Lift the Wings

By Imbecamiel

Rating: PG

Characters: Elrond, Aragorn, Celebrian, Elladan, Elrohir

Summary: As she left for Valinor, Celebrian predicted that Rivendell would not always be a place of mourning. Now a new member has joined the Peredhil family, and Estel seems to be doing an excellent job of living up to his name.

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, events, places, etc. belong to Tolkien's estate. All unrecognizable ones are probably mine. –g-

A/N: Yet another story that I wrote for an SNWCG challenge – in this case, the Romance challenge. I've had this finished for some time, but debated whether I should post it. This story, while not a songfic, was inspired by the song "Lift the Wings" from Riverdance, and in the original version I used the lyrics as dividers for the different parts. Since that is against this site's policy, I've taken them out of this version, but if you'd like to see the version with lyrics it's posted at: www. 49. ? boardpastchallenges&actiondisplay&thread1148427095 (take out spaces). The story should make perfect sense without the lyrics, but I am sad I wasn't able to include them – it is a beautiful song, and always makes me think of Elrond and Celebrian.

And as a side-note, I've followed the popular fanon idea that Gilraen died at the same time as Arathorn, so she doesn't make an appearance in this story. Apologies to Gilraen fans, and to Tolkien, but I'm afraid she'd have complicated things a bit too much.

/italics/ indicate either a flashback or a translation from elvish. Hopefully it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out which is which… ;)


It wasn't raining. It seemed so terribly inappropriate. Wasn't there some kind of unwritten law of nature that it was supposed to rain at times like these? And yet still, in flagrant defiance of the proper order of things, the setting sun shone out bright and clear, painting the evening sky with beautiful colors. It was a perfect evening, the weather warm, with a cool breeze blowing off the sea in front of him. The colors around him began to soften, even as the sun put on a last fiery display at the western horizon, and the first stars began to peek out. Elrond could even faintly begin to see his father's star, Eärendil, always the most beautiful of the sky's wonders, in his eyes. Beautiful. Perfect. Only…

He wished it would rain.

A single tear slipped down his cheek, even as he valiantly tried to regain control over himself, before someone saw him like this. Before she saw him like this. For her sake, and the sake of their children, he would be strong tonight. He had to be.

But oh, he did wish it would rain. Somehow, inexplicably, he felt that witnessing nature's sorrow might ease his own. Or at least make it more bearable - just for tonight.

Briefly, he contemplated using Vilya, attempting to stir up some kind of a storm. But that thought was discarded before he had a chance to seriously consider it. Such an idea was too dangerous, not knowing who might witness the use of the ring's power. What was more, such actions would be dishonoring, not only to the faith with which Gil-Galad had entrusted the ring to him, but to the one he loved dearest in this world. He knew she would not like him to further cloud her last precious moments here with such foolish, despairing, pointless actions, just to ease his selfish heart. Besides, he did know such thoughts for what they truly were: distractions. Desperate attempts to distract himself from what he knew he could avoid no longer.

Celebrìan, his wife, dearest one to his heart, was leaving him, and there was nothing he or anyone else could do to prevent it. Any minute now, she would come out of the gray stone building behind him, and they would say their farewells, before she boarded the ship that was to carry her away from the western shores of Middle Earth, to the white shores of Valinor.

It wouldn't be goodbye forever, of course he knew that. One day he too would sail, and be reunited with his wife. But at the moment, that didn't make this one bit easier. Though his foresight seemed to be determined to give him as little help as possible, he did see clearly enough to know that his time would not be for many centuries yet. It cut him more deeply than any physical wound could reach, but he was not yet such a coward that he would abandon Middle Earth before his time - or, for that matter, his own children along with it - just because his heart couldn't let go. Just because he couldn't accept his failure.

His ears caught the sound of a door opening and closing quietly, and barely-audible, but so-familiar footsteps behind him. Blinking away the last of his lingering tears, he took a deep breath of the cool, salty sea air, before turning to greet Celebrìan.

The sight of her took his breath away. Her silver-blond hair, loose in soft waves that framed her pale face, shone in the fading sunlight. Her clear blue eyes, so sad and tired of late, brightened at the sight of him, as they always did. After nearly two and a half millennia with her, he found her beauty just as captivating as he had the first moment he had caught sight of her - nay, even more so, for now he knew that the beauty that so entranced him went far beyond mere physical comeliness, to an inner beauty that filled her heart and soul.

As she moved toward him, Elrond tried to summon up a smile of greeting. His attempts faltered, however, when he noticed yet again the careful way in which she moved. Despite his best efforts, she was still pained by the poisoned wound she had received at the hands of the orcs that had captured her. The callous hand of guilt twisted the knife of sorrow in his heart at the reminder of his failure.

Ah yes, Lord Elrond, the greatest healer in Middle Earth, and blessed with the gift of foresight! And much good it did to those who needed him most. He should have known, should have felt her danger, should have been there to prevent her pain. But no, even when it was all over, when she was finally rescued, though he had prevented her death, he could not manage to fully heal her. Not her spirit, so deeply injured by that terrible time, and not even her body. Greatest healer in Middle Earth, indeed.

But Celebrìan must have read his thoughts on his face, for the next thing he knew she was in front of him, her hands on his shoulders, and her worried blue eyes searching his face.

"Elrond? Man ha?" /What is it?/

The sound of her soft, concerned voice broke through his silent self-incriminations.

"Celebrian…" He raised a hand to brush her cheek gently. "Im near, meleth-nin…" /I'm sorry, my love/

"Near?" Her voice was puzzled now, and she frowned slightly, trying to figure out what he was apologizing for. "Ú-chenion…" /Sorry? I do not understand…/

"I have failed you. I-"

"No! Elrond, you must not think so!" Elrond blinked when she interrupted him so forcefully, her eyes flashing with the earnestness of her demand. The look of unyielding command on her face suddenly reminded him of her mother, and as he groped for a response the thought occurred to him with abstracted irrelevance that he had always been rather frightened of Galadriel when she got that particular look on her face…

"I should have known." He finally said quietly, obstinately.

"Should you?"

He was unsure how to take her enigmatic response, so he responded with a question of his own. "Of what use is foresight if I can do nothing to protect those I love?"

"Tell me something, meleth. Do you control your gift? Can you see the whole of the future, and understand perfectly all that is in store?"

"No." Now he was confused. She understood the gift of foresight better than that. Her own mother's gifting was strong indeed, and she herself had inherited some portion of it, though it did not show itself as frequently. She knew perfectly well that foresight was rarely to be called up at a whim, some magical instantaneous knowledge of what would happen tomorrow, the same as one knew what had happened yesterday, but more often an inner sense or premonition, or an uncertain vision of what the future might hold. So why…?

"No," she agreed. "You can see only the things that Illuvatar in His wisdom chooses to reveal to you. Perhaps you blame Him, then, for not showing you what would happen to me," she challenged quietly, "but how can you blame yourself for what you have no control over?"

He was silent for a moment, and it took no special knowledge for her to see that he was not fully convinced.

"Something still troubles you." It was a statement, not a question.

"I could not heal you."

"And you have so much more control over that than you have over your foresight? Some things are simply impossible, and no matter whether you spent all of this age and the next doing nothing but accumulating knowledge and experience, there would still remain some hurts that were beyond any skill on this side of the Sea to heal - even yours." Her voice tried, but couldn't quite succeed at catching the light, teasing tone she usually used when trying to talk him out of one of his less reasonable frames of mind. "Can you not accept that?"

"It is hard." He knew she was right. He hadn't fully realized before just how different knowing something and accepting it could be. It was not often that his scholar's mind balked so at the facts of a situation, but tonight…

"I know." With the admission, her shoulders slumped, and for the first time her eyes dropped from his face.

Celebrian sighed, and the now-ever-present air of infinite weariness, which had seemed to recede from her for a few minutes, returned full-force. Suddenly, she seemed so very small and frail, as if even the gentle breeze that brushed past them might carry her away at any moment. So very different from the strong, vibrant, joyful elleth he had met, nearly three millennia ago… /elf-maiden/

Again, guilt and sorrow struck at him, but this time for a different cause. And this time, he refused to let it show. Had he not resolved to do just that, before she came out to him - resolved to be strong for her? And yet it had been she who offered comfort to him! He was humbled at the fresh realization of what a gift he had been given in her. And his heart was broken anew at the thought of parting from her. But there - he had had enough of selfishness. She was the one the more in need of help now, and he would see to it that her last minutes here were eased, and not made all the more difficult by his actions.

Reaching out to her, he gently drew her toward him. As the first, instinctive tensing of her body eased, she relaxed into his embrace, leaning against him.

"I'm sorry," She said, quiet misery in her voice. "I know it is hard for you, and I do not want to leave you, but I just-"

"Shh, I know, meleth, I know." He was silent for a minute, simply holding her, both of them gaining comfort, and strength, from the nearness.

ooOoo

Side by side they stood, looking out over the ocean, watching the last remnants of sunshine fading away in the west, waiting for the summons they both expected and dreaded. In silence they waited, for the most part. Any moment now, the messenger would arrive to tell them all was ready and then… Then it would all be over. But for now, they could simply be together and, just for these last, precious minutes, pretend that all was well with their world, and their family need never be parted. Their family…

It was only then that Elrond realized that the better part of their family was not there. Though he had not marked it, quite some time had passed, and he had not expected to be left alone that long.

"The children?" He asked.

"They said they would wait inside, until the time came."

Elrond was grateful, whatever their reasons for that choice had been. He had needed this time alone with his wife. Now, though his heart still ached, he felt more prepared to face her departure. He took a deep breath and straightened as he heard the footsteps of the long-expected messenger on the stone stairs leading up from the harbor.

At sight of the two of them, the younger elf hesitated, clearly reluctant to intrude, but equally unwilling to delay in the delivery of his charge. Elrond relieved his quandary, turning to face him, and stepping slightly away from Celebrian, though still retaining her hand in his.

"Forgive me, my lord, my lady," the messenger said, bowing slightly to each of them in turn. "Lord Cirdan sends me, and bids me tell you that all is prepared, and the ship must leave within the quarter-hour, if we are to take advantage of the tide."

Elrond nodded. "Thank you, Táranen. We will be down in a moment."

Táranen paused an instant more, glancing around in search of the others he had expected to be there, before offering, "If you wish it, I will find your sons and daughter, and inform them as well."

Celebrian smiled at him gratefully, "Thank you, we would appreciate that. And, if you would, tell them that we will meet them at the docks."

He nodded, "I will, my lady."

As they began their walk down the hill, Celebrian spoke. "Arwen has told me she intends to visit my parents in Lorien for a time. The rest of you will set out for Imladris tomorrow?" She was not sure she truly wanted to bring up the subject, but somehow the thought of them remaining here after her departure, in this place of silent mourning, did not seem right to her. And for some reason it comforted her to know of her loved ones' plans once she was gone, and to be able to think of them doing something, not lingering in grief for her leaving.

"Yes, we intend to leave in the morning. Arwen will travel with us, as long as our paths run together." It seemed so strange, discussing plans in which she had no part. "Imladris will seem empty without you." His voice was low, but free of his earlier self-pity. He had not intended to say the words out loud, but now that they were out, he hoped she would understand them as they were meant.

"It will not always be so. I do not think I could have left, even now, if I had not been sure of it."

As he turned a quizzical look toward her, Celebrian stopped, her hand on his arm pulling him to a halt as well.

"Estel teli an Imladris." /Hope will come to Imladris./

There was a strange intensity in her gaze that gave him pause. What did she mean? The words seemed simple enough on the surface, comfort anyone might offer to the family they left behind. And yet…

"Manen ista-le?" /How do you know?/

"Guren bêd enni." /My heart tells me./

She smiled then, and the moment was broken as they began to move on. But he knew. Her words had not been simply an offering of baseless optimism. Though her gift of foresight might not manifest itself often, he could recognize it when he saw it. But for the time being, he set aside thoughts of what her words could mean, simply thankful for the comfort their knowledge gave him.

ooOoo

Elrond started awake, disoriented and confused. It took him a moment to recognize his room in Imladris, and realize where - and when - he was. His dreams had wandered far back into the past this night… And then he realized that it was still night. Why had he awoken?

Another sob from the adjoining room answered his question. Of course - Aragorn. Elrond was once again glad of his decision to have the young human sleep in the room next to his own. Since he had arrived, several weeks ago, barely a night had gone by that the child's sleep had not been interrupted by nightmares. He was young, barely more than two years old, and Elrond doubted that he could understand the full impact of what had happened. But it was certain that, understood or not, his parents' death and the subsequent upheaval of his life had been traumatic for the child.

Now, drawing a robe around his nightclothes as he went, he hurried to comfort the newest member of his household.

Elrond's heart clenched in sorrow as he looked down at the child. He had curled himself into a tight ball, and would have nearly disappeared under the blankets, save for his small body's trembling.

Reaching down to pick him up, Elrond wrapped the child in a blanket against the night chill as he drew him toward himself.

"Shh… It's alright, pen-neth, you're safe. It's alright…" Though outwardly, he projected soothing, gentle calmness, inwardly he was filled with grief and fury, knowing it was most certainly not alright. Such a young child, to have his life so torn apart…

But for the moment, the comforting presence of an adult he had begun to learn to trust, even in so short a time, was enough quiet the child. The fact cooled Elrond's fury somewhat as well. He was reminded that, as terrible as the thought of such things happening to one so young was, the very fact of his youth kept him from realizing all that had happened, and provided him the resiliency to accept and adjust to his new life far more quickly than he could have otherwise.

As he felt the body in his arms relax and a small head come to rest against his shoulder, Elrond looked down, smiling as he met the child's sleep- and tear-blurred gaze.

"Sidh, pen-neth. You are safe, Estel." /Peace, young one./

Estel… His eyes widened, as the realization suddenly broke over him. Estel teli an Imladris. For the first time the true meaning of his wife's words sank in. Always before he had assumed that the hope she had said would come to Rivendell was a figure of speech, not a literal person. He did not know exactly what she had seen or felt that had prompted her statement, but now as he looked down at the child in his arms, he knew that this, Estel - Hope - had been the fulfillment of her prophecy.

When Aragorn had first arrived here and he had decided to raise him in Rivendell, Elrond had given him his new name, knowing that the responsibility of protecting the child, and his kingly identity, would now fall to him. At the time, his only thoughts in choosing that particular name had been of the child's heritage, and his future part in the destiny of Middle Earth. Little had he realized that the future in which little Estel would begin living up to his name would prove to be far more immediate than any of them had anticipated.

At first, calling the child "hope" had seemed almost ridiculously ironic, considering his arrival had brought with it news that rang of such despair and disaster - the death of Arathorn, of his wife, Gilraen, of so very many of the rangers… But quietly, and so gradually as to go almost unnoticed, Estel's presence had indeed brought hope back to this house.

Elrond smiled to himself as a picture came to him of the scene he had come upon only this morning. He had been looking for Estel, and was beginning to be concerned by the fact that no one seemed to have seen him for the last several hours, when he was drawn to the library by the sounds of childish laughter. As he quietly stepped toward the partially-open door, he had heard two very familiar voices raised in earnest "discussion"…

/ "It won't work, I tell you!"

"It will!"

"Look, this is clearly the better choice! Yours is far too heavy. Besides, "History of the Dunedain" is far more appropriate anyways. After all, he is one of them, so it's only fitting."

"Appropriate or not, I still think this one's better."

Elrond nearly held his breath, as if afraid to break some spell. Once, he might have found such lighthearted bickering exasperating, but now… Now it was music to his ears. When their mother had sailed, his sons had retreated, their ever-youthful joy in life falling away from them as they turned nearly overnight into grim, deadly warriors. It had been years since he'd heard them indulge in one of their once-constant friendly debates. It startled him to realize just how glad he was to hear it again.

But what on Arda were they arguing about?! It sounded like they were disputing the relative merits of several books. But if they were looking for something to entertain Estel, he had to agree with Elrohir: a history of the Dunedain was likely to prove a poor choice, however fitting the idea was.

Curiosity won over caution then, and Elrond eased around to look through the crack between door and frame. The sight that met his eyes so surprised him as to nearly cause him to abandon his elven composure. He only barely restrained himself from making some noise or movement that might shatter the magic that was unfolding before him.

Elladan and Elrohir, stern warriors of Imladris, their mother's avengers, bane of orcs for leagues around, were sprawled on the floor before a complicated arrangement of cushions, books, and chairs. Each of them held yet another book in their hand, and Elladan was leaning over several stacks of books, holding a precariously-balanced pillow with one hand, attempting to prop it with the book in his other hand, and looking very near to toppling himself. Both twins were smudged with dust, their sleeves rolled back, and their hair, usually pulled tightly back into severe, efficient warriors' braids, had come loose to hang in strands around their faces.

An amusing picture, to be sure, but something in his sons' appearance seemed particularly odd to him... Then he recognized it - their weapons. As the years had passed, their cold fury toward their mother's tormentors had seemed to grow, rather than waning, and their lives had begun to focus even more on ridding the earth of every orc they could find. So much so that of late they were rarely seen without their weapons, even when they were at home in the safety of the valley. But now they were missing. His eyes traveled around the room, finally lighting on a desk in the far corner. There, safely out of reach of curious small hands, lay a tangle of sheaths and belts, forgotten, nearly covered over by several discarded pillows.

A smile of wonderment began spreading itself across Elrond's features, as another laugh drew his attention to the cause of these changes. In the very midst of the chaos sat Estel, peeking out at the twins from his fortress and laughing in delight at their antics. A ridiculously large cloak was wrapped around his shoulders, piling up all around him, and Elrond noted with some amusement that the broach which normally fastened it had been removed, and placed on a nearby chair. It would appear his sons were turning into quite the mother hens when it came to the child's safety.

Shaking his head and smiling to himself, Elrond reluctantly turned away, and made his way back to his study. He would have been quite happy to stand there and watch them all day, but he wouldn't risk disturbing them. Estel was in safe hands, and so, apparently, were the twins./

The memory brought with it a sense of immense relief and peace. He hardly dared hope yet that his sons' hearts might be healing, and yet… When the twins had finally made an appearance at lunch, they had both seemed so very… content.

With Elrohir carrying a thoroughly exhausted Estel, and making only the most halfhearted protests over the small hand that had latched tightly onto a fistful of his hair, Elladan had seen to finding a place for Estel to sit. Both of them had hovered over the sleepy child as he ate, barely eating themselves, until the maid who had been caring for Estel finally came to take him away for a nap.

So cheerful had the meal been that Elrond had been terribly reluctant to bring up the subject of their plans to accompany the rangers on yet another orc hunt. But the topic could not be avoided for much longer - the twins would have to set out early the next morning if they were to meet up with them. He had come to dread these excursions, with his sons seeming to have turned a little more hard and distant every time they returned. And that was only the times when they managed to get back without one or both of them having been wounded. He had come to dread the inevitable discussions over whether or not they would go almost as much as their actually leaving. And yet, to his immense surprise, when he had asked if they still intended to go, he had been met with neither stony silence, nor a cold, terse confirmation that rang of finality.

The twins had looked up, surprise flickering momentarily in their eyes, almost as though they had forgotten the trip entirely. Then Elladan had shrugged, replying placidly that he thought not this time, and that they might go out next month. Might! For years, it had been a given that nothing could dissuade them but severe injury or a genuine crisis at home. Now, suddenly, it was apparently up for debate. And Elrond knew perfectly well why.

He smiled down at the child in his arms. Wide, silver eyes met his, and the hand that Estel had wrapped around a fold of his robe tightened, as if he feared being abandoned to the terrors of the night. Instantly making up his mind, Elrond settled down on Estel's bed, leaning back against the wall and holding him close.

"No, Estel, I will not leave you tonight."

He stared out the window, watching the weaving patterns of tree branches as they bowed and danced before the backdrop of stars. The wind moaned around the corners of the building, and he felt Estel tense in dread. Quietly he began to sing, covering the night noises with the sound of his deep, soft voice.

The End


Thank you for reading! I hope that you enjoyed it. If you have the time, I would very much appreciate it it you'd let me know what you think! Reviews are a huge encouragement, and a big help in improving my writing.

- Cami