26. Shadowed Hearts Part Two
“Bad day?” a voice asked him amusedly, Erestor looked to see Gildor standing nearly concealed by a large tree.
“Not much worse than usual,” Erestor conceded fairly, “What are you doing here at midnight?”
Gildor approached him slowly, a trace of uncertainty on his face. He sat down by the shore and trailed his fingers through the water. Erestor waited curiously.
“Doing my duty,” Gildor said finally.
Erestor frowned, “What duty, My Lord?”
“I have a vow to protect the rightful heir to the throne of Finwë,” Gildor murmured.
Erestor swam closer to the bank and tilted his head in bewilderment, “Gil-Galad asked you to protect me?”
“You do not understand,” Gildor sighed, “The only heir that Finwë acknowledged was Fëanor, son of Miriel. Only one of Fëanor’s line can lead the Noldor without death. Finwë named Fëanor heir before the Valar themselves. It is the reason why Fingolfin, Fingon, Turgon, Orodeth and Finrod all fell, My Lord. They carried not Fëanor’s blood in their veins.”
Erestor climbed out of the water and wrapped his robe about his slender form before giving a hand to help Gildor up. They walked together silently through the woods. The scream of an elfling broke the quiet. They ran towards the sound, their swords drawn.
And simultaneously stopped in their tracks, for before them in the mud lay a little elf boy, his clothes torn, hair matted, body emaciated. The boy screamed again as a rabbit poked its nose out of its burrow curiously.
Erestor smiled and bending down gracefully, picked up the dirty elfling, who snivelled and burrowed his face deep into Erestor’s light robe.
“What is your name?” Gildor inspected the burns and the bruises on the elfling’s body with increasing alarm, “And where is your family?”
“Mel, Naneth called me,” was the muffled reply, “she left me, adar too. Mel all alone now. Scared.”
“Now,” Erestor said softly, “where are you from? It is not wise to walk in the middle of the night.”
“Mel doesn’t know,” came the pitiful reply.
Erestor stroked the elfling’s back reassuringly and said to Gildor, “We will enquire in the morning, Mel. For now, I need my rest. As do you. We are not made of stone.”
“Well,” Gildor said laughing, “As long as I do not have to share my mattress with the little one for he stinks!”
The next morning when Erestor was carrying the elfling to the woman folk to enquire, several guards gave the boy looks of recognition. After settling the elfling with a young maid, Erestor called a guard and waited expectantly.
“He is the son of one of those guards who died at Celebrimbor’s city, My Lord. His naneth was fading even as we retreated. Then you had not yet joined us. Lord Elrond was dead worried for you and occupied with the retreat. So none of us noticed that the boy and his naneth was missing till it was too late,” the guard said regretfully.
“But he has reached here,” Erestor said crisply, “Followed the retreat.”
“Yes, My Lord,” the guard bowed, “There are many who have lost their children in the battle. They will care for him.”
Erestor nodded before saying nonchalantly, “If he does not take to any of them, then tell me,” he paused, “Now, we have to discuss the border patrols, I believe.”
Gildor remarked as they shared lunch that day, “The elves are fussing over the little one who seems quite hale after his ordeal.”
Erestor nodded, his dark eyes misted by memory, “That is good, for else I had planned to foster him. I would not have anyone grow up deprived of parental love.”
“But,” Gildor said softly, “Most of us have grown up thus. Now I have a letter from the king informing us of the herald’s engagement. He has asked us not to travel to Lindon saying that the marriage will arrive soon.”
Elrond read with increasing dismay the letter demanding him to come to Lindon.
“It is our duty to our realm,” Thranduil said firmly, as he looked over at Elrond from behind his desk, where he was going over something that looked like an inventory list.
“I do not even know her, Thranduil,” Elrond whined, “And Galadriel, I hate her.”
“You are getting engaged to Galadriel’s daughter, Elrond, not to Galadriel herself,” Thranduil reminded him reasonably, “And there is a long way between a betrothal and a marriage. You can always stop it by mutual consent.”
Elrond made a face saying, “It is not you who is getting betrothed to Galadriel’s daughter! So you talk.”
Thranduil laughed, “Think of poor Celeborn then, Elrond. Now come,” he focussed back on his list, “Let me finish this and then give you a royal farewell in my room.”
“You will not come to Lindon,” Elrond begged, “I need someone to go through with this.”
“I have not even been invited by your King, Elrond. He is keen on having a low profile ceremony. I would come, but Ada would kill me if I attended a Noldor betrothal without a state invitation,” Thranduil said chuckling.
“Well then,” Elrond sighed, “Promise me you will take care of Lindir.” Oropher had assured him saying that he would shelter Lindir until the elf wished to leave.
“Yes, yes, I will not bed him if that is your next question,” Thranduil smirked, “Bedding the Noldor is not good for my mental faculties.”
Glorfindel watched Gil-Galad hurry over to him, a sombre expression on his face.
“Erestor?” he asked breathlessly as the King stopped before him, pale and frightened. Gil-Galad took a crumpled letter from within his tunic and gave it to Glorfindel. The reborn elf opened the letter with increasing panic. It was a woman’s hand, one he did not recognize.
“To The Lord Glorfindel,
I regret to inform you that my husband, Aldor, has passed away beyond the circles of Middle Earth after falling bravely to a rogue band of Southrons. I knew of your friendship and share your sorrow. But, My Lord, human lives are short, like candlewax, we burn and melt. Yours is an eternal life. Seek your own path to happiness away from mortal flames.”
Elrond waited dully in his cousin’s familiar study. How he hated Lindon with all the memories..of Gil proposing to Erestor, of their wedding, each place seemed to have an imprint of their love.
“Cousin Elrond,” Gil-Galad hugged him, “You seem better than I would have expected you to be after a stint at Oropher’s court.”
Elrond hugged his cousin dutifully and then asked worriedly, “How fare you, Gil?” for there was dark circles under Gil-Galad’s eyes.
“Not too well,” Gil-Galad sighed, “Elrond, Erestor is in that valley with the refugees. He went there after a near argument with me regarding their plight. Gildor was supposed to have returned, but he joined Erestor. Glorfindel’s human is dead. Menelwen and Galdor are visiting Círdan at the Havens. So I have been stuck with the administration. And predictably, I am in unfamiliar waters.”
“I will take over the administration, Gil,” Elrond offered charitably. He was already thinking why Gildor Inglorion had felt compelled to accompany Erestor.
“No, Elrond,” Gil-Galad sighed, “You are getting betrothed tomorrow. Now, you will go and take Celebrían for a walk. It is the manner in which these things must be done.”
Celebrían waited coldly as Elrond spoke with Celeborn. She examined her would-be husband and curled her lips at the human traits she so despised. Elrond was darker than most Noldor, with fine hair on his arms. So unlike her father’s beautiful people. She turned to spare her mother a withering glance. For Galadriel stood behind her serenely as if she was perfectly satisfied.
“My Lady,” Elrond bowed, “Would you grace me with a walk?”
Celebrían nodded stiffly and gave him her hand. He led her out into the gardens. Once they were out of sight of everyone, she yanked her arm back abruptly.
“My Lady,” Elrond asked surprised, “How have I offended you?”
“By wishing to marry me, Peredhil!” she exclaimed furiously.
Elrond ran a hand distractedly over his hair as he cursed Galadriel. Then he faced Celebrían with a calmness he did not feel and said, “My Lady, I am no more a willing participant to this farce than you are. I obey my King as you obey your Naneth. It is merely for our lines to unite, as they have commanded. If you see a way out of this, I shall aid you.”
“I am not a mare to be bred from,” Celebrían said angrily.
Elrond said sadly, “No more than I make a foundation sire. Yet that is the part we have been given.”
“You cannot be sad,” Celebrían said vindictively, “After all, you marry the daughter of Celeborn the Wise and Galadriel the Witch. High achievement for a half-breed indeed. You cannot have chosen a better partner.”
“Actually, my heart has chosen, as your mother would tell you if you bother to question her,” Elrond retorted, though he was trying hard to restrain his strained temper, it was a temptation to let go.
“Then have your way with your chosen one and leave me in peace,” Celebrían said furiously, “I cannot contemplate eternity with you.”
“Well,” Elrond remarked wryly, “there are always wars. You can send a petition to the orcs to dispose of me to regain your freedom, my Lady. I see no other way.”
“I will not disgrace my realm,” Celebrían said quietly, “Peredhil, I shall take my vows, but know that I despise you.”
“My name is Elrond,” he said helpfully, “though the word ‘Peredhil’ is pleasing enough from your melodious lips, I do not like it very much. It reminds me too much of your lady mother.”
She left disdainfully.
Erestor raised his eyebrows at the letter the messengers from Greenwood had brought along with supplies. He had been on the verge of asking Lindon for supplies, but Oropher had saved him the humiliation of begging Gil-Galad after leaving him in a huff of righteous anger.
He smirked at the letter,
Know you must be starving there, so thought I might send you this along with the Noldor kinslayer I saved from the slavers. Do with them what you wish. Knowing that your pride will not allow you to ask Lindon for supplies,
Your favourite prince.
“Bring him in,” he asked the Greenwood emissaries.
A slim, reedy figure shorter than the warriors entered, his eyes fixed on the ground. Erestor frowned, yet one more broken soul he had to contend with. What was Thranduil thinking?
“Welcome, Lindir,” Erestor bowed and continued informally, “My name is Erestor. I am the chief counsellor to the High King. But in a bizarre set of events, I find myself digging trenches in this valley to accommodate these people.”
“I cannot be of any use to you, My Lord,” Lindir said softly.
“Oh yes, you can!” Erestor said indignantly, “What are you interested in doing?”
“Gardening and maybe cooking. Anything without swords,” Lindir said shamefacedly, “I had enough of that for a lifetime.”
“I understand,” Erestor said reassuringly, “I will appoint you the chief gardener with immediate effect, Lindir. Go out and do what you will with the land unbound by my chalk lines. And draft anyone idle to your command.”
“My Lord!” Lindir asked stunned, “You are mad!” he closed his hand over his mouth as horror dawned on his features. He had just called the chief counsellor to the high king himself mad.
“Yes, yes,” Erestor said nonchalantly, and then lowered his voice conspiratorially, “Never mind. I do have Fëanor’s rather mad blood in my veins, you know,” Lindir smiled helplessly.
Erestor nodded, he had accomplished making the other elf relax with him, “Go now and see to the gardens.”
Amroth glanced up lazily from his position on the sofa as his father moved to stand at the balcony of the talan. Amdir’s shoulders were tensed and his features were spoilt by a perfect scowl.
“What is it?” Amroth asked lightly, “The soldiers finally took the cane to Haldir?”
“No,” Amdir said angrily, “That counsellor of Gil-Galad’s is in the valley with his beloved refugees.”
“The valley is not in our realm,” Amroth said surprised, “Why do you think of that?”
“He is cunning, ,” Amdir said, “The valley is strategic. He knows he can control the passes from there. And Oropher has sent him aid, I hear. Why my kin loves a Fëanorian, I do not know!”
“Lord Erestor is wiser than the rest in that mad town of Lindon,” Amroth said confidently, “Both Anoriel and I have found his company intellectually pleasing. He wears his emotions less visibly, yet his sincerity rings true.”
“Galadriel fears him,” Amdir remarked as he paced the floor of the talan.
“Well, then, you should assure yourself that he can be trusted. Anoriel is right. Whomever the lady of the light doubts, we can trust their goodness. Does the lady not doubt Lord Elrond too? Does she not fear the prince too?” Amroth observed calmly.
Elrond and Celebrían were betrothed before Gil-Galad the next day, their hands entwined, and they pressed a chaste kiss on each other’s lips. But only Galadriel could read their thoughts as they exchanged betrothal rings.
In the East, a shadow grew, summoning all evil to it. Aldor’s pyre was lit by his eldest son and his grieving widow sobbed in her lover’s arms. In Lindon, an elf with golden hair saddled his horse and rode to a valley to seek comfort from his dearest friend.
The world was changing.
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.