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Tales from Vairë's Loom  by Fiondil

Estel en-Aderiad

Summary: A group of Elves journey to Mordor at the end of the Ring War to find closure and something else. Inspired by the Teitho contest ‘Leavetaking’ and the randomly generated prompts: Galadriel/Mordor/Tavern. A story for Easter.

****

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Celeborn frowned at his wife, not sure of her motives. "And more importantly, do you need to do this?"

Galadriel merely smiled the same irritating smile she usually reserved for underlings who were being difficult. It was all the answer he needed.

"I will come with you," he told her and he spoke in a tone he knew she would recognize and had learned long ago not to defy. "We should leave soon, though. King Éomer will be returning in a couple of weeks for Théoden’s body and we will need to be back in time to leave with the funeral cortege."

"As you will," she said stiffly and then gave him a mischievous look. "Perhaps we should make it a family affair."

Celeborn raised an eyebrow at that. "Everyone?" he asked, automatically calculating the logistics of traveling with the newly made High King and Queen of Arnor and Gondor, along with Elrond and the Twins. Naturally, Glorfindel would insist on coming and he had no doubt that where Estel went, Legolas was sure to follow and now that the Dwarf was his friend... and then there were the Periain, though he seriously doubted any of them would wish to make this journey.

Galadriel’s smile was more genuine. "Nay, husband," she answered. "I think we can safely leave out the Periain."

"Which means Estel will not leave them," Celeborn commented with a nod. His granddaughter’s husband was too much the healer to leave Iorhael and Perhael and the Belain knew if the city would even be standing when they returned if the two younger Periain were left to their own devices.

Galadriel nodded. "Arwen will not come," she said.

"The Twins?"

Now his wife laughed, a light unforced laugh that never ceased to delight him. It was one reason he had fallen in love with her. "Oh, I am sure they will welcome the chance to show off."

He snorted in amusement. "Given half the chance," he said in agreement. He loved his grandsons dearly for he saw in their high-spirited antics his own beloved Celebrían’s delight in jests and pranks. "Elrond will come if only to satisfy his own curiosity as a loremaster," he added, "so that means Glorfindel will accompany him. Anyone else?"

His wife shook her golden head. "The Mortals will not come," she said. "This is just for us."

Celeborn nodded, agreeing with her. "I will let Haldir know," he said. "He will want to coordinate with Glorfindel over guards."

"Naturally," Galadriel replied with a slight shake of her head. "I will inform the rest of the family of our decision." With that she left their apartments in the Citadel of Minas Tirith.

Celeborn refrained from retorting that it had been her decision from the start, knowing how futile it was. Galadriel always gave him equal credit (or equal blame) for any decision she unilaterally made. It had been so from the very beginning of their relationship. It was another thing he loved about her, though he was at a loss to say why.

Love is very strange that way, he had said to Elrond once when the younger ellon had asked him about it shortly after his own marriage to Celebrían. And indeed, it was, but he decided not to pursue that line of thinking any further. It was too fraught with emotional pain right now. He had promised himself he would not break down before the Mortals. They had both made their decisions as to what they would do now that Sauron was finally defeated. He understood his wife’s choice and indeed rejoiced in it, but he was not sure she understood his. He wasn’t sure he did either, but the choice had been made and he would abide by it... for now.

Meanwhile, he needed to find his chief guard and inform him of the upcoming ‘picnic’. He smiled at the thought of what Haldir would not say in front of him about that.

****

Aragorn, when he was told the particulars, suggested that those intending to go should congregate at a particular tavern on the First Circle at dawn. Much of that part of the city was still in ruins but ‘The King’s Rest’ was now operating. The Elves gave the new King of Men enquiring looks.

"I’m sure we can find our own way out of the city, Estel," Glorfindel said with a supercilious sniff, though his eyes were twinkling with amusement.

"Trust me," was all Aragorn would say and Elrond, deciding for them all, nodded.

"We always have," he said and the matter was dropped.

In the end, besides Elrond, the Twins, Glorfindel and Haldir, ten guards — five each from Imladris and Lothlórien — joined Galadriel and Celeborn in the courtyard fronting the tavern while the sun was still rising behind the Ephel Dúath, though the sky was already blue. The summer morning was already warm and the day promised to be hot and muggy. The Elves, of course, paid little attention to the weather.

The proprietor of the tavern, a quiet man with haunted eyes, was already up, competently supervising his wide-eyed staff, who went about shyly passing out sticky buns, fruits and cheese, as well as cooled cider to the Elves. Celeborn, Galadriel and Elrond contented themselves with just the cider. Celeborn noticed with amusement that the rest of their party were eagerly devouring everything in sight and realized that they were only acting as any warrior would who was unsure of when his next meal might come. Even Galadriel had not objected to their presence, for Ithilien was still dangerous and there were reports of roving bands of orcs and Easterlings haunting the lands east of the Anduin. In fact, all of them were armed, even Elrond, who had long ago foresworn the wielding of a warrior’s sword for that of the healer’s knife.

"How long must we wait?" Haldir asked his lord impatiently even as he was downing another sticky bun. "Why did Aragorn insist we meet here?"

"My son keeps his own council," Elrond answered equably for his father-in-law. "I have no doubt he has his reasons."

As if the mention of his name had conjured him, Aragorn suddenly appeared in the courtyard with Arwen on his arm. Faramir was with him, as were Legolas and Gimli, but the Periain and Mithrandir were conspicuous by their absence. All, that is, save young Peregrin Took, standing behind Aragorn, stifling a yawn as he adjusted his black tunic with the white tree stitched on it. It was apparent that he was on guard duty this morning. All the Elves smiled indulgently at the sight of the young Perian, indulgently, but with grave respect for this child-warrior, for Peregrin was still accounted as a child in the eyes of his own people.

Aragorn smiled at them, giving them a slight bow of acknowledgment. "I have made arrangements to hasten your journey. If you are ready...."

"We were merely waiting for you, Estel," Glorfindel said with a smirk.

"Forgive me," Aragorn replied. "I’ve been at the Houses of Healing most of the night helping a Woman who was experiencing a difficult birthing. Luckily, both mother and child survived and are doing well."

"iMelain egleriennin!" came the heartfelt response of many of the Elves there.

"Then we forgive you for making us wait," Glorfindel said by way of apology. Aragorn just smiled, used to the Elf-lord’s ways.

"You should have called me," Elrond said with a frown. "I would have come with you, Estel."

"You were already occupied with Frodo and Sam, Ada," Aragorn said quietly, casting a glance at the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien. They and Elrond nodded, for they too had been awake most of the night tending to the Ringbearers, both of whom had been experiencing nightmares.

"Well, at any rate, I am interested in knowing in what manner you intend to speed us on our way," Celeborn said, bringing the conversation back to the original subject.

Aragorn smiled, as did Arwen. "If you will follow me, I will show you." With that, he turned to the tavernkeeper and gravely thanked him for his hospitality for his elvish kinsmen. "My lady wife and I have yet to break our own fast," he said. "Perhaps when we have seen our kinsmen on their way we may return here to breakfast. Those sticky buns look absolutely delicious."

"And they taste even better," Elrohir quipped and the other warriors added their own approbations.

The tavernkeeper bowed, his expression one of joy. "I and my people would be honored to serve you, my king," he said. "All will be in readiness for when you return."

"Thank you," Aragorn said and then with only a nod to the Elves he strode away, Arwen still on his arm, Peregrin gamely keeping up, while Faramir, Legolas and Gimli mingled with the Elves as they made their way along the Lampwrights’ Street where the tavern was located toward the Great Gate, or where the Great Gate had once stood. 

"Here to see us off, elfling?" Elladan asked Legolas.

Legolas gave him a scowl. "Actually, if Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel will permit it, I would accompany you."

"And... your friend?" Haldir asked, pointedly not looking at the Dwarf stomping beside them.

"Ho! Fear not, Master Marchwarden," Gimli said. "I’ve no intention of horning in on your picnic. Besides, Aragorn’s going to need help keeping those four Hobbits out of trouble, so someone has to stay behind while you Elves go tree-hugging or whatever it is you’re planning on doing." He waved his hand in dismissal. Some of the elvish guards, not familiar with Dwarves, and certainly not familiar with this particular Dwarf, gave him unhappy scowls but Legolas merely laughed.

"Tree-hugging is not the only thing we Elves do," he protested.

"Could’ve fooled me," came the soft reply, not from Gimli, but surprisingly from the Perian who kept his eyes on his king’s back and pretended the others weren’t there.

This time all the Elves laughed and the tension eased between them and the Prince of Mirkwood’s strange friend.

"At any rate, I would come with you if I may," Legolas reiterated and then gave them a shy look. "For my adar’s sake."

There were nods all around and none objected. By now they had passed through the makeshift gate leading out of the city. Their horses and gear had been seen to earlier and were waiting for them along one side of the city wall, tended to by grooms. As the Elves mounted, Celeborn gave Aragorn a considering look.

"And what is it you would show us, Estel?" he asked.

For an answer, Aragorn merely pointed towards the Harlond where the Elves could easily see a ship in dock. "That ship will take you to the landing stage for Cormallen. From there...."

"So that is your surprise," Galadriel said with a smile. "And a welcome one at that. Thank you, Estel. It will indeed hasten our journey."

"The captain has instructions to wait for you," Aragorn said.

The Elves gave the King of Men their farewells and set off for the harbor, waving good-bye to those remaining behind. Soon they were making their way aboard the ship, which turned out to be one of the captured Corsair ships, renamed iVeril Gondor, her captain a competent looking Man of nearly pure Númenórean descent who introduced himself as Captain Aldamir. Once everything was stowed away the ship was launched and they were heading north.

The journey, which took two days, was spent mostly watching the land slip by. All the Elves gazed upon the green lands of Ithilien, drinking in the redolent air. Elrohir, Elladan and Legolas pointed out particular landmarks and spoke of their time in that fair land.

"For fair it remains, in spite of the spoiling done by Sauron’s orcs," Legolas said at one point. "It is my hope to convince Ada to give me leave to return here with some of my people and set up a colony. Aragorn has already given me his approval of the plan and Faramir has been pouring over maps to see where the best locations might be."

"A worthy goal," Celeborn said. "It would be good to know that Elves dwelt in this land, if only for a little while." The others all nodded.

They reached the landing stage for the Fields of Cormallen that had been constructed when Aragorn had removed his army there after the destruction of Barad-dûr. Captain Aldamir assured them that his ship would be waiting for them when they returned.

Thus, they made their way northeast, crossing the fields until they approached what had once been the Morannon, the Black Gate, leading into Mordor. Before them stretched the killing ground of the Dagorlad and beyond that they could see the Dead Marshes, dead looking indeed with its sere stalks of yellow-green sedge, though some of the more far-sighted thought they detected healthy hints of green among the yellow sedge. However, their main attention was to the south, into the heart of the Enemy’s demesne.

The gates were gone and the towers as well. There was a deep crater before them with fissures spreading out from where the Dark Tower had once stood, making it all but impossible for any to navigate through the land. Further beyond they could make out the still active volcano that was Mount Doom. Though it had quieted in the months since the Ring had gone into its fiery depths, they could see a sluggish river of molten lava still flowing down one side of the gaping wound where the mountain had exploded, where the Sammath Naur, the Chamber of Fire, had been. Ash, grey and white and dead, covered every little nook and cranny of the landscape, lying in some cases several inches thick. It was as desolate as it could be, though the stench of evil that had permeated the air was no longer evident.

Silence reigned about them as these ancient beings contemplated the long and seemingly fruitless years and ages of their struggles against the Dark, each of them lost in their own thoughts and memories. Celeborn was not even thinking about Sauron, but of Morgoth and the destruction of Doriath. Elrond remembered the long trek back to Imladris after the last war, soul-weary and grieving for his king and benefactor who had died on the slopes of Orodruin. Glorfindel was reliving the night of his death. Legolas was wondering what his adar was feeling now that the Shadow was lifted from them. Galadriel recalled how the Light of the Two Trees died and all that flowed from that. Haldir was recalling the long struggle to keep safe the borders of Lothlórien. The others, warriors who had fought and survived many battles, both big and small, remembered their comrades who had died in their arms and wondered if their sacrifices had really been worth it.

"Círdan should be here," Elrond suddenly spoke, startling everyone, "and Gil-galad."

"Adar, too, and Daeradar," Legolas whispered, his expression haunted.

"My brother, Finrod," Galadriel added sadly, tears streaming down her face.

Before Celeborn could respond to that, Glorfindel gave her a brief hug. Oddly, and to everyone’s surprise, she did not resist. "He is here, Galadriel," he said with calm assurance. "He is here, as are all of them, because we are here to be their witnesses."

She nodded and as he released her, she turned and held out her hand to her husband who took it gratefully. In some small ways she still needed him and for that he was glad.

"Look!" Elrohir cried as he bent down to pluck something from the ground. They all gathered around the ellon who held up his find for all to see.

It was a stringy looking plant, a weed, actually, with small pinkish-white flowers and narrow lancet-shaped leaves with brown spots.

"Naub e-Heryn," Elrond quickly identified it, taking it from his son to examine it more closely. "A rather invasive plant, though it has some medicinal uses."

"There was only the one," Elrohir said.

Elrond shook his head. "Where there is one, there are others."

"A weed," Glorfindel said with slight disdain.

"A living plant," Elrond corrected him. "A sign of life and where there is life there is hope."

"Can anything ever grow here again, though, and not be tainted?" Elladan asked doubtfully.

"This weed looks normal enough," Elrohir opined.

"Still, in all this desolation, how can a weed be a sign of hope?" Legolas asked.

"The Rohirrim have a word," Elrond told them in his loremaster’s voice. "Æristhyht. It is difficult to translate, for I have never come across the concept in any other Mannish language, nor in the languages of the Elves. As close as I can come to it in Sindarin it means ‘Estel en-Aderiad’."

"But it is only hope, not certainty," Galadriel pointed out.

Elrond nodded, twirling the spindly weed between his thumb and forefinger. "Yet, is that not the way of things? We are only ever offered hope, never certainty, that all will be well. Why do you think I named my brother’s grandchild Estel? It was all I could give him and the Dúnedain."

Celeborn reached out to take the plant from Elrond, holding it in the palm of his hand, contemplating this one small plant, a weed that most would ignore or trample in their disdain. He noticed the roots were still intact. Wordlessly, he knelt on the ashy ground and dug a hole, making it deep enough to hold the plant. Someone thrust a waterskin at him and looking up he saw it was Glorfindel. He smiled at the ellon and carefully watered the plant. Returning the waterskin to Glorfindel, he stood, not even bothering to brush the dirt off his knees.

The others stood silently, staring at the little plant, its pink flowers a bright and cheerful contrast to the grey landscape. Then, suddenly, one of the Imladris Elves began singing a well-beloved hymn to Yavanna and everyone joined in, their rich ethereal voices filling the dead air with life and it seemed the little weed took heart and grew an inch or two, or perhaps it merely stood a little straighter, buoyed up by the power of the Elves’ singing. When the last note of the hymn died away, they remained silent for a time. Then Galadriel bowed to the weed and the others echoed her.

"May you be a sign of hope and the possibility of restoration," she said, then she looked at those around her and smiled. "I think it is time we returned to Minas Tirith."

"But what about our picnic?" Elrohir asked with an ingenuous smile.

The others chuckled. "Why don’t we wait until we are back in Cormallen and share our bounty with the good captain and his crew?" Celeborn suggested and to that the others heartily agreed.

"I’m glad I came," Legolas said to no one in particular. "I think I needed to see that little weed growing so bravely in the midst of all that destruction. The sight of it fills my heart with hope that my own Forest is even now recovering from the twisted evil that plagued it for so long."

The others nodded in agreement. Celeborn, taking a final look back, saw that indeed, as Elrond had said, there were other weeds growing here and there among the rocks. Yes, young Legolas was right. We all needed to come here and be a witness to that little plant. He knew that the first thing he would do when they returned to Minas Tirith was to tell Estel and Arwen about what they had found.

As if she had read his mind, Galadriel took his hand and smiled. "We will tell them together."

Celeborn nodded. Yes, in small ways she still needed him and that alone gave him hope.

****

Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted.

Periain: Plural of Perian: Halfling, Hobbit.

Iorhael: Frodo’s name rendered in Sindarin.

Perhael: Samwise’s name rendered in Sindarin.

Belain: Plural of Balan: Vala.

Ada: Hypocoristic form of Adar: Father.

Ellon: Male Elf.

iMelain egleriennin!: ‘The Valar be praised!’

iVeril Gondor: ‘The Rose of Gondor’.

Daeradar: Grandfather. In this case, Oropher, who died in the War of the Last Alliance along with two-thirds of the Elves of Greenwood the Great (the later Mirkwood).

Naub e-Heryn: Persicaria or Lady’s Thumb (Persicaria maculosa), an invasive European perennial weed having clusters of very small pink, white or red flowers. In the Language of Flowers persicaria means ‘restoration’. Medicinally, it is used against diarrhoea and infections. Fresh leaves can be used to staunch bleeding and its leaves and young shoots can be eaten as a palatable and nutritious leaf vegetable.

Æristhyht: (Old English/Rohirric) Hope of Resurrection. Estel en-Aderiad is the Sindarin version [ad ‘again’ + eriad: gerundial form of eria- ‘to rise’; cf. aderthad ‘reunion, reuniting’. The word resurrection is late 13th c. Anglo-French, derived from the Latin past participle of resurgere ‘to rise again’. The word replaced the Old English æriste ‘rising, rising up, resurrection, awakening’.





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