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Crossroads of Time

Chapter 12: Chapter 12

by ellie

Betas: Fianna, GeorgiaPiper, Vicki, and Marcia

Rating: Still PG for now

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters. They belong to JRR Tolkien and I am only borrowing them for a while. I make no money from this.

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Chapter 12


For the next few days, Ariella willingly succumbed to the abyss of depression, unable to eat or to leave her room. A few times she thought she heard someone open her door when she was lying listless, staring at the window, but she was unsure whether she dreamed it or not and did not have the life in her to care.

The day before the Midwinter Festival, some people entered Ariella’s room, but she lay with her back to the door, unmoving and not opening her eyes, hoping they would go away.

“How long has she lain thus?” Idril’s voice asked worriedly.

“Since the evening she returned from visiting with you,” came Linanna’s voice in reply. “My husband saw her leave Lord Glorfindel’s office and run up the stairs with tears on her face. No one has seen her leave her room since. I have checked in on her periodically and kept her water pitcher filled. She at least is still drinking, but she has not touched the food I have brought up to her.”

“Surely my brother is concerned about this? He cares for her very much.” Was that Elianna’s voice answering now?

Someone sighed loudly. “My lady, your brother has been a most difficult ellon to deal with for the last several days. He is abrupt and extremely irritable. He has been told about her condition by several of us now and … every time his response was less than encouraging,” Linanna answered. “No one knows what happened to make him thus, except that it started the day after Ariella left to help deliver the triplets and the healer Lhûnedhel and the lore master Istadan came to meet with him.

Come to think of it, they each have been by the house a number of times over the last few days, asking after Ariella. They both miss meeting with her apparently.”

“Linanna, this conversation does not leave this room, do you understand me?” It was Idril’s stern voice again.

“Yes, my lady,” came the immediate reply.

“Lhûnedhel and Istadan came to profess their love for Ariella and ask for permission to court her.” It was Elianna’s voice again.

“Oh my!” declared Linanna.

“I spoke with Ariella at length when she came to visit me a few days ago and convinced her to go speak with Glorfindel again to try to straighten this out and explain to him that she does not love them. She loves him.” There was a brief pause. “Apparently it did not go as I had hoped.”

A hand grasped Ariella’s shoulder, gently shaking it.

“Ariella, I know you are awake. We wish to speak with you. We are worried about you,” Idril said gently.

Ariella slowly rolled over and opened her eyes. She looked up into the faces of her friends, seeing their concern and their love for her.

Idril sat on the bed beside her followed by the other two. “Things did not go well when you spoke with Glorfindel?” she asked doubtfully.

“They were horrible,” Ariella rasped back, her voice broken from so much crying and lack of other use. “He would not even let me try to speak with him. He told me to get out of his sight and not to speak to him as there was nothing that I could say to him that would be worth hearing. He also called me cold and cruel with no thought for the feelings of others. He hates me.”

Idril’s expression turned to one of fury as did the expressions of the other two ellith.

“How could he say such a thing to you? He is the cold heartless one! I will be speaking to him about this. No one speaks to my friend that way!” Elianna exclaimed angrily.

The other two ellith and Ariella looked at her quite stunned. Sweet little Elianna was turning against her favorite brother.

“Ariella,” Elianna continued, “I will not pretend to apologize for his cruel behavior or excuse it. He will have to apologize to you himself.” She rose from the bed, her hands clenched in fists. “I am so angry with him!”

“Calm down Elianna. You and I will both go down and speak with him soon and he will deeply regret it. But, first we must see to Ariella,” Idril reassured her.

“Ariella, I want you to get up and bathe. Linanna will have water brought up for you. She will change the sheets for you while you bathe. Afterward, you will eat what Linanna brings for you. And Linanna will watch you eat it. Do you understand me?”

Ariella nodded as Idril continued. “Elianna and I will have a nice long talk with Glorfindel, I can assure you. It may take a few days for him to lower his pride and talk to you again, but he will do so.” She reached out and took Ariella’s hand in hers. “I also expect to see you at the festival tomorrow. Linanna, would you please help her prepare for that as well?”

“Gladly, my lady,” Linanna replied.

“Ariella, if you truly feel that you do not want Lhûnedhel and Istadan as suitors, then you need to tell them. It is cruel to give them false hope and it will only make things more difficult the longer you wait. So, be thinking about how you want to go about telling them,” Idril counseled.

Ariella asked softly, “What am I to do after I break with them? Studying healing arts and lore had been my two favorite and only pastimes. How am I to spend my time now?”

Idril and Elianna’s faces took on identical looks of uncertainty, reminding Ariella once again that they are akin to each other. “We will have to think about that and talk to you about it again later,” Elianna replied reaching up and patting Ariella’s hand which Idril was still holding.

Idril and the others stood. “Elianna and I will go now and have our little talk with Glorfindel. Linanna will go get the water for your bath so you can get up.” They each gave Ariella a comforting hug. “Please do not despair. We will do all we can to make things better for you. You deserve to be happy. Farewell.”

“Farewell,” Ariella replied, “And thank you for everything. You are all so wonderful to me.”

They smiled as they turned and left.

Ariella obediently got up and bathed when the water came and ate what was put before her to Linanna’s satisfaction. After Linanna left for the evening, Ariella curled up on her freshly made bed and tried to think through what she would do the next day. She realized she felt quite numb about everything.

She did not care that she would be attending a festival that would be celebrated in the ancient manner of Valinor, though she should have been thoroughly excited to have such a fascinating experience. She did not care that she would not be returning to the library or that one of the more interesting books she had borrowed lay half read on the table near her food, waiting for her to finish reading it. Why bother finishing it? With whom would she discuss it? She did not care that there was still much she did not know about herbs and the healing arts of the Noldor.

She simply no longer cared about anything. What was the point of it? Why bother? All she could ever do was mess up time and history if she used her knowledge, so to what purpose was she gaining more knowledge? She was most likely going to die when Gondolin fell, and the things she liked best had already been taken away from her.

She felt weary from the stress of the last few days. Perhaps it would be better to worry about only one day at a time - or maybe one day for all of time.

She made up her mind about what she would do tomorrow and beyond that she would have no worries. She would go to the festival and she would break with Lhûnedhel and Istadan. Beyond that, she would not worry, for the walls of the city are quite high. And beyond them, there would be no more tomorrows to worry about.

~~~*************~~~~~

Linanna roused Ariella the next day in time for her to prepare for the festival. She helped her put on the lavender dress and she brushed her hair, commenting on how beautiful it was and how lovely Ariella looked all the while. She braided the lavender ribbons into Ariella’s hair, then hugged her as a finishing touch.

“Lord Glorfindel will not be able to help but notice you now. Perhaps the warmth of your beauty will melt his cold heart and turn it toward you once again,” she encouraged.

Gingerly, she cupped Ariella’s face in her hands, an oddly sad look marring Linanna’s pretty face. “My Child, my heart fears for you this day and I do not know why. Please dance and be joyful.”

“I will, Linanna,” Ariella replied trying to sound cheerful and reassured though she did not feel it. In fact she felt nothing at all.

Lianna smiled worriedly and took her hand. “I will take you to the festival now.”

They donned their cloaks at the door and left for the festival. Ariella’s mind was strangely devoid of thought. It was as if she was watching herself go through the motions of walking down the street. If they passed anyone along the way, Ariella did not notice.

~~~*********~~~~~~

The entire Square of the King and the surrounding squares were all decorated for the festivities. There were good things to eat and lovely things to buy. When the sun set, there was music and dancing at every turn to celebrate the longest night of the year.

Ariella found Lhûnedhel first and told Linanna that she was going to go dance with him. For some reason, Linanna seemed reluctant to let her go.

~~~~*********~~~~~

When Lhûnedhel saw Ariella, his face lit up. He ran over, picked her up, and gave her a big hug. “Ariella!” he cried cheerily, swinging her around with a swish of his dark blue robes and cloak. “I have missed you so much! Why have not returned for your lessons or contacted me to give me your answer to the question I brought before Lord Glorfindel? Surely he has told you?”

Ariella hugged him briefly and he set her down. “I have been busy and I have been considering matters. Dance with me first and then I will give you my answer.”

Walking hand in hand, he led her to the nearest place where people were dancing and they joined in. She held his hands as he joyfully swung her around, stepping and spinning in time to the music. She had learned to quell her nervousness around him after a few of the lessons in healing, but this dance was the first time that she was actually enjoying herself with him. When the dance was over, she reluctantly took him by the hand, leading him away to a place where they could talk in private. If she could just dance with him and learn from him without any serious discussion, she would actually like to be with him.

They settled on the ground beside some trees in a garden. She looked at his expectant face and took his hands in hers. That dance had just made this serious discussion more difficult.

“Lhûnedhel…” She paused, taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh. “I have learned a great deal from you about healing and I greatly appreciate all of the time you have spent sharing your extensive knowledge with me. However…” She took another deep breath to brace herself for delivering the bad news. “I am sorry that I ever gave you the impression that I was in love with you. I do not have romantic feelings for you and I am sorry if I ever gave you that impression. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do not love you and I do not wish to bind myself to you.”

Obviously stunned, he gazed at her pleadingly, shaking his head, then looked down at their still joined hands. His thumbs caressed the backs of her hands as he stared silently, blinking several times and breathing hard.

She felt terrible for the obvious pain she was causing him. He was alone in the world with no siblings and his parents dead, and alone he would remain without her.

Finally he looked up again and asked bitterly, “So is it Istadan or Glorfindel I have lost you to?”

“I do not love Istadan,” she answered quietly. “I never have. He was just my teacher and my friend, just like you. And just like you, he misunderstood things, too. How or why I do not know, same as with you. I still have to go speak with him tonight. I only spoke with you first because I saw you first. As for Glorfindel, well, he will not speak to me and has called me cold and cruel, so I guess he is out of consideration as well.”

“If there is no one else, then why not me?” Lhûnedhel begged

“Because I will not bind myself to one who I do not love, and I do not love you. I am sorry.” Her voice was quite soft now and sad. “I am so very sorry.”

With that she released Lhûnedhel hands, got up, and walked away from him, leaving him huddled alone beside a tree.

Ariella felt as if part of a great burden she was previously unaware she had carried had been lifted from her shoulders. She felt so bad for the pain that radiated from Lhûnedhel. She understood what it was to be alone in the world, making the pain of leaving him even worse, knowing how empty and alone he must feel now. He was a good ellon and deserved much better than what she had to offer. She hoped he would find it one day either here or back in Valinor.

~~~~~~***************~~~~~~

A tear-stained glass of wine later, Ariella found Istadan chatting with some others. She quietly waited for him to leave the conversation, then tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around in surprise.

“Ariella!” he cried joyfully. He bowed low with a flourish, then offered her his arm. “Shall we go dancing?”

She smiled at him, taking his arm. “That would be wonderful, Istadan.”

He smiled back and led her off. She danced two dances with him as his exuberance made it impossible to break away after only one dance. They were both breathless as they left the crowd and made their way to a quiet alcove.

He gave her a warm embrace and said into her hair, “I have missed you so much. I did not realize how much you filled my days until they were devoid of you. It is so good to see you again.”

This was going to be so much more difficult than breaking from Lhûnedhel. She actually liked Istadan very much, and he had a wonderful innocent charm about him. Still, she did not love him and false hope was not fair. She pulled back from the embrace for a moment, composing her thoughts. She looked into his bright eyes, and brushed aside a few strands of his long dark hair that had escaped their braid during the dancing. She gently caressed his cheek, trying to convince her mouth to speak the words she had come there to say. Suddenly his mouth enticed hers to another form of verbal intercourse.

She was so startled by his lips pressing against hers that she stood frozen for a moment, unable to react. He slid his tongue along her lips seeking entry. Against her will, her mouth opened for him and her tongue caressed his as he deepened the kiss. One of his arms wrapped around her, holding her closer to him as his fingers intertwined in her hair. Her hands moved to his head, pressing him to her as her fingers slid into his mane. His hair was so silky and warm in the cold night air. His mouth was delicious, but it did not compare with Glorfindel’s.

She broke the kiss and looked up to see fire in his eyes, but there was no fire in her, not like there was when she was with Glorfindel. Shocked that she had kissed him like that, she took a deep breath and composed herself, sliding her hands down his muscular arms to catch and hold his hands.

“Istadan, there is something we need to talk about.” Her voice was calm and serious.

He looked into her eyes, suddenly sober himself.

“Istadan, this is very hard for me to say. I enjoy your company and take great pleasure in conversing with you. I like you very much, and…” She reached up and touched her lips where the memory of his kiss still lingered. “that kiss was wonderful.” She said softly, then paused, lowering her hand to take his again. “But I do not love you. I am sorry. I do not love Lhûnedhel either, so do not worry that I am choosing him over you, because I am not. I like you better than I like him. But the fact still stands, I do not love you.” Then she whispered again, “I am sorry.”

She released his hands and looked away, blinking back tears, unable to meet his bright gaze. She felt his warm hands on her cold cheeks, gently turning her face back toward his. The hurt in his eyes threatened to pierce her heart. She desperately wanted to look away again, but he held her firm.

“Ariella, I am sorry too. I thought you loved me. You chose me over Lhûnedhel in the library the other day, and you healed me. Your touch and compassion stirred something so deeply in me. I knew then I loved you. In spite of what you have said now, I still love you.” He swallowed hard. “I hope you find happiness because I believe you deserve it, even if it is not to be with me.”

She pulled him into another embrace, hugging him tightly to her, then finally broke the contact.

“Farewell, Istadan,” she said sadly as she backed away.

He looked forlorn standing there alone. “Farewell, my lovely Ariella,” he whispered back.

She turned and hurriedly walked away.

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Ariella downed another glass of wine, as she looked around at the swirling crowd of partying elves in their frivolous festive attire and innocent happiness, oblivious to the doom that awaited them twenty-two and a half years from now. She set the glass down and sighed. The night was getting older and she still had her last task to perform.

Ariella wandered away from the crowd toward the southern part of the city in the general direction of Glorfindel’s house. After a while, she saw the dim outline of the path to her final destination: the stairs up to the battlements of the wall. The wind was becoming chill though the evening was clear and dry for a change. She wrapped her cloak tighter about herself, making her way over to the steps and up.

Traversing this unguarded section of wall a ways, she stopped to admire the lights of the party in the center of the city. Gondolin was so incredibly beautiful from here, even at night. She was glad she had had the chance to see it and experience it. Not that it did her much good in the end. She thought she had managed to avoid changing history, but she had broken hearts. She was as cruel and cold as Glorfindel had accused her. She never deserved to have the experience of being here.

Two of her friends and teachers were hurting now, but she hurt too, more than she wanted to admit. It would be best for them if she were gone. It would be best for everyone. She had split up Glorfindel’s family and turned his adoring little sister and his cousin against him. All she managed to do to him was anger him and make him hate her. She ached with love for him, but to what purpose? To what end?

Yes, it really was best if she left. She had done some good while she was here. Some people were alive for a while longer than they would have been otherwise and others would die or survive because of the people she had healed. But in the end, everyone would be better off without her.

She climbed up into one of the narrow openings in the battlements and looked down the sheer face of the white stone wall to the moonlit rocks far, far below. Idril, Elianna, and Linanna would be angry with her for giving up, for doing this. Couldn’t they see it would be better this way?

Ariella swayed a bit and clung tightly to the battlement, not quite ready to let go. A gust of cold wind whipped her cloak about her as she hung on, briefly blocking her view. She had always heard that this was the coward’s way out and that it was wrong. However, would it not be just as wrong to survive, living off of others as she had been doing, when in the end she was going to die anyway? She had been living a lie. It was time for the lie to end. It was time for her to meet her end.

The gust relented and released her cloak. She took a deep breath and started to release her grip on the battlement. Should she fall or jump? She completely let go, stretching out her shaking arms, but never got the answer to her last question.

Something strong wrapped itself around her waist at that moment and pulled her back. She fell with a cry of surprise, clutching at the battlement, but missing. She ended up on her back on top of someone who grunted as she and the person impacted with the walkway atop the wall. She tried to roll off of the person, but the arm around her waist would not release. She lay on her side prying at the arm to no avail.

Then she noticed the golden flowers dimly illuminated on the embroidered cuff of the ellon’s sleeve. She stopped struggling.

He sat up and scooted back against the battlements, holding her tightly against him. His breath in her ear was labored, but warm. She sat still, fighting between fear of what he would say and do to her and how warm and safe it felt to be held by him again. The wind whipped about them, fiercely tossing their hair and tugging hard at their cloaks. It was so cold up there, but his body kept her warm. He slipped his hand up to her left shoulder with his arm across her chest between her breasts, while maintaining the same tight hold as before. She finally gave in and rested her head against his shoulder and neck. After a while his breathing calmed.

“Ariella,” he whispered fiercely, “My love, I nearly lost you. I nearly lost you.”

Something warm and wet touched her hair as she felt him tremble beneath her. “I love you so much – so very much,” he continued. “I tried to tell you the night you left to go help with the triplets, but never got to finish. Then I was so angry when you came back. Please do not leave me again. I beg you, do not leave me again.” He wept, his face pressed into her hair.

She felt something wet on her face and touched it only to realize she was crying too. She wrapped her arms around his arm and held on tight.

“I am sorry, too, for everything. I love you and only you. And when I thought I could not have you, I wanted nothing,” she finally confessed. She felt him kiss her head and press his head against hers more solidly.

She did not know how long they lay on the wall being battered by the winds of Gondolin and of their own emotions. When they finally stood again, she was stiff and sore from the wind and from the fall. They clung to each other again in a tight embrace.

“How did you find me?” Ariella asked nuzzling her head closer to him.

His voice was muffled in her hair as he replied. “I followed you from the house, but you never saw me. I watched you dance with Lhûnedhel and break with him, and I watched you do the same with Istadan. I was unsure as to how to approach you and what to say, so I just kept following you. I was very surprised when you headed this way, but kept to the shadows so you would not see me. I climbed the steps after you did, and still you never saw me. I did not realize what you were planning until you climbed up as high as you could. I still cannot run, and walking fast really hurts, but I made my way to you as quickly as I could. I was praying the whole way that I would make it to you before you jumped or fell. Fortunately I succeeded.”

“Yes, you did.”

He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “Ariella, I love you so very much and I hate my life without you. Will you have me? Would you bind yourself to me and be my wife?”

Ariella looked into his pleading grey eyes, considering the possibility. There was no way she could ever tell him what she really was, so she would have to continue living the lie. They would only have twenty-two and a half years together before she and most of their children – she would have children, his children– would die when the city fell. She guessed she would have to be the one to bear Glorfindel his sons as elves do not physically develop quickly enough for Glorfindel to sire a full-blooded elf child now and have it be mature enough in body to fight in that fateful battle. Marriage to her would not cost him his immortality, because as far as her own past was concerned, he returned from Mandos’ Halls after his death and even returned to Middle-Earth. It was all right for her to be the nameless wife mentioned in the history books who he would lose when Gondolin was destroyed. There was no one else it could be now. It had to be her. She would have twenty-two and a half years with him, and it would be worth every minute of it.

“Yes, Glorfindel, I will bind myself to you,” for twenty-two and half glorious years. “I will be your wife.” The joy radiating from his face was beyond description. He picked her up in his one good arm and swung her around once. Then he abruptly set her down and hunched over, leaning heavily on her.

“Glorfindel, what is wrong?” she asked worriedly.

He sucked in some air and panted, “I am not yet strong enough to be picking you up like that and it hurt very much.”

She put her arm around him, bearing much of his weight as they slowly, carefully made their way down the steps and back to the house. She helped him to his room and sat him on his bed. With the utmost care, she removed his cloak and the sling supporting his left arm. Then she proceeded to remove his robes and his tunic and shirt, folding them neatly and setting them aside.

“What are you doing?” he finally asked as she pushed him back to recline against his pillows.

“I am surprised it took you so long to ask that,” she commented with a laugh, looking at his bare chest and shaking her head in disbelief. “I am finishing something that I should have completed before now.” She caressed his face and slid her fingers into his wind-tangled hair against his scalp and dulled the pain which engulfed him, finally taking all of it away. Then she established healing contact and healed his new injuries. When she finished, she moved to his left arm and shoulder.

He raised his right hand to her cheek and stopped her. “Ariella, are you sure you are up to this? Remember there is no one to carry you back to your room afterward.”

She removed his hand from her face and kissed his knuckles. “I will heal what I am able tonight.” Then she teased, “Are you afraid that someone will enter in the morning and find a half naked lord lying asleep in his bed beside an elleth who is not his wife?”

“I fear no such thing. But, it is only slightly less scandalous when the elleth is the lord’s betrothed. However, considering my entire household staff turned against me for my recent treatment of you, I think that they will be pleased with me – especially once we tell them we wish to wed. They will not spread any rumors about finding us in bed together. Also, with my sling gone, they will know that you were here to heal me.” He traced the line of her face from forehead to chin with his fingers, pure mischief glinting in his lovely eyes. “However, I do not know how we will explain your presence in my bed the rest of the nights before we wed.”

Blushing and giggling, she pushed his right arm away from her and back against the pillows. “You are terrible!” she exclaimed.

He lay there gloating and laughing.

“I will stop that silly laughter,” she threatened.

“How?”

She leaned forward and kissed him deeply. When she pulled back, he panted, “You win. But only because I am too weak and injured to carry on.” He brushed his fingers along her face. “I long to hold you in both of my arms once again. Our one evening together sustained me through those three boring months at the First Gate, but it is no longer enough. I need more to last me forever. Holding you for all of eternity should satisfy that.”

She could not bear to look him in the eyes at that. For them, there would be no forever together. Lovingly and apologetically, she leaned forward and kissed his bare shoulder. Twenty-two and a half years would have to last him for all of eternity, for that was all history would allow her to give.

She resumed the healing contact and worked on his badly damaged left arm until they both were too weak for her to continue. After kicking off her shoes and removing his boots, she pulled up a blanket to cover them both. She laid her head on his right shoulder and the contours of his body molded against hers as if he had been designed and sculpted specifically for her. Smiling contentedly, though weary beyond all belief, she snuggled as close to him as she could get. He wrapped his right arm around her, pulling her closer still, and rested his left hand on her right where it splayed across his bare chest. She had never known a more blissful night’s sleep in her life.

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Author' s Notes: One of my betas. Vicki, is currently in possession of Istadan until such a time as he may be needed later in the story. I apologize for any inconvience this may cause to anyone's fantasy life. She got dibs on him as she requested him right after his scene ended in her first edit of the chapter.

A note about reviews: It has occurred to me that it may seem to those who don’t review that I don’t thank my reviewers here at Open Scrolls. Actually, I send each one a PM (private message) of thanks. So, lest you think I’m an ungrateful wretch, I’m not. I’m a grateful a wretch.

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Chapter 12
Created
19 Feb 2005
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19 Feb 2005
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