Glorfindel bent to study the tracks. At least six horses had past here, but four had continued around the perimeter and were obviously ridden by elves assigned to the watch. Only two continued back towards the gorges.
"These must be Celthúl's tracks. The prints clearly show that one horse was following the other. They were not riding side by side. Although who was following whom, I can not guess."
"Curious, who would Adar have gone to meet?" Elrohir wondered. "And why would he not tell someone?"
"Perhaps he thought that he would only be gone a short while or, "Celeborn paused.
"The one he was meeting was someone who valued their privacy or one who might not be welcome among us." Glorfindel finished. His eyes narrowed as he thought about who might fit in the later category. "Is that why you sent Erestor back?" The silver lord only shrugged and spurred his horse forward. Glorfindel shook his head and mumbled something that Elrohir did not hear before mounting Asfaloth.
"After you my Lord." The Golden Warrior motioned Elrohir forward. "I hope you will not prove as slippery as your Adar when I am sworn to your service."
"Perhaps he may slip away to meet an Elleth." Celeborn's voice floated back to them. "Did you ever divulge how you were assaulted by acorns when you were trying to track a mysterious harpist?" Glorfindel's eyes narrowed. There were few who knew that story of whom Celeborn was not supposed to be a part.
"Acorns?" Elrohir smile jovially. "When was this?"
"After the last alliance when your Adar and Naneth were courting." Glorfindel grumbled in feigned offense, though he was happy to hear the younger son of Elrond laugh. They rode beyond the perimeter and came to the main path through the trollshaws. Two set of prints turned into just one and veered off to a narrow path that led right off the main road.
"Celeborn, I shall go first." Glorfindel ordered, unwilling to expose the Sindar Lord to unknown danger.
"As you wish." Celeborn said amiably. Glorfindel maneuvered Asfaloth forward, and then stopped at the fork in the road, scanning beyond for danger. He could sense that Elrond was close by, but he could still not contact him. If Elrond did not respond to his mental calls, was he too weary to judge who was near? He nudged Asfaloth forward slowly for a clear view of the cleft in front of them. Surprisingly, it opened into a narrow grassy plain. A great chestnut colored steed grazed in the distance.
"Eärendilion Mellon-nin, I hope your sword is lowered and you are about to welcome us." He called out in Quenyan, for enemies would not comprehend such words. Then he spurred Asfaloth forward into the cleft. Curiously, the ground only showed signs that one had passed here. Elrohir and Celeborn road up behind him. All three scanned their surroundings for the elusive elf. A sword clearly rang as somewhere unseen it was sheathed.
"You have come to retrieve me?" The familiar voice murmured as if distracted and held amusement. It bounced oddly off the high walls of the cleft leaving its owner's positioned cloaked. He exchanged glances with Celeborn and Elrohir, but neither of them had located the elusive Lord of Imladris. "I was in no danger and was heading back shortly." The voice hung in the air as if he meant to say more. Glorfindel was reminded of a young and overworked Herald, who he had dragged back to a tent. He was behind them – somewhere between their position and the entrance near the main path. Glorfindel saw Elrohir grin, for the last comment came verbatim from excuses that he and his brother had often given to their Adar when they were young. It was Celeborn who answered lightly.
"We were not questioning your right to travel as you see fit, nor were we doubting your prowess with weapons." But Celeborn's softly spoken words produced no response. They slowly scanned the area carefully listening for the clues for the Peredhel's whereabouts as Celeborn added more loudly. "It was unlike you to disappear without leaving word. Glorfindel, Elrohir, and I merely decided to look for you."
"Why did you come here?" Glorfindel spoke loudly. His voice faded away, bringing only long moments of silence. Glorfindel wanted to ask why Elrond had taken the trouble to obscure the tracks of his companion. Was that companion still near? Glorfindel tensed at that thought but kept his feelings to himself. The first order of business was to get the Peredhel to join them.
"My counsel was sought." The voice was almost surreal, and the next comment was murmured. "I have always given counsel."
"Adar, where are you?" Elrohir called as he tried to focus on their shared bond.
"Your presence is sought now. I sense it is only the four of us here." Glorfindel paused then continued in more winsome tones. "Come share a bit of miruvor. You can not have slept long. You must be tired."
The gray rock shimmered as a figure stepped forward, seemingly materializing before their eyes. Hands seem to hover in the air as Elrond slipped off his hood. Static caused his hair to float around him like smoke, giving a ghostly impression much like an imagined shape floating in the fog. "Was this related to their fay heritage?" Elrohir wondered for he could here the undertones of the strange music that had gripped him just a handful of days before.
"Adar, how stealthy." Elrohir exclaimed, but his father did not acknowledge him.
"Did you find who you sought?" Glorfindel queried slowly, his eyes trying to catch Elrond's silver ones. Elrohir could feel him focusing his power as the golden glow from Aman spilled from his hroa. Elrond remained silent but turned towards Glorfindel as if only now seeing him. The former Lord of Imladris stepped down from the ledge and walked slowly towards them, obviously still lost in other thoughts but drawn by Glorfindel's light. His footfalls echoes lightly off the walls. Both his approach and the gentle echo of footstep endowed him with more substance. He halted in front of Glorfindel.
"Good morning Mellon-nin." Glorfindel pushed the worry from his voice and greeted the Peredhel with a warm embrace. "You led us on a merry chase." Elrohir saw a golden glow pass between them, visibly strengthening his Adar.
"Us?" Elrond repeated only now turned to see his son and Celeborn. He smiled suddenly and returned the greeting. "It is just the three of you? You did not bring Erestor?"
"Only the three of us came." Celeborn did not let his concern seep into his voice.
"Who did you meet, Adar?" Elrohir stepped up and held his hands out, palms up in the traditional sign healers use to ask permission to assess a patient. Elrond shook his head for 'no' and would have stepped away had Glorfindel not still had his arm around him.
"By what force did you hold him back?" Humor crept into Elrond's voice, which now also took on more of his characteristic tone.
"Being the former Lord of Lothlorien still counts for something." Celeborn smiled wryly. "We suspected that perhaps one of the exiled contacted you." Silver eyes marked each of them closely as if coming to a decision.
"You are all to remain here after I sail." Elrond yawned uncharacteristically. The others kept silent as they waited for an explanation. "You may come across one who has wandered in exile for two ages of this world. I beseech you to keep an open mind." They all drew in a breath as they pondered the probability of an encounter with the son of Feanor. Although both Glorfindel and Celeborn had suspected this, to hear it aloud was something else. Elrohir stood puzzled and waited for his father to continue.
"He will not willing seek out elves. But he wanted to speak with me before I sailed. It was a tune that alerted me to his presence. He improvised it to calm and sooth us after the attack on Sirion. After that, Elros and I clamored for it whenever we were afraid, which occurred all too often those first years in Himring." Elrond closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Glorfindel kept his arm around the Peredhel in support. The others stood gaping, but no one dared to interrupt. "Aye, Maglor Feanorian has done deeds that warranted exile, but two Peredhil would have died at Sirion or shortly after if it was not for his intervention. I spent much of the night talking with him. His eyes were clear and held a new light –one with peaceful purpose, though he says he is still under the sentence of exile. I could readily read his heart and thoughts. I believe he now follows the right path. He has spent much of the past two ages trying to atone for his ill deeds – living, working and teaching the second born." Elrond gave a low whistle that made the rest of them jump. Celthúl neighed in response and quickly came to nuzzle his friend's hand.
"He is a kinslayer nonetheless." Celeborn murmured almost reflexively, although he dearly hoped that his wife's cousin had repented of his deeds. Elrohir stepped forward to lay his hand on his Adar's shoulder and assess his Adar's spirit. He sensed a great weariness, but his Adar was otherwise unharmed. Elrond squeezed his son's hand reassuringly then whispered to Celthúl as he mounted.
"He was." Elrond agreed as he mounted, a clear signal that their conversation was at an end. "Others have passed judgment and rendered his sentence. There is good in his heart and I believe he is …. I pray that someday the Valar will declare his sentence served and allow him to return home."
"You used your own strength when you have none to spare." Elrohir bit back his next thought, one his Daeradar must be thinking. "Shared what little healing power you have with a Kinslayer.
"Healing works both ways, Elrohir." Elrond pushed a wayward strand behind his ear then rubbed at his eyes. "My heart is lighter for seeing him. I hold to hope." Glorfindel and Celeborn exchanged knowing looks as they resolved not to push the Peredhel for further information. It was obvious that Elrond was tired but content.
"You will be glad to know that last night everyone agreed to spending an extra day at our current location before crossing the last bridge tomorrow." Glorfindel smiled wryly then added. "Many were happy to frolic in the clear waters of the Hoarwell. Others spent far too long celebrating last night." Elrohir had the good sense to blush.
"It is normal to give the horses a rest on the fifth day." Celeborn said solemnly, though his eyes were twinkling merrily. "I am sure you calculated that before imbibing last night." The journey back was quicker and more jovial. Scouts sent signals when they spotted the Lords afar. Galadriel subtly maneuvered the others away, allowing Elrond to ride to his tent with few witnesses.
"Come Adar, it has been far to exciting a day for me after such a late night." Elrohir made a jest on his own behalf. "I, for one, could use a short nap. I am sure Glorfindel would not mind caring for the horses."
"As you wish my Lords." Glorfindel dismounted and came forward to claim the other horses, executing an exaggerated bow before Elrohir. Elrond, Elrohir and Celeborn went into the small tent. Galadriel smiled at their entrance.
"You are tired Elrond." Her voice floated gently over them. "Come eat and then take your rest. There will be plenty of time later to discuss the events of this day." She rose and kissed her son in law on the brow before linking hands with her beloved spouse and leaving the peredhil to their own devices.