Heart In Chains
Erestor sat quietly, staring at the flames that danced in the fireplace. He had never thought it possible he could conceive, and finding himself pregnant scared him witless. Camfael had done his best to reassure him, but the other healer had unwillingly added to his fears by telling him that his abdomen had to be opened when the hour of birth arrived.
/I do not care if I live or die. I want what is best for my child. I do not want my baby to grow up in this prison./ Once he had accepted that he was pregnant, he had realized what kind of life the little one would have and he was already making plans to ensure his child’s safety and happiness.
He hoped he could hide his pregnancy until the moment of birth. In the meantime, he hoped he would find someone willing to take this innocent, new life out of Galadriel and Celeborn’s reach once the babe was born. Maybe one of the healers would help him. He was hesitant to ask one of the three brothers, not wanting them to fall into disgrace with their Lord and Lady.
Although he was only in his second month of pregnancy, he already cared deeply for the new life inside him. The mere fact that a child was growing inside him filled him with awe and respect. /But why is this happening to me?/ Was it because he had bound himself to Elrond in such a way?
/I will never find out why and I cannot use up the little energy I have left by tormenting myself in that way. I am carrying a new life inside me and I have to be careful. No one except for Camfael can find out. Once Galadriel and Celeborn learn the truth they will take my child away from me or confine the little one to my room. I cannot let that happen./
At least he had one person to talk to about his child. Camfael knew and had promised to keep his condition a secret, for which he felt grateful. /I will need his expertise when my baby is ready to be born./ He just had to be very careful not to run into Galadriel or Celeborn by accident. Wearing loose robes would hopefully hide his condition.
Instinctively, his right hand came to rest on his abdomen. It was still too early to feel any distension, and he wondered about the miracle that was taking place inside his body. “Maybe I can arrange for you to be taken to Elrond, little one.” He couldn’t help talking privately to his unborn child. The sound of his own voice soothed him. “I can never tell Elrond that he is your father, but he might be willing to let you live in Imladris, far away from Galadriel and Celeborn.”
“You are brooding,” said Haldir, surprised that the usually alert Erestor hadn’t noticed his arrival.
Hearing the guardian’s soft, melodic voice made Erestor shift uneasily on his chair. Normally, he would rise to greet the other Elf, but now he felt too drained. “’Tis Elrond,” he lied, knowing that Haldir wouldn’t pressure him into revealing his troubled thoughts where the half-Elf was concerned. Haldir considered that a private matter and never pried. The guardian didn’t disappoint him this time either. The silver-haired Elf sat down opposite him and Erestor forced himself to meet the probing gaze. “What brings you here?”
“Orophin told me you did not feel well earlier today and I wanted to check on you.” Although Erestor seemed to have settled back into his daily routine, Haldir’s instincts told him that something had upset the dark-haired Elf. “Is it something Galadriel has said or done?”
Erestor shook his head. “I am merely tired, Haldir.”
Haldir studied the dark eyes and found hints of fear and fatigue in them. Although Celeborn had assured Erestor that he could go outside when he desired so, the healer often preferred the privacy of his room. Haldir wondered why. Erestor had been confined to these four walls for so long that he had thought the raven-haired Elf eager to go outside when possible. But during these last two weeks Erestor had begun to lock himself up in here. Haldir cocked his head. “I am sorry to hear that. I had hoped you would join me for a walk.” He caught the shivers that coursed through Erestor’s body and recalled that the dark-haired Elf was afraid of the condemning glances he might receive from the Galadhrim. “We can go to your garden.”
“I am honored you would seek out my company,” said Erestor carefully, “But I would prefer to stay here and read.”
“Maybe tomorrow evening, then?” Haldir felt reluctant to leave, but realized Erestor wasn’t enjoying his company this evening.
“Maybe,” said Erestor without commitment. His right leg was cramping up and he hoped Haldir would leave quickly. At the same time, his stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten much today. He had kept his food intake to a minimum, as he didn’t want to risk more morning sickness.
“You are hungry. Let me fetch you something from the kitchens.” Haldir’s worries increased, seeing Erestor’s features contract briefly. “Are you sure you are fine?”
“As I said before, I am tired, Haldir. Elrond… required a lot of my life energy today.” Part of it was a lie. Aye, Elrond still soaked up a large part of his energy, but that was not the main reason why he felt this tired.
“I will be right back,” said Haldir, rising from his chair. He walked over to the doorway and after closing the door behind him, he headed for the kitchens. Just what was wrong with Erestor and what could he do to remedy it?
“Thank you, Haldir,” said Erestor politely, after emptying the plate filled with food that Haldir had brought. Once he had begun eating, he had been unable to stop until he had devoured everything. “I was hungrier than I thought.” He leaned back into the comfort of his chair, pushing the empty plate away from him.
Haldir smiled pleased. “You should rest now.” He got to his feet and studied Erestor for one more moment. A soft glow lay in the brown eyes, which he had never seen before. Erestor looked contented right now. “I will visit with you tomorrow.”
Erestor smiled. “Thank you for caring about me.” It felt good to have a friend. Maybe Haldir would help him get his child into safety? But he didn’t want to get Haldir into trouble with the Lord and Lady. /I do not have to decide this now. It will be ten more months until this little one is born./
Seeing Erestor’s eyes were beginning to grow vacant, Haldir excused himself, eager for the dark-haired Elf to rest.
“You may get dressed again,” said Camfael. He failed to keep his concern out of his voice and immediately noticed Erestor’s darkening expression. “We need to talk.”
Erestor swallowed hard. Four more moons had waxed and waned and he was beginning to show. It was just a small bump, and no one else would notice it beneath his loose robes, but he knew it was there.
After pushing himself to his feet, he gathered his robes and slipped into them. He fastened them with a leather belt and then took a seat opposite the other healer, whose face was wrinkled with worry. “Is anything wrong?” Until now he hadn’t thought of possible complications or a miscarriage, but Camfael’s behavior worried him.
“I would not call it ‘wrong’,” said Camfael thoughtfully. “I assumed you were carrying one child, but it appears I was wrong. You are carrying twins.”
Erestor fought for breath. “Twins?” Inwardly, he felt hysterical. Why was he surprised? Elrond and Elros were twins as well. “So I am carrying twins…”
“This makes your pregnancy even more complicated… and difficult. Erestor,” Camfael leaned in closer and gathered Erestor’s right hand in his. “There is a possibility that you will not survive the birth. Carrying twins will greatly tax your body and you are already in a weakened state.”
As Erestor had vowed to keep his bond with Elrond a secret, he had never been able to tell Camfael that he shared his life force with the half-Elf. The fact that Elrond still needed his life energy to grow stronger weakened him in turn, but he couldn’t tell Camfael that. “I have a request,” he whispered eventually.
Camfael nodded once. “I will try to help.”
“I do not want my children to inherit my imprisonment here. I do not know how Galadriel and Celeborn will react when they are born, but I do not want to condemn my children to my fate. Would you take them away from here? Find them a safe and caring home? Maybe in Imladris? I heard Elrond Half-Elven is a kind and wise ruler.”
Camfael understood Erestor’s motives, but wasn’t sure he could comply. “I will do my best to take your children to Imladris. Maybe Haldir can also help?” He was Celeborn’s chief healer and his absence would immediately be noticed. He couldn’t simply leave Lothlorien like that. “I promise you that I will do the best I can.”
Wrapping his arms around his waist, Erestor pleadingly looked at the other healer. “What will happen next? What do I do to ensure they remain healthy and continue to grow stronger?”
“Most importantly, take good care of yourself, eat and rest. Do not use your healing energy in any way whatsoever. Maintain your strength. Are you still suffering from morning sickness?”
Erestor shook his head. “It stopped a few days ago, but now I am hungry all the time.”
“You are eating for the three of you,” said Camfael thoughtfully. “I will tell Lord Celeborn that you are to study in your room in the morning. That way you can get some extra rest.”
Erestor nodded thankfully. “I will rest, eat, and take care of myself.” But he couldn’t hide how miserable he felt.
“I wish you would reconsider and tell me the father’s name, Erestor. You should not have to do this alone. There is another party involved and he needs to know he fathered these children.”
“I cannot tell you,” whispered Erestor in a guilty tone. “It is for the best that no one knows, and certainly not the father.” He slowly pushed himself to his feet, eager to return to the peace and quiet of his room. “I never suspected I could be carrying twins,” he mumbled absentmindedly.
“They will be born in six months,” said Camfael, hoping Erestor had the strength to survive. “And please consider telling our Lord and Lady. I understand your hesitance to confide in them, but I do not share your opinion. I do not think they will punish your children for something you did millennia ago.”
“I wish I shared your view.” Erestor bowed his head. “But I do not.” He was extremely protective of his children and wouldn’t risk their freedom. “Please respect my wish to keep this a secret.”
“I will respect your decision, but I do not agree with it.”
“You do not have to,” whispered Erestor dejectedly.
Camfael watched his charge shuffle out of the room. To him, Erestor’s fate was a tragic one and he wished he could somehow aid the dark-haired Elf, but his hands were tied. He had promised Erestor to keep this a secret.
Erestor looked up from an ancient scroll, which Camfael had asked him to study. It documented two cases of male pregnancy and the healer had hoped to reassure him by asking him to read about them. But instead, he had grown terrified. Although both Elves had survived giving birth, the children had died. He didn’t want to have to bury his babies.
Two more months had passed and still he managed to hide his pregnancy, which was becoming increasingly difficult, as his food intake was beginning to puzzle Haldir and his brothers. Occasionally they would bring him sweet treats, which he immediately devoured. /I have to be more careful or they might figure out that something is wrong./
His body twitched, feeling one of the babies kick. When he had first felt it, he had panicked and hurried to ask Camfael if something was wrong, but the healer had smiled and reassured him. Since then, the babies had begun to kick more regularly, making it very clear they were determined to be born in four months.
What amazed him was how quickly they were growing. And with that realization came the worry that he might not be able to keep his pregnancy hidden. /I will have to confide in Haldir shortly./ He had hoped to postpone that conversation for a few more months.
“I will make sure you will grow up in freedom.” He didn’t know the gender of his children, but his instincts told him he might be carrying boys. Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to see them grow up, his eyes filled with tears, and again he wondered what he had ever done wrong to deserve such a cruel fate.
“Erestor, we need your help!” Rumil cried franticly as he ran into the room. His eyes danced wildly in their sockets and after locating the dark-haired Elf, he quickly grabbed Erestor’s hand, dragging him to his feet. “You have to help!”
“What happened?” Erestor was unable to stop Rumil when the sentry pulled him along. He was quickly growing breathless, but Rumil didn’t seem to notice and set an even faster pace.
“A pack of Orcs attacked us and many were wounded.”
Erestor’s heart missed a beat. “Your brothers… Are they…?”
“Haldir and Orophin merely received scratches, but other sentries are more seriously injured. The healers cannot identify the poison the Orcs used to coat their arrow heads with and now Telu, one of the sentries, is dying. The healers have given up on him, but I know you can stop him from entering the Great Halls.”
Erestor wanted to object when Rumil pushed him into the tent that held the injured. Several gazes, filled with loathing and disapproval, fastened on him and he wished the ground would open and swallow him, but nothing happened. Instead, he stood frozen.
“Come with me!” Rumil dragged Erestor along with him and didn’t stop until he had reached the last cot. “Telu, I brought help! Erestor will heal you!” Telu had saved his life once and the Galadhrim was a skilled and respected fighter. Rumil promised himself that they wouldn’t lose him.
“Erestor?” With his remaining strength, Telu’s blue eyes sought out the kinslayer. “I do not want his help!” His body convulsed due to the poison, which was still spreading through his body. “I would rather die than…” He released a scream, filled with pain and horror, sensing his fëa was leaving his body.
Erestor, ghostly pale, wished Rumil would release him so he could run back to his room. Hearing those condemning words reminded him that most Elves still shunned and hated him.
“Erestor, he is delirious and does not know what he is saying. Please help him! He is a trusted friend and saved my life in the past. He does not deserve to die like this.” Rumil pleadingly stared at Erestor.
“Rumil, I…” Telu’s eyes were closing, now that eternal sleep was upon him and Erestor wavered. He knew he could help the injured Elf and he was willing to do so in spite of the hatred that the other Elf felt for him, but he had to consider his unborn children above all. They needed his life energy to grow. By giving it to Telu he might hurt his unborn children.
“I knew he would not do it. Once a kinslayer, always a kinslayer,” spat Seregon, one of the sentries, who had overheard the conversation. “He would rather watch Telu die.”
Erestor’s eyes flared with anger as he sought out the Elf’s hate-filled eyes. He wished he could tell them why he was this hesitant. If it weren’t for his pregnancy, he wouldn’t have wavered.
“Heal him,” said Seregon, raising his dagger and holding it against Erestor’s throat. “Heal him or experience the same pain Telu is in.”
Rumil hissed and tried to sweep the arm away that held the dagger, but the other sentries wouldn’t have it. Hearing the whispers that emanated from his fellow Galadhrim, Rumil grew worried for Erestor’s well-being. This was turning ugly quickly. “’Tis Erestor’s decision whether to heal Telu or not,” he pointed out to them, but they didn’t listen. More voices joined in, demanding Erestor heal Telu.
Erestor panicked when Rumil was pushed away from him. He lost sight of the silver-haired Elf and when he tried to look for Rumil, he froze. The sharp tip of the dagger was now dipping beneath his skin, drawing blood.
“I said; heal him, kinslayer.”
Tears threatened to spill from his eyes but he held them back, not wanting them to see his misery. /What of my babies? Will they survive?/ But he didn’t get much time to ponder his dilemma. One of the sentries pushed him down onto his knees and he was now level with Telu, who was about to release his last breath.
“Heal him or face our wrath!”
Erestor’s vision became tunnel-like and their voices and enraged screams came to him from a great distance. Fighting nausea, he placed one hand on Telu’s chest. He wrapped his other arm protectively around his own waist, hoping he had enough strength to sustain them all. Unable to keep his tears back any longer, they flowed down his cheeks as he directed his energy into Telu’s dying body.
/I will lose my babies… I know I will. I am not strong enough to do this. And there is Elrond, who also draws his strength from me. I am so sorry, little ones. I did not want this./ Sobbing softly, he no longer felt the tip of the dagger that dipped deeper beneath his already bloody skin.
“Nay, you cannot force him to do this!” Rumil, enraged that his actions had caused this, tried to fight his way back to Erestor’s side, but his friends stopped him. “Erestor might be too weak! We cannot force him!” He had seen Erestor go to the edge before, but it had been voluntarily then. There was no way of telling how being forced into this would affect the healer.
Suddenly, Haldir appeared at his side, and Rumil acted at once. “Muindor, help me!”
His men’s angry screams had alerted Haldir and he had hurried to the tent and inside. He was enraged, seeing Seregon holding a dagger to Erestor’s throat. “This is not the way!” One didn’t force a healer to use his life energy in that way. His men had gone mad, now that they had suffered so greatly due to the Orcs’ attack. “Release him!”
But like Rumil, he failed to stop them.
Silent tears dripped down Erestor’s face, feeling the two fragile lights inside him fade away and then die. His healing energy was still flowing into Telu, saving the sentry from certain death. In this moment of terrible loss, he forgot about his duty to Elrond. /Have all of me, then./ It was his final act of defiance, giving all of him, hoping his inner light would be extinguished along with the twins’. /I want to die…/ He had nothing left to live for now that he had lost the twins. Losing consciousness, he collapsed onto the floor – one arm still wrapped protectively around his waist.
Camfael noticed the commotion too late. Making his way through the assembled crowd, his eyes flashed with rage, finding Erestor curled up on the floor. He glared at Seregon, who only now removed the blade from Erestor’s throat.
“You had better see to Telu instead of the kinslayer,” said Seregon in a pleased tone, now that his friend had been saved from certain death.
Camfael ordered one of the other healers to look after Telu and then gathered Erestor in his arms. The dark-haired Elf was cold and motionless in his arms and his instincts told him that Erestor had lost his children. “I will deal with the lot of you later,” he said in a booming voice.
The group of sentries finally realized they had crossed the line by forcing Erestor to aid Telu, and made way, letting Camfael pass unhindered.
Catching sight of Haldir and Rumil, Camfael called out to them. “Rumil, find Lord Celeborn and tell him that I need his assistance. Tell him that it is urgent. And Haldir, I need you to come with me.” Cradling Erestor’s limp body tightly against his chest, he carried the raven-haired Elf to that section of the talan where he could perform the necessary surgery on his student.
Haldir hurried over to Camfael’s side whilst Rumil left in search of Celeborn. The two Elves were greatly worried, seeing Erestor this still. “What happened to him? Did he use too much of his life energy?”
Camfael’s jaw was set firmly, as he marched over to the cot that would serve as his operating table. “I do not have the time to explain. Haldir, undress Erestor and keep your eye on him. Should he regain consciousness, tell me!” He then left to retrieve healing herbs, surgical instruments and bandages. He also instructed his students to heat lots of water.
Haldir swallowed hard, seeing the empty expression in Erestor’s eyes. When Erestor had healed Orophin, the raven-haired Elf had been exhausted as well, but conscious and coherent. Erestor’s current condition filled him with dread. He pulled up a chair and sat down beside Erestor. One of the raven-haired Elf’s hands rested in his and he rubbed the icy skin, whilst mumbling softly. “Camfael will take good care of you, Erestor. Please hold on.”
Camfael entered the room again. Seeing Haldir this concerned he wondered if maybe the march warden was the father of Erestor’s children. He would find out quickly enough. “I told you to undress him!”
Haldir flinched at Camfael’s hard tone. “My worries—“
Camfael cut him short. “Help me now, then!” He gently pulled Erestor in a sitting position and supported the other Elf whilst Haldir removed the cloak and robes, which Erestor was wearing.
Haldir frowned when removing Erestor’s undergarments, finding the dark-haired Elf had put on weight. But that shouldn’t surprise him, recalling the large amount of food Erestor had eaten these last few months.
Camfael had watched Haldir closely and it was obvious to him that the sentry had no idea about the condition Erestor was in. Now that Erestor was naked, he eased his charge back onto the cot. Ignoring Haldir for now, he concentrated on Erestor. His hands probed his patient’s abdominal area and his worst suspicions were confirmed. “He really has lost them.”
Haldir cringed at the defeated tone in Camfael’s voice. “He lost what?” He felt seriously confused now that the healer continued to examine Erestor’s abdominal area. “What are you talking about?”
“He did not tell you? He said he would.” Camfael needed a moment to compose himself. Against all odds, he had hoped that Erestor and the babies would be all right eventually.
“Told me what?” Growing suspicious, Haldir cocked his head. Camfael took him by surprise when the healer took hold of one of his hands and placed it on Erestor’s abdomen. Frowning, he realized he felt some sort of mass beneath the soft skin.
“He was pregnant. Erestor carried twins.”
Camfael’s words shocked Haldir. “Pregnant? But how? Why? When?” His mind was trying hard to accept what Camfael had told him, but part of him dismissed it as impossible. “Male Elves do not become pregnant!” Camfael had reached the wrong conclusion, was lying to him… That had to be it! This couldn’t be the truth!
“It is extremely rare, but not impossible.” Camfael drew in a deep breath; he had to know! ”Haldir, are you the father? Did you bed him eight months ago?”
Haldir’s eyes widened in disbelief. “What?” His thoughts began to race. “Eight months ago?” Erestor had bound himself to Elrond eight months ago. /These were Elrond’s children./ Then something else registered. “Twins? He lost both of them?”
“I can no longer sense their inner lights.” Camfael slowly realized that Haldir had had no part in this. “It must have happened when those fools forced him to heal Telu. The life energy Telu received was meant to keep the children alive. Erestor simply was too weak to sustain the four of them.”
Haldir swayed and had to reach for the wall to steady himself. “By the Grace of the Valar…” /The *five* of them! Elrond also draws his strength from Erestor. What did we do?/
“I will have to remove the dead fetuses. If I do not do it, we will lose Erestor as well.” Camfael wished he had arrived sooner. Maybe he would have been able to prevent this tragedy.
Haldir nodded. He still felt shaky, but he would do whatever he could in order to help. /Erestor never told Elrond. I would have known if a messenger had been dispatched to Imladris. He suffered in silence./ That fact saddened him immensely.
Unexpectedly, the door opened and Celeborn, quickly followed by Rumil, marched inside. Seeing Camfael and Haldir’s distressed expressions, Celeborn knew something was terribly amiss. Then his gaze was drawn to Erestor’s naked form. As he too was trained in the art of healing, he noticed Erestor’s distended stomach. Haldir’s hand still rested atop of it. Uncertain what conclusion to draw, he looked to Camfael for an explanation. “What ails him?”
Camfael drew himself to his full height, knowing he needed to be strong and calm for Erestor’s sake. “Erestor suffered a miscarriage, losing the twins he was carrying.”
For one terrible moment Celeborn found that his heart had stopped beating. Time stood still, hearing this terrible news. “He was pregnant?” He had never noticed a thing! “Are you sure?” How could this have happened? Galadriel hadn’t mentioned this to him. Had she known or had the mirror simply not shown her this would happen? He would ask her later.
“Convince yourself.” Camfael removed Haldir’s hand from Erestor’s abdomen and waited for Celeborn to check for himself. He suspected Celeborn knew more about this, but it didn’t look like his Lord would enlighten him.
Celeborn looked over his shoulder at Rumil, hearing the younger Elf release a strangled whimper. Rumil hadn’t known either, then. Walking toward their patient, he repeated Camfael’s earlier examination. “You are right. He suffered a miscarriage.” How could this have escaped his attention? /Camfael said twins. Erestor truly carried Elrond’s heirs, then./ Saddened by the realization that Erestor had lost both babies, he met Camfael’s condemning gaze. “I never wanted for this to happen.”
Camfael knew it wasn’t his place to ask, but he did it anyway. “Are you their father?”
Celeborn sighed deeply. “Nay, I am not.” He didn’t feel offended by Camfael’s question, understanding why the healer wanted to know. Realizing he had to take charge, he looked at Haldir. “Camfael and I will take care of Erestor. Your services are no longer needed.”
Haldir swallowed hard. He wanted to stay, but couldn’t defy Celeborn. Glancing at Rumil, he saw the guilt and shock in his brother’s eyes and realized he had to get him out of here. “Rumil, come with me.” He wrapped an arm around Rumil’s shoulder and pulled him along.
The moment Haldir and Rumil had left, Celeborn sought out Camfael’s eyes. “I do not know what happened to cause him to miscarry, but I will find out.”
“I can spare you the effort,” said Camfael in an angry tone. “Your men forced Erestor to heal one of their wounded. They threatened him. When I came upon him there was a knife against his throat.”
Celeborn hung his head in shame. “I will discipline the ones responsible for this.”
“You can do that later. Now I need your assistance and expertise. I am afraid Erestor knows he lost them and is yearning to be admitted to the Great Halls of Waiting. I need your strength to pull him back if necessary.”
“I will do what I can,” promised Celeborn. “No one should have to bury their babies.” His heart ached in pain at the mere thought. After this surgery was over he would talk to Galadriel. They had to decide whether to tell Elrond or not.
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