“You have not sought rest yet?” he asked concernedly as he approached her.
“I could not find the heart to,” she said quietly, turning to look at him, “You?”
“I slept well enough yesterday, the ale pounding my head,” he grinned wryly, “I know I should learn to stop competing with the Sindar, but it is the last time for most of us.”
She gasped and turned away from him, her chest heaving in suppressed emotion.
“Lord Celeborn will not be hurt,” he assured her, “He is a valiant warrior.”
“I worry not only for him,” Galadriel sighed, “I worry for you, for Oropher, for his son, for Amdir, for Amroth, for all those who ride east.”
“You have seen something?” he asked quietly.
“No,” Galadriel shook her head, “I have not looked since I knew the war was drawing ever near. I could not look. Gil,” she looked up at him, “You are one of the last few on this harsh land that I can claim kin.”
“As you are mine,” Gil-Galad whispered, “We are so alone, so few despite the number that arrived in exile. Of the blood of Fingolfin, only I and Elrond remain. Of the blood of Finarfin, only you and Gildor remain. The nobility of our lines has weakened, I have no blood heirs, and your daughter has Sindar blood in her veins. Elrond is a mix of several bloodlines, Edain and Elven. Gildor is pure blooded, yet he will not marry, I fear.”
“True,” Galadriel sighed, sorrow shining in her voice, “The bloodlines have weakened. Even the marriage between my daughter and Elrond will not strengthen them. Where is the valiance of Fingon, the wisdom of Turgon, the nobility of my brother Finrod that struck fear in Morgoth’s black heart? Where now are the white fire of Maedhros and the cold strategy of Maglor that held us safe for centuries? The house of Finwë has weakened, a mere shadow of its former fire. Of the houses of Finarfin and Fingolfin, we can hope no further. Of the house of Fëanor, Celebrimbor has left us to fight for his folly. Of Maglor’s children, the woman will sail soon, I can feel it. But your bonded mate, I see in him the fire of my cousins.”
“I wish his fate is not that of your cousins, Galadriel,” Gil-Galad sighed, “For his stubbornness and sense of duty is unparalleled. It has bound his soul to the refugees of Eregion.”
“Enough of that,” he continued, “What think you of our chances?”
“Well indeed,” she said smiling softly, “Durin’s folk are most courageous. You have good chances of winning,” her face darkened, “though I fear I may not see many of you again.”
“I have a feeling in my heart that Finwë’s doom will claim me. The love he bore for his son will let no other claim in peace the throne of the Noldor. I must pay as my fathers have done before me. Though, it is for a worthy cause,” he said quietly, accepting the fierce embrace that his aunt bestowed on him.
“I do not wish to lose the last of my kin to Mandos,” she whispered fiercely, “Come back to me.”
Elrond roamed the halls seeking company. They were to leave on the morrow and he had no wish to spend the time in his room thinking of the war they had to fight.
“Elrond!” a warm hand grasped his arm, “Why are you loitering about in a Sindar palace?”
“Celebrían,” he smiled, “I was merely taking a walk before I retired. And you?” for they were near the store rooms, he did not see any reason for her presence there.
“I have been following you,” she shrugged, “I thought you were going to steal some Sindar heirloom for your Noldo King,” she linked her arm through his in a friendly fashion before saying quietly, “You try to be careful out there.”
He looked at her quizzically for a moment before comprehending her meaning, “I will try to be,” he deliberately turned the conversation to a lighter vein, “I thought that you would hire the orcs to make you a widow.”
She stuck her nose in the air before saying solemnly, “I would not want you to die so easily. My mother would have planned a more suiting end for you.”
“That I believe,” he said laughing as he embraced her, “I will try to be safe, after all, we have a marriage waiting.”
“I find I am not as displeased by the idea as I once was,” she said frankly.
“And for my part, I believe I would have wooed you as Thranduil did your friend had I not already lost my heart to another,” Elrond smiled as he looked down upon her fair features.
“You will not tell me?” she asked playfully, “Maybe I can help. Does he know you are getting married? That you are riding east?”
“He will ride east with me,” Elrond said sighing, “Though I wish he had stayed behind.”
“Is Erestor in better spirits? He was unhappy yesterday night when I saw him near the library,” Celebrían asked.
“He is well enough,” he sighed, “I was not aware you were on first name terms.”
“He is handsome,” she laughed merrily, “And I make it my priority to be on first name terms with all such people.”
Celeborn watched torn between amusement and fear as Thranduil crept through Anoriel’s window stealthily.
“Cousin, what are you smiling at?” Oropher’s voice sounded behind him.
“I was watching your redoubtable son stealing into his fiancée’s bed,” Celeborn smiled wryly, “He is brave, Amdir would have his skin if they are caught.”
“My son is a mix of bravery and stupidity in equal measure,” Oropher smiled fondly, “though if Amdir catches them, he will need to use all of his considerable diplomatic skills.”
Celeborn laid his hand on his slightly shorter cousin’s shoulder saying, “No rest?”
“I came to find you, cousin. We leave tomorrow. Thalion will be in charge here. All is set. Yet I feel that something is haunting me. I wished to walk under the stars before I retired. Would you come with me?” Oropher asked him.
“Do you really have to ask?” Celeborn frowned as he pulled his cousin’s arm in his, “You know, they are bonded.”
“Yes, one problem solved,” Oropher said softly, “I am glad that he rides to battle having known love.”
“And he will return from battle to her,” Celeborn said reassuringly, “What else are we all going with him for?”
Erestor was leaving their chambers when Gil-Galad entered. They stared at each other an instant before the King said quietly, “You may send me away if my company is unpleasant.”
“You need not ask if I mind your company,” Erestor said quietly, “After all you are King and I am your chief-counsellor.”
Gil-Galad sighed as his bonded-mate began to move towards the bed still arrayed in uncomfortable looking formal robes. He removed his own tunic and leggings before slipping into the bed beside Erestor, who was lying still on his back.
Gil-Galad whispered, “Let me atleast take the braids out, my love, it cannot be comfortable. And change those robes, you must be suffocating.”
“As you wish,” Erestor said unemotionally as he complied, unbraiding his hair and then undressing before slipping on a loose nightrobe that hung by the bed.
As Gil-Galas reached to press his lips on Erestor’s, he cringed. Where there had once been fire and passion, he received no response.
“I would not have us unhappy over Isildur,” Gil-Galad reached to hold Erestor’s slender hand, “What he says cannot blemish my love for you.”
“Yet I notice that it was not my king, but my friend who was moved enough to exact revenge for his words,” Erestor said quietly, only the flicker of pain in his dark eyes giving him away.
“You know well that diplomacy requires sacrifices and a cold mind,” Gil-Galad said, “you know well that certain situations are meant to be borne with dignity and not spontaneity.”
“So speaks the impulsive king to his diplomatic counsellor, that I understand well,” Erestor remarked, “But, My Lord, I need not tell you that the heart never bows to diplomacy. When what we cherish the most is threatened, then we stick to no diplomacy. I do not blame you for what happened, but I am pained that it was not onto your shoulders that I cried my heart out after that.”
“I am sorry,” Gil-Galad whispered.
“You would not act differently should the situation occur again,” Erestor said quietly, “I do not understand your reasons. But you say that you love me, and I cling to that alone now.”
Gil-Galad placed his hand on Erestor’s chest and traced circles when Erestor’s hand firmly pushed it away.
“I am yet to forgive my insult, you may do your will on me, for that is your right,” Erestor said determinedly, “But it shall never be with my agreement. Marriage for us is eternity. I beg time before we can bring things back to what they were before Isildur.”
“As you wish,” Gil-Galad said furiously as he got out of the bed and barged out of the room, pausing only to grab a robe, “I will return to this bed only when you accept my reasoning.”
Erestor sighed, before pulling his robe closer. The large bed seemed awfully empty with only his slender form resting in it. He shook his head, he would never find rest here. He slowly walked to the next door and knocked softly.
A sleepy eyed Glorfindel opened after a few moments. Seeing his friend’s woebegone expression, he immediately cast the door wider open and pulled him inside.
“Can I stay with you tonight?” Erestor asked simply.
“Get into bed,” Glorfindel shoved him towards the large bed, “Though I was expecting company.”
“Glor,” Erestor smiled weakly as he crept underneath the covers, warmed by Glorfindel’s body heat, “He left me angrily. I tried my best to be reasonable,” he sighed.
“He is a fool to waste his last night in a good bed like that,” Glorfindel tucked Erestor’s head under his chin before pulling him close, intertwining their legs. Erestor returned his embrace as they drifted into the land of elven dreams.
Elrond walked quietly underneath the stars and the forest, his mind refusing to rest as it burrowed through the past. He could still remember the War of the Wrath, when he had fought with Elros under Finarfin’s banner; the Siege of Eregion, when he had fought with Glorfindel and Erestor under the High-King’s banner, the burning city he had left behind as he had lead the retreat of broken souls; war, what did it serve?
“Elrond?” Oropher’s pale golden hair shone light in the moonlight, “Why are you not seeking your rest? We ride at dawn.”
“Why do we have to fight? We are elves, immortal. We shall live to see evil rise again,” Elrond sighed.
“True,” Oropher drew nearer, Elrond could the gauntness on his features that had not been there on the day of the betrothal, “Yet is it not worth it if a few generations of mortals live happily without a dark shadow? That they can love, wed and live with their families without fear. We will see the blessed realm, for we are the most loved by the Valar. So is it not right that we defend them while we can, with what we can?”
Elrond nodded, though he did not agree, Oropher smiled, “You will understand it a day, and then you will say the same words to those who seek answers.”
“I will send anyone who seeks such answers to you, my Lord,” Elrond returned his smile, “For you are well equipped with answers.”
Oropher shook his head, “I am but a flame long extinguished, a cold heart warmed only by my son’s warmth. You are not like me, you hope even when you fear. It will carry you far, through many years of toil and grief. This night, I feel is the ending of all that was in the second Age of Arda. This battle will claim old heroes and bring forth new ones. But life will change, many of us will never know joy again. Yet, we shall go on. For even where there is no joy, there is yet hope, Elrond, and in that we trust.”
Galadriel watched as Celeborn entered their chamber muttering darkly, “The gall!”
“Whose?” she asked smiling as he crept into bed blushing angrily, “You look beautiful when you are angry.”
“Thranduil! Who else?” Celeborn muttered, “I knocked on her door to warn them her father was coming. He came out dressed in naught, walked a few steps with me, when Amdir entered his daughter’s room, he advised me to wear thicker robes to hide my arousal.”
“He has that effect on people,” Galadriel smiled, “A born charmer, so like you.”
Celeborn smiled helplessly at her flattery and dove into bed beside her.
Thranduil snuck back into Anoriel’s room after Amdir left. Thalion had seen him, gasped and then handed his outer robe to the naked prince muttering something about Oropher’s child-raising skills.
Galadriel joined the others in the courtyard of the fortress at dawn. Thalion was bidding his King and Prince farewell as were hundreds of elves, who would not ride to war against Sauron. Gil-Galad and the Noldor contingent had already ridden out an hour ago, with the High-King had gone his herald, Glorfindel and Erestor. Thranduil was kissing Anoriel passionately as he bent down from his black charger, his face screwed up in misery.
Elrond prodded his mare against Erestor’s stallion and asked quietly, “You seem sad, any other reason than our journey’s end?”
Erestor raised an eyebrow sardonically, before saying evenly, “The companionship I shall have to suffer is a cause for my gloom, Herald, I can scarcely wait to be back in Isildur’s company.”
“I have a problem, Chief-Counsellor,” Círdan approached them, a tired smile on his ancient face, “My nephew refuses to have you in his royal tent.”
“How does that become your problem, Círdan?” Erestor frowned as he pulled away from Elrond’s side to join the mariner.
“The tents, we had assumed that you and Gil would be in one, we did not take a worthy tent for you,” Círdan shrugged, “We shall have to borrow from Amdir.”
“I can manage well enough with a simple tent, I daresay,” Erestor smiled, “After all, it is not as if I am a courtier and consort alone, whatever Isildur thinks.”
“That you are not,” Círdan laughed, “Yet you are of noble blood and must carry yourself thus. Will you manage in Glorfindel’s tent?”
“He is sharing with Gildor, I heard,” Erestor shook his head, “And you?”
“With our Menelwen’s mate,” Círdan sighed, “Had I known of this, I would have never done this folly. Gil did not tell me.”
“Erestor can share mine, if he does not mind, that is,” Elrond offered tentatively.
Erestor said relieved, “That is well, for I had no mind to beg Gil for something as worthless as a bed to sleep in at night, especially when elves were made to sleep under the stars.”
Elrond laughed happily, despite Círdan’s warning look, suddenly the journey to Mordor seemed the best journey in his life.
That night as they camped and made ready to turn in, Erestor came by saying, “Elrond, they wish to put another bed in, I told them not to. Why waste a bed that may serve another?”
Elrond gaped at him, despite Glorfindel’s throat clearing. Same bed? Single bed?
“I think it might be a better idea to have two beds,” Elrond said weakly.
“Don’t be a fool, we can manage well enough, I promise you I won’t steal the covers,” Erestor smiled brightly before snatching a piece of lembas from Glorfindel’s unsuspecting hands and turning away to supervise the rest of the camp’s settling down for the night.