Inspiration for this short story stems from several sources. I hope this brings joy to Eruanneth Luin on her birthday December 15. Anniversaries are wonderful times to remember the love you felt when you joined with your spouse - Happy Anniversary to Daw and Mr. Daw on December 12th (35 years!) and Nancy and Blue on December 17th. Last, choosing to live life fully is a wonderful choice and a gift to all whom with you share your life. Blessings on you, Levade.
Thank you to daw the minstrel for beta reading this story.Chapter 1 First comes love (Elrond)
"Elrond, I wish to speak to you."
Elrond looked up from his work and gestured for Glorfindel to take a seat. He finished the sentence he was writing and made a notation that would remind him of the rest of his thought. Then he wiped his pen and capped his ink. When he looked up to give his visitor his full attention, he found Glorfindel still standing. Not only was he standing, his demeanor was stern – hands clasped behind his back, which Elrond knew from experience, was only slightly less worrisome than arms folded over the chest.
Elrond said, "You are concerned. Have you received word of anything amiss on our borders or beyond?"
"My concern lies within Imladris," said Glorfindel. He held out his arm in the direction of the terrace behind Elrond. "Come and walk with me."
Elrond rose and walked outside with Glorfindel following close behind him. The fragrance of roses filled the air, and Elrond slowed to enjoy the walk through the garden. He breathed in deeply, then ran his eyes over the beautiful blooms. Both sight and smell attracted him to this favorite area.
Glorfindel fell into step next to him then, and Elrond returned his attention to his friend's concerns.
"What is amiss?" asked Elrond.
Glorfindel looked at him for a long moment, holding his gaze until Elrond felt he might squirm like an elfling. Instead, he masked his face and met the stare impassively.
Glorfindel sighed and looked away, but after a moment he turned back and smiled. "Come up to the waterfall."
Elrond nodded, though he remained puzzled. Glorfindel's behavior was strange, and it was unlike the elf to be at a loss for words. Elrond suspected that he might not like whatever he was about to hear.
They reached the rocks near the waterfall and Elrond shed his robes to climb up after Glorfindel. The elf sat back and again studied him, but this time Elrond studied him back, seeking to know what was on his mind and what concerns were harbored in his heart. The two were normally transparent with each other, as happened when two had worked together and lived closely for so many years. To his surprise, Elrond became aware that he was the cause of his friend's concern.
His first inclination was to close his mind, but he restrained himself. While self-protection was a natural reaction, it would be an offence to their friendship. Never in the centuries he had known Glorfindel had the elf wished anything but good for him, and Elrond would at least consider any concerns he had. He decided to remain silent until Glorfindel was ready to speak.
"What do you see?"
Elrond's gaze had wandered in the ensuing silence, and he did not turn from the valley as he thought about Glorfindel's question. Instead he focused on what he did see. Some things were obvious: the lush valley, the towering mountains, the silver water of the falls and rivers. Closer to him was the house, his house, with a bell shimmering brightly in its tower, and the many outbuildings that housed the trades and industries that supported those who lived within. Even these were only things, things that would decay in time and need to be replaced. People moved about Imladris - tending the gardens, exercising the horses, reading in the sunshine, many singing as they worked or played.
"Home," he finally answered.
That one word summed up much of what was before him. For many centuries, Imladris had been an elven outpost, the last defense of Gil-galad's realm in the east: founded in an army's retreat, defended in war, the launching point for the armies of Elves and Men in the Last Alliance against Sauron. The feel of Imladris had slowly changed over the last century; domestic tranquility settling upon it much as gently falling snow blanketed the land, coating the upper surfaces before seeping into the hidden recesses below. Imladris was still a refuge, still could defend itself, and might one day launch another army, but it had grown beyond being only those things.
"Yet something is missing," Glorfindel replied.
Elrond glanced at the elf in surprise. "What is missing?"
Glorfindel turned an exasperated glare upon him. "I will be more specific, if you insist upon being dense. Something is missing from your life, Elrond. Someone."
Elrond looked away. He knew whom Glorfindel meant. He studied his hands, his eyes tracing the scars left from blade and fire. Shadow had weighed heavily on him upon his return from Mordor; grief and anger and loss had burdened his soul. She had not demanded anything of him, had not asked for anything he was not ready to give, yet had given freely of her love. Love, patience, understanding, all unconditional. When he had held her at a distance, she had accepted the boundary. She waited for him.
Glorfindel reached over and wrapped his hands around Elrond's. "She does not see the blood or the ashes. She does not fear the shadow that has lingered over you. She loves you. She will stand by your side and fight shadow as long as the battle lasts. You do her no favors by withholding yourself. I would even say that you insult her, for as time continues your actions become selfish."
Elrond squeezed the hands that held his, drawing comfort even as he accepted the rebuke. As he looked inside himself honestly, he realized that the very qualities he loved in Celebrían also frightened him. She gave of herself fully, lived fully, loved fully.
"An admirable quality," agreed Glorfindel, easily reading his thoughts.
"She has much in common with you," answered Elrond gratefully, and he basked in the glow that emanated from Glorfindel.
"You give fully in many ways, Elrond. You love people in a way that surpasses anyone I know, and what you give them comes from your heart. What is more difficult is receiving what Celebrían wants to give you. Too many of those you have entrusted with your heart have failed you . . . do not bristle at me," Glorfindel interrupted himself when Elrond would have pulled his hands away. "Gil-galad did not intend to die, your parents did not wish to leave you, and Elros could hardly have chosen other than he did. But the fact is they did leave you and each took a piece of your soul with them. If you bind to Celebrían, she will hold your heart, as you will hold hers. Do you trust her? Do you want to live again, both giving fully and receiving fully?"
Elrond carefully considered his response, even though his heart had answered 'yes' immediately. "I trust Celebrían, and I do love her." He had been studying his hands again, he realized, and lifted his head to meet Glorfindel's gaze. "You are right. I need to choose to live out what I know to be true."
Glorfindel's smile lit his face like the sun appearing through stormy skies. "Choose to live fully, Elrond. No matter what losses you may suffer, you will be the better for it."
"I so choose," said Elrond, and he felt a sudden lightness in his heart, as if a veil had been pulled back from his sight and he could see life in the full brilliance of its glory.
He rose, but when he would have held out his hand to Glorfindel, the elf instead laid back on the rock, folding his hands behind his head. "I choose to bask in the sun," said Glorfindel drowsily. "I will leave the courting to you."
Elrond laughed. "Thank you, my friend. I could not ask for one better."
Glorfindel yawned his playful dismissal, and Elrond leapt to the ground. He was entering the rose garden when he saw a familiar fall of silver hair, and his heartbeat quickened. Now that he had unchained his heart, he found he could not wait to see Celebrían. She turned as he approached, and a smile lit her face.
He walked to her, took her hand, and lifted it to his lips in greeting. She tilted her head back to look him in the face, and Elrond purposefully unguarded his heart and thoughts before her. Her eyes reflected her surprise, and he felt her joy when she realized what he was wordlessly communicating.
"Celebrían, will you walk with me?" He offered her his arm.
"Gladly." Her eyes twinkled and the smile she bestowed on him made his breath catch. He suddenly wondered why Glorfindel had not knocked some sense into him sooner.
In the days that followed, Elrond became aware of all the eyes that followed him and Celebrían each time they were together. That he was actively courting Celebrían was apparently obvious to all, though it was not as if they had not spent time together before this. If he walked into the rose garden with Celebrían, anyone already present would smile knowingly and some would wink, but then find reason to leave them alone. If they spread out a blanket on the hillside in the late evening to watch the stars appear, all other stargazers chose another hillside.
The exception to these convenient disappearances was, of course, their chaperones. Elrond and Celebrían were hardly elflings in need of a true chaperone, yet custom demanded it.
Glorfindel was unobtrusive and Elrond so used to his presence that he usually forgot the elf was near. Galadriel would occupy her hands with her needlework, and not once did Elrond notice her actually watching them. But then, he had long ago determined she would just know if any impropriety occurred. Celeborn, on the other hand, had grown to delight in the times he would find himself assigned to the task.
At first, he found a place where he was near enough to fulfill the role, then worked on a carving or read or simply sat and meditated. If Elrond met his gaze, the elf would dutifully glare at him, sending Celebrían into giggles.
On one particular day, Elrond and Celebrían went to the gardens and settled themselves on a blanket under a favorite beech tree. Elrond leaned against the tree and Celebrían settled in front of him, leaning back against his chest and resting her head on his shoulder. She sighed in contentment as he began to read to her, an epic poem of the love between Elu-Thingol and Melian that began during the Great Journey and ended with the death of Thingol and the fall of Doriath. Elrond had one arm wrapped about Celebrían, while his other hand held the book. Though intently reading, he was aware when Celebrían covered his hand and began gently stroking it. He shifted slightly so that he could clasp her hand.
Celeborn had been sitting in a tree some distance away, but he suddenly dropped from the tree above them, landing lightly next to them and nearly causing Elrond to drop his book. Celebrían held tightly to his hand, however, and they both looked at Celeborn as he stood over them. He said nothing, looking impassively at his daughter but turning his most intimidating glare upon Elrond. Elrond closed the book and tried to untangle his hand from Celebrían's, but she would not let go and did not sit up from her reclining position even when he tried to move beneath her.
Then Celebrían began to laugh, and Celeborn's eyes began to twinkle. Confused, Elrond finally looked down at Celebrían and groaned. When they had clasped hands and rested them against her, his arm had covered her breast. He was suddenly aware of how soft she was, and as she breathed in her chest rose to press against his arm and he could feel her nipple hardening beneath his touch. Heat rose in his face as he pulled his hand free and he forced himself to meet Celeborn's raised eyebrow.
"Celeborn," was all he managed to say. He turned instead to Celebrían, who was shaking in his arms. "Celebrían, please accept my apologies. I was unaware . . ."
Celebrían's laughter interrupted his apology, then she waved her father away. "Adar, enough! Go!"
Celeborn grinned in triumph and leapt back into the tree. Elrond and Celebrían looked up to see him perched above them with a smug grin on his face. When they turned to each other, Celebrían leaned forward and chastely kissed him, then settled herself back against his chest, clasped his hand and pressed it against her abdomen. "Please continue, Elrond," she said sweetly.
Elrond opened the book to the page he had been on and found his place, then took a deep breath and continued reading. He was just back into the rhythm of the poem when he felt Celebrían slide their clasped hands upward until his arm was impeded by the curve of her breast. Still she lifted his hand a little more until it was back where it had been when Celeborn interrupted them. She breathed in deeply while holding his hand rigid, and he felt her nipple harden beneath his thumb again. She exhaled contentedly and snuggled closer to him. Elrond managed to keep reading and was impressed to find he could actually count numbers, his usual trick for controlling his desire for her, while doing so.
A disgruntled 'hrmph' sounded above them, followed by a great deal of rustling, as Celeborn disappeared. The trees continued to shake in mirth for some time after.
Elrond awakened to sunlight streaming in the balcony doors, the air fragrant with Celebrían's roses in the garden beyond. He felt light in spirit, and his dreams had confirmed what he planned for the day.
Several months had passed since Glorfindel had spoken to him, and they had been some of the happiest Elrond could remember. He wondered how he had ever thought his life complete before this. On the surface, little had changed. Celebrían had, after all, resided in Imladris for many years, and he had loved her for many more before that. The difference was that he had finally opened his heart to her love and admitted his own. It was time for the next step. He opened a drawer of the small chest atop his bedside table and pulled out the silver ring that was nestled there. He opened the scrap of parchment that he had held on to for half an age, but he put the paper back in the drawer and kept only the ring. He no longer needed those words. Instead he quickly penned a short note, folded it, and slipped it into the sleeve of his robe.
He entered the dining room and moved to his normal seat, but waited until Celebrían had arrived to seat her before sitting himself. For long years Glorfindel had sat at his side, but his friend had begun deferring to Celebrían the day after he and Elrond had spoken. As Elrond sat in his own chair, he slipped the note into Celebrían's hand.
She unfolded the note and read it, her eyes passing over each syllable:
Where beech leaves sway
Silver encircles the promise
plighted this day
She looked up at him, her eyes shining and squeezed his hand under the table. Somehow they managed to eat and converse normally with others at the table, then he excused himself to meet with his advisors. Her eyes followed him as he left the room, and he found himself awaiting the noon hour with great anticipation.
Elrond fingered the ring in his pocket as he hurried along the path, eager for this noon tryst. A sound like tinkling bells caught his attention, and Celebrían appeared from the trees, taking his hand and pulling him off the path and into a small copse. Sunlight filtered through the leaves, dappling the stream that passed through the glade. The sound of the gently flowing water mixed with the slight breeze in the trees and harmonized with the laughter that flowed from her. Elrond could not help but laugh too She led him to a blanket she had spread out on the ground. Tantalizing smells drifted from a basket set to one side, and a bottle of wine sat next to two cups. Celebrían had already poured the wine.
"You have thought of everything," said Elrond. His voice faded as Celebrían stepped closer to him. He felt the heat of her body near his, then the slightest of contact as the skirt of her gown was lightly blown against his legs. His breath caught. He lifted her hand to kiss it. She smiled at him. He pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her and delighting in the way she molded against him, a perfect fit. She looked up at him, her eyes dark with desire, her lips parted, and he finally did what he had dreamed of doing for a long time. He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her. It was not the chaste kisses of their courtship, but of a lover claiming his beloved.
She responded to him, her hands sliding up his chest and around his neck, her breasts pressing against him and making him acutely aware of his desire for her. He was the one who finally ended the kiss, not only because of his need to breathe, but because his natural restraint reminded him not to go too far.
"Where is our chaperone?" he asked, suddenly aware that they were truly alone.
"They have given up on us," laughed Celebrían. "My adar said that watching grass grow was more interesting than watching us."
"Hmm . .." was all Elrond managed to answer as she pulled his head down and captured his lips, initiating an even deeper kiss than he had. His hands slid down her back, traveling over hips he had longed to caress, and he was fascinated by how well his hands fit over her buttocks. He lifted her, pulling her close to him and he heard her gasp as she became aware of his desire for her. When he would have released her, she tightened her grip around his shoulders, ensuring he did not.
Elrond did not release her, but he did stop his explorations. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply several times, and only when he had regained control of his passions did he open his eyes to gaze at this elleth who held his heart in her hands.
"Impatient old elves," he whispered. "Today we will surprise them."
Celebrían laughed with joy, clasping him even tighter for a moment and then releasing him. She smoothed her skirts and bodice, looking over her shoulder at the back of her gown for a moment. Elrond turned her around, concerned he had damaged her dress.
"What is wrong?"
"I am looking for burn marks," she replied mischievously, taking his hand and pressing it over her buttock. "Right there."
"I see," replied Elrond as he squeezed the firm flesh. "I believe I have corresponding burn marks here." He touched his chest, where her breasts had been pressed against him, then pulled her close again. He traced the neckline of her bodice with one finger, then grew bold when she moaned with pleasure and slipped his hand into her dress. Her nipples became even harder under his touch, and she threw her head back with pleasure.
Elrond bent and kissed her again, then withdrew his hand and smoothed her hair back from her face. "Shall we eat first? I would not want you to faint from hunger."
"I might enjoy fainting if I were to awaken in your arms," she teased, but then she gracefully sank to her knees next to the basket and began preparing their plates.
They ate in companionable silence. Then Elrond leaned back against the large beech tree and took the cup of wine Celebrían handed to him. He beckoned to her, pulling her down to sit in his lap when she came near.
"Celebrían, I love you. I wish to bind myself to you for all eternity. If you will have me, I would plight my troth with you today and offer this ring as a pledge of my love. Will you be my wife?"
Elrond held up a silver ring and when Celebrían held out her hand, he placed it upon her finger.
"I will be your wife," breathed Celebrían, and she took his face in her hands and kissed him. Then she reached into her bodice and pulled out another silver ring. "I thought you might find this on your own," she teased. "Elrond, I love you and wish to bind myself to you for all eternity. I plight my troth with you and offer this ring as a pledge of my love."
She slipped the ring on to his finger, then clasped his hand with hers, so that their rings touched. "I love you, Elrond. Have I told you that?" She laughed and leaned forward to kiss him again.
Elrond felt her joy and let his fëa reach to hers, baring his mind and thoughts and concentrating on her as they kissed. Her presence gradually flowered in his mind, filling him, and he gently pressed into her thoughts, whispering words of love into her soul.
He felt her surprise, but her trust in him was complete. She had thirsted to learn all he could teach her, and she opened herself to this experience, letting him envelope and surround her with his love. He was careful, for his skills in this area exceeded that of most elves, and he had learned from others that his fëa, perhaps due to his unusual combination of mortal, elven and maiar blood, could be overwhelming.
She finally ended the kiss, and he cradled her against him, her head tucking neatly under his chin. He could still feel her awe at their experience.
"Is that what it will be like once we are joined?"
"I believe so," he answered. "I have not been married, so I do not know exactly. I know what I feel when I am healing a married person though, and how I can sense their bonded mate."
She leaned back, pressing her hand against his chest, and looked at him speculatively. "Do we need to wait a full year?"
Elrond laughed and kissed her again. "Yes, my love, I see no reason why we should not follow convention."
"I do," teased Celebrían. When he raised an eyebrow to her in question, she allowed her hand to roam down his torso, and he groaned.
"Celebrían," he warned.
"Yes, my love?"
"I hardly want your adar here with his sword drawn or bow in hand."
She smiled sweetly at him, but stilled her hands. She sat upright, smoothing his tunic and her bodice. "Let us go tell my parents."
They collected the basket and blanket, and walked leisurely down the path. As they drew near to the house, they heard a buzz of activity, and as they came around the corner to the porch, they found what appeared to be all of the residents of Imladris gathered. The crowd cheered as they appeared and then began to sing.
"They are singing of our betrothal!" cried Celebrían. She whirled around to face Elrond. "How did they know?"
Elrond looked at the singing elves and shrugged, laughing. They climbed the stairs, nodding to the calls of blessing and well wishes, and walked to Celeborn and Galadriel, the apparent organizers of the affair, who stood waiting for them. Elrond bowed before them.
"I have your permission to marry Celebrían?" he asked, smiling.
"Yes, Elrond, you do," answered Galadriel without hesitation. Placing a hand on each of them, she spoke the ancient Noldor blessing.
Celeborn stood impassively with arms crossed over his chest while Galadriel spoke, but his eyes began to twinkle and a smile tugged on his lips when Celebrían turned to him.
"And you, Adar, do we have your blessing?' she asked.
He bent down and kissed her on each cheek. "You will have my blessing, my daughter." He lowered his voice then, and spoke in a whisper so soft only they heard him. "And you were chaperoned."
Celebrían's eyes widened and she glanced at Elrond then back at her father. Elrond felt the heat rising in his face, but decided that it might well be a bluff. Then Glorfindel was at his side, wrapping an arm about his shoulders and whispering, "Impatient old elves?"
Elrond managed to control the flush creeping up from his neck,
"Have you the consent of your house to marry Celebrían?" asked Celeborn.
"It was Gil-galad's desire that they wed," answered Glorfindel on his behalf, "and Círdan has sent his blessing." He unfolded a small parchment written in the mariner's unmistakable script and bowed, handing it to Celeborn.
Celeborn took the parchment and read, the slightest surprise upon his face. He looked to Glorfindel with a raised brow, but Glorfindel only laughed. He turned a stern look on Elrond next. "My son, if you gained permission a century ago but have only now plighted your troth, how long a betrothal might you be planning?"
Elrond had not expected to be met on the porch with the knowledge of their betrothal already public, nor had he expected Celeborn's question about consent. He had, after all, been courting Celebrían for a long time and had planned to write to Círdan after they plighted their troth. He realized Glorfindel had to have been in on the planning of this when he produced the document, but just as he was considering that there had not been time for Glorfindel to write to Círdan and obtain the document, Celeborn's humorous observation that the letter was over a century old sank in. Before he could manage a response, Celebrían spoke.
"Elrond believes we should follow convention and wait a year, but if you say we have had permission for a century, I would gladly forego the betrothal year . . ."
A hum of laughter filled the air around them, and Elrond became aware again of the many witnesses. Celeborn stepped toward them, and taking Celebrían's face in his hands, he kissed her brow again. "You did not have my permission, and thus must wait the year. Nice try though, my daughter."
As Elrond watched Celebrían with her father, he was struck yet again by the teasing and playfulness of their relationship. He could not think of any who would answer the Sindar lord with such cheek except his much beloved daughter. He thought of children he and Celebrían might have, of a daughter who would look to him as Celebrían did to Celeborn. The touch of a hand on his cheek pulled him back to the present and he met Celeborn's gaze as he spoke the blessing of the Teleri for himself and Círdan over them.
Celeborn returned the note to Glorfindel, who then held it to Elrond. Elrond instead clasped his arm, and said, "I would have your blessing too, my friend, if you will give it."
Glorfindel smiled and the light of Valinor lit him from within and he glowed. "I will offer the blessing of the third kindred, for that blood flows within you as well." Then placing a hand on each of them, Glorfindel spoke the ancient Vanyar blessing.
"At Mid-summer next year then," called Glorfindel.
Cheers again filled the air, and Elrond squeezed Celebrían's hand. She winked at him, then pressed herself against him and pulled his head down and kissed him. Elrond forgot all about the crowd around them as he kissed her soundly back.
When they pulled apart, the minstrels began to play and the elves cleared the porch, forming a circle on the grass. Elrond held his hand out to Celebrían, and they walked into the circle to begin the dancing. Celeborn and Galadriel joined them, and soon elves were whirling all about them.
It was dark when Elrond walked Celebrían to her rooms in the house. He held her tight, unable to believe how light his heart felt. He had not thought to know joy or happiness again after Gil-galad died, yet Ereinion had known otherwise. He was the one who had told Elrond to go home and marry Celebrían.
He had arrived home shadowed in despair, his heart heavy and full of grief. Celebrían had been patient and loving, taking only what he was willing to give while offering all of her heart to him. She had drawn him back into life and hope.
"Celebrían," he said.
She looked up at him with eyes full of love and contentment.
"Celebrían, I . . ." For one of the few times in his life, words failed him. He wanted to thank her, to express how much he loved her, how grateful he was for her, but no words seemed adequate.
She pressed a finger to his lips. "I love you, Elrond."