare skin of his back. When he turned, Celebrían's smile was entrancing.
'Êl-rond-nîn…*, are you certain you do not wish to accompany me?'
'I wish to come…' Elrond replied sleepily, before her lips found his in a short but passionate merging. Celebrían drew back a little and waited for the remaining part of his answer. He sighed. 'But I cannot now…'
She made to move away, but he caught her arm, swiftly proving very much awake. He smiled seductively, his voice ever so enticing. 'Do not leave my bed, Lady, and defer your leave-taking a while yet…' Gently he pulled her back and no sooner began to press his lips against her neck.
'If I did that, I would never depart, my dearest.' Celebrían refuted, unconvincingly trying to release herself from his grasp.
'What is one more day, my Lady, in our lifetime?' He asked her huskily, guiding her onto her back, kissing, his tongue tickling, making her shiver.
'Dearest husband, it is one day earlier I return to your arms.' She replied, shutting her eyes, allowing herself to be swayed little by little.
'Am I not your Lord and Master… Is not your pleasure in giving me mine?' Elrond queried in between caresses.
Celebrían laughed as she pulled him closer, her hands tracing his back, reading the enjoyment in his eyes.
'Is it not your duty to give your Lady all she desires?'
'It is… And I shall…' He grinned, pinning her underneath him. 'If she wishes it.'
Elrond's impromptu movement made Celebrían hiss with a rapid inhalation, and she stretched her arms, his lips once more meeting her unprotected neckline. 'Do you?'
With a soft groan she embraced him and buried her hands in his hair.
'I wish it, Elrond… I do…'
His hands slipped under her shoulders, his fingers just able to reach her cheekbone, softly stroking it as he kissed her again.
Both knew that subsequently, she would go and he would stay. But at that moment it did not matter, very little mattered.
Only later would either wish it had gone differently.
But it is easier to be wise afterwards.
Lenited-nîn o menel…: 'My light from heaven…' (literally: light-my from heaven)
pen-nîn tithen: my little one (literally: one-my little)
Imlad Morgul: Sindarin for 'valley of black magic', Minas Morgul was located at the end of the valley.
Hadhodrond: Sindarin for Khazad-dûm, although 'Moria' was the more usual Elvish name (flaunting a find, sorry)
êl-rond-nîn…: 'My star-dome…' (literally: sparkling star-dome-my) (star-dome is one of the translations of 'Elrond', the other is 'elf of the cave', Mr Tolkien never made up his mind about which one he wanted to use; 'rond' means both 'vaulted or arched roof', and 'cave')
How many of you hate me now? ;-)
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