30. A Betrothal in Greenwood Part One
“Worried?” Gil-Galad’s voice broke him from his musings. Elrond turned back again for the last time. He saw long lines of faithful elven warriors prepared to follow their king to the very gates of Mordor.
“How many of us will return safely?” Elrond said feeling frightened.
He looked at Galdor kissing Menelwen goodbye, whose curved tummy indicated growing life within. He looked about and saw Gildor Inglorion’s wandering company bid their families farewell. Just behind him he could see Erestor embracing his sister gently. Glorfindel was waiting for his friend to mount his stallion impatiently, his eyes avoiding Menelwen defiantly. Elrond saw the young elf refugee from Eregion, Melpomaen, look at the gathered warriors in awe and longing. Elrond did not sympathize. He was grimly happy that he would not have to watch the young elf riding to war.
“Lord Elrond,” Círdan said ironically, “Mayhap you are not feeling yourself?”
Elrond shot him a venomous look before turning to face Gil-Galad once again.
The King sighed and said quietly, “Elrond, I wish I could assure you that all of us will return unharmed. But you know well it cannot be. Atleast you and I have a reason to make it back. You have to marry and I have to salvage my bond,” Gil-Galad turned to find Erestor and Glorfindel riding side-by-side, their frosty looks directed at him made him turn back quickly again, “He will not hear of anything regarding our marriage till this war is over.”
“If I were him,” Elrond said angrily, “I would not give you that concession. You are lucky he puts the alliance above his own happiness.”
“Isildur will be our downfall yet,” Gil-Galad said unhappily, “Elrond, how can anyone so sullied be your kin? It is sickening to hear our warriors scream at night from his tent. Why does he just not choose one and be satisfied?”
“We should slit his throat,” Elrond said vehemently.
“For once, I agree,” Círdan said with equal anger in his cold voice, “At this rate he will ruin our best fighters far long before we reach the enemy’s keep.”
“Quiet now, for the King and his sons approach,” Gil-Galad whispered.
Elendil and his sons came to the front. Anárion remained silent and by his father’s side as the human king spoke to Gil-Galad. Círdan drew back to Erestor’s side leaving Elrond with Isildur.
“You look handsome today, Herald,” Isildur said, his eyes roving on Elrond’s armour clad body.
“I beg your pardon,” Elrond said with a strained smile, “I am sure that you meant it well, but it seems awkward to hear such a comment from my brother’s descendant.”
“Your brother was wiser and braver than you were, Lord Elrond, for he chose right,” Isildur remarked coldly.
“I have never regretted my choice, so I cannot say that I did not choose right,” Elrond said quietly.
His heart lifted as they changed course to Greenwood. The festivity of the wood elves who came to greet them was alarmingly contagious. Though most of the human warriors progressed slowly onwards to the east, the elven warriors and the dwarvish contingents from Moria wend their way slowly deeper within the rejoicing forests.
The elven host was greeted by Thalion and Celeborn. The nobles were led into Oropher’s fortress, which was tastefully decorated and lit. Erestor was discreetly led away by one of Anoriel’s maids. Elrond made his way to Thranduil’s chambers as he was well acquainted with these halls after his stay here.
He knocked once before entering, the eagerness to see the prince overwhelming him. Thranduil had his back to him as he watched raptly through the window. Elrond approached him quietly and slipped his arms around the Prince’s waist tightly before proceeding to bestow a lick upon the elegantly pointed ear tip. Thranduil struggled futilely to escape his grip. Elrond closed his eyes lazily and drew Thranduil’s lips for a deep kiss. The Prince tasted slightly of herbal tea and cinnamon unlike the usual taste of pine and Dorwinion.
Elrond whispered as he leant over the slender shoulder, “What is my fair prince watching?”
He immediately let go of his grip and turned the figure around to find himself staring at Oropher. Elrond blushed furiously and backed away.
The Sindar king looked mortified judging by his stunned features , however he said composedly, “Welcome back to Greenwood, Elrond.”
“I am sorry, Lord Oropher,” Elrond cringed as he looked once more at Thranduil walking with Anoriel in the gardens, “I thought you were him.”
Oropher smiled ironically, “I am pleased that you mistook me for my handsome son, though I daresay we are both glad that you stopped where you did.”
Elrond looked away, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. Oropher, however came nearer and lifted up Elrond’s chin saying, “I am not angry, though I must admit I was stunned. Come, Elrond, let me show you our betrothal arrangements.”
Erestor waited patiently for Anoriel to return. He idly walked about the large room, looking at the various half-done portraits. Art had never been his strength, still he could see that Anoriel was a fine painter.
“Lord Erestor?” Celebrían addressed him as she walked in suddenly, “What are you doing here?”
“Lady Celebrían,” Erestor bowed, “I was merely waiting for Anoriel for she had wanted to see me.”
“She will return now, will you not call me by my name?” Celebrían asked smiling, “After all you call my father by name, I have heard.”
Erestor smiled and said quietly, “If you would agree to return the favour, then Celebrían it shall be.”
“Has Elrond come?” Celebrían asked enthusiastically, “I have been looking forward to see him again.”
“I thought you did not get along well,” Erestor said looking into her eyes searchingly.
“Oh! We get along famously after he assured me that he is also in the same quandary,” Celebrían laughed, “If we have to consent to this binding atleast we can learn to suffer each other’s company.”
Erestor laughed saying, “I think that ploy will not work in Lothlórien or Lindon where you will be watched by everyone.”
“Yes, Erestor, I was about to ask you, would you mind if I shifted to Imladris after the marriage? Elrond told me that he loves the place above Lindon. I don’t like Lindon myself,” Celebrían said honestly.
“I would be glad of the company and moreover I can make more escapes to Lindon to be with Gil if Elrond assumes charge in the valley,” Erestor kissed her hand lightly, “Though you might need to talk of this with your parents and the King.”
“Erestor!” Anoriel rushed in and hugged him impulsively, “It is wonderful to see you.”
“If my presence moves you to such delight then I shudder to think of what you are like in the prince’s presence,” Erestor said teasingly as a blush bloomed on her cheeks, “Why did you summon me?”
“Oh! Erestor,” Anoriel said averting her eyes, “I wished to do a robe for Oropher, you know, for the betrothal. But I do not have his measurements. Would you please, please….?”
“Measure Oropher?” Erestor raised an eyebrow, “You are determined to get me exiled, Anoriel, let me try. No promises, though. Why didn’t you just ask your lovesick fiancé?”
Celebrían said laughing, “They are too busy with other matters, Erestor, to think of such things as measurements.”
Anoriel blushed but did not reply. She went to her wardrobe and took out a set of neatly folded robes and handed them to Erestor muttering, “I made these for you, you know, if you would wear it at the ceremony.”
“I hate to tell you we are leaving for war after the ceremony,” Erestor said gently, “So after the ceremony, you will have to save it for me till I can come and reclaim it. Now,” he continued blithely watching the distraught expressions on the ladies’ faces at the reminder of war, “When do you want the king’s measurements?”
“Today evening, Erestor, at the latest,” Anoriel begged him.
Elrond watched sleepily as Erestor barged into his chambers, saying aloud, “You are lucky not to have a sister!”
“Why so?” Elrond said idly flipping open the book on medicine Thalion had lent him, “I thought they give sentimental farewells.”
“That they do,” Erestor grumbled as he flopped down onto the bed on his back next to Elrond, “But they ask for the moon so prettily that you cannot refuse them.”
Elrond put his book aside and took the liberty of resting his head on Erestor’s slender chest, “What happened?”
“Anoriel wants Oropher’s measurements before this eve, Do you know of a way to steal one of his robes?” Erestor said hopefully, his fingers threading through Elrond’s hair.
“Is it not easier for her to get it from Thranduil?” Elrond had blushed at the very mention of Oropher’s name.
“She is too concentrated on the Prince’s measurements when they are together,” Erestor huffed, “Elrond, whatever shall I do?”
Elrond felt mischief rise in him as he said impishly raising his head to look at Erestor, “I can give you Oropher’s sizes if you co-operate!”
Erestor raised an eyebrow, but nodded anyway, saying, “As long as I get the measurements before dusk!”
“Get to your feet and go stand before the mirror,” Elrond ordered him. Erestor’s eyebrows shot higher, but he complied nevertheless.
Erestor began saying dubiously, “I did not want my measurements, Elrond!” as Elrond’s wrists snaked around his waist encircling him with a measuring tape. Elrond was, however, too absorbed by the position of his hands on Erestor’s waist. Finally, he said, “This is the waist size!”
“Whatever gives you such an idea?” Erestor said disbelievingly as Elrond began measuring his shoulder span, “Has Thranduil got you drunk already?” he sniffed Elrond’s breath suspiciously.
“No, today morning, I went to his room to greet him. Unfortunately I greeted Oropher,” Elrond confessed as he jotted down the measurements, “So each of my finger’s position on his body is etched into my mind. Getting his measurements will not be a problem.”
“You did not touch him?” Erestor turned sharply to look at Elrond in awe.
“Kissed him actually,” Elrond admitted, “My heart stopped for a moment when I saw who it was.”
Erestor laughed weakly before turning back to the mirror whispering, “Was he stunned?”
“Why ask?” Elrond covered his face in Erestor’s dark hair mortified. For a few moments, he relished the quiet presence of his heart’s desire. Erestor’s hands clasped Elrond’s in a simple sign of comradeship.
“Can you touch the tip of your nose with your tongue?” Erestor asked after a while.
“Why would I try that?” Elrond raised an eyebrow at Erestor’s reflection in the mirror incredulously.
“Thranduil said if an elf can do that, then he or she will be a great kisser,” Erestor replied promptly.
Elrond shoved Erestor playfully before muttering, “I think I don’t need to prove my kissing skills for you, ‘Restor. You should be concerned only by Gil’s talent.”
But after Erestor had left, Elrond surreptiously went before his mirror and tried to reach the tip of his nose with his tongue futilely. He would have to practise this.
Oropher smiled at his exhausted cousin, who had taken on the brunt of the arrangements for the wedding.
“You can laugh, cousin,” Celeborn said disdainfully, “You should have thought of writing an ‘Entry by Invitation Only’ at the borders. Eru knows what we will do once the place is marauded by the dwarves, lakemen, and giant bears!”
“Beorn has come?” Oropher asked curiously, “My son has his friendship, I have heard.”
“Your son slept with him?” Celeborn groaned, “Not that I would have difficulty in believing it. He can persuade a dwarf into his bed if he sets his mind on it.”
“I hope he does not take that idea into his wild head,” Oropher shuddered, “Cousin, I was going to ask you to stand in my stead at the ceremony. I will stand in his mother’s stead.”
“As you wish, I would be honoured,” Celeborn said solemnly.
Thranduil smiled at Galadriel, who was walking towards him, a hesitant expression on her face.
“Shall we move from these crowds?” she asked him in a low voice.
Thranduil said innocently, “Shall it take a cave again to arouse your maternal instincts?”
“Princeling!” Galadriel said indignantly, “You overstep your limits as usual.”
“Why do you persist in calling me a princeling when I am already in the early stages of planning for a family?” Thranduil asked curiously, “You never call cousin Celebrían thus though she is barely a century older than me!”
“I can call her my daughter,” Galadriel smiled, “if I call you my son Oropher will not be very forgiving,” she paused, “Moreover you are very young compared to me. At your age, my only activity in life was to go hunting and camping with my cousins.”
Thranduil said besotted, “I think of fields of Aman whenever I see her hair, flaxen, peaceful!”
Galadriel laughed as she took in his obvious impatience to get back to Anoriel. She then began falteringly, none of the usual confidence of the proud daughter of Finarfin in her voice, “Would you accept a gift from me? In Aman, it was considered ill-luck to not receive your first wedding gift from your mother.”
“We are not in Aman,” Thranduil said quietly, but seeing her crest-fallen expression an instant before she hid it by a mask of cold composure, he said gently, “I would but receive gladly any gift that you would deign to give me.”
Galadriel stopped walking and drew out a small chest from within her cloak. Thranduil took it from her hands and opened it. In the moonlight, shone a green stone the colour of his eyes. He had never seen such a jewel even amongst the Noldor nobles. It was very obvious that the stone did not hail from Middle-Earth.
He looked up at Galadriel, and said quietly, “I do not think I deserve this as a gift, it seems to have passed through the ages lending you strength in sorrows.”
“It has,” Galadriel sighed, “It was wrought by my cousin Celegorm during our childhood in Tirion. He gave it to his love, Aredhel, who loved the wildness of nature the most amongst us. However when he gave her mightier gifts, this passed to me. I have held it close for all these ages, the stone reminding me of happier times of my life. This stone however pales in the light from your eyes and I feel that I no longer need it. Keep it with you and let it keep you safe, for it was hallowed by Elbereth herself in those blissful times. When there are hard times ahead, as there will be, let it offer you a measure of solace.”
“You give me a rich gift which I cannot repay,” Thranduil said sincerely, “But would you stand in my mother’s stead for the ceremony?”
“I..,” Galadriel turned away, “I am loath to risk bring on the curse of my house onto yours, Thranduil. You have my love in your mother’s stead, as insufficient as it is.”
Thranduil grasped her right hand warmly saying, “The Valar will not curse me or you for such a simple thing.”
“It is not a simple thing that you ask of me, Thranduil, and we both know that well,” Galadriel sighed.
“I am stubborn,” Thranduil assured her, “Prepared to stand and persuade you till the remaking of the worlds.”
Galadriel smiled weakly, “That you might do, I fear. Let me speak to your Adar regarding this.”
“I will go to the forge and have your gift set in my sword,” Thranduil smiled and left quickly.
Galadriel knocked on Oropher’s study door. To her pleasant surprise, her husband opened it. She greeted him with an embrace and walked in. Oropher was behind his huge oaken desk, surveying the seating plans. He looked up and smiled at her, motioning her to take a seat. Celeborn drew a chair for her before seating himself in a chair by her side.
“What brings you to the control chamber for the betrothal preparations?” Oropher asked her as he poured out a fine vintage for her. There were half-empty glasses before him and Celeborn.
“A request, Lord Oropher,” she had thought that she had forgotten how to stammer, but now she realized that she could still stutter like a young man asking an woman for a first dance.
Oropher raised his head from the plans and looked at her curiously. Celeborn asked bluntly, “You are in a worse state than the first time you crept into my bedroom. What is it?”
“I wish I was allowed to stand in stead of Thranduil’s mother,” she stammered very fast, unwilling to meet Celeborn’s and Oropher’s eyes. They were looking at her as if they suspected she had lost her sanity finally.
“Er..Altariel,” Celeborn called her that only when she was suspected to be in a very fragile state, “We did not understand.”
“I mean it, I would be extremely happy to do it, he is as a son unto me,” she finished uncertainly, “If both of you would not mind it, that is.”
Celeborn looked at his cousin helplessly as if admitting that Oropher’s argument that everyone in the house of Finwë loses their sanity at a point in their lives with certainty was proved true.
Oropher said carefully, “I am honoured, of course. But…”
“ADA!” there was a shout from outside followed by Thranduil leaping in through the window.
“My wild son,” Oropher acknowledged defeated, “I must ask you to stop doing this in Amdir’s talan, he will start a war.”
Thranduil rushed forward and kissed his father’s forehead before announcing, “I want her in my mother’s stead. She was kind enough to agree.”
Celeborn looked at his wife saying, “I do not want to know what happened in that cave, Galadriel. It seems to have made you both slightly mad.”
“My son was already on the road to madness,” Oropher ran his fingers over Thranduil’s head lightly, “What have we condemned poor Anoriel to?”
Elrond opened his chest absently. He planned to stow away all that he did not need in Thranduil’s rooms and claim them after the war, if he returned. He had no space for his lore books and medical chests. As he rummaged through the debris of the centuries, he snatched a piece of parchment in an oddly familiar writing, his twin’s. Elrond closed his eyes, his twin had died a mortal death centuries ago. Still, he wished to know what had been written, he opened the parchment, it was dated the winter before their coming of age.
I find that my heart beats for you, I love you and I wish to claim you,
Hoping that you would cooperate,
Elrond unfolded the parchment with increasing disbelief. Beneath his twin’s bold, brash lines was Maedhros’s queer left-handed script.
I have no idea what made you write this letter and give it through my guards. It has been a long time since I have been thus boldly propositioned. It is pleasing though I find myself doubting your eyesight and sanity. Rest assured that I will send you with the wandering company the next time you call me ‘Russandol’.
Apologizing for my non-cooperation,
Elrond folded the letter and placed it within one of his books, drying a tear from his eyes. His twin had a crush on Maedhros, Elrond had known it. But he had never in his wildest dreams thought that Elros would pursue their foster father’s elder brother so brashly.
Elrond knew that he would not get rest this night, his dreams haunted by the past and its regrets. He made his way to the large hall, looking for company. Thranduil was standing alone near the fire, swirling the wine in his goblet absently.
“My prince,” Elrond approached him softly.
“Elrond, I could not sleep,” Thranduil gave a wry smile, “I suppose I scared Amroth, who has been given the next chamber, out of his wits with my screams.”
“Come, I too cannot find rest,” Elrond leant his head against Thranduil’s shoulder, “Let us talk the night away. I feel a strong grip of melancholy this night in a way I have rarely felt before.”
Thranduil looked at him critically before saying firmly, “You are in need of rest, come, let us go to my room and hold each other in sleep. We will be less disturbed by the ghosts of the past.”
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.