In a Time of Sorrow
Disclaimers: All Tolkien's not mine. No money is being made and no infringement of copyright is intended.
Summary: When the Great Plague sweeps Middle-earth, Elrond's place is tending to the sick. But as he returns to Imladris, he discovers that he is not as invulnerable as he thought… Elrond/Celebrían.
A/N: According to Appendix B of Lord of the Rings, a plague devastated Middle-earth is 1636 of the Third Age. It swept through Gondor, killing King Telmnar and his children, and also spread northwards. As Tolkien describes it, it was catastrophic.
*fanfare of trumpets* … humble thanks to Nemis for betaing *offers large amounts of chocolate*
He swayed in the saddle, wearied to the bone by his exertions. He had never felt this tired… so tired that his bones ached, but he put it down to the burden of grief weighing upon him.
*I could not save them … I could not save them*
The litany of despair resounded in his head.
Myriad images passed before his eyes … dead children cradled in the arms of parents who were themselves sickening … the sweet merry faces of the Periannath contorted in hideous death … villages where not a soul remained, and the birds devoured the ripening crops in the fields…
He had wept many hot tears for those he could not save, and for the waste of Arnor… But if the Northern Kingdom suffered, it was nothing to the desolation of Gondor. Elrond cringed at the thought. The news of sickness had come too late for him to ride out to tend King Telmnar, and he had perished along with all his children.
*I have failed you, Elros*
Now the healer longed for the simple quiet of Imladris and, having seen so much wasteful death, for the company of the deathless, and among them one above all…
The Bruinen was drawing close. He could feel the tug of the secluded valley on Vilya, and of Celebrían on his heart. He spurred his horse forward, galloping along the great road, but then rain came upon them in torrents. In a matter of moments he and the company were drenched, the freezing water plastering their garments to their chilled bodies.
As he shivered convulsively, Elrond remembered those he had been unable to save, how they had shuddered and burned under his hands, how they had fallen into deep nightmares and pleaded for forgiveness for crimes they had not committed, weeping under even the gentlest touch.
He wiped his hands on his breeches as he recalled how their blood had stained them red as the dawn as they coughed helplessly, and, most of all, their anguished expressions as they passed beyond Arda. He both blessed and cursed himself in that instant for his fate to be spared death himself but to be forced to witness the suffering of others.
A boiling wave of heat overcame him, and when he raised his hand to his brow it came away slicked not only with rain but also with sweat. Dismissing it immediately as the product of his dismal thoughts, he pressed on, desperate to race through the corridors of Imladris and seek solace in the arms of his beautiful wife.
The river was ahead of him. Only a short distance separated him from his home. Suddenly nausea assailed him, and he rocked on his mount, dizzy and quaking. He shook his head, but even that did not seem to clear the fuzziness which had settled there.
They rode into the ford, the horses' hooves kicking up a spray of water. As he began to feel more and more detached from reality, Elrond reeled, blackness staining the edge of his vision. He tried to steady himself, grapping a handful of the horse's mane, but it slipped though his lax fingers and he crashed into the foaming waters.
Glorfindel sprang from his horse and, before the current could bear the inert figure away, lifted his lord into his arms and sprinted up the bank. He crashed into the main courtyard, hollering for help, his desperate eyes constantly fixed on the limp figure in his arms, dripping black hair not quite concealing a vicious gash on one temple where a protruding rock had broken his fall.
Even before the rest of the household was roused Celebrían dashed into the square.
"What is it, Glorfindel? Where is my husband?" she said urgently.
As her words fell into a numbed silence she caught sight of the figure cradled in her friend's arms. Rushing to him, she asked, "What has happened? Was it an orc attack?"
"Nay, my lady," Glorfindel resorted to formality in the face of his terrible fear. "I know not what happened; only that he slipped from his horse as we crossed the Bruinen, and has not awoken."
Together they bore Elrond into the house and laid him on the bed in the rooms he shared with his wife.
"Meleth-nîn," she begged. "Meleth- nîn…"
All other words failed her, but at the clamour the house began to stir. In a short space of time Elladan stood in the doorway, a robe draped over his nightclothes, rubbing sleepily at his eyes.
"What is it, Ammë?" he asked.
"Fetch a healer at once," Celebrían snapped, too distracted to be gentle to her eldest son.
"Ada has not arrived yet… shall I…?"
Celebrían interrupted him.
"This is about your father." She gestured to the figure laid on the pristine bed and Elladan's eyes widened in blind panic. He stumbled hurriedly from the room, catching his robe on the ornately carved doorpost as he went. Cursing fluidly in the Common Speech, he ripped the fine fabric and thundered down the corridor.
Once his footsteps had faded into the distance, Celebrían returned her attention to her husband, frantically stripping him of his drenched clothing and wrapping him in the warm blankets. He looked so peaceful as he slumbered, but a hectic flush had risen to his cheeks and he wandered not in the dreams of the elves but those of Men.
"I heard the noise…" Elrohir trailed off, his sister peering over his shoulder. Celebrían noticed with detached, humourless amusement that the more sombre twin had managed to don a pair of breeches, yet his nightshirt lay over the top of them. Arwen, however, was still fully clothed, although her blue dress was damp and her hair clung to her face in tendrils.
*Probably in the gardens, despite the rain, dreaming of her Beren*
With a quick glance both children hurried to their father's side.
"What ails him?" Arwen spoke first, her musical voice harsh with dread.
"I know not, nor does Glorfindel. Oh, what can it be?" Celebrían's voice rose in misery and her children swiftly moved to comfort her.
"Hildor and the other healers will know what afflicts Ada, and he will be well by morning," Elrohir murmured, although he did not entirely believe his own words.
At that moment, Elrond's assistant appeared in the doorway flanked by Elladan and a deathly-pale Glorfindel. He moved to the elf-lord's side, checking the temperature of Elrond's forehead and the pulse in his neck with agile fingers. He glanced at Celebrían questioningly, his fingers resting on the edge of the coverlet.
"Do whatever you must!" the silver-haired elf exclaimed, and the healer pulled down the sheets to expose the other's chest. The observers exhaled in horror as they saw that which had until that time escaped their attention: a rash of hideous red pin-pricks mottling Elrond's skin.
"'Tis as I feared," he said tiredly. "The sickness which sweeps these lands has infected Lord Elrond."
"You are surely mistaken," Celebrían
said starting from her chair. "He is an
elf; he cannot have contracted this."
"I would remind you that he is half-elven, my lady. His human heritage may have left his exposed to this... this infection," he pronounced the word as if it was alien to him.
Celebrían's shoulders slumped.
"What do we do now? What can we do?" she inquired miserably.
"We will attend our lord to the very limits of our skill. Beyond that all we can do is wait," he intoned, with that leaving the room, preparing to gather medicinal herbs from Elrond's considerable store. As one the family returned to their vigil, the children huddling close to both their mother and their unconscious father.
Celebrían cradled one pallid hand to her heart, entwining the unresisting fingers with hers.
"Do not leave me, I beseech you, melethron-nîn," she whispered. Despite their fear, the children snickered at the endearment, and even Celebrían smiled through her tears at the familiar mockery.
Meleth-nîn – my love
Ammë – mother; mummy
Ada – father; daddy (shortening of Adar – father)
Melethron-nîn – my (male) lover
Feedback: yes please *bounces up and down*