8. Words Not To Be Spoken Again…
Glorfindel sighed, motioning Elrond to bend his head, so he could inspect the superficial injury that had bruised the skin beneath the dark hair. The Lord of Imladris sat on a chair, hands clasped, dressed down to only tunic and trousers.
'How bad is it? The throbbing in my head disables objectivity, it seems.' he tried to joke. 'For I would say severe concussion.'
They found themselves in one of the larger encampments, in the High King's tent to be precise. Not that the High King himself was anywhere in sight.
Not a week's journey away from Imladris, they, in time, would no doubt return there. But not just yet.
Where Elrond had forbidden Gil-galad to travel and had advised him to take some rest instead, Glorfindel had given the Lord of Imladris similar counsel. And where Gil-galad did not listen to Elrond concerning respite, Elrond did not listen to Glorfindel.
As his fingers probed the swelling on the back of Elrond's head, perhaps a little less careful then appropriate, Glorfindel raised an eyebrow.
'Concussion is right... But it is a light one... They hit you quite fortunately... You losing consciousness is very curious.'
'Is it now? Would you mind making your examining less persistent?'
With a shrug Glorfindel prodded the abrasion unnecessarily.
'Perhaps you buckled under the stress.'
Elrond turned around and tried to evade Glorfindel's touch.
'You jest with me.'
A chuckle escaped the other.
'You would do the same, if our positions were the other way round.'
'Probably...' Elrond sighed, though much of it was pretence, and turned again, trying not to let amusement seep into his tone of voice.
Both were nevertheless silent for a considerable period of time.
'Had you any idea, when in the woods, that you were so close to the road as you were?' Glorfindel finally asked, still examining and assessing the damage done to the back of the other Elf-lord's head.
Elrond, head bowed again, rubbed his eyes for a moment.
'I was unconscious on a horse... When I woke there was no time for explanations... And subsequently you arrived... I knew we had been travelling towards the road, but had little to no idea where we exactly were. Though it is unlikely I will ever admit what I have just said again.' he added with a smug smile.
He sat, his head in his hands, watching his feet, not able to rest his eyes on the shape lying on the only bed that was occupied, nor able to leave the tent, somehow drifting in that ambiguous place somewhere in-between.
Elrond had tried to order him away, but had at the same time understood the gravity of it all, not insisting in the end. He came every once in a while to change the dressings of the wounds. Though Gil-galad suspected it was merely to check up on him personally.
They had been seventeen... In the end, only eleven had made it out of that doomed forest…
And this Elf, this boy…
Findor was finally able to breathe without trouble... It had taken several days, but he seemed to be better now.
To imagine... How preoccupied had he been after that last attack in the woods? Gil-galad wondered.
Preoccupied enough to only think of those directly around him; Elrond and Malthon.
He couldn't have been far. Either Celeborn or Glorfindel could probably tell him exactly where they had found the almost lifeless body of this particular member of his Guard. But the fact that he had not even thought of Findor, had not even considered there might be other survivors than they themselves… Indefensible…
He should have thought of him... Was he not supposed to? The essence of being a ruler was to look out for his people. He had not done so very thoroughly...
The rustling of clothing made him come out of his state of self-punishment.
No doubt it was Jarin, coming to check up on his friend.
Jarin, too, blamed himself for what had happened. The part of the group he had led had accidentally been separated from the rest, not encountering much resistance. It had left each and every one of them feeling responsible for what had happened to the others afterwards.
For Jarin, Gil-galad acted strong... He had talked him through those early nights full of regret and remorse...
How easy had it been to reassure him, while all the while he felt the same, though many times worse...
What would my father say? he questioned himself, raising his head. What would he have said indeed?
A form he did not immediately recognise made him turn. Not Jarin. He watched the Elf-lady, dressed in dark travel-clothing. Apparently she had not noticed him yet.
He was surprised, but not enough to make him reveal his presence immediately. She looked pale, worried. But she had lost little to nothing of her radiance.
'You should not have come all the way here...' he began, but silenced himself as she turned and clasped her hand over her mouth at the sight of him.
'I thought you were... My Lord...' She lowered her gaze and stepped back, visibly shocked.
Gil-galad narrowed his brow, and rose.
'My Lady... Is it your husband you seek? He is not here.'
Alian raised her head and gazed upon him for a long while, and he stood there, returning her look intently.
'I am sorry, my Lord... I shall leave you.'
Catching the side of her heavy dresses she made to leave, but Gil-galad brought up a hand.
'Alian... Do not leave so... I did not mean to speak like that.'
She stopped, but did not turn, the fabric of her clothing clasped between her fingers. She said nothing.
Gil-galad shook his head.
'I merely wished to enquire why you came...'
Bowing her head, her back still towards him, Alian's voice was a whisper.
'I heard the High King had been wounded, and that he was to be found here... I have ascertained he is well. My presence is not needed. I ask for your leave, my Lord.'
Gil-galad rested his hand on the bed-post. For years, they had kept out of each others way. And now, when the silence was finally broken, she would leave him and continue as if nothing had occurred?
'I would I had been gravely wounded... For you would have spoken to me truthfully.' He swallowed audibly. 'You have my leave if you so wish it.'
For a moment, he truly thought she would. That she would walk on and leave. But instead she spun around, and it seemed as if she had cried, but her face was stern.
'Do not jest with such matters, my Lord.'
He nevertheless tried to smile.
'If not for Elrond and Malthon, you would have indeed found me a grave man.'
Alian shook her head.
'You have changed nothing... Never speaking in earnest unless it is with your lords...'
Placing his hand on his shoulder, where a weak pain seemed to linger always, he turned and sat down again.
'I do not wish to continue like this... Ask me... Ask me anything and I shall answer in earnest.'
The expression on her face changed as her eyes rested on the wounded Elf lying motionlessly on the bed.
'Not here, Ereinion.'
He pursed his lips as he felt something build inside him.
'Very well.' He rose again and made way for a more vacant part of the tent. 'Come.'
He heard her follow, and discovered he had not expected her to, deep inside.
When he stopped, and turned to face her, there seemed very little he could do but stand there.
'Did you undertake this foolish act to prove something?' she queried, looking at him. He bowed his head and turned away a little, feeling something uncomfortably similar to shame flow through his body.
'I did not do it to...'
Alian shook her head.
'You risked their lives, Ereinion, you risked and you lost lives to save one... One.'
As if she suddenly realised she spoke somewhat freely to the High King of the Noldor, she cast down her eyes and silenced herself.
Gil-galad looked at her sideways.
'You seem to conveniently forget that that one, is your husband.'
She returned his gaze, her eyes uncertain.
'I know it... Am I to thank you now?'
There was a certain scorn in her voice that he did not like. But he did not wish to go back to hostility now... He would not be able to bear it.
'Do not thank me. Do not even think of it.' At the same time, as he spoke the words, he wanted to touch her, if even only her hand, wanted to feel if her skin was as warm and comforting as it had been when he had still been allowed to touch it. He wanted to tell her she was not mistaken, that he had acted arrogantly, that he had once more allowed himself to be led by his own ill-fated Noldorin pride.
But he bowed his head and remained silent.
He had been proud too many times already in the past, and she had been the victim on some, if not most, of these occasions. And his head was light... Too light to enable him to think clearly.
Then finally, when he did speak, he was not certain if he truly did.
'I was proud.'
'What truly drove you to it?' she asked him, studying his features, his face. 'Not pride alone.'
'Perhaps it was fear... Fear of what you would say if I returned and heard that I had not attempted to save him... I would have rather died than that...'
He looked up and watched her, her hands clasped, her eyes resting uncomfortably on his face.
'You almost did die... For Elbereth's sake, Ereinion, you almost did...' she whispered.
Gil-galad breathed heavily. Did these words heal all? Was it possible? Mere words, sounds, vowels, consonants... Repairing that which had been broken by words not spoken at the right time.
He shrugged, acting more uncaring than he in reality was.
'I wish,' he suddenly heard himself begin, 'I wish I could turn back time, but I cannot. I feel this,' he added, looking at her as intently as she observed him. 'But there is no way... No way whatsoever, for me to change all that has happened and love you, even though I wish it more than life itself... I cannot say; I care not, for I would not wish it, I would not want to stain you so...'
'You love me, my Lord?' she asked him, disbelief embedded within her very tone. He was surprised by it, since it seemed so very obvious to him that he did, every single action betraying him more.
For a moment, he only stared at her.
'I love thee, I have, and I shall… But I will not speak of it ever again. I have only one heart, my Lady... Do not ask me to break it again, especially not now that the pieces have been somewhat mended by the years.'
Slowly she nodded, but he thought his words changed something within her. They had to. She had lived centuries believing he had not loved her, and had possibly found that to be the only justification for some of her later actions.
And now all those foundations were crumbling beneath her.
Still, she stood there and merely looked at him, only her eyes betraying a glimmer of the tempest that had to be within.
'I feared you were terribly injured.'
He smiled weakly.
'Most of what you heard was likely exaggerated.'
She swallowed and nodded.
'Indeed, my Lord.'
How easy was it now, to put everything aside and put propriety at naught? To love her, to take her back, to claim her as his own, for ever. To take her in his arms and let his lips fly over her face...
And yet he did not even consider it for more than a moment.
'Methinks you will leave Middle-earth.'
Alian closed her eyes and bowed her head.
'I have not yet spoken of this to my husband, but it is indeed what I plan to suggest. Perhaps we can find peace in the Blessed Realm. We shall not find it here. Not now, not anymore.'
He wished to speak, but the sound of a throat being cleared interrupted his attempt.
Elrond's face did not emit anything.
'My Lord,' He nodded to Gil-galad, before resting his eyes on Alian. 'The Lord Malthon seeks you, my Lady.'
Alian met the High King's eyes, no words seemed to be needed.
'Tenn' enomentielva, Alian.'
'I shall remember, Ereinion.'
He slowly nodded in reply, and watched her hurry out of the tent, giving a courteous nod towards Elrond, who returned it with equal civility.
Gil-galad looked at him. His head slightly tilted, Elrond looked back.
'Celeborn has set out for Imladris?'
Elrond nodded silently. The High King stared at Findor for a moment. Then he looked up again.
'Tomorrow, we too, shall journey back to Imladris.' He smiled at Elrond. 'I promise I shall rest there.'
If he expected an argument from the Lord of Imladris, it never came.
Brougham briskly left his tent and mounted the awaiting horse.
It had been for nothing, it had failed, but all was not lost yet. Not entirely.
His men would not suspect anything now, how could they?
For all they knew he was on his way into the valley, responding to the summons of the silver-haired Elf-lord that Gil-galad had sent.
But he was going. Leaving his men, this camp, at once.
If he rode on swiftly, he would be able to join the party waiting for him within at least two days time.
For he knew with certainty: it would only be a matter of time before all would be discovered, and not even his Master would be able to save him then. Especially not his Master...
A grave miscalculation had indeed been made.
It had been made, Brougham considered, when the disquiet of the Lord of Lindon had been misjudged, when long ago emissaries had been shut out of the land between the Ered Luin and the sea, and He had thought his plans could be brought to a successful ending by simply ignoring its Lord, at that time. But they had doubted Him already, had refused to admit Him even without knowing whom He in truth had been.
Well, Brougham thought, he would not be held responsible for that miscalculation.
Spurring his horse, he rode off into the wild.
'What do you mean, he is gone?'
Celeborn looked at Gil-galad and shook his head.
'As soon as I arrived here, I summoned every important officer I could reach, but he was the only one that never came.'
The High King turned for a moment before facing the Elf-lord again.
'Was Danhelm not supposed to keep an eye on him?'
'He is already upset enough without being accused of letting a supposed traitor escape.' Elrond remarked as he entered the makeshift library, where the conversation was taking place.
'I did not accuse him.' Gil-galad mumbled as he sat down and rested his chin in his hand. The journey had tired him, and after their arrival, news had been too important to simply put aside until they had rested.
'Good,' the Lord of Imladris replied, still dressed in most of his travel-clothing. 'And what would you have done if he had been here? You have no jurisdiction. And no doubt he has friends in Númenor.'
'So you propose we let this go?' the High King snapped, but Elrond met his eyes without fear.
'Brougham has been exposed, we know not to trust him.' He shrugged. 'If he ever returns, we can deal with him. If not, good riddance.'
Gil-galad sat back and sighed.
'You take this very lightly, methinks.'
Elrond turned and walked over to take one of the more comfortable chairs.
'I am grateful for those of us who have come out of this nightmare, who are allowed to sit here now. At this moment, let us be watchful of the East, and not be fixed on retribution and wrath.'
'So we do not speak of this?'
Elrond sighed deeply, not a sigh of regret or sadness, rather one of relief.
'We celebrate. Incessantly. Like we did before we rode into the woods.'
The sound of someone clearing his throat could be distinguished from the other end of the library.
Both Elrond and Gil-galad rested their eyes on the Elf-lord that had appeared in the doorway.
His gaze was unforgiving.
'I believe, my Lords, that the Lord Celeborn and I would be very well able to prepare any festivities, while the both of you actually submit yourself to the respite you keep vowing to take.'
With a sigh, Gil-galad buried his head in his arms on the table, and Elrond sat back with an amused smirk.
For a moment, Glorfindel thought to recognise wayward boys, rather than Elf-lords of the realm.
Then it was Gil-galad who rose first, and made his way out of the room, patting Glorfindel on the shoulder as he walked by. Elrond shook his head and sat back.
'Am I supposed to take my example from my King?'
'For this once, I would much appreciate it.' Glorfindel said seriously.
Not for a moment loosing his idea of dignity, Elrond slowly made way for the other door of the chamber, nearest to his rooms. Turning around he cast a look back at Glorfindel.
'You realise I am trusting you with the celebration completely?'
'I do, my Lord. But as long as the wine is good, and flows in abundance, I think we need not worry about many complaints. Especially not from you and the High King, if memory serves me right.'
Very well recalling one of the last feasts he had attended in Lindon, shortly before his sudden departure for Eregion, Elrond quickly turned to hide his smile. With a grin, he tried to recall what had actually taken place that evening. Something to do with singing, if he was correct. Loud singing.
'That was a very good wine indeed, Glorfindel.' he smiled. Receiving a knowing smile from the golden-haired Elf before he finally departed.
Smiling broadly, Glorfindel joined Celeborn and together they walked onto the balcony.
'What will this Imladris become, you think?' Glorfindel asked, as they looked out over the valley.
'It needs a great deal of work still, but somehow, this House will become much as Elrond is, I suspect. Tradition, learning, lore, all represented here. A place of reflection rather than action.' Celeborn answered.
With a smile, Glorfindel nodded. They stood silent for a while.
'Have you send word to your wife yet?'
'Not as yet,' Celeborn mused. 'But she will find me.'
'Have you not a daughter?' Glorfindel queried.
'I do,' the Elf-lord smiled. 'And no doubt you shall meet her then. For now, let us concentrate on those festivities we promised our Lords.'
Nodding, Glorfindel grinned.
It was first only one hooded figure that he saw, but as he approached the rider, he saw others appearing form the shadows, as if they had been hidden there, almost a part of it.
'Why are you here?' The voice was a hiss, and Brougham tried to make out a face, tried to find something he recognised. He did not succeed. He cleared his throat.
'Your people failed. Both Lindon and Imladris came out of this unscathed. I cannot stay with my men, the Elves already suspect me. You must take me with you.'
A period of silence went by, during which dark eyes never seemed to leave Brougham's face.
'You still have it?' came the query finally.
Pulling of his glove, Brougham nodded, holding up his hand as proof.
The head of the rider snapped back towards the others, and for a moment they seemed in almost-silent conversation. Then the dark eyes rested on the Númenórean lord again.
As he motioned his horse past the rider, Brougham's gaze lingered on the hooded figure. Joining the others he couldn't help but count. Six. As the furthest rider started his horse, the rest followed almost at once. Brougham did the same.
Almost unnoticeably, he was accepted into their ranks. And then they were gone.
Yet Sauron was ever guileful, and it is said that among those whom he ensnared with the Nine Rings three were great lords of Númenórean race...
JRR Tolkien, the Silmarillion
tenn' enomentielva: (Quenya) 'until we meet again'
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.