Elrond quietly closed the curtain around his wife's bed, clutching the linen in his hands. His head was bowed, his chin nearly touching his chest. He was battling for control of himself, against a tide of rage so helpless and intense he wanted to scream. He twisted the fabric in his hands, and several fastenings popped. Elrond forced himself to release it before the entire curtain came down.
His arms folded across his stomach, holding him up. There were voices in his head, screaming at him and berating him for his incompetence. It was all he could do to make himself breathe. In and out. He kept choking over stifled sobs. Ever so slowly, he brought his hands up to cover his face and slid to his knees.
"How is she?" Elrohir asked softly.
Elrond was lying on the bed beside his wife; his body was spooned close to hers, one arm gently holding her. His hand hovered above her shoulder, transmitting healing magic deep into the wound, soothing her pain.
The lord's eyes slid open, taking a moment to focus on Elrohir. Ever so slowly Elrond removed himself, drawing his hand away, rolling onto his side and lighting softly on the floor. His eyes were dark and shadowed; he swayed gently as he stood. Elrohir hurried forward and slipped an arm around his father's shoulders.
"You are exerting yourself beyond your limits, Father. This has to stop," he admonished quietly. Elrond leaned against him and allowed his son to steer him out into the hall. They traveled to the kitchen hall in silence. Elrond felt curiously drained. He had the vague thought that he should have stayed with his wife, but it was easily overridden by Elrohir's tender concern.
Elrohir eased his father into a chair and deftly prepared a meal, correctly suspecting that Elrond had not touched any food since Celebrían's return. He made nothing for himself, but poured two goblets of rich, rejuvenating honey wine. Elrond's ministrations had greatly depleted his strength – he devoured the cold meats and breads that his son set for him. A little strength returned to him and his head began to clear.
"How is she?" Elrohir repeated, sitting at the table. He rolled his goblet between his palms, eyes fixed on Elrond.
"The poison is nearly gone, and the wound is healing, though it still causes her pain. Physically, she should make nearly a complete recovery," he sighed. "But her mind is weak. Fragile. Whatever will sustained her in the wild is completely gone. For three days she has lain without waking or showing any signs of consciousness. I can feel her hiding. She has given up, and I fear it will cost us her life."
Elrohir absorbed the words in shock. He had told himself to be prepared for the worst. How could she just lose hope? Celebrían had always possessed such determination and tenacity. Never in all his long years had Elrohir ever seen her give up on anything. To fight so hard only to lose seemed unreal to him. But Celebrían also possessed a sense of humility and selflessness that willed her to put others before her. She was always aiding others and comforting with that purely maternal love that had comforted Elrohir and his twin throughout their childhood.
"I don't understand," he confessed. He set down the goblet – his hands were trembling.
"Neither do I," Elrond answered. There was a wealth of personal hurt in his voice. "She does not trust me to help bear her burden…"
Elrohir stayed silent, leaning his elbows on the smooth stone table. Elrond continued, "Your mother is independent, and a protector. Before the twins were born, she was constantly bringing weak and injured animals home."
Elrond's voice was soft and distant, as he reached back into a vast memory that Elrohir could hardly comprehend. He wasn't really aware of his son's presence any more. "I was fading, before she found me. Not dying, by any means. But I wasn't living, either. My closest confidant, my brother, had sought Ilúvatar's gift. Rivendell was still young, and I had more responsibilities than I had counted on and it was daunting. Never before or since have I longed so dearly for the protection of Maglor or Ereinion."
Elrohir felt tears welling in his eyes, and quietly brushed them away. His father rarely spoke of Maglor, and never with such adoration as colored his tone now.
"And then she appeared, riding like a man astride a milky white mare. In that first moment, she outshone even Galadriel in my eyes. Your mother is the most beautiful woman I have ever known." Elrond stood. "Thank you, my son. I was foolish to neglect my own body's needs – you can be assured I will not allow it to happen again. But I must get back to her."
For three long days and nights Celebrían remained lost deep in the recesses of her own mind. Elrond rarely moved from her side, caring for her and speaking to her, attempting to lure her back into the world of the living. One of his children brought him food at mealtimes, or relieved him so that he could get a few short hours of rest. The running of Imladris was left to his chief advisor Erestor and to Glorfindel.
He couldn't sleep long in their bed. Not without her beside him. The very room made him claustrophobic. Elrond wasn't ever at peace any more unless she was in sight. And Celebrían, too, was restless when he was not near. This gave him hope that she was still aware of the waking world.
Lindir, in the care of the healers, recovered quickly. He divided his time between his own chambers and the lady's, where he sat at her bedside and sang or played his harp. His presence seemed to calm her.
Elrond was startled awake on the fourth day when Arwen laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Father, get some rest. I shall watch over her."
"Thank you, Arwen," Elrond sighed, rubbing a hand across his face. They embraced.
"Quel kaima, Father," she said softly.
There was a fog. It swirled around his feet as he walked, and was cool upon his upturned face. He was dressed simply, in a long tunic and loose trousers. The boots on his feet were supple and bound round his calves. Every now and again he could see, beyond the confines of the mist, the ghostly shape of trees or buildings, but he preferred to stay lost in this gray oblivion.
"Elrond." Her voice, a bare whisper, floated musically to his ears. He stopped walking, and his eyes opened. The dream was lost, but the fog remained.
"Meleth-nîn?" Elrond stretched out a hand. Please, he prayed, let it be real.
"It is I," Celebrían said softly. She appeared just beyond his reach, solidifying out of the fog like a sprite or woodland faerie, clothed in a simply gray dress bound round the waist with silver links. It was the same dress that she has worn the day of their engagement. "I am sorry that I have kept you out for so long."
"I have been so afraid, hervess. When you did not awaken, I thought your soul was drawn to Mandos." Elrond's voice cracked.
"Shh…" Celebrían soothed. She stepped forward, her bare feet moving soundlessly over the moist grass. Her hands rose and gently caressed his face. Elrond felt his throat tighten, and buried his face against her neck as she embraced him. He held on tightly.
"Your body has healed. Why do you not return to me? To us?"
A shadow of regret passed over her fine face. He glanced at her shoulder. In the waking world, the wound had nigh on disappeared. Only the lightest gray scar remained, and that would fade with time. In this dream world she had created for them, it was still vivid and painfully red. "There is something you must know, Elrond. I am leaving Middle-earth.
"I cannot live here. There is no color left. My mind is riddled with demons. Even though my wounds have healed," she gestured to her shoulder, "I am still riddled with pain. I love you, Elrond Peredhil. You and the children were all that kept me alive. Even then, I would have died if not for Lindir. I cannot stay, and I would that you do not ask me to."
She bowed her head.
"When will you go?"
"After the summer solstice."
Elrond took her hands. He did not look at her; slowly, with deliberate care, he pressed a kiss on the knuckle of each finger. "If it is his wish, I would have Lindir be with you, across the sea. It would be a comfort to both of us, I think."
She smiled through her tears. "It would make my passing easier. I love you, my Elrond."
"My heart is yours, meleth-nîn."
Quel kaima – sleep well
Meleth-nin – my love
Hervess – wife