None of this is mine, it all belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien.
A Tale of Elrond and Celebrían
…and it was then that Elrond first saw Celebrían, and loved her,
though he said nothing of it.
JRR Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn
Chapter One Chance Encounter
Elrond moved his fingers over the centre of his forehead, softly massaging the skin, trying to make the ache leave. His attendants knew better than to disturb him, not certain what it was that plagued the Lord of Imladris.
It was tiredness, and he was well aware that he had overworked himself, trying to forget the other thing that troubled him so. Somewhere in his mind, it said that he would have to go out this evening, leave the silent haven of his own rooms, for one of the large feasts that had taken place every couple of nights since the first of his guests had begun arriving.
A vision of a person, at the same time made the headache worse and better.
It made something in his stomach flutter. He cherished that vision, fully aware that the object of his affection had not given him even the slightest indication of returning the feeling. Not that he dared look for it.
And suddenly it were the words of his old friend and Master, the High King of the Elves, Gil-galad, teasing him as he found him in one of the libraries of Lindon, bent over annals and maps, puzzling together the histories and myths of Middle-earth.
'Peredhil, you spend too much of your time here. Go out, find love.'
Elrond smiled at the recollection; the High King himself had never married. Gil-galad lived by the saying 'Do not as I did, but as I say'.
Even now, his voice seemed to linger in the room.
'True love is a blessing, meldir, but, like beauty, it lies in the eye of the beholder. If true love is what you are looking for, discern between lust and love as you do between animosity and friendship.'
Elrond had never seen Gil-galad do so himself.
But it made a smile slip over his lips, nevertheless.
It disappeared as he once again considered his present situation.
How can one be blessed by true love if the sentiment is not returned?
To lapse into the same folly as Celebrimbor…
Yet Elrond found, perhaps in that memory, also the courage to get on his feet and make ready for dinner.
Celeborn stood talking near the entrance of the dining hall and greeted Elrond with a broad smile, ending his conversation and joining him.
'I have convinced Glorfindel to sing for us tonight, after dinner.'
Elrond raised an eyebrow as he returned an amused smile.
Despite of being one of the haled singers among the Elven Lords, Glorfindel rarely gave in to such appeals, making the times when he did an enjoyable occasion.
'I did not know he took requests?' Elrond said, a soft irony melting through his tone.
'An exception to prove the rule.' Celeborn shrugged as they walked to their places at the table.
As he reached his chair, Elrond wondered how long he had known Celeborn. It had been so long… They had met when Celeborn came to Lindon, when Elrond had only recently arrived there himself; before many of the Noldor living there and in Greenwood had decided to move to Eregion, near the West-gate of Moria. Already married to Galadriel, who had come with him, they had sat together during many councils with Gil-galad, as the evil had begun to stir again. Much later, Celeborn had been near Eregion when Sauron attacked that fair city.
Elrond clearly recalled the moment when Gil-galad had sent him, together with a force, to Eregion, at the same time asking Númenor for help. The road had been too long and he had not arrived in time to put his army between the city and the Enemy, knowing the help from Númenor would not arrive for many years. Sauron had been approaching Eregion when Celeborn made a manoeuvre to drive him back; but just long enough for his force to join Elrond's. They tried together to keep Sauron from reaching the city, but his host was far greater than theirs; vast enough to both hold them off and to advance on Eregion. They barely succeeded to clear the way for the fleeing Elves from the city to join them, staying only until Sauron, after failing to torture out the location of the Three Rings, in his dark anger, with Celebrimbor's body pierced with Orc-arrows hung upon a pole, turned his mind to battle again.
They would have certainly been overwhelmed if Sauron's army had not been attacked in the rear by a force sent out from Khazad-Dûm, joined with Elves from Lórien. Elrond had been able to escape, and, forced away northwards, had established the stronghold of Imladris.
But after they arrived there, it lay besieged by an army sent after Elrond's force, holding him enclosed while Sauron made way for Eriador. They held on until finally the Númenórean fleet arrived, enabling Gil-galad to de-route Sauron's attack on Eriador, and causing him to flee back to Mordor.
Leaving Imladris, Elrond had met Gil-galad's force, together crushing the army between them. Jointly they had returned to Imladris, now two centuries ago, and it was there that Galadriel, looking for her husband, found Celeborn a short time ago.
Gil-galad, setting out to inspect the remnant of his troops which still camped alongside the Bruinen, had promised to return in a matter of days, at which time a council would be held. Elrond suspected the High King had been waiting for the arrival of the Lady Galadriel to call it officially.
But for now Elrond was left with his guests. The Last Homely House was filled with visitors, of whom some would stay, their homes demolished, while others would return with their commanders. Back to Lindon or one of the western strongholds newly established by the Númenóreans.
Or to Belfalas, for that was where he heard Celeborn and Galadriel speak of. From all the places in Middle-earth, the farthest they could go.
All those things went through his mind, as he took his seat at the end of one of the long tables. Letting his eyes wander over the faces of the people around the table, his gaze was drawn to hers, he could not help it.
Celebrían's hair was the radiant silver of her father, with a golden lustre that came from her mother. Unlike her mother though, she wore her hair in braids, carefully twisted; an unimaginable weaving of silver-gold strands. In her white face the blue eyes stood out, and Elrond suspected that whatever they rested on was blessed.
Possibly it was therefore that he was startled when he found them resting on him. He looked away and back again, and felt himself a fool when their eyes met again; hers apparently not having left his face. As he felt a glow reaching his cheeks, not sure whether it showed, he was relieved to see Glorfindel entering the hall and coming towards him. It gave him time to recover.
'Word from Gil-galad, he lets you know he will be returning later this evening. And he asks you to assemble the Council tomorrow morning.'
'Very well.' Elrond returned, as Glorfindel took his seat next to him.
Celeborn leant forward and addressed Elrond.
'Gil-galad is returning?'
'Yes, he calls for a Council meeting tomorrow morning.'
Elrond carefully got hold of his drinking-cup and sipped it, not truly tasting the wine, his mind wandering to the assembly tomorrow, the voices of his guests reduced to a murmur.
Dinner drawing to a close, Elrond rose, and purely out of courtesy offered his arm to Celebrían, as Celeborn did with Galadriel, the lords escorting the ladies. Her hand resting on his made the hairs on his neck rise, and he realised what he had done. He was determined to conceal it nevertheless.
'You will stay with us, Master Elrond? Or do your duties call too vehemently?' Celebrían asked. Her voice was soft but clear, her words meant only for him.
The initiation of a smile lit up his face. 'Though my responsibilities weigh heavy this evening, I have no intention of missing Glorfindel singing.'
Only in his mind he added: Nor the pleasure of your company.
Celebrían smiled with him as they entered the Hall of Fire and the singing commenced. As the voice of Glorfindel joined in, the others softened. Few unifying with him, most breaking off to listen.
Elrond knew the general line of the story Glorfindel sang, but was well aware every Elf gave his or her own interpretation when singing of the Ainulindalë. He heard of Ilúvatar, and the singing of the Ainur, the Holy Ones; the disharmony of Melkor; and finally the coming of the Firstborn and the Followers. There was a moment of silence before there was applause; it made Glorfindel bow with a smile. Elrond got on his feet, nodding to Celebrían, before joining Glorfindel and walking towards the exit of the hall.
'You will take care of my guests, Glorfindel?'
'I will, do not worry.'
Elrond cast back a look, gazing at Celebrían as she listened to the chanting, which had begun anew. He was thankful for the partial darkness as he entered the smaller hallways of the Last Homely House. Making his way towards the gardens, through which Gil-galad would have to come when he arrived, Elrond ventured to speak out loud, only the stars witnessing his sigh.
'Awaits me the same fate as Celebrimbor?'
The Jewel-smith had given his heart to Galadriel, unattainable to him since she loved another, and possibly sealed his fate by doing so.
Elrond had always considered Celebrimbor's actions foolishness, but now he thought he understood at least a small part of them. He recalled his own relief when, in the end, Celebrimbor saw through Gorthaur's scheme, and chose to go to Galadriel before coming to Lindon.
Gil-galad and Elrond had warned the Elves of Eregion against the offering of knowledge by the Dark Lord, but they longed for it so desperately that it destroyed them in the end. They too, had sealed their fate long ago.
He pushed his thoughts aside as he made out the sound of horses. Then the voice of the High King of the Noldor, bellowing in his joyful manner: 'Master Elrond, I was told you have a feast going on, will your guests not miss you?'
Elrond could see the smile on Gil-galad's face as he dismounted and they shortly embraced.
'And leave other guests unattended, my Lord?' He replied.
Gil-galad rested his hand on Elrond's shoulder for a moment.
'I am honoured… But we need to address issues, before the Council tomorrow.'
Together they walked towards Elrond's private library and study; the last male descendants of Finwë left in Middle-earth.
Gil-galad refused the wine Elrond offered him and, with a more serious demeanour than was his custom, sat down at the large rectangular table.
'Elrond, I need to speak in earnest with you, and your promise that you will not speak of it to a soul.'
Elrond sat down across the table and nodded. 'You have my word, my Lord.'
'It has been brought to my attention that the Dark Lord is extending his power eastwards. You know of the Rings Celebrimbor made?'
Elrond nodded and began to enumerate.
'Nine for Men, Seven for the Dwarves, Three for the Elves, all to be ruled by the One Ring, made by the Dark Lord in the fires of Orodruin.'
'Even before coming to Eregion, the Enemy knew where the Nine were, and he tortured the location of the Seven out of Celebrimbor… But Celebrimbor did not betray the Three…'
Elrond watched Gil-galad collect a small object from somewhere inside his travel clothing. Unfolding the silky cloth around it, a ring appeared. The attached stone was first colourless, but then suddenly, as if a wind blew away the clouds on a summer day, a blueness surged through it. Elrond watched Gil-galad put down the sapphire ring, together with the material it had been wrapped in.
'Vilya…' He whispered.
'I knew you would guess, and I do not doubt he too has already guessed, where they are, Elrond. I cannot take the chance of two Rings staying together.'
Elrond looked up at him, inquisitively.
'Celebrimbor entrusted them to you?'
'Once he became aware of Sauron's scheme. He took the rings, meaning to conceal them and gave Nenya to Galadriel. The others he gave into my keeping, pleading me to find guardians for them. You know that it has powers. The ability to protect Imladris and it's people. I want you to take it.'
Elrond brought his hand to his head and lightly touched his temple. The headache had returned. When he looked up he saw Gil-galad was intently watching him. He nodded.
'I will do as you ask, my Lord.'
'Thank you, my friend.' Gil-galad left the chair, re-folded the ring, brought it over to Elrond and left it in front of him, as if he feared that the Master of Imladris would reconsider. 'Now get some rest, for the day will be long tomorrow and you look tired.'
Elrond mumbled a 'good night', but didn't move as he watched the bundle lying in front of him. Finally he picked it up and took it with him. Burying it in a pocket of his robes, he decided to leave it there until he found a safer place to keep it.
His mind never wandered to Celebrían that night.
It was not long after first daylight that the bell calling the assembly to the Council sounded. Elrond watched the representatives of the peoples of Middle-earth arrive. At the terrace looking out over the valley he bade them welcome.
Then he perceived all were present.
'I welcome you all to the Council. The first of many, even though its forming should have been under different circumstances.'
He went over the faces of those in attendance as he sat back; High-king Gil-galad, Oropher King of the Silvan Elves in Greenwood the Great and his son Thranduil, Glorfindel, Celeborn and Galadriel of Lórien, and Círdan of the Havens, as well as a young Elf named Erestor; Durin the Deadless, dwarf Lord of Khazad-Dûm and his two sons; Númenórean admiral Ciryatur and Atanamir, son of Tar-Ciryatan King of Númenor.
It was Gil-galad who stepped forward and began to report on what had happened since Sauron had been driven out of Eriador, back to Mordor. He spoke for a long while.
'…The peace we have now is only pretence.' He concluded.
'So you say, my Lord High-king, but I fear what you propose… Are the Elves of Greenwood the Great to be protected as those of Eregion and Eriador were? Methinks they should better trust on their own, as to prevent disappointment in the end.' Oropher sneered, a scornful smile on his face, as well as on his son's.
'Peace will not return unless Sauron is overcome.' Celeborn softly spoke, his eyes not meeting Oropher's, with whom he had often argued about cooperation with Lórien. Something which Oropher had contemptuously called 'intrusion'.
Oropher muttered something under his breath, and Elrond was glad to see Celeborn let the remark pass, fearing an open argument between the two.
Glorfindel began to speak before anyone else could.
'But pray tell, what will be done with the people of Eregion? It is known Eriador is being rebuild as we speak, but are we to rebuild Eregion as an Elven stronghold in the East, rather than simply maintain it here in Imladris as it is?'
Gil-galad nodded thoughtfully, but Elrond knew at once this had not been the first time the High King had discussed the subject with Glorfindel.
He suspected they had beforehand decided to bring it up.
'It is my opinion too, that it would be more prudent to make Imladris the main stronghold here, and to make its master my Vice-regent in Eriador. Especially now that we have to keep our eyes out for any sign that could warn of Sauron's return.'
Gil-galad rested his twinkling eyes on Elrond, who tried not to let his surprise get the better of him. He got on his feet and bowed his head.
'It would be an honour, my Lord.'
Gil-galad nodded again and looked around the circle of chairs.
'Perhaps we shall convene for now, and continue in the afternoon?'
Consenting sounds were heard, and the more private conversations were continued as most left the terrace, leaving only Gil-galad and Elrond.
'I wish you had told me of this.' The younger Elf said, walking over to the balustrade and looking down into the valley.
'And take away the pleasure of seeing that look on your face?' Gil-galad returned, the teasing tone very apparent. 'I merely gave you the official title of the duty you have been fulfilling for many years.'
As Elrond walked into the garden below his house, hands behind his back, he wasn't sure if he should be glad and honoured or the opposite. His mind somewhere else, he found himself confronted with the likeness that had previously been in his every thought.
Celebrían stood with her back towards him, her gaze resting on the sight, the riverbed below hidden by trees, only the sound of water betraying its presence. As he neared, listening to the chatter of the birds which perched on the branches, she turned towards him.
'You must be proud to be the lord of such a peaceful place.'
Elrond could do nothing but smile, folding his hands before him.
'It has surpassed the function it had in the beginning.'
'Is it not still a refuge?' She returned, as a small butterfly fluttered around her and she followed it with her head, letting it fly off as she fully faced Elrond.
He nodded slowly and watched Celebrían turn back again.
'I fear I shall have to leave, though. My mother longs for the sea.'
Elrond nodded again and moved beside her, the enchantment of Imladris driving away the other things on his mind.
Or perhaps it wasn't Imladris…
'Do you never feel the unquiet your father felt?' She asked him, out of the blue.
Unprepared for such a question, he considered it a moment.
'It seems I have my mother's fondness for the stars… And they can be found everywhere in Middle-earth.'
Celebrían smiled curiously.
'Is it true your mother was Elwing?'
Elrond nodded, feeling his heart pound in his chest as he looked at her.
'She was called so because she was born on a night of stars, their light glittering in the spray of the waterfall of Lanthir Lamath beside her father's house.'
'There are always stars in the old stories, aren't there?' Celebrían said, her gaze locked on something unseen, dreaming away.
Elrond suspected the question was not directed at him and stayed silent.
'You saved my father.' Was the next thing flung at him.
He bowed his head, the disappointment of the associated defeat still poignant, even after so many years.
'We should have saved Eregion. Instead we needed saving ourselves.'
'But you helped so many that fled from the city, people who would not have survived without protection.'
'If only we had heard sooner, I could have prevented it…'
'Perhaps… But possibly you would have perished, like Celebrimbor. There would be tales made about you now.'
Elrond smiled at the young Elf-lady, who in a few words reminded him that that which lies in the past cannot be changed, and sometimes for the better.
'Have you ever been to Lindon?' He asked her. 'The minstrels there are known for their remarkable tales.'
'I was born in Lórien, after my parents left Lindon, and some time before they went to Eregion. I have not had the pleasure of visiting the High-king's city yet.'
It was then that the bell sounded again, and Elrond took his leave from Celebrían. The chance encounter gave his mind a new place to explore when the council members pulled each other into superfluous discussions.
Peredhil – Elrond's second name 'half-elven'
meldir – masculine form of friend
the Ainulindalë is the first part of the Silmarillion
Gorthaur is the Sindarin name for Sauron
Orodruin is the Sindarin name for the 'Mountain of Blazing Fire' in Mordor (basically Mount Doom)
Greenwood the Great would later be called Mirkwood, when the shadow of Sauron moved over it.
There are several sources that claim different times at which Gil-galad gave Vilya to Elrond. I chose the one in Unfinished Tales, which indicates the time of the first Council.