Heart In Chains
His worst fears had finally come true. He was still alive, but his daughter wasn’t. The lack of a filled cradle in his room told him that, causing tears to escape his eyes. What had happened? He had told Elrond to put the baby’s needs first at all times!
Aiya, his last conscious moments suddenly returned to him, showing him Elladan’s injuries and his attempt at healing them. He had done it again! His need to help had caused him to suffer a miscarriage at eleven months. /And Elrond knew… I made the mistake of telling him to take care of *our* daughter./ It had been the stupidest thing he could have done. Now that their daughter had died, Elrond would hate him for all eternity. That was probably the very reason why he was alone. Elrond had left him to mourn their daughter’s death and would never want to see him again. /I cannot possibly face Elrond after what I did. He gave me three children and I lost them because of my foolishness./
His hand involuntarily settled on his abdomen, which was flat again. The loss overwhelmed him and he cried softly. /I do not want to live any longer. Why did the Valar let me live? Why are they this cruel?/ He shouldn’t have survived and wondered why the Valar refused him entrance to the Halls of Mandos.
/I cannot stay here. They will shun me, hate me. Elladan and Elrohir will be greatly upset, learning that Elrond did bed me eleven months ago and Arwen will be disappointed as well. I might still have Haldir’s loyalty, but I do not want him conflicted with Glorfindel, who will not take well to learning I lost his Lord’s child. After all, the baby was the very reason why he pledged himself to me. I have to set them free./
Erestor didn’t know where the strength came from to push himself into an upright position. Panting softly, he swung his feet onto the floor and supported himself by placing one hand against his still aching abdomen. /I was happy here these last few months, but I always knew it would not last. It is time to leave. Without me, it will be easier for them to sort out their lives./ But did he have the physical strength to leave?
Grateful that he was already wearing a warm nightshirt, he pushed himself to his feet. The nightshirt would do and he didn’t bother putting on additional clothing, as he wanted the Valar to take his fëa to the Great Halls of Waiting. Maybe he would freeze to death in his currently weakened state.
He stood rather unsteadily on his feet and supported himself by placing one hand against the wall. Making his way to the stables would take his last energy, but he had to do this now – had to leave before they started to voice their accusations. He just couldn’t face them!
Step by step, he managed to cover the distance to the door. Opening it took some time as his fingers were stiff and refused to curl around the door handle. Frustrated, he groaned softly at the energy it took for him to open the door. Looking about, he found the corridor empty. /The house should be filled with the cries of a newborn, but I failed Elrond again./ Depressed, he slowly made his way down the corridor. He lost track of time, but suddenly he found himself in the stables. Now he had to find Tirith and tell the horse where to take him.
Hearing a whiny, Erestor turned right and came to a standstill in front of the horse’s box. “Tirith…” He had never before been so happy to see this particular horse.
Tirith’s nostrils caught his charge’s scent and he recalled his Lord’s orders to protect this Elf at all cost.
Erestor fumbled with the lock and was about to give up, when it unexpectedly sprang open. Tirith, realizing his charge was weak, pushed open the door and walked toward Erestor.
Erestor immediately wrapped his fingers in the horse’s long mane. “Tirith, we need to go to Lothlorien, to my sons’ tomb. Will you take me there?” Even if he was physically strong enough to survive, emotionally he had given up on life.
Tirith gently moved his head against Erestor’s shoulder, trying to tell the Elf he would obey. Realizing how fragile and weak his charge was, he went down onto his knees and allowed Erestor to easily slip onto his back.
Collapsing onto Tirith’s warm and welcoming body, Erestor clawed at the strands of dark mane, as it was his only hold on the horse. “I want to leave now.” His heart was telling him to stay in Imladris, as he had been happy here, but an even stronger voice told him to leave. Elrond would never want to see him again.
Tirith rose from the floor now that his charge was safely seated on his back and found himself a way out of the stables. Drawing fresh air into his nostrils, he began to speed up, quickly leaving Imladris behind him.
Elrond shuffled into the waiting area where his family and friends had gathered and failed to conceal his fatigue. When Glorfindel unexpectedly jumped to his feet and wrapped an arm around his waist, the half-Elf let him, allowing his friend to guide him to a chair.
Arwen, who had handed Indlîrien to Elrohir because her arms had grown heavy, expectantly looked at her father. “How does he fare?”
Elrohir would not admit it aloud, but he was quickly losing his heart to Indlîrien, who was happily asleep after he had given her a bottle with milk. She had even burped when she was supposed to. Elladan had teasingly remarked that he would make a good father one day, and Elrohir hoped he would get the chance to find out in the future. Looking at his father’s tired expression, Elrohir waited for Elrond to answer his sister’s question.
“I bonded with him and gave him most of my strength. He should survive and wake up shortly. All is as well as it can possibly be.” Elrond briefly closed his eyes, tired to the bone, but he couldn’t give in to exhaustion yet. “I take it the two of you talked?” Seeing Elrohir hold Indlîrien he dared hope that the twins would accept her into the family.
“We did,” replied Elladan in a thoughtful tone. “And we are willing to get to know Erestor. But that is as far as we are willing to go… at this particular moment.”
Elrond nodded in understanding. Once they got to know Erestor, the twins would realize the Elf’s love for him was true and that in turn would make them fully accept Erestor into their lives. Addressing Elrohir, Elrond said, “She looks adorable, does she not? She even reminds me of Arwen when she was born.”
Elrohir smiled happily. “Considering she was born prematurely, she seems strong and alert… when she is awake.”
“I wanted to thank you for assisting me during the birth,” said Elrond in a choked tone, as overwhelming memories returned to him. “I… lost my nerve.” Shaking his head he remembered how badly his hands had trembled. “I now also understand how you felt when you were about to lose Elladan. I suddenly realized that I could not live without Erestor.”
Elrohir nodded once. “Find comfort in the fact that Erestor is alive and will heal eventually. He will need time to recover from the surgery, but you won’t lose him.”
Haldir, who had been quiet up until this point, said, “You look tired. Maybe you would like to rest for a short while?”
“Aye, I would like to lie down and rest,” admitted Elrond, “But first I want to hold my daughter for a short while.”
Elrohir carefully rose from his chair, made his way over to his father and placed the tiny, tightly wrapped up bundle in the half-Elf’s arms. His arms felt surprisingly empty now that Indlîrien was gone from them!
Elrond sighed blissfully. “Ah, little one, you are a precious gift and one day I will lend my voice to the feelings that moved through me upon seeing you for the first time. But not whilst your father is still unconscious and struggling back to life.” Bowing down, he placed a tender kiss on his daughter’s brow and then carefully gave her back to Elrohir. “I will find myself a cot here in the healing wing, as my own quarters are too far away from here.”
Glorfindel smiled wickedly. “Does this mean Arwen can tackle a new project?”
Arwen frowned. “What do you mean by that?”
“The nursery is in Erestor’s quarters, but I think it is safe to assume that Elrond will want access to it. Maybe a passage way? Or break down a wall and join both quarters?”
Elrond smiled thankfully. “You are already ahead of me, but ‘tis a good idea. Arwen, would you see to that? And make sure they complete it before Erestor and I move back to our rooms?”
”I will contact the builders right away.” Arwen, glad she had something to do, rose and left the waiting area. Rearranging their quarters would distract her from worrying about Erestor and in this way she was actually doing something to make things more enjoyable for him. But she didn’t plan on staying away from Indlîrien for too long. Night was falling and she wanted to tuck her in and sing her a lullaby. She had already grown attached to her sister and hoped everything would turn out well for her father and Erestor.
Elladan assisted his father in lying down, after locating an empty room in the healing wing. He covered Elrond’s body with a warm blanket and smiled tenderly. “You were right, you know.”
Elrond’s eyes, already filling with sleep, looked questioningly at his son. “In what way?”
“Elrohir and I were desperately holding onto our hatred, but… Indlîrien opened our eyes. She is our little sister, and like we did when Arwen was so tiny, we will take care of her and defend her.”
“Thank you… for accepting… this,” whispered Elrond, as he drifted off to sleep.
Elladan sighed, realizing how important this was to their father. “We still need time to accept Erestor’s new role in our lives, but I think that in the end we will be able to welcome him into our family. Nana would have wanted it that way.” When he had realized that his mother would have approved, his anger and self-hatred had begun to fade. After all, Elrohir and he had been there when Celebrian had told Elrond to love again. Bending down, he placed a kiss on his father’s dark hair and was stunned to find a few gray hairs mixed in with the raven strands.
“We did not make things easy for you, but that will change, Adar.”
Elladan decided against returning to his brother’s side and headed for Erestor’s room instead. It had been several hours since their father had informed them of the binding and he wanted to make sure the healers were taking good care of his father’s new life mate.
Soundlessly opening the door, he stepped inside, surprised to find no healer sitting at the bedside. Or had the healer left briefly? Puzzled, he approached the bed and was surprised to find it empty. Had the healers moved Erestor without informing them? Or had there been complications and had they been forced to perform more surgery?
Now that his father was unable to make inquiries, Elladan left the room in search of Camfael, whom he found in the room where they had operated on Erestor. “Master Camfael?”
Camfael looked at Elladan, surprised to find the oldest twin here. “How can I help you?”
“Where is Erestor?”
“Asleep in his room, of course.”
“No, he is not,” said Elladan, firmly shaking his head. “I wanted to check on him, but the bed is empty.”
Camfael immediately became alert. “But he must be there!”
“He is not!” Elladan frowned, realizing something was amiss. “You did not move him?”
“No, in his current state he should not be moved at all!” Camfael gathered his robes around him and quickly headed for Erestor’s room. Once he had reached it, he stared at the empty bed in shock. “There is only one explanation,” he said through clenched teeth. “Erestor has left.”
Elladan’s eyes widened. “But you told me he should not move!”
“Erestor does not think rationally at times!” said Camfael in a harder tone than was strictly necessary. “Trust me, I have known him for several millennia and his way of thinking is… twisted.” He tried to put himself in Erestor’s situation and quickly understood what had happened. “He woke up in an empty room. His daughter was nowhere in sight and neither was Elrond. He drew the only conclusion he could; that his baby had died, causing Elrond to desert him. By the Grace of the Valar, why was no one sitting with him?”
“It must have happened when my father told everyone to leave the room. We assumed he would stay with Erestor and when he joined us in the waiting area, no one realized Erestor was alone at that point.”
“You must start a search!” Camfael shook his head, angry with himself for not looking after Erestor in a better way. “He is in no condition to be out there on his own!”
“I will tell Glorfindel and Haldir and we will organize several search parties.” Elladan was already on his way to the doorway, when he realized that he also needed to tell his father. Elrond would not react well to finding out that his new mate was missing.
“How could this happen?” Elrond, enraged at his own stupidity, marched through the corridor toward Erestor’s rooms, hoping his mate had headed back to his chambers upon wakening.
Glorfindel bowed his head, feeling guilty as well. “I assumed Camfael or one of the other healers was sitting with him.” He exchanged a look with Haldir, whose narrow lips revealed his husband’s anger.
“Erestor!” Elrond pushed the doors to the other Elf’s rooms open and entered. A quick search of the rooms showed them that they were empty. “He is not here either! Where is he?” Elrond turned to his friends. “Find him! Do not just stand there! Find him!”
Haldir immediately ran out of the rooms, as a terrible thought had occurred to him. “Glorfindel, come with me!”
Elrond remained behind, walking into the nursery, which should be filled with the happy sounds of their daughter. Instead he was alone. Determined not to give in to his despair, he left, following Glorfindel.
“Why did you take us here?” Glorfindel looked about the stables, wondering why Haldir had brought them here.
“Tirith…” Haldir searched the stables until he came upon the horse’s empty box. His heart twitched painfully, realizing his worst fear had come true.
Elrond, who now appeared at Haldir’s side, was overcome with a sense of dread at the sight of the empty box. “He left?” He had a hard time accepting that. “Erestor is in no condition to be riding a horse!”
Haldir’s eyes narrowed. “He assumed he lost his daughter and that reminded him of losing his sons. By Elbereth! He is on his way back to Lothlorien! To their tomb!” Dread formed a fist around his heart, squeezing tightly. “What if Galadriel finds him first?”
“We cannot allow that to happen!” Elrond was determined to find his elusive mate. “Glorfindel, tell the stable hands to prepare the horses. Haldir, alert my men and tell them that we are leaving within the hour!” Turning around, he angrily marched out of the stables and into the courtyard. His gaze fastened on the road leading away from Imladris. The mere fact of knowing that Erestor was out there on his own caused his heart to stop beating momentarily. “Please,” he prayed to the Valar, “You have kept him alive and safe so far. Continue to protect him until I find him.”
Elrond shook himself from his worries and headed for his rooms to exchange his robes for more suitable attire, vowing passionately that they would track Erestor down and bring him home.
“Adar, you cannot leave us behind! We owe Erestor a debt of honor and we are coming along!” Elladan was putting his foot down.
Elrond glared at his oldest son in frustration as this argument was keeping him from leaving. “Suit yourself then!” He had been reluctant to allow them to accompany him, considering Elladan’s near death, but his oldest son looked like he had made a complete recovery.
Victoriously, Elladan and Elrohir retrieved their horses from the stables and swung into the saddle.
Elrond buried his heels into his stallion’s flanks, telling him to fly like the wind. His jaw was set grimly as they left Imladris, hoping they would find Erestor before Galadriel did.
Glorfindel, riding close to Haldir, looked over his shoulder and waved at Arwen, knowing she would take excellent care of Indlîrien. Lindir, who was standing next to her, would help her. “We will bring Erestor back with us! I promise!” He hoped he would be able to keep that promise! For Elrond’s sake and Erestor’s!
Erestor was unconscious during the first stages of his journey and the only thing that kept him on Tirith’s back was his tight hold on the stallion’s mane. Tirith would stop for short moments to drink and graze, but once his strength had been restored, he broke out into another run, feeling his charge’s urgency to reach Lothlorien as quickly as possible.
Hardly aware of what was happening around him, or where he was headed, Erestor managed to open his eyes and stare at his quickly changing surroundings. Only one thought kept him going; he wanted to die near his sons’ tomb. Maybe Celeborn would take pity on him and have his remains placed inside the tomb as well.
It was time to make his peace with his past, and his failures.
“How can he keep up this pace?” Elrond was frustrated that Glorfindel had ordered a stop. Their horses needed to drink and rest, and Elrond – unable to sit with his loved ones – was pacing furiously.
“The strength you gave him is probably enough to keep him on Tirith’s back, holding on for dear life,” said Haldir thoughtfully. “Especially when he thinks you hate him for losing your children.”
“I would never blame him for that. I blame Galadriel, the Valar, but not Erestor. Aiya, he needs to know our daughter is alive and well! Why did he have to run?” Elrond finally collapsed, sitting cross-legged in between Elladan and Glorfindel. “I should never have left him alone! What was I thinking?”
“You were confused and drained,” offered Glorfindel, “’Tis not your fault.”
An hour later, Haldir was the first to rise from the grass. “The horses are rested and we cannot afford to lose more time than we already have. We should leave now.”
Elrond jumped to his feet, eager to leave as well. After mounting their horses, the party continued their journey to Lothlorien.
Erestor was thirsty, hungry and exhausted by the time he reached Lothlorien’s borders. He had lost count of the days spent on the road, but when he finally saw the Golden Wood, he knew he had reached his final destination.
His upper body rested against Tirith’s exhausted body, and yet the stallion still pressed on. Letting his instincts guide him, Tirith ran deeper into the woods, until Erestor’s heel softly pressed into his right flank. Taking the hint, Tirith turned right.
Erestor knew he was close to his sons’ tomb now. Only a few more minutes and he could allow himself to fade and finally find some semblance of peace.
Although his eyes were at half-mast and closing, he managed to make out the tomb and once they had reached it, he let go of Tirith’s mane, falling hard onto the grass.
Concerned for the Elf’s well-being, Tirith buried his nose in Erestor’s neck, but the dark-haired Elf continued to ignore him. In the end, he backed away, sensing his charge’s distress.
Erestor crawled closer to the marble tomb until he could rest one hand against the cold stone. “I am… ready… to finally… join you…” His abdomen had turned numb days ago and he curled up in a fetal position, surprised his body still obeyed. He was ready to let go of his miserable life, his hopes, love, and failures. Maybe he would find some peace in the Great Halls of Waiting. Closing his eyes, he let himself drift away.
Celeborn, Orophin and Rumil were on their way to the tomb to honor the memory of the stillborn children. Over three thousands years ago, Erestor had suffered his miscarriage this very day. The three Elves had made it a habit to pray to the Valar on this day to express their hopes that they would continue to guide Erestor’s steps and protect him.
The three of them had become close since Erestor and Haldir had left for Imladris. The two brothers missed Haldir and Celeborn had tried to offer them some measure of comfort, spending more time in their company.
Rumil and Orophin in turn appreciated Celeborn’s concern. But they had also seen the rift between the Lord and the Lady of the Golden Wood. When Galadriel had found out about Celeborn’s decision to send Erestor to Imladris, she had called it betrayal. Celeborn, who’d had enough of her unpredictable behavior, had left their talan, acquiring one for himself.
The three of them had begun to visit with each other, or walk the woods at night. They discussed the past, the fact that they missed Haldir and Erestor, and a new bond had formed. They had become good friends. So when Celeborn had joined them to visit the tomb, they had fallen into step beside the elder Elf, walking in silence, which seemed only proper as they were remembering the dead.
All three Elves halted in their tracks, catching sight of Tirith. “What is that horse doing here?” asked Celeborn, concerned. Taking the lead, he began to run toward the stallion and he was the first to see Erestor’s crumpled form in front of the tomb. “By the Valar! Nay, not this!” He dropped onto his knees beside Erestor, who had never looked this bad before. The long hair was a tangled mass, the skin deathly white and bones protruded from the skin. “What are you doing here?” Erestor should be safe in Imladris! Especially now that the Elf was pregnant! Alarmed, Celeborn rested his hand on Erestor’s flat abdomen. “Not again!” Had Erestor suffered a second miscarriage and had the loss finally robbed him of his sanity? Driving him back to his sons’ tomb? “Orophin, Rumil! Help me!”
The two brothers joined Celeborn and their features contorted, recognizing Erestor, realizing what had obviously happened. A deep sense of loss and protectiveness came over them as they helped Celeborn to pull Erestor into a sitting position.
“Did he lose the child? Again?” Rumil already knew the answer, seeing Erestor’s flat abdomen, but he still needed to voice his fears.
“I am afraid so.” Celeborn guided Erestor’s head onto his shoulder. “We have to take him into safety. Once Galadriel finds out he is here…” His voice trailed off ominously.
“We can take him to our talan,” suggested Orophin, eager to take care of Erestor. “Maybe our presence will keep him from slipping away from us for another three millennia.”
“Aye, your suggestion is sound.” Celeborn carefully lifted Erestor’s fragile body in his arms. “Rumil, take care of Tirith. Orophin, you are with me.” He caught the displeased expression in Rumil’s eyes, but hoped the younger Elf would eventually obey. “You can sit with Erestor later, now move!”
Rumil obeyed reluctantly, watching Celeborn and Orophin leave with Erestor. He had no idea what had caused Erestor to lose this child and he hoped Elrond wasn’t to blame for Erestor’s current state. But if the half-Elf was, Rumil vowed to keep the Peredhel away from Erestor. /I will ensure Erestor’s safety. He won’t fade or withdraw into himself again. I won’t allow it./ And he was certain that Orophin and Celeborn agreed with him. Together, they would see to Erestor’s safety – and recovery!
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