There was nothing left, nothing but ashes, and even they were a permanent part of the hard and barren ground. Nothing of Gil-galad's shining brightness remained. It was all gone. He was gone. And Elrond was alone. Again.
It was official. Elendil and Gil-galad had reached an agreement, and the combined armies of men and elves would face Sauron in battle, as allies. Gil-galad had rushed to Imladris to tell Elrond. The armies would gather there; then head south, picking up Oropher's and Amdir's forces along the way.
Elrond was torn between being happy that they were finally doing something and dreading going into what would likely be a very difficult battle. As soon as he had heard, he had begun to make arrangements for Erestor to take care of things in Imladris while the armies were gone. He had no doubt that he would be standing right next to the High King as they went into battle. He always had, since coming of age.
"What do you mean, Ereinion? Of course I am going with you. You need every soldier you can get, do you not?" Elrond moved closer to Gil-galad, kissing that sensitive spot on his neck and whispering. "I know you want to keep me safe, but I can take care of myself. Besides, Glorfindel will be hovering over me, you know that."
"Elrond. You know why I do not want you to come. I do not trust anyone else with Vilya. I am unable take it so near to Sauron, he will sense the ring’s power. You have to stay here."
At first, Elrond just nodded. He almost agreed with Gil-galad. But then he thought of the road the armies would travel, and he knew they would not be back quickly. He had spent so much of his life waiting for things to happen, for the actions of others to determine his fate, and he was tired of it. He had come to Imladris to build a haven, and it had been accomplished. But it would become a prison if he had to stay here and wait for word as his king—his lover went to war.
He would make it clear to Gil-galad that he would not be left behind. He knew that Gil-galad was only using Vilya as an excuse. Cirdan had Narya, and he was going to be with the armies. This was just more of the king's over-protectiveness and Elrond simply would not have it.
Neither Elrond nor Gil-galad said much about it in the next few months as they gathered information and supplies, though the discussion was never far out of their thoughts.
Keeping soldiers in shape for battles while they waited for things to start was always difficult. Gil-galad had ordered his captains to keep their soldiers trained, but not too on edge. He assumed that since Elrond was not going with them that he would use that time to do something else. Elrond had different ideas. He trained as usual, and was in fact, practicing his sword fighting with several other soldiers when the King walked by.
Gil-galad stood there, his arms crossed, and watched silently for a bit. He snorted when Elrond's opponent disarmed him. As the other pairs finished sparring, the King spoke up, congratulating them all on a good training session.
"Good work. Oh, but Elrond? You might think about actually trying to defeat your opponent. Your skills are quite lacking lately. I am quite sure that you would be much more of a hindrance than an asset on the battlefield."
Gil-galad turned and stalked away, leaving everyone else standing, unmoving, with their mouths open. Elrond was caught between hurt and anger as he turned and stomped off the field in the opposite direction.
When he entered the King's room later that evening, intending to confront him, he had just opened his mouth to speak when Gil-galad cut him short.
"I think you should move your things back to your own rooms. I have found your company to be tiresome lately. And your pitiful display this afternoon during training reinforces my opinion that you should not accompany the army to Mordor. I will have enough to worry about without thinking about protecting you."
Elrond actually stepped back, like he had been physically assaulted. He was unable to breathe, or see or think. He whirled around and ran out of the room, angry and confused, not understanding how things had come to this point. Elrond was almost running to a secluded glade not far from the house. As soon as he caught his breath, he slumped down to the ground. He had always known that the King would reject him sooner or later. Elrond couldn't compete with other, more experienced elves, like Glorfindel, or Gildor. He had ruled Imladris for countless years, but when it came to matters of the heart, Elrond was still very inexperienced. Gil-galad was his first—his only—lover and Elrond had always felt that he didn't really deserve all the attention that the King paid him.
In every other aspect of his life, Elrond was wise and compassionate and confident. Being around Gil-galad made him feel off-center, unbalanced. When he was with the King, he was giddy, basking in the glow that seemed to surround Ereinion. When they were apart, though, Elrond questioned his worthiness. He was not a great warrior; he preferred books and quieter activities. Gil-galad would rather go riding or swimming than spend time in the library or anywhere else indoors. They were dissimilar as night and day, and yet, the King had sought Elrond's company, though Elrond could never quite understand why.
Well, it was over now. Gil-galad had finally realized how things were meant to be. Now that he was free, he could find a more appropriate lover, or even a wife. His infatuation with Elrond had always prevented him from searching before. It didn't matter that Elrond and Gil-galad had been lovers for hundreds—thousands of years. Elrond had never felt completely secure with it. When Glorfindel showed up in Lindon, there was a span of time where Elrond actually avoided the king to see if the two older elves would get together. Elrond knew his insecurity had, at times, frustrated Ereinion, but he couldn't stop himself from thinking or feeling that way. Besides, he'd finally proved himself right. Gil-galad had already said that Elrond wasn't worthy of accompanying the army to Mordor, and now, Elrond was not worthy of being with the King at all.
Elrond and Gil-galad managed to go through their daily routines, ignoring the whispering and staring as news of their break-up made its way around Imladris. Elrond was just grateful that this was not Lindon, and his duties didn't include too much actual contact with the King. He was able to avoid seeing him except at meals and the occasional meeting.
After a few weeks, things settled down except for a lingering sense of unease and tension. Elrond, though still hurting, had begun to think of life without Gil-galad. He stopped trying so hard to avoid him, and even caught himself smiling once in awhile. Life did go on.
Elrond had made a habit of getting up early and taking a walk before breakfast. He liked the peace and quiet. Sometimes he would see others walking in the gardens or sitting on the grass, watching the sunrise. One morning, as he passed by a small alcove, he heard laughing. It was Gil-galad. He couldn't resist sneaking around the high hedges and peering through a small opening into the secluded spot. What he saw there made all the hurt and anger come rushing back. He should have been prepared; he knew that Gil-galad wouldn't remain single for long.
Elrond had stumbled upon the King and Glorfindel in a passionate embrace, and they both looked as if they'd been there for a bit of time. Elrond could hardly believe his eyes. He knew they had been attracted to each other, but he thought they might at least wait until they left Imladris before doing anything about it. He stumbled backwards out of the bushes, surprised at the catch in his throat. He'd thought he was starting to get over the doomed relationship a little.
Elrond spent the next few weeks hiding, claiming too much work to do. He took meals in his rooms and sent his reports via messages. As the time drew nearer for the armies to leave, Elrond gradually started leaving his room more. He treated Gil-galad with an exaggerated courtesy, making sure to smile and be very agreeable. Inside, he was numb. As long as Gil-galad had remained single, Elrond had thought there was a small chance for them to resume their relationship, no matter how much he tried to tell himself that it would not be. His heart had other ideas. But now that Elrond had seen Ereinion with Glorfindel, he knew there would be nothing more. He guessed that Gil-galad would have his way after all. Elrond would not accompany the armies to Mordor.
The King and Glorfindel remained discreet, at least from what Elrond had been able to learn from the staff. Most of them pitied Elrond, he knew, but he couldn't hide anymore. He was needed. The armies would be leaving in just over a month and Elrond had to help. He tried not to notice Gil-galad, but he couldn't ignore the lines of fatigue that the king wore on his face, along with the tense set of his shoulders. Elrond tried to do even more, to help ease the King's burdens. He had finished his paperwork and was heading to the stables to help check the condition of the horses and supplies there when he walked right into Gil-galad on the path. Both of them had been walking, not paying attention.
"Oh! I'm sorry…Your Highness. I didn't see you there."
Elrond tried to step around the King, but Gil-galad reached out and grabbed his arm, keeping him there.
"Elrond. I was looking for you. I want you to come with me. We need to talk."
Elrond almost refused, but the look on the king's face was enough to stop him from saying anything. He merely nodded, pulled his arm free and followed Gil-galad into the house.
The King motioned for Elrond to sit but he shook his head, refusing, standing by the door as if to escape quickly.
"Elrond. I…this is very difficult to say.”
Gil-galad paced in front of Elrond, not looking at him as he continued to talk.
"First of all, I apologize for putting you through everything that I have these past months. I knew how you felt about us, about not being worthy of being with me. I tell you now that you are wrong. I am the one unworthy of you, and your regard. I purposely humiliated you at the training fields that day, and then further abused you by…asking you to leave. I've never done anything quite so difficult Elrond. The final blow came when you saw Glorfindel and I together. I knew how intimidated you were by him, you never hid that from me, no matter how you tried. He and I planned that. We knew you'd be by there that day, we meant for you to see us."
Elrond opened his mouth to speak, but Gil-galad held up his hand, and kept talking.
"I did it because I didn't want you to come with us. You have to stay safe, Elrond. No matter the cost. Even Galadriel agrees with me. You have to survive into the next ages, and the only way I could think of doing that is to make you stay here, away from the battle. I knew you wouldn't just let me order you to stay, so I arranged to make you want to stay. Until last night, that is. I had a dream, or a vision, I guess you could say. I saw you there, beside me, facing Sauron. And then I saw you next to Isildur. He had the ring, Elrond. And for some reason, you are there with him. But what the dream tells me is that you must be with me. I understand if you cannot forgive me for being so cruel, but I want you to know that I did not mean any of it, I did it because I thought it was for the best."
Elrond was trying to sort out his jumbled thoughts and feelings. As Gil-galad reached for him, Elrond held him back, he shook his head and backed out of the room, needing time to think.
In the months before they left for Mordor, Gil-galad made it very clear to everyone that he did love and trust Elrond, and did not find him tiresome, or lacking in anyway. At first, Elrond resisted. He didn't want to get hurt again. He wanted a bit of revenge too, and to make Ereinion work to gain his affection back. That was until Glorfindel cornered him one morning.
"Elrond! What are you doing? You do realize that we will be going into battle soon and that every moment you waste, wanting revenge, you're separated from Gil-galad? You could be with him you know, but while you're busy being stubborn, both of you are suffering. What happens if one of you gets killed? Won't you regret this time?"
For the entire time the armies camped in front of the black
gate, Elrond remembered what Glorfindel had said. He made sure they didn't waste
anymore time. They spent every night together, and as much of each day as they
could. Elrond stood at the King's back during battles, protecting him. Whenever
they were near each other, everyone around them could see the little touches,
and feel the emotion they had for each other. Elrond had made a vow to cherish
this time with Gil-galad, and he did. He no longer had any insecurity about
being with the king, he simply gave all that he could, and received all of Ereinion
After Gil-galad fell, Elrond approached Glorfindel.
"Thank you. You gave us these last years, by helping me see the light."
"You're welcome Elrond. I couldn't see either of you having any more regrets than you both already did."
Something in Glorfindel's voice made Elrond look at him—hard.
"You know something you're not telling me, don't you?"
"Yes. Gil-galad knew he was going to die. He also knew that if the two of you weren't together when it happened, you would die soon after. You'd already begun to fade before we came here, just being separated from him. Without these last years, you would have continued to fade, and when Ereinion died, it would have been the last blow. He really did love you, Elrond. And he also knew that you had to live. You have to trust that, and be strong enough to go on. I think you really did believe that he could love you finally, didn't you?"
Elrond smiled and nodded.
The King was gone, but Elrond could feel his light. It was there, shining, and Elrond would never truly be alone again.
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