17. A Greater Theme
'Then Aragorn, being now the Heir of Isildur, was taken with his mother to dwell in the House of Elrond; and Elrond took the place of his father and came to love him as a son of his own. […]'
From Lord of the Rings Appendix A
Chapter 17 A Greater Theme
It was on a summer evening, with the unmistakable tension of a summer storm in the air, and the Lord of Imladris had been in his study, his daughter not far away, softly reading to him. Something in her voice unmistakably remembered him of Celebrían, and he was only partially listening to the actual story.
Arwen had been aware of this for a while, and ceased mid-sentence, closing the book.
Elrond looked up.
'Yes, my Undómiel?'
'You have not heard a word I said.'
Arwen watched her father smile apologetically, rising from his seat.
'Let us go outside, my little one, and wait for the rain.'
Taking his arm, the only remaining Lady of Imladris let her father escort her out of the rooms, onto the balcony. Staring into the shimmering distance, he placed his arm around his daughter and felt her arm slip about him as well. He sighed softly, involuntarily.
'Your mother loved this moment, the expectance of rain in the air…'
Arwen positioned her head against his shoulder.
'I remember, ada.'
Elrond rested his head on hers.
She did not respond, realising very well that there was no real reply, right or wrong.
It was not often that he spoke of her mother in such a melancholy way. Arwen knew of her fathers worries, but did not believe she possessed her mother's ability to chase them away.
'Does the Council still trouble you?'
Elrond smiled and slowly nodded.
'But I doubt you wish to hear of it, my daughter. It seems of little interest to you, methinks.'
Arwen caught his hand.
'It does interest me father, I would want to learn.'
Narrowing his eyes, Elrond studied the face of his youngest child.
'Many things are occurring now, in Middle-earth, and many of them do not seem to be related in the slightest… But they all are. Everything is interconnected; a part of something greater. And all of it points at what is to come.'
'I wish to know, ada, and who could teach me better than you?'
The first soft rumblings of the storm came together with raindrops. Elrond smiled at Arwen. There was an urgency over him, sudden, unexplainable.
'We shall speak of this in the morning.'
His daughter kissed him on the cheek.
Elrond nodded, and watched her leave him, before turning. Stepping back, he watched the raindrops beginning to fall, drizzling onto the railing, the stone tiles slowly changing colour, from light to dark.
There was something, just now, trying to touch his mind, he couldn't quite grasp it yet, but there had been. He inhaled the sweet air of freshly wetted trees and flowers deeply.
How many years, he wondered. How many years shall I have to witness this without you? Even knowing she was watching the same stars, likely experiencing the same upon the arrival of rain, could not reconcile his dejection.
When small puddles began to form on the balcony, Elrond bowed his head and followed his daughter's advice.
He felt her breath on his face, her voice in his mind, in such a way that it could have been her lips near his ear. If it had been only that, he would not have woken, but a touch on his chest made it unavoidable.
Open you eyes, husband…
Dressed in a magnificent grey-blue, her hands were warm as they caught his, her eyes were glimmering as she looked down at him.
'It was you, my love?' He smiled at her, feeling her fingers playfully touch his ear.
I felt your call, thelion…'*
'Im taen an-le*, Celebrían…'
Her laughter was filled with the vivacity it had long lacked.
We will soon be reunited, pen-bara, the longest waiting has already passed.
Elrond watched the angelic image of his wife, with a smile, only deep down doubting, as ever, whether it was truly her, from far away, or his own mind, projecting her image into the dream. Or…
Ignoring it, he sat up, moving towards her.
Celebrían touched his lips, with subtle fingers.
Our daughter worries for you, my love.
Elrond nodded, pulling her closer.
'I know it, gwilwileth. She seems to have my mind for seriousness, and I am reluctant to encourage, for fear of driving her into my habits.'
Why not send her to Lothlórien? My mother can teach her as well as you, as can my father.
He smiled, then turned more serious.
'I worry for Elladan and Elrohir.'
Celebrían's hands rested on his chest, playing with the buttons.
Do you wish to tell me?
Elrond nodded, surprised by the vividness of the dream. He could even smell her hair… Slowly he brushed his cheek against her forehead.
'They have not ceased their war with the orcs, which they started when you left. They rode with Gondor during the battle at the Field of Celebrant, and now they trail the paths around Imladris and beyond, seeking revenge…'
You wish to tell them it is wrong, but do not know how?' She asked him, her eyes locking with his, bending towards him, her lips closing in on his.
As Elrond moved his hand to touch her face, answer her kiss, another voice penetrated the dream.
Turning in his empty bed, to find someone standing by the side, Elrond needed a moment to shake the dream, putting his hand through his hair. I am sorry, gwilwileth… Then he nodded at the Elf.
'What is the matter, Erestor?'
'Your sons, my Lord, they have returned. Bringing bad tidings…'
Elrond drew away the covers and left the bed, finding some clothing to go over his thin sleeping attire. As he glanced at the window, he perceived the night still present outside, and turned to his councillor.
'Pray tell, what news?'
'The Lords of Imladris rode out, my Lord, with Arathorn, son of Arador…'
Elrond gave him a dark stare.
'But they are well, Erestor?'
'They are waiting, not willing to go to the infirmary until speaking with you.'
Elrond was quickly out of his rooms, finding his sons in the hallway outside.
Elladan and Elrohir were drenched with rain, their faces grim. Both sported minor injuries, but Elrond judged those to be too inconsequential to worry about. Embracing each of them, his gaze rested on Elrohir.
'What is it that you wish to tell me?'
Elrohir bowed his head. Still, his answer came without wavering.
'Arathorn was slain during our endeavour in the North, father. An arrow pierced his eye. There was nothing we could do.'
Elrond swallowed. This was no time for the Chieftain of the Dúnedain to fall.
What had he said to Arwen? All is related, part of a greater theme?
'And what of Arathorn's wife and her son?'
The soft wailing of a small child came from behind his sons, as a dark-haired young woman, equally drenched, stepped forward.
'Master Elrond, your sons insisted on me accompanying them here, when they brought my husband's body home.' She bowed her head shortly.
Elrond returned the civility.
She seemed tired, as she cradled her son in her arms, desperate to keep him still in the dark night.
Afterwards he would wonder what had possessed him, but Elrond extended his arms for the boy, and felt his clothing soaked as Gilraen readily handed him over. With a shush he whispered to the dark-haired child, which stopped its crying to intently listen. The Lord of Imladris spoke the soothing words he had spoken so often before. He imagined the darkness scared the child, if not that, likely the thunder of before. Then he returned to the Lady Gilraen, as the two year old in his arms rested its head against his shoulder.
'If you entrust him to me for now, my Lady, I propose you have a change of clothes and some rest. We shall speak in the morning.'
Gilraen nodded, and stroked the dark hair on her son's head.
'I gladly give him into your charge, Master Elrond. And your proposal is most appreciated.'
Elrond turned to Erestor and nodded.
'Would you escort the Lady to some accommodation, Erestor?'
Erestor offered his arm, and looked back at Elrond before guiding Gilraen away.
'Do you wish me to send someone?'
Elrond shook his head and turned, eying his sons.
'Get those injuries examined, and we shall speak afterwards.'
Placing a protective hand against the child's head, Elrond strode back into his chambers.
There he entered a part of the quarters that had long been vacant. From one of the closets he collected a white tunic and trousers, once Elladan's, and placed the child on a nearby chair. Quickly he found some sheets and placed them on the small unoccupied bed.
The boy seemed to be nodding off, head on chin, breath peaceful, eyes closed. With experienced fingers, Elrond removed the sodden garments from the half-waking child, replacing them with the dry Elvish clothing. Lifting him, Elrond felt small arms and legs cling to him, head resting against his chest once more.
Looking down at the child, Elrond shook his head.
I-Estel ned I-Edain?
Then he lowered him into the bed, which had once belonged to Arwen when she was still sleeping close to her parents, many years ago. With a frown he watched the boy curl up. Slowly he nodded. This child was in need of protection, fatherless in a world where even grown men could not protect themselves. Isildur's Heir… For this child the Dark Lord would soon be searching relentlessly…
'Indeed, it shall be Estel.' He whispered, pulling up the sheets, covering the boy.
Outside he found his sons already waiting. He cleared his throat.
'I have a favour to ask of you.'
Elrohir nodded, somewhat relieved their father had decided not to lecture them.
'Anything, ada, you know that.'
Elrond smiled, motioning them to walk on a little, not willing to risk waking the boy.
'You must keep this to yourselves… No one is to know of this as yet…'
The Elven Lords nodded solemnly. Elladan met his father's eyes.
'You will not send them away, will you?'
Elrond shook his head.
'Needless to say, I will not. But I have another thing to ask of you.' He waited for his sons to look up before continuing. 'I plan to travel to Lórien tomorrow and take your sister to see the Lord and Lady. I shall not be long, but while I am away, I bid the both of you stay here.'
He perceived some reluctance in their faces, but neither voiced any. Then gave a firm nod.
'Very well, do not speak of what has transpired here this evening with Arwen, I shall do so myself during our journey. If she discovers a child in this house, even I shall not be able to disentangle her from it.'
It was a rare occurrence for a party of less than twenty riders to cross the Misty Mountains after the tragedy of the Lady of Imladris, but the following of Elrond and Arwen on their journey was not a regularity either. Over fifty Elves were with them, most armed and distrusting of every slight unusual movement.
It was the first time in over four centuries that Elrond had taken the Redhorn Pass, and even now, the only reason was because he felt the need to. He feared his reaction, he had for a long time, simply sitting by the fire in Imladris. And now it was going to be over, he had decided. No longer will you let this be so.
He had seen and relived most of Celebrían's experience through her, but now he found himself scanning the area around him. Not because he was afraid of an attack, but rather an almost unconscious fear of seeing evidence of what had happened, within him. An illogical apprehension, since how could it possibly still be evident, after such a long time?
Arwen was more silent than usual, even though it had not been the first time she had travelled this road. Celeborn had come to collect her, last time.
Elrond's greatest trepidation was over reaching Lothlórien, though.
For how would he find it now, without her who had made him love it in the first place?
Elrohir leant against the stone pillar near his old nursery, knowing Elladan was engaged in the library, focussing on some of Imladris's responsibilities.
He, meanwhile, had been made a childminder.
His father had spoken at great length with the Lady Gilraen on the morning after their arrival, and the same afternoon, he and Arwen had departed for Lórien, leaving instructions to all of the household, promising he would be returning within the week.
Even if he was slightly disappointed with having been given a less important task, Elrohir couldn't refrain from smiling at Estel, for that was how his father had decided to name the boy for now, when he came running from the rooms.
The child had seemed afraid of the tall dark-haired Elf earlier on, but Elrohir had had no trouble helping him overcome that initial shyness.
Now, it seemed Estel pulled him along in his games, and he found himself slowly running from a giggling toddler, just as he had years ago, when Arwen was little.
And, it was taking his mind off… other things.
As he took Estel on his arm, Elrohir walked to the stables, his mind not with the small boy's chattering. In the beginning, all might have been Elladan's idea, but over the years it had turned into a quest of sorts for him too. It was their duty, to Middle-earth, to the memory of their mother, to exact vengeance.
Too many of their kin had already been slain by orcs… He would not let it happen again… But in a way, they were responsible for Arathorn's death… They had widowed Gilraen, taken Estel's father. Pressure on his shoulder made him come out of his brooding.
'Rohir, holding too tight.' The boy looked at him. Elrohir smiled.
'I'm sorry, Estel.'
Offering his hand to his daughter, Elrond helped her dismount, observing Galadriel and Celeborn nearing. Arwen embraced her grandfather with an loud expression of joy. Elrond stood by, ill at ease, and Celeborn looked at him, as Arwen turned to her grandmother.
'Are you well?'
The Lord of Imladris nodded slowly.
'Quite well, though I am not sure if it was wise to come.'
Celeborn shook his head.
'And instead you would hide away in Imladris for the remainder of your years here? Celebrían did not wish it, and no such thing shall happen, not while you are here, at least. Arda is a dark place even without your gloominess.' Celeborn grinned, and patted Elrond's arm. 'We shall have you play and sing yet, my friend.'
Galadriel looked at Celeborn before smiling at Elrond.
'Leave him be, husband.' She motioned Elrond, as Arwen took her grandfather's arm. 'Join me, Master Elrond.'
With a short bow, Elrond complied, and the two Elves walked off together, into the silent Golden Wood, leaving Arwen and Celeborn. Elrond found himself at peace, all of a sudden, and he tried to ascertain when it had happened, but could not.
'And what brings you to the city of the Caras Galadon, Elrond?' She asked him, as they removed themselves further from listening ears, a smile curving her lips, her eyes betraying she was aware of the answer already.
'Many things unspoken, my Lady, but officially one thing alone. To bring my daughter here. To learn.'
Galadriel smiled again.
'I guessed of this… Upon your own initiative?'
Elrond looked at her, trying to read from her face some confirmation.
'It was not.'
'You fear that which you envision, but yet you follow it?'
Elrond shook his head.
'I know not what to believe… When the Dark Lord came to us as Annatar*, he was fair to look upon, and somehow we foresaw it was not so. But now, I fear my mind is clouded and I might be misled by imaginings…'
'And yet you stand here…' Galadriel smiled.
'And yet I do…' Elrond sighed.
Galadriel shook her head.
'I doubt many have the power to mislead you, Elrond of Imladris, and though my support is based on intuition alone, it feels to me, you need not fear your dreams.'
Elrond grinned broadly and offered his arm, which Galadriel readily accepted.
'I recall your intuition to be more accurate than most facts, Lady of the Galadrim.'
Galadriel smiled weakly, but stayed silent, suddenly deep in thought. Her voice was questioning, the first time Elrond had ever heard it in such a tone.
'Did you see it coming?'
He had been expecting the question for many centuries, but no one ever enquired after it. Perhaps Glorfindel of all came nearest, but the moment of asking had passed, and it never came again.
'I dreamt of it once, before it happened.' Elrond said, distantly. 'Even before Arwen was born…' He looked at the Elf next to him, more than ever recognising some of his wife's features in her mother. 'Did you?'
Galadriel was silent for a long while. Though Elrond considered he might not wish to know the answer, he waited for it. When Galadriel spoke, her voice startled him.
'I saw it, a long time ago, when you came to Edhellond… I did not think it was a foresight, rather something that had come unbidden… You know that visions are perilous guides to actions…'
Elrond nodded slightly as Galadriel continued.
'…which I believe is the reason you have never looked into the Mirror.'
He shook his head.
'I have no need for that which would increase my qualms. And over the years, I have learned, if it reveals something reliant on my attention, I will gain knowledge of it through you.' He glanced at Galadriel. 'I will not stay long.'
Such a statement can denote many different things, can it not, meldir? She smiled.
Elrond laughed earnestly.
'Many things, my Lady. But now, it merely suggests I shall leave Lórien in the morning.'
Estel sat on the floor of the library, following the intricate leaves which decorated the tiles of the stone floor right through into Elrond's study. The beautifully carved design was perfect for tracing with small fingers. With the unwavering concentration small children can have at times, the boy was softly singing, a lullaby his mother often sung.
Not far away sat Elrond, his hand to his chin. He was supposed to be working, but he could not take his eyes of the small child. Estel's current occupation reminded him of Elladan and Elrohir, who had done the same when younger.
Much as Valandil once had, the Lord of Imladris reminisced with a smile, Estel was growing faster than his own children had at his age. But the resemblance to them, was nevertheless stunning. The exact same eyes, hair colour, and facial expressions. If not examined too intently, the son of Arathorn could easily, Elrond mused, pass for one of his own children.
As far as Estel was concerned, he was.
Neither Elrond nor Gilraen had dared to keep the boy from calling the Elf-lord, 'ada', like he, most likely, had heard Elladan and Elrohir do.
But somewhere, deep down, while knowing it was not wise to allow such a thing, Elrond took heart in it, remembering those blissful years when he was a young father.
He could not help but call that image to mind as, years later, a now ten-year-old Estel stood in his study.
'What did they speak of, adar?'
Elrond smiled and extended his arm to the boy, who took some quick steps nearer.
'They spoke of trolls, Estel, trolls and treasure… But more interestingly, there were moon-letters.'
Estel watched the book Elrond had lying in front of him.
'What are moon-letters?'
'Runes you can only read when the moon shines behind them, and the ones on their map were of an even more crafty variety. Those that can only be read by a moon of the same shape, in the same season as on the day they were created.'
Estel nodded. Then he looked up at Elrond.
'Can you tell me about trolls?'
With a grin, Elrond lifted him onto the table.
'A story about trolls?'
Estel nodded forcefully, and Elrond pursed his lips. For a moment, Estel was afraid his foster-father would not even consider his request. But then he saw the glimmer in the grey eyes and Elrond sat back.
'Suddenly the red light shone out very bright through the tree-trunks not far ahead…'
thelion: (Sindarin) one who remains firm in his purpose
Im taen an-le: (Sindarin) I long for thee
pen-bara: (Sindarin) eager one
I-Estel ned I-Edain?: (Sindarin) the Hope of the Dúnedain?
Annatar: literally: 'lord of gifts', the name under which Sauron came to the Elves in the early Second Age
The last sentence comes directly from 'the Hobbit'.
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.