Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairings: past Elrond/Celebrían, implied past Elrond/Gil-galad, queerplatonic Erestor/Glorfindel.
Timeline: Iavas (September), Third Age 2510, five months after Celebrían's departure.
Theirs was the greatest love story of the Second Age, until they were forcibly sundered in the Battle of Dagorlad. In TA 2510, they're given another chance. But lost legends don’t come back to life every day, and the return of one such legend causes a massive upheaval in Elrond’s already disrupted life. Resuming their relationship is inevitable, but neither of them are the elves they used to be, and as the saying goes, the course of true love never did run smooth.
Chapter One: Where He Dwelleth None Can Say, Part I.
The Hall of Kings was silent. A cold breeze swept through the grey stone corridor, threatening to extinguish the torch that Círdan held. The shipwright had woken from an unsettling dream that he did not remember, and something had compelled him to come here. That same something told him to keep walking, foot in front of foot on the cold stone ground. Círdan avoided coming here as much as possible, and the only reason he stayed and gave into whatever it was that was propelling him along was that he felt that he was here for a reason. There was something that he needed to see. He was barefoot, and the torch he carried did little to dispel the midnight gloom. He was alone, as he ever was in life, with none but his wolfhound Tirith for company. The dog padded along next to him, footfalls as silent as the shipwright's own.
Círdan recognised the section of the Hall that he was in and tried to stop walking, unwilling to go further; but his feet had other plans and slowly took him closer to his destination. A glass-topped casket a few feet ahead of the elf was glowing slightly, surrounded by a faint blue aura. He knew it well. It was the only casket in this Hall, and was where they had laid High King Gil-Galad to rest.
Círdan's heart stuttered as he drew closer and he realised why he had been called to this place.
The coffin was empty.
Deep in the Halls of Mandos, the Fëanturi gathered around a stone table, watching a glowing sphere above their heads that showed Celebrían and Ereinion sitting together on the railing of a balcony.
The elves were silent for a moment, and then Celebrían's voice rang out of the sphere. "If I could have one wish, just one, right now... I would wish for them to send you back to him. He's had so many people taken from him, and he doesn't deserve any of it. I just wish that he could have one person back, and that it could be you."
Ereinion put an arm around her, kissed her temple, and a few seconds later, his reply echoed through the room. "I wish that too."
The sphere closed in on itself and disappeared, leaving the Fëanturi cloaked in darkness even as the former king's last words still surrounded them.
Námo lowered his head and addressed his brother and sister. "The motion is lodged, and seconded."
He turned his infinite gaze to Nienna. "What say you?"
She met it. "Aye."
Námo's dark eyes then moved to Irmo. The blue eyes of the Master of Dreams looked into Námo's own.
"What say you?"
Nienna and Irmo looked at Námo in turn and spoke in unison. "What say you, brother?"
Námo raised his arms and invoked the Music. It obeyed his summons and did as he bid, and the body of Ereinion Gil-galad disappeared from its keeping-place on Arda and appeared on the stone table in front of him. He looked at his fellow Fëanturi.
Nienna waved her hand and the sphere reappeared, showing Ereinion now sitting alone on the balcony. The glow shifted from the edge of the sphere to outline him instead, then bathed him in light and pulled him out of the world. The glow diminished to a small circle, which drifted through the sphere and into Nienna's waiting hands.
The remains of the sphere dissipated like smoke and Nienna placed the glowing ball of Ereinion's spirit onto his chest, over his heart. Irmo moved to place his hands on either side of Ereinion's head to prevent him from waking during this process. The Music their brother had invoked swirled around them, lending its power to their task. The former king's spirit hovered for a moment, then sank down into its house and reached out to the extremities, spreading its glow as the body was returned to life. The Music swelled to a crescendo, and, duty fulfilled, returned beyond the realm of perception.
The sudden, infinite silence was kept by the Fëanturi as they waited for confirmation of their success.
Ereinion's chest rose as its body took its first breath in two and half millennia, sunk, and rose again.
Námo placed a hand over Ereinion's heart, and felt it beat.
"It is done. So be it."
Glorfindel jolted awake in the early hours of the morning with a feeling in his chest like he was looking out over a precipice. He glanced to his left to check on Erestor, but the other elf was sleeping soundly. He sat up and glanced around to make sure all of the cats were alright, and found all five also sleeping, except for Morë who was licking himself in the moonlight streaming through the archway to the garden. Morë raised his head and glared at Glorfindel as if he was admonishing the elf for invading his privacy.
"As you were," Glorfindel said, looking away. Everything seemed to be in order, but the feeling was still heavy in his chest.
Beside him, Erestor stirred, finally drawn from sleep by the loss of Glorfindel's body heat. "What did you say?" he murmured.
"Nothing, I was talking to Morë."
"Oh." Erestor followed Glorfindel into a sitting position and noted the expression on the blond elf's face and the way he pressed a hand against his chest. "Are you alright? Are you sick?"
Glorfindel shook his head. "No, no, I'm fine. I just have this strange feeling..." all of a sudden a shudder ran through him, and the weight in his chest changed from something foreboding to something anticipatory. "Whoa."
"What was that?"
"I had this feeling, here, in my chest, like something big and important was about to happen, and I think it just did. But I don't know what it was."
Erestor listened for a moment. "Well, I don't hear any running footsteps, and if it was people arriving on horseback we'd have heard that by now too. So whatever it was, it didn't happen here."
"I think you're right," Glorfindel replied, listening for a moment to confirm for himself that there was no impending crisis in the manor.
Erestor laid his head on the blond's shoulder. "There's still a few hours until dawn. Come back to sleep."
Glorfindel nodded and allowed himself to be drawn back down onto the bed. Erestor pulled the covers back over them and slung an arm over Glorfindel's waist, pillowing his head on the other elf's chest. "We'll find out what it was in the morning."
"It is the morning," Glorfindel whispered, reaching a hand up to run his fingers through Erestor's silky black hair.
"Shhhh," came the reply. Glorfindel smiled as Erestor's breathing evened back out, and continued his ministrations until unconsciousness tugged him under as well.
Námo was solemn as he looked out of the windows onto Arda, marking the completion of his and his sibling's labours with due reverence.
Námo's wife Vairë walked silently up behind him and slipped an arm around his waist, resting her head against his shoulder. She regarded the windows in front of him, and the two places they showed, transcending space and time. On the right, the Lord of Imladris slept fitfully, alone in his bed in the mid-morning hours; on the left, Ereinion Gil-galad was peacefully asleep on a beach at sunset, successfully restored to his old body and carried to the shores of his former Kingdom in the gentle arms of Ulmo.
"It is done?"
"It is done."
"I am glad. I tire of weaving only tragic scenes for Elrond."
"There are trials still that he must face," Námo replied. "And trials that Ereinion must face also. But all will be well, in time, and you will have many joyful scenes to weave."
Vairë smiled at her husband, and they turned back to the windows to watch as both elves stirred, unknowingly about to wake up to a whole new world.
The sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky, warming Imladris as the last of her inhabitants woke up. Despite the bright morning, and the fact that all of the curtains were open, the bedroom of the Lord of Imladris was dark and filled with a sense of impenetrable melancholy.
In his dreams Elrond wandered far and wide, not bothered by hunger or weariness or pain. He was in a strange place where all the edges were blurred; there were white skies, and green grass, and black shadows that Elrond assumed were trees, but he could discern nothing else.
He had no conscious idea of where he was going, but still he knew where to go, following an almost-invisible path which eventually led him to a place with no trees and no grass. The ground here was golden, the sky was blue, and he could vaguely hear the crash of waves and the calling of seagulls. There was a figure ahead, but the blurred edges made the person seem insubstantial. Whoever it was turned around, and though they did not have a face - just a swirl of blurred features - Elrond felt a jolt of recognition. He had no idea who it was, but he knew that he knew them, and that this place where they stood was special: many memories had taken place here. The other person seemed to be smiling.
Elrond tried to take a step towards his unrecognisable companion, but his legs were frozen in place. He frowned, and his companion's smile dropped, along with the ground. Elrond felt himself falling, and heard a whisper in his ear, the whisper of a voice long-unheard.
I'll see you soon.
Who are you? he tried to ask, but he had no voice.
Elrond continued to fall, and with a jolt he awoke, drenched in cold sweat and breathing heavily. His mind went into overdrive as he tried to put a face to the voice, tried to place where he knew that person from, but the canvas of his brain was blank.
Getting his breathing under control, he passed a hand over his face and threw the covers back. He tried to remember as much as he could about the vague figure from his dream, but the remnants slipped through his fingers like so much water, and their identity remained hidden. He dropped his head into his hands and remained there for a few minutes, until his maidservant Alyss knocked quietly on the door and stepped inside.
"Good morning, my Lord," she greeted, pausing to look with some concern at his hunched posture and hidden face.
After a moment he took a deep breath and replied "Good morning, Alyss," quietly.
Asking after his wellbeing was a pointless exercise, Alyss knew: it was obvious to everyone in the city that Elrond wasn't alright, and he wouldn't be for a long time yet. But he was getting there, and that was the main thing. With a nod that she knew he couldn't see, Alyss stepped into the bathroom to run him a bath.
The prospect of a hot bath sounded like utopia to Elrond's exhaustion, so he pushed himself out of bed and put his dressing gown on, and wandered over to the bathroom door to wait for the bath to be ready. Alyss hummed quietly as she went around the room gathering towels and a sponge and soap. She smiled at Elrond as she passed him, and stacked the objects in her arms neatly on a stool by the tub. It was nearly full now and she added some lavender oil to the water to aid it in its calming and soothing, and then reached to turn off the tap.
With one last glance to make sure everything was in order, she turned to leave. Elrond thanked her as she passed him, and she inclined her head respectfully in reply, bidding him good day.
Elrond watched her go and was filled with gratitude at her quiet, reliable presence, and the quiet, reliable presences of all his household staff. Elrond looked at the inviting bath waiting for him, and found the day a little brighter.
Mithlond, later that day
Círdan walked slowly along the beach at dusk, his thoughts preoccupied, as they had been all day, with the events of the previous night. The coffin had not been damaged. The glass was untouched - and completely unbreakable, at any rate - and the clasps had not shown any signs of forced entry. Ereinion's body was simply gone.
"Who would take his body anyway?" Círdan asked Tirith as the dog came lolloping back to him and deposited a stick at his feet. The wolfhound cocked his head and offered no answer.
"It's not as if anyone can ransom it," the shipwright continued, scratching behind Tirith's ears. "Why would anyone want to? And the only way the Hall of Kings can be accessed is by a door that needs a password. The only other people except us who know that password are Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn and Mithrandir, and none of them are here, or have any reason to take it."
He raised an eyebrow at his dog. "Do you have any ideas?"
Tirith flicked his tail back and forth and panted.
"No? Hmm. Still a mystery then," Círdan said with a sigh. He picked up the stick and straightened up, groaning when his joints protested. He tossed the stick forward just as the breeze changed direction. Tirith had turned and was ready to go after the stick when he caught whiff of a new scent, and all of a sudden his ears pricked up and he tore off down the beach, barking loudly, the stick forgotten.
"Tirith! Come back here!" Círdan called. Tirith paid him no heed and shipwright had no other option but to hurry after his dog and wonder what in the name of Ulmo had gotten into him.
Ereinion Gil-Galad awoke to the bright light of the setting sun shining directly onto his closed eyelids. A strange cold feeling swept over him, from his feet up to his waist, and it took him a second to realise that he was lying on a beach with waves breaking over his legs.
He sleepily assumed that he must have wandered down to the beach and fallen asleep in the sun. He opened his eyes with some difficulty, watching the bright colours of sunset paint the ocean. After a moment he remembered that the beach in Alqualondë faced east, and therefore would not catch the setting sun like this.
Then how-? What-?
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a dog barking, and he looked in the direction of the sound, squinting against the bright sunlight. He struggled to elbow himself into a sitting position, unused to the weight of a real, flesh-and-blood body, and had barely achieved it when the dog skidded to a stop next to him and started enthusiastically licking his face.
"It's not that I don't appreciate such a warm welcome, my friend," Ereinion joked between licks with a voice gravelly from disuse. He managed to push the dog away long enough to sit up properly and added, "But I think we should wait until we know each other a little better before we-"
He had been going to say 'take our relationship there', but broke off when his eyes finally adjusted to the light and he recognised the pale brown wolfhound that had been kindly washing his face for him.
"Tirith?" he breathed.
The wolfhound barked once in acquiescence, his tail wagging madly.
Ereinion's mouth fell open, and he looked around at his surroundings, barely believing it. But yes, this beach was familiar, and he recognised it with more than a tinge of nostalgia. Over there was the ornate jetty, and beyond that he could glimpse the masts of the ships docked in the quay. He turned to the other side and saw the magnificent towers of the Grey Havens, built all the way up the slope to the headland upon which Círdan's house proudly stood.
He had gone down to the beach in Alqualondë in the morning to meet the ship, he remembered. Celebrían had been on it, and he had gone with her back to Celeborn's father's house to help her settle in...and then the last thing Ereinion remembered was sitting with Celebrían on the balcony that evening. After a while she had gone back inside, and he had stayed out a little longer. He assumed he must have gone back to the inn where he was staying with his mother at some point, but he couldn't recall doing so. Suddenly his mother's strange goodbye came back to him. She was only going back to the inn to go to bed, but he felt like she was farewelling him as if they wouldn't see each other for a long time, and he couldn't help but wonder if maybe she had somehow known about this.
"If I could have one wish," Celebrían had said, as they sat on the balcony, "just one, right now... I would wish for them to send you back to him. He's had so many people taken from him, and he doesn't deserve any of it. I just wish that he could have one person back, and that it could be you." She buried her face in her hands as the tears she had been fighting won out. Ereinion put an arm around her, feeling his own eyes prickling, and kissed her temple.
"I wish that too."
No more words were needed between them. They had known each other longer than either of them had known Elrond, and still had the easy relationship of surrogate siblings, even after all this time. Ereinion had been torn; until that moment he had never considered the possibility of being reborn in Arda but as soon as the thought entered his head, he wanted it more fiercely than he had ever wanted anything. And yet, here was Celebrían, as much a sister to him as Eäthiriel, alone in a foreign place, heartsick and weary and in need of his support. A treacherous voice in his head said that Celebrían had her grandparents and her uncles and probably didn't need him, and he squashed it, immediately feeling guilty for even thinking that.
But she had said she wished for him to return, and she must have meant it because here he was. Alive again. In Arda.
Ereinion's head was spinning. It all seemed to have happened too fast; he had been under the impression that it took years to be reborn - surrogate parents had to be found, and then the person returned had to go through a second childhood and reach maturity to regain the memories of their first life. That is how it had happened with Glorfindel. And yet here he was, fully grown, with all of his memories, as far as he could tell. It was as if his life had picked up straight from where it had stopped. Ereinion passed one hand over his face and resolved to not think about it just yet; he was too disoriented in general to make much sense of anything. He reached out to scratch Tirith behind the ears with the other, wondering at the dog's presence.
Tirith suddenly moved a few paces away, and Ereinion looked up, his gaze following the wolfhound to alight on the form of one very surprised shipwright.