2. The Shelter of the Storm
The storm continued unabated and the wind blew in strong gusts, pushing the rain under the cover of the balcony upon which he stood. He reveled in the sensation of water and air upon his face as he closed his eyes and listened. In storms long past, he would stand in this spot with Celebrian and together they would savour the roar of the rain and the howl of the wind, warm and secure in the comfort of each other's arms. How long he had remained there he knew not. The sky had begun to lighten slightly in the east, heralding the approach of another new day, but he paid it little heed, for his head and his heart were turned steadfastly to the west.
He was drawn from his thoughts by the sensation that he was no longer alone, and though he heard no sound, he knew that a familiar figure approached.
"You have lingered here throughout the night, Elrond?" The voice was warm, but tinged with concern.
He neither turned his head nor opened his eyes as he responded quietly: "If the dawn is indeed breaking, then it must be so."
"What of your sons? Have you yet spoken with them?"
"Nay, I sent them to bathe and to rest before we meet again. They are weary with grief, and Elladan will benefit from some time to think before he speaks."
"Do you truly believe that time to think will slow his tongue, my friend?"
Elrond responded to the light tone in the query with a slight smile as he turned finally to look at the one who spoke. "I can always have hope, Glorfindel."
A hand came to rest protectively on Elrond's shoulder, and though the smile was readily returned, concern was clearly written upon the golden face. "You, too, are deeply weary and greatly in need of rest."
In the comforting presence of his most trusted friend, Elrond felt no need for pretense, and he allowed his fatigue to show in his countenance as he responded: "This weariness has endured for over four hundred years, though I fear it is not yet my time to rest." His eyes were drawn again towards the west as he added wistfully: "Perhaps, soon..."
Glorfindel turned his head to follow his friend's gaze. "Do you foresee that our time here draws now to an end?"
Closing his eyes, Elrond grasped at tenuous images through the mists of his inner vision. With a slight frown, he shook his head in frustration. "Little is clear to me. Choices will soon be made and actions taken. Events will be set in motion, and, like a boulder dislodged from its precarious position at the top of a cliff, will gain momentum, becoming as an unstoppable force hurtling toward its inevitable conclusion, be it for good or ill. Though darkness envelopes the land and hope fades, hope is not completely lost, for from the shadows a path may yet be forged and light may emerge."
He opened his eyes again to look at Glorfindel directly as he continued: "This I know: the young son of Arathorn will have a vital role to play in what is to come. The Enemy fears greatly the line of Isildur and seeks relentlessly to eliminate his heirs."
Glorfindel was silent for a time before he spoke again. "It is good then that Aragorn and his mother were brought to your protection without delay. Elladan chose wisely."
A very slight smile played again at the corners of Elrond's lips. "We may at times be loathe to admit it, but insight often lurks behind the hasty decisions of my eldest son. His foresight is a gift to him, though he attempts to resist and deny it. He needs simply to learn how to temper his words and actions with greater patience."
Glorfindel smiled at these words. "Tis true, 'patient' is not the first word which comes to my mind when I think of the elder of your twins."
The two then turned their eyes outward and their thoughts inward, and they stood for a while in the comfortable silence of old friends, until Glorfindel spoke, his tone now sombre: "What of Lady Gilraen? This has all been most difficult for her. How do you believe she will fare?"
Elrond responded quietly, his voice betraying both his true sorrow and his deep respect. "When I took leave of her in her rooms, she was somehow managing to keep hold of her composure despite her grief, the upheaval of the whole of her life, and the loss of almost all that she holds dear. Though she is very young, she carries within her a great strength."
He paused for a moment, his eyes scanning a landscape that, while so intimately familiar to him, must seem so very foreign to the one of whom he spoke. "She believes her son to be all that is left to her, and she holds to him tightly. She feels so very lost and lonely, and while she needs some time to find release from her grief in solitude, we must not leave her alone too long. With our help, she will learn to adapt. I know not if she will ever believe herself to be truly at home amongst us, though I hope it will be so."
Glorfindel, too, cast his gaze over the beauty of Imladris as he reflected quietly: "At times, I find I overlook the remarkable resilience of the Second Born."
Elrond smiled slightly. "I have seen many a mortal grieve profoundly and yet recover from their loss. Men have been gifted with many qualities that the First Born tend to disregard."
Silence reigned again, though Elrond could read in Glorfindel's posture that their conversation was not yet over, and he waited patiently for his friend to give voice to whatever thoughts still pressed at his mind.
In due course, Glorfindel spoke, turning his head slightly to give Elrond a sideways glance. "I believe that Arwen would have enjoyed meeting Lady Gilraen, and no doubt, could have helped to ease the poor Lady's transition to her new life, but as you have sent your daughter away again to Lorien, unfortunately that can not be."
Well Elrond knew his old friend, but this turn in the conversation caught him off his guard. While the course of Glorfindel's words seemed at times to change as rapidly as his moods, nothing he expressed, even the seemingly most trite of sentiments, was without careful consideration and greater purpose. The challenge lay in deciphering the deeper meaning behind the words that were spoken.
Elrond remained silent and, though he could feel his friend's eyes upon him, his own were fixed upon an indistinct point in the horizon. Glorfindel spoke out of concern for him, this he understood, but even if he wished to, he could not adequately explain the reason behind his actions. How could he account for his strong desire to sequester Arwen from the presence of this young boy, to keep all knowledge of his precious daughter from this child of Men?
Finally, he replied with an answer, that while superficially the truth, did not begin to address the true heart of the matter: "You well know, Glorfindel, that Arwen is far more content when she is with her kin in Lorien. In Imladris, she tries to maintain a joyful demeanor largely for my sake, but there are too many painful memories tied to this place for her to find true happiness here."
Clearly not satisfied with the response, Glorfindel turned to study Elrond intently as he pressed the issue: "And yet, many times over these past few hundred years you have bemoaned the lack of Arwen's presence in these halls and wished dearly for her return. Finally, she returned to you and, for all I could see, she was truly happy to be back in her home, only to have you send her away again after a mere score of years. I can not help but wonder at the timing."
The words hung heavily in the air between them. It was rare indeed that Elrond was at a loss for a well-reasoned response. He had been gifted with great wisdom and foresight, but Glorfindel had always displayed an impressive ability to see past the surface and effectively arrive at the truth which lies beneath, and Elrond found himself questioning his own motives. Why was this so difficult for him to contemplate, even within his own mind? What did he so fear?
He was saved from the need to answer by a tugging on his awareness, and he turned his head toward the closed door of his study. "I am afraid, my friend, that our conversation must wait, for my sons now approach, and I believe that they are greatly in need of my counsel, if they are but willing to listen."
With these words, there came, surely enough, a strong, decisive knock upon the heavy oak door. Glorfindel paused briefly to cast a last look at Elrond before he passed from the balcony and through the study to answer the summons.
Elladan entered the room without ceremony, followed closely by Elrohir, and Elrond took a moment to study the two with a father's eye. He could see that they had washed and changed, and perhaps tried to rest, but both still looked haggard and weary, and Elrond knew that they were suffering greatly.
As Arwen had fled Imladris after Celebrian's departure across the sea, so too had his sons; though whereas she had turned to the comfort of her mother's mother in Lorien, they had found release from their grief by twining their fates with those of far more distant kin. Each time they returned to Imladris from one of their increasingly long sojourns with the Dunedain, bearing ill news of the spread of evil and the ever-worsening situation of the mortal descendants of their father's brother, they had aged again in Elrond's eyes. It was not a tale of years that showed upon their faces, but rather a far more pervasive aging from within.
Without so much as a sideways glance towards Glorfindel, Elladan approached his father and spoke, his voice tense and urgent. "We have much to discuss..."
"And I will leave you to your council, after I wish you all a good day, of course," said Glorfindel with a slight bow of his head. He then exited the room, closing the door behind him and leaving the father alone with his sons.
Elrond took a deep breath before he addressed them: "Tell me all that has happened, my sons."
Elladan spoke for them, as Elrond knew he would. "It was an ambush. Arathorn was killed instantly by an orc arrow through his eye. We were taken by surprise, for the orcs employed tactics we had never before seen in their kind. Each time we engage them in battle, their actions are increasingly more purposeful and planned, and far less the result of blind rage. Their strength is growing and they are becoming ever more bold."
As Elladan recounted the details of their latest fatal encounter with the enemy, Elrond could hear the guilt and sorrow in his voice. Elrohir remained silent and still, warily watching in turn his father and his brother, who had begun to pace the room in agitation.
Elladan paused briefly, shaking his head slightly before he continued. "This battle was all the more unusual in that Elrohir and I were clearly not the intended target of their attack. Until recently, we have always been singled out by orcs as the only elves in a group of men, and inevitably we faced the brunt of their fury. This time, they seemed to focus their attack instead on the men, and Arathorn in particular. It is no coincidence that the heirs of Isildur are falling in these battles, for I believe that the enemy is actively seeking them out."
Elrond nodded his head slightly, as if in confirmation. "I have seen this, too."
At these words, Elladan stopped his pacing and turned to look at his father directly. "How can you have seen this father, when you are never there?"
"Elladan..." Elrohir stepped forward slightly, and spoke his twin's name with a note of warning, as if he were trying to contain his brother's words.
With defiance in his posture, Elladan did not acknowledge his brother but, rather, kept his gaze fixed firmly upon his father, awaiting a response.
Elrond met his son's eyes evenly as he answered softly: "There are other ways of seeing, Elladan, as you would well know, if you would only accept your gift and learn from it. At times, you act far too rashly, my son, and without due consideration."
Elladan's glare grew even more heated. "You say I act too rashly, but what of you? You are always thinking and waiting, never acting! You remain here, safe within the comfort of your fine haven, biding your time, and you wait. What do you wait for, father? For all your foresight and your visions and your dreams to come to fruition? For a sign, some small symbol or token, that doom is near at hand? How will you know?"
As he spoke, his voice grew louder, until it became an angry shout that reverberated through the room: "While you endlessly wait, good men die!"
Elladan then turned away and he was silent for a moment, his head bowed and his eyes closed tightly. There was a tremor in his voice when he spoke again, his words now barely more than a whisper. "So many good men have died in the fight against the Shadow. Ever does Its strength grow and Its greedy reach further foul the land. Ever does It claim more sons from their parents, husbands from their wives, fathers from their sons. Mothers from their children!"
Elladan turned quickly to look at the face of his father, piercing him with accusing eyes. "You have waited for many generations of men, always holding in your heart the hope for change, but never holding in your hands a sword to bring about victory!"
With these words, Elladan again fell silent, and all that could be heard in the room was the sound of heavy, ragged breathing, as he closed his eyes and stood rigidly, his body tense and trembling, his hands clenched in fists. Though Elrohir moved forward to place a hand on his shoulder, he recoiled from the touch, rejecting the comfort offered. No one spoke.
Then Elladan acted in a manner that Elrond did not expect. His eldest son took to his knee, turning desperate eyes upon his father, and Elrond could see the barely restrained tears there as he pled in earnest: "I implore you, father, I beg of you, wait no longer! Unleash now the full strength of Imladris against our enemies, before their forces are too strong to be defeated!"
Elrond's heart clenched at the sight of his noble and brave son on his knees before him, and he knelt to join Elladan on the floor. Taking Elladan's hands in his own and looking him directly in the eyes, Elrond spoke to him softly, his own voice pleading for his son's understanding: "Our hope for victory does not lie in the strength of our arms, this you know in your heart, Elladan, if you would only listen. There is much greater evil at work here than mere orcs, goblins, and trolls, and I fear that the very heart of our Enemy can not be stopped by force alone. Some victories can not be won at the point of a sword, my son."
With a vehement shake of his head, Elladan pulled his hands free from Elrond's grasp and hastily stood again, backing away from his father as he responded harshly: "No victory will ever be won by doing nothing!"
Raising himself from the floor, Elrond answered quietly, his voice betraying his hurt at his own son's harsh words. "You accuse me of doing nothing? I have lingered here in Middle Earth long past the point that my heart would bid me leave and I have kept Imladris not only as a place of knowledge and a haven of peace, but also as a beacon of hope. Here, I have helped to protect, teach, and train many generations of my brother's kin. I have preserved their history through hard times, keeping them strong in the memory of who they are, and maintaining their hope for the future."
Fixing his gaze on his son and willing him to understand, Elrond spoke in earnest: "Hope is a powerful force, Elladan, do not turn your back upon it."
Elladan's shoulders slumped despondently in response, and he spoke quietly now, as if in resignation: "Hope is all but lost to us, father. We have failed your brother's line. We have failed our very kin."
With that, he turned and fled the room, closing the door soundly behind him. Both his brother and his father called out to him, but he did not return, nor did he acknowledge their pleas.
For a long moment, neither the father nor the remaining son moved nor spoke a word, and the silence was oppressive as each looked in earnest at the other, unsure of what to do or to say to heal these hurts.
Finally, looking more weary and vulnerable than ever he had since his mother's departure, Elrohir spoke, his voice shaky: "Forgive him his harsh words, father. Grief loosens his tongue."
To ease his son's distress, Elrond managed a slight smile as he responded: "Your brother has never been one to withhold his thoughts, even in the best of times, and now, my son, is not the best of times."
With those words, Elrond opened his arms to his son and Elrohir gratefully accepted, again slumping wearily into his father's embrace. As Elrond offered what comfort he could, he turned his head to look through the open balcony beyond his study. Morning had fully broken, and, yet, the sky remained dark and grey, and the heavy rains continued. As he stared out into the gloom of another stormy day, however, Elrond could see in the far horizon a point at which the clouds were lightening and lifting slightly, taking upon them the yellow glow that was the promise of light to come.
Holding Elrohir firmly, he turned again to whisper in his son's ear: "I know your heart is heavy with grief for all that is lost and you worry deeply for your brother, but mark now my words and take some comfort in them: Elladan will find his hope again."
Please take the time to review. I love to know what you think. Feedback is most appreciated.