24. Burdened Hearts
Gildor Inglorion nodded grimly, though he wished to slaughter the orcs, his men were tired. They had been in the wilds for a decade and now wished to be in civilization again.
“Lord,” another rider approached, “there are the remains of only two of our kin and their horses.”
“The third?” Gildor barked, his sharp grey eyes sweeping the tracks once again, “Where is the third?”
“I saw the trail of an elven steed leading away from this slaughter site, the orcs are pursuing the third, and would have probably caught up with him by now. The tracks are nearly half an hour old. The orcs were mounted on wargs, Lord,” the rider said worriedly.
Gildor said determinedly, “We track them; it will not take us long. Five of you remain to build the cairns over the dead, the rest, come with me.”
Elrond whispered sadly, looking at the peaceful Sindar Prince lying exhaustedly beside him, “What have I done, Ernil? Sacrificed our friendship for lust?”
The sunlight crept into the room, casting an aura around the sleeping Prince. Elrond pulled the covers further up about his torso and buried his face in his hands. He loved Thranduil and cherished their friendship. The Prince had become someone he could confide in always. Someone he could depend on. The first anchor in his life after Elros’ choice. Now he would lose that trust, lose their friendship. He cursed himself softly as he imagined the Prince’s reaction when he woke up. Thranduil had never sought pleasure from him, had refused even when Elrond had asked him. Now, he had messed up everything.
A hand pulled his hair insistently. He blinked back his tears and looked at a sleepy eyed Thranduil, who mumbled, “Come back to sleep, you idiot, or keep quiet. Dwarvish curses do not sound pleasing to my poor ears after a night of revelry.”
Elrond took a deep breath and said softly, “I am sorry.”
“’Tis fine,” Thranduil said sleepily, “I do not mind cursing.”
“No,” Elrond said distraught, “I am sorry for what I did yesterday night.”
Thranduil rubbed his eyes and looked at Elrond more concernedly, “You regret it?”
Elrond did not reply as he stared at the bed covers determinedly.
“Tell me,” the Prince commanded.
Elrond whispered, “I regret starting it. I am sorry, I cannot explain this, but I desired it. I still desire it. I regret only forcing you when you had always made clear the nature of our friendship. Thranduil, we may put this behind us, but do not cease our friendship.”
Thranduil sat up and in one fluid movement straddled Elrond saying amusedly, “Never in my life have been greeted at morning thus by a lover,” Elrond blushed and averted his eyes, but Thranduil caught his chin and forced him to stare into those green eyes again, the Prince said softly, “I know this is your first time. I promise you, I will never give up our friendship even if you force me. Yesterday was special for me, Elrond. I do not regret it.”
Elrond nodded uncertainly and reached up to finger a lock of Thranduil’s hair murmuring, “I am glad it meant something to you. For I did not want to be yet another prize you claimed.”
Thranduil kissed Elrond’s lips softly and said firmly, “ , this is special to me. I have broken my word to my father. But I do not regret it.”
Elrond closed his eyes and said miserably, “What happens now?”
Thranduil laughed merrily and said, “You are a born worrier, Elrond. Come, let us ready us for the day,” his tone sobered as he said quietly, “I would wish for your company tonight if you are not against it. We can do this on your terms, stop it, or continue it. Atleast until one of us get married.”
Elrond closed the gap between their lips whispering, “I am not capable of thinking right now, my prince.”
“Your kissing has improved much since yesterday,” Thranduil said appreciatively as he leaned into the kiss.
Gildor Inglorion increased their pace, he could hear the too familiar sound of the orcs and their wolves.
“Let us not be too late,” he whispered to himself, the corpses they had found had been despoiled beyond imagination. He nudged his mare to increase their speed.
Now he could see the fight in the eerie light of the torches his men held. An elf on a magnificent black stallion was barely holding his own against the foul orcs. The stallion was tired and wounded fatally, yet he kept his head high and tossed his mane proudly. Gildor’s warriors, so accustomed to orc slaying, slaughtered the enemy with methodical easiness. Gildor saw the horse droop its head and fall on its bent forelegs, froth steaming at its mouth. The rider, Gildor shivered as he saw the cold fury on the marble pale face, jumped to the ground and bent on his knees looping his arms around the stallion’s neck.
Gildor approached him but stayed silent as the elf, arrayed in rich black tunic though now torn and despoiled by black blood, whispered, “You have served me well, , I hate to do this, but I will not prolong the misery of such a friend.”
The horse neighed weakly and nuzzled the elf’s aristocratic forehead as if it could understand its master. The elf stood up, unsheathed his sword and in one swift movement slashed the horse’s neck. The creature collapsed painlessly. The sword clanged to the ground from the elf’s limp hand
Gildor cleared his throat.
The elf looked up at him and bowed grimly saying in his low, rich voice, “I am grateful to you, Lord Gildor, if I am not mistaken.”
Gildor said amazed, “I have not met you before, I am sure,” he scrutinized the handsome, aristocratic features, he shook his head and said more concernedly, “Are you wounded?”
“Erestor Maglorion,” the elf introduced himself, “I have taken a wound on my ribs, but nothing else, you came in time, my Lord. I would not have survived much longer.”
“Lord Erestor!” Gildor gasped, “Why are you on the road without a strong escort? I cannot believe that the King would not send you on an errand to Lothlórien with just two warriors.”
Erestor sighed, “He could not spare any, and we had not expected trouble.”
Gildor nodded saying, “I will not say anything further upon the subject now, My Lord. Though I do not agree with the King’s decision. Now, let me tend to your wounds. Orc blades are not practice arena swords.”
Erestor drew closer to the fire the elves had lit and watched absently the warriors set up watches and settle for rest. Gildor came and stood by him.
Erestor turned to face him and said with the ghost of a smile, “Thank you for not condemning me to Mandos’ cold halls.”
Gildor said nothing as he shoved a bowl of soup into Erestor’s weary hands and methodically removed the counsellor’s tunic, cleaned and bound the ugly gash that marred the perfect skin.
“Are you bound for Lindon?” Erestor asked him quietly.
“I am,” Gildor acquiesced, “You will accompany us, of course?”
Erestor said with a haunted look in his black eyes, “I am bound for the refugee camp underneath the peaks of the Hithalegir. I have to be there immediately. Indeed that is why I left Lindon with such haste.”
Gildor had heard about the ill-fated defence of Eregion from the wayfarers as his company had crossed the mountains. Minstrels had sung of the valiant Glorfindel, the capture of Celebrimbor, the flaming city, and the long retreat led by Elrond Peredhel and Erestor Maglorion.
“I would come with you willingly,” Gildor said, “if my warriors were not so weary of the long trails. I will not, however, in good conscience let you brave the path alone. Come back with us till you reach the border posts, then I shall ride on and secure you an escort.”
Erestor’s eyes were unfocussed as he replied tiredly, “No, must reach the valley.”
Gildor held him before he drooped to the ground. Signalling his warriors to begin the watchs, he drew his cloak over Erestor and pulled him close to his body. The counsellor shivered, but did not wake from his healing sleep.
Glorfindel watched the company of Gildor Inglorion riding into the courtyard. So the Wandering company was home again.
Moments later, Gil-Galad knocked and entered the Balrog Slayer’s study.
“Tired of the gypsies already?” Glorfindel smiled at the King.
Gil-Galad said abruptly, “Gildor has not come. It seems they met Erestor on the trail. They rescued him from orcs. The escort was slain. Erestor has been wounded, but not by a poisoned blade,” he sighed, his face gaunt, “Gildor has decided to escort him safely to that accursed valley.”
Glorfindel said quietly, “Gildor will see him safe, Gil. Do not worry.”
He was not very worried for he could sense Erestor in his mind and his instincts ensured him that the counsellor was not in peril.
“What is this infatuation with that valley, Glorfindel?” Gil-Galad asked furiously, “That he has to leave his King and bonded mate behind?”
Glorfindel replied defensively, “He still shoulders the burden of failure of Eregion when he was forced to ride to war leaving King and bonded mate behind.”
Gil-Galad cursed, “You are no assurance, Glorfindel, nor do you offer me wise counsel. Let me go and seek out my aunt.”
Haldir watched from outside the room as Celebrían paced within. There was an expression of despair, betrayal and fear on those handsome features. Haldir wondered what could have made the carefree maiden whose laughter used to lighten hearts so sad. She was to be engaged to Lord Elrond, it was a valuable alliance. And Elrond was considered a prize catch in their circles. So why was she so unhappy? Haldir was shaken out of his musings when Celebrían threw a large vase to the ground in helpless fury.
He bit down a smile as he called to her, “My Lady, Destroying Noldor property?”
She turned startled, as she saw him and blushed in mortification and anger before saying coldly, “Marchwarden, you trespass.”
He smiled saying, “Indeed I do and with good reason for I was on my way to the court when you gave vent to your anger so audibly. I was concerned lest you should hurt yourself.”
Celebrían said severely, “Thank you for your concern, now I would wish you gone.”
Haldir gave her a mock bow, and laughed as she stormed away, banging the door after her in anger.
Celebrían’s lips quirked slightly as she found the humour that Haldir would have seen in the situation. Then her lips drooped as she recalled that the rider to recall Elrond had left that morning. Her days of freedom were fast ending.
Oropher saw the unopened letter from Lindon on his son’s desk. He crossed and opened it, Thranduil had been more occupied with showing Elrond the woods than his official correspondence. Oropher smiled, it was good to see his son not cooped up within stuck with his duties as the Crown Prince.
He frowned as he saw the elegant script of Erestor. Why had Erestor sent a rider when the official messenger from Lindon had arrived just a day ago?
Elrond’s marriage with the Lady Celebrían has been arranged by the King Amdir, Lady Galadriel and Gil. They are awaiting only his return to hold the betrothal. I wish I could break the news to him myself, but I am sure that you would do the best by him. I hope that you are well, my regards to your Adar. And to Elrond,
Thranduil entered the room and greeted his father happily, “It is rare to see you doing correspondence, Great King of Great Greenwood!”
Oropher gave him the letter, Thranduil read it silently before facing his father again.
“What do we do?” Oropher asked quietly, “This is folly.”
“We do nothing, Ada,” Thranduil embraced him, “We cannot do anything to oppose that both Celeborn and Galadriel have decided upon. And Elrond’s guardian is Gil-Galad. He has the right to command him to marry Celebrían.”
Oropher rested his head on his son’s shoulder and whispered harshly, “It is a loveless union, my son. They will suffer all eternity.”
Thranduil tightened his embrace and said firmly, “Maybe. But we cannot interfere, Ada. I will be there for Elrond through all, but I think Galadriel is to blame. As is Celeborn for not hearing his daugher’s heart.”
Oropher asked Thranduil softly, “You did not agree to the alliance with Anoriel because of the politics, did you?”
“I would have married for the sake of our realms even if there had been no love,” Thranduil whispered, “But I am glad that I love her. It is your choice, and you have always done right by me, Ada.”
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.