27. Chapter 26 ~ The Paradox
A/N Thanks so much to Viv and everyone in the Garden and LC who helped with a big chunk of this chapter. Thanks alot to Gwynnyd for a very tough beta that made it much better =0)
The Fourth Age began peacefully and brought much joy. Elrohir and Laurëanna had their first son, Elamdir, in the summer the first year, followed by twins, a son and a daughter named Elion and Eliel, ten years later. By year twenty-six, Glorfindel and Indil were expecting their first child, a son, in the coming winter. Airemír and Elladan enjoyed being aunt and uncle to the growing brood but delayed having children of their own for the time being.
Laureanna, as decreed by the Valar, had forgotten her memories of her past life in Aman when Elrond sailed with the Ringbearers. She only remembered a life growing up in Thranduil's realm. As the summer wound down, she returned from a trip visiting Arwen and Estel in Gondor with her family and Glorfindel and Indil, and the paradox the Valar long worried about occurred, but not with her.
"This was a wonderful idea." Indil stretched her arms over her head lazily. They had spent the day with Elrohir, Elladan their wives, and the children with a picnic lunch in the mountains.
"Yes it was. The return trip from Gondor was long and tiring. Spending a day relaxing together before we leave for Mithlond is needed," Glorfindel said as he picked up his goblet of wine, placing his hand on his pregnant wife's swollen belly. "Do you feel well?"
"I feel like your child is never at rest," Indil moaned. Glorfindel's hand moved as the baby kicked from inside. "Much like his father."
"My child is…" His voice trailed off. He felt a strange feeling wash over him. At first it was just a flash of memory that came out of nowhere. Then, one vision after another, memories inundated his mind: memories of a life he did not recall living until now.
He did not know how it was possible, but he knew Laurëanna was his daughter.
She was part of him. He had memories of her as a baby, clinging to his hand with her perfect, tiny fingers and watching him with her wide blue eyes so like his own. How could he not have noticed before now that their eyes were the same? Memories of her as a toddler playing in the sands of Alqualondë brought tears to his eyes. He had called her Wilwarin, and she fluttered down the beach chasing her namesakes, changing and growing as he watched into a gracious and laughing woman. Then came the memories of dancing with her at her wedding. The backgrounds blurred and shifted, but she glowed with love and the husband in her arms was always Elrohir. Glorfindel reeled and even the cold splash of wine over his hands as the cup slid from his grasp did not reconcile the realities. In both lives, she bound herself to Elrohir. Did Elrohir know of this other past? Did Laurëanna remember? Why had he not known and why did he remember now?
Glorfindel had always felt a strong bond to her but now he knew why. He did not understand how…but his heart and soul knew she was part of him.
Through his tears, he looked at his wife and saw the same recognition in Indil's eyes. Taking her hand he pulled her into his embrace, holding her tightly as she wept on his shoulder.
"How? How is it possible?" Indil whispered an arm placed protectively over her belly, "How could we forget a child of ours?"
A flash of saying goodbye to Laurëanna… and Glorfindel knew, this was not their past; this was Laurëanna's past. Indil and he had not yet lived this life. It made no sense that a child of theirs yet unborn could be grown with children of her own, but he knew it to be true.
"I do not know. I do not understand, but she is our daughter," Glorfindel whispered in response, his voice tight as he tried to rein in his emotions. He saw Laurëanna walking towards them.
How could he have been so blind? She had his golden hair, his eyes, her mother's smile; how could he not have seen what was right before him? His heart had known what his mind could not remember. He saw concern written on her face and dashed his tears before he saw that she barely noticed them while her eyes scanned the surrounding hills.
"Glorfindel, have you seen Elamdir? He seems to have wandered off and I cannot find him. He is not with the twins," Laurëanna asked, looking worried.
Neither of them could choke out a reply as thy realized that this woman was not simply a dear friend, but their own daughter. He knew the moment she focused on them rather than the landscape that hid her son. "Are you weeping, Indil? Has something else happened?"
"No, nothing is wrong. We are… happy." Glorfindel said, his voice thick with emotion, and quickly cleared his throat. "We will help you look. He is probably with his Adar and Elladan."
"No, I looked there first. Elion and Eliel are with Elladan, Airemír, and Elrohir, but they said Elamdir had come this way looking for me."
The three of them ranged out around the area calling out Elamdir's name. The meadow was not that extensive. It seemed like ages that they looked, and with each passing moment, Laurëanna grew visibly more frantic, running back over areas they had already checked.
When it became clear Elamdir had not hidden in the grass, Indil grabbed Laurëanna's arm and brought her to halt. "Could he have gone into the woods?" Indil asked.
"I will check." Glorfindel loped off across the clearing and disappeared under the branches.
Indil hugged Laurëanna. "He cannot have gone too far."
Laurëanna held her hand over her mouth and drew in a shaky breath. "He would not be in the woods. We told him not to go there without one of us and he promised. He's far more of a water baby and was very disappointed when we told him there was no stream here."
Nodding, Indil said, "It does make it inconvenient. You cannot even see the river from up here, it is so far down the…"
The blood drained out of Laurëanna's cheeks. Her voice came out as barely a whisper. "... down the cliff. Oh, no. No. He would not have." Shrieking for Glorfindel, Elrohir and Elladan, she set off at run.
Running out of the woods, Glorfindel followed her towards the cliffs. They stopped at the edge and paused to listen.
A faint cry broke the quiet.
As he rushed toward the sound, Glorfindel realized with sinking horror that the cry came from below. The three of them ran to the edge and peered over. Elamdir stood on a small lower ledge. His frantic hands scrabbled at the cliff, but could not find purchase more than a foot or two over his head. Every time he slid back, pieces of the tiny ledge crumbled down into the gorge.
"Elamdir!" Laurëanna cried and reached her hand down to him.
"Naneth!" Elamdir wailed and redoubled his efforts to climb up.
"Stop! Stop, Elandir. I am coming." Laurëanna stood and turned to climb down.
Glorfindel grabbed her around her waist to stop her. "No! I will get him. Indil, run! Go get Elladan and Elrohir." Glorfindel realized Elamdir was in danger of falling at any moment. Rocks and huge chucks of earth slid from beneath him as Glorfindel quickly but gingerly climbed down. He could not get down far enough.
"Elamdir, do not move," Laurëanna warned. "Glorfindel, lift him to me," she called the moment Glorfindel was in reach of Elamdir.
The ledge barely held. Glorfindel moved sideways, trying to find a path to climb lower. Elamdir clutched at the rocks and pressed his cheek into the cliffside. Glorfindel's heart pounded as he realized that this was his grandson. The boy's eyes were wide-eyed and terror-filled as he struggled to hold still and to hold on to small rocks above him.
Looking up, Glorfindel saw Laurëanna's hands reach towards her child, but the boy was still way too far away.
"Glorfindel, you are not on steady ground either." Elrohir stated tersely, suddenly on the ledge, and began to climb towards his son. Glorfindel saw the rock Elrohir's foot was groping for was barely held into the cliff side.
"No, stay there or we will all fall," Glorfindel exclaimed as he reached for Elamdir. There was no leverage on the tiny, crumbling edge. Glorfindel twisted and saw a projection just to the side. He stepped down to the lower foothold. When it gave way, everyone cried out, but Glorfindel managed to find his footing again and held onto a thick tree root that now protruded where the cliff had crumbled away to steady himself. He reached and grabbed Elamdir's arm and pulled him up. Elamdir scrambled up onto his shoulders, and he pushed up a hand under his feet, helping him climb high enough for Elrohir to take him.
With relief, he watched Elamdir cling to his father's neck and Elrohir struggle to get the boy to release his grasp before handing him up to Elladan. He then saw Elrohir turn back to reach for him even as he felt the rocks and ground beneath him collapse. Glorfindel swung in the air, feet reaching for purchase under the bulge where the roots still held the soil together. The rock above him slipped sideways, booming down into the chasm below and Glorfindel heard the root crack. There was nothing under his fingers save a few shreds of bark.
"No!" Elrohir called out desperately from above, and Glorfindel watched sickening horror fill the younger man's face.
"I love you…" Glorfindel said, looking at Laurëanna and Indil and with calm detachment allowed himself to fall. He recognized this feeling…he had fallen before. 'Death should not be like this; this endless and painfully drawn out, tortured by the thought of what would happen when I reach the end.'
'My child, it will not hurt this time.' Glorfindel heard The One promise as the song enveloped him in warmth and blackness, and he closed his eyes one final time.
Manwe felt her presence before she entered the room. Her pain radiated throughout the hallways.
"Is it true then?" Varda asked.
"Yes, Glorfindel will soon reach the Halls of Mandos."
"You cannot allow this. Send him back to his family…please…after all he has suffered, all his family has suffered…what Laurëanna sacrificed…how can we take him from them?" Varda's tears glistened on her beautiful face like starlight.
"He knew who she was before he made the choice to save her son, his grandchild. Because of the paradox, at the moment of Laurëanna's original birth, Glorfindel knew…"
"Which makes this that much more unfair!"
Manwe sighed. "I can do nothing. You know this."
Varda said nothing more but her sorrow darkened the skies overhead and rain fell on Valinor.
Shock and horror washed over Elrohir. Movement was impossible. It took Elladan yelling at him to shake him back to reality enough to climb back to the top. Watching Indil scream and cry hysterically as Laurëanna held her and Elamdir tightly, Elrohir felt numbness fill him. He could not think about losing Glorfindel now. He needed to be strong for his friends and family. Airemír held his twins as they wept and Elladan looked helplessly on.
"Elladan, get them to the horses. I will take the cart down to the valley and retrieve …his…his body. I will be there as soon as I can," Elrohir said woodenly.
The horses seemed to sense his distance and followed the path without much guidance. At the bottom of the cliff, Elrohir stopped the cart and waited. It took every ounce of his strength to leave the cart. Carefully he picked through the brush and rocks at the base of the cliff until he found Glorfindel. Unshed tears burned his eyes as he checked for any sign of life, though he had little hope.
Elrohir had seen death all his life but nothing had prepared him for feeling this. Glorfindel was such a force of nature, the thought of him not being there was unfathomable. He had taught Elrohir many things about life and been there for him during most of his greatest triumphs and tragedies.
Tears fell on his cheeks as he gathered Glorfindel's broken body in his arms and carried him to the cart. Laying him down on a blanket, he took a cloth and wiped away the blood that had trickled out of his mouth. He did not look dead. His body may have been broken but his face was peaceful, as if only sleeping. Once again, Elrohir checked for some indication he was still breathing. His hand on Glorfindel's chest he allowed sorrow to take hold, pushing out the numbness and filling him with pain. He lost his composure and wept like a child for his friend, his mentor, his brother.
By the time they had reached Imladris, Indil had grown quiet, despite the children still sobbing. Laurëanna held her hand tightly as they rode in the cart beside Elrohir. Indil's hands rested on her swollen belly and she whispered, "He did this for his child. He wanted to protect Elamdir but he also did it for you."
Laurëanna watched her curiously. Indil realized that Laurëanna did not remember that they were her parents. Her heart twisted in pain. Glorfindel died protecting their grandchild and no one but she knew the truth. Gently she reached out and caressed Laurëanna's face, amazed at how like her father she was.
"Yes, he saved Elamdir. Indil…is that what you mean?" Laurëanna brushed the hair out of Indil's face.
"No. I mean he did it for you and Elrohir as much as for Elamdir. He did not want you to lose a child. The vision you told me about, the one in Galadriel's mirror…you lost a child. But now, it did not happen. He sacrificed himself for Elamdir." Indil felt weak as the reality of it all set in.
"Indil, I am so sorry…Elamdir should not have been down there, it is our fault for letting him out of our sight. If it were not for our carelessness, Glorfindel would be alive," Laurëanna voice choked back a sob.
"Do not blame yourself. I do not blame you…or Elamdir. He is a child and it was an accident. Glorfindel would not change a thing if he were…alive," Indil sobbed, tears beginning to flow rapidly down her face.
When they reached the stables, Elrohir helped Indil down from the cart. Slowly Elamdir walked over and hugged Indil tightly. "This is all my fault."
Grasping the boy's arms, Indil shook her head. "No, Elamdir. It was an accident. No one blames you. If Glorfindel were here now he would tell you himself – you are not to blame."
"But I should not have been climbing on the cliff. Adar told me to stay away from it but I was just curious and…" Elamdir's tears stopped him from finishing as he ran to his mother and buried his face in her shoulder.
Elrohir stood beside Elamdir and, stroking his back, said, "We all make mistakes. No one blames you, Elamdir. You never meant to have anyone get hurt. Glorfindel made the choice to go after you because he would not want a child hurt. It is just how he is…was…he was a hero, always protecting us. He helped Elladan and I out of many dangerous places when we were even younger than you. He would not want you to blame yourself."
Indil tried to settle the baby in her stomach who seemed to sense her despair and grew even more active.
"I will take the children to our house so you and Elrohir can make arrangements," Airemír said to Elladan and he nodded.
"Indil, why do you not come to our house? I can make you some tea and you can rest," Laurëanna suggested.
"I need to be alone with him for a few moments," Indil whispered. "I need to say farewell."
Laurëanna looked at Elrohir and Elladan for a moment before saying, "Perhaps it would be best if you waited until Elrohir and Elladan have time to prepare him to be seen."
"He is my husband. I am strong enough to see him in any condition. Please. I just need some time alone with him."
"We will find Erestor then return. I will tell the stable masters to take care of the horses," Elladan said and gently hugged Indil. "If you need anything…"
"I know. Thank you. Laurëanna, I will come find you when I am done," Indil replied but did not look at her.
When everyone left, Indil took the blanket and carefully uncovered Glorfindel's face. Tears burned her eyes as she looked down on her husband's peaceful face. Despite the fall, he still appeared uninjured, merely resting.
"Oh Glorfindel, what will I do without you here by me?" Indil sobbed. "You are my strength, my solace, my everything. How will I raise our son to be as noble and brave without you here to guide him? I understand why this had to happen to save our grandson but what of our son? And how can I explain to our daughter who she is?"
A cool breeze blew and caused her to shiver. "I cannot imagine a night without you to fight off the cold."
Kissing him gently, Indil was surprised at how cold his lips were. Her chest was tight as her tears fell on Glorfindel's face, leaving wet trails on his dirty skin. She rested her hand on her stomach and whispered, "Say goodbye to your Ada, Laurëalco" Pain wracked her fëa and she found herself unable to leave him.
After a few moments she heard someone shuffling nearby and she glanced up to see Erestor. His eyes were red. Seeing the sadness in them, Indil felt her knees collapse. Erestor rushed forward, catching her as she sobbed loudly in his arms.
"Let me take you to Laurëanna. The twins will take care of Glorfindel now. You have to take care of yourself and stay strong for the baby."
"I cannot leave him alone! I cannot…do this Erestor. I cannot have this child by myself and raise Glorfindel's son without him with me," Indil cried, clinging to the blanket that covered her husband.
"Yes, you can. Glorfindel needs you to do this. You are too resilient to give up hope. You will see him again, in Valinor when you sail West. But for now, that baby deserves to know how great his Adar was and you are the best person to tell him that. You can make it through this Indil. Anyone special enough to capture Glorfindel's heart is unique and wonderful. You cannot lose hope now. Come now; let the twins bear the duty of preparing Glorfindel's body for burial. They will show him all the care and respect he deserves but they need you to let go. You know that Glorfindel is not here, not in this broken hroa. His fëa is with Mandos now. But a part of it lingers inside of you. Cling to your baby's fëa not to this dispirited body."
Indil nodded solemnly. Standing on her own, she bent down to kiss her husband's forehead then pulled the blanket to cover his face once more. Allowing Erestor to guide her, she left Glorfindel's side at last.
Arwen arrived in Imladris three weeks after Glorfindel's burial, knowing of his death through her bond to her brothers. Throwing off the formality of the court, she abandoned her escort of soldiers at the stables while she went to find her family. Seeing Celeborn, she ran to throw her arms around his neck in a tight embrace.
"I am sorry we took so long. Today has been the first day that it has not stormed horribly. It is as if Arda were mourning his passing as well. If I had not already been en route to Annuminas, I would not have made it at all. I cannot believe Glorfindel is gone," Arwen lost the battle with her tears and sobbed onto Celeborn's shoulder. When the storm passed, she raised her wet face to Celeborn. "How is Indil?"
"She is still mostly in shock I think. Elrohir and Elladan have been keeping a close eye on her, worried that the strain of this loss would cause problems with her pregnancy." Celeborn caressed her face, wiping away her tears. "I think we are all in shock. According to Laureanna, it happened so fast and she, Indil, and Elamdir saw the whole thing. Elamdir has nightmares every night, blaming himself for Glorfindel's death. Poor child has not slept much."
"I will try to talk to him after I see Indil and the others. Did Elion and Eliel see it happen?"
"No, Airemír and the twins did not see him fall. I fear that vision will haunt Indil for the rest of her days. But he saved Elamdir. Once again, he sacrificed his life for someone else," Celeborn replied solemnly. "Come. Everyone is waiting for your arrival."
"Elamdir, are you well?" Entering the portico, Arwen found the child sitting by himself staring out the window. Taking a seat beside him on the bench, she studied him.
"Is it true Glorfindel will come back to life?" Wide blue eyes turned to his aunt and she saw the confusion and fear inside. He looks so like his mother, she mused.
"Did your parents tell you about the Halls of Mandos?"
"Yes, but Glorfindel came back to Middle-earth before so I guess he is different than other elves. Will he not come back this time so he can see his son?"
Arwen paused for a moment, trying to decide the best way to explain everything to him. "Elamdir, when Glorfindel came back to Middle-earth after his death in Gondolin, it was a time when we needed great warriors to battle the evil of Sauron. Now is a time of peace. Elves depart this land, and go their home in Aman. They do not return. I am sorry but no, he will not return here but if…when Indil and her child sail to the Undying Lands, hopefully he will be there to greet them. When his time is done in the Halls of Mandos, he will live in the Undying Lands," Arwen explained.
Elamdir was quiet and she could see he was thinking hard about what she had said. Tears filled his eyes and he whispered, "But you will not come back to the Undying Lands after the Halls of Mandos, will you? And Estel is not an elf so he will not return to us. Why will Mandos not let you and Estel come there?"
Arwen swallowed hard, trying hard not to cry. Tears burned her eyes and she drew a shaky breath. "It is very hard to explain, Elamdir, but I chose to remain mortal. Your uncle, adar, and I were given a choice whether to be mortal or choose the life of the Eldar. To remain with Estel, I chose to be counted with Men."
"But Ada and Uncle Elladan will go to the Undying Lands right?"
"Yes. They chose the life of the Eldar. When they choose to sail West, they will dwell in Valinor."
"I wish you had chosen to be an elf," Elamdir said solemnly. "I hope I do not go to the Halls of Mandos. He scares me."
"Elamdir, what happened to Glorfindel was a strange accident, not something that happens to many. And the war is over. Although it is not completely safe in our world yet, it is much safer than it was so you will not go to the Halls of Mandos most likely. You will sail West with your parents and the remaining elves. Like my parents, your grandparents, did," Arwen squeezed his hand as she tried to smile at him.
"When Estel dies, can you tell Mandos you changed your mind and you want to be an elf so you can sail West with us?" Hope flickered in his eyes until she shook her head.
"No, Elamdir, I am sorry. It took me a long time to know the right choice for me. And I know it is hard for you to understand but I chose this path and I do not wish to alter it now. Everyone makes choices about which path to take in their lives. You too will make choices, even though they will not be the same decisions I had to make. But you cannot choose who to love. Your fea decides that for you and you must follow it or you will be very unhappy. I love Estel so I chose a mortal life with him rather than live a long time without him," Arwen explained.
"I do not want you to die," Elamdir sobbed. "I want everyone to be together again. I miss Glorfindel and want him to come back here, not the Undying Lands. He was teaching me to fight with a sword. Ada said Glorfindel was the best teacher. Who is going to teach his son?"
"No one understands death. And the Halls of Mandos sound scary but they are a place of peace and recovery. Your ada can teach you to fight and, if you are really good, maybe you can teach Glorfindel's son what your ada taught you. Since he will not know Glorfindel for a while, we have to make sure he knows how great his adar was. And when you go to Valinor, Glorfindel will be proud of how you helped his son." Arwen hugged the boy tightly. "I will not leave Arda for a long time, Elamdir. Let us not waste time dreading the day it happens but enjoying the time we have together. Someday I will have a child and I want you to help Estel train him how to wield a sword. And I can help too. I am fairly good with a sword too. Glorfindel and my brothers taught me well."
"Maybe you can teach me when Ada is busy. I want to be the best so when I reach Valinor I can spar with Glorfindel and defeat him!"
Arwen's laugh filled the room and she kissed him on the top of his head. "You will indeed be a great swordsman if you can beat Glorfindel. All of us have tried and spent most of our time disarmed at the end of his blade."
"Enter." A voice called from beyond the door and Elrond pushed it open.
"Come in Elrond, Celebrian," Eönwë replied without looking up. Galadriel sat before him in a straight backed chair.
After Elrond and Celebrian sat beside her, Eönwë looked up from a parchment in his hand. Lying it down on a nearby table he sat down across from them.
"I was asked to deliver a message to you from Manwe and Varda. The paradox we feared would occur has happened. As you already know Laureanna's history, I wanted to tell you what this means," Eönwë began before pausing. Galadriel looked at him evenly, a picture of calm, despite what nerves she might feel being summoned to attend a Vala. "At the moment of her birth in her history, Glorfindel and Indil remembered her. They knew she was their daughter. They did not understand fully what has happened however, they knew their connection to her. Laureanna still remains unaware."
"Did they tell her?" Celebrian asked nervously.
"No. As both Elrond knows and Laureanna saw in Galadriel's mirror, her first born son, Elamdir, would die. He was in danger of falling to his death when he was rescued by Glorfindel so his path is altered and his death did not occur."
"That is wonderful news…" Elrond began.
"However," Eönwë continued. "Glorfindel sacrificed himself to save him. He is in the Halls of Mandos now."
The blood drained from Galadriel's face as Celebrian gasped aloud. After a few moments to collect himself, Elrond asked, "Will his fea be re-embodied?"
"In time. As you can imagine, the sacrifice he made, falling to his death again, was very damaging to his spirit, as well as the fact, he has learned Laureanna's history as you once did. Indil is pregnant with a son, who will now be raised without a father unless she sails West soon. I do not know how long Glorfindel will need to stay within The Halls before he is ready to be embodied. Because of his sacrifice, he altered the paths of all of those close to him. Elladan will no longer lose his wife, Airemír," Eönwë added. "Your sons' losses have been changed due to this."
"I am overjoyed that my grandson and son's wife will live. I fear losing them would have the most devastating affect on my sons. They have suffered enough." Celebrian wiped tears away. "But I wish this was not at the cost of Glorfindel, who has endured even more. Eönwë, I have not heard of anyone being re-embodied twice. Can this be done?"
"Will his fea be strong enough to recover? I remember he was very tortured with memories of Gondolin and his previous life when he returned to Middle-earth." Galadriel knew, more than anyone the difficulty of remembering the First Age and before.
"When he returned in the Second Age, and throughout most of the Third Age, he was a warrior first, pushing aside any thoughts of happiness except small glimpses due to his friendships and relationship with Elrond and Celebrian's children. Indil finally soothed his fea, so yes, I do believe he will be strong enough to return to his life at least once Indil returns, if not before. And now he knows he has both a daughter and soon a son to add to that happiness, I am certain he will choose to return to live again." Eönwë nodded reassuringly.
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