Heart In Chains
“’Tis is my fault,” said Rumil, feeling miserable and guilty. Haldir had taken him back to their talan and had then sat him down on his bed. Rumil wrung his hands and bowed his head in shame. “My fault.”
Haldir, at a loss to what was wrong with his younger brother, seated himself next to Rumil. Wrapping an arm around his distressed brother’s shoulder, he asked, “What is?”
“That Erestor lost his children.” Rumil suddenly looked Haldir in the eyes, pleading with him. “I did not know! I truly did not know he was carrying Elrond’s children! If I had known I would never have dragged him along!”
“Dragged him to Telu?” Slowly, Rumil’s raving and distress were beginning to make sense to Haldir.
“Aye! Erestor healed Orophin and I thought he could heal Telu as well! I never waited for him to say yes! I simply dragged him along and then everything went wrong!”
Haldir listened patiently to his brother’s raving, realizing Rumil needed to get this off his chest. “Go on.”
“Seregon took charge, and put his dagger against Erestor’s throat. Erestor never had a choice! Aiya, Muindor-nîn, Erestor lost his children! Did you know that—“
Haldir squeezed Rumil’s shoulder reassuringly. “Nay, I did not.”
“If only he had confided in us! Haldir, why did he not tell us? Did he not trust us? I know we were not kind to him in the past, but… I thought he was beginning to realize we meant well!” Tears gathered in his eyes and he wiped his nose with his sleeve. “I never wanted to endanger Erestor. I did not know! Did not know!”
Haldir now resorted to rocking his younger brother and was reminded of a time when Rumil had been an Elfling. He had consoled Rumil back then as well, when his brother had missed his parents. “It was not your fault, Rumil. Seregon is to blame. It was not your fault.”
“But he lost them!” Rumil raised his right hand, which had turned into a fist and slammed it into his older brother’s chest.
Haldir barely felt the blow, and tightened his hold, rocking Rumil harder. “I am sorry this happened, but you are not to blame. We have to put our trust in Celeborn and Camfael, and hope that Erestor will find the strength and willpower to return to us.”
“What will this do to him, Haldir?” Rumil raised his swimming eyes and pleadingly stared at his brother. “It took him so long to start coming out of his shell and he was just beginning to trust us. Will we really lose him now?”
“I do not know, Rumil,” said Haldir honestly. “All we can do is pray to the Valar for Erestor’s survival… and then we wait.”
Orophin was restless and glad his watch was over. His instincts told him to hurry and he quickly arrived at the talan which he shared with his brothers. Stepping into the bedroom, he found Haldir and Rumil on the bed. Haldir had protectively curled himself around their brother, whose eyes were still red from crying. “What happened here?” At a loss, he sat down on the side of the bed.
The movement woke Haldir, who quickly grew aware of his brother’s agitation. It came as no surprise that Orophin had picked up on Rumil’s distress. The three of them had always been close.
“Why is Rumil upset?”
Whispering softly so as not to wake Rumil, Haldir told Orophin what had occurred. In his younger brother’s eyes, Haldir detected a strong sense of loss. “Erestor told no one. Rumil did not know that he was pregnant and now he blames himself.”
“This is sad news indeed,” whispered Orophin, distressed. “It is just like Rumil to blame himself for something he had no control over. Has there been any news on Erestor’s condition yet?”
“Nay, I will ask Camfael in the morning. There is nothing we can do at any rate.” Haldir’s heart ached for Erestor, but he was realistic enough to know he couldn’t help the dark-haired Elf. What Erestor needed was an experienced and determined healer. “Come, join us. Rumil needs us close.”
Orophin removed his weapons and cloak and then lay down in front of Rumil, embracing his brother. “I feel sad for Erestor.”
“I share your sadness,” said Haldir softly. Rumil groaned in his sleep, and Haldir soothingly stroked his younger brother’s hair. “If only we had known. Even Celeborn did not seem to know. He was shocked when Camfael told him.”
Sudden anger overwhelmed Orophin. “This is Galadriel and Celeborn’s fault to begin with! They ordered Erestor to bind himself to Elrond without the half-Elf knowing about it! And then they ordered Erestor to return to Lothlorien *after* he bonded with Elrond. Erestor should be in Imladris with Elrond, and not here! Maybe Elrond could have kept Erestor safe.”
Haldir nodded. “I cannot help but wonder what Erestor’s plans for the twins were. Did he hope to give birth to them without anyone knowing about it and then have them smuggled to Imladris?” What role did Camfael play in this?
“It is possible, aye. Had he asked me, I would have taken the twins to Imladris to be with their other parent.” Orophin found it hard to accept such a tragedy had happened during his absence.
“I wonder if Galadriel and Celeborn plan to tell Elrond he lost two sons.” Haldir was frustrated. He felt Elrond should know, but at the same time, this knowledge would cause the recovering half-Elf even more pain.
“I doubt it,” said Orophin. “Why would they?” Feeling sad and angry at the same time, he wished he could protect Erestor from the Lord and Lady’s scheming, but they were mere sentries.
As if reading Orophin’s thoughts, Haldir said, “We will do the best we can. We will be there for Erestor… if he survives… and I pray to Elbereth that he does!”
Celeborn covered Erestor’s icy body with several warm blankets and then stood back, studying the dark-haired Elf’s sunken features. Erestor had literally been drained of his life force when healing Telu and the healer’s inner light was barely strong enough to keep him alive. Celeborn had tried to lend Erestor his strength -- but the bond which Erestor had formed with Elrond had prevented that -- not letting the raven-haired Elf form a temporary healing bond with the Lord of the Golden Wood.
Camfael soundlessly entered the room, not wanting to disturb Celeborn’s musings. Performing surgery had taken them many hours. They had removed the fetuses, which had caused severe blood loss. Several times during surgery he had feared losing Erestor, but the dark-haired Elf had somehow survived. Erestor was now scarred for life; an ugly scar on his abdomen would always remind him of his miscarriage.
“I beg your forgiveness for interrupting your thoughts,” began Camfael, bowing respectfully, knowing quite well that without Celeborn’s knowledge and expertise Erestor would have died hours ago. “But I need to know what to do with the…dead children.” At eight months, almost nine, the fetuses had easily been identified as males. Erestor had lost two sons.
Fatigued and feeling lost, Celeborn looked at the healer. “What do you advise?”
Camfael moistened his lips. “Providing Erestor survives, having a place where he can go to mourn his sons’ deaths will help him recover. Maybe a small tomb in a more secluded section of the Golden Wood?” He hoped Celeborn would follow his advice. The twins deserved a worthy resting place.
“Aye,” said Celeborn, nodding his head. “I will see to it.” Slowly, feeling ancient and exhausted, he got to his feet. “I need to speak with my Lady now, but I will visit with Erestor tomorrow.”
“If he is still alive then.” When Celeborn flinched, Camfael felt oddly satisfied. “If you know the father’s identity I strongly urge you to tell him what happened. He should be at Erestor’s side, supporting him. Erestor should not have to do this on his own.”
Celeborn’s shoulders slumped. “I will consider it.” Placing the palm of his hand on Erestor’s brow, he frowned, finding how cold the Elf’s skin was. “Take good care of him.”
“I will.” Camfael watched Celeborn leave and thought he saw defeat in the Elf’s slumped shoulders. He pulled up a chair and sat down next to the bed, gathering Erestor’s hand in his. For the first time in his life he wished he possessed Erestor’s natural healing talents, for then he could truly have aided his charge. All he could do now was wait.
Galadriel was not pleased when Celeborn unexpectedly entered her private rooms. Several of her ladies were with her and she glared at her husband. She had told him on several occasions that she needed these private moments of mindless chatter. They stopped her thoughts from racing and allowed them to slow down. Forcing herself to act politely, she greeted him and dismissed her ladies.
“We need to talk.” Celeborn sensed her frustration and realized this conversation was already off to a bad start.
“What about?” Reluctantly she rose from the sofa and joined him, as he was staring out of the window at the ancient mallorn trees.
Sensing her husband’s emotional turmoil she realized she had to tread carefully. “Why do we need to discuss him?”
“He suffered a miscarriage and lost Elrond’s sons.” Celeborn looked at her, wondering if she had known.
She raised an eyebrow but didn’t show any emotion at learning this. “Then it was the will of the Valar and it was right that we did not know this would happen.”
Celeborn stared at her in disbelief. “How can you be so… calm?” /Cold?/ “Distant? Like this does not touch you.”
“It does not matter to me that he had a miscarriage. Erestor served his purpose when he bonded with Elrond.”
“Is that your only concern?” Celeborn understood her reasoning at once. “You want Erestor alive so he can sustain Elrond, but his personal welfare does not concern you?”
“He is a murderer, Celeborn. When did you start to worry for a kinslayer?”
The hair at the back of his neck grew rigid hearing her voice, which was bereft of emotion. He shuddered and averted his eyes, unable to hold her gaze any longer. She turned around and left the room. Celeborn actually felt relieved that she had left and collapsed onto a chair. He didn’t want to admit this, but at times Galadriel scared him. Something would happen to remind him of the fact that she was related to Feanor. Blood as cold and cunning as his flowed through her veins. These were the moments when he wondered where that noble woman was who he had fallen in love with.
He loved her, truly loved her, but she also frightened him. The question was, did he love her enough to support her decisions and stay with her?
The next morning found Camfael still holding his vigil at Erestor’s bed. During the night his patient hadn’t stirred, and although he had tried to make Erestor drink some water, the dark-haired Elf had proven uncooperative. He was beginning to realize that losing Erestor to Mandos was quickly becoming a reality.
After rising from his chair, he stretched and called for some refreshments. Sitting on his heels next to Erestor’s bed, he probed his patient’s empty gaze. Throughout many centuries he had gathered much knowledge and he suspected that Erestor was conscious, but just not reacting. The raven-haired Elf had no reason to acknowledge him, as Erestor was probably still pining for the Great Halls of Waiting. “Please come back to me, Erestor. It is not your time yet, I know that. Your role on Middle-Earth has not yet been fulfilled.” But Erestor didn’t react.
Camfael lovingly stroked Erestor’s clammy hair. “I know you can hear me. You are just too stubborn to react.” Drawing in a deep breath, he made one final attempt. “My son long reached his majority and married a lovely maiden, leaving me alone. Since you began to study here I found I enjoy your company and I looked forward to your visits. Please do not leave me alone again.”
Erestor moaned softly, but did not react verbally.
“I need to eat something and inform our Lord of your condition, but I promise to be back within the hour.” Erestor merely stared at the wall, worrying Camfael further. “We do not want to lose you.”
But it appeared Erestor had already made up his mind and refused to return to them.
Haldir had been waiting for Camfael in the corridor and when the healer finally emerged, he bombarded him with questions. “I assume Erestor is still alive? Is he already awake? Talking? Does he know he lost the twins? Is there anything I can do to help? How—“
Camfael stopped Haldir by raising a hand. “Too many questions… Why do you not go inside and visit with him?” He hoped that Haldir’s presence would bring Erestor back from whatever lonely place his mind was hiding in. “He might not respond to you, but do not give up.”
Haldir swallowed hard. “He has withdrawn into himself?”
“Aye.” Camfael nodded once. “Would you stay with him until I return? I need to eat, rest, and change into clean clothes.” He hadn’t had any rest since they had performed surgery on Erestor.
“I will stay with him. There is no need for you to hurry.” Haldir -- growing nervous now that he was about to face Erestor -- shuffled into the room.
Camfael closed the door behind the sentry, hoping Haldir would get through to Erestor.
Haldir’s heart contracted with emotion, seeing the despair in Erestor’s eyes. “Oh, meldir!” He hurried over to the dark-haired Elf’s side and sat down on the chair Camfael’s had vacated earlier.
“I wish you had told us that you were pregnant. I understand why you did not do it, why you thought you had to do this on your own, but I wish things had gone differently.” Sliding closer on his chair, he gently stroked Erestor’s hair. “You saved Orophin from certain death and you have grown precious to us in these last nine months. I wish you would not turn your back on us when we offer you our help.”
Holding his breath, he saw the despair in Erestor’s eyes shatter and tears appeared instead. He only now grew aware of the fact that Erestor was hugging his waist and one hand was rubbing his stomach, as if trying to convince himself that he hadn’t lost his children.
“Ai, my heart aches for you.” Overwhelmed with emotion, Haldir moved onto the bed, lying down in front of Erestor and slowly wrapping his arms around him. He waited apprehensively, uncertain Erestor would accept the offered comfort. “I cannot imagine the loss you feel, but please accept what I am offering.”
For one long, seemingly endless moment nothing happened. Then Erestor began to sob against him.
The dam broke and Erestor released the flood of despair, fear, anger and utter sadness which he felt. He had tried to shut them out. Locking out Camfael had been hard, but he had managed. However, now that Haldir was holding him – comforting him – he couldn’t continue to ignore him.
Sobbing hard in Haldir’s arms, he pressed his cold body against the sentry’s warmth. Unable to stop himself, he wrapped his arms around Haldir, squeezing as hard as he could – which wasn’t hard at all, as he was still weak from surgery.
Why did Haldir have to come to him? He wanted to fade, to finally enter the Great Halls of Waiting. Now that he had lost his babies, he felt lost and alone. When he had first felt his flat stomach he had thought he would die that instant, but Mandos didn’t want him, forcing him to continue to dwell on Arda.
Haldir soothingly caressed his hair and the Galadhrim continued to mumble soft reassurances.
“D-don’t… P-please don’t-t…” He didn’t want to hear Haldir calling him a friend and offering him comfort. He wanted to leave Arda, but how could his fëa flee when Haldir was doing his best to make him stay? “Let-t… m-me… goooo…”
“I am sorry, but I cannot do that.” Haldir rubbed Erestor’s cold and shaking back, trying to convince the hurting Elf that he cared. “I had to forbid Rumil and Orophin to come along, knowing their presence would overwhelm you, but they suffer with you. You are not alone.”
Erestor closed his eyes, but tears still slipped from beneath his eyelids. “How-w c-can I… go oooo-nn… with…out… them-m?” How could he find his way back, when a sea of loneliness was pulling him under? He felt like he couldn’t breathe, like he was choking, when in truth he was sobbing himself to pieces.
“Oh, meldir, hold onto me and allow me to be your strength. If you were not bound to Elrond Half-Elven I would bind myself to you so you could draw from my life energy. My brothers and I greatly care for you and we want to see you healed. I know it will take a lifetime for you to heal, but time heals all wounds.”
“Even yours, no matter how terrible your wound is.” Haldir felt slightly relieved now that Erestor was talking to him. “I am so sorry you lost your sons. I am sure they would have been valiant warriors one day… or gifted healers.”
Haldir’s words caused Erestor to cry harder, forcing him to release the pain that he was holding inside. He had clung to it in the hope that it would make him fade. “S-ons-s…” His instincts had been right then. He had been carrying sons. Sons, whom he would never hold, cuddle and watch grow up. “Why? W-why?”
“Life is not fair,” said Haldir eventually. “I do not know why. I wish I had a better answer for you.” Rocking Erestor, much like he had rocked Rumil earlier, he began to sing the same lullaby Celeborn had sung when he and his brothers had been children. It had soothed him and his brothers back then and he hoped it would soothe Erestor now.
Erestor shook like a leaf, recognizing that lullaby; it was the one Elwing used to sing when putting Elrond and Elros to sleep. /Elrond, I tried to keep our babies alive, but I failed. I should have been stronger, should have told Seregon ‘no’, but I am a coward. I hoped I could divide my strength and keep them alive as well./ He prayed to Nienna, begging the mighty Vala to keep this from Elrond until the end of Arda. /Please, Elrond can never find out that I killed our babies. I should have been stronger, should have refused, should have…/
“Shst, try to rest. Try to sleep. You are exhausted – mentally and physically. This is not the time to talk about this. And please, Erestor, do not blame yourself for this.” Haldir raised Erestor’s face until their eyes met, recalling Rumil blaming himself as well. “Seregon – the fool – is to blame, never you. You wanted what was best for your babies.”
But Erestor couldn’t – wouldn’t – believe Haldir. He knew he had been weak and that he was guilty of losing their sons. He would make himself pay for his cowardice for the rest of his life.
When Camfael returned several hours later, he found Erestor fast asleep, with Haldir protectively curled around him. He instantly noticed Erestor’s red eyes and felt relieved, realizing his charge had let go of some of his emotions. Maybe there was still hope then. Maybe they could reclaim Erestor.
“How does he fare?” He spoke softly, unwilling to wake Erestor from what appeared to be the first stage of a healing sleep. He placed the tray, filled with herbal tea and bread on the side table and then seated himself. Hopefully Erestor would be able to eat and drink something later.
“He opened up to me and sobbed in my arms. He is so fragile that I fear for him.” Haldir never wanted to let go of Erestor, but his watch began at sunset. /Maybe Orophin can sit with Erestor until I return./ He didn’t want to ask Rumil, who was emotionally unbalanced as well. But then again, they couldn’t leave Rumil alone either. Sighing, he realized this was more complicated than he had originally thought.
“I will watch over him now,” said Camfael, “but you may visit with him whenever you want. I hope to see you frequently, for your presence seems to be helping Erestor recover.”
“I will be here as often as I can. May I hold him a little longer? I have to leave within the hour at any rate.” Haldir continued to rub Erestor’s back, trying to create some warmth, and his charge moved closer in his arms, apparently savoring the sensation. /Elrond should be here comforting you, not I./ He had entertained the idea of sending Elrond a message, but his loyalty to his Lord and Lady kept him from executing his plan. He couldn’t go behind their backs.
“The one who fathered his children should be offering him his support.” Camfael’s eyes narrowed. “Do you know who sired the twins?”
Feeling cornered, Haldir averted his eyes. “I do, but I am not allowed to tell you. I have been sworn to secrecy by our Lady.”
Camfael hated them for their secrecy. “Celeborn refused to tell me as well. I do not understand why. Having his mate here would greatly aid Erestor’s recovery. The fact that he regained consciousness for a short while does not mean he will recover. First, he has to accept the twins’ death and then he has to go through a long and extensive mourning process. He will need all the support he can get.”
Before asking his next question, Haldir made sure Erestor was still sound asleep. “What did Celeborn order to be done with their… little bodies?”
“I advised our Lord to have a small tomb constructed, which will hold their remains. Erestor will need to say goodbye and having a place to go to mourn will help.”
Haldir sighed. “I agree. And will Celeborn follow your advice?”
“I think so. He was fairly shaken when he realized what had happened. I have seldom seen him so sad as when he assisted me during surgery. Celeborn is a father himself and the thought of losing Celebrian fills him with terror as well. That reminds me,” said Camfael softly, “Celeborn will visit with Erestor shortly. He has also requested to be regularly informed on Erestor’s condition. Erestor might find a protector in Celeborn after all.”
“Celeborn is a just and wise ruler.” He didn’t want to say aloud that Galadriel at times intimidated him. There was something ruthless about her that warned him to never cross her.
“Aye, he is.”
Haldir, seeing Arien’s descent in the sky, knew it was time to leave Erestor and go join his men. He regretted having to untangle himself from Erestor, as he would have loved to hold him as long as Erestor needed him. “I know you will take good care of him.”
“I will,” promised Camfael.
Erestor moaned his protest when Haldir left the bed and he shivered violently, growing cold again. Haldir tucked the blankets around Erestor’s shivering form, feeling guilty for leaving the dark-haired Elf in this way. “I will hurry back to you,” he promised in a soft voice.
But Erestor didn’t hear him and whimpered softly. He pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapped his arms around them and remained in that fetal position.
Haldir and Camfael exchanged a worried look. “You had better keep that promise,” said the healer eventually. “Right now, you are the only thing holding him here on Arda with us.”
Celeborn cleared his throat when he entered Erestor’s room, not wanting to startle the injured Elf. But when he approached the bed, he realized that Erestor was unresponsive and blindly staring at the wall. Next to the bed sat Camfael, who now placed a cup of tea on the nightstand.
“Camfael?” Celeborn came to a stand still in front of the bed and made eye contact with his chief healer.
“He is aware of our presence, but not inclined to communicate with us.” Camfael rose from his chair and signaled for Celeborn to follow him into a corner of the room. Erestor wasn’t interested in what they were saying and would not eavesdrop, but he didn’t want to disturb his charge with their conversation. “Erestor refuses to drink and eat, and he won’t talk to me. The one time he showed some emotion was when Haldir was here.”
“Haldir?” Celeborn frowned.
“But he had to leave for his watch. My Lord, if it is possible please relieve Haldir from his duties for a short while. If you want to keep Erestor alive, having Haldir close would help.”
“I will arrange for it.” Celeborn decided not to tell Camfael about his wife’s reaction to the news and asked instead, “Is there anything else I can do to help?”
“Aye, there is.” Before he continued, Camfael lowered his voice. “The twins…”
“The other healers are wrapping them up in the softest fabric they can find and I already ordered for the construction of the tomb to start. We can respectfully put them to rest in two days.”
Camfael’s eyes filled with pity for Erestor. “I doubt he will be able to attend.”
“I understand. I will take his place then and put the little ones to rest.”
Camfael heard the sorrow and regret in the older Elf’s voice. “There is one other thing you can do for Erestor.”
Celeborn waited patiently.
“Erestor needs his mate close. Working through the loss of his children will be an impossible task for him if he has to do it alone.”
“I wish I could tell their father, but I cannot,” whispered Celeborn, who was regretting his past decisions. He should never have agreed to Galadriel’s plan to save Elrond. The price that Erestor was paying was much too high. Seeing Camfael’s disapproving expression he tried to explain. “The twins’ father is in a bad way as well. Although he is recovering from a traumatic event, he does not yet have the strength to support Erestor. It is up to us to pull him through.”
Camfael realized Celeborn wouldn’t tell him the father’s identity and knew when to stop pressuring someone. A knock on the door supplied him with the necessary distraction. “Enter!”
Rumil and Orophin hesitantly shuffled into the room. Rumil had bathed, changed his clothes and felt slightly more in control of his emotions, but when he saw Erestor’s rumpled form, a lump of emotions formed in his throat. /I did not want this to happen. I am so sorry./
Orophin, sensing that Rumil was slipping back into his guilt, quickly squeezed his brother’s shoulder. “We wondered if Erestor was up to receiving visitors. We will be quiet. We merely wish to sit with him.”
Recalling the healing influence Haldir had had on Erestor, Camfael nodded his approval. “You may sit with him. Try to make him eat and drink something.”
Rumil and Orophin made their way over to Erestor’s bed. One of them sat down on the side of the bed, whilst the other now occupied the chair. They would sit with Erestor until Haldir returned; making sure Erestor was never alone.
Celeborn watched them. Galadriel and he had raised Haldir, Rumil and Orophin as if they were their own children and he greatly loved them. /I do not know how I would have reacted, had we lost them. Oh, Erestor, I wronged you./
Celeborn was determined to make amends to the hurting Elf. /We won’t give up on you./
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