Heart In Chains
During the next three weeks Erestor regained most of his strength. The Elves proceeded cautiously, and as they were still on the road, either Rumil or Orophin scouted ahead in search of enemies. Haldir and Glorfindel guarded their precious charge closely, knowing Erestor would be heartbroken if anything happened to his sons’ remains.
Erestor, much to Elrond’s approval, was quickly regaining his strength and the half-Elf suspected that it was mostly due to the fact that they were in constant close contact. During the day, they would both ride Tirith and when it was time to rest, Elrond pulled Erestor into his arms.
Elladan and Elrohir had ample time to think everything over. They had seen a side of Galadriel they had never known existed and they were beginning to realize the true extent of Erestor’s suffering. They had agreed to support Erestor as much as possible and even wanted to befriend him. Although Erestor was trying to trust them -- after their declaration of support when they had visited him and Elrond in the talan -- it was obvious Erestor still felt somewhat suspicious of their motives. They couldn’t really blame him for that, but since learning Erestor would like to look upon them as his own sons, they were trying harder.
Celeborn had grown introverted these last few weeks, and there were other changes taking place in him as well, which Orophin, of all of the Elves, seemed to notice most. Celeborn’s hair, which had always been a dull silver-white at best, now glowed with a brilliant intensity. The mane had thickened and was definitely turning a shade of polished mithril and had grown longer, reaching the elder Elf’s waist now. The often sullen look in the light blue eyes had disappeared. In its place had come a sharp, probing expression. Even his form had grown muscular and more agile. His moods often went from depressed to ecstatic. These changes puzzled him and Orophin found himself staring at Celeborn more often, mostly in admiration and secret desire. He had heeded Rumil’s words and was trying to keep his distance from the elder Elf, although doing so was becoming increasingly difficult.
Elrond had also noticed the transformation Celeborn was undergoing. It even seemed to support Erestor’s theory that his former father in law had been bound to Galadriel in the same way Erestor had been bound to him in the beginning. Yet he didn’t feel comfortable bringing this up and trusted Erestor’s advise to wait for Celeborn to reveal matters to them in his own time. /Speaking of Erestor…/ His lover sat in front of him and Elrond had wrapped his arms around him, content to let Erestor hold the reins, which for some reason he couldn’t explain pleased his mate. “Love, do you realize we will reach Imladris tomorrow?” Elrond knew how desperate Erestor was to hold their daughter in his arms. /At least I have seen Indlîrien, but he has not./
“Tomorrow?” Overjoyed, Erestor looked over his shoulder at the half-Elf. “I will hold her in my arms tomorrow?”
“Yes.” Elrond pressed his lips against Erestor’s throat, kissing him sweetly. “And then we can start our new life as a family.”
Erestor blushed weakly. These last few weeks on the road had been nothing like he had thought they would be. Everyone, even the twins, had treated him with the utmost respect and care, and seemed eager to see him in Elrond’s arms. Elrond… the half-Elf seemed to have fully accepted they were bonded now and was eager to prove that acceptance whenever he got the chance, especially at night when the Peredhel snuggled up to him.
Erestor had to admit to feeling slightly nervous about Elrond’s eagerness to have him close. The few sexual experiences he’d had didn’t make him eager to instigate any lovemaking out of fear for pain, tearing and becoming pregnant again. He knew he couldn’t possibly deny his new mate, but he hoped Elrond wouldn’t claim him any time soon. He simply wasn’t ready yet to go through another pregnancy, not now when his body was finally returning to normalcy and his wound fully healed. He would always carry the two scars revealing he had given birth twice, but Elrond didn’t seem to mind the disfigurement, as the half-Elf’s fingers always touched gently when examining the wounds.
“It is time to rest for the night,” decided Elrond, raising a hand to signal for the rest to come to a halt as well. “Who will take first watch?” He dismounted first, keeping a hand against the small of Erestor’s back, eager to stay in contact with his lover.
“We will,” announced Elladan and Elrohir. They were used to long weeks on the road and didn’t tire that easily. They dismounted and set out to explore their surroundings, making sure the party would be safe during the night. It was different this time on the road though. Instead of the burning hatred they had experienced when hunting and killing Orcs, a peaceful feeling descended onto them, making their hearts less restless.
Rumil and Orophin placed their bedrolls close to the fire Haldir was building, whilst Glorfindel was settling down next to his husband. It had become clear to the two brothers that Haldir and Glorfindel were truly happy and they had refrained from trying to talk their elder brother into joining them at night. Haldir now truly belonged at Glorfindel’s side.
Orophin’s gaze drifted off to Celeborn’s form, which was disappearing between the trees and from their view. The elder Elf had developed the habit of leaving them each evening for a short while and none had followed him yet to find out where he went and why he left them in the first place. Orophin had tried to follow once, but Rumil had stopped him by grabbing his wrist and shaking his head.
Elrond had noticed Celeborn’s disappearances as well, but as long as the Sindarin Elf returned to them each night, he wasn’t going to stick his nose where it didn’t belong, keeping Erestor’s advice in mind. He had also unrolled his bedroll, lay down and raised one hand to encourage Erestor to move into his arms. “Come to me, my love.” He was a bit worried that Erestor often waited for him to speak his mind first, showing hardly any initiative at all, but then again, could he blame the other for exhibiting that sort of behavior?
Erestor lay down on his side, face to face with Elrond and moved into the half-Elf’s arms. “I am happy, you know,” he whispered, once he was comfortable. Looking into Elrond’s eyes, he still felt amazed to see the love in them. Love the half-Elf bore *him* and no one else. For some reason that was still hard to accept.
Elrond studied the open, warm, chocolate brown eyes and then said, “You do realize that I want you to touch me? To hold me? To run your fingers through my hair? To feel your fingertips caress my skin?”
Erestor swallowed hard. “’Tis difficult for me.” By the Valar, how was he going to make Elrond understand? “My entire life things have simply happened to me. I never felt as if I had any control and it made me… passive.”
Elrond nodded in understanding. “But your life has changed.”
“I need more time to change as well. This is so new to me.” He briefly closed his eyes. “The fact that you love me still mystifies me, considering the things done to you in the past. I was so convinced that you would be furious with me and instead you decided to bind yourself to me.”
Elrond was tempted to speak up but remained silent, realizing Erestor wasn’t finished speaking yet. So he settled for stroking the long, dark hair, which he now braided each morning. He wanted Erestor to realize his life had changed indeed and wearing braids that revealed his new station was a part of it.
“When I found you close in Lothlorien, I was convinced you had come to extract revenge for the deaths of your children,” admitted Erestor in a strangled tone, finally opening his dark eyes. “And instead you told me Indlîrien was still alive and that you had bound yourself to me. I thought I had truly lost my mind at that point. I never had any luck in my life, so why would that suddenly change?”
“It has changed,” said Elrond, claiming his lover’s lips momentarily in an effort to reassure Erestor. “You are part of my life now – well, you already were, but Galadriel and Celeborn did not tell me.”
Erestor raised a shaky hand and placed its palm against Elrond’s face. “I would not put too much blame on Celeborn if I were you. I do think Galadriel manipulated him as well.”
“You like Celeborn,” Elrond realized.
“I do. He saved our daughter. Defying his wife and arranging for my flight took a lot of courage on his part.” Erestor rubbed his thumb against the skin of Elrond’s face, his first conscious attempt to take the initiative in some way, no matter how small.
Elrond leaned into the caress, showing Erestor how much he liked being touched in that way. “This is our last night on the road, and I need to tell you something… and ask you a question as well.”
“What is it?” Erestor’s heart began to speed up with nervousness. He trusted Elrond, but his old instincts were hard to suppress.
“Before I left, I instructed Arwen to connect our quarters as I would like access to the nursery as well. Do you mind?” He held his breath, uncertain how Erestor would react. In retrospect, he should have waited to give that order, in case Erestor would like to keep his privacy intact.
Erestor’s eyes widened briefly. “We will be… living together?”
“Aye, and I hope we will also be sleeping in the same bed,” whispered Elrond, needing to get everything out. “I want to hold you at night.” Erestor tensed in his arms, giving him his answer and he quickly explained, “I merely want to hold you in my arms when we sleep, nothing else. Until you are ready, nothing more intimate will take place in our bed.”
Erestor moistened his lips nervously. “We are bound now and I know you will want to bed me, but…”
Elrond cringed at the way that sounded. “Erestor, I want to make love to you in the future, but not until you want it as well.”
Erestor lifted pleading eyes. “I am not ready to become pregnant again.”
Elrond nodded his head once. “I would never demand that of you. There are herbs we can use to prevent you from conceiving. We could also reverse roles,” he said, deliberately mystifying Erestor.
“What do you mean?” Puzzled, Erestor frowned.
“You could claim me instead.” Elrond couldn’t help holding his breath, awaiting Erestor’s answer.
“What?” Erestor blushed and averted his eyes.
“You do not think I would enjoy that?”
“I thought you would never allow that,” clarified Erestor, swallowing convulsively. “I have never… my only experiences has been with you.” At least the times he’d had intercourse. Haldir and he had never taken that final step.
Elrond’s heart twitched in sympathy. “I have so much to make up to you, to show you. And we have all the time we need. We will take things slowly.”
Erestor, feeling bold now that Elrond was this reassuring, whispered, “Not too slowly, I hope.”
An amused laugh rolled from Elrond’s lips. “You may set the pace.”
Erestor studied Elrond’s eyes for a long moment and then took a very decisive step – for him at least. He leaned in closer, pressed his lips against the half-Elf’s and kissed him passionately.
Elrond’s heart fluttered at the unexpected contact and he parted his lips and teeth, inviting Erestor to take the next step as well, which his lover did. Erestor’s tongue slowly explored him, tasting him and making him sigh in appreciation. Building a strong, intimate relationship might take them some time, but he felt confident they would succeed in doing so.
Tremors ran through Celeborn’s body as he knelt on the grass, burying his hands in the earth. He had completely forgotten what his life had been like before he had been given to Galadriel in marriage. The land’s energy coursed through him and he felt it in his every pore. The energy inside him grew during the day when Arien’s rays caressed his form and at night he sought out the woods, giving back what he had received during the day. Silver sparks danced around his form as he willed the energy into the earth, strengthening Middle-Earth; its flora and fauna.
He had been named Silver Tree when he had been born and his parents had given him that name for a good reason. As a Prince of Doriath, he had inherited a strong connection to nature, even stronger than any of his family members had ever possessed. When he had been a child, he had first noticed that he was different from his kin, being able to draw energy from Arien, Ithil, the starlit sky and Arda itself. His parents had called it a gift from the Valar, but once he had reached majority, he had felt it was more of a curse. It set him apart from the rest, who seemed wary of approaching him. His life had been a lonely one, until Galadriel had entered it.
Shaking his head, he forced her memory from his mind. Until he had actually done it, he hadn’t known he possessed the power to severe the bond, which Galadriel had controlled since the day they had gotten married. Returning his surplus energy to Arda, his eyes briefly shone silver.
Orophin had waited for Rumil to fall asleep and had then left their camp to follow Celeborn’s tracks, which led deep into the forest. Seeing Celeborn disappear each evening worried him, and he needed to make sure nothing was wrong with the elder Elf. He sneaked after Celeborn and found a hiding place behind a large oak tree. He had a perfect view of Celeborn, who was kneeling, his hands clawing at the earth. His breath caught upon seeing the elder Elf’s form glow soft silver, illuminating his surroundings like Ithil himself. Although he had known Celeborn his entire life, he had never seen such power bound into his very form. The energy was literally vibrating around him and the sight reminded him of…
/Galadriel glows like that as well./ But now he found himself wondering if that glow had emanated from her or from Celeborn. /Celeborn severed the bond between them and I overheard Erestor’s counsel to Elrond. It would seem he was right to assume Celeborn was strengthening Galadriel and now that they are no longer bound to one another, the energy remains inside him instead./ It made him wonder who had held the true power in Lothlorien.
Hearing Celeborn speak his name so softly and unexpectedly nearly caused him to bolt back to the camp. He was sure he hadn’t made any noise, so how could Celeborn know that he was here, watching the elder Elf?
“Orophin?” Now that the silver had left his eyes, Celeborn scanned his surroundings, his Elven sight quickly locating the sentry. Orophin looked startled, intimidated, and ready to run. He couldn’t allow that. His heart ached, realizing he had frightened the younger Elf. Pushing himself to his feet, he raised a hand, inviting Orophin over to join him. From the moment he had severed his bond to Galadriel, he had known he would have to tell his companions at one point and it was only fitting that Orophin should learn the truth first, as the sentry held his heart prisoner.
Orophin’s heart was beating hard, pounding in his chest, as he accepted the invitation to join Celeborn. “I did not want to spy on you,” he whispered in a tiny voice once he stood in front of the other. He even lowered his eyes, unable to look at Celeborn’s glowing form without feeling guilty for following him here. “I was worried.”
Celeborn carefully gathered Orophin’s right hand in his and rubbed the knuckles. “You have many questions.”
“I do,” admitted Orophin in a strangled voice, finally raising his eyes and meeting Celeborn’s gaze. “I do not understand what is happening to you. You look so different. Your hair, your eyes… you are glowing silver.”
Celeborn released a deep sigh and began to walk, pulling Orophin along with him. The younger Elf quickly fell into step beside him, but he still maintained a tight hold on Orophin’s hand. He didn’t know how the younger Elf would react to learning the truth, but he had to try to make him understand. “This is how I was before I married Galadriel.”
Orophin arched an eyebrow. “That does not clarify things much for me,” he whispered, miserably.
“I was born like this. I always had a special connection to Arda, which strengthens me.” Celeborn continued to rub the back of Orophin’s hand in an attempt to comfort both of them. “But after I reached majority, it became too much to control. I was quickly losing my control – and my mind.” His gaze locked with Orophin’s. “I was born a Prince and my connection with the land was seen as a sign that the Valar had blessed me. When they met Galadriel and sensed her control, her eagerness to achieve greatness, the elders decided I was to bind myself to her, so my energy would help her become a counter to Feanor. I did love her, in the beginning, but it was never my choice to bind myself to her.”
Captivated, Orophin listened.
“I distinctly remember the elders painting my brow blue, as a sign of the ritual sacrifice I was making, entering a half-sided bond. But the elders considered it wiser for Galadriel not to bind herself to me, so no power would flow back to me. I was young and naive and did not see their scheming. Before I knew it, I found myself in a tight bond, with Galadriel draining me.”
Orophin had often wondered about his Lady’s power and now realized Celeborn had been her source.
“I grew accustomed to feeling weak and at some point I accepted that my life was destined to be like that. It changed when Erestor entered it.”
Orophin halted in his tracks. “Galadriel painted his brow blue as well.”
Celeborn nodded. “It is an ancient ritual.”
“And when you severed the link with Galadriel…”
“My powers returned to me. Galadriel will find herself weakening fast. She is powerful on her own, being the bearer of Nenya, but she will greatly miss the power I supplied.” Celeborn stood next to Orophin, not surprised to see the wonder in the other Elf’s hazel eyes, which resembled Haldir’s. “I know this is a lot to take in, and…”
“And what?” Orophin nearly lost himself in the sea-blue eyes. When had Celeborn’s irises darkened that much?
Celeborn cocked his head. “I am not sure how long I can control this. I was married to Galadriel so this energy could flow into her and leave me balanced. I am now releasing it back into the earth, but…” His voice trailed off, hoping Orophin understood.
“Are you afraid your powers will become too strong to control?”
“I do not know what will happen.”
Orophin licked his lips, realizing Celeborn’s precarious position. “Can I help?” Seeing Celeborn this uncertain made his heart ache. He wanted to bury the elder Elf in a reassuring hug and shower the silver hair with light kisses, but kept himself back, still heeding Rumil’s warning. Celeborn was not for him.
The words left Celeborn’s lips before he realized it. “You could allow me to bind myself to you.”
Orophin released a surprised yelp. “But…” How would Celeborn’s energy affect him? He would risk it all for Celeborn because of the love he bore for the elder Elf, but would he become like Galadriel? Craving power and controlling? Did he want that?
“Do not answer that.” Celeborn had quickly placed a finger against Orophin’s lips to keep him from answering. “I was out of line. I should never have said that. I truly do not know what possessed me to do so.”
/Maybe you spoke of your true desires for once./ But Orophin did not share that thought with the elder Elf, realizing the emotional turmoil Celeborn was in. Rumil had been right; Celeborn did need time to find out what he wanted – and needed.
“You do realize you cannot tell your brothers of what you learned tonight? I would ask of you to keep this a secret for now.” Celeborn wasn’t ready to reveal this to the others and hoped Orophin understood.
“I will not betray the trust you placed in me,” said Orophin softly. “And I want you to know that you will always have a listening ear with me.” His heart missed a beat when Celeborn leaned in closer to place a chaste kiss on his brow. He wondered what had prompted that move, but the elder Elf was already turning away and returning to the camp.
Raising a hand, his fingertips touched the skin Celeborn’s lips had just brushed in wonder. /Aiya, I do love him./
Erestor was growing excited now that they were riding onto the courtyard. A large group of Elves had gathered there to welcome them back, including Lindir. But as he strained his eyes to see, he couldn’t find Arwen or Indlîrien amongst them.
Elrond dismounted, asking for some space, not wanting Erestor to feel crowded. Turning to Haldir, who was carrying the wooden box which held the twins’ remains, he asked the sentry to take the box to the Hall of Grief and to assign a guard to watch it. Next, he addressed his sons, telling them to rest and to join them for dinner later.
Rumil, Orophin and Celeborn dismounted and remained at Erestor’s side, keeping an eye on the dark-haired Elf.
Erestor continued to scan his surroundings and his breath caught, finally locating Arwen descending the stairs. In her arms was a bundle, wrapped up tightly, a few dark hairs already showing on the tiny head. “Elrond…” He grabbed hold of the half-Elf’s shoulders, needing to steady himself, swaying now that he was about to meet his daughter.
Elrond took charge and led Erestor into the Last Homely House, toward Arwen. Rumil, Orophin and Celeborn stopped the other Elves from following their Lord, reminding them to give Elrond some privacy.
Erestor only had eyes for his daughter and he shook fiercely when Arwen finally placed the tiny infant in his arms. Tears of happiness dripped from his face and he pushed the blanket that kept Indlîrien warm aside so he could see her face. “Oh…” Stormy, gray eyes stared back at him questioningly and a tiny hand reached for him from beneath the fabric. “You are beautiful!” His instincts urged him to check if his daughter had all ten toes and fingers and he heard Elrond laugh warmly, seeing him do so. Unable to look away from his daughter’s face, he cradled her against his chest, rocking her and mumbling softly.
Elrond, seeing the rapture and delight on Erestor’s face, exchanged a pleased glance with Arwen. “Thank you for taking care of her for us.”
“She is a true delight,” said Arwen warmly, placing a hand beneath Erestor’s, which was supporting the baby’s head. “I was worried when you left, and I am glad you returned to us.”
Erestor briefly glanced at Arwen, but then his gaze shifted back to his daughter, who had captivated his heart. “I gather you already know that… that she is your half-sister?”
“Aye, and I already love my sister deeply.” Arwen smiled, exchanged a look with her father and then excused herself, realizing the parents needed some privacy.
Elrond folded an arm around Erestor and guided him to their rooms. He wanted to get away from the curious looks his people were giving him. Apparently, the news that Erestor had given birth to their Lord’s child had spread quickly. Once they had reached their quarters, Elrond gently pushed Erestor inside and quickly closed the door behind them. Steering his lover toward the bed, they lay down with their daughter nestled between them. Elrond re-established his hold on Erestor, holding him whilst Indlîrien cooed softly.
“I did not know she was this beautiful, this perfect,” said Erestor, sighing. “If only I had known she had survived… I would never have left Imladris.” He regretted having missed being close to his daughter during her first few weeks. He sucked in his breath, feeling her tiny fingers curl around his thumb and when she pulled it toward her, he quickly gave in. “Oh…” He sighed happily, when Indlîrien tried to suckle on his thumb.
“We have been giving her bottled milk,” explained Elrond, “as you cannot feed her.”
Erestor blushed. “I still wonder how it is possible that I can carry a child to term.”
“I do not know why, or how,” said Elrond, “But I thank the Valar for this gift.” After placing a butterfly kiss onto his daughter’s brow, he claimed Erestor’s lips next. “You have made me very happy, my love.”
Erestor’s eyes were swimming with tears of happiness and he released them, unashamedly. A part of him couldn’t believe he had finally found his rightful place at Elrond’s side, as his mate. The bond had been completed, their daughter was in his arms and his happiness was complete. Looking adoringly at Elrond, he returned the kiss, feeling whole for the first time in his life
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