Heart In Chains
Celeborn tucked Erestor into Orophin’s bed after removing the clammy nightshirt. It had rained heavily last night and getting Erestor warm and dry was his first priority. Erestor trembled fiercely, his lips moving but with no sound forthcoming, causing Celeborn’s worries to increase. “I see the mark of death on him.”
“We must contact Elrond Half-Elven,” said Orophin in concern, rubbing Erestor’s brow, wishing the dark-haired Elf would warm up now that he was in bed.
“I will return to Galadriel’s side,” announced Celeborn with obvious reluctance. “I will keep her distracted. In the meantime I will also dispatch a messenger to Imladris. I need to know what caused Erestor to run back here in such a poor condition.” He didn’t want to leave Erestor’s side, but knew he had to keep Galadriel distracted as he didn’t know how she would react to finding out Erestor was here. “Keep a close eye on him and send for the healers.”
Orophin nodded once. “He is in the best hands with me.”
“I know that,” said Celeborn firmly. After giving Orophin a reassuring smile, he reluctantly returned to Galadriel, hoping he could keep Erestor hidden until he had sorted out this mess.
“Orophin?” Rumil soundlessly advanced on his brother, and smiled, finding Orophin had crawled into bed with Erestor in an obvious effort to warm him. “How does he fare?”
“He is as cold as ice,” whispered Orophin in concern. “Join us, maybe your body heat will help.”
As Orophin lay spooned behind Erestor, Rumil lay down face to face with the dark-haired Elf. Wrapping his arms around Erestor and partly over Orophin, he created a warm cocoon. “I am afraid this won’t help.”
“He needs Elrond to complete the bond,” said Orophin. “By the Valar, if the Peredhel has hurt him and caused him to run away, he will answer to me!” Ever since Erestor had pulled him back from the Great Halls of Mandos, he had felt fiercely protective of the raven-haired Elf. And now that Erestor was so fragile, he desperately wanted to help.
“According to Haldir’s last message, Erestor enjoyed his new life in Imladris. Haldir even mentioned Erestor being happy.” Haldir had always stayed in contact with them via letters and they had been glad to learn about Erestor’s happiness. But now, the two brothers felt confused.
“Do you think Elrond did something… unforgivable when finding out Erestor had a miscarriage?” suggested Orophin.
“Nay, the Peredhel does not know he fathered Erestor’s child. Something else must have caused this. Maybe Erestor overreacted when he lost his child and came here to…”
“Die?” finished Orophin for his brother. “It would explain why we found him unconscious next to the tomb.”
“He never forgave himself for losing the twins,” whispered Rumil sorrowfully, “’T’was not his fault. If I had not fetched him to help, his sons might have lived.”
“Do not torment yourself in this way. It serves no purpose. We will just have to wait for the messenger to return from Imladris, with our without the half-Elf.”
“I hope that Elrond will come here and is willing to bond with Erestor. After everything he has been through…” Rumil vividly remembered Erestor’s reaction to losing his twins. “Aiya, Erestor deserves so much better!”
Orophin agreed with his brother, but knew they couldn’t force Elrond into a bond with Erestor, but maybe if they revealed the extent of Erestor’s pain, the half-Elf would agree to bind himself to the hurting Elf.
Elrond felt invigorated when they finally entered the Golden Wood. His first intention had been to seek out Galadriel and confront her with her past actions, but he had quickly dismissed that idea. First he had to find Erestor and if necessary, help him recover. Looking at Glorfindel, who was riding next to him, he addressed him. “We need to locate Erestor as quickly as possible.”
“Maybe I can help,” said Haldir, who now joined them. “My brothers can make inquiries about Erestor’s whereabouts.”
“Good, contact them.” Elrond now looked over his shoulder at his sons. “I want you to stay close to me at all times.”
The twins nodded gravely. “What about grandmother?”
“We will try to avoid her as much as possible… for now.” The last two words came out as a growl. “I will deal with her later. We need to concentrate on Erestor for now.”
“And grandfather?” asked Elladan, “From what Glorfindel told us, I gather he is on Erestor’s side.”
“Good thinking,” said Elrond, “Glorfindel, find out if Celeborn is willing to help us.” They were running out of time. He had no idea how Erestor had managed to survive so far, but he could sense the bond weakening. “And remember, we have to find Erestor as quickly as possible!” Shifting his gaze from one face to the other, he was reminded of the fact that they cared for Erestor as well, and that they would do their best to help him save his new bond mate.
Celeborn released a sigh of relief, finding that Galadriel had left the talan to visit two Elves who had been attacked and severely injured by a Warg that had managed to penetrate their borders. This unexpected event gave him time to consider his next move concerning Erestor. He had already dispatched a messenger, urging Elrond to leave Imladris and to come to Erestor’s aid.
“My Lord?” One of the Galadhrim approached, clearing his throat. “You have visitors.”
Celeborn raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. “Who is it?” But the Galadhrim didn’t get a chance to answer the question, as Elrond, Glorfindel and the twins were already advancing on him. He started to smile, finding Elrond already in Lothlorien, but that smile froze upon seeing the grim expression in the Peredhel’s eyes. He had known Elrond for millennia and realized the half-Elf was severely distressed.
“Celeborn, where is he?” Elrond bared his teeth. “Where is Erestor?” Glorfindel’s hand suddenly came to rest on his shoulder, trying to ground him, but he shook it off. “I know he is here! We followed his tracks and I can sense his presence. It is weak, but I can feel him!”
The rage in Elrond’s stormy eyes briefly took Celeborn’s breath away. “You can sense him?” What did that mean?
“I do not have the time to discuss this with you!” raged Elrond. “I demand you take me to Erestor!”
Glorfindel cleared his throat, knowing from personal experience that it would take Elrond some time to calm down now that he had worked himself in to a temper tantrum. “We know what Erestor did after the battle of the Last Alliance and that he confirmed their bond when Celebrian sailed for Valinor. We also know that Elrond fathered his children and that Erestor bound himself to him. Now we need to find him before he does anything foolish.”
“You know?” Celeborn rose from his chair and advanced on Elrond, answering the half-Elf’s glare with one of his own. “What else do you know?” He had to find out where Elrond stood in this matter and what his motives were.
“I know he bonded with me to stop me from fading and that he has been caught in this half-life ever since,” sneered Elrond, enraged. “Several days ago, Elladan was brought before me, having suffered a mortal injury and Erestor healed him. That was when I finally understood!”
“He healed Elladan…” For that, Celeborn was truly thankful as he loved his grandson, but… “His child… he lost the baby.”
“Camfael and I had to open his abdomen for our daughter to be born, but she is well.” Elrond was growing impatient.
“The baby survived?” Celeborn felt truly lost now. “Then why did Erestor flee Imladris?” He couldn’t believe that Erestor would desert his daughter!
“Aye, Indlîrien is alive and well. Arwen is looking after her, but the baby needs Erestor!” Frustrated, Elrond glowered at Celeborn. “Where is he?”
Celeborn swallowed hard. “Do you know that Erestor loves you?”
“Yes, and I love him! I even bonded with him to keep him alive after the surgery! That is why I can sense him. You have no right to keep me away from my mate or are you still playing games with me?”
Celeborn forced himself to remain calm. “I made mistakes.”
“You forced him to bind himself to me! You ordered him into my bed!” raged Elrond. “You never gave him a choice!”
“Galadriel assured me that it was the only way to keep you from fading and I believed her, trusted her judgment. I am not saying I do not carry any blame, but—“
“Stop it, both of you!” Elladan had had enough. “Ata’da, if you know where we can find Erestor, then take us to him now!”
Celeborn nodded his head once. “Rumil and Orophin are looking after him. We found him at his sons’ tomb and he is more dead than alive. Elrond, he will need your strength to survive, for I fear he came here to die.”
“Then what are we doing wasting precious time?” Elrond had already started for the doorway when Haldir suddenly appeared.
“I know where Erestor is!” announced Haldir.
“So do I. In your brothers’ talan. Take us there, Haldir.” Elrond’s eyes burned with fear for Erestor’s well-being, but there was anger as well. “And I am not yet through with you, Celeborn!” Surprised, he noticed that his father in law had fallen into step beside him as they made their way to the brothers’ talan.
“You will probably not believe this, but I also worry about Erestor and I greatly care about him. I wish I had made different decisions in the past, and I tried to protect him when I realized he was pregnant again. That is why I sent him to Imladris. I had to get him away from my wife.”
Elrond raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “I know Galadriel played a vital part in this, but why did you not stop her?”
“I believed it was the right thing to do… at the time. I no longer believe that.” Celeborn’s expression grew saddened. “That is why I have kept Erestor’s presence here a secret.”
“What you did was wrong,” mumbled Elrond, growing slightly calmer now that he could sense Erestor’s closeness. “You ordered him into my bed and when I sired his sons I should have been told.”
“They died,” whispered Celeborn in a melancholy tone, “And you were still recovering from the High King’s death. We did not dare place this burden on your shoulders.”
“So you let Erestor carry his pain alone.” Elrond averted his eyes. “I do not know if I will ever be able to forgive you for that. I had the right to be told.”
“In retrospect, I agree, but at the time…” Galadriel’s influence on him had been too strong. “What will you do now?”
“I will take Erestor back to Imladris with me. I do not want him to stay here any longer than strictly necessary!” Elrond looked at the talan that Haldir pointed out to him. Apparently they had reached their destination. Turning to his sons, he said, “Wait here. Only Haldir will accompany me.”
No one dared to object when Elrond and Haldir climbed the stairs. Celeborn and Glorfindel exchanged worried looks, both Elves hoping Elrond was in time to keep Erestor with them. The twins however, were focused on something else, and it was Elladan who asked Celeborn the question that haunted them. “The tomb that holds our brothers’ remains… Where can we find it?”
“I will take you there,” offered Celeborn, deeply regretting never telling Elrond. “Glorfindel?”
“I will stay here and wait for them to return.” He would also make sure no one disturbed Elrond and Erestor.
Celeborn signaled for his grandsons to follow him, as he led them to the marble tomb.
Standing in front of the tomb, Elladan and Elrohir wrapped an arm around each other’s waist. “’Tis hard to believe that we could have had brothers. Older brothers.” He ignored the fact that they would have been half-brothers.
“Erestor mourned the loss for nearly three thousand years,” said Celeborn thoughtfully. “When he looked upon the two of you, he must have been reminded of his sons, for they would have bore you a great resemblance.” He moistened his lips, hoping he wasn’t making this worse. “You do understand that he probably looks upon you as his sons? That he wants to love you and care for you?”
The twins paled, recalling the first time they had met Erestor. “And we hurt him with our words instead.” Seeing Celeborn’s sudden distressed expression, Elladan sighed deeply. “We regret our actions. We spoke out because we were hurting inside and thought our father had already picked a replacement for our mother. We could not accept that.”
“But now you know that Erestor has been bound to your father for millennia. Has that fact changed your mind?”
“It has,” admitted Elrohir, staring at the small tomb. “Father wants to take Erestor back to Imladris as quickly as possible and it will rob Erestor of the possibility to visit here.” His gaze locked with Elladan’s. “Maybe there is a way to take this tomb with us? It is not that large and we might be able to take it home with us. For some reason I feel that they should find their final resting place in Imladris, and not the Golden Wood.”
Elladan, who at first had been surprised, began to understand. These babies had been Elrond’s offspring and should rest in Imladris’ soil, not in the Golden Wood where Erestor had suffered so much misery. “You are right, but we should ask father and Erestor first.”
Celeborn had listened to them in silence and now spoke up. “I would like to travel to Imladris myself and meet my new granddaughter.” He looked upon Elrond and Erestor as his sons and that made Indlîrien family.
“Then come with us,” said Elladan passionately. “I am sure father and you can work out the differences you have.”
“I accept,” said Celeborn firmly. He needed time away from his wife and this way he could stay close to Erestor and meet Indlîrien. Aye, he would leave Lothlorien for now and focus on helping Erestor heal.
“Let me enter first,” suggested Haldir. “I know how protective my brothers are when it comes to Erestor and seeing you unexpectedly might trigger their instincts.”
“But I will be right behind you!” Elrond could feel Erestor slip further away from him and he had to share his life energy with his mate now if Erestor was to stay alive.
Haldir nodded, opened the door and stepped inside. Surprised yelps echoed from within the talan and Haldir smiled broadly, seeing the situation his brothers and Erestor were in. “Keeping him warm, are you?”
At seeing Haldir this unexpectedly, Orophin moved away from Erestor, left the bed and tucked the blanket around his charge’s form, knowing instinctively that Rumil would stay close to the dark-haired Elf. “Haldir, it is good to see you!” He was walking toward Haldir when he caught sight of Elrond, who now stepped into the talan as well.
Orophin’s reaction took Elrond aback. The silver-haired sentry actually growled at him! “Peace! I am here to help!” Haldir had warned him of his brothers’ protectiveness toward Erestor and approached the sentry *slowly*. He had already caught sight of Erestor asleep in the bed, but he had also seen the violent tremors that rocked his mate’s body and the moving, yet silent lips.
“You!” Orophin finally released his anger, which had been pent up for millennia. “What did you do to cause him to run away from Imladris? Do you have any idea what state he was in when we found him? And he is not getting any better!”
Elrond reminded himself that Orophin was acting in this way because the sentry was worried for Erestor. “Erestor nearly died when he gave birth to our daughter. I bonded with him, but he never realized what happened and left.”
“You bonded with him?” Orophin studied Elrond, and found that the half-Elf’s eyes remained trained on Erestor’s form.
“Aye, I did. He might have died after the birth otherwise. I am here to take him back to Imladris so he can be with our daughter.” Elrond hoped Orophin would step aside. The look Rumil was giving him was rather hard to read. Erestor was truly blessed with such fierce protectors.
“The child is alive?” Rumil, who had been quiet up until now, felt overjoyed at hearing this news.
“Aye, Indlîrien is a treasure and she has already found a place in my heart,” said Elrond sincerely. “Please, let me attend to Erestor’s needs. He is cold and continues to grow weaker. Let me hold him and share my life energy with him… Please.” He had seldom begged anyone before but he would do anything to get access to Erestor.
Rumil exchanged a glance with Haldir. “Are the things he told us true?”
“Your protective feelings for Erestor do you credit, but Elrond speaks the truth. They bonded and are very much in love.” Haldir smiled reassuringly, placing a hand on Orophin’s shoulder. “We should give them some privacy.”
Rumil sighed deeply, regretting having to release his hold on Erestor. “He is still cold.”
Elrond, realizing they had given in, approached the bed. He looked deeply into Rumil’s eyes, and said, “I will warm him up, keep him safe and take care of him. I promise.”
Rumil nodded once and then joined his brothers. “I hope you will keep your word, for if you do not, you *will* answer to us.”
Elrond knew they were being sincere. They had adopted Erestor and the dark-haired Elf was part of their family. /Which means I will probably have to ask Rumil and Orophin to travel to Imladris with us. If Erestor is really so attached to them, I want all three of them in Imladris./
“Come with me,” said Haldir, guiding his brothers outside. “Elrond needs to attend to Erestor and he should do that in privacy.”
Once outside, Rumil kicked the tree, mentally apologizing when the mallorn tree protested. “I do not want to let him out of my sight, Haldir. He is so vulnerable.”
“But none of it is Elrond’s fault,” soothed Haldir, “Let us find a quiet spot and then I will tell you what happened before Erestor left Imladris.” Once his brothers understood that Erestor had overreacted, they might treat Elrond in a friendlier way.
Elrond removed his boots, leggings, cloak and shirt, but left on the loincloth, not wanting Erestor to draw the wrong conclusion should the Elf wake up unexpectedly in his arms. Quickly, he slipped between the covers, bringing their bodies into close contact. After wrapping his arms and legs around Erestor’s body, he guided the other Elf’s arms around his waist. Satisfied that they were as close as they could possibly be, he ran his fingers through the tangled mane, guiding Erestor’s head onto his shoulder.
“I have you now, love, and I am never going to let go again, but you have to stop running away from me. I mean you no harm. I gather that you thought you had lost our daughter and came here to die. That is not acceptable. I understand that you have been hurt beyond words during these last few millennia, but I promise you that things will change for the better. You are with me now and I vow to make you happy.”
Whilst he had been speaking, his energy had begun to flow into Erestor’s fëa and body. The energy transfer weakened him, but he gave as much as he could spare. Awed, he found that the color had returned to Erestor’s face and the tremors were fading away. Erestor was obviously growing stronger. “Accept my love for you, and my closeness.” Elrond pressed a chaste kiss onto Erestor’s lips. “Once you feel strong enough to travel, I will take you back to Imladris with me. Your daughter needs you.”
Erestor moaned against him and Elrond held his breath in anticipation, but the dark-haired Elf didn’t wake up. “You can sense my presence. You know I am here. Aiya, Erestor, my heart threatened to break in two when I realized you had left. I was so afraid that I would find you dead on the road.” Rubbing soothing circles on Erestor’s back, he briefly closed his eyes, finally allowing himself to believe that he had reclaimed his mate. “I have you now.”
Erestor moved closer and Elrond instinctively tightened his hold on his mate. “I talked to Celeborn,” he said, pretending Erestor was awake. Maybe hearing his voice would urge Erestor to wake up. “And he is trying to keep you safe, but we cannot stay here for long. You have to wake up for me, my love.”
But Erestor didn’t have any intentions of waking up yet. He was finally beginning to feel warm and stronger. All he wanted was to remain asleep and cherish this sensation. In his current state he could even pretend Elrond was with him, holding him. But the half-Elf would never hold him again. Elrond hated him for losing his children. Maybe the Peredhel would have forgiven him for losing his daughter, as he had saved Elladan’s life instead, but would Elrond also forgive him for losing his heirs? He doubted it. He had made too many mistakes.
“Erestor? Wake up for me. I know you are returning to consciousness again. I can feel it.” Elrond continued to caress Erestor’s back and hair, praying to the Valar that his mate wouldn’t retreat into himself like Erestor had done after losing the twins. Not when he was here to support his lover and help Erestor recover.
Wondering why he was hearing Elrond’s soothing voice, Erestor hung on to this state between waking and sleep, unwilling to face reality just yet. /Why am I still alive? Why won’t I die?/
Elrond sensed Erestor’s somber thoughts and acted at once. “There is no reason to be this gloomy. Our daughter is well and awaiting your return. Why are you so unwilling to return to me? Do you not know how much I love you?”
/Love me?/ Erestor felt confused, hearing Elrond’s words. /Why would he say that?/ Yes, it was true; there had been a growing affection between them, but it had died with his daughter. /I must be dreaming. Maybe Nienna took pity on me and gave me this comforting dream./
“Erestor, I know you can hear me!” Elrond was growing frustrated. Lifting the blanket, he quickly checked the wound, finding the bandages gone and the wound healing. There was no sign of infection and the wound wasn’t responsible for Erestor’s continuing catatonia. “Come back to me, now!” Elrond placed every ounce of his authority, love and need in those words, hoping his voice would finally register with Erestor as real.
Erestor’s eyes opened in shock and grew wide, suddenly understanding that Elrond was here, holding and soothing him. Alarmed, he stared into the stormy gray eyes and he prayed to Nienna to grant him the strength to deal with the half-Elf’s wrath after having lost their daughter.
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