Heart In Chains
Elrond roared loudly and the blond Elda quickly marched into the room. Yesterday, Elrond had ignored him and now the half-Elf was calling out for him? “Aye, I am here!” Panting slightly because he had been running, he stared at his old friend.
“Where were you last night?” Elrond, dressed in brown robes, glared at his friend.
“Some of the Galadhrim asked me to join them and I accepted, as you seemed irritated by my presence.” Glorfindel frowned, wondering what this was about. And ouch, was he reading the warning signs right? Was Elrond going to have one of his famous tantrums? But why?
“You should have been guarding my rooms!” Elrond impatiently paced the room, wondering how he was ever going to find out his visitor’s identity. His mysterious lover had left during the night, leaving him alone in his bed. When he had woken and reached for him, he had only encountered a pillow.
“Did something happen I am not aware of?” Stunned, Glorfindel involuntarily held his breath when Elrond wildly moved his hands.
“Did something happen? Did something happen? Glorfindel!” Frustrated, Elrond came to a standstill in front of the Balrog Slayer and rested his hands on the other Elf’s shoulders, shaking him slightly. “Do you remember that night three thousand years ago when that healer visited with me?”
If Glorfindel was surprised by the change in topic, he didn’t show it. “Of course I remember.” Like Elrond, he had always wondered about that healer. When the half-Elf had told him what had happened that night, he had dismissed it at first. Elrond had seemed disorientated to him, but when the half-Elf had shown him the bloodstained sheets, he had begun to believe him. “What about him?”
“He was here for the last two nights, and do not dare tell me I imagined it. Look at me! Three days ago I was grieving heavily, nearly fading and now…”
Glorfindel couldn’t deny the change in Elrond. He had seen it three millennia ago as well. “He was here, then?” Now he was beginning to understand why Elrond was upset. “And you want me to locate him for you?”
“I wanted you to keep him from leaving last night! Aiya, Glorfindel, you have no idea what is really going on!”
“Then why do you not enlighten me?”
Elrond sighed, distressed, released Glorfindel and sat down on the bed, recalling last night’s tender ministrations. “This Elf is a naturally gifted healer. He draws his power from deep within himself. It took me a while to figure this out, but I understand now. He formed a healing bond with me, and I have been absorbing his life energy ever since. It is the reason why I recovered so quickly back then and why I am no longer in any emotional pain now. Even at this very moment, he is sustaining me.”
Glorfindel raised an eyebrow questioningly. “Let us assume you are right…” He paused to placate Elrond, seeing the half-Elf’s furious expression. “And I have no reason to assume you are wrong, then where is your savior now? Why leave? If he is bound to you, being in your vicinity would make things much easier. Why disappear?”
Elrond nodded once. “I asked myself the same questions. I do not believe he left voluntarily. Last night was… pure bliss.” He blushed weakly, seeing Glorfindel’s knowing expression. “Do not worry, I was careful this time.”
Glorfindel swallowed hard. “How much do you remember of last night?”
“Everything, as I did not drink Galadriel’s sleeping potion.” Elrond cupped his chin in his hand after resting his elbow on his knee, pondering his problems. “I am certain Galadriel is involved somehow.”
Glorfindel moistened his lips, pulled up a chair and sat down opposite the half-Elf. He recalled her words as well. “Millennia ago she said you had imagined being with him in that way because you were feverish.”
“But that never explained the blood. I know this really happened!”
“Peace, mellon, I believe you.” Glorfindel rested a hand on Elrond’s knee in an effort to calm him. “Maybe you should ask Celeborn instead?”
“Celeborn would not tell me anything either.”
“Maybe he has changed his mind since then?” suggested Glorfindel, wishing he could help Elrond to solve this problem.
“At least now I know *he* is here. Glorfindel, you have to find him for me!” Elrond enthusiastically nodded his head.
“How, meldir?” Glorfindel hated disappointing Elrond. “How do I find an Elf I know nothing about? Galadriel and Celeborn might have taken measures to ensure we never find him.”
Elrond’s eyes darkened with misery. “Will you at least try?”
Glorfindel nodded once. “I will do my best.”
Celeborn eyed his wife closely. Galadriel was humming softly, whilst weaving. She looked deceitfully like the woman he had fallen in love with, but he knew better now. “I talked to Erestor last night.”
Galadriel’s hands froze and her gaze searched Celeborn’s, but she didn’t say a single word.
“It has to stop, Galadriel,” said Celeborn resolutely. “I won’t allow you to hurt him any more.”
Instead of arguing with him, she simply returned to her weaving. The lack of a reaction on her part made him shiver, wondering if she had heard him at all.
“My Lord? I bring a message from your children.” The Noldorin messenger had left Imladris several days ago and had hurried here to deliver his message. He now handed Elrond the letter, noticing that his ruler’s condition had improved.
Elrond unfolded the letter and began reading it.
Glorfindel entered the room, dismissed the messenger for now and joined Elrond. “Good news or bad?”
“My children want me to return home,” mumbled Elrond after reading the letter. “They miss me and need me.”
“I understand that,” said Glorfindel in a soothing tone. “They lost their mother and when you left, they felt as if they were losing their father as well. If I were to advise you, I would tell you to go home as quickly as possible. Then, you can mourn as a family.”
“You speak wisely,” admitted Elrond, “but…”
Glorfindel nodded. “I made inquiries about your mysterious Elf, but no one will talk to me about him. I only met with stony silence.”
Elrond sighed, sorrowfully. “So I will never find out who he is and why he is sharing his life energy with me.”
“I am afraid so. Maybe it is best to let the matter rest for now and make inquiries when no one expects it.”
“Again, your council is sound.” Elrond was determined not to give up. He would place spies in Lothlorien, telling them to gather information about this healer for him. Now that Galadriel and Celeborn didn’t want to tell him, he had to take matters into his own hands.
“Erestor? Are you sure you want to watch this?” Rumil was the first brother to return from their lengthy patrol and the silver-haired Elf had hurried to him at once. Orophin and Haldir had told him what had happened these last few days and he shared their concern for Erestor’s well-being.
“I am sure.” Erestor, dressed in black robes, watched the Imladris’ party leave. Elrond had mounted his stallion, looking much improved. The stormy eyes burned with life and his jaw was set determinedly. “He will survive.”
“I am sure he will,” said Rumil, with barely concealed disapproval in his eyes. “I am more concerned about you than Elrond.”
Erestor gave him a warm smile and patted the sentry’s arm. “Thank you.”
Rumil returned the smile and then joined Erestor in looking outside. Glorfindel had mounted Asfaloth and the party was now moving away from the talan. Hearing Erestor groan softly beside him, Rumil gave the dark-haired Elf a concerned look.
“The distance between us is growing and I feel the loss,” explained Erestor in a sad tone, now that the party was making speed. Within minutes, they had disappeared from view. “I wish I could have stayed with him.”
Rumil knew about Haldir’s complicated relationship with Erestor and hoped his older brother wouldn’t end up being hurt. “You are in love with Elrond.”
Erestor swallowed, nervously meeting Rumil’s knowing eyes. “I would never willingly hurt Haldir’s feelings. I greatly care about him.”
Rumil nodded. “But you did not answer my question.”
“My fëa is entangled with Elrond’s,” said Erestor thoughtfully. “I am connected to him and to some degree I love him.” Even when he had minded the twins when they had been babies, he had cared about Elrond and Elros. But the feelings were deepening after last night. “It is a tangled web.”
Rumil reassuringly squeezed Erestor’s shoulder. “What will you do now that Elrond has left for Imladris?”
“I will go back to studying with master Camfael,” replied Erestor slowly, “And maybe the three of you will continue to keep me company?”
“Of course we will!” Rumil used his hold on Erestor’s shoulder to guide the other Elf to the table. “Sit down,” he said, piling food onto the plate, which he then placed in front of Erestor. “You are too thin. Eat.”
Erestor giggled briefly. “Aye, nana.”
Rumil tried to shoot Erestor an irritated look, but failed and giggled as well.
Camfael monitored Erestor closely, once his student had confided in him about the intimacy that had taken place between Elrond and he. Erestor had also told him that he was worried he had conceived again and could be pregnant. When Erestor had told him that, the dark-haired Elf had trembled like a leaf and fear had shone from the dark eyes. He was now determined to make sure Erestor was well cared for and watched out for any signs that could indicate a pregnancy.
He hoped Erestor wasn’t pregnant, as he was afraid for the Elf’s emotional balance. They had nearly lost Erestor when he had suffered that miscarriage and he wasn’t going to take any risks now. His alertness paid off, hearing Erestor’s dry heaving coming from the bathroom. Erestor would study with him today and he had come to the Elf’s room to accompany him to the library where the books on herb lore were kept.
Camfael hurried into the bathroom and his heart ached, seeing Erestor fight down his dry heaves. “Don’t. Don’t fight it. Just let it happen.” He gathered the long, damp strands of hair in his hand and steadied Erestor.
Erestor’s eyes had filled with tears of misery, glancing at the healer. He had to ride out the dry heaves and when they finally stopped, he sagged against Camfael.
Camfael caught him and supported him. “Rinse your mouth, my friend.” His arms remained locked around Erestor’s waist whilst the dark-haired Elf rinsed his mouth. “Come, you need to sit down.” Slowly, he guided Erestor back into the room, where he sat his charge down on the bed.
Tears now freely flowed down Erestor’s face. “’Tis happening again. May Nienna help me carry this burden.” He had tried to deny what his body had been telling him these last few days, but the nausea had finally caught up with him. “I am with child.” He rested his head against Camfael’s shoulder, now that the healer had seated himself on the bed beside him. “What do I do now?”
Camfael sighed, as he had been asking himself the same question. Elrond had visited Lothlorien four months ago, so Erestor’s pregnancy wasn’t that advanced yet. “I will take good care of you.”
“What if I lose this one as well?” Erestor rocked himself against Camfael, who had no other choice than to move with him.
“You won’t lose your baby.”
Celeborn’s voice took both Elves aback. Erestor startled momentarily, pushed himself away from Camfael’s comforting presence and tried to compose himself. “My Lord…?”
“I heard what was said,” whispered Celeborn in a thoughtful tone, closely studying Erestor. The raven-haired Elf had never regained the weight after aiding Elrond and had remained too thin. Although Haldir, his brothers, Camfael and he tried to look after Erestor, they still felt they weren’t doing enough. “You are pregnant again. In your fourth month, I reckon?”
Erestor bit his bottom lip and nodded. “Aye, my Lord.”
“We will take all necessary precautions,” said Celeborn firmly. “And leave Galadriel to me.”
Erestor carefully probed Celeborn’s eyes and found them sincere. “You will make sure my baby will be all right?”
Celeborn walked toward him and came to a standstill in front of the pregnant Elf. “I vow to do everything I can to ensure your child is born healthy.”
Erestor felt somewhat reassured, hearing that. “Thank you.”
Celeborn smiled warmly at Erestor and then wrapped an arm around him. “Why do you not lie down for a while? I need to discuss this with Camfael.”
Erestor was happy to let them worry about his baby’s safety and lowered himself onto the bed. He allowed Celeborn to cover him with a blanket and then closed his eyes, trying to shut out their presence. Right now, he wished Elrond were here to share this news with him.
“Camfael, walk with me.” After making sure that Erestor was all right for now, Celeborn signaled for the healer to join him. The two of them moved into the corridor and then headed for the lake, knowing they would have some privacy there. “What are the odds that Erestor will suffer another miscarriage?” asked Celeborn. Although Erestor’s pregnancy didn’t come to him as a shock, he still felt uneasy with the whole situation.
“If Galadriel leaves him alone?”
Celeborn sighed, understanding the point Camfael was making. “I tried to stop her. I even forbade her to use Erestor to heal Elrond’s pain, but she went ahead at any rate. I must admit I no longer have any influence on her.”
“In that case, I think there is a very real possibility that Erestor will lose this child.”
Celeborn frowned, wondering how to keep Erestor out of his wife’s reach. “Erestor is still in the early stages of his pregnancy. How much longer can we hide his condition?”
Camfael shrugged. “Maybe another two months, but he will start to show by then.”
“And he lost the twins when he was almost nine months pregnant. This will be a very stressful time for him.”
“My Lord? May I make a suggestion?”
“Of course.” Celeborn looked at his healer expectantly.
“Send him to Imladris. Send him to Elrond.”
“That idea crossed my mind as well,” admitted Celeborn. “It would be best for both of them; Erestor and the child.”
“But you are afraid Galadriel will manage to stop us.”
Celeborn nodded once. “We might have to do this behind her back. Once she learns Erestor is in Imladris there is little she can do to change that.”
“And you might want to send Haldir with Erestor,” suggested Camfael. “Haldir is the only one Erestor trusts completely and he will need a friendly face when he is among strangers.”
“Arranging this will take time.” Celeborn had to contact Elrond to request the half-Elf take on the responsibility for Erestor’s care and inform him of the Elf’s pregnancy. Should he also tell Elrond that he had fathered this child? But he could worry about that later. First he had to dispatch a messenger to Imladris. “I will keep you informed.”
“You have made the right decision,” said Camfael in a grateful tone. “When do we tell Erestor?”
“Once I receive word from Elrond. I do not want to give Erestor false hope. Haldir and he will probably have to sneak out of Lothlorien whilst I distract my wife.”
Camfael smiled warmly at Celeborn. “I must say I am honored to be your friend, my Lord.” He had hoped Celeborn would eventually become Erestor’s champion and the Lord of the Golden Wood hadn’t disappointed him after all.
Erestor felt warm. It was rather hot today and he was filling up his bathtub with tepid water. He would have preferred ice-cold water, but didn’t want to expose his baby to such cold. He was five months pregnant now and the nausea still sent him into the bathroom every morning. Now he was also experiencing cramps and he had never been happier to have several Elves who cared for him.
When Haldir had found out, the silver-haired Elf’s reaction had been mixed. He had expressed his worries first, then his joy and in the end, he had vowed to protect him and the child until his last breath.
Rumil and Orophin had reacted in similar ways and their fussing had grown even worse. Getting away from their concerned eyes was becoming harder, but he had finally managed to get a moment for himself. After removing his clothes, he carefully sat down in the tub, letting the water caress his body. He rested his right hand on his stomach, which was slightly distended. Only someone who knew he was with child would realize why the tummy was there. “I promise you, little one. If you die, I will die with you.” He would not go on living if he lost this child as well.
“Erestor?” Haldir peeked into the room and smiled upon seeing Erestor’s shy blush. “I had the feeling I might find you here.” He closed the door behind him and walked over to the bathtub. He knelt behind the tub and began to massage the tense shoulders.
Erestor relaxed, enjoying the massage. “Would you do my feet too?”
“Your feet?” Haldir laughed warmly. “Aye, I will also do your feet.”
Erestor smiled shyly. “I cannot help it. They are cramped up.”
“And you are only five months pregnant! Things will get worse before…” Haldir abruptly stopped talking, as the smile had faded from Erestor’s face. “Nay, things won’t get worse, I promise you. What I was trying to say is—“
“I know what you are trying to say,” said Erestor, composing himself. Haldir’s words had caught him off guard and suddenly the worst possible scenario had appeared to him: losing his baby.
“You will get food cravings, even more cramps, you will feel bloated, tired—“ Haldir made sure his voice carried a teasing tone.
“Haldir, stop it!” Erestor managed a weak smile. “I know what to expect.”
“And let us not forgot those mood swings!” Haldir was relieved to see that the smile had made a comeback on Erestor’s face. He rose from the floor and moved to the foot end of the tub. “So, they are cramped up?”
“Aye.” Erestor loved Haldir for doing this for him and smiled fondly at the march warden whilst sticking one foot out of the water. “Do that one first?”
“Cramps are worse in this one?”
“Aye.” Erestor sighed when Haldir’s fingers began to work their magic on his cramped up limb. “’Tis divine. What would I do without you, Haldir?”
Haldir reached for Erestor’s other foot and massaged them simultaneously. He knew he was doing it right, hearing Erestor purr his contentment. But now the tricky part had arrived. How was he to tell Erestor of their plan? Camfael and Celeborn hadn’t confided in Erestor yet and had asked him to inform the pregnant Elf of their impending departure.
“Haldir? You are brooding.” And Erestor didn’t like that. It usually meant Haldir was worried, worried about him.
“Aye, I am.” Haldir gently lowered the no longer cramped up limbs back into the water and pulled up a chair, sitting down beside the bathtub.
Erestor saw the serious expression in Haldir’s hazel eyes and his worry increased. “What is wrong? What did Galadriel order this time?” Instinctively, he reached for Haldir’s hand, uncaring he was splashing the march warden’s clothes with water.
Haldir drew in a deep breath. “I would not say anything is wrong. But there will be some changes.”
“Changes?” Erestor’s eyes widened worriedly.
“Celeborn has arranged for you to travel to Imladris. We are leaving tonight.” Haldir held his breath, wondering what Erestor’s reaction would be like.
“What?” Mouth agape, Erestor stared at Haldir. He must have misheard!
“Celeborn is concerned about you and he is determined to make sure you deliver this child. Therefore, he has decided to send you to Elrond, as the Peredhel is best suited to deal with this, being a healer himself.”
“I… do not… understand.” Erestor blinked in confusion. Haldir couldn’t be serious!
“Celeborn has ordered my brothers and I to take you to Imladris. Rumil and Orophin will return once we reach Imladris safely, but I will stay with you. You won’t be alone, lirimaer.” Haldir wondered about the terrified expression in Erestor’s eyes. “I thought you would like this idea.”
“I…” Erestor cleared his throat, trying to speak past the lump of emotions that had gathered there. “So I am supposed to stay until the baby has been born and then I am to return here?”
Haldir shook his head. “Celeborn wants you to stay in Imladris. He fears Galadriel will one day cause your death and he wants to prevent that.”
“And Elrond?” Erestor still had trouble understanding what was about to happen.
“Celeborn sent Elrond a message, telling him that he is worried about a pregnant male Elf. He did not tell Elrond who you are or what you did, just that he is afraid you will suffer another miscarriage. Elrond agreed to take you in and supervise your pregnancy.”
“So Elrond does not know I am carrying his child,” asked Erestor, making sure he understood.
“You will be his patient, nothing more.” But Haldir hoped Elrond would come to care for Erestor. Haldir loved Erestor enough to put the other Elf’s happiness first. And maybe, he would play matchmaker.
“And we will leave this evening?” Erestor nervously squirmed in the water. He desperately wanted Elrond close, but at the same time he was afraid that the half-Elf wouldn’t like him and he wasn’t sure he could deal with rejection in his current state.
“We will leave once Ithil rises.” Haldir patted Erestor’s hand in a way that he hoped was reassuring. “I will protect you and the baby, you know that.”
“I do,” said Erestor, nodding once.
“Camfael wants to examine you one last time, so do not forgot to see him before we leave.” Haldir leaned in closer and pressed a kiss on top of the wet hair. “You are not alone. Always remember that.”
Erestor swallowed hard and stared into Haldir’s honest eyes. “I will try.”
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