13. Bannoth's Halls
Silence filled the little glade as Elladan tried to cope with the feelings that rushed through him. At last, he spoke, not to his grandfather but to Glorfindel. "I did not vow to protect my Naneth, but there are unspoken vows. I know that is what you speak of. I owe my life to my Naneth and my Adar. As they would protect me, so I would protect them. But," he swallowed and his eyes misted, "there is nothing I can do for her."
"There is Elladan," Celeborn stepped forward. "Your strength is powerful. Put yours with Elrohir's and not many can claim such strength, such resolve, such love. That is what your Naneth needs. It may prevent the fading."
"Will she fade?"
"I know not, but your Adar does all in his power to save her. She will not die, but she could fade."
"She could take the ship West."
"She could. I would have her stay in Middle-earth, but if she cannot..."
Elladan's head hung low. "I do love her. I see her wounds in my sleep; I can hear her cries of anguish; I remember cleansing their seed from her. Elrohir told me," he looked up in torment to Celeborn. "That she was... that they had taken her, but I would not believe him. I could not. I cannot, even now. My mind roils at the thought; it feels as if it would burst."
"Does the killing help?" Glorfindel asked.
"It did... at first. Not now. Nothing helps. I will make no excuse. I will not stop killing them." He grimaced. "I will no longer torture them."
"Your Nanadhril awaits your return to Lórien," Celeborn held Elladan's arm. "Elrohir is still there. Arwen has returned to Imladris."
Elladan looked at his grandfather in surprise. "Arwen has left?"
"She was a ruse. To bring you and Elrohir to Lórien so that you might find some healing."
Elladan's back stiffened and Glorfindel would have laughed, such response so like when he was younger, if he were not afraid the ellon would run off again. "Deviousness runs in the line, Elladan," the Golden Elf said simply.
Elrond's eldest blushed. "I was never devious, just creative."
"Whatever you call it." Glorfindel stood up and wiped his sword off on a nearby Orch. "I think we should finish off that band of Yrch and then return to the Golden Wood. There are still at least fifty that fled."
Celeborn led Elladan away. "We will begin the ride back. Haldir and the others will finish the Yrch."
Elladan nodded. "Glorfindel, would you accompany us? I have a question, I think 'Ro has one too."
"I will answer whatever I am able."
They rode back to Glorfindel's camp, were joined only a short time later by Haldir and the other Elves, and spent the night there. Elladan slept, but not entirely in peace. Once, during the night, Celeborn moved to his side, slipped down next to him, and held him tightly as his grandson wept.
When morning came, Elladan's eyes were red and swollen. None commented. They broke their fast and were on their way before Anor rose.
Elrohir greeted them as soon as they rode across the borders of the Golden Wood. Celeborn sighed in relief. His grandson looked almost happy. In fact, rested and well. 'So,' he thought, 'Galadriel was able to ease his pain. Now, if she can only succeed with Elladan...' His oldest grandson had not slept one full night. Nightmares had plagued the ellon on their return journey. In the mornings, he would eat whatever was given him; he mounted at command, and spoke not. Celeborn was beginning to worry that two would sail West. A sharp gasp caused Glorfindel to look towards him, but the Lord of Lórien waved him off. 'If Elladan sails, then Elrohir will too.'
They rode into Caras Galadhon and immediately were divested of their horses. Celeborn led Elladan and Elrohir to his talan, while Glorfindel went to his guest quarters to freshen up. They planned to meet for the evening meal.
Elladan had still not spoken and Elrohir's head hung in grief. Celeborn held Elladan's right arm and Elrohir's left. He squeezed his youngest' but could offer no solace.
Elladan did not answer. Celeborn stopped at the bottom of the great tree. "Perhaps the two of you would like to take a moment? I would refresh myself; your talan awaits; it is prepared."
Elrohir nodded, but Elladan did not move. "'Dan?"
"Well, perhaps not," Celeborn sagged in grief. "Come with me, your Nanadhril I am sure is waiting."
The three walked slowly up the stairs that encircled the great tree. Celeborn had Elladan lead the way. When they entered the talan, the guards saluted and left them, at Celeborn's command. Galadriel entered but a moment later.
"Please sit," she stated with no preface. "Elrohir, you may leave us for a time."
Her youngest grandson looked appalled. She held his tongue but with a gaze. Disconsolate, he left them.
Naught was said for some time; the seats were comfortable; wine and cheeses were laid out on a table at Elladan's hand, but the Elf did not move.
As dusk began to settle, Celeborn's patience had worn thin. 'Are you going to speak to him?' he farspoke.
"Nay. Let him rest awhile longer. There is something in the wine."
He nodded, surprised he had not noted the glaze that was spreading across Elladan's eyes. "Was there need for such drastic measures?"
"You have looked into his mind?" he asked, incredulous.
"Not deeply. I did not need to look far. He is... almost mad with grief and self-recriminations. I felt it as soon as he passed into Lórien. Did you not?"
The Lord of Lórien raised an eyebrow. "Would I be here now if I had not felt his distress, even in Imladris?"
She smiled at the gentle reproof. "Yet, you ask why I would use the drug?"
He inhaled deeply and watched Elladan. After another hour passed, the ellon slept, sitting up.
"Forgive me," Celeborn stated. "Shall we retire?"
"I have sent for Elrohir. He will take his brother back to their talan. The preparation should hold him until sometime tomorrow after noon."
To see his brother thus was heart-rending to Elrohir. Always, Elladan had been the strong one, the brave one, the one he could turn to for answers, counsel, courage. But now, Elladan sat on their bed, listless. His grandmother had told him about the medicine used and its effects, but it still unsettled him to see his beloved brother in such a state.
"I decided, since the evening meal was postponed, that you might wish a bit of company tonight?"
"Glorfindel!" Elrohir jumped up in delight. "Please, come in. You are most welcome."
"How is 'Dan?"
Elrohir bit his lip. "He is...."
"And it angers you?"
"Nay." The ellon shook his head. "Yes, yes it does. I do not understand. She did not..."
"One does not call the Queen of the Galadhrim 'she.'"
Elrohir bit his lip deeper as he blushed. "One does not call ones Nanadhril 'she' either."
"Now that that is settled, why are you angry? Could 'Dan have rested in the state he was in when we entered Caras Galadhon?" He waited but there was no answer. "Could he heal in the way that you have begun to heal?" Still no answer. "Tell me, 'Ro, why did your Nanadhril do it?"
"Because 'Dan was lost." He choked on the words. "Mad with revenge."
"Nay. Mad with guilt." The Balrog-slayer was still for quite some time. "I have felt it myself - the guilt. It can destroy an Elf as surely as an Orch blade."
"What have you to feel guilt over?"
A dry chuckle and Elrohir gasped. Elladan's eyes were clear and bright. "Tell us, Lord of the Golden Flower, what could give you cause for guilt?"
Glorfindel never batted an eye. "The tales tell of deeds of wonder and prowess unmatched. And death sure and swift. But they do not tell of what it was like to watch those you love being destroyed systematically. Betrayed by one of your own. Children thrown from rooftops. Women repeatedly raped and disfigured, then slain. Oaths broken."
Elrohir stood up, quickly poured wine and handed the goblet to Glorfindel. The Elf took a large swig and then proceeded to destroy the cup, gripping it so tightly it buckled, then folded unto itself.
"There was no hope, once the walls were breached. We could not join the battle. The traitor's men did not relieve us at The Great Market until late, when they finally realized their leader was a coward. We ran to the Square of the King and found the other Houses, what were left of them, assembled there. I watched as Ecthelion died, watched as Turgon's tower fell upon him, watched as House after House was slain. I lost my whole House, my household guard, everything and everyone I loved."
"But, you saved Eärendil."
A dry laugh. "Tuor saved him... and Idril. And the great eagle, Thorondor. Not I."
"Nay, Glorfindel, the tales say you saved them all. Covered their backs as they ran through the tunnel. Guarded them even unto the Eagle's Cleft. It was only then, when the Balrog attacked, that you left them! And that unto your own death."
"When I awoke, I found myself in a strange place." The Balrog-slayer did not seem to hear Elrohir's excuses.
Elrohir watched in amaze as a slight shiver ran over Glorfindel's tall frame.
"I have always known of the tales of Badhron's Halls. All know of the Vala and his... domain. I suppose I never thought I would find myself there."
"What was it like, Glorfindel? Were you frightened?"
"I was not." He chuckled. "If I had any sense, I suppose I should have been. I woke to light, beautiful light, and with a sense of peace about me. But I was taken before the Lord of Bannoth and he brought forth my failings. I left Valinor in the company of Turgon, who I loved and served. But Turgon was part of the rebellion and I was deemed part of that, too. I suppose I was, but I did not look upon it as such. And I took no part in the... I took no part in the violence that ensued. You know of what I speak."
Elrohir nodded as his skin prickled at the telling. He had known so much of this story, but hearing it from someone who had actually been there!
"I knew the Vala had every right to condemn me, so I stood in silence as he listed my transgressions. The weight of them bore heavily upon me. My mind began to reel at the implication. I sensed I was deemed as guilty as Fëanor himself. I could barely stand. My stomach roiled and my mind tried to flee. Badhron's face was grim and foreboding. I suddenly thought that I would be sent out to the void with Morgoth. I could hardly believe it, but such was the horror that I felt as my offenses were held before me. I felt myself falling, Elrohir, and he caught me, held me close to him, and whispered words of encouragement. I could hardly believe it. My mind stopped reeling, my breath returned to some semblance of normalcy, and I breathed in such peace, I cannot describe."
"Why? Why did he forgive you?"
"It was not only Badhron, Elrohir. The Valar do not make decisions on their own. They speak to each other, consult and then decide. He spoke of my defense of Tuor and Idril and of their son. Though I felt lacking, and still do to this day, I was overcome with joy. I had forgotten how desperate I had felt; how giddy I was with madness before my exoneration came. That is what I share with you now, Elrohir. Elladan."
"They would not put Naneth through such an ordeal." Elladan stated flatly. "They would not dare. She is..." The Elf choked. "She is sweet and kind and pure."
"I think they would not. But, I felt your need to ask of my own experience. Let it suffice to say that the Halls of Bannoth are not to be feared. If your Naneth chooses to fade, she will find them peace-filled."
"She will not find peace here."
Glorfindel looked at Elrond's eldest and sighed. "Did Galadriel say Celebrían has made her decision?"
"Nay." Tears fell softly. "Or if she has, Adar has not spoken her will."
A/N - 1) The Sindarin equivalent of Námo is Badhron. Námo was more commonly known as Mandos (Q: "Prison-fortress"), which is more correctly the name of his dwelling. The Sindarin name for Mandos is Bannoth. 2) In Sindarin, the equivalents to Vala and Valar would be Balan and Belain, respectively. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Mandos and Valar... 3) The tale of the Fall of Gondolin can be read in The Silmarillion: Ch. 23; Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin.
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