Heart In Chains
Elwing waved at her husband, when his ship -- the Vingilot -- disappeared at the horizon. She had hoped he would stay for a longer period of time, but his restlessness and the urge to find Valinor had gotten the better of him. She consoled herself with the fact that they’d had a few days of peace and happiness together. She rested her fingertips on the Silmaril -- the Nauglamir -- and gently caressed the perfect jewel, which she wore in a necklace beneath her clothes, hidden from curious eyes.
It was time to return to the house and let the twins distract her. At times she wondered if she would have survived being separated this often from her husband if he hadn’t given her the twins. The boys made her happy and filled her lonely days with mischief and love. And now she had Erestor’s company as well. She sincerely liked the dark-haired Elf, but had also noticed how timid and uncertain he was. It made her wonder what had previously happened to him. Her husband had told her that he had written Maglor and she was now eagerly waiting for a reply.
Leaving the cliff she had been standing on, she returned to her house, and came upon Erestor and the twins in the gardens, where they were playing. She was relieved to see that Erestor had put them far away from the mud and Elros was behaving for a change. The boy probably missed his father already. /I need to cheer them up./
Erestor looked up at her when she came to a standstill in front of them. Her beauty always took his breath away. The long, dark hair, which she wore loose, danced on her back and her chocolate eyes also showed golden specks. Elrond and Elros were fortunate to have her for their mother.
“Eärendil and I gathered sea shells last night,” she said, sitting on her heels next to Elrond, who loved to examine their texture and listen to the sea, echoing in the shells. “Would you like to see them?”
Elrond nodded at once. A serious expression – which seemed somewhat odd for one as young as he was – appeared on his face. He then reached for Erestor, awkwardly curled his arm around the Elf’s neck and clung to him, making it very clear that he wanted Erestor to carry him.
Elwing smiled warmly and gathered Elros in her arms, whilst watching Erestor’s timid expression change into one of fear. /Elrond, you can sense it as well. Erestor needs your love more than I do at this moment./ She had realized long ago how sensitive and intelligent her youngest was.
Erestor felt somewhat nervous, cradling Elrond against his chest. Eärendil might have told him that he didn’t mind that Elrond liked him that much, but he still felt like he was trespassing, taking something away from Elwing.
“Erestor, follow me inside.” Elwing guided him into the kitchen, where Eärendil had deposited the bundle filled with seashells, which they had gathered last night. After sitting Elros down, Elwing opened the bundle and began to show the shells to her sons.
Elrond, who found it impossible to remain seated on Erestor’s lap, pushed himself to his feet and reached over the table to gather several shells in his tiny hand.
Erestor smiled at Elrond’s eagerness and helped him, when several shells proved to be out of the twin’s reach. The pleased smile Elrond gave him made him feel warm inside, and when his gaze locked with Elwing’s, he saw approval in her dark eyes. She had accepted him as part of her little family and for that he would be eternally grateful.
Weeks passed by peacefully and consisted of caring for the twins. Erestor had fully settled into his new daily routine and was truly happy for the first time in his life.
He was also afraid it wouldn’t last.
Erestor was on his way back from visiting the havens to buy several delicacies, which Elwing wanted to prepare for their next dinner when screams shattered the silence and made his worst nightmares come true. He started running toward the hill Elwing’s house was built upon and suddenly heard the terrified cries of the twins. Suddenly, mayhem erupted all around him.
From everywhere soldiers appeared, swarming the havens. A large group of them seemed concentrated around Elwing’s house and that made him increase his speed. He had no battle skills whatsoever, but he would die defending Elwing and the twins.
Recognizing some of the guards he shivered with fearful anticipation. /What are Maglor’s guards doing here? And why are they attacking these good people? Elwing! Elrond, Elros! Hold on!/
He had no idea how to defend himself when he flung himself into battle. He grabbed a sword, which had fallen onto the floor and blindly hacked away at the soldiers that were targeting the inhabitants of the Havens. Some of them had come to Elwing’s rescue, but were now paying a high price for their willingness to help.
Erestor could hardly believe what he was seeing. Maedhros had just slain Elwing’s gardener and was now heading toward the twins, who were sitting huddled in the corner of the room, holding each other tightly. “Nay, leave them alone.” He hadn’t fully registered yet that he was about to attack Maedhros himself, when a sharp blow to the back of his head sent him crashing into the floor. Panting softly, he lay there, unable to move at all.
A sea of screams erupted around him and the whimpers of the dying filled the kitchen area. He heard Elros wail pitifully and Erestor prayed to the Valar that the twins would remain uninjured. In the end, he lost his battle to remain consciousness.
When he woke next, the battle had long come to an end. Pushing himself onto his knees, he stared in horror at the dead bodies lying around him. Some belonged to Elves whom he had come to care for during these last few months. There was also Elwing’s gardener, the maid that sometimes assisted Elwing in the kitchens and…
His breath caught, recognizing two of Feanor’s sons. Amros and Amrod had been slain and a pool of blood had formed between the Elves’ bodies. Erestor’s eyes filled with tears. This was so wrong! Elves didn’t slay one another! How had this come to pass? And why had Maglor lead the attack?
Feeling nauseas at the sight of so many dead, he pushed himself to his feet, using his sword to support him. His gaze swiftly traveled to the corner of the room, hoping against all odds that the twins had been spared. But the blankets they had been sitting on were empty; the boys had been taken. He consoled himself with the fact that no blood showed on the fabric. Maybe Maglor had managed to stop more bloodshed and had taken the twins into his custody. /I hope so. I cannot believe Maglor is capable of murdering two innocent children./
Feeling sick to his stomach, he made his way through the kitchen and headed for Elwing’s room. He had to know what had happened to her. /Please, Elbereth, let her be alive!/ Someone as sweet and caring as Elwing didn’t deserve such cruel a fate. Opening the door to her room, he involuntarily halted in his tracks, whilst his eyes searched the room. There was no sign of Elwing and there weren’t any bloodstains either. He had to believe that she had somehow escaped.
“Aiya, Elbereth, why did you let this happen?” Now that he was back in the corridor, he had to carefully step over the dead bodies in order to make his way to the living area. He didn’t want to go there, but the healer in him urged him to check if anyone had survived. By using his healing powers he might be able to save a life.
When he came upon Rhoss’ body, he released a pained whimper. They hadn’t even spared their own! Crushed by this revelation, he collapsed onto his knees next to Rhoss’ body. He forced himself to calm down and his eyes widened, realizing the guard was still breathing shallowly. “Aiya, maybe I can help!”
Sweeping back the guard’s long auburn hair, he gasped loudly, finding the blade of a dagger deeply buried in the guard’s chest. /If I remove it, he will lose even more blood. Blood, which he can ill afford to lose!/ Torn, he curled his fingers around the hilt, keeping it in place.
“Rhoss? Can you hear me?” He searched the guard’s face, whilst he ensured the dagger remained deeply lodged in Rhoss’ chest. He had to guide his healing energy into the Elf’s body before he could even think about removing the dagger. “Rhoss? Meldir? Please talk to me?” He needed someone to reassure him in this hour of madness.
Rhoss managed to focus his gaze on Erestor and his heart was weighed down, seeing the younger Elf’s pain and horror. He wished he could do something to soothe Erestor, but the call of Mandos was growing stronger and he would enter the Great Halls in seconds. There was nothing he could do to comfort Erestor. As his eyes closed in death, he hoped Erestor would find the strength to survive this ordeal.
“Nay! You cannot leave me alone!” Shocked to see the guard’s inner light go out, Erestor fastened his hold on the dagger. “I won’t let you die!” But he was too late. Rhoss was already dead. He hung his head, grieving for his friend’s death, when the door was slammed open. A silver-haired Elf, dressed in silver and gray, advanced on him, aiming an arrow at his heart. The newcomer’s eyes flashed with anger and loathing, and Erestor realized that very moment which conclusion the other had reached.
He immediately let go of the hilt of the dagger and tried to explain. “I did nothing! I merely tried to help!” Despair washed over him, reading the hatred and distrust in the other’s eyes. “You have to believe me! I found him like this!”
“Keep your lying tongue in check,” growled Orophin. He had been the first of the rescue party to reach Elwing’s house, and although he was still shocked at finding a massacre had taken place, he tried to remain calm and controlled. “I should end your life, kinslayer, but I won’t stoop to your level. Rise from the floor and stay close to the wall, or I will bury my arrow in your chest.”
Too shocked to protest, Erestor obeyed. The sword he had been holding crashed onto the floor with a loud bang and he raised his hands, trying to plead with the silver-haired Elf. But then Erestor froze, finding that the hand that had held the dagger in place was covered with Rhoss’ blood. It was during that terrible moment that Erestor realized no one would ever believe him that he was innocent. “It is not what it looks like!”
“Keep your lies to yourself,” spat Orophin in loathing. He was under strict orders from his Lord not to take any lives, but right now, he wouldn’t mind ending this kinslayer’s life. The dark-haired Elf deserved to die!
“Orophin!” Rumil now joined his brother and stared in disbelief at the corpse at his feet. Then his gaze settled on Erestor –and the bloodstained hand. “Muindor-nîn, (brother-mine), what do you want me to do?”
The house was now swarming with silver-haired Elves, who were checking for survivors. Erestor wanted to tell Orophin again that he was innocent, but was stopped when a strong fist crushed into his face. He went down to his knees, but did not lose consciousness. His hands were bound tightly behind him and a bloodstained piece of cloth was pushed into his mouth, gagging him. His blurry eyes pleaded with the two Elves who now dragged him between them, but seeing their determined expression he knew convincing them of his innocence was impossible.
He was thrown onto the grass and when he looked up, he found he had been flung between the remains of Maglor’s guards. Even Amrod and Amros’ bodies had been gathered on this pile.
Shaking like a leaf and fearing for his life, he watched quietly as two new Elves appeared to his right. One of them was a she-Elf of incredible beauty and she vaguely seemed familiar to him. Her cold eyes reminded him of Feanor’s and he quickly shifted his gaze to the Elf standing next her. This Elf’s eyes showed compassion, regret and immense sorrow. Erestor bowed his head, unable to look at them any longer whilst his fate remained uncertain. What would they do to him?
“My Lord Celeborn? My Lady? Most of the kinslayers were already dead or have fled, but we found one alive.”
Erestor looked up at hearing the strained voice. A third Elf now stood with Orophin and Rumil. His long, silver hair glowed with Arien’s light and the hazel eyes were swimming with tears.
“Elwing and the twins are nowhere to be found. We must assume they were taken by Maglor.” Haldir tried to sound and appear distant and detached, but knew his eyes were giving his fierce emotions away. “My brother Orophin came upon this one,” and he pointed at Erestor, “who was still driving a dagger into the heart of one of Elwing’s personal guards. We await your judgment. What punishment do you deem suitable for such horrible a crime?”
Erestor’s heart pounded madly and in his despair, he managed to spit out the cloth that had kept him from talking. Before any of the silver-haired Elves could react, he pleaded urgently. “My Lord, my Lady, I had nothing to do with this slaying, Please enter my mind and convince yourself that I am innocent! Argh!” A boot crashed into his back and sent him crouching onto the grass. He was grabbed hard from behind and the gag was put back in place.
“This won’t happen again,” promised Haldir, upset that their prisoner had dared to address his Lord and Lady in that manner.
Galadriel glared at Erestor before addressing him. “I refuse to defile myself with your horrid memories, kinslayer. Keep them to yourself.”
Her chilling words crushed the little hope he had still left inside him. /They will condemn me for this. Will she order me killed?/ Gagged, all he could do was stare at her pleadingly.
“Husband,” Galadriel said, “What punishment do you deem just?”
Celeborn, still taken aback by the slaughter that had taken place, forced himself to react. It was beyond him how one Elf could slay another. All he knew was that this had to stop. “We will not slay one of our own.”
Galadriel’s eyes narrowed at that. “Death would be just punishment for what he did.”
“Nay, I won’t allow it,” said Celeborn steadfast. “The slaying will end here. We have to show that we are better than them. We must set an example.”
Galadriel seemed displeased, but didn’t openly object to her husband’s decision. “Life-long imprisonment, then.”
Saying ‘aye’ greatly burdened Celeborn’s soul, but he agreed to her ruling. “This one will be our responsibility from now on.” Looking about, he called the three brothers to him. “Haldir, Orophin, Rumil. It will be your task to guard this Elf. Make sure he does not flee. He is to be imprisoned for the rest of his life and you will act as his guards.”
Erestor’s world shattered into small pieces when Celeborn passed his judgment. /Nay, I did not kill Rhoss! I tried to help!/
“My Lord? We found one more of Feanor’s men. He is dying, but maybe you would like to talk to him.” One of the silver-haired sentries had brought the dying Noldorin Elf and now placed him at Celeborn’s feet.
Erestor’s eyes widened, recognizing the soldier as one of Celegorm’s confidants. When Celegorm had died, his men had joined Maglor’s. /And he knows me… I can see it in his eyes. What will he say?/ His heart thundered madly, hoping the guard would speak the truth in his dying hour.
Celeborn glared at the dying Noldorin Elf. “Why?”
“The Silmaril… It belongs to us.” Celegorm’s former confidant panted hard. Losing interest in Celeborn, his gaze settled on Erestor. “Ah, it has been a long time since we met, Erestor.”
Celeborn’s eyes narrowed. “You know him?”
“Finwe adopted him when he married Indis. Erestor is the son of her oldest sister… Kin!” he spat the word in disgust, recalling that Erestor and his mother had tried to flee. And now he had one last chance to make Erestor’s life even more miserable. “Erestor is Maglor’s right hand… His second in command…” His strength was leaving him fast, but he found delight in the fact that he had utterly ruined Erestor’s life.
Celeborn watched silently as the soldier released his last breath. Now that the guard was dead, he concentrated on Erestor again. “You are Finwe’s kin… and Feanor’s.” They had to be even more careful around Erestor now. Luckily Haldir and his brothers were excellent fighters. Looking Haldir in the eye, he said, “Guard him carefully.”
“We will,” replied Haldir. He wasn’t looking forward to carrying out his new task, but would do as Celeborn had bid. “He will pay for his foul deed for the rest of his life.”
Overwhelmed by everything that had happened to him, Erestor began to rock himself, sobbing softly. He hated showing his weakness, but his life had just been ruined. Never again would he experience happiness or bliss. /Aiya, Elwing, I hope you and your sons survived./
Erestor had long lowered his gaze and now stared at the ground, whilst Haldir and his brothers dragged him to a certain section of the improvised camp. Eyes filled with hatred were trained on him and he tried to make himself as small as possible when Orophin forced him onto his knees to tie his hands to a post that had been driven in the ground behind him. Bound and helpless, he listened closely, hearing Haldir move away from him.
No one interfered when the warriors began to spit at him in disgust. The occasional boot impacted with his back, making him flinch in pain.
But Haldir, Orophin and Rumil looked the other way as long as their prisoner wasn’t seriously injured. Their rulers’ verdict had been clear. Erestor was to stay alive, but imprisoned, and they couldn’t blame some of their fellows for feeling the way they did. Seeing so many Elves slain had enraged them and Erestor deserved to be punished for his part in the slaughter.
Erestor tried to curl up, but as his hands were tied to the wooden post, his space was limited, and in the end, he endured the enforced humiliation. His head bowed, he tried to recall Elwing’s soft voice, singing a lullaby to her sons. He had to survive… Somehow.
The next few days were hellish for Erestor. His hands remained tied and Orophin held the end of the rope in his hands, whilst driving his horse to greater speed. Having to run along was exhausting Erestor and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could endure this treatment.
At night, when the party made camp, he was given a small amount of water and some lembas to keep him alive, but he was forbidden to address his jailors. That first night, he had tried one more time to convince Orophin that the silver-haired Elf had reached the wrong conclusion, but the sentry had brutally pushed the gag back in place before he’d had the chance to drink his daily water ration.
Despair had long overwhelmed him and he realized that he would never taste freedom again. He had no idea where they were headed, but Celeborn and Galadriel had made it very clear that he was to remain with them for the rest of his life. They would make sure he never left and suffered in solitude.
His life would be a lonely one, with only misery keeping him company. Closing his eyes, he tried to shut out their voices, which were still calling him a kinslayer. Maybe he could lose himself inside his mind.
Celeborn and Galadriel settled down, erecting a temporary structure to house their people and he was confined to a room. At first he had wanted to rebel and protest to this injustice, but he quickly realized how useless that was. Their minds were set in stone, determined to make him pay for a crime he had never committed.
His three jailors hardly spoke with him and after a while, he grew used to the silence that surrounded him. At nights, he would dream of the twins, and listen to their happy giggling. Waking up each morning was pure torture, however.
After long years, Celeborn and Galadriel moved to another place, but his treatment remained the same. Year after year he spent in solitude, eating just enough to stay alive. As he was denied any distraction, he would sit in front of the only window of his room and stare outside, recalling the happy weeks, which he had spent with Elwing and the twins.
When Celeborn and Galadriel finally moved to Caras Galadhon, he quickly realized they planned to stay there. High in a mallorn tree, they confined him to his talan. Each morning one of the three bothers relieved the other, guarding him closely.
He lost track of time, and the only thing that told him that time was passing, was seeing the seasons change. He especially loved winter, when a virgin white blanket would cover the lands. He could stare at the dancing snowflakes for hours and it was his only joy in these endless years.
Finally, he gave up all hope, resigning himself to the fact that he would never be free again. During many nights, he found himself wishing he had died alongside Rhoss, and that he hadn’t visited the market that day. But the Valar had decided differently, condemning him to this mockery of life.
Erestor sat staring at the ancient trees, watching two birds building a nest. Spring had made the flowers blossom and Arien warmed Middle-Earth. It truly was the time to fall in love, build a nest, and raise little ones.
But not for him. Eternal winter remained in his heart.
Erestor was therefore shocked to see Galadriel and Celeborn enter his room unannounced. The two rulers seemed troubled, although they were doing their best to hide it from him. He forced himself to rise from his chair and to bow deeply. It had been ages since they had visited with him. When they had last, it had been to inform him that Lothlorien would be his prison for the rest of his life.
“Erestor, there is something we need to discuss with you.” Celeborn wasn’t sure this was the right decision, but they didn’t have a choice. During one of those first years of Erestor’s imprisonment, the dark-haired Elf had displayed impressive healing powers when a maiden had taken a fall. He had healed her and from that moment on, Galadriel had monitored him closely. Celeborn had sensed her interest in him, and knew she would use Erestor in whatever way she deemed necessary.
“Of course, my Lord.” His seldom used voice sounded alien to Erestor, as he stared at the floor, unwilling to meet their eyes. His skin crawled, like it always did when Galadriel was near.
Her soft, melodic voice suddenly floated through the room. “Would you like more privileges? Access to our library and the occasional stroll outside?”
Erestor’s eyes widened, and then he did look at her, but he wished he hadn’t. Her blue eyes were as cold as ice. “Aye, I would like more privileges.” But at what price would they come?
“Elrond Half-Elven, Gil-galad’s Herald, is grieving for the High-King’s death,” said Celeborn unexpectedly.
Erestor flinched, recalling holding Elrond when the Elfing would sneak into his bed. “I regret hearing that.”
“We already lost Gil-galad,” continued Celeborn calmly, “And we cannot afford to lose the Peredhel as well.”
Erestor had heard Gil-galad had fallen when defeating Sauron and like the others, he grieved for the High-King. But why were they now discussing this with him? /They want something from me./
“You are a healer,” started Galadriel, “As well as a kinslayer. But this time, you might use your powers for good instead of evil.”
Flinching at her cruel words, Erestor averted his eyes. He had long stopping trying to convince them of his innocence. “I will help in whatever way I can.”
“Elrond is fading because he grieves for his King… and lover,” said Galadriel, who carefully observed Erestor’s reaction.
/Lover?/ That idea was hard to reconcile with the fact that Erestor still remembered Elrond as a tiny Elfling.
“He will leave for the Great Halls of Waiting and we cannot allow that.” Galadriel took up pacing the room. “Elrond has lost his connection to life and we need to provide him with a new one. We cannot allow him to fade as we will need him in the future.”
Erestor’s stomach did a sickening somersault. What was it that she wanted?
“You are a gifted healer and your life energy could sustain Elrond, provide him with a link to Arda,” said Galadriel calmly. “We want you to bind yourself to Elrond.”
Erestor gasped in shock, seeking out Celeborn’s eyes, which were more compassionate than Galadriel’s. “What?”
“You will bind yourself to him and your life energy will help him recover.” Galadriel’s voice hardened. “In order to create this tight and unbreakable bond you will submit to him… physically. Elrond is yearning for his lover and will mistake you for him. He will use your body in whatever way he deems necessary. A bond, formed in that manner, is unbreakable.”
Erestor wrung his hands. “But…” What Galadriel proposed was a monstrosity!
“Elrond will never learn of your existence. He will recover, grow strong and fulfill his destiny.” Galadriel’s eyes burned with determination. “In return for your services we will allow you access to the library and a bit more personal freedom.”
Celeborn cleared his throat; he didn’t completely agree with his wife’s plans. “Your pain will be brief, and after you return here, you will find ample distraction.” He had tried to convince Galadriel to send Erestor as Elrond’s official new consort, but she had replied it would be too much honor for a kinslayer.
Erestor’s head reeled with their request. /I would bind myself to Elrond for all eternity and he would never know about it./
“Will you comply?” Galadriel’s eyes probed Erestor’s.
Erestor sighed distressed. A long time ago he had promised himself to protect Elwing and the twins in Eärendil’s absence. After all what had happened, how could he not stay true to his word? “I will do it,” he said in a resigned voice. “I will bind myself to him.”
Galadriel’s eyes glowed victoriously, whilst Celeborn’s shone with sad compassion.
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