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Chapter 21: The War
Gil-Galad led his forces north, moving slowly up the steep pathways cut in the rock near the Gates of Sirion and then onward to the forest of Region, near Doriath. Elrond watched respectfully as Celeborn led a group of Doriath’s survivors in words of remembrance as they recalled their flight with young Elwing down this same path so many years earlier, and he listened in fascination as survivors of Gondolin recalled the glory of Ecthelion, Glorfindel and the other captains who died in the fall of their fair city. He heard again how Glorfindel helped to save his father, Eärendil, and grandparents from the orcs and balrogs that pursued them through Cirith Thoronath. Their stories mingled, only a few years separating the tales of grief that led them down the great river Sirion to the Havens where the two Kindreds mixed.
“Perhaps there will be time for us to visit the ruins of Menegroth,” Celeborn spoke softly. “I have never passed through the Hidden Way to Gondolin, but there are those who could lead us there, should you wish to see the home of your father.”
Elrond nodded as he watched the older elves speak. He had lived nearly his whole life on the Isle of Balar, while learning the history of Beleriand from those who had lived in her glorious kingdoms. For these elves, walking again the paths that had carried them far from their homes as they fled the destruction that had claimed the lives of their kings, brought a sorrow to their spirits and hearts that pained Elrond to see. He was hard pressed to describe the emotion that came from knowing how many had sacrificed to see Elwing and Eärendil saved. Mere children they had been, innocent and defenseless, and Elrond was struck by the similarities their childhood tragedies bore to those he and Elros had suffered. And yet, elves had sacrificed to raise them to adulthood too. Already he and Elros had lived longer than Dior, Elwing or Eärendil had in Middle-earth.
“Celeborn, Gil-Galad wishes to see you in his tent.” A messenger interrupted them and Celeborn excused himself.
A hush fell over Gil-Galad’s troops as a small group of elves entered their midst a short while later. All were armed and mounted on magnificent stallions except for the lead elf, who led on foot, his hands held up in greeting. He was tall and of a proud bearing, and yet when he looked upon them a warm light seemed to emanate from within him, and he nodded and bowed to them graciously. His horse walked at his side, a large white stallion with a flowing mane of white. The animal seemed intelligent and Elrond was convinced the horse nodded his head and bowed at the same time the elf did.
“Well met, friends,” the elf spoke in a musical voice, and it took Elrond a moment, as it did all listening, to realize the elf spoke in the high elven tongue of Quenya.
“Well met, my King,” answered Gil-Galad as he left his tent and walked forward. He dropped to his knee before the regal elf and bowed his head.
The elf touched Gil-Galad upon the head, and then raised his hand, indicating Gil-Galad should rise. He had not yet spoken, but instead seemed to study the elf before him, as if memorizing his every feature. Then he gently took Gil-Galad’s face in his hands and kissed him on one cheek, then the other.
“I am pleased to meet you, son of Fingon, son of my brother Fingolfin,” King Finarfin finally answered.
Gil-Galad met the gaze of his great-uncle and High King unflinchingly, and spoke softly, his words not meant for all to hear. “I last saw my grandfather when I was a child of ten summers, yet it is as if he is standing before me again.”
A smile crossed Finarfin’s face, and he drew Gil-Galad into an embrace. After a moment, Gil-Galad pulled away, his eyes moist, and turned to face those behind him.
“There are others of your family for you to meet,” said Gil-Galad as he motioned to those before him. “This is Elrond, son of Eärendil, son of Idril, daughter of Turgon. His twin brother, Elros, is on patrol but will meet you later. Elrond, this is Finarfin, High King of the Noldor in Aman, son of Finwë and brother to Fëanor and Fingolfin.”
Elrond also dropped to his knee and bowed his head, murmuring, “My King.”
The King drew him to his feet, and Elrond felt like a child again, standing before Círdan or Gil-Galad, being inspected and evaluated before some event. Finarfin smoothed his hair back and gently ran his fingers down Elrond’s cheek. He cupped his chin, turning his head slightly.
“I met Eärendil when he set foot upon the shores of the Undying Lands and stood before the Valar to plead for them to come to the aid of the elves and men of Middle-earth. Never before had we seen one with mortal blood. I see traces of Turgon in you, as I did in him.” Finarfin spoke in a low voice; all the while his warm hands were gently tracing Elrond’s face.
“You have met my father?” Elrond asked, his voice rough.
“Yes,” replied Finarfin, “and your mother, Elwing. We built her a white tower on the northern edge of the mountains, directly west of Beleriand. There she awaits your father each morning when he returns from his nightly voyage.”
To Elrond’s chagrin, tears filled his eyes. When he attempted to lower his head to hide them, he felt the fingers of the king below his chin, lifting his face. As he met Finarfin’s gaze, he saw tears in the King’s eyes as well.
“In this there is no shame,” said Finarfin firmly. “I am pleased to meet you, Elrond, son of Eärendil, heir of Turgon.”
Finarfin then straightened and turned a fierce gaze out over the small audience. His voice, which had been strong but soft, now rose in power and authority. “My nephews I have greeted and with them I am well pleased. Where now is the husband of my only daughter?”
Celeborn stepped forward proudly, his eyes appraising the father of his wife. For several moments the two seemed intent on out-staring the other, and Elrond held his breath, wondering if Celeborn would kneel before this Noldor King. Celeborn was proud of his Sindar heritage and his fealty was ever to Elu-Thingol, his King. But this elf was the father of his wife.
“Finarfin, King of the Noldor, father of Galadriel, I am pleased to meet you,” spoke Celeborn in flawless yet slightly accented Quenya, and he knelt and bowed his head.
“Rise, Celeborn, son of Galadhon, son of Elmo, brother of Elwë – your King,” commanded Finarfin. His eyes burned with fire and he surveyed his son-in-law, seeking to see what in this elf had captured the heart of his fierce daughter. “Why has Artanis chosen you?”
“Galadriel, my lady of light, should answer such a query herself,” replied Celeborn as he rose to his full height and regarded his father-in-law gravely.
Finarfin’s laughter filled the air around them. “Celeborn the Wise I name you, for you know not to speak on behalf of Artanis, who has a capable tongue!”
Finarfin then turned again to Gil-Galad, motioning to the tent. “I come with plans and orders from Eönwë, herald of Manwë and commander of the Hosts of the Valar. When your forces are arranged accordingly, he will summon you. Come!” Finarfin led the way into the tent, and Gil-Galad motioned for Celeborn, Elrond and his other advisors to join them.
Several hours later, only Elrond, Elros and Celeborn remained with Gil-Galad in his tent. Finarfin’s presence had filled the space, making it seem smaller than it really was, and he had assumed leadership in the group, assigning battle positions to Gil-Galad but respectfully allowing Gil-Galad to arrange his troops. After finishing the discussions of the war, he had been introduced to Elros and spent time alone with Celeborn and then Gil-Galad. When he left, he had expressed his contentment with his nephew, the King of the Noldor in Middle-earth, in front of his Noldor guard.
“You lead mortals and the remnant of the elven Kindreds, and they follow you. Your father and grandfather would be proud of you, as am I. Together we shall defeat Morgoth and you shall know what it is to live in peace.”
Now Elros stood and stretched, then moved to sit at the table on which were laid the plans for Gil-Galad’s troops. He studied them for a moment before breaking the silence. “Do the Valar use the High Kings of the Elves as messengers?” he finally asked.
Celeborn laughed. “I rather think he volunteered for this position. An opportunity to meet the King of the Noldor of Middle-earth, and his son-in-law.”
“Tauron will lead his men east towards Maglor’s Gap, and Celeborn will lead his forces along the Celon River,” Gil-Galad interrupted their musings. He looked up at Celeborn. “This is an area you must know well. Will you add to the detail of this map as you make your plans to patrol this area?”
Celeborn’s eyes had darkened and a fierce scowl crossed his face. “Aye, I know the dwarf road well and the passage down from Himring.” He said no more, but his fury at the memories of the death of his king and a few years later his king’s heir, were easily read upon his countenance.
“Elros, you will go with Tauron. He will be in command, but you have been serving as his lieutenant and will do so again, as well as serving as liaison to me,” Gil-Galad instructed. In Elros he had a buffer with Tauron’s fierce Men, for Tauron was willing to serve as the leader of Men in the Host of Beleriand under Gil-Galad’s command, yet preferred to avoid the diplomatic and political duties of his office. In these duties Elros excelled, and yet was also accepted among the Men as one of them. The older among them remembered Eärendil and did not forget his sacrifice, and they treated his son with the respect due his sire.
“Elrond, you will serve Celeborn. He will discuss your duties with you. Come, Elros, let us meet with Tauron before nightfall,” finished Gil-Galad.
Elrond watched in some surprise as his twin and his king left the tent. He turned back to face the uncle of his grandmother, feeling unsure of his role yet not wishing to admit it.
“You need to learn command, Elrond, and you will not gain this experience as the King’s aide. Your skill as a healer is primary, however, and you will serve that role as well,” explained Celeborn. He motioned the young peredhel to sit next to him and began to explain the geography of the land and the tactics that the enemy might employ in either escaping or sending reinforcements.
Elrond listened carefully, his enthusiasm for gaining battle experience in a smaller unit growing. Thus far their army had met battle on several occasions, but he had had little opportunity to fight. Celeborn’s smaller unit would patrol the edge of the forest, along the river and the dwarf road. They might serve here for some time, as King Finarfin’s plans indicated their role in this war would be to watch the eastern flank. The Hosts of the Valar would fight the main battle near Angband.
A week later the troops of Gil-Galad split into battle groups, and Elrond and Elros each moved into new roles.
* * *
Nearly six years later……
Elros sank down onto his bedroll, his clothing, face and hands bloodied and dirty. Around him men were collapsing in exhaustion on to their blankets, these many nights of fighting wearying them so much that hygiene and even the tending of minor wounds were neglected in favor of sleep.
“Elros.” Tauron’s exhausted voice roused him.
Elros stood and made his way slowly to Tauron’s camp table. The commander was as tired and dirty as his men, a scrap of linen bound around his upper arm where an orc arrow had grazed him. His face was pale and gaunt, and Elros felt a sudden concern for the captain.
“Your wound has not been tended,” he said, pointing to the bloodied bandage. He noted the slightly dilated pupils and grey skin, and knew that some poison had entered through the wound.
Tauron merely grunted in answer but did not argue as Elros pulled a chair up at his side and carefully sliced through the linen. The wound was reddened and angry, and Elros frowned.
“I could use Elrond here right now,” he murmured quietly. “I will return in a moment. I need a healer’s kit.”
Elros obtained what he needed, the healers not even stirring from their rest on pallets next to their patients. He returned silently to Tauron, and only the man’s hiss as Elros cleaned the injury and treated it with healing herbs was heard. He bound it with clean cloths, and then moved to sit across from Tauron at the table.
“We need to send word to Gil-Galad,” said Tauron finally.
Elros nodded quietly. He had recommended this action the day before, but Tauron had been unprepared to act. “Do you wish to withdraw or hold out for reinforcements?”
Tauron sighed. “I do not wish to give up our position. But I do not know if we can hold it until Gil-Galad sends aid.”
Elros stared at the map, his mind mentally assessing their numbers, how many injured were among them and the terrain.
“They will attack again at nightfall. These last nights we have been forced into a defensive role, holding them back and chasing them into the caves to hide from daylight. Could we take an offensive role, set a trap for them?”
A sly smile crossed Tauron’s face. New energy seemed to flow through him as he turned the map and studied the paths and cliffs they had charted. “If we were to set our forces along this cavern wall, and send a small group to close around behind the enemy here, we could force them into this pass and ambush them here.”
Elros studied the markings his captain had charcoaled in, excitement gradually overcoming the skepticism he had felt when Tauron first began to explain the attack. “We have to split our forces. It will be dangerous.”
“Either we challenge them, or we pull out and they chase us back to Celeborn’s or Gil-Galad’s forces.”
“Let us send the messenger and set the trap,” Elros agreed, a feral grin crossing his face. “These orcs will not make it beyond us.”
Elros lay amidst the rocks and brush on the cliff, his bow lying beside him and his arrows in easy reach. He was in the attack group that would shoot down upon the orcs once they were trapped in the pass. Tauron led the forward group that would fight primarily with swords and hold off any who made it through the pass. A third group would close in behind the enemy.
For months we saw no action, thought Elros. The men grew weary of the boredom, and now we have been fighting each night for over a week in the fiercest battles any of us has ever seen. Tauron was a great tactician, Elros had learned. He used his men wisely and through his strategies they had slaughtered party after party of orcs. This last group was large and determined; the leaders seemingly better tacticians as well. If they did not succeed in this battle, they could well face many casualties and losses, and the first enemy reinforcements could reach Angband.
Dusk had fallen when Elros heard the call from the scout. The orcs had entered the pass, unwittingly shepherded that way by the natural flow of the land and some strategically placed obstructions. The enemy moved forward quickly, emboldened by what they had perceived as weakness in the men the night before.
Timing was crucial, and Elros heard the call from the forward scout that the first of the enemy had reached the end of the pass. Elros felt his heart thudding in his chest as he waited for the call of the lag scout. A moment later it came, indicating that the enemy was surrounded. Elros felt the exciting rush of blood pounding in his ears, and he gave a sharp, high call signaling for the attack to begin. Arrows whistled down upon the orcs, each one seemingly finding its target in the first volley. In the distance Elros could hear the sounds of a swordfight and he knew Tauron and his men had engaged the leading edge of the party. A call from rear indicated that the orcs who had attempted to retreat had been attacked as well.
Elros held his position, his small group of men loosing volley after volley of arrows at the orcs. His shots flew true, and he felt a growing sense of triumph as orc after orc fell to the ground below them. Their assault position high above the orcs meant few could climb up to challenge them, and the orcs fled forward or retreated in an attempt to escape their arrows.
“Forward!” Elros bellowed, and then led the charge down the cliffs and into the pass. He drew his sword, and then whooped as he heard the swish of other swords being unsheathed and saw the glint of metal in the moonlight as his men spread out beside him, some following the forward charging orcs and the others pursuing those retreating.
Elros roared again, his sword flashing, as he engaged the first orc that spun to fight him. A burst of energy surged through at the hand-to-hand combat, and he quickly lost track of the number of enemies that fell to his blade. An orc scimitar grazed his thigh at one point, but he barely felt the wound and only the sensation of the blood dripping down his leg alerted him to the injury. After dispatching the orc, he ripped the edge of his tunic and bound the freely bleeding wound. Gradually the sounds of the fight lessened and he felt his heartbeat slow and his breathing become more regular as he stood still, carefully eyeing the trees and cliffs around them for any further signs of the enemy. He watched as scouts took up position and began scouring the hillside before turning his attention back to the carnage around him. He glanced at the haggard yet triumphant faces of the men he had fought next to and knew they had won the night.
Concern for the injured quickly replaced the bloodlust that had consumed him, and he organized the uninjured to transport the injured back to camp. Despite his feeling of victory, his heart fell as he came across the first bodies of the men who had died. The orcs they tossed in a ravine beyond the pass, where they would later burn them.
“Take care of our injured first,” Elros directed the men. “We will return for our dead after the living are cared for.”
He began to make his way towards the rear of the pass, and met more of his men carrying injured forward.
“There are few injured?” he questioned, relief in his voice.
The first man shook his head miserably. “We have won the day, but the price was heavy. Many are dead.”
Elros jogged back to the scene of the rear battle, and stopped short at the carnage that met his eyes. Garman was there, uninjured, directing the disposal of orc bodies into a deep ravine at the side of the pass. The bodies of the dead men were laid out on the path, the number shocking Elros.
Elros turned saddened eyes to those of his men. “We cannot carry them back to camp. We shall need to bury them here,” he said with finality.
“But not with the orcs,” agreed Garman. “We will not sully them in death that way.”
Elros shook off the great sadness that threatened to consume him, and instead began searching for an appropriate burial site. The ground was too hard to dig and he resigned himself to having to commit the bodies to flame. He began collecting deadwood for the fire, and soon others joined him. They built a large pyre and began to pile the bodies atop it. When all was done, Elros intoned a blessing of the Valar and lit the pyre.
“Stay until it is well consumed,” he directed Garman. “I must return to the front.”
As Elros walked back the way he had come, he realized he had not seen Tauron. He made his way past the bodies being burned and returned to camp, immediately seeking out the tents of the healers. He scanned the injured quickly, but did not see Tauron. Moving back outside, he saw a lone body covered with a shroud lying near the edge of the camp. Dread filled him, and he moved to the body, reluctantly drawing back a corner of the shroud to reveal the face of the dead man.
It was Tauron.
Tears filled his eyes, and he bowed his head, weeping for this Man he had greatly respected.
“Go to your peace, Tauron, to the rest of mortals beyond this world,” he murmured as he drew the shroud back over his captain’s face.
He stood to see the eyes of many watching him, and in that moment he realized that he was in command. He straightened and raised his eyes to meet theirs, and then strode purposefully to the captain’s tent. He was ready for this. His months of training and service under Tauron served him well, and he found himself organizing watches and patrols, sending out scouts and receiving reports from the healers and those who ran the camp. The men under his command took comfort in the normalcy of his organization of tasks and planning. I will serve them as you did, Tauron, he promised himself and his former captain. These are now my men and my people.
* * *
Many years later……
“May the stars of Elbereth always guide and protect you, son of Eärendil,” said Celeborn in the traditional begetting day greeting.
Elrond stretched in the late morning light, dark circles under his eyes and evidence of exhaustion on his face. His expression registered surprise at Celeborn’s words before he recalled that this was indeed the day of his and Elros’ birth – the fiftieth anniversary, he thought tiredly. Elves celebrated begetting days, but their mortal blood threw the validity of that date off, and thus early on Círdan had recognized their birth day instead.
“Thank you,” answered Elrond with a smile as he sat down near the fire. He stared in disgust at the filth of his clothing but the frost of his breath on the air meant the most he would do was clean up with a cloth. His stomach rumbled at the smell of leftover breakfast near the fire, a breakfast he had slept through after tending the injured well past dawn, but as he reached for a plate of food an elf quickly moved it beyond his reach. He looked up, confused, as the elf placed the plate behind him and then moved closer to Elrond. Indeed, all of the elves seemed to be drawing near. Elrond surveyed them in surprise, their grins of delight causing him a slight hesitation as to what they might be planning.
His eyes widened further in surprise when Gil-Galad appeared, for he had not heard that the king had arrived. He started to rise, but was waved back to his seat.
“Elrond, you become an adult today in the eyes of the elves,” said Gil-Galad formally.
All watching laughed as Elrond’s brows arched in question, but humor was evident upon his face as well.
“We are a mixture of Noldor and Sindar, as your blood is also mixed. Therefore we will combine the rituals of both Kindreds in acknowledgement of your passing out of childhood this day and into the community of adults,” continued the King.
A smile tugged at Elrond’s lips as he waited for Gil-Galad to laugh, for surely the king was not serious about performing the coming-of-age rituals on a half-elf, on a battlefield in the midst of war, when the half-elf had clearly become an adult at least twenty-five years earlier?
But Gil-Galad did not laugh; instead he continued with an explanation of the day’s rites and plans.
“In the traditions of our people, Elrond, the males of your house would have begun fasting the night before and it would continue until the evening meal today. They might have kept watch during the night, and then all of the adult males would bathe in the steam filled waters of the bathhouse or a hot spring in the morning,” explained Gil-Galad.
Elrond found himself slowly surrounded, and as he considered fleeing several large, warm hands came to rest on his shoulders and upper arms.
“However, in our extenuating circumstances here on the battlefield of Beleriand, we have missed enough meals and kept enough watches that we will instead take every opportunity to sleep and eat, in honor of this day, of course.”
All around him laughed and Elrond let out a sigh of relief, yet the elves holding him did not release him but watched Gil-Galad expectantly.
“A bath you do need, though, my son,” laughed Gil-Galad. “Alas, there are no hot springs here, nor a bathing facility. The waters of the Celon are cold and refreshing though!”
With that statement, Elrond found himself lifted from the ground and though he struggled, the elves laughed at his ineffectual movements as they carried him to the riverbank. He found himself stripped of his clothing and dumped unceremoniously in the freezing waters of the Celon.
He sputtered to the surface, inhaling a deep breath at the shock of the icy waters. To his surprise, Celeborn and Gil-Galad were willingly joining him. Much laughter was heard as they swam out to him, slivers of soap in hand. They seemed unaffected by the cold and washed themselves and him quickly, then pulled his shivering body from the freezing water. His teeth chattering, he was wrapped in a warm blanket and amidst cheers and good-natured teasing was led back to camp.
Back at the campsite, the elves had set up a makeshift steam tent, where they were pouring pots of boiling water over red hot stones. Steam filled the air inside the small tent, and Elrond found himself quickly warming in the small space. Gil-Galad had an arm about his shoulders and Celeborn sat on the other side of him, and Elrond wondered if they expected him to attempt to escape from their plans. As if I could, he thought wryly.
As his shivering gradually ceased and his teeth stopped chattering, Elrond began to relax in the steamy warmth. He closed his eyes, allowing the heat to penetrate his tired body and the words of Gil-Galad and Celeborn to float about him. The river had been refreshing, and the heat was delicious, but he decided bathhouses and hot springs were definitely the preferred alternative.
“Do you think he is ready for the next part of the initiation?” Celeborn’s words caused him to nearly leap up from his seat, his eyes opening wide. The two laughed at him.
“We forget your mortal blood allows you to feel more of the cold,” apologized Gil-Galad.
Elrond glanced from Gil-Galad to Celeborn, noting that neither looked repentant. Celeborn grinned at him.
“He is tough enough,” laughed Celeborn. “He will handle this initiation as any strong blooded Sindar elf would.”
“His strong blood comes from his Noldor kin,” argued Gil-Galad in an amiable tone.
Elrond had the feeling they had held this argument before. He rolled his eyes.
“My mortal blood ensured I grew to adulthood long ago,” he finally interjected, the first sentence he had managed to complete since wakening. “Is this not a little late?”
“For a mortal perhaps,” answered Gil-Galad. “But your elven kin should be allowed their customs and rites. It is only fair.”
The steam had died away then and the air began to grow cool. Celeborn stood first, using the blanket to wick away the remainder of the moisture from his skin. He opened a package wrapped in oilskin, and removed from it an exquisitely detailed tunic and trousers that reflected the colors of the Kingdom of Doriath. The tunic fell gracefully to his knees, and he tucked the trousers into tall black boots. His hair he braided in an intricate style denoting his lineage to King Elu-Thingol.
“None would doubt you a Lord and Prince of the Sindar,” said Elrond graciously as he stood, the blanket clenched tightly about him, and bowed.
Celeborn nodded, and then stood to the side as Gil-Galad also rose and pulled from another package clothing equally beautiful, in the color of the Noldor Kings. Elrond felt no less appreciation at seeing his King in attire he had seen him wear to court. Both elves had dispensed with the formal robes they would normally wear over such clothing, but it had been impractical to bring such fine garments over such a great distance. Gil-Galad then meticulously braided his hair in the style of his House, a pattern devised by King Fingolfin in ages past.
Gil-Galad stood before him then, and Elrond rose once more, this time dropping to one knee as he bent his head to his King.
“Rise, Elrond,” Gil-Galad laughed as Elrond attempted to keep the blanket covering all of his exposed skin, then paused briefly before continuing. “I told you once that many Kindreds could claim you, and on this day of celebration, the Sindar and the Noldor both claim you as an adult. I shall dress you in the manner of the House of Fingolfin, and Celeborn shall adorn you in the style of a Sindar Prince of Doriath.”
Gil-Galad opened another package that lay nearby, and pulled out clothing similar to his own but with a slightly different pattern as chosen by King Turgon of Gondolin. Elrond donned the clothing, and as he fingered the material of a tunic that draped to his knees he realized he had never before worn formal clothing of the house of his great grandfather. Still speechless, he allowed Celeborn to easily push him into a chair and begin the work of braiding his hair in a manner similar to his own. Celeborn wove ribbons of color into the braids, and then set a narrow Mithril circlet upon his brow.
Elrond remained speechless as the two inspected him, then allowed him to see himself in a small looking glass. With a grin of triumph, Celeborn said, “He is ready to be introduced to our people.”
Gil-Galad led him out of the tent to where the soldiers were waiting. The elves were of the Falas and Gondolin, Doriath and Nargothrond. At a nod from Celeborn, Gil-Galad spoke, “My people, it is normally the privilege of a father to present his son to the community upon the child’s coming of age. Eärendil is not present, nor is Dior or Tuor, Beren or Turgon or Elu-Thingol. While this is evidence of the cursed world in which we live, Elrond does not stand bereft of family. Distant uncles though we be, Celeborn, a Lord and Prince of the Sindar of Doriath and I, Gil-Galad, King of the Noldor, claim him as son this day, and present him to you as a people of Kindreds united.”
“My son,” spoke Celeborn as he stepped to Elrond’s side, “accept and wear this ring as a symbol that you belong to my House.” Celeborn slipped on to Elrond’s finger a ring of Elu-Thingol’s, worn by Dior and saved in the destruction of Doriath. He took Elrond’s face in his hands, and kissed him on each cheek.
“My son,” spoke Gil-Galad from Elrond’s other side, “accept and wear this ring as symbol that you belong to my House.” Gil-Galad slipped a ring that had belonged to Eärendil, a gift from his grandfather King Turgon, on to the same finger. He pulled Elrond into an embrace, whispering in his ear, “A son you have been to me.”
Elrond found himself choked by emotion as he realized how long they must have planned for this day. He had never been to a coming of age ceremony, as few elven children had come of age during the time when he might have attended such a ceremony. But he had studied the customs, and his education did not fail him now. He turned to face both of the elves standing in place of his father, and knelt on a square of cloth before them.
“I accept both the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood in your House, and promise to faithfully serve this House all the days of my life,” Elrond replied, then kissed the hand of each before rising again.
A cheer rose then from the audience, and the three found themselves quickly surrounded by the warriors whom they had served with these many years past. If any thought it odd that a warrior and healer of Elrond’s experience was only now experiencing the rites of passage into adulthood, they did not express it. Times of celebration in war were rare enough, Elrond thought. If this lifts the spirits and encourages but one of these, then it was a ceremony well served. But even as he thought such a benevolent thought, deep inside he felt a strange and wonderful satisfaction that he belonged.
“Normally the fast is broken with a fine meal and good wine,” announced Celeborn. “We have all fasted enough in recent years to consider that rite fulfilled, and while the feast is prepared let us open the wine!”
To Elrond’s delight, some of the finest wines of Círdan’s stores had made their way north, and it was a merry band of elves who delighted in the heady flavor, soon followed by a sumptuous meal grander than anything they had partaken of in recent years.
Elrond excused himself from the feasting several hours later, changing his clothing and then moving to the camp infirmary to check on his patients. He changed dressings and bandages, soothing pain and offering a comforting word. One old elf smiled weakly at him, reaching unsteady fingers up to lightly caress the circlet still upon Elrond’s brow.
“I thought the King himself had come to tend me.”
When Elrond reached to remove the mithril, the elf caught his hand. “Leave it, my child. It is your heritage, and it is time you embraced it.”
Elrond instead turned the elf’s hand to clasp it firmly, then placing his other hand on the elf’s forehead, he pushed him gently into sleep and watched as the lines of pain melted from his face.
He stood then and was tidying the area, when he realized Gil-Galad sat near the tent entrance. He moved to sit down next to his king, and a sigh of contentment escaped him as Gil-Galad slipped an arm about him and began to massage his stiff shoulders.
“Thank you for today,” said Elrond softly. “I would not have guessed how much it would mean to me.”
Gil-Galad continued to massage his shoulders, silent for a moment. “But one thing was missing.”
“Elros,” agreed Elrond.
Gil-Galad nodded but remained silent, and though Elrond wished to ask if Elros would be welcomed into elven society this same way, he found himself reticent to do so.
“The scouts have reported that all appears silent this night. Come, have another cup of wine, and then sleep,” instructed Gil-Galad, and he led Elrond back to the fire where he was greeted enthusiastically with another cup of wine and song.
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Elrond found himself drawn back to the present by small hands tugging at his sleeves. As he had spoken, the twins had moved several times between his lap and that of their grandfather as Celeborn had added his own voice to the story
“Ada, did they really throw you in the freezing water?” asked Elrohir
“Do you still have the rings, Ada?” interrupted Elladan.
“Do you miss your ada, Daernaneth?” Elrohir turned to his grandmother. “Did you see him in the war, too, like Daerada did?”
“Patience, Elladan and Elrohir!” Celebrían’s voice rose over that of her sons, and they silenced immediately. “Ask your questions one at a time,” she said gently.
The twins both blushed, but Elrond laughed inside when neither gave up their hold on his clothing. “Yes, they really threw me in the freezing water, and yes, I still have the rings,” he answered.
“Was the water colder than the water in the cave?” Elladan asked, his eyes darkening at the memory.
“No, I think the water in the cave was colder,” Elrond decided.
“May we see the rings later, Ada?” asked Elrohir.
“Yes, at bedtime I will show you the rings.”
“Will you continue the story then, Ada? Did the dragons come next?” Elladan asked, excitement in his voice.
“The dragons did come next, and if it is possible I will tell you more this evening.”
“You too, Daerada? You were there!” Elladan turned to his grandfather, and then raced into the arms Celeborn held out to him. “Did you like Daernaneth’s adar?”
“Yes, I did,” answered Celeborn with a sly smile at his wife. “He was brave and regal and elegant, traits he passed on to his daughter, but I believe your daernaneth’s beauty came from her mother. I think your grandmother did not marry in Aman because her father chased off all her suitors.”
Galadriel’s eyes sparkled in delight when Elrohir stated, “But Daerada, Daernaneth could not have married in Aman because you were not there.”
The logic of children caused all the adults to laugh. Then Elrond rose, setting Elrohir on his feet as he did so. “Go, run and play and use that leg.”
The twins ran from the garden with shouts of joy, freed from casts and splints and the last physical reminders of their brush with death.
Elrond excused himself from the garden, returning to the healing rooms. He found one of the healers with an apprentice, both sitting next to Albast, who was sleeping. Their hands were laid upon him and they sang in low voices, their eyes closed, and Elrond was drawn back to the story he had just been telling.
Scenes of battlefields, with the smells of battle – of blood and burning flesh – returned to his memory as if it were only yesterday he had been there. Elves and Men – allied Men - had died in those long years, some without aid or comfort. Memories of scenes he would never relate to his young sons passed through his mind, of stitching a gash in their grandfather that had nearly claimed his leg or treating his King, poisoned by an orc arrow. Of being found himself after a battle, lying in a pool of his own blood, where the enemy had left him for dead after an ambush. On that day he had thought that he too would die alone, and in the fleeting moments of consciousness after being struck, he had wondered what his fate would be from Mandos’ Halls. Would he go to wait with the elves, or be sent beyond with the mortals? The other healers had tended him and within days Gil-Galad had arrived, ostensibly to visit the command and troops but he had stayed by Elrond’s side for many days.
He remembered the day Elros was brought to him, and how his hands had shook as he fought to save his twin’s life. Elros’ army and Celeborn’s had met, squeezing the enemy until they had nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. It had been a brutal battle, with none of the enemy left alive. Elros had been like a feral cat with his eyes ablaze, reflecting off the hilt of his sword, its blade covered in blood. He had been cut down in the last moments of battle, and his Men had carried him to his brother, thinking they had lost their captain.
The wound to his chest was deep, but his heart had been missed and Elrond had been able to stop the flow of blood. As he worked, his tears had fallen, leaving small splotches in the dirt and blood that covered his brother’s body. He recalled now how some of Elros’ Men had stayed at his side until his survival seemed sure. He had not left the healing tents either until the day Elros opened his eyes, lucid at last. Elros had taken in his surroundings, expressed joy at seeing his brother, and then calmly instructed Elrond to go sleep or he would command his men to physically put him to bed. Elrond had believed him.
The dragons and balrogs had come next, and he would tell his sons an abridged version of the fight, of the glory and valor of those who had fought, not of the horrible deaths of those who had died or been burned beneath their fire. Not of the severely burned who had died slowly and painfully, glad when the mercy of death claimed them. Not of those elves who had given up their lives in the face of such misery; not of men who had begged to die. The memory of those sights and smells he pushed into the recesses of his memory, and he hoped never again to see anyone suffer as those elves and men had suffered.
“My Lord.” The apprentice interrupted his melancholic thoughts. “May I ask a question, about the man’s leg?”
Elrond snapped back to the present, and motioned the apprentice to come away from Albast. Once out of the reach of mortal hearing, Elrond spoke.
“One cannot know what the mind remembers during such restless sleep,” explained Elrond. “Keep all discussions private until you are ready to speak to the patient about his condition.”
The apprentice nodded eagerly, then moved on to his question. “At what point will you take his leg, my Lord?”
Elrond paused, for such treatment he had considered. “If the infection claims his leg and moves to threaten his life, I will offer Albast such an option. For now I will not discuss it with him, for the burden of such knowledge will weigh heavily upon his spirit.”
“What if he declines? Will you perform the surgery anyway?” asked the apprentice.
Elrond slowly shook his head. “No, Tinár, I would not. It is not for you or I to judge what our patient believes is the best course for his life.”
“But then he would die,” Tinár stated, his eyes widening in disbelief at what he was hearing.
“Yes, he would,” agreed Elrond.
He left the young apprentice to consider his words, and returned to sit next to Albast. He quickly assessed the man’s condition and smiled, pleased. “It is not your time yet, my friend. Fight just a little longer and you will recover.”
* * *
Celebrían remained with Glorfindel and her parents in the garden, the sounds of her sons’ laughter as they played on their tree swing occasionally drifting back to them.
“Adar, did you and Gil-Galad perform an elven coming of age ceremony for Elros as well?” she asked curiously.
Celeborn shook his head. “Neither Elros nor the men he captained would have understood or appreciated such a ceremony. Elros had not attended such a ritual, nor had he studied the customs of his people in days past. A ring was given to him though, a token given to his mortal great grandfather, Barahir, by Finrod after the man saved Finrod’s life at the Dagor Bragollach. It resided in Beren’s possession, then Dior’s, and was kept safe for Elwing’s children. An elven ring forged in Aman, treasured as an heirloom in the House of Bëor, it is in the possession of King Valandil today.”
All were quiet for a few moments, then Celeborn rose. “Let us go see if a couple of elflings are ready for their second archery lesson,” he said to Glorfindel.
Glorfindel’s brow arched and his eyes danced to life. “I will watch as you set up the targets, my friend.”
“For my lessons, I must have you place them precisely where I need them,” argued Celeborn.
Bickering, the gold and silver elves departed. Celebrían turned to her mother.
“Naneth, you have never told me what your father said to Adar when they talked alone for the first time,” she said suddenly.
Galadriel laughed softly. “Your father has never told me,” she admitted.
* * * * *
 Menegroth means ‘The Thousand Caves’, and was the cavern and stronghold of King Thingol and Queen Melian. The kingdom they lived in was called Doriath, which mean ‘Hidden Kingdom.’
 Artanis is the father-name of Galadriel. Nerwen is her mother-name. She chose for herself (or accepted from Celeborn) the Sindar name of Galadriel.
 I find it difficult to figure out who carried titles in Middle-earth, and what they meant. Celeborn’s grandfather (in the version I chose to use) is Elmo, brother of Elwë (King Elu Thingol of the Sindar). How the titles Lord and Prince might be used among the elves and by whom, I do not know. This topic has been hotly debated on yahoo list groups without resolution. I am using the terms here, because this is a formal occasion and if a father carried a title, he would use it here. Since Elrond’s father cannot be present, I want to show Celeborn’s and Gil-Galad’s blood relationship to Elrond and their positions or authority among their people.
Just to keep these Noldor straight….Finwë was high king (he died right before the Two Trees were destroyed). His sons were Fëanor (father of Maedhros, Maglor and co.), Fingolfin (father of Turgon of Gondolin, Fingon - Gil-Galad’s father - and Aredhel) and Finarfin (father of Galadriel, Finrod and their other three brothers). After Morgoth stole the Silmaril, most of the Noldor went to Middle-earth – including Fëanor and all his sons; Fingolfin and all his sons, and all of the children of Finarfin. Finarfin stayed and became High King of the Noldor in Aman. So, Finarfin’s family in Middle-earth at the time of the War of Wrath consisted of his daughter Galadriel, and his brother’s grandson (Gil-Galad) and great-great-grandsons (Elrond and Elros).
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