By Any Means Necessary
Galadriel stopped mid-sentence, sensing her husband’s thoughts, as they entered her mind. She signaled for Arwen to stop talking so she could converse with Celeborn. Something important must have happened for him to contact her unexpectedly.
/Nîn-bess, (my wife) I miss you so much. Imladris is beautiful and I wish you were here at my side./ Celeborn’s need to have her close resonated in his thoughts.
Galadriel smiled saddened, knowing that it wouldn’t be long until they would be parted forever. She would travel to Valinor whilst Celeborn had chosen to stay on Middle-Earth. Both would face loneliness. They had been together for so long that she could hardly imagine a life without him and yet it would come to pass.
/Nîn-hervenn, (my husband) I hear your words and share your desires and regrets, but please tell me what urged you to contact me./ She looked at Arwen and quickly told her that Celeborn was farspeaking with her.
A smile surfaced on Arwen’s face and she excused herself, giving Galadriel some privacy.
/Celeborn? How does Elrohir fare? I felt it wise not to tell Arwen until I was sure what was happening./ Galadriel wrung her hands, hoping her husband had been in time to stop Elrohir from making the biggest mistake in his life.
/A rock avalanche stopped his flight./ Celeborn sighed relieved. /And Elladan claimed him for life. That should stop Elrohir from fading and choosing mortality. I think we prevented the worst./
/And yet I sense you are still worried, hurt even./ Galadriel rose from her chair and descended the talan, heading for the spring that supplied the water she needed to foresee the future.
/I am worried, melme. (love) I tricked Elrohir into revealing his feelings for Elladan and by doing that, I betrayed his trust. I will have to work hard on regaining it. But I had no choice. I couldn’t let the past repeat itself./
Galadriel nodded absentmindedly, filled the bowl with fresh spring water and stared into it. /War will come over the lands…/
Celeborn held his breath, realizing she was sharing a glimpse of the future with him and that made him wonder. They had been discussing Elrohir and now they were talking about war? /Melme, I do not understand./
/Now that Elrohir has been reclaimed, I trust Elladan and he will find their happiness in each other, but you, nîn-hervenn, you will be alone./
Celeborn’s heart twitched in his chest. /I wish you would reconsider and stay as well./
/I cannot,/ sent Galadriel in a regretful tone, /but there is another one./
Celeborn’s eyes widened involuntarily. Galadriel filled his mind and he was solely focused on her. /Another one? Meleth-nîn, (my love) I don’t understand./
Galadriel laughed sweetly. /I have known about your love for him these last few centuries, but I also know your dedication to me. Once I leave for Valinor I will set you free, Celeborn./
His fingers clawed at Imladris’ soil. This was one topic he had managed to avoid for centuries and he felt overwhelmed and embarrassed now that she addressed it. /Galadriel, don’t do this, not now./
/But you must know…/ She passed her hand over the water and images assaulted her. She screamed out in despair, witnessing the slaughter that was Helm’s Deep. She stilled, seeing Haldir draw his last breath. /Nay, I cannot allow this./
/Galadriel?/ Celeborn, sensing her distress, involuntarily reached for Haldir’s hand and squeezed tightly.
/Listen carefully, melethron. (lover) An army will be send to Rohan to stop Saruman’s foul creatures, but the price will be high. Too high. Haldir will fall./
Celeborn whimpered. /Nay, not Haldir!/
/But… This is just one possible future. Now that you know what will happen you may influence it. I suggest you secretly join our army, but don’t reveal yourself until after the battle. Cover his back and Haldir might live./
/Your heart is kind to warn me, nîn-bess. It shows how much you love me and I could never betray you by taking Haldir for my lover after you left. Only the Valar can undo our vows./
/We will discuss this matter later,/ said Galadriel; the strain of farspeaking with Celeborn was wearing her out. /I will inform Arwen of what has happened and she might want to return to Imladris. In the meantime, keep Elrohir safe for me and support Elrond; he will need it./ Smiling melancholy, she sent him her love and her goodbyes. /Im mela lin, nîn celeb orn./ (I love you, my silver tree.)
/Im mela lle, Galadriel./ His heart despaired, feeling her retreat and he reminded himself that he would be alone until the end of Arda after she sailed for Valinor.
Blinking once, his surroundings came into focus again and he stared into Haldir’s worried, hazel eyes. /He will die. Galadriel said that he would fall in Rohan. I cannot allow that to happen. I will keep him safe. Once Galadriel is gone, I will need him to keep me sane and grounded./
“I am fine,” he forced himself to say and then realized that he had a death grip on Haldir’s hand. When he released the march warden’s hand, he found that his grip had left imprints on the Elf’s skin. “I am fine,” he repeated, reassuring Haldir. “We will now return to the Last Homely House.”
Haldir nodded, remaining quiet. He had no idea what had passed between his Lord and Lady, but he could easily tell that Celeborn was even more worried than before and he vowed to ease his Lord’s mind in whatever way possible.
Erestor waded into the small pool, situated in the center of Thranduil’s bathroom. The water was pleasantly warm and he added some fragranced oils in order to keep his skin smooth and subtle. He still snickered softly, and shook his head, recalling Thranduil’s stricken face when his lover had realized his mistake. He did hope Thranduil would never use ink for lubrication again, but he couldn’t be angry with his lover for grabbing hold of the wrong phial in the midst of their lovemaking.
The warm water eased his sore muscles and he relaxed. Thranduil was turning out to be a very committed and passionate lover and he wondered when the Sinda would finally exhaust him. Judging by the pace Thranduil was setting, exhaustion would hit him shortly.
Stretching his body, he purred softly. He could get used to this. Thranduil was absolutely smitten with him, and adored him. Even the King’s advisors had gladly accepted his presence at the council. It seemed he would be very happy here in Mirkwood, something he had never expected when Elrond had sent him on this mission.
He purred contently, sliding his hand down his body to remove any remnants of the ink that might still cling to his body. Closing his eyes, he softly whispered his lover’s name, wishing Thranduil were here with him now.
Suddenly, the hair at the back of his neck stood rigid. He opened his eyes and carefully searched his surroundings. Gooseflesh formed over his entire body and the urge to leave the pool right that instant overwhelmed him. It felt like someone was watching him and it was a menacing stare.
Hoping he had soaked long enough to make the ink disappear, he grabbed a large towel and wrapped himself up into it, leaving the pool. The uncanny feeling remained and he quickly left the room, closing the door behind him with a soft thud. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
/Now you know how he lured your King into believing him. He stepped into that pool to clean Thranduil’s seed from his body. He is letting your King use his body to find relieve, and once Thranduil is completely under his spell the Noldo will make his move. You cannot allow that to happen. You are Thranduil’s protector. Oropher asked *you* to look after his son./
Belldoron nodded his head once. The voice was right. But how to properly deal with the Noldo? The voice had reminded him earlier that Erestor deserved to suffer for putting Thranduil under his spell and he was inclined to agree.
/First, you will make him suffer and only then will you kill him./
Part of him suddenly reacted, rebelled to the voice. /You want me to kill him? But Elves do not slay each other!/
/But this one is a Noldorin Elf! He probably participated in the kinslayings! You would do everyone a favor by ending his life! Thranduil is his current victim and you might find your King with a slit throat one day. Do you really want that to happen?/
Nay, of course he didn’t, but part of him was still reluctant to slay another Elf. Thranduil and his advisors might not realize he had acted in his King’s best interest and banish him. He didn’t want having to leave Mirkwood over a Noldorin Elf.
Frustrated sensation slithered into his mind and he tried to resist the suggestions the voice was whispering into his mind, but he caved in eventually. /You are right. The Noldo deserves punishment for bewitching Thranduil,/ but he wasn’t sure he could end another Elf’s life.
/We can worry about that later,/ whispered the Shadow into Belldoron’s mind. /First you need to get him alone. Then you can hand out his punishment./
/I will get him alone,/ vowed Belldoron, /and he will pay for using Thranduil in that way. He will beg for mercy before I am through with him./
Pleased at sensing Belldoron’s resolve, the Shadow retreated.
Belldoron now descended the talan after having watched Erestor bath. The Noldorin Elf didn’t know it yet, but his days were counted.
Thranduil frowned, catching Erestor shiver violently. The dark-haired Elf was merely wrapped up in a towel and the dark eyes moved restlessly in their sockets. It appeared something had upset his lover and he was eager to find out what it was so he could fix it.
Erestor shivered, still unable to name the source of his discomfort. “I felt like I was being watched.”
“That is possible,” admitted Thranduil. “This talan is not like the Last Homely House. You can actually look into many quarters.” Thranduil felt worried, sensing his lover’s discomfort. “I could have my rooms guarded if that makes you more comfortable.”
Erestor shook his head. “I don’t think that will be necessary. It was just a momentary feeling.”
But Thranduil caught his lover’s shivers nonetheless. /Who would be watching you? And why?/ He decided to take this serious, however. He had learned to trust Erestor’s instincts these last few weeks. For now, he could only try soothing his distraught lover. Curling an arm around Erestor, they stood face to face.
“You seem to be growing stronger,” said Erestor pleased, as his fingers moved through his lover’s long mane. “The grey is fading and your old golden sparkle is returning.”
“All because of Vilya. I am greatly indebted to Elrond.”
“I am sure he will consider this alliance sufficient payback,” said Erestor reassuringly, leaning into the embrace, which Thranduil now completed. He really felt content, resting his head against the Sinda’s shoulder. “Who would have thought I would find happiness here in Mirkwood – in your arms.”
Thranduil smiled warmly. “And who would have thought I would ever let a Noldorin Elf get this close to me? You are in my veins, nîn-cuil.”
Erestor smiled apologetically. “Not again, melamin. I need to recover. You are exhausting me.” Then, adding a more teasing question, he said, “Did you manage to rearrange your desk? Did you get rid of that phial of ink?”
Thranduil nodded his head and a very sincere expression appeared on his face. “I did. Fortunately, the ink can be easily removed. I might have been able to explain my black fingers, but I would rather not have to.”
Laughing softly, Erestor took Thranduil’s hand in his and led his lover to their bed. After dropping the towel, he moved between the sheets. Arien had set and Ithil had risen. It was time for them to rest and get some much needed sleep after having been plagued by nightmares for so many nights. He patted the space next to him and watched Thranduil strip. Contentedly, he noticed that the Sinda was already putting on some weight after only a few days. Vilya had been Thranduil’s salvation.
Thranduil slipped between the covers and immediately opened his arms so Erestor could move into them. “I will put you in charge concerning this alliance. Do whatever you have to do in order to make it a success. Mirkwood needs all the support it can get.” Temporarily owning Vilya was already strengthening the lands -- and him as well.
“There will be no nightmares tonight,” whispered Thranduil knowingly and he recalled his private vow to fill their nights with moans and lovemaking. But Erestor seemed tired and not in the mood for more exploration. Maybe he had been a bit too enthusiastic and Erestor needed a chance to recover. Nuzzling his lover’s throat, he then looked into his lover’s expressive eyes. “What do you want? Sleep or…?”
“Sleep, definitely,” replied Erestor firmly. “I need to rest.”
Pleased with himself, Thranduil smiled cockily. “I still plan on tying you to my bed and ravaging you.”
“I know you do,” whispered Erestor, his voice filled with desire. “But not tonight. I want to sleep in your arms tonight.” Until now he had held Thranduil close, but he would love to be held in turn. Sighing, he snuggled closer to his lover’s warm body. In their sleep, their minds would gravitate toward each other and through their link they would know instantly, should the nightmares return after all. “Quel kaima, melamin.” (Sleep well, love.)
Thranduil pressed a passionate kiss onto the top of his lover’s head and curled up around the dark-haired Elf. Possessively, he rested one hand on Erestor’s buttock, squeezing gently. /You are mine now and I will keep you until the end of Arda./
“Would you mind sitting down, êl (star)?” Elrohir didn’t want to admit to being tired, but these last few days had taken their toll on him.
“There is a nice shadowed spot,” said Elladan, pointing at an old oak tree. His heart fluttered, hearing Elrohir’s old nickname for him. Elrohir hadn’t called him that since this nightmare had started and hopefully it indicated that his younger twin had forgiven him.
They walked over to the tree and sat down; Elladan with his back against the tree trunk and after a moment’s thought, Elrohir stretched out, lying on his back and resting his head on Elladan’s thigh. Arien played with the leaves above their head, creating a golden blanket, which made Elrohir smile with contentment.
“Do your arm and shoulder still hurt?” Elladan carefully maneuvered Elrohir until his younger brother was as comfortable as possible. He then rested a hand on his brother’s brow and stroked the skin tenderly. “I was so afraid I would lose you, gwenneth. I would have tracked you down to the Great Halls if necessary.”
Elrohir sighed; he had realized that his salvation lay with Elladan and he was working hard on accepting the fact that his brother loved him. It would take time for him to fully accept this, but he was trying.
When Elladan bowed down and kissed him, he gingerly returned the kiss and instantly caught the pleasure and approval that his older brother radiated. /I do love you, êl. Please be patient with me./
/You have all the time you need,/ replied Elladan compassionately. Leaning back against the tree, he savored their love and closeness.
Elrond felt energized, finally making out the outline of the Last Homely House in the distance. Only a few more moments and he would be home again. “I want to talk to my sons the moment we arrive,” he told Glorfindel. “And you won’t carry me! I can walk unaided.”
Glorfindel pretended to pout. “But I like carrying you! Then I can press you close to me.” Seated behind the half-Elf, he felt it was time to ease Elrond’s mind a little. The Peredhel was obviously upset and tense, and he wanted to distract Elrond from the problems he would face shortly. Pressing himself closer to Elrond’s back, he rubbed himself against the half-Elf. He transferred the reins to his left hand and used the other to steal into Elrond’s shirt, rubbing the flat abdomen. “And you should rest first, melamin.” He still thought it unwise of his lover to leave Mirkwood in such a hurry. Had the half-Elf properly rested, Elrond might have recovered from the spider’s poison by now. But no, Elrond had insisted they traveled while he was still weak.
“I can rest later.” Elrond involuntarily held his breath, feeling Glorfindel’s fingertips manipulate one already hard nipple. Fortunately he was wearing a warm cloak that shielded him from eventual curious looks, but he still thought Glorfindel was pushing the envelope. “Not here. Not now.”
But then Glorfindel’s erection pressed against his buttocks and he moaned his need. He wanted to make love with the Elda as well, but he had to check on his sons first.
Glorfindel, sensing Elrond’s protest, removed his hand and tried to behave as they made their way onto the courtyard. Surprised, he realized Haldir and Celeborn were there as well, dismounting from their horses.
Elrond had also seen them, and his heart pounded wildly, realizing he had been right. Something was amiss, why else would his father in law unexpectedly visit Imladris? “Celeborn?” His voice sounded much too weak and he cringed, seeing the silver-haired Elf’s instant concern.
Celeborn quickly left the horses in Haldir’s care and advanced on Elrond. He grew worried, seeing the half-Elf’s pallor and the partly hidden bandages beneath the cloak. “By the Grace of the Valor, what happened to you, Elrond?”
Realizing Glorfindel wanted him to help Elrond dismount, he opened his arms and caught the Peredhel when the Elda lowered his charge. He enfolded the half-Elf in his arms and led him toward a low wall where Elrond could sit down. “You are injured.”
Elrond smiled grimly. “What a brilliant conclusion, Celeborn.”
“What happened to you?” Concerned for Elrond’s well-being, Celeborn pushed the fabric aside and realized the half-Elf’s side and shoulders were bandaged.
“Mirkwood’s spiders happened. They attacked and Elrond refused to obey when I told him to make a strategic retreat.” Glorfindel joined them and frowned, seeing Elrond’s face had turned even paler.
“You told me to flee!” spat Elrond at the Elda. “I never fled for an enemy before and I refused to start there and then!”
“He is too stubborn for his own good,” whispered Glorfindel in a doting tone and then leaned in closer to press his lips on Elrond’s. The half-Elf froze against him and he instantly realized his mistake. What had possessed him to kiss Elrond in the presence of Celebrian’s father? Would Celeborn understand and allow this or…? Pulling back, he pleadingly stared at the silver-haired Elf. “I can explain…”
But Celeborn raised a hand to silence the Balrog Slayer. “There is no need to apologize. Galadriel and I have seen this possible future for the two of you.”
Elrond trembled due to the stress of traveling and Celeborn’s unexpected, mellow reaction. “You will allow this?”
Celeborn let out a deep breath. “When Celebrian left she told you to love again. We Elves live too long to go through life without love.” Celeborn’s eyes twinkled with mirth. “And I must say you made an excellent choice, Elrond. Glorfindel is certainly more than worthy of you.”
Glorfindel and Elrond felt relieved now that this matter had been dealt with. Recalling his reason for coming here, Elrond locked eyes with Celeborn and said, “I need to see Elrohir. Is he well? I trust he is here? I am so worried. I felt our link weaken and hurried back here.” He felt slightly reassured, knowing Celeborn wouldn’t be standing here this calmly if his son was in mortal danger.
“Elladan took him to the gardens,” said Celeborn in a thoughtful tone. The fact that Elrond had picked up on Elrohir’s pain didn’t surprise him. Elrond and his sons had always been close, whilst Arwen had shared such a bond with Celebrian and later with Galadriel.
“But he is well?” Elrond successfully struggled back to his feet. He swayed and instantly felt Glorfindel wrap an arm around him for support.
“He is well now.” Celeborn considered how much he should tell Elrond, considering the half-Elf’s weakened state.
“I knew something was wrong!” Elrond was upset again and tried to speed up and head for the gardens, but Glorfindel slowed him down before he could stumble over his own two feet.
“Ride Asfaloth,” suggested Glorfindel, instinctively knowing it would be impossible to convince Elrond to wait for the twins in his rooms.
Elrond glared at Glorfindel for stopping him in his tracks, but then relented and allowed the Elda and Celeborn to help him into the saddle again. “I ride alone.” He didn’t want his sons to pick up on his weakness immediately.
Glorfindel nodded, but rested a hand against the small of Elrond’s back for support.
“And now tell me what happened to Elrohir!” Elrond probed Celeborn’s eyes when the silver-haired Elf finally looked at him.
Celeborn decided that Elrond needed to know the truth, but first he mimicked Glorfindel’s action and established contact by supporting Elrond as well. Sensing the tremors that rocked the Peredhel’s body he realized he had to tread carefully. “History was about to repeat itself,” said Celeborn, maintaining eye contact with the half-Elf. He briefly hesitated again, wondering if Elrond wanted Glorfindel to know what had happened in the past.
Elrond wondered why Celeborn had stopped, but then caught the silver-haired Elf’s probing glance directed at the Elda and realized the true intent of his friend’s words. “Nay… not again.” A terrible burden settled on his shoulders and he bowed his head in defeat. It couldn’t have happened again!
Glorfindel, alarmed, looked at Celeborn questioningly. He disliked the fact that Elrond was even more distressed now.
“But this time no one died,” said Celeborn, whilst soothingly rubbing Elrond’s back. “Elladan found out the truth and stopped Elrohir from fading… and from running away.”
Alarmed, Elrond searched the elder Elf’s eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Elrohir tried to run away, but Elladan and I tracked him down and brought him back. He was caught by a rock avalanche and broke his arm and dislocated his shoulder.”
“But you said Elladan stopped Elrohir from fading,” Glorfindel mumbled, thoroughly confused. He was definitely missing a giant piece of this puzzle.
“I will explain later,” said Elrond, realizing he had to be completely honest with Glorfindel and with his sons, but he dreaded confiding in them. Suddenly Celeborn’s soothing presence calmed him and he recognized the manipulation for what it was. The silver-haired Elf had used this special gift before, when he had lost his wife, Celebrian. He had been inconsolable back then and only Celeborn had managed to comfort him.
Glorfindel reluctantly accepted that Elrond wasn’t going to explain now and that he had to wait. However, he could tell that something greatly burdened his lover and his heart went out to him.
Elrond’s eyes searched his surroundings and he quickly located his sons, which were resting and enjoying Arien’s kind rays. His first look was for Elrohir, who looked at peace and comfortable in spite of his obvious injuries. “He is alive…”
Celeborn nodded and tried to reassure Elrond by touch, rubbing the half-Elf’s lower back.
“Help me down. I want to greet them.” Elrond glowered at both of them, as they seemed reluctant to comply. “Now!” His sons needed him strong, not displaying his weakness.
“But we will stay close,” said Glorfindel in a slightly disapproving tone as Celeborn and he helped Elrond dismount.
Elrond growled softly and then rearranged his cloak so the twins wouldn’t notice his injuries right away. “We are taking them back inside. I want them in view until I talked with them.” Feeling Celeborn’s hand descend onto this shoulder made him waver, and he now faced the silver-haired Elf, who stared at him compassionately.
“Elrohir feels guilt and shame because of this. You need to talk to him. Tell him about Elros.” Celeborn had kept his voice low and silent, not wanting Glorfindel to catch his words. Elrond had to decide when he would tell his loved ones, as it had become obvious that the half-Elf needed to share this secret with his family at last.
Elrond nodded once and then stepped away from them, advancing on his sons, aching to wrap his arms around Elrohir in particular.
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