Heart In Chains
“Are you ready to go?” Haldir smiled, pleased to find Erestor reading one of the books Rumil had brought yesterday. “I trust it is interesting lore?”
Erestor was surprised to see Haldir this early. Arien had just risen and he hadn’t expected the sentry until the evening. Haldir’s smile was infectious and he found himself returning it. “It distracts me.”
“From thinking about Elrond Half-Elven?” Haldir stepped into the small room and looked about – really looked about – noticing how sparsely furnished the other’s quarters were.
“I can sense him,” said Erestor slowly. “He is still weak, but growing stronger.” The Peredhel was a constant presence in his mind, something which he had found distressing at first, but now he was learning to enjoy being connected to the half-Elf, as he also felt Elrond’s moments of brief happiness and peace.
Haldir studied the dark-haired Elf. Erestor looked more fragile than he used to and the dark eyes seemed dull. “You need to get out into the open air.”
“Lord Celeborn is letting me take my walk then?” It was a pity that he would have to wait one week before he could go outside again, but at least now he had something to look forward to.
“Aye, I am to accompany you. Is there anywhere special you would like to go?”
“Can we avoid crowds? I do not want to encounter other Elves.” Erestor had seen their reactions when Galadriel and Celeborn had sentenced him millennia ago. Those eyes had been filled with hatred, distrust and loathing, and those sentiments wouldn’t have changed. He had no desire to feel those menacing eyes on him again.
“We can walk between the mellyrn, if you desire so.” Haldir raised a hand and signaled for Erestor to rise from his chair. “You can continue your reading later. ‘Tis much too beautiful a day to stay inside.”
Erestor placed the book aside and slowly got to his feet. “Are you sure you do not mind keeping me company? You must have more important tasks to carry out.”
Haldir studied Erestor extensively. What had this long imprisonment done to the dark-haired Elf? How had it affected him? And could those effects be undone? “Follow me outside.”
Erestor complied and together they descended the talan. “Am I not to be tied down? Threatened? Are you not worried that I will try to escape?” He had long given up on escaping and had accepted his fate. He even felt confident enough to lightly tease Haldir.
But Haldir didn’t catch on at once. He was about to answer Erestor’s questions in earnest, when he saw an unfamiliar sparkle in the other Elf’s eyes. He snorted and led Erestor toward the lake, away from the busier sections, giving Erestor the privacy he had asked for. “We will be alone here.”
Erestor nodded appreciatively, taking in his surroundings. Mist was rising from the earth and the gentle flow of water soothed his shaky nerves. It was impossible to lock out Elrond and the half-Elf was distressed at the moment, which caused him to feel distressed as well.
“Is something wrong?” Haldir saw unease in the hazel eyes.
“I can sense Elrond’s distress,” explained Erestor. “I hope the sensations will grow less in time.”
“Does it upset you? Being able to sense his emotions?” Haldir wondered what it felt like for Erestor.
“It takes some getting used to,” said Erestor eventually, finding himself opening up to the guardian, which surprised him. During his imprisonment here they had hardly spoken a word. “In one way it is comforting, knowing that I am not alone.”
/Alone,/ mused Haldir, /Aye, you have been very lonely in the past./ Recalling there was a garden with healing plants to their right, he signaled for Erestor to follow him.
Erestor easily fell into step beside Haldir, smiling weakly. Walking like this, with Haldir close, felt comforting. He could get used to it and immediately chided himself. It was stupid to grow attached to Haldir. Once the guardian felt he had paid his debt, Haldir would become more distant, more reserved. “Where are we headed?”
Haldir pointed at the garden and found that one of Celeborn’s healers was tending to the plants. “I thought these plants might be of interest to you.”
“That is very thoughtful of you,” said Erestor, surprise evident in his voice. He walked into the garden and started to examine and identify the healing plants. He wished he would be allowed to tend to them like the healer was doing, but Galadriel and Celeborn would never allow it.
The healer, seeing someone was interested in his plants, moved closer and began to explain about their healing qualities.
Haldir saw Erestor’s confusion and leaned against an oak tree, nodding his head to encourage the dark-haired Elf to learn from the older healer. A plan was forming in his head, but how would he get Celeborn to agree to it? He grinned smugly, seeing the Lord of the Golden Wood enter the garden as well.
Celeborn looked at Erestor in surprise and then searched for Haldir, knowing the guardian had to be close. After walking up to Haldir, he said, “You brought him here?”
“Aye, my Lord. Erestor is a healer. What place would be more suited for him to learn more about healing?” Slowly, his plan took shape. “Think about it, my Lord. He is a gifted healer; I know that because I saw him heal Orophin. Wouldn’t it be wise to let the healers teach him? Maybe his talents will serve us well in the future.” Haldir waited for one moment, pleased that Celeborn was actually considering his words. “And now that he is bound to Elrond Half-Elven we should take good care of him. When Erestor grows weak, so will the Peredhel.”
Celeborn carefully considered Haldir’s words, knowing the sentry had made a valid point. “I take it he could have escaped when Orophin took that fall?”
“Aye, but he didn’t. He stayed, and we did not have to ask for his help, he simply offered it.” Haldir hoped Celeborn would see things his way. “Why not give him part of the garden to tend? Let him study with the healers. We can only benefit from his knowledge and talent.”
Celeborn frowned. “Your words sound wise, but…” When Galadriel and he had sentenced Erestor to life long imprisonment for taking part in the kinslayings, they hadn’t considered the future. Erestor had been their prisoner for many millennia now and maybe it was time for some changes. /We cannot keep him confined to his room until the end of Arda. Not after he rescued Elrond and Orophin./
“My Lord?” Erestor, having felt Celeborn’s eyes on him, gingerly approached, respectfully inclining his head. “I hope I am not trespassing? I do not want Haldir to get into trouble because he brought me here.”
Celeborn remained quiet as he continued to study Erestor. He even went so far as to probingly touch the dark-haired Elf’s mind, something he had never done before. He was surprised when he felt the texture of Erestor’s mind, which was warm and open, hiding nothing. Again, he wondered how Erestor had ever gotten entangled in the kinslayings. Reaching a decision, he said, “Would you like to study with the healers, Erestor?”
The dumbfounded expression in Erestor’s eyes made Celeborn chuckle, but he quickly steeled his face. Seeing Erestor nod firmly, he hoped he was making the right decision. “You may study with them on a daily bases, then. Two hours a day. Furthermore, you will be assigned the care for part of this garden. As a healer you need to know how to grow and harvest these healing plants. The healers will teach you.”
Erestor blinked dazedly and finally found his voice again. “But… I am not allowed to venture outside more than once a week.”
“That has changed,” said Celeborn, shrugging his shoulders. “But in return I need your word of honor that you won’t try to leave.”
“My word of *honor*? I thought I did not possess any, being a murderer.” Erestor instantly regretting lashing out, afraid that Celeborn might take back the privileges he had just given him. “I apologize. That was uncalled for.” Erestor quickly lowered his eyes, praying to the Valar that Celeborn wouldn’t reconsider. “I won’t try to escape.”
Celeborn nodded, sensing Erestor’s conflicting emotions. “I believe you. You may study with the healers and tend to this garden. In turn, I want you to attend to the needs of the wounded when they need your help.”
“I won’t turn anyone anyway,” promised Erestor, “But I doubt anyone will want help from a kinslayer.”
“You always claimed you had no part in it,” said Celeborn in a thoughtful tone. Why was he beginning to believe that now?
“I had no part in it,” said Erestor firmly, averting his eyes to look at the healer, who was gathering herbs. “I did not kill Rhoss. He was one of the few friends I ever had.” But Erestor had long ago convinced himself that no one would ever believe him, so he didn’t put any effort into trying to convince Celeborn now. “May I return to the healer? He was telling me about the plants.”
“Aye.” Celeborn’s eyes narrowed, when Erestor hurried back to the healer’s side. “Haldir, did we make a mistake?”
“I asked myself the same question,” said Haldir slowly, watching Erestor and seeing the chocolate eyes fill with curiosity and the desire to learn. “Orophin found Erestor kneeling beside Rhoss, his fingers locked tightly around the hilt of the knife that had been plunged into his heart.”
A startling thought drifted into Celeborn’s mind. “Or was he keeping the knife in place to make sure there was no extra blood loss?”
Haldir tensed. “Is that possible?”
“Aye, a healer would know better than to remove the knife.” Celeborn eyed Erestor closely, realizing there was a possibility that they had misjudged the dark-haired Elf. Celeborn was now determined to finally discover the truth about Erestor.
Two weeks later, Celeborn visited with the healers, inquiring about Erestor. They told him that the dark-haired Elf was a very motivated student. They were very pleased with the progress Erestor was making and told Celeborn that they had never seen such healing strength in an Elf before. Erestor had the ability to heal without the use of herbs, which was very rare. Celeborn distinctly noticed the proud, approving glance in the healers’ eyes, who all hoped Erestor would be allowed to continue to work with them.
After taking his leave, Celeborn considered everything he had learned. He was sure the healers would have sensed evil intentions if Erestor had them, but they had grown fond of him instead. So what did that tell him about Erestor? The more he thought about it, the more he tended to believe Erestor when the dark-haired Elf said that he hadn’t slain Rhoss. That was a frightening concept. They had condemned Erestor to a pitiful life, based on a misunderstanding.
He had discussed this with Galadriel, but had found that his wife didn’t share his opinions. She was still convinced of Erestor’s guilt and refused to reconsider the sentence. That left him in a difficult situation; they had to present a united front and couldn’t disagree with each other openly.
Reaching the garden, he found that Erestor was harvesting herbs. The reverence in the raven-haired Elf’s face told him that Erestor knew what these plants could do and how valuable they were. Suddenly Erestor’s movements froze; Celeborn realized that the younger Elf had sensed his presence and obviously felt uncomfortable around him. “Erestor.”
Erestor bowed respectfully and lowered his eyes. “My Lord.” He knew how fortunate he was that Celeborn had given him more personal freedom and he didn’t dare jeopardize it by challenging the Lord of the Golden Wood in any way. It was best to act respectfully and to wait for instructions.
“Walk with me.” Celeborn heard Erestor’s surprised gasp and signaled for the other Elf to fall into step beside him.
Gingerly – uncertain why Celeborn wanted to talk to him – Erestor did as he was told. “Did I do something to displease you?” Maybe he could right any wrongs he had done?
“I talked to your teachers. The healers are very pleased with you.”
Celeborn’s unexpected praise shocked Erestor. “My Lord?”
“You work hard, are in the open air for hours and yet you remain pale – fragile. Why is that?”
Erestor frowned. “My Lord, surely you know that a large part of my life energy is now flowing to Elrond Half-Elven?”
Celeborn glanced at Erestor. Aye, he knew, but he hadn’t been aware of the fact that Elrond received such a large amount from the other’s Elf life energy. And that it would last this long. “Tell me, then. How does Elrond fare?”
Erestor swallowed hard. “He is still mourning his lover’s death.”
“But he is no longer thinking about following him to the Halls of Waiting?”
“Nay, he has accepted that he will live. I can feel his acceptance.” Erestor wondered why Celeborn was bringing this up. “There are even brief moments of happiness.”
“Good.” Celeborn’s head was bowed in thought, hands clasped behind his back and eyes trained on the ground, as if ‘Lorien’s soil could advise him. “And how are *you* dealing with this?”
Erestor was so stunned that he stopped walking. “My Lord?”
Celeborn turned toward him and searched Erestor’s gaze. “I have been thinking about this matter. You bound yourself to Elrond, and you are strengthening him and yet you receive nothing in return.”
“Nothing? I would not call this nothing.” Erestor stared at the healing herbs he was carrying. “You are giving me the chance to find part of myself again.”
Celeborn felt humbled, hearing those words. “I am glad you find some measure of happiness here.”
“It is the best I could hope for.” Celeborn’s behavior puzzled Erestor, but he followed obediently when the Lord of the Golden Wood escorted him to the talan where the healers stayed.
Erestor startled awake, his hands rubbing his stomach, trying to soothe the nausea that had woken him every morning for this last week. Ithil had waxed and waned twice since he had bound himself to Elrond and he continued to feel weaker. He struggled to sit upright, but when he had finally succeeded in doing so, his stomach contracted. Quickly he covered his mouth with his hand and stumbled into the bathroom, spitting into the sink.
What was wrong with him? Something was amiss with his body, but he was at a loss to what it was. Except for the nausea, he felt tired, bloated, and his limbs cramped up during the night.
Maybe he had overestimated himself two moons ago when he had first saved Elrond and then Orophin, and was paying the price for it now. It was very well possible that his body was trying to tell him to rest, sleep and eat more. But the mere thought of food made his stomach contract again.
Once his stomach was completely empty, he rinsed his mouth with water. “What shall I do?” He could ask the healers, but he was fairly sure he had merely exhausted himself and that only rest would help. But he didn’t want to stop studying with the healers. Celeborn had made it very clear that he expected Erestor to commit to his work and he was afraid the Lord might reconsider, hearing he had stopped attending his lessons.
Nay, returning to his bed to rest was out of the question. He would go to bed early tonight, hoping to catch up on his sleep and give his body a chance to recover -- as far as it was possible for him to recover. Now that he had to share his life energy with Elrond, he would never feel whole again. Maybe it would be best to get used to feeling this way.
Erestor forced himself to quickly bathe, and after changing into his robes, he left his room to join the healers.
When had the sentries stopped escorting him to the healers’ talan? One morning, he had been waiting for one of his jailors to take him to the healers, but when Rumil hadn’t shown up, he had grown worried. An hour later, one of the healers had appeared at his door, wondering why he hadn’t joined them yet. That had been the moment when Erestor had realized a bit more freedom had been given to him. Since that day, he made his way to the healers’ talan alone, enjoying the peace and quiet.
But this morning things were slightly different. He was pre-occupied because Elrond was particularly brooding and he felt like he could faint any moment now. He had to stop walking and leaned against the trunk of a tree. Unexpectedly, strength rose from the ash tree, trying to give him the energy he needed to continue his walk.
After thanking the tree for its gift, he felt strong enough to continue.
/What if the healers see something is wrong with me? I do not want them complaining to Celeborn./ But part of him corrected him; the healers cared about him and would never speak badly of him.
“Erestor? Are you well?” Orophin, who had been on his way to the talan he shared with his brothers, happened upon Erestor by accident.
“I am… tired,” Erestor said slowly, wondering why his chest cramped up with pain. “I need to go the healers.”
Orophin nodded. “Aye, you look like you need their help.”
“Help? Nay, I need to study with them.” The chest pain faded, but his stomach continued to torment him. He desperately wanted to lie down and curl up beneath a warm, sheltering blanket. He almost pulled back when Orophin wrapped an arm around his waist. “I am fine. I do not need…” He stumbled over his own two feet and would have fallen, had it not been for Orophin’s steadying arm.
“It is Elrond, isn’t it?” Deep lines appeared on Orophin’s brow. “He is draining you.”
“Probably,” agreed Erestor.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I doubt it.” Erestor drew in a deep, steadying breath, let it go and then nodded once. “I can manage again.”
Orophin reluctantly removed his arm, but continued to keep a close eye on Erestor. “I will walk you to the healers’ talan.”
“That won’t be necessary. I can tell you are tired. You should head for your own talan and rest.”
”I can rest after escorting you,” said Orophin determined. Ever since Erestor had saved his life he felt protective of the Elf and seeing Erestor in this weakened state worried him. “I will make sure you get there without taking a fall.”
Recognizing the determined look in Orophin’s eyes, Erestor gave in.
Camfael felt worried, seeing the state Erestor was in. The dark-haired Elf seemed weak, unbalanced and he was ghostly pale. “Is something ailing you?” During the last few months the healer had grown fond of Erestor, after casting aside any prejudice he might have had against the ‘kinslayer’. “Will you allow me to examine you?”
Erestor began to shake his head, but then saw Orophin’s disapproval. What was the sentry still doing here? “Shouldn’t you head for your talan?”
“Not yet. First Camfael will check on you.” Determinedly, Orophin crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“But that is not necessary,” said Erestor pleadingly. “I only need to rest.” His eyes widened when his stomach decided to do a series of nauseating somersaults. “’Tis a good thing I have not eaten yet today.”
“When was the last time you ate?” Camfael gently eased Erestor down onto a bed. “Let me examine you.” By looking in Erestor’s eyes he could tell that his student didn’t like that idea, but if necessary, he would insist.
“I ate some soup last night,” said Erestor slowly, closing his eyes to compose himself. They opened again, feeling Camfael’s hands unbutton his shirt. “I do not think that is nece—“
“Erestor…” Camfael gave his student a look that said, ‘Do not defy me’.
Sighing, Erestor gave in, but then grew aware of the fact that Orophin was still present. It was bad enough to feel Camfael’s probing hands, but now he had to deal with Orophin’s questioning stare as well. “You do not have to stay.”
Orophin finally took pity on the raven-haired Elf and walked over to the doorway. “Either I, or one of my brothers will check on you later.”
“That is not neces—“
“Erestor!” Camfael was getting fed up with his student’s behavior. “They are worried about you.”
“I know, but…” The idea that someone worried about him was a novel experience and he didn’t know how to deal with the attention. “Thank you, Orophin,” he said eventually, feeling guilty for trying to brush the silver-haired Elf off.
Orophin nodded, smiled, and then left so Camfael could properly examine Erestor. Haldir would want to know that something was wrong with the dark-haired healer and he hurried to their talan to tell his older brother.
Camfael’s hands drifted lower, now probing Erestor’s abdominal region. Frowning, he asked, “When did this start?”
“My stomach has been upset for one week now and I just made it to the sink in time before dinner made a return visit.” The probing didn’t exactly hurt, but as he wasn’t used to being touched in such a way, he blushed, embarrassed. “I cannot explain it.”
Camfael’s frown deepened, not believing the conclusion he had reached. It was not possible, but there was no other explanation. “Did something… out of the ordinary happen about two months ago?”
The healer’s question made Erestor uncomfortable. “Maybe.” He couldn’t tell Camfael about the bonding that had taken place back then. “Why are you asking?”
“Have you noticed your body changing?” Camfael realized Erestor hadn’t when he saw the dumbfounded expression in the brown eyes.
“Changing?” Erestor swallowed hard. “Camfael, why is my body changing?” Startled, he tried to sit upright, but Camfael stopped him.
“Do not sit up. Rest.” He probed Erestor’s abdomen one last time, affirming his first conclusion and then pulled up a chair to sit down. There was no way to ask this discretely. “Erestor, did you have intercourse two months ago?”
Erestor’s eyes widened. “What?” Why was Camfael asking him something that personal?
“Well, did you?” Camfael made sure his voice sounded warm and soothing, realizing he would hugely shock Erestor in a moment. The younger Elf really had no idea what had happened to him. “Answer my question, mellon.”
Erestor released a deep sigh. “Aye, I did.”
Camfael cringed, having to ask his next question. “And you were on the receiving end?”
A fierce blush spread over Erestor’s face. “Aye,” he whispered, barely audible. He had never thought he would end up discussing this with anyone!
“Erestor, this will come as a shock to you,” started Camfael in a kind tone, gathering Erestor’s shaky hand in his, “But you have received indeed. You are with child.” Although he had prepared himself to deal with several reactions, Erestor fainting when hearing this news hadn’t been one of them.
“It really was a shock, then.” He said, smoothing Erestor’s dark hair away from the unconscious Elf’s face. “But you are in the best hands. We will take good care of you.” It was extremely rare for a male Elf to conceive. “I do wonder who the father is,” Camfael mused aloud. “We will have to find out.”
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