Authoress's Notes:This was written for the MCI December 2007 Challenge:
POV: Elrond (either 1st or 3rd person; writer's discretion)
This is an oldie, but a goodie. I am quite satisfied to have gotten around to revision—to revisit and revitalize.
For parents who must watch their children make mistakes
and anyone who has had to stand by, helpless, as loved ones self-destruct.
Brittle hopes embittered
here amidst the embers
of lives we sent up in flames.
Cold and bitter,
don't you shiver
long and hard tonight.
I scarce remember your name;
I scarce see the light.
—Cold and Bitter by Aimme
Snow is such a fickle thing. In due time, it falls gently, so delicately; it makes the world a strange, nevertheless inviting milieu. With ease, it masks the turmoil and dusts the damaged world to seem indelibly peaceful, as it quietly floats to kiss its final resting place; yet, it lends an air of blithe mischief as it gives reason to the affairs of lighthearted games, such as those most commonly encountered among the concerns of children.
Aye, it is effortless to recall my own children as the same; how they were to eagerly anticipate the first snowfall as the world grew colder, the days shorter. I remember small hands in my own, pairs of eyes bright with breathless expectation typical of young ones.
Arwen's compelling smile unveils itself in my mind's eye as I ponder these matters; in my ears, Elrohir's infectious laughter reminds me of the carefree spirit once so singular to him. The memory of the manner in which Elladan's eyes once glittered with happiness brings to mind the way his graver, quiet disposition counterpoised his siblings and settled over my heart.
I once could find myself amongst the fresh snow, blindsided and captured by their playfulness; Arwen's determination to outdo her brothers and Elladan's and Elrohir's craftiness—and of impish tendencies, I would be remiss to not mention my twins' bents toward mischief. Easily could they sway me to cast off the confines known as my lordly duties and to become simply father and friend.
Enthralling was my children's joy in its time; bereaved is my heart of it, and my spirit sinks low in these darkened days.
A miserable smile ghosts across my lips as I eye the softly falling snow through the muntin-panelled glass before me; my thoughts travel roads best known as the past and my heartache's ascending crescendo dims my mood to melancholy, as it descends upon me in excellent match to the gloomy hues colouring this day. Winter though it may be and the pure white of the snow represents an innocence long beyond me, the world is a bleak sight to my eyes.
When one has lost so much, is the beauty not truly detached from him? I have been there; I am again. Where is my hope? Where is the light? Aye, I know it is above, but in my hurt, I see it as only beyond reach, regardless of location.
I sighed, trailing my fingers over the cold glass. Once warmed by my family gathered near, winter was a season as well-loved as every other; long nights and weak sun were not lamentable, but rather adapted into our routine as we found means by which to enjoy each other and pass the hours of colder watches. Now, I notice the chill with an attention misplaced; the frigidity outside mocks the cold knot within my being.
Centuries past—nay, millennia or more for some now—but it comes to me as easy as one recalls the moments bare minutes past; little pranks I would find myself subscribing to -much to Celebrían's disapproval- when the twins were much younger come to the forefront, reminding me how small they once were, how unbound by trial and sorrow. They were witted and wily, crafty and ingenuous.
Where to did my little ones disappear? Where to has the time flown?
At one time, I may have regretted my encouragement of the twins' mischievous ways -for as they aged, childish pranks gave way to more in-depth tricks and larks, of which I did not always agree- but now I cling to the memories, for they were light of heart and free of spirit then.
For, as these falling ice crystals have another edge to their nature, also my sons. This side is a cold and bitter venom to their personalities not so when their mother was untouched by darkness, treated in such an uncouth and odious manner, afore leaving these lands for distant shores beyond our realm of passing as yet. In so doing, she unknowingly unleashed an estranged, cold-hearted doubled terror, mirror-bladed and together unstoppable in their grief-driven determination.
I do not know them now and it has been much too long since I did.
I suppose some of this is to my own damnable fault. I was not there as a father should have been when their mother departed. I offer no excuses for my account, save that I was consumed by my broken heart and the loss which had left me feeling lost; I could not find it in me to locate a will or attention to lend them comfort…yet, could I have -had the missing factors been found- when I could come by no comfort for myself?
Nay…I buried my pain in the tasks of my duties and the paper-shuffling that comes with the responsibilities of being lord of a people.
This excuse does not wash, for the waters run instead beneath a broken bridge I have dangled long and without relief from for so long. Validity is foreign to excuses made to justify selfish, shameful actions.
Time marches forward and all else must yield to its jurisdiction; I cannot change the past any more than I can predict a future in entirety. I am guilty and it is a stain I must bear for the duration of this onus. I abandoned my children when they needed me most…my sons, their comfort and anchor; my daughter, her trust and security.
Aye, my daughter…she has long since departed Imladris, finding consolation and healing in the land of her mother's birth. Oft times, I found it tough and painful to look upon her, for when I did, I saw my absent wife. How is a child to live with that burden? Her father, the one whose protection and love is to be her sanctuary and strong tower, never looks at her for the pain it brings him?
Nay, I do not fault Arwen for leaving.
Of my sons, though…how does one encapsulate the dilemma and magnitude that is what has become of them? Their absence of heart and life as they expend and drench themselves in wanton bloodshed has made the strong, honorable, and just men I once knew to disappear, removed from house and home in person and character.
I lean my head against the fern frosted window and sigh as these onerous thoughts bear their taxing weight down upon my distrait mind. There is almost anything I would part with gratis now to have my children returned to me, whole.
Long since has the time been, indeed, that I have awoken from my despair and bereavement; aye, I still mourn, but her departure is many centuries past…I would that I could be there for my sons and daughter now, if only they….
It is not to be, though. Things are far too broken for me to repair on my own. Forsooth, there is no Elf who can bring this family together again.
"My lord?" a female voice interrupts the trail of my regretting thoughts, and I know the owner well enough to recognise who she is without seeing her face; I do not bother to move from my position against the cold, hard glass, as unforgiving as my heart is of my inattentive and all-consuming grief.
"Yes, Niel?" I mumble her moniker, familiarity coming as unquestioned nature to me, as I lift my gaze from the frame to the outside world once again. Through the sparsely falling snow, I can see a dark figure on horseback approaching the house; my sight easily detects who the rider is through the weather.
"The scouts have reported that your—" Daniel, one of the house's handmaids who seconds as a messenger, begins her account, but I cannot pay attention to what I already know; when one considers what I know, it might be excusable.
I turn and hurry past her without thought, for I have seen him across the distance.
If but only one of my sons returns this afternoon, it is an ill-omen which darkens this day indeed. It can only mean -perhaps fatal- disaster has befallen them. Fear's edge spears through my senses and lends speed to my going.
The halls are empty; a normal occurrence now. It is as though the tragedy of my family has subdued all our lands. Souls dare not do more than subsist when fragmented pieces cannot be put back together again; our people mourn too, and with it comes a loss of former days of glory.
I arrive at the Receiving Hall and cast the front doors wide open as I rush out. The draft and chill should bring others to our aid, for I fear there will be need of it.
He pulls his horse to a halt and dismounts. My alarm piques a hundredfold when his left foot gives away beneath him and he stumbles. Swiftly, I am by his side and lay a hand on his arm to steady him. He turns weary, bloodshot eyes upon me, and my heart constricts tightly at the pain casting a glazed sheen over those expressive orbs.
"Adar—" he starts, but I pull him into a hug and he abruptly stops. I wonder at the thoughts in his tired mind; for of me hugging him, is it not awkward that after all I have done to them I would choose to show affection and be his father now? Quite so, if not entirely.
He does not pull back, but he remains rigid and does not return the embrace. Of his feelings, I wish I could discern them, but what right have I to his innermost thoughts after my contraventions and indiscretions on the part of familial justice? I have little, if any.
"Elrohir…" I breathe finally as I pull back. "Where is your brother?" I make myself at last ask the question which tears away at my heart for fear of the answer that is its consort. Looking into his face as I do, the manifestation of his overwhelming feelings becomes obvious to me. I reach up to gently wipe the tears from his eyes and take note anew of how he favours one leg.
He takes a deep breath and I assume it is to calm himself—yet there is a slight waver to his voice as he speaks, voice rough from fatigue and disuse and emotions too deep and cumbersome for me to even begin to touch upon. He tells me then a tale I'd rather not have heard. With horror and dread sinking down over my battering heart, I listen as he explains about a skirmish with Arda's most fell of beasts, the spawn of Darkness Himself, and the near massacre into which it turned.
The beasts had harassed a village and as the rangers and my sons, who have taken to riding with the Men of the Dúnedain, came to the aid of the ravaged people, the tides of death and battle changed. Many innocents were slain in the defense of life and livelihood from the foul creatures, the toll and loss promising to be a difficult affliction to overcome in the months and years to come.
I note that it would not be remiss of my people to afford aid to the debilitated villagers, the blessed -yet perhaps equally cursed- survivors of this bloodbath, should they so choose our gift. The victorious safeguarding of life is never condemnable or unworthy of rejoicing, but the grief will tax these people's hearts and wills for longer than one cares to think.
My prayers are for them; Eru help them all.
My truest attention, however, also the cause of the skipped beats of my father's heart and the dismay and alarm which takes quick capture of it, is the news concerning my eldest. Amidst the course of the battle's rage, he'd taken a sword-blow to the shoulder, one which has immobilized his arm. The abysmal cut may even determine the necessity of amputation, for its depth is not the only grievance to contend with—the blade carried poisons -toxics, no doubt- and has become taken with infection.
It festers even now, while we are still two long days' hard ride too far away. He could not be moved, I know, and brought to me. Four days…it will be four days since last Elrohir saw him, when he had taken with a tepid fever unbreakable and hallucinations which kept him unreachable.
Eru…my son…do not take my son from me. He's done injustices by Your name, but spare him. Please. Can healing not be administered rather than loss? Surely we are not so far gone….
"We need to leave right away, Adar." Elrohir insists, bringing me from my horror and back into the present moment.
Fear wraps her cold claws about my heart as I try to assimilate all the information my youngest son has given me. All I can do is manage a nod for him as he leans against his mount, worn and injured. I wish to examine the wound for myself, but from the expression he suddenly sends me I know he will allow for nothing but the preparations for us to depart at once for the debilitated village, wherein the life of son and brother hangs in the balance of variables too great to predict or mandate.
"We will leave as soon as can be done. In the meantime, Elrohir, you must sit." I grab his arm and place it over my shoulders; he, too weary to object, limps beside me over to the snow-dusted stairs. As I help him to his seat, I note the stable-hands who have come to care for the tired horse on which he'd returned.
He harshly waves me away, however, when I kneel to examine the leg he favours; the wince as he sank down had not escaped my notice and my healer's instincts were vying for proper attention. "Adar…what supplies you have need of gathering, please do so at once."
"In a moment, Elrohir." I assert, reaching for the wounded limb.
He slaps my hand away, scowling and hoarsely warns me off, "Adar!"
My heart goes out to him, for the exhaustion bearing down on him, the worry eating away at him, and the ill cast to his own health. I cup his face and my thumb brushes over his cheek; I note the chill to his pallid skin. His breath hitches and he leans into my touch. For a moment, the barriers and distance between us begin to collapse and close; my son still knows his father and responds to the bond of parent and child.
"My lord," Daniel's voice breaks the spell moments later and Elrohir's eyes open with a start; everything that had begun to be undone between us, is back in the blink of an eye.
He pulls away from my hand and looks at me with imploring. "Adar, please…"
I look up at Daniel and note the two bags in her hands, one for personal and the other, I know, would be a healer's pack—herbs and implements and bandages.
Looking back to Elrohir, I nod and come to my feet. As I turn, I note Glorfindel, faithful sentinel and friend, has come upon the scene at some time and taken charge of the situation. He leads two fresh mounts over to us and a stable-hand leads two more, for us to trade the steeds out as we ride with all haste to Elladan's aid.
Glorfindel comes to my side and I meet his gaze; for a moment, we exchange a silent communication of the serious situation and emergency upon us all.
"May Eru's benediction and love lend speed and clarity to you both and strength to your eldest," he murmurs with heartfelt reverence.
I give him a nod; it is a silent expression of gratitude. However, it is yet with a heavy heart that I mount.
I cannot handle the loss of another…I have taken beyond too much of a blow from the loss of my beloved Celebrían; my regrets and guilt tear me apart more so with each passing day; the revenge seeking of my sons lends strength to this assault…my eldest's life hanging by a thread brings near ruin to my spirit once again.
Eru helps us all.
Notes: You recognise Daniel as a modern boy's name; however, Dan is elvish and with a proper feminine ending (iel) the name Daniel is correctly used.
Adar - Father
Milieu - the surroundings or environment that somebody lives in and is influenced by
Muntin - a strip separating panes of glass
Onus - (1) burden: a duty or responsibility; (2) blame
Onerous - difficult: representing a great burden or much trouble
Distrait - inattentive: inattentive and slightly distracted or absent-minded (literary)
Gratis - free: received or given without payment or obligation
Contravention - the violation of a rule or law: the breaking of a rule or law
Abysmal - (1) horrible: extremely bad or severe; (2) very deep: similar in depth to that of an abyss
Window frost (also called fern frost (referred to as such in this story) or ice flowers) forms when a glass pane is exposed to very cold air on the outside and moderately moist air on the inside.