Note: Yes, I know it has been a long time again, and I suck. The Nursing program has sucked away all my free time, as well as my soul, but I am making it through. So goes RL. I am on our short Thanksgiving break right now.
Comments, reviews, or ideas are always welcome, but never required.
Chapter 19: The Light of Hope
When the night is overcome
You may rise to find the sun
Enya – May it Be (FotR)
Arwen pushed open the doors to her father's chambers, hoping Erestor was still in there. She spotted the elder elf and called his name while she walked toward him.
"What has happened?" Erestor asked picking up on the younger elf's tension and the very obvious fact that the lament had gone quiet outside.
"Father and Elrohir had a disagreement," Arwen started, collecting her thoughts.
"Yes child, I know, all of Imladris heard it, in fact," Erestor said with a twinkle in his eyes, "go on."
"During that time, Aragon has gotten lost."
"Gotten... lost?" Erestor asked.
"Well, wondered away," Arwen clarified.
"Ah," Erestor brightened up, "at least its a situation we are all well prepared for. Come, let us begin."
Despite the situation, Arwen had to bite back a smile. Yes, she thought, her brothers had given the elves of Rivendell plenty of practice at finding lost children. Aragorn would learn in time, like her brothers had, that there just was no hiding from the Lord of Rivendell, or Erestor for that matter.
Arwen followed Erestor out the door to start their search.
Gilraen was so close on Elrond's heels as she followed him back inside that she bumped into him when he stopped suddenly. The elf lord's eyes seemed distant for a moment, but snapped back into focus so quickly the dark haired woman wondered if she really saw it at all.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"It is about time," Elrond said, but Gilraen got the feeling he wasn't talking to her.
The elf lord finally looked over to Gilraen and gestured for the door.
"Nothing, nothing is wrong. Come."
Still a bit baffled, Gilraen went on nonetheless. If it was something of importance to them, she trusted Elrond would tell her.
When they entered, Arwen, Erestor and a few others were already gathered.
"Yes, well we already know the routine, go search the usual places," Erestor said calmly.
The gathered elves simply nodded and headed off.
"A guest will be arriving soon," Elrond said looking to Erestor.
The elder elf nodded like Elrond's short statement made perfect sense.
"I will keep you informed," Erestor told Elrond before he headed off as well.
"Someone should sit with Elladan, in case..." Arwen couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence.
Arwen looked to her father and he nodded his approval to her. No words were spoken or needed. The Evenstar left without another word as well.
"Come Gilraen, let us go back to Aragorn's room and start from there," Elrond said
Gilraen nodded, happy to have something to do to keep her mind occupied.
Aragorn followed Sîrwen into the hallway with all the rest of the elves. He didn't know what was going on, but everyone seemed so mad at each other. Uncomfortable with the angry voices, the boy moved unnoticed through the shocked elves and backed into a doorway to try and stay out of the grown-ups way. When everyone left all of a sudden, he was left all by himself. Aragorn wanted to talk to Elrohir and although he didn't know why, he wanted to see the pretty elf lady again, so he went into the doorway he saw her come from to wait. In his way of thinking, she would come back, because this is were she was before, so it was where she had to return.
Aragorn went into the dim star filled room undaunted by the darkness. The door swung back, but didn't close. The boy was fascinated by all the strange elven things. He picked up on his momma's nervousness here, but he found the whole place fun. There was so many new things here he couldn't wait to go exploring. And so many elves, there were elves everywhere! Most of them were busy singing outside, and he didn't understand why everyone seemed so sad, but it was still exciting.
Aragorn looked around at the foreign furniture and pictures adorning the walls. As he moved deeper into the room he finally noticed the bed. Elladan was lying very still on it. Elrohir and Arwen forgotten about for the mean time, the boy walked right up to the bed near the unmoving elf's head. He spent a while just standing at the bed, unsure of what to do. He didn't know what was wrong with Elladan to make him so still. He only knew he was very sick, so he figured the elf was sleeping.
"Dan?" the boy asked quietly.
The fact that Elladan didn't answer back didn't seem to bother Aragorn. He wanted to make Elladan feel better, but didn't know how. When he wasn't feeling good, his momma would hold him and sing to him. Elladan was too big for him to hold so he crawled up in the bed with the elf and lay down.
"Ro said we'd all play in our new home," the boy said laying his head on Elladan's shoulder.
Aragorn was not as oblivious as the adults thought. He knew that his papa was dead and that it meant he was never coming back. And he had heard the adults talking about Elladan dying. He didn't know why Elladan had to leave to, but he was not happy about that.
"Why do you have to go Dan? You don't like us no more?" Aragorn continued on.
"I promise I'll be good."
Arwen was about to push open Elladan's door when she heard someone talking from inside the room. Her hand paused gentle on the door as she heard Aragorn's small voice from within. She pushed the door open just a little bit and peered inside. Aragorn was inside lying beside her brother with his head resting on the elf's shoulder.
"Why do you have to go Dan? You don't like us no more?" Aragorn asked.
"I promise I'll be good."
Arwen's heart went out to the boy; he simply did not understand the meaning of death yet. His words brought tears to her eyes and she had to take a breath to gather her composure. The Evenstar quietly closed the door and headed for Aragorn's room to find her father.
Lord Elrond and Gilraen were just coming out of the room to start looking in every adjourning room when Arwen turned the corner.
"I have found the little Edain," Arwen said.
"Thank the Valor," Gilraen breathed and brought a hand to her chest in an unconscious gesture.
"Where is he?" Gilraen couldn't help but ask.
"In Elladan's room," Arwen answered simply.
Arwen almost smiled in amusement at the matching incredulous looks she got. Elrond recovered quickly and almost laughed at himself, almost.
"I'm sorry," Gilraen began slightly embarrassed, "I'll go get him."
"No," Arwen said firmly before Gilraen had a chance to move.
"Aragorn is saying his goodbye in the only way he knows how, he does not understand what is transpiring. Let him stay."
Gilraen closed the mouth she didn't realize was open and stared at Arwen a moment. Now that she thought about it, Aragorn hadn't had a chance to get close to Elladan since Elrohir had whisked him away at her wish on that dark night that felt like a lifetime ago. Aragorn had never had the chance to say goodbye to his father. Maybe this would make it easier. The dark haired woman nodded her consent.
"Very well," Elrond spoke up.
Elrond turned to Sîrwen who had come to stand silently in the doorway to listen.
"Find Erestor and tell him the child has been found, he will take care of the rest, and then retire for the night. We will watch over the boy."
"Yes, my lord," the silver haired maiden bowed to Elrond then left to do his bidding.
"Arwen, return to Elladan's room," Elrond continued, "I have a guest to greet briefly then Elrohir and I shall join you there. Gilraen, you did not sleep for very long this night. If you would like to rest, you have my word that Arwen and I will personally watch over Aragorn until you wake."
The offer was made in kind, Gilraen knew. She also knew that neither Elrond, Arwen, nor Elrohir would settle down this night. Master Elrond hid his weariness well, but she could only imagine the immense toll it must take on any being to push your emotions and despair aside to play the part of ruler and father at the same time. Elrond's family was struggling with the grief, yet he was still watching over her. Gilraen felt humbled. She already respected the elf lord, but she was just beginning to understand why so many thought so highly of Elrond, and his family.
"I will watch over Aragorn Master Elrond, if... if you will permit me in Elladan's room. I feel I owe it to him and I would like to be there."
Gilraen looked down at the floor, she could not bring herself to look Elrond in the eyes. She dearly wanted to be there with Elladan, but she was effectively asking Elrond's permission to share in something very personal with his family. With her eyes cast to the floor, Gilraen did not see the look that Arwen and Elrond exchanged. Elrond left without another word. The dark haired woman finally looked up when a hand came to rest on her arm.
To her surprise the Lady Arwen was smiling gently at her. Arwen didn't say anything, but led her in the direction of Elladan's room.
When Gilraen followed Arwen into Elladan's room she found Aragorn sound asleep next to Elladan. His head was lying on the elf's shoulder with one small hand wrapped around the elf's tunic. Her first instinct after tonight's scare was to run up and take the child protectively in her arms, but she forced herself to let Aragorn remain where he was.
Arwen silently went to the other side of the bed and sat down in the chair she had occupied earlier that night. She once again took one of her brother's hands in both of hers and waited.
Gilraen almost couldn't bear to look at the scene in front of her. It simply wasn't fair. I'm so sorry Elladan, she thought trying not to cry again. The dark haired woman brought one of the chairs up to the bed next to Aragorn. She sat down and rubbed the little one's back in comforting motions. Gilraen knew Aragorn was asleep and the action was more for her comfort than his, but she couldn't think of anything else to do.
Elrond walked into his personal chamber and was startled to see someone sitting by his fireplace. The strain of the night was beginning to take its toll and he wasn't using his senses. The elf lord gave a halfhearted annoyed sigh and shut the door.
"I did not think you would be in this room so soon," Elrond stated forthright.
The man in the chair raised one bushy gray eyebrow to look at the elf. The man also had a long gray beard and the gray robes to match.
"So much for the hospitality of Rivendell," the gray man said dryly.
"And so much for the timing of wizards," Elrond snapped back.
Master Elrond ignored the harrumph that came from the chair and went to stand in the doorway to the balcony.
"Something is going on here. What is wrong?" the man asked eyeing the elf carefully.
"The heir is here," Elrond said not bothering to turn around.
Elrond couldn't see his old friend, but he could picture the nod the old man gave. The elf lord looked up at the starry sky. The glittering curtain was beginning to dim already. Eärendil would be up so very soon. Eärendil will shine and Elladan will fade. The terrible weight almost brought the elf lord to his knees. Elrond felt the moisture build up behind his eyes. Thoughts of how he dreaded to tell Celebrían about her son's death entered his mind.
"You didn't answer my question," the old man pushed.
Elrond wasn't sure if he had the strength or the will to tell Mithrandir all that had transpired to get Aragorn here. One thing was for certain; he didn't trust his voice to push past the lump forming in his throat.
When it became clear Elrond wasn't, or couldn't speak, the wizard went on.
"I can verily feel the sorrow in this valley. Every elf in Rivendell is milling about outside as if waiting. I could barely get two words from Erestor and it has been a very long time since I've seen you choke up."
Elrond heard the Istari come to stand just behind him.
"Elrond?" Gandalf's voice had become very kind.
Elrond took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down.
"The boy's presence here has come at a very high price," Elrond managing to say.
Gandalf put a hand on Elrond's shoulder. Besides the very real signs he already mentioned, the Istari knew something was wrong by his friend's behavior. Gandalf knew from experience it took a lot to ruffle the Lord of Rivendell's feathers. The worry the wizard felt in the pit of his stomach was beginning to turn to dread. Before he could push again the elf spoke.
"They knew where Isildur's heir was and came for him. Aranel was slain in the fight to get the boy to freedom. And Elladan..."
Elrond had to stop take a breath. The elf lord was finding it hard to reign in his emotions. He figured it was because finally there was no one else around looking to him to be strong. It was just Gandalf who, graced with a longevity to rival an elf, they had been through much in their friendship.
"My son is about to die and I can do nothing but watch," Elrond finally finished.
"Oh dear," Gandalf said.
"Would that I could spare my heart and take his place," Elrond finished quietly.
Gilraen wasn't sure when she had started to hum. She wasn't aware she had even started until Lady Arwen started to hum with her. It was an old lullaby she had learned from her mother. If the elves knew it, then it really must have been an old one indeed, she mused to herself.
Even in humming, Arwen's voice was silken and comforting. The dark haired woman almost stopped humming just to sit and listen to the elf maiden's voice. But for something to do, Gilraen continued to hum on with the elf maid, never stopping her comforting rub on the little one's back.
Gilraen was aware when Elrohir quietly came into the room, but still they kept humming. Elrohir walked over to Arwen and silently laid his hand on her shoulder. Gilraen was sure she would have felt uncomfortable sitting here, like she didn't belong or deserve to have the right to be here. But for some reason she couldn't explain, she knew this was where she needed to be, there was no doubt in her mind.
Limbo. That's what he felt he was in, limbo. There could be no other place this cold and empty. He wasn't even sure how long he had been there. It might have been for time immemorial. He was sure there had been another place once. A place of light and warmth. He had given up searching long ago. There was no point. He desperately wanted it to end. To just fade into nothing. He wasn't even sure why he did hang on and wait. There was no point waiting in this place. It would be so easy to just give up. To let go. To just let everything fade away.
Just let it fade...
"Never have I doubted your skills, my friend, but if you would like me to look?" Gandalf asked.
"And never would I be too prideful to accept your help Mithrandir, but it is not that kind of ailment. Still, I suppose it wouldn't..."
Elrond never got the chance to finish. Weakness flooded through the elf and he almost had to grip the doorframe to remain standing. Gandalf reflexively reached out to steady the elf lord. As quickly as it came, it passed.
"It is time," was all Elrond said.
Gilraen did stop her humming finally when Lord Elrond entered the room followed by an old man she did not know. Arwen however, hummed on undaunted. The dark haired woman ignored the stranger to focus on the elf lord. There was something different about him that she couldn't quiet place, yet it was there. Something that felt raw, almost broken. Although to her eyes the elf lord didn't look any different than when she saw him a short time ago. As no one else moved, she wasn't sure if anyone else picked up on it or not, or why she, of all present would notice.
Gilraen started to rise out of the chair, to offer it to Master Elrond. As Elladan's father he had far more right to sit here than she had, but to her surprise when she tried to get up a firm but gentle hand on her shoulder kept her from rising. Gilraen looked up a bit startled to see it was the old man who kept her in place. Although he had his hand on her shoulder, the old man wasn't looking at her. His piercing eyes were firmly set on watching Elrond move around to the other side of the bed next to Arwen. She had a strange feeling the old man could see far more than most, as if those sharp eyes could look into one's very soul.
The elf lord forwent the chair to kneel down beside his daughter. Elrond reach out and tenderly laid his hand upon his son's still brow.
He let go and everything was just starting to fade away like he wanted. It would finally end soon. This horrible abyss would vanish and he would just be nothing.
Just as the last tendrils started to fade away he noticed a light. It was tiny, but bright and consuming. There was no light here, so where had it come from? Forgetting everything else his curiosity drove him forward. It was such a small, but pretty thing.
He wanted to reach out and touch it, but was afraid to do so. There was a presence there inside, many presences, if fact. After searching for ages in here for life, he was now afraid of it. What if it was some kind of trick? What if he tried to touch it and it faded away? He didn't want to be left alone again.
His curiosity and need got the better of him and he hesitantly reached out...
Elrond almost pulled his hand back in shock as Elladan's whole body shuddered when he placed his hand on his son's forehead. Elladan took a ragged breath and shuddered again.
Elladan's sudden movement woke Aragorn and the small child sat up in bed to look down at the elf.
"What?" was all Gilraen could get out.
The dark haired woman was afraid it was time, but instead of Elladan slipping quietly away he was going to die painfully. She didn't realize she was now gripping the fabric of Aragorn's tunic so hard her knuckles turned white.
The light consumed him for a moment, and then it was as if a veil peeled back and the past, present, and future were one. Time had no meaning here.
"Help! Help! Elladan!" a child was crying in elven.
He burst through an unfamiliar tree line, sword in hand to see a human boy of about 10 with unruly brown hair on the ground. The boy turned trusting gray eyes up to him. The human was surrounded by a small group of orcs, and for reasons he didn't know, pure rage filled his entire being seeing the boy at the feet of those filthy creatures.
Not stopping to think first, he charged the stunned orcs.
Elladan convulsed suddenly and Elrond brought his other hand to his son's chest in an attempt to keep him down. Elrohir and Arwen reacted without thinking and moved to help hold Elladan down so he wouldn't hurt himself.
Gilraen, still gripping Aragorn's tunic, noticed the boy hadn't moved from the bed. He was simply sitting there staring down at the elf. Gilraen moved to pull him off the bed so he wouldn't get hurt and to get him out of the way. Again that firm, but gentle hand held her down. Gilraen looked back up at the old man angrily this time. Still his piercing eyes were watching what was transpiring instead of looking at her. Before she could open her mouth to protest, the old man finally spoke.
"Leave the boy where he is, Gilraen," he said gruffly.
This stranger calling her by her name made Gilraen pause. Although he did not speak very loud, there was something in his voice that willed her to follow his command. At a loose for words, the dark haired woman kept her firm grip on her child and turned back to the bed.
He sat rocking a whimpering human child in his arms while a storm raged outside the window. This boy had dark hair like his and round; almond-shaped elven eyes the color of twilight inside his very round human features. The place was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Its white walls and gold trimmed furnishings where definitely of human design and glittered every time the lightening lit up the room.
Someone walked up behind him and he knew he didn't need to see whom it was to know the person.
"I told you you'd make a good uncle," the rough voice of a man said.
"As if I didn't have the practice," he felt himself respond.
A deep sense of content filled the elf.
The elf on the bed convulsed again, but there were three sets of hands securing him to the bed.
"What is happening?" Elrohir asked close to tears.
"I don't know," Elrond answered shifting to allow his weight to help him hold onto Elladan.
The elf lord looked up to Gandalf for any kind of answer and saw the Istari looking firmly at something. Elrond followed the wizard's gaze down to the boy sitting on the bed. As out of place as it seemed that the boy wouldn't have been knocked over the edge, Aragorn sat calmly on the bed staring unwaveringly at Elladan.
Elrond, with considerable effort, made himself push back the fatherly fear that was clouding his mind and concentrated. Something was going on here that he was missing in his current state of mind.
He cleared the distance between ship and land in one leap, not bothering to use the plank. He heard his brother land beside him and almost smiled. Stars they wore upon their brows outright signifying whom they wore. The twins ran up to a rugged, yet kingly man standing next to someone... someone he knew. Mithrandir, the name came to him. But he was not as he had always been, he was changed somehow. Where there was once grey, white now donned the old man. The old white wizard turned to him and when their eyes met, the light of Mithrandir's bright eyes melted away his trepidation.
The kingly man wore the Star of Elendil on his brow. The star crowned man's eyes shone brightly with an inner fire. There was a brightness to them he couldn't identify. A sturdy dwarf and golden haired elf there also was with the lordly man. The elf he knew as well, but his mind could not draw the memory up as of yet. Many dour-handed men of the same rough nature as the lordly one surrounded them. Some were familiar to him as well.
He knew they were about to sweep down on an army. That this fight would shape the fate of many. He also knew that if they failed here, darkness would overtake the land. He knew that by the end of the day the river would glow like fire and the fields would be stained in red.
He also knew without a doubt that the star crowned man would lead them to victory. And that this was where he was supposed to be. Right here beside this man.
Elrond tried to hold on and block out everything around him at the same time. The elf lord concentrated for all he was worth and reached out to feel every being in the room. Maybe where he alone had failed before, the strength of many would prevail.
The ghostly fields melted away into a place he was very familiar with. Delicate arches and houses blended in with the trees and mountainside. Home, the word came to him, this was his home. A fair and radiantly beautiful elven maiden dressed in white sat by the fireplace. Arwen. My sister... Arwen. Beside Arwen stood a man, the same man. His dark cloak was thrown back, and he seemed to be clad in elven-mail, and a star shone on his breast. When they spoke together the elf was filled with joy. He did not know why, but he was happy beyond words for them.
The man turned toward him and their eyes met. The man's gray eyes seemed to burn into his very being, yet he was not afraid. Arwen's eyes fixed on the elf next and he felt her love across the distance of the room.
The questioning name was almost so loud he had to cover his ears.
"Elladan, come back."
The voice was softer this time, almost tender. And so familiar.
"Father?" he asked timidly as realization hit him.
"Father where are you?" he cried as he noticed he was alone again.
"Come back," a different voice begged.
Elrohir, the name almost physically hit him.
"Elladan please!" Elrohir's voice was urgent, desperate.
Elladan. That was him. Just as he knew the sun rose in the morning, he knew that Elladan was his name. The knowledge of who he was hit the elf with stunning clarity and with it came all the anger, fear, and sorrow his memories beheld.
Elladan was almost overcome with the sorrow and guilt that this realization brought. But somehow, all was not as dark as it had been.
Images of the dark haired, elven-eye boy he knew was his nephew and the star crowned man tampered the sorrow.
Arwen looking lovingly and understandingly at him, her joy and love radiating out to all who looked upon her to lighten his heart.
Memories of being wrapped in his father's comforting and soothing embrace made him feel secure.
Remembering Elrohir holding him while he cried in the woods made him feel not so alone.
Mithrandir shining upon a darkened battlefield signaling the rising sun and victory.
Gilraen looking at him with nothing but trust and hope in her eyes.
That was what made the star crowned man's eyes shine so fiercely. It was hope. It was hope that he brought to everyone around him and it burned away the darkness in their soul. This king among men would bring great happiness to many around him. He was not a man yet though, Elladan knew. Only a boy. It would be his duty to make sure that boy reached manhood, so that he could shine out his hope to everyone. Elladan did not know what darkness the days brought, but one day they would stand against it, side by side. Along with the strength of Elrohir, Arwen, and his father.
With the veil of time lifted, Elladan knew everything would turn out well in the end. He had great faith in that. His hope radiated out and burnt away the sorrow, anger, and grief in a cleansing light. His spirit lifted and he knew it was time.
Elladan opened his eyes and saw an elf with golden hair and clear blue eyes looking at him. The dark haired elf blinked a few times to make sure the image was still there.
"Aranel?" he asked in a strangled voice.
The golden haired elf smiled at him.
"I want to go back," Elladan said without doubt.
The other nodded his head and continued smiling.
"That is well for it is not yet your time, my friend."
With that Aranel's image vanished. So to did everything else around Elladan.
"Please wake up," Gilraen voiced pleaded.
Elladan wasn't sure if Gilraen had said that to him in the past, now, or in the future, but he followed the urgent voice and tried to open his eyes. His eyes felt heavy and unresponsive, but he put every fiber of his being into willing them open. Wake up! He ordered himself.
Slowly, agonizingly, he got his body to respond to his mind's demand and his eyes opened.
The sight and images that greeted him were blurry, but before anything could focus into clarity, Elladan felt himself being lifted up. He was enfolded in a warm, secure embrace. He didn't need his sight to tell whom it was that held him. He laid that way for what felt like a long time, basking in the security he felt.
Considering his muscles felt too weak to move and his eyes had yet to focus, the elf was sure his voice wasn't going to work either, so he reached out mentally.
Father... was all he could think so say.
Elrond, throwing formality to the wind to embrace his son and not caring if all of Arda saw him, thought it was the most wonderful name anyone had ever called him.
Thank you for returning to us, Elrond answered him in the same fashion.
Elladan felt baffled that his father would be thanking him. His confusing dreams, nightmares, visions, whatever they were, were already fading from memory and he barely remembered what had happened when he collapsed. Although he couldn't remember what happened, he felt there was a change in himself. His heart felt lighter, like he had beheld some great secret, even if he couldn't remember it. He felt that all would be well, even though he had no idea why.
But for his father to show this much open emotion, the elf lord must have really been frightened. And he was the one responsible for making his father suffer so.
I'm sorry, Elladan mentally said.
You should be, because if you do that again, so help me I'll slay you myself, Elrohir's thoughts cut in.
Despite his brother's harsh words, Elladan felt him sit behind him and enfold him on the other side.
And I may help, Arwen's playful words came to him as she embraced her family.
Something much lighter clung to the elf's arm and although he could not see who, or what it was from his surrounded position, Elladan felt a familiar radiance and knew immediately it was Aragorn.
Sitting there surrounded in the warmth and love of his family, which he did not doubt now included the little Edain and his mother, he felt very content. The security of it all was luring him back into sleep and he felt his eyelids becoming heavy once again. Elladan jerked them back open in an attempt to fight the pull. He had only just awoken after all.
Do not fight it, his father's soothing voice came again, we will be here when you wake.
Sleep and heal.
Elladan's last conscious thought was slight amusement at the realization that his father was far too practiced at putting him to sleep.
There, is everyone happy? You got your happy ending that so many people have been demanding. Happy holidays, LOL. This story isn't quit finished yet though, I'm thinking 1 or 2 more chapters perhaps. We still have plenty of loose ends to tie up. But as this chapter was 15 PAGES long, I decided to end it right there. Hopefully everyone can read the conclusion in December.