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Thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter
Chapter 12: Coming Home
Glorfindel felt himself dozing off in the heat of the sun, blankets, and fire and forced himself to wakefulness. Across the fire, he could see Celeborn struggling to stay awake as well.
"How does Elrond fare?" Glorfindel asked.
Celeborn jumped slightly, his eyes focusing as he also regained wakefulness. He stroked the forehead and dark hair of the elf in his arms, felt that his skin had warmed, and then placed a hand over Elrond's chest and felt that his life force beat strong. Elrond stirred at his touch.
"He improves," Celeborn finally said. "He should wake soon. How are my grandsons?"
"Cold still, but Elladan looks better," Glorfindel reported. He too found that he kept touching the ones in his care, as if he were afraid they might disappear at any moment. "He stirs, but Elrohir remains unmoving."
Celeborn nodded. He recognized the need to keep talking, that they might stay alert. "Have you ever been so cold?"
Glorfindel smiled grimly. "Not since we crossed the grinding ice of the Helcaraxë. The water in that cave was nearly freezing. I am sure I felt ice."
Celeborn was silent for a moment as he continued to stroke Elrond's hair. "If he had not gone down the hole after them they would be dead," he finally said softly.
Glorfindel regarded Celeborn thoughtfully, seeing the look of great tenderness with which he beheld Elrond.
"I wish to be angry at him for placing himself into such danger, yet I cannot when I consider that his rashness saved Elladan's and Elrohir's lives," Celeborn continued.
Elrond stirred at that moment, his eyes blinking open and focusing on Celeborn, and he again struggled at the confines of the blanket. Celeborn sat up, pulling Elrond upright with him and letting the elf lean against him. Elrond's face changed to concern instantly as he saw his sons. He tried to stand, but his exhausted muscles declined to cooperate and he sank back against his father-in-law.
"I think you need a little longer to recover, Peredhil," Celeborn said as he saw the look of weariness cross the elf's face.
Glorfindel recognized the stubborn set to Elrond's jaw and saw determination flicker in his eyes. He stood and picked up Elladan, carrying him the short distance and placing him in Elrond's lap.
Elrond immediately began to examine the elfling, his hands lightly skimming his son's face, then pushing the blanket aside to run across his chest, abdomen, legs and arms, focusing on the splint that bound his right wrist. He finished by placing his own hand over the child's heart, and Glorfindel intervened when he saw Elrond begin to enter the healing trance. He placed Elrohir in Celeborn's other arm, and then quickly slipped his hand between Elladan and Elrond's hand.
"No, Elrond, you have no healing energy to give," Glorfindel said gently but firmly. He slid to the ground and supported Elrond from behind as Celeborn turned his attention to Elrohir.
Fortunately, Elladan chose that moment to open his own eyes and the first thing he saw was his ada. Elladan's unsplinted hand tangled in the blanket wrapped around his father, and he clung tightly to him as tears streamed down his face.
"You were so brave, Elladan," Elrond said as he hugged his son close. "I am so proud of you."
Elladan sniffed a few times and drew in a deep breath, gaining control over his quivering lower lip, and then he brushed the tears away from his eyes. "What of Elrohir, Ada?" he asked in a trembling voice.
Celeborn held Elrohir, his silver hair falling as a curtain between the elfling and his brother and father. As Glorfindel had done before him, he touched the elfling's feä and strengthened it, giving as much of himself as he could to heal the hurts and draw the little one close.
"Elrohir!" Celeborn called softly. "Elrohir!"
The elfling did not move, though, even at his grandfather's call, and Elladan whimpered.
"Ada, make Elrohir wake up," he pleaded.
Despite his calm demeanor, Glorfindel and Celeborn could both see the growing trepidation in Elrond's eyes, and Glorfindel gently extracted Elladan from his father's lap. Celeborn laid Elrohir in his place, and all watched as Elrond began his examination. He finally laid his hand across the elfling's chest and from within found strength to send to his son. Celeborn and Glorfindel aided him, one hand each on him and the other on Elrohir. Elladan did not fully understand what was happening, but he cuddled up to his brother and held his hand.
Their song rose in the meadow, filling the air around them and drifting to the caves and the stream. Harmony complemented their melody, rising in crescendo and falling again, as their song blended with that of Arda's. Finally, the little elfling stirred.
"Elrohir?" Elrond called gently. His hand cupped his son's face, his thumb stroking the soft cheek, which was finally turning pink again in the sunshine. Elrohir moved only slightly, leaning into his father's hand. Elrond gently touched the corner of the elfling's mouth, and smiled when the small mouth opened and the pink tongue licked the dry lips. He drew his hand away and the child leaned into where it had been, seeking the comfort it had offered. "Elrohir, open your eyes," he called again.
Slowly the eyes opened, the pupils constricting in the light and finally focusing on the face of the one calling to him. "Ada?" he croaked.
"Elrohir, ion-nín," Elrond gathered Elrohir close as tears streamed down his own face. "Do you know where you are, Elrohir?"
Elrohir turned his head slightly, wincing as the sun hit his face directly. Glorfindel moved to block the light, and Elladan lifted his brother's hand in his own.
"El, are you hurt?" Elrohir's voice was hoarse but full of concern at seeing the splint on Elladan's arm.
"Yes, and so are you," Elladan answered. "Do you remember what happened, 'Ro?"
Elrohir closed his eyes for a moment and appeared to be drifting off. Elrond stroked his cheek again and Elrohir opened his eyes. "We fell in the waterfall," he mumbled.
"Do you hurt, Elrohir?" Elrond prompted him gently.
"Head hurts, Ada," Elrohir whispered. His eyes were already drifting closed again. ". . .sleep . . . Ada. . . "
Convinced that Elrohir did not suffer from a serious head injury, Elrond placed his hand over his son's eyes and pushed him into a deep healing sleep. He then pulled the small body to his chest and gently rocked him. Elladan crawled to Elrond's knee and laid his head on father's leg. Elrond stroked the elfling's hair as tears of relief slid down his cheeks.
Glorfindel met Celeborn's eyes, and in a glance much was said. They needed to return to Imladris where the elflings could be properly treated and recover in their own beds.
Glorfindel wrapped the blanket about his chest and walked a short distance from the small group. He let forth a series of whistles and chirps and then waited. Moments later there was a response. Satisfied, he returned to the others.
"How long?" Celeborn asked.
"Perhaps an hour, maybe a little longer," Glorfindel replied. "And you?"
Celeborn smiled at the other elf, mirth in his eyes. "She sent aid while we were still atop the waterfall."
The ponies had ambled over the meadow to them, and Mithren pushed himself past Celeborn with a snort. The pony ducked his head and sniffed at Elrohir, blowing warm breath upon the back of the elfling's neck. He nuzzled him very gently, then did the same to Elrond before walking away.
Thinde walked to Elladan next, Celeborn gladly moving out of the way before needing to be nudged again. Thinde sniffed the splint on Elladan's arm, then nuzzled his head into the elfling's belly. He snuffled lightly, making Elladan giggle, and then he too strolled away.
Elladan quickly fell back into sleep, and Glorfindel built up the fire as both elflings still felt cool to the touch.
"We need to get them back to Imladris," said Elrond as he came out of his dozing state, glancing about him as if trying to determine the best way to do this.
"Help will be here soon," Celeborn replied, smiling when Elrond looked at him in surprise. "The northern patrol should arrive within the hour, and guards set out from Imladris well over an hour ago. We should all be in better shape to move by the time they arrive."
Elrond covered his eyes with his hand, pinching the bridge of his nose and breathing in deeply. He exhaled and looked down again at his sons. "I nearly lost them," he said quietly. He was silent for a moment, and Celeborn reached over and grasped his shoulder, squeezing gently. "Elladan saved Elrohir's life."
Glorfindel had been watching the horizon but came to sit next to Elrond. He and Celeborn waited expectantly for Elrond to tell the story.
"When I swung into the hole it was dark, and I could not see what was below me. I did not want to just let go, for fear of landing on one of them. So I swung to another branch, and when I was out of the light I could just make out a small figure below. It was then I realized they were in water. I called to Elladan again and he could barely speak, so I dropped into the water. The shock of the cold nearly took my breath away. I swam to them, and realized that Elladan was holding Elrohir's face out of the water. Elladan had broken his arm when he fell, and despite the pain he was holding his brother and kicking so hard to keep them both afloat," Elrond's voice broke and he stopped to breathe in deeply and gather his thoughts. "There was nothing to hold on to, so I pulled Elrohir into my arms and had Elladan wrap his arms about my neck. Elrohir was already turning blue, and Elladan's teeth were chattering, so I lifted them both on to my shoulders. Elladan held his brother up there, the cold numbing the pain in his arm, I guess," Elrond's voice faded. He glanced up at the two watching him with kind eyes. "I knew you would come, but I did not think we would be alive when you found us."
Elrond bowed his head over his sons as they lay sleeping in his lap. He spoke again, his voice hoarse with emotion, "I did not want them to die alone, and I would not want to live if they had not. After I had thought that through, I tried to sense Celebrían's presence, to tell her I would go with them and that I would miss her. . ."
Celeborn stroked the dark head, emotion preventing him from speaking for a moment. "She would have come after you, ion-nín. She would not stay in Middle-Earth if the three of you were beyond it." He gently pushed Elrond to the ground, settling the twins carefully in his arms. "Rest until the patrol comes."
Glorfindel studied the elf in front of him. Celeborn had nearly lost his grandsons, son and daughter this day, for Glorfindel knew too that Celebrían would have given up her life to follow Elrond and her sons to the Halls of Mandos. He looked tenderly upon the dark hair of the three lying together in the grass, their faces obscured by the blankets.
Glorfindel turned his face into the western sun and his spirit bowed low. He had nearly failed at the task that had been set before him; he had failed them by letting the twins climb the rocks before he had inspected them. He recalled the face of Manwë as the Vala had laid before him his task of protecting the line of his king, a lineage that had nearly ended this day. The Valar had trusted him and he had nearly been proved unworthy.
"Stop that!" Celeborn said flatly.
Glorfindel looked into the angry eyes of the silver-haired elf in surprise and bowed his head.
"Stop that too," Celeborn demanded. Inwardly he smiled at the confused expression on the seneschal's face as he met the elf's glare. "You think you have failed them and are unworthy of the trust the Valar placed in you. I will tell you we are all guilty and yet none are guilty. The waterfall was fine the day before. I know because I was up there in the night and you the evening prior. You can dodge their every step and protect their every breath, Vanyar, but they are three and you are one and you cannot be three places at once."
Glorfindel glared back at the Sindar elf for a moment but quickly felt his resistance fade. He slumped slightly and Celeborn laughed. "I hope they have more children just so I can see you race about exhausting yourself."
Glorfindel chuckled. "I hope they wait a few years."
The two settled back to rest and recover their strength.
* * *
"They come as expected," Glorfindel murmured as he gazed northward. He stood and began walking towards them, clad only in the blanket wrapped about him and held to his chest.
"Suilad, Glorfindel," said Athranen, leader of the northern patrol, as he dismounted.
"Mae Govannen, Athranen," Glorfindel replied. "Your timing could not be better."
"So it appears," Athranen eyed his captain's attire with a raised brow. "Do the others fare better or worse than yourself?"
"The twins are injured," answered Glorfindel seriously. "Elrond recovers and Celeborn is well. Galadriel has sent aid from Imladris, but they are at least a half day away."
Athranen's eyes widened in surprise. "How seriously?" he asked, concern on his face.
"They shall recover," Glorfindel reassured him as he recalled that Athranen had a son just a few years older than the twins. "Elladan's arm is broken. Elrohir has a broken ankle and suffered a hard blow to the head. He was knocked unconscious in the fall. The rocks above the waterfall caved in and they fell into a deep pool beneath it. The cave to the north of the waterfall connects to the cavern through an underwater passage."
Athranen's eyes continued to grow wider as Glorfindel related the tale. "We have taken novices here for several centuries and all have climbed those rocks," he protested.
"Aye, Athranen, and today while Elrond's sons played on them they caved in," Glorfindel reiterated.
Athranen shook his head slowly but came around to the present problem quickly. "Do we need litters?"
Glorfindel shook his head. "No, I thought we might at first, but I think we can safely carry them if someone is available to guide the horses through any rough terrain." He gazed ahead at the small party. "Elrond would like them home as soon as possible."
They were close enough now to see Elrond holding both of his sons. "I think the greater problem may be that he cannot hold them both on his horse."
"He will not hold either of them," Glorfindel answered flatly. "He held them on his shoulders, as he furiously tread water in freezing conditions, for more than an hour. He is exhausted."
"I am glad you shall be the one to tell him," Athranen murmured.
"Our campsite is in the clearing by the targets," Glorfindel directed the guards who had followed them. "Bring up all the packs. If any of you have garments to spare, Elrond and I both need clothing."
The elves dispersed silently, some bringing up the packs, some calling the horses and ponies, and others returning the campsite to order. Targets and archery items were returned to storage in the caves and two of the elves moved small boulders to block the climb up the waterfall. They would return later to decide how to protect the site permanently.
Glorfindel watched as Elrond and Celeborn dressed the sleeping elflings and then re-wrapped them in dry blankets provided by the guards. He noted Athranen hovering near them, assisting without direction, and he supposed that as a parent the elf saw his own child and empathized, as he knew it could have been his own son in the situation.
Glorfindel turned to see one of Imladris' youngest warriors standing before him. When he nodded the young elf continued, "There is none here so tall as you, but Garthon is closest and he has spare tunic and trousers."
"Thank you, Meldon, they will do," Glorfindel replied kindly as he took the proffered garments. The young elf left with a smile on his face; despite the fact that Glorfindel had helped train him, he was still in awe of the Balrog-slayer. Glorfindel dressed in trousers that did not reach his ankles and a tunic whose sleeves came no where near his wrists. Despite his other concerns, he managed to spare a growl at Erestor.
Elrond and Celeborn mounted their horses, and Glorfindel handed Elladan to Celeborn. Glorfindel then picked up Elrohir and placed him in Athranen's arms, mounted his own horse and then took elfling from the guard. Elrond appeared about to protest as he drew up near Glorfindel.
"Your hands shake, Elrond. You are pouring yourself out as fast as you are replenished," Glorfindel quietly chastised. "I will take him the first part of the journey at least."
Glorfindel held Elrohir cradled to his chest, his horse needing no guidance on these paths. He sang softly to the child and smiled when he heard Celeborn singing to Elladan. At several junctures in the song the warriors of the northern patrol joined in, adding their harmony and making the music swell to the peaks of the hills. He also noted that Athranen had taken a position beside Elrond and several times guided the horse when the elf-Lord drifted asleep.
The Imladris guards met them just before they reached the half-way point of the journey. Athranen promised Glorfindel a thorough exploration of the caves and either a shoring up of the unstable rocks or complete blockage of the path, and the warriors departed to finish their time on the northern border while the rest of the travelers took a short break.
"Celebrían did not come?" Glorfindel asked as he drew his horse up to where Celeborn was finishing repeating a shortened version of their story.
"Lady Galadriel would not allow her to do so," Erestor replied.
The two elves stared at each other; Erestor eyeing the too-small clothing while Glorfindel sniffed the air, finally leaning closer to Erestor.
"What did you bathe in? Mildew?" he asked, his nose wrinkled in disgust.
"You would know," retorted Erestor. "Forget to bring your own clothing?"
"You would know," Glorfindel repeated.
They continued to glare at each other for a moment but were distracted by a small yawn from Elrohir.
Glorfindel's face softened immediately and he tenderly stroked the small cheek, eliciting a slight lip smacking, a natural response from a sleeping child.
"Is he awake?" Erestor asked softly, reaching to stroke the dark hair that hung over Glorfindel's arm.
"Elrond has put them both into healing sleeps. They shouldn't wake until we are back in Imladris," Glorfindel replied. "They were both in pain; better that any accidental jostling does not cause them more discomfort."
Erestor looked at Glorfindel. "Seriously, what happened to your clothing?"
Glorfindel studied the elf for a moment, sensing no deceit in him. "You did not replace my spare garments with….. other items?"
Erestor shook his head. He fingered his hair, grimacing at the smell. "You are not responsible for this?"
Glorfindel shook his head. They both turned to look at Elrond, who was sitting straight upon his horse, but clearly walking the path of elven dreams.
"Do you think it was him?" Erestor finally asked.
Glorfindel shrugged and grinned. "After all this has passed, we shall find out."
Erestor took charge of Elrond and they finished the rest of the journey home without incident.
* * *
They reached Imladris in the light of Ithil, with stars twinkling overhead. Lanterns were lit all about The Last Homely House and many elves of Elrond's house were gathered about the lawn and front porch to meet them.
Celebrían flew down the stairs and into the yard as soon as the first horse appeared. She swiftly discerned who held her sons, and as Glorfindel and Celeborn dismounted she moved quickly from one to the other, touching each child to confirm for herself that they lived and were not seriously injured.
"Why do they not wake?" she asked, desperation in her voice, as she stroked Elrohir's hair.
She felt Elrond behind her, his arms encircling her waist and his head nuzzling against her neck.
"I have put them into a healing sleep. They will wake soon," he explained tiredly. "Elladan has a broken wrist, and Elrohir a broken ankle and nasty bump on the head. They both were awake earlier and talking. They will recover," he reassured her.
Celebrían turned in his arms and buried her head against his chest, her arms wrapping tightly about him. "And you, meleth-nín, are you injured?" she asked as tears began to stream down her face.
"Nay, Celebrían, I am merely tired," he whispered into her ear as he held her close.
Celebrían pulled away slightly, wiping away the tears that still wet her cheeks, and then ran her hands along her husband's face. She saw a great weariness in his eyes, and as she tried to touch his mind she felt a weak barricade erected against her. She pushed gently and the barrier fell, and the remnants of the fear that had nearly overwhelmed him earlier that day flowed through her. She braced herself against the mild onslaught and allowed herself to see the depth of emotion that Elrond had experienced. She felt his guilt that the accident had happened and how he had prepared himself to face her anger or disappointment with him for failing their children so. She dared to probe a little further and felt the now controlled emotions he had wrestled with as he thought their sons would die and his decision to follow them. She felt the sorrow he had felt when he had reached out to her and she was not there. Her own emotions bubbled within her as she realized he had wished to tell he was sorry for leaving her and that he loved her.
Celebrían gently disengaged herself from her husband's spirit and pulled his body tight against her again. "Come, all three of you need to be put into warm beds."
As she looked around, she realized the horses and ponies had been led away and Glorfindel and her father were already entering the house with their precious bundles still cradled in their arms. She pulled gently on Elrond's arm and led him into the house and to their chambers.
Her mother was already present, helping Celeborn and Glorfindel to undress her grandsons and garb them in comfortable night tunics. She held each child for a moment; her eyes closed as she concentrated deeply, then placed the elflings into the big bed. Celebrían helped Elrond dress in his nightclothes and held the covers back as he crawled into the bed next to his sons. Celebrían watched as Galadriel sat down next to him on the bed. She spoke no words, but yet seemed to be communicating with Elrond. He looked away, and Galadriel placed a hand on his cheek and turned his head back to her. She ran her hand lightly across his eyes and forehead and his eyes shuttered as he relaxed into a deep sleep.
Galadriel stood and approached Celebrían. "They will not wake until morning."
"Mother, why could Elrond not reach me earlier? Was the distance too great?" Celebrían asked thoughtfully.
Galadriel was silent for a moment. She appeared to be deciding what to say when Celeborn spoke. "Tell her the truth."
Galadriel's eyes flashed at Celeborn for an instant, but he did not flinch. She turned back to her daughter, taking Celebrían's hand in her own. "He could not reach you because I blocked him."
Celebrían pulled back, aghast. "Why would you do that?"
"I knew how close your father and Glorfindel were to reaching them. I did not want Elrond to give up. If all he waited for was your touch, your permission, then he might have gone," she explained, as she looked her daughter in the eyes. She bowed her head slightly. "I also did not want you to know how dire their circumstances were."
Celebrían felt the wall at her back, and she leaned against it for a moment as she considered her mother's words. She never took her eyes from Galadriel's face, and the eyes that met hers held love but no repentance. "I wish to be alone with my husband and sons," she finally said neutrally.
Galadriel nodded and moving forward squeezed Celebrían's hand before leaving the room. Glorfindel had slipped out quietly when the discussion started, and now Celeborn stopped before his daughter.
Celebrían looked at her father and thought she had never seen him so weary. With a small cry she took a step forward and gently wrapped her arms about him, tucking her head under his chin. In her father's arms she had always felt safe and this time was no exception. She did not hold him long, though, as she felt the stiffness in his muscles and in the way he held himself. "Go and sleep, Adar," she whispered. "I love you. Thank you."
She felt him squeeze her shoulders tightly one last time, and with a kiss to her forehead he silently left the room.
Celebrían moved to sit on her side of the bed. She slid under the covers and propped herself on her elbow. Her free hand stroked the hair and faces and limbs of her sons and her husband. Their faces were now peaceful and their bodies relaxed. She would hear from them each tomorrow about their adventure and near tragedy.
She thought of her mother's words as her hand lingered on Elrond's hair. She rubbed the silky strands between her fingertips and thought of how close she had come to losing him. Her mother's gift of foresight, her ability to see things the rest of them could not, was both a blessing and a curse. She was angry that her mother had interfered with the bond she held with her husband, for not even the Valar dared to interfere with a bond so sacred. Yet what if her mother was right? Might she have actually helped save them by not allowing Elrond release? Celebrían decided that while the first of her mother's motivations might have merit, the second did not. Her mother did not have the right to interfere in such a way merely to protect her daughter from pain.
Yet her mother had not done this merely to protect her daughter. Celebrían understood only a very little of the power that Galadriel held, yet she believed in her mother enough to doubt she would grossly misuse it. Nor had her mother protected her from pain throughout her life. At least not all pain, Celebrían ruefully reminded herself. How many incidents would she never know about?
A little voice inside Celebrían reminded her of the love her mother held for her. Galadriel would not regret or repent of the action taken, for she would see no purpose in doing so when the outcome was favorable. Celebrían felt her anger slip away and she forgave her mother this trespass, for not to do so would lead to a rift between them. There was no changing Galadriel. She either had to love her as she was or allow a chasm to grow between them. For the sake of her sons, her husband, her father, and even herself, she would not cause such a thing.
She smiled at Elrond as he lay sleeping. She wondered what communication had passed between him and her mother. Had he given his permission to be pushed into a healing sleep? She doubted it, yet she was grateful. He needed the rest and would not have taken it willingly. Celebrían also knew that Galadriel likely imparted a great deal of healing and strength into him when she had induced the sleep. She wondered how Elrond would see Galadriel's interference? Would he, like his wife, be angry but let it go? Or would he see Galadriel's position at once and express no personal feeling - only admit to the necessity of the action? She rather envied his ability to separate his feelings and emotions from such acts. Celebrían sighed softly. If she were honest with herself, she would admit that she knew Elrond was as guilty as her mother in protecting her from knowledge and acts of evil. She was born of powerful people and married another. Elrond once told her she was wise and powerful in her own way and she supposed that was true, although, she sometimes considered her true wisdom was that she knew far more than any of them thought and kept it to herself.
She rose from the bed and left their chambers. Her mother was leaving her chamber at the same time.
"Is Adar resting?" Celebrían asked as she fell into step beside her mother, linking her arm with Galadriel's.
Galadriel's eyes twinkled. "He also shall not wake until morning."
Celebrían laughed softly. "May I guess that he was given little choice in the matter?"
"None," Galadriel agreed. "He has already forgiven me, for he knows I am right in this."
Celebrían leaned her head against her mother's shoulder briefly. "You usually are," she answered dryly.
Galadriel wrapped her arm about her daughter's shoulders as they continued down the hall.
"I must thank Glorfindel, too," Celebrían said after a moment.
Galadriel smiled wickedly. "I shall come with you."
* * * * *
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