Heart In Chains
“Haldir!” Overjoyed that his lover had returned from patrol early, Erestor flung himself at the guardian, who opened his arms just in time to catch him. “I missed you!”
“And I missed you.” Haldir graced his lover with a doting smile, a quick kiss delivered to luscious lips, and then slowly pulled Erestor along with him, as he headed for the woods. Erestor tended to lock himself up in his room when he was away on patrol and he didn’t like that behavior. He knew Erestor was terrified of accidentally running into Galadriel, but the raven-haired Elf needed to be in the open air, to feel the wind play with his hair and the damp earth beneath his feet. “You were not this pale when I left,” Haldir said in a disapproving tone. He had been away for a fortnight and reckoned Erestor hadn’t been outside in that time, as Rumil and Orophin had been on patrol as well and thus unable to accompany him on his walks.
“I studied whilst you were away. I borrowed several books on herb lore from Camfael and learned quite a lot,” said Erestor, trying to ignore the disapproving tone in Haldir’s voice. “I want to be the best healer on Arda.”
“You already are,” replied Haldir in a gentle tone. “Even Elrond needs herbs and healing plants to work his art, but you are a true healer, lirimaer.” He smiled, seeing Erestor blush. “Now tell me, what happened whilst I was away?”
“Not much.” Erestor eagerly leaned in closer when Haldir folded an arm around his waist. The guardian then encouraged him to rest his head on a muscular shoulder, which Erestor did.
They walked for several minutes, and halted when they had reached the small, marble tomb. Haldir had long realized his lover’s need to visit here regularly, but Erestor still lacked the courage to come here alone. The dark-haired Elf would only come here when accompanied.
They sat down on the bench Celeborn had ordered to be placed near the tomb, and both stared at the babies’ last resting place. In the end, Haldir cleared his throat, unwilling to deliver the news he had to tell Erestor.
Apprehensively, Erestor looked into Haldir’s hazel eyes. “What is it?”
“Something terrible has happened.” Haldir gathered Elrond didn’t know yet, as Erestor didn’t seem to be weakening. It was only fair to warn Erestor.
“What happened?” Erestor took hold of Haldir’s hand and squeezed it. “Did something happen to Rumil and Orophin?” But no, if something were amiss with the brothers, Haldir wouldn’t be sitting here this calmly.
“The Lady Celebrian was attacked on her way back to Imladris. A pack of Orcs assaulted her.” Haldir swallowed hard. “Her escort was murdered and she was severely injured. I have it on good authority that she was… sexually assaulted.”
Erestor had paled. “By the Grace of the Valar… How can anyone do that to an Elf?”
“Her sons are currently escorting her back to Imladris. Lord Celeborn would have preferred for her to be taken to Lothlorien instead, but Elladan and Elrohir wanted to take their mother home, hoping Elrond can heal her.”
“Even I cannot heal someone’s fëa,” said Erestor regretfully. His heart ached for the Lady, but then he realized what this meant for him personally. “Elrond will be devastated when he learns what has happened.”
“And he will need your strength. The nightmare will start all over again,” said Haldir miserably. “I do not want to lose you to Elrond or to catatonia, lirimaer.”
Erestor bowed his head in defeat. “The Lady Celebrian will fade.” He had studied enough books on healing to know she wouldn’t survive. “And Elrond will be left alone again. What if, in his grief, he will start to fade as well?”
“My greatest fear is that Galadriel will now remember your existence. She has left you alone, but…”
“I understand your fear,” said Erestor in a shaky tone. “But I am bound to Elrond Half-Elven. I agreed to this deal.”
“You agreed because Galadriel pressured you into accepting it!” Haldir, growing enraged, suddenly jumped to his feet. “By the Grace of the Valar, Erestor! You agreed to her proposal because you were a prisoner! You wanted access to the library and to go outside occasionally. Galadriel had no right to do this to you!”
Erestor drew in a deep breath, rose from the bench and advanced on Haldir. Determinedly, he placed his hands on Haldir’s shoulders and waited for the silver-haired Elf to look at him. “We always knew this day could come.”
“I vowed to never regret loving you,” whispered Haldir, calm once more. “And I will keep my promise.” He knew Erestor would need him and his strength in the time to come. Once Elrond found out he would lose his wife, the half-Elf would unknowingly draw energy from Erestor. He led Erestor back to the bench, where they sat down and then Haldir pulled him close. “You will always have my support, lirimaer.”
“I know that, but I feel guilty for putting you through this,” whispered Erestor, miserably. This was so unfair to Haldir!
“Do not worry about me, melethwain-nín.” Haldir buried Erestor in a loving embrace. “We shall face this together.”
Unfortunately Haldir wasn’t close when pain unexpectedly cut through Erestor’s heart, making him stagger, but Camfael was, and the healer quickly steadied his charge. Word of the attack on the Lady Celebrian had spread and all Lothlorien now knew. Galadriel and Celeborn had gone into seclusion to deal with their grief and the border patrols had been increased, forcing Haldir away from Erestor more often.
“Erestor?” Camfael’s worried eyes met Erestor’s chocolate ones. “What is amiss?”
“He found out,” panted Erestor softly. “Elrond finally knows.” At that moment, he didn’t realize how much information he was giving away by saying that, but when Camfael’s eyes narrowed in sudden understanding, he realized his mistake. “Would you… take me… to my room? I need… to lie down.”
“Nay, I cannot keep my eye on you there. You will be alone now that Haldir and his brothers are on patrol. I will take you to the healers’ talan instead.”
Erestor briefly considered protesting, but when the torment in his heart doubled, he simply held on to the healer for support and followed where Camfael led him.
A few minutes later, they arrived in the healers’ talan and Camfael guided him to an empty room, located near his own. “Lie down.”
Again, Erestor complied. “Would you… check when Haldir… is scheduled…to return?”
“I will, but I doubt he will return shortly.” Camfael stepped into the bathroom, wetted a cloth and then returned to place it on Erestor’s clammy brow. He gathered Erestor’s hand in his and then checked the pulse, which he found much too fast. “I can prepare a tea that will help you rest.”
“Thank you… for your care,” whispered Erestor, closing his eyes in concentration. Elrond’s emotional agony was growing and quickly invading his being. Bound to the half-Elf, Erestor didn’t have any defenses against the growing grief. He forced his eyes open again, recalling that Camfael had probably figured out his mate’s identity. “You cannot… tell anyone.”
Camfael’s expression hardened, but his anger was directed at Celeborn and Galadriel, not at Erestor. “You are bound to Elrond Half-Elven.” Words, which Celeborn had spoken years ago, now made sense. /He is happily married and father of three lovely children. I had no idea he was talking about Elrond Half-Elven! What in Elbereth’s name possessed them to place such a burden on Erestor? The least they could have done was to make the bond mutual./
Erestor saw the play of emotions on Camfael’s face and just knew what the healer was thinking. “They did not want him… to bind himself to… a kinslayer.”
“Kinslayer.” Camfael had forgotten about that. “You could not kill someone even if your life depended on it,” he said with determination. “What really happened?”
Erestor understood and swallowed hard. “One of Maglor’s men… had driven a dagger… into Rhoss’ heart… I knew that removing it… would further the blood loss… so I kept it in place until… I could work my healing powers… Orophin found me in that… situation.”
“And he reached the wrong conclusion.” Camfael nodded once. “You should have told our Lord and Lady.”
“I did… I tried!” Erestor, growing agitated with frustration, glared at Camfael. “I believe… her words were… “I do not want to defile myself… with your memories”…I even begged your Lady… to read my mind… and find out the truth! She… refused!”
“I am sorry,” whispered Camfael sincerely. “But if it is any consolation to you, I think Lord Celeborn no longer feels you are a kinslayer.” Realizing he was upsetting Erestor, Camfael tried to steer away from their current topic. “Is there anything I can do to ease your pain?”
“Fetch… Haldir,” whispered Erestor, fatigued.
“I will check for him after I have prepared that tea,” decided Camfael. “Maybe it will help after all.”
Erestor nodded, eager for Camfael to leave. He needed to be alone. Elrond’s pain was shattering and burying him in darkness. The fact that his strength was leaving him so quickly made him feel exhausted.
Camfael headed for the doorway and looked over his shoulder at Erestor. The dark-haired Elf had closed his eyes and his fingers clawed at the sheets. He felt sympathy and pity for Erestor, but anger toward his Lord and Lady. /How could they order this?/ His view of his rulers had changed dramatically.
Galadriel’s eyes were red from crying. She had gone to Celeborn for consolation and her husband had tried to ease her pain, but to no avail. When the news of the assault on Celebrian had reached them, they had been devastated. Just when Celebrian and her family had been happy, disaster had struck.
She rested her head on Celeborn’s shoulder, and allowed him to enfold her. “My heart weeps for her.”
“So does mine.” But Celeborn was trying to act strong for her. His heart was breaking as well, but he also knew Galadriel needed him to be her support. “If she does not sail for Aman, we will lose her.”
Galadriel nodded against his chest. “I do not want to lose my daughter.”
“I will implore Elrond to convince Celebrian to sail for the Undying Lands. That way, you will be reunited with her some day.” Galadriel had told him about the future and their separation. Whilst Galadriel would sail, he would stay. Celeborn would never be able to say goodbye to these lands, as he was rooted here.
Now that they had been reunited in grief, his frustrations at the way she had treated Erestor faded to the background. They needed each other to come to terms with losing their only daughter. If Celebrian stayed, she would fade within the year. Sailing to Aman was her only means of survival.
“Elrond…” Galadriel’s eyes suddenly narrowed and she slightly pulled away from her husband so she could look at him. “Elrond will be devastated.”
“And so will Arwen and the twins. They are a close family and letting Celebrian sail will injure their souls.”
“But Celebrian does not have a choice.” Composing herself, Galadriel walked further away from Celeborn and sat down in a comfortable chair. There was little she could do to help Celebrian. Her daughter’s future now lay in Aman and when the day of their reunion came, her heart would rejoice at holding Celebrian in her arms again. But for now, she had to focus on Elrond.
Celeborn shivered, seeing the look in her eyes shift from mourning to scheming.
“Elrond depends on the kinslayer once more. Tell me, what is the state of Erestor’s health?”
Celeborn didn’t like that question, but answered it nonetheless. “He has grown strong again. The effects of his period of catatonia have been undone.”
“Good.” Galadriel’s thoughts raced. “Elrond probably knows by now, which means he needs Erestor to sustain him.” Her narrowed eyes fastened on her husband’s. “I know Erestor has been seeing Haldir. That must stop. We cannot allow such a distraction when Elrond’s life may depend on the kinslayer.”
Celeborn tensed. “Galadriel, do you not think we have already demanded enough sacrifices on his part? After losing his babies he drifted away from us. We cannot—“
But Galadriel cut him short. She drew herself up to her full height and glared at him. “Erestor killed one of his own kin. He is a kinslayer. I know he has tricked you into caring for him, and I am appalled you allowed it to happen. I watched Haldir and his brothers attend to him and I allowed it. But now I have to put my foot down and demand that it stops. Erestor is our prisoner because he has to pay for what he did. The way Haldir and you treat him is… unbecoming.”
Celeborn’s eyes widened. “Galadriel,” he hissed in a warning tone.
But she continued at any rate. “He agreed to being bound to Elrond and now it is his duty to sustain the Peredhel. If necessary, I will send him to Imladris so that he will be closer to Elrond. That way, his healing energy will reach Elrond more easily.”
Celeborn shook his head. “I won’t allow you to continue to use him in that way.”
“You won’t allow it?” Galadriel’s hands changed into fists and her icy eyes simmered with rage. “Erestor forfeited his life when he killed that guard and I will do what I deem best for Middle-Earth!”
“I am warning you,” growled Celeborn, who had trouble understanding how Galadriel could go from mourning to raging within moments.
“Warning me?” Galadriel shook her head in disbelief. “No husband would speak to his wife in such a way!”
Celeborn’s features softened. “I do love you, but at times I do not concur with your judgment and this is one of them. Why can you not open your heart and see that we misjudged Erestor? He is a true healer and I do believe him incapable of ending someone’s life.”
“That is your opinion, not mine. I will farspeak with my daughter to find out about her plans. Do not keep me away from Erestor. I will use his healing qualities as I see fit.” Considering this argument ended, she marched out of the room, chin held high.
Celeborn watched her leave with much pain in his heart. A moment ago he had claimed he loved her, but the truth was that he wasn’t sure anymore. How could he love a woman whose heart had turned to ice?
“Erestor, I hurried back to you as quickly as I could!” Haldir was dismayed, seeing the weakening state Erestor was in. A week had passed since Elrond had found out about Celebrian’s injuries and the half-Elf had drawn his strength from Erestor since then. The result was that the formerly healthy blush on Erestor’s cheeks had faded and the familiar paleness had returned in its place. Haldir was shocked to see the changes in his lover when Erestor shakily rose from the bed to greet him. Dark circles were beginning to show beneath the dull, dark eyes and it seemed that Erestor was losing weight once more. Leggings that had clung to his body a week ago now seemed too loose. “I am sorry it took me so long.”
Erestor sighed, feeling Haldir’s arms enfold him. “I am so glad that you are back.” He leaned heavily against the march warden, and momentarily felt relieved they had been unable to bond. Drawing his energy from Haldir was something he had never wanted, knowing how weak it would make the warrior feel. “Come and talk to me about what you learned during the patrol. Distract me from this.”
Haldir followed Erestor to the chairs in front of the fire place and after sitting down, he studied his lover closely, asking him the first thing that came to mind. “Why are you not staying in your own rooms?”
“Camfael felt more comfortable having me here. He wants to keep an eye on me.”
Haldir nervously licked his lips. “You look tired… drained.”
“’Tis Elrond. You should know that.” Erestor drew in a deep breath. “It has only been a week. I wonder how I will fare once Elrond’s grief mounts.”
“I will be there for you,” Haldir repeated his promise, whilst gathering Erestor’s hands in his. Leaning forward, he held them cradled in his own. “I trust Galadriel has left you alone?”
“She has not approached me yet, but she will,” said Erestor with calm understanding.
“You cannot allow her to continue to manipulate you, lirimaer.”
“I do not have a choice,” said Erestor softly. “I accepted this bond.”
His heart ached for Erestor and Haldir reacted on impulse, embracing the hurting Elf and placing a kiss on his clammy brow. “I will keep you safe.”
“Haldir, melme, that is a promise you might not be able to keep,” whispered Erestor, saddened. “But I will always love you for trying.”
Haldir sighed deeply, knowing instinctively Erestor was right. But that didn’t keep him from tightening the embrace and rocking his lover slowly.
Several months passed by and Erestor continued to grow weaker. His usually raven hair lost its luster and the chocolate eyes now stared into the world with a dull expression. Elrond was grieving and so was Erestor.
Haldir grew more frustrated with every day. Most of the time he was unable to reach Erestor, who simply stared at him.
And then more ill tidings reached them. Celebrian had finally made the decision to sail for Aman. Haldir had seen Celeborn weep for the first time in his life, when the Lord of ‘Lorien had heard that news, but when he had looked at Galadriel, the guardian had found her eyes dry and cold, which had caused him to shiver.
He worried most about Erestor, of course. His lover had become a mere shadow of his former self.
When Galadriel finally approached him, Haldir realized he had to be extremely careful around her.
“Haldir, I have new orders for you.” Galadriel tried to act regally and composed, but inwardly she seethed. Her original plans had been sabotaged by her husband and she had to adjust her plans.
”Aye, my Lady.” As required, Haldir bowed respectfully.
“Now that my daughter is on her way to Aman, Elrond expressed the wish to visit us for a while. He is grieving and growing weaker every day.”
“I regret hearing that,” Haldir forced the words past his teeth, while thinking, /And do you ever think of Erestor, who is growing weaker as well?/
“I want Erestor moved to a talan closer to Elrond’s temporary quarters.” She had already changed her plans and would make certain her will would be done eventually. “After you have done that, you will return to your duties, which you have neglected these last few months. I want you to patrol the borders and drive away the Orcs that dare approach our lands.”
Haldir’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. /She is sending me away so I cannot protect him!/
“Elrond will arrive in the morning so I suggest you hurry.” Galadriel gave him a triumphant look, gathered her skirts and swept around, almost floating out of the room.
Haldir glared at her back. /You might be able to send me away, but Rumil, Orophin and Camfael will watch Erestor in my place./ But he would have preferred guarding Erestor against Galadriel personally.
Erestor barely reacted when Galadriel’s servants came to move him to his new talan. He didn’t object and meekly followed them. His mind was entangled too deeply in Elrond’s pain and it was nearly impossible to focus on what was happening around him.
“Erestor? Melethwain-nín?” Haldir knelt in front of Erestor and gathered the cold hands in his. Looking at the still form seated in the comfortable chair, his heart contracted painfully. He had even briefly entertained the idea of taking Erestor away from here, but had quickly realized Galadriel would never allow that. She had even assigned her personal guards to watch Erestor’s every move.
“Haldir.” Erestor managed a weak smile. He had hoped his lover would seek him out before leaving for the borders again. He weakly squeezed Haldir’s fingers, letting the guardian know how much he appreciated his lover’s presence. “Be careful out there.”
Haldir’s heart missed a beat. “Do not worry about me, lirimaer. It is you who must be careful. Now that I will be away, Galadriel will move in. Be very alert and do not agree to anything she proposes. Contact Celeborn when she makes unreasonable demands. Celeborn is on your side.”
“That is good to know,” mumbled Erestor weakly, but he doubted Celeborn would openly oppose his wife. He would keep Haldir’s advice in mind, however. “Please return to me quickly. I need you, Haldir.”
Haldir nodded once, and new determination was born in his eyes. He would find a way to hurry back to Erestor’s side.
Erestor shivered with discomfort when Galadriel entered the room. His instincts had told him to expect her, and he forced himself to rise from his chair, bowing his head in respect. “My Lady.”
Galadriel studied him with a cold and distant expression in her blue eyes. She only felt loathing for him. She positioned herself opposite him, her hands hidden in her long sleeves. “Elrond has arrived.”
“I know that. I can sense his closeness.” Erestor forced himself to maintain eye contact, even though the hatred was obvious in her orbs. “He is grieving.”
Galadriel knew she couldn’t allow him to address Celebrian. She was grieving for her daughter herself and she couldn’t show any weakness when dealing with Erestor. “Your healing abilities are needed once more.”
Erestor laughed embittered, not caring what she thought of his reaction. “Do you not mean that I have to reconfirm the bond by letting him claim me?” The amount of healing energy that such a union would create would strengthen Elrond immensely. “I am no fool, my Lady. During my years of confinement I had enough time to ponder my future and I always knew it would come to this.”
Galadriel’s expression hardened. “You agreed to this.”
“When I agreed to it, I had no idea I would conceive and lose my babies!” Erestor exploded with emotion, uncaring about the consequences. “You have lost your daughter… Can you now imagine how I felt when I lost my babies?”
Galadriel’s eyes shot daggers. “Do not dare to compare my daughter to your bastards!”
Erestor’s eyes widened and he staggered, collapsing onto the chair. “My bastards? Elrond is my mate! They were conceived and born into a marriage you never allowed to be completed!”
Galadriel stalked toward him. “You will stop this nonsense. I did not come here to listen to you rave. Tonight, one of my guards will take you to Elrond and you will make sure he remains on Arda. Elrond Half-Elven will be instrumental in defeating Sauron when the dark one decides to return. You will do as you are told.”
Erestor just stared at her in shock. “And what when I conceive again?” He recalled the pain he had been in when Elrond had claimed him after the Battle of the Last Alliance, but it didn’t compare to his agony when he had lost his children. He would go to Elrond and allow the half-Elf to bed him because he had agreed to this pact millennia ago, but he was not willing to face another miscarriage.
“I do not care if you conceive,” said Galadriel, leaning in closer and placing her hands on the armrests at either side of Erestor’s body. “I do not care if your babies live or die. My goal is to ensure Elrond’s survival.”
“You are ruthless.” Erestor flinched beneath her icy glare.
“Do not cross me, Erestor. If you do, you will learn the meaning of true torment.”
Erestor lifted his large eyes to meet with hers. “I lost two sons… I already know the meaning of true torment.”
Galadriel’s eyes flared. “You only think you do.”
Those words froze the blood in his veins.
“You will go to Elrond and submit to him. And you will continue to do that as many times as necessary for Elrond to find his strength again. Do you understand?”
Erestor swallowed hard and then nodded. “I understand.” He watched her leave the room and felt immensely relieved when she was out of his sight.
“Nienna, please help me,” he whispered a plea to the Vala of sorrow. He wouldn’t survive losing another baby.
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