Heart In Chains
“Please, Erestor, drink some water. You need the fluids.” Haldir was growing desperate now that the dark-haired Elf was shutting him out again.
When the word had reached him that Celeborn wanted him to return to Erestor’s side, he had acted at once. After handing over control to his second in command, he had hurried back. Upon his arrival, he found that his brothers were keeping a vigil at Erestor’s bed, and both Elves had been distressed because Erestor continued to lock them out. The grieving Elf still refused water and nourishment.
During these last thirty-six hours, Camfael, Celeborn, Rumil, Orophin and Haldir had tried to convince Erestor to drink some water, but to no avail. Haldir was now afraid that Erestor would fade after all, and doubled his efforts to force the grieving healer to stay with them.
Haldir had slipped between the covers, warming Erestor’s still icy body with his own. His fingers tangled in the long, raven hair and his other hand reassuringly rubbed Erestor’s back. “You have to be strong, meldir. You cannot give in to despair. You are a fighter and will survive.”
He had been talking to Erestor for hours. His throat felt raw and he sounded hoarse, but Erestor still didn’t react. “I am sorry that I left you alone, but I had to lead my men into the woods. The moment Lord Celeborn gave his permission, I hurried back to you. I know you feel hurt and maybe even betrayed because I left, but I am back now and I will stay at your side as long as you need me.” He rocked Erestor slowly in his arms, trying to make the dark-haired Elf feel cherished and cared for.
When Camfael and Celeborn entered, Haldir sought out their eyes. First he studied Camfael’s and he then locked gazes with Celeborn, who looked troubled. Neither Elf had had had much sleep and dark circles were beginning to show beneath their eyes. He had to give credit where credit was due. Celeborn was doing his best to make amends and was making sure the twins’ tiny bodies were treated with the utmost respect. Then, he remembered. Their bodies would be laid to rest today.
He had told Erestor that today was the day of their burial, but so far the raven-haired Elf hadn’t reacted to this news. Haldir wasn’t even sure Erestor had fully understood what he had been saying.
“Try again,” said Celeborn softly. “Maybe he wants to attend after all.” In his heart he grieved for the twins’ deaths as well. Even if Erestor had killed Rhoss – which he now doubted – the dark-haired Elf had paid that debt in full. As far as he was concerned, there was no more reason to punish Erestor. Although Galadriel didn’t agree with him, he was determined to treat Erestor respectfully from this moment on.
Haldir drew in a deep breath and in his softest voice he asked, “Meldir? Do you want to attend the funeral? I know you are still weak and hurting immensely, but maybe attending the ceremony will give you a sense of closure.” He involuntarily held his breath, feeling Erestor stir against him. The other Elf had heard him, then. “Do you want to attend? We will accompany you. You do not have to do this alone.”
Erestor’s eyelids fluttered, and his large, chocolate eyes fastened on Haldir. He had heard every word the silver-haired sentry had said, but he hadn’t known what his answer would be until now. Hesitantly, he nodded his head once. “W-want… t-to…”
Haldir released the breath he had been holding. “I won’t leave your side, mellon. I will be there for you.”
Celeborn exchanged a worried glance with Haldir and then nodded. “We will leave within the hour. Make sure he is wrapped up in warm blankets.”
Erestor’s empty gaze shifted from Haldir’s face to Celeborn’s. “Thank-k… you…” Celeborn didn’t have to do this and he was greatly indebted to the Lord of the Wood.
“I will wait for you outside.” Celeborn felt like he was suffocating, looking into Erestor’s empty eyes. The dark-haired Elf appeared to have finally run out of tears. He quickly fled from the room and inhaled deeply once he was out in the open. /Elbereth, what did we do? How can I ever make amends to him?/ Making sure that the twins’ remains were put to rest with all the respect they deserved was a start.
Haldir’s worries increased when Erestor nearly fainted in his arms. He had dressed the skinny Elf in warm robes, wrapping thick blankets around his shaky form and yet Erestor remained cold to the touch. Then he had tried to help Erestor onto his feet, but the grieving Elf had swayed dangerously. In the end, Haldir had gently lifted him in his arms. Catching Camfael’s gaze, he whispered, “I will be extremely careful so his wound won’t reopen.”
The healer had expressed his displeasure earlier at finding the wound growing infected and now constantly fussed over Erestor. Camfael nodded, staying close to Haldir and Erestor. He made sure the blankets remained in place when the silver-haired sentry carried Erestor down the talan.
Haldir appreciated the fact that Celeborn had ensured that no Elves were about to stare at Erestor in his hour of grief. Cradling his charge close to his chest, he joined his brothers and Celeborn, who were waiting for them. He swallowed hard, seeing Celeborn carry a small silk bundle. /The babies are wrapped up in that fabric./
In his arms, Erestor twitched, as he too had caught sight of the bundle. During these last long hours, Erestor had wondered whether he should ask Celeborn to let him see his sons, but in the end he had decided against it. The sight of them –dead- would haunt him for the rest of his life. He wasn’t ready for that. He buried his right hand in Haldir’s tunic and his other in the sentry’s hair. Without Haldir he wouldn’t have survived. The sentry kept him sane.
/Sane? Am I still sane? The things that happened to me… All I want is to lie down, close my eyes and stop existing./ His fingers twitched and curled around the silken strands of Haldir’s hair. He clung to the warrior when they made their way to the secluded section of the wood where Celeborn had erected a small tomb. His head lolled against Haldir’s chest and he was using his last strength to remain conscious until the ceremony had been completed.
Celeborn stopped in his tracks, reaching the small, white marble tomb that stood beneath an ancient mallorn tree. Before erecting the tomb, he had conversed with the ancient tree, which had assured him that it would guard the twins’ last resting place.
“Erestor? We have arrived.” Haldir flinched, when Erestor’s eyes filled with tears once more.
“P-put… me on-n… my… f-feet…” Erestor struggled weakly in Haldir’s arms, wanting to be put down. His gaze settled on the somberly decorated tomb. In height it reached Celeborn’s waist and a beautiful carving adorned it, depicting Nienna, who was weeping bitter tears. “Thank-k… you,” he whispered, addressing Celeborn in a shaky voice.
Haldir carefully put Erestor on his feet, but kept both arms tightly locked around his charge’s waist. He couldn’t take the risk of Erestor taking a fall. If the wound reopened, Erestor would lose even more blood.
“Would you like to hold them before we put them to rest?” Celeborn had never felt so guilty or ashamed of himself in all of his millennia long existence. His actions had caused the twins’ deaths, and thus Erestor’s loss.
Erestor’s large, dark, swimming eyes met Celeborn’s and he slowly opened his arms. His emotions made it impossible for him to speak and he hoped the Lord of the Golden Wood understood. And again, he wondered; should he look upon them? But no, he was not strong enough for that.
Seeing Erestor sway on his feet, Celeborn came to a standstill at the raven-haired Elf’s side and then placed the small bundle against the dark-haired Elf’s chest. He supported Erestor’s arms when they didn’t seem strong enough to hold the twins’ remains.
“I… I am-m s-sor… ry…” whispered Erestor in a stricken tone. “L-loved you…” He pressed them gently against his chest, sobbing heartbrokenly.
Haldir’s eyes now also released fat tears, sensing Erestor’s loss almost as if it were his own. And when he looked at Celeborn, he found that even the Lord of the Golden Wood was weeping openly.
They stood in silence, allowing Erestor to say his private goodbyes to the little ones, which he had carried for nearly nine months.
Erestor felt numb when Celeborn reached for his sons. Briefly he considered putting up a struggle as he didn’t want to part with them yet, but the little sanity he had left stopped him.
Celeborn gathered the bundle in his arms again and wished he had the power to turn back time and change his past decisions. “Erestor…”
Erestor, leaning heavily against Haldir, nodded shakily. The twins should be put to rest.
Celeborn carefully placed the bundle inside the marble tomb. Before sealing the tomb, he looked into Erestor’s swimming eyes and felt the need to offer some sort of comfort. But words seemed hollow and hypocritical. What could he possibly say that would soothe Erestor? His voice was soft and caring when he took a step away from the tomb, and gathered one of Erestor’s trembling hands in his.
“Nienna, Mistress of Sorrow,
who grieves and knows our pain,
Listen to our plea in this hour of our loss and sadness.
A very part of life itself has died
with these two children.
Our souls are weighed down with sorrow
and Erestor bears the wound of a lifelong scar.
Comfort him for his pain is heavy and deep.
Nienna, Mistress of Sorrow,
you know our pain at the loss of these children
who have been taken away from us.
We would have held them in the embrace of love,
protected and loved them, but it was not meant to be.
Nienna, wrap them in your gentle love
as we attempt to carry this bitter burden.
May you, Mistress of Sorrow and Pain,
hold them close to your heart forever.”
Celeborn’s usually melodic voice shattered, speaking that last word. It wasn’t clear whether he had finished or simply lacked the strength to carry on and silence descended heavily upon them.
And so did cold rain. The sky opened and the dark clouds wept tears of their own. Had Nienna heard their plea and was this her way of showing her grief? Haldir wasn’t sure, but he did know that he had to get Erestor out of the rain. In his current weakened condition, developing complications would endanger the Elf’s recovery. “Erestor? I need to take you back inside where it is warm.”
Erestor barely heard Haldir. Celeborn’s words whispered through his mind. Heal… He didn’t want to heal. He didn’t want Nienna’s comfort. He needed to feel his pain, the eternal guilt of knowing he had killed his babies. He should have been stronger, should have told Seregon no, but he hadn’t.
Shaking like a leaf, he rested his head against Haldir’s shoulder. His gaze was still fastened on the tomb that now held the remains of his sons. /I wanted to hold them… Rock them… Sing to them./ But his arms were empty and his sons’ remains were nestled inside a cold, marble tomb instead. Unable to bear this immense loss, he fainted in Haldir’s arms.
The silver-haired Elf had expected as much and already had a tight hold on his charge. He carefully lifted Erestor in his arms and nodded, thankfully, seeing Rumil was covering Erestor with a blanket. “We need to leave… Now.”
They hurried through the woods, back to the healers’ talan and when they finally stepped inside Erestor’s rooms, Haldir and Camfael quickly removed Erestor’s soaked robes. Rumil fed more wood to the weakening fire and Orophin hurried toward the kitchens to acquire warm, herbal tea.
Celeborn remained standing in the doorway, shuffling his feet. He felt redundant, but didn’t want to leave. He hoped he could help in some way.
Camfael and Haldir rubbed Erestor’s skin until it was dry and then placed him in the center of the bed, quickly covering him with blankets. Haldir startled, seeing Erestor’s eyes had closed. “Camfael?”
“Erestor might still fade. I honestly do not know if his fëa will stay or depart.”
“I thought we had won this battle,” said Haldir in a distressed tone.
Celeborn flinched. “Haldir, this battle has only just begun.”
They took turns sitting with Erestor, occasionally forcing the smallest amounts of water down the Elf’s throat.
It was Celeborn’s turn now to sit with their charge and within minutes he found himself gently stroking Erestor’s brow. /I regret not opposing Galadriel. If I had, you would not be in this predicament./ After dipping his fingers in a glass of water, he rubbed them against Erestor’s lips. A few droplets of the precious moisture made it past his charge’s lips and Celeborn sighed dejectedly.
It was becoming clear that Erestor had cut himself off from the outside world. The dark-haired Elf had buried himself inside his mind after the funeral and now refused to return to them. He had seen this happen once before and it had taken the Elf who had slipped under a thousand years to return to them.
“I understand you are grieving, but this is not the right way. By shutting us out, you are making everything worse. Let us comfort you.”
But Erestor ignored him and Celeborn’s heart grew heavy with foreboding. How many years would it take Erestor to find his way back to them? That was provided Erestor would return to them eventually. The raven-haired Elf could stay in this state until the end of Arda.
“By the Grace of the Valar, what shall I do?” It would have been more appropriate to ask what *could* he do?
“Nothing, now,” whispered his guilty conscience.
Haldir lost the little hope he’d had, realizing Erestor was lost to them. The normally expressive eyes remained closed, the dark-haired Elf’s body motionless and Haldir reckoned that Erestor only stayed alive because of his bond with Elrond. He had no idea what was going on in Erestor’s head; why the Elf had chosen to stay in this catatonic state, but after several moons had waxed and waned, he realized that he didn’t have the power to change anything. Erestor remained unreachable and only the few droplets that occasionally made it past his lips kept him alive.
Months became years and years changed into decades. Centuries passed by and turned into two millennia and yet Erestor remained lost to them.
Haldir still visited with Erestor and so did his brothers. They would sit with him, touch him, caress his hair and try to bring him out of his vegetative state, but Erestor never reacted to their presence. The dark-haired Elf had become skeleton-like. His bones stuck out of his skin; his features were sunken and his body seemed frozen in time.
Camfael had taken it upon himself to put Erestor through a daily regime of physical exercises and often the other healers had seen him wipe away his tears when leaving Erestor’s room.
Celeborn tried to reason with Galadriel, but she no longer had an interest in Erestor. All that mattered to her was that Erestor remained alive and aided Elrond.
Elrond… Haldir had seen the half-Elf when Elrond had visited Lothlorien. He had seen the charmed expression when Galadriel had introduced Celebrian to the Peredhel and he had seen his wife’s scheming in order to bring Elrond and Celebrian together. He had grown very worried, and had even opposed his wife, but Galadriel had not given in and before he knew what was happening, Elrond and Celebrian were engaged and soon to be married. When their engagement had been announced, Celeborn and Haldir had retired to Erestor’s room to sit with the unconscious Elf in a silent protest.
“My Lord, ‘tis not right. Elrond and Erestor belong together.” Throughout the last millennia Haldir had learned that Celeborn often disagreed with his wife, but the Lord of the Golden Wood was hesitant to openly protest Galadriel’s decisions.
“You are right,” said Celeborn, sighing heavily. Erestor was tucked away beneath a warm blanket and could have passed for a corpse, had he not known better. “I have made mistake upon mistake. My first mistake was to agree to Erestor binding himself to Elrond in that way. The bond should have been mutual and Erestor should have been Elrond’s rightful mate.”
Haldir, who was rubbing Erestor’s boney fingers, swallowed hard.
“And when he suffered that miscarriage, I should have contacted Elrond to tell him. But I made another mistake and kept this from the Peredhel, condemning Erestor to this half-life.” Celeborn blamed himself for Erestor’s terrible fate. “And now it is too late to tell Elrond the truth. They are to be wed tomorrow.”
Haldir gently squeezed Erestor’s hand. Even after two thousand years, he still hoped to provoke some sort of reaction on Erestor’s part. “’Tis not fair,” he said, and was reminded of words he had spoken after Erestor had lost the twins. “Look at him.”
Celeborn did and nearly choked on the fierce emotions running through him. “There are times when I wish that Mandos would take pity on him and call him to the Great Halls of Waiting.”
“But Galadriel would not like that.”
Celeborn met Haldir’s gaze. “Elrond Half-Elven is strong again. He dealt with the loss of his lover and his twin, and found new love with Celebrian. I saw them together. Galadriel’s scheming might have brought this about, but at least there is love involved. Elrond and Celebrian are happy.”
“But Erestor is not.” Haldir drew in a deep breath. “I would give my own life to bring him back.”
“Erestor would not want that,” said Celeborn, knowing Erestor would not want Haldir to make such a sacrifice. “And you cannot, at any rate. Erestor is still bound to Elrond.”
“Then stop this wedding!”
“That I cannot do. I love my daughter and want to see her happy. I am torn, Haldir!” Celeborn hoped Haldir would understand, but then he saw the anger in the sentry’s hazel eyes. “My hands are tied.”
“And so Erestor continues to suffer.”
Haldir stood in the back of the crowd, hearing Galadriel bind Elrond and Celebrìan in a sacred marriage. His heart and thoughts were with Erestor, however. His last hope that Elrond and Erestor would one day be reunited had now been crushed. Looking at Galadriel, he saw intense pleasure and contentment in her eyes. Celeborn, who stood beside her seemed happy as well, but Haldir’s well-trained eye caught the sadness in his Lord’s orbs.
His gaze shifted from Celeborn’s face to Elrond’s and Haldir’s stomach contracted, seeing the happiness on the half-Elf’s face. /You have no idea at how high a price that happiness comes. Only a few telain away from here, Erestor continues to fade and you are the only one who could have brought him back./
But he couldn’t really blame Elrond. The half-Elf had no idea Galadriel had manipulated him. /Celebrian and Elrond will be happy. And judging by that kiss they already are. The Valar will grace them with children and Elrond will never know about the two sons he lost./
Unable to stay any longer, he excused himself and left to sit with Erestor. The dark-haired Elf didn’t deserve to be alone in this hour.
Rumil had joined Haldir and was now watching the activity in the courtyard. His eyes, searching the space below, narrowed, seeing Elrond lift Celebrian into the saddle. They were smiling adoringly at each other and the half-Elf’s hand tenderly rested on her thigh. “They are leaving, Haldir.”
“I do not care, Muindor,” said Haldir, who was forced to stop reading to Erestor to talk to Rumil. “For all I care a Balrog can devour the Peredhel.”
Rumil sighed and watched the Imladris party leave. Once they had disappeared from view, he turned around and sat down on the side of Erestor’s bed. It had become second nature to all three brothers to hold the dark-haired Elf’s hand and stroke his hair, which was still combed and neatly braided each day. One of them made sure Erestor was always presentable.
“Orophin will return from his patrol today. When do you leave?” asked Haldir, trying to locate the passage he had been reading to Erestor.
“At the crack of dawn.” Rumil picked up the cup of tea he had brought earlier and sipped from it. They had long given up on making Erestor drink some water. Instead, each morning one of them would stop by to wet the raven-haired Elf’s lips with a few droplets.
“I will stay with Erestor tonight. Celeborn will sit with him in the morning.” Haldir had finally found the right passage and was about to start reading again when Rumil spoke before he could begin.
“Do you think he will ever return to us? Or will he stay like this until the end of Arda?” Rumil’s eyes were filled with compassion, looking at Erestor’s fragile form.
“I have to believe he will wake up one day,” said Haldir in a determined tone. “Once he has mourned his sons’ deaths he will return to us. What is two thousand years to one of us, Rumil? I am convinced Erestor is still in there and that he will come back to us.” /To me./
Haldir had long denied this to himself, but his feelings for Erestor had deepened. He wasn’t sure if he could call it love. There wasn’t any passion, any lust. Instead, a deep sense of caring love had settled in his heart. /I want to see him healed one day, and I will be there for him when he finally wakes up!/
Haldir’s face was an open book to Rumil, who shared his brother’s hope that Erestor would eventually find the strength to overcome his loss. But unlike his brother, he was afraid that day would never come.
It was Orophin’s turn to give Erestor a sponge bath, wash his hair, comb and braid it. His touches were light and comforting whilst he took care of his charge. He had lost count of the many times he had done this for the healer who had saved his life nearly three thousand years ago, and yet he still made sure he treated Erestor with the greatest possible care.
“I am not sure you want to know this, but Elrond and Celebrian are now the proud parents of a daughter. They called her Arwen.” During the millennia he had grown used to talking to Erestor like the raven-haired Elf was still awake, and at times he told Erestor about Elrond and his children. “They called for a celebration. I know it is of little comfort to you, but Elrond is happy. Your sacrifice served a noble purpose, meldir. I just wish it had been you who had found bliss in Elrond’s arms.”
He had maneuvered Erestor into a sitting position to braid the long, dark hair, and now that he had finished his job, he slowly eased Erestor back onto his side again. “Haldir will return tomorrow from his patrol. I am sure he will be eager to tell you about everything that happened to him.”
Orophin was about to smooth back a stray lock, when his hand froze in mid-air.
Erestor had finally opened his eyes and was now looking at him.
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