In a Time of Sorrow
Ai, ai … the ending hath come; the final chapter is here. I hope you've enjoyed the show, and will leave my muse and me a review *g*
And to Nemis all the praise in the world, for doing a great job betaing this. Any mistakes are my own, all the correct spellings are due to her patience, and all the chocolate in the world cannot make up for that.
Everyone on LJ – well, you are insane, but thank you for the angst-support. I've only one thing to say: lil' Valarlings.
As the night grew old, death only seemed to increase its grip on Elrond, and Celebrían could feel the bond which connected her to her husband fraying under its grasping claws, stretching thinner and thinner as life ebbed away.
With surpassing tenderness, she drew a lock of sweat-dampened back from his pallid forehead, pressing it fervently to her lips.
"Ai, Elrond, your suffering is my suffering, and your death will be my death, your grave mine, in spirit, even if my body endures."
Her hand lingered on his skin, tracing each feature, fingertips skittering across the high bridge of his nose and trailing along the long arch of his black brows. Desperately, all hope gone, she sought to memorise each last plane of his face, to store up precious moments for the long years of drought which awaited her.
Sodden from her journey, clutched to her father's chest, wracked with sobs at the reunion, only to turn and catch her first glimpse of the Lord of Imladris, his noble countenance grave yet kind…
The scowl which had marred his face when she had marched, unannounced, into his study, his brows drawing together as he attempted to explain why he had not written a single missive to her in nigh on a century. His tender laughter as he gave way before her relentless logic, and took her in his arms for the first time…
Watching him sleep, black lashes shuttered over serene starlight, as she basked in the glow of his attentions…
His merry, uproarious laughter, so little heard, as he had awoken to find her observing him in the half-light. And the way he had drawn her to himself, his breath hot and ardent on her skin. And the pleasures which had followed, all the while so certain of the endless Ages which unfurled before them…
But now the tapestry was woven almost to its ending, and Time's ravelling skeins had juddered to the cruellest halt of all…
And the Sea was so very wide, and the years wider.
The elf-lord's face grew even more haggard, taking on a ghostly grey tinge. Celebrían wept openly until her tears soaked the trailing sleeves which she had used to dab at her swollen eyes in a most unladylike fashion. As she laid her head on the bed in despair a tentative hand placed itself atop her silver hair, toying with the disordered strands.
"Do not fear, my darling, for the dawn and the twilight are much alike, and we cannot truly know the glory of the one until we have seen the magnificence of the other," Elrond said wistfully, ignoring the spasms of pain which ripped through him.
Raising her eyes until they met his misted grey ones, Celebrían frowned at his cryptic words.
"Ai, meleth-nîn … what mean you?"
"Do not fear … do not fear…" he trailed off, arching off the bed from the pure agony which consumed him.
The dusky pink rays of the newborn sun filtered into the room, and a terrible sense of potency, of barely restrained power followed it, until the air itself seemed to thrum with expectancy.
Glancing up, her eyes filled with fear, Celebrían sought the source of this dread presence, as if by the force of her will, her love, alone, she could halt it.
Elrond's right hand rested on the coverlet, and upon it Vilya, which had seemed to dull and darken as the disease progressed, flared brilliantly. Its unearthly blue light illuminated every corner of the room, casting eerie shadows on their waiting faces. A soft breeze blew through the chamber, redolent of the sea, and, whispering, she thought she could hear the crashing of waves and the thrum of the wind through the branches of far-off trees.
Then all was still, and it appeared to Celebrían, blinded in body and soul, that what she feared the most had come to pass. A terrible scream was ripped from her, a protest against fate for allowing such a thing.
She slumped back in the chair, weeping, not caring who heard her.
With a shock like lightning on a clear summer's day, she felt fingers entwine with hers and the flicker of a mind against her own. She looked up in amazement to see clear eyes, their fire restored, gazing upon her. The trickle of blood which had flowed from the corner of Elrond's mouth for interminable hours had ceased. Although the pulse under her questing hand was still weak, it beat with the insistent drum-roll of life, and the skin no longer burnt with a feverish heat.
"O Elrond, I love you." She hurled herself onto the bed, wrapping her limbs around him.
Elrond cradled her close, ignoring the discomfort which swept through him at her tight embrace, simply glad that he could hold her once more.
"I love you too. Did I ever tell you that?" he teased.
"Yes, but I shall never tire of hearing it."
"I love you more than anything else in Arda," he murmured against the skin of her neck.
After a few moments repose in which she snuggled into his body, enjoying the normal warmth which was seeping back into him, she trailed her hands down his torso.
"I can feel your every rib," she said seriously, but there was a twinkle in her eyes. "I must do something about that."
"I far prefer my task."
"And what is that?"
"Counting your freckles."
"An elf-maiden does not have freckles," she said haughtily, but ruined the effect by kissing his ear with loving thoroughness.
"Well then, what can you be?" Elrond asked with a chuckle.
In response, Celebrían only giggled, burying her face in his hair.
"Ahem," Glorfindel coughed from the doorway, embarrassed by this show of affection between his dear friends. His discomfiture turned to delight as he realised what he was witnessing.
"Oh… By the Power of all the Valar…"
Celebrían dissolved into yet more peals of laughter at the expression on his face, such was her relief at the turn events had taken. His eyes fixed on his beloved wife in mock reprimand, Elrond called, "Good morning, mellon iaur. As you can see, I am not yet strong enough to rise to greet you."
"Good it is indeed. Shall I fetch your children?" Glorfindel's face was lit with merriment.
"No. Let them sleep a little longer. Go and get some rest yourself."
Although the golden-haired elf steeled himself to protest, weariness draped itself around him, and he acquiesced with a low bow.
Once the hero of Gondolin had retreated to his well-deserved repose, Elrond allowed himself to succumb to the lingering weakness in his limbs and flopped back onto the pillows.
"Melethril-nîn." He tugged at Celebrían's arm.
"Yes, my star-dome?"
"It would be more comfortable for both of us if you were under the sheets instead of on top of them."
"Elrond!" she protested. "You are too weak…"
The elf gave a delighted shout of laughter.
"I was not thinking of that, my silver queen … or at least not yet. I merely wished to be close to you."
Assured that her husband was not about to submit himself to premature but delightful exertions, Celebrían kicked off her shoes and crawled under the covers.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky they slept, not the uneasy doze of the fretful but the deep slumber of those truly at peace. It was thus that Maglor found them.
"Ion-nîn!" He dropped to his knees by the bed, pressing one weak hand to his lips. "You are well again…"
"Aye, thanks to you, and the power invested in your voice alone."
"'Twas not mine. It was lent power."
"Nevertheless, may I thank you from the bottom of my heart, mellon?" Elrond smiled faintly. "Do you remember what you called me?"
"Aye, 'twas better than the title of 'Scruff the First'…"
"…Which my brother suggested," Maglor finished.
"Well, may the first scruff invite you into his house?"
"Not yet. Peace shall not be mine yet. My wanderings are not done. It is not given to me to return to my own people. But I thank you for your invitation." He got to his feet. "Now I must depart once more, safe in the knowledge of your well-being."
He paused at the doorway, and turned back.
"Congratulations on your marriage." He gestured to the maiden slumbering on the bed. "You have chosen well, little one."
And with a last smile, he was gone, beckoned out into the wild lands.
Although Glorfindel had meant to sleep only briefly before informing the twins and Arwen of the happy turn of events, it was many hours before he awoke. He raised his head from the pillows and groaned as he thought of the tasks awaiting him, wishing that he could sink back into his dreams. To sleep again untroubled had been a blessing indeed, but his duties called to him.
And it appeared that Halmir and his entourage had risen with the dawn chorus, prepared to do battle.
"I shall do no such thing," the elf was stating hotly as Glorfindel wandered into the council chamber, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "I realise that Lord Elrond's Edain blood has incapacitated him, but I shall not take such insolence from his foolish children."
Elladan, who had reluctantly taken his father's place in the grand chair, leaned back and sighed heavily. Elrohir rolled his eyes, and Arwen beat out an impatient tattoo on the arm of her chair.
Smoothing his robes, Glorfindel took up his place beside them.
"My lord…" he began, checking the ire which rose within him. "How may I assist you?"
"You may answer me this: do you honestly submit yourself to such half-elven follies?" the irascible elf snapped.
"I believe you will find that there is not much folly tolerate in this house," Glorfindel answered with his most sincere smile. "Now, if we could move to more productive matters…"
"Such outrageous demands will never be acceded to by the people of the Havens…"
"Lord Halmir, may I assure you…"
The youngster who sat in the next seat look resigned to another tirade as his father continued.
"I shall not discuss such things with you. If needs be, I shall wait until Elrond is in fit condition to listen to what I have to say."
"What do you desire to speak of?" a melodious voice asked from the edge of the council chamber. Immediately, all heads swivelled towards it. There stood the Lord of Imladris, mantled in red velvet, a mithril circlet gleaming in his dark hair. As he walked forward, it was noticeable that he leaned on a sturdy cane and that his tall frame, even underneath many layers of thick cloth, was desperately thin.
With no deference to either decorum or diplomacy, his three children rushed towards him, but they paused suddenly, uncertain whether their exuberance would harm him. With one swift movement, Elrond engulfed them in his arms.
"Ada! Ada! You are with us!" There was no telling from which mouth the words came in the tangle of limbs. "You are well again."
"Not well, but recovering," Elrond amended in a voice which only they could hear, holding them tight, relishing his ability to do so.
Releasing his children, the Master of Rivendell looked sternly at the assembled multitude.
"I believe that we have business to discuss."
"Lord Círdan will never agree to these terms. They are completely unacceptable to our folk."
"How strange," Elrond mused, settling himself into his chair. "In his last letter, he was particularly emphatic that such clauses should be included. Moreover, I do not believe that in all the long years I have known the Shipwright he has ever expressed himself in such terms…"
"But…but…" Halmir spluttered and Glorfindel could not suppress a triumphant grin.
"I have no wish to press a settlement on the Havens which is unacceptable to them." Elrond's eyes glittered strangely. "But I suggest that you consider very carefully what is in the best interests of the folk you speak for, as I try to ascertain the needs of Imladris."
"My lord…" Halmir's pride was affronted to the point where he lost control of his temper. "I know full well what must be done for those I serve, but I doubt you can claim the same."
"What mean you?" Elladan stormed, his face white with anger, only restrained from jumping up by his father's calming hand on his shoulder.
"My lord, it is common knowledge that you have been that you have been gravely ill." Halmir's voice was unctuously concerned, his eyes predatory. "Are you sure that your mind has yet recovered from the weakness of your body and you can exercise your judgement safely?"
Gelmir bowed his head into his hands, scarlet with humiliation, but a small smile played around Elrond's bloodless lips as he stood with slow care, deliberately discarding his cane, and strolled across the room.
"I confess that I could not wrestle a Balrog as Glorfindel here has … if I ever could, which I very much doubt." A soft hum of amusement rippled through the room. "Do you suggest that I recite the Ainulindalë in the original Quenya?"
"Mock me not, Lord Elrond. I merely wish to know if you have the mental agility at this time to take part in complicated negotiations."
"Then I shall tell you this, and you may take it as proof or no as you wish." Elrond stood tall and proud in the centre of the council chamber, his black hair lit by the dappled rays of the sun. No one noticed how he bit his lip to quell the whimper of pain which rose within him, nor the whiteness of his knuckles through the skin. "Increased trade between Imladris and the Havens will benefit all, and I sincerely wish my people and yours to enjoy its bounty, but force and harsh words will avail me naught.
"We cannot produce the fruits of the sea from the mountain waters of the Bruinen, and the Dwarves have not much trust in you, whereas they will deal freely with Imladris. Thus, co-operation is reasonable. Do I have your agreement on that?"
"Yes," Halmir admitted grudgingly.
"Well, then, let us proceed." Elrond lowered himself into his chair. Arwen shot him a concerned look, painfully aware of the grey hue which tinged his face and the way he gritted his teeth to master the urge to collapse against the firm wood. He shook his head almost imperceptibly to ward off her anxiety, and turned his attention back to the negotiations.
After the long hours of wrangling, which nonetheless seemed to pass more swiftly than any had thought possible, the chamber was finally empty of all but Elrond, his children, and his two closest friends.
"Meleth-nîn." Celebrían stepped out of the shadowed corner where she had been waiting. "You stole from our bed while I was asleep to embark on this fool's errand. You may be restored to life, but you are not yet restored to health."
"Of that I am only too aware." He braced himself against the arm of the chair.
"Come. A bed awaits you, and a nice bowl of broth."
"That is the intended purpose, not bathing." She smiled, reaching out one hand to him.
Casting an apologetic look at the others, Elrond went with her obediently.
"Whatever you wish, my lady."
She pressed him gently against a pillar and bestowed a tender kiss on his lips. Releasing him with a sigh, she breathed, "I wish my husband as he was … the husband with whom I might dare to do more than this."
With a devious grin, Elrond followed her willingly, his arm slung around her shoulders, as much to feel her warm body pressed against his.
"I am at your service, hervess, until the ending of days."
Elmin – star-one (as opposed to star-two for Elros).
Hervess – wife.