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Crossroads of Time

Chapter 16: Chapter 16

by ellie

Betas: Many thanks to Vicki, Ghettoelleth, Marcia, and Georgia Piper

Author’s Note: I am very sorry for the long delay between chapters. Real life has been a bear lately and I was mauled by it. If I can get the new basement waterproofing to work (no more flooding), the kids to not be sick, the extremely ill family and friends to get better, and myself to stop falling down steps and spraining my ankles (at least I didn’t break any bones this time), I’ll be fine. Really.

Disclaimer: I’m playing in Tolkien’s sandbox and not making any money from it.

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By the time Ariella was pregnant with their fifth child, Glorfindel had accepted and resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have a much larger family in a much shorter amount of time than he had anticipated. Turgon mercifully allowed for and in fact suggested that Glorfindel delegate more of his duties as Chieftain of the House of the Golden Flower to his highly amused brothers, Celoril and Elindir, in order to give Glorfindel more time with his rapidly growing family. Ariella was quite relieved to have her husband available to her more often as she realized that with each successive pregnancy, she and the unborn baby needed to draw strength from his fëa more and more.

Glorfindel seemed to relish the time with her and the children so much that she began to wonder who was having a better childhood, Glorfindel or the children. He took them camping, teaching the boys how to fish and track animals and whatever else they seemed able to absorb as such early ages. He and Ecthelion, his fellow chieftain, favorite sparring partner, and best friend, also taught the children simple songs and how to make reed whistles. In spite of everything else he was doing, Glorfindel always managed to make time to be alone with Ariella. As he often reminded her, his fëa needed her for strength just as much as she needed him.

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The winter after the birth of their second daughter, who they named Arienne, Ariella began spending more time during the day with Idril, knowing that Tuor would be arriving in Gondolin soon. Frequently Idril discussed with Ariella her own impatience with waiting for something that was to happen soon, however she kept resolving to Ariella, almost daily in fact, that she would not ask her any questions about what the future held.

Tuor arrived in Gondolin on a clear, bitterly cold day. Ariella went to Idril’s house again that day, taking only the new baby and her eldest son, six-year-old Glorfinion with her. Ariella and Idril stood together on the balcony as they looked down upon the steps to the palace and watched Tuor deliver a warning of from Ulmo the Vala to King Turgon.

Ariella was quite surprised at the figure Tuor presented. He was very tall yet broad of shoulder, sporting a noble carriage, long shaggy blond hair, and a strikingly handsome countenance with piercing blue eyes. He was also very young, a mere twenty-three years old. She had never seen someone who looked less like a messenger of the Valar than this man. Dressed in animal skins, beneath a custom-fitted hauberk, and a high helm adorned with swan feathers, he also bore the shield and sword Turgon had left for the messenger of Ulmo in the deserted halls of Vinyamar. The cloak at his shoulders was grey as the sea, a gift from Ulmo himself, and when it fell to the ground revealing the weapons and armor of Ulmo’s messenger, the garment lay like spent sea foam upon the steps. Indeed, Tuor looked the part of a hero of ancient times.

Idril, staring enamored at the scene unfolding before her, quietly grasped Ariella’s hand and whispered, “My husband has come to me at last. The one I shall wed will be Tuor son of Huor of the house of Hador.”

Still holding Idril’s hand, Ariella started giggling in spite of her best efforts at holding back and conceded. “Yes he is the one you will marry. But, I suggest you let him establish himself here in Gondolin and win your father’s favor before throwing yourself at his feet.” With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she added, “It also might be a good idea to introduce yourself to him as well. Remember, he was raised by his foster father Annael of the Grey Elves, living in a cave for most of his childhood. He has had little contact with females other than the wild women of the Easterlings who treated him cruelly during his three year enslavement as a teenager. You must be patient with him and ignore any social blunders he may commit during your courtship. All things considered, I think you will be most pleased with the results of that courting.”

Idril glanced sideways at Ariella and asked, “How do you know so much about him?”

Ariella smiled knowingly. “Books. I read it in some history books.”

“Information such as that was in history books in your time?” Idril looked incredulous.

“Yes,” Ariella answered simply as she stifled a laugh.

“How much detail was in those books?”

“It depends on what details you seek, my lady,” Ariella replied, trying to hide her amusement at the line of questioning. “Besides, I thought you were not going to ask me about the future.”

Idril sighed heavily. “I know, but …”

Ariella smirked. “You have already guessed so much, I guess it would not hurt to tell you some details.”

Idril returned her gaze to Tuor and her father who were still conversing on the steps of the palace. Ariella watched as Idril gripped the balcony railing with both hands. “So…did the books say anything about our courtship?”

“Yes, they did.”

Smiling girlishly while chewing on her bottom lip, Idril further pressed, “Such as … when Tuor first noticed me?”

“Yes.”

With a surprised look on her face, Idril’s voice rose in pitch as she met Ariella’s gaze seeking confirmation. “Really?”

“Yes.” Ariella knew she was being unkind only giving such simple answers, but she was having so much fun watching Idril react. It was as if she were back teasing one of her sisters again. Since Ariella had known her, Idril had always been the wise, knowledgeable one and Ariella had been the one seeking affirmation and answers. Now that the tables were turned, she was going to enjoy every moment of this.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

Idril turned to face Ariella and grabbed her by the wrists, as she breathlessly demanded an answer to her impatient query. “Tell me how. Tell me when. What was I doing … what will I be doing when he first notices me? What do I need to do to attract his attention? When will this happen? How long will I have to wait? Where will I be? What am I supposed to do when he does notice me? How will I know?”

Ariella laughed, then chided, “My, you are so impatient!”

Glaring in warning, Princess Idril spoke in her most regal tone, infused with mirth, “Ariella…”

With an exaggerated sigh, Ariella decided she’d teased enough and conceded laughingly, “Very well. When he looks up at you, smile at him.”

“And?”

“That is it. He will be yours.”

“What? That cannot be all there is,” Idril said doubtfully. “Ariella, you were courted and cuddled and held and wooed. You were nearly stolen away by other ellin and your true love tracked you down to declare his love for you. It cannot possibly be as easy as my simply smiling at Tuor.”

“Yes, it is that simple. It was love at first sight for him,” Ariella confirmed as she stepped inside to check on her son who was quietly playing with some blocks, and her daughter who was asleep in the middle of Idril’s bed.

“Truly?”

“Truly,” Ariella called in reply.

Idril turned to look back down toward Tuor. Suddenly she gave a quiet girlish squeal and whispered in a giddy voice, “Ariella, he is looking at me!”

Ariella returned to her side and watched her as the princess was instantly transformed from highborn noble to gushing maiden, blushing a lovely shade of red as she beamed down at her future husband.

Ariella immediately turned and went back inside so as not to embarrass Idril or Tuor as she laughed delightedly at the new lovers.

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The next seven years passed quickly. Tuor courted Idril winning her love and Turgon’s approval. Ariella, once again unplanned, gave Glorfindel another daughter who they named Arlianna.

Glorfindel and Ariella’s children matured at a faster rate than full-blooded elven children. At about age three, elven children’s growth seemed to slow down considerably while their half elven/half mortal children seemed to develop at an even faster pace. All of their children were tall, violet-eyed, and able to heal themselves at will as Ariella could. The children spoke both Sindarin and Quenya, beginning formal studies in language, lore, and mathematics at the age of eight, under Istadan’s tutelage. Their sons were all large and coordinated enough by age seven that Glorfindel began instructing them in fencing and archery – something he had not anticipated beginning to teach them until about age fourteen. By age ten, the children began learning simple herb and healing lore as well.

Glorfindel felt that Ariella was rushing the children’s education, by starting formal studies at such early ages (although, in his opinion at least, archery and fencing were fun). But Ariella knew that if her children were to survive Gondolin’s fall, they would need to be learned in many things, and they were running out of time.

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At Midsummer of the year 502, and with the assistance of her daughters ages five, seven, and nine, Ariella and her three sisters-in-law, helped Idril dress and prepare for her wedding to Tuor. The decorations at the Place of Weddings were even more grandiose than they had been for Ariella’s own wedding. Turgon presided over the nuptials, but to Ariella’s very great surprise, and humbling honor, Idril asked her to serve in the role that Idril’s mother would have served in the ceremony. Ariella smiled and trembled the entire time, both in joy for Idril and for sorrow for herself, knowing that she would never be able to do this for her own daughters.

At the feast and celebration afterward, Ariella and Glorfindel sat with Ecthelion and his lovely wife. The meal finished, they watched the newlyweds dance. Sipping her second glass of wine, Ariella observed, “Is it not amazing how much Tuor has grown and matured since arriving here? He has studied deeply the lore and customs of the Noldor. He is fluent in Quenya now. He even looks very different: stronger, more dignified, and … more grown up.”

His arm around his wife, Ecthelion smiled. “Yes, he has changed much. He is open-minded and learns quickly.” He raised his glass to Ariella. “It must be a trait of Hador’s house which he shares with you. I remember Hurin and Huor being quick of mind and body as well.”

Ariella smiled at the compliment, but she noticed that Glorfindel looked pensive. “What is it, Glorfindel?” she asked curiously.

Glorfindel regarded her strangely. “I was just thinking. I have known you for fifteen years now, and in that time you have not aged at all. You have even borne me six children, yet I see no difference in your face. It is as if the years do not touch you, though they have imprinted themselves quite obviously upon Tuor. Even Hurin and Huor changed remarkably within the brief time they spent here. Why are you not different?”

Ariella felt the blood drain from her face as she struggled to mask her surprise at the unexpected inquiry. Fingering her glass nervously, she looked away. This was a conversation she had secretly hoped never to engage in, least of all now and in such a public place. She really did not want to have to explain this to Glorfindel and definitely not in front of Ecthelion.

Ecthelion laughed. “How much wine have you had, Glorfindel? Four… five glasses? I have never seen you lose your senses after so few.” He took a drink and then laughed even harder at the annoyed look on Glorfindel’s face. “Your lovely wife is peredhel, my friend. Of course she bears the years as an elf would.” He clapped Glorfindel on the back. “Ariella, I think perhaps you should take him home before he does something to embarrass himself further.”

Taking Ariella by the hand more firmly than usual, Glorfindel rose from his seat. She had no choice but to rise with him. “Ecthelion, I think for once you have an excellent idea. I believe we will retire early. If you will excuse us.” He nodded politely to Ecthelion and his wife who both inclined their heads in return with broad, mildly inebriated smiles on their faces.

As Glorfindel led Ariella away, she heard Ecthelion and his wife burst out laughing. She would rather have been back at the table with them than walking away with an amazingly sober Glorfindel right now.

In spite of being quite tall herself, Ariella had trouble matching Glorfindel’s long, purposeful strides. His grip on her hand never loosened the whole way home. The only words he spoke to her as they traversed the streets filled with partying elves were, “We will discuss this once we arrive home.”

The stars twinkled merrily overhead as if they were celebrating too, but celebrating was the furthest thing from Ariella’s mind. Her thoughts raced ahead to the conversation she was about to have and how best to explain things to Glorfindel. He had been kind, accommodating, and understanding of all of her oddities so far, but the feeling in the pit of her stomach suggested that this discussion would not go smoothly. It had been one thing to ask him to accept her mortality, but how was she to explain her ancestry? Well, she would just have to take control of the conversation early on so that perhaps she could regulate how much information she had to disclose about her past and his future.

All too soon they mounted the steps of the house and entered through the front door. The house was silent indicating that Linanna and her husband had already put the children to bed. Ariella was glad of that for it would be difficult enough to say this to Glorfindel without having to explain everything to the children, too.

Taking a deep breath and a grabbing a candle from a nearby sconce as they passed, she drew Glorfindel down the corridor and into the library, closing the door behind them. After lighting the candles nearest to them, she asked Glorfindel to bring the wine and a couple of glasses from his adjoining study. By the time he returned, kicking the door closed behind him, she had already selected the book she intended to use as a visual aide and was flipping through the pages trying to find the illustration.

Sitting at the table beside her, he poured them each a glass. After taking a long pull from his, he sat back and asked, “Ariella, why did you choose the library for this conversation?”

Marking the desired page with a ribbon, she took a drink from her own glass before turning slightly to answer him. “Because I may need this book in order to answer some of your questions.”

He leaned forward and examined the displayed pages. “That is a drawing of Ea. How could that possibly help you explain yourself, except perhaps to show me that I am most likely the only elf in all of Ea having to suffer this conversation with his wife?”

Ignoring the intended verbal jab, she smiled into her glass as she took another sip. “My husband, you have no idea how very correct you are. But, you are about to know. Ask your first question.” Placing her elbows on the table in front of her, she folded her hands and rested her chin on them, staring at him expectantly.

Glorfindel sat back in his chair with his arms folded across his chest. He looked every bit the strong, intimidating elf lord she knew him to be. Although, she could sense his nervousness across their bond, his face and demeanor betrayed nothing. She hoped that for once her face and body would not betray her.

“All right,” he began. “What are you besides mortal and female?”

“I am human, like the atani, but I am not like any of them you or any other elf in this age has ever met before,” she stated matter-of-factly.

“That much is certain,” he readily agreed. Face and voice filled with curiosity, he asked “How are you different? Why do you not count yourself among them?”

She took a sip of her drink in order to collect her thoughts. “I am different and do not count myself among them because my bloodline is not of theirs.”

“But how can that be? How can you be of a bloodline that is not of the atani and yet be the same race as they are? Eru made the atani and set them on Arda where they awoke at the arising of the sun, or so it is said in our lore. It is also said in our lore that the first elves awoke and formed three distinct groups, yet they are all counted among the Firstborn. Eru made you as surely as he made me, so why, being human, are you not atani?”

Grasping the book and placing it between them, she conceded, “Your reasoning is logical in this, Glorfindel, except for one rather important detail. You make the assumption that all humans awoke on Arda.”

He leaned forward, placing his clasped hands on the table in front of him. His expression clearly showed his confusion. “Why would I not make that assumption?”

“For the past fifteen years I have bet my life on you and everyone else making that assumption, but that assumption, in my case, is false.” She looked into his bright, surprised eyes and saw the disbelief he was experiencing. At that moment, she felt herself to be every bit the alien that she was.

Pointing to the illustration of Eä, she continued, “The Valar revealed to the elves that Eä is made up of a few worlds, of which Arda is but one. The only one that can support life as you know it. However, the Valar only gave you the explanation of Eä which you were most able to accept and understand at the time. Eä is in fact vastly huge, made up of more worlds than can be counted. The stars in the sky above are all a part of Eä and most of them have their own worlds encircling them.”

Glorfindel slowly shook his head, his mouth hanging open. “How…how do you know this? Why do you believe this to be true?”

Sighing heavily, Ariella confessed, “Because I am from one of those other worlds that encircles one of the stars in your sky.”

He glared at her disbelievingly. “That is impossible.”

She shook her head in disagreement, a small, sad smile on her face.

Incredulity slowly spread across his face. “Then why…why are you here? Why did you leave your world? By the Valar, how did you even come to be here?”

With a conscious effort at remaining calm and still, she clasped her hands on the table in front of her. “The manner in which I arrived here in Arda and the reasons for my coming here are closely related to why I left my world.” She sifted through her memory for the explanation she had given Idril so long ago. Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly in order to center herself. “A little more than fifteen years ago, my brother, who is a man of science and lore, created a device that enabled individuals to travel through Eä as well as through time. He asked me if I would be willing to help him test his machine and inquired as to where I would most like to go and when. I told him that I wished to go to Arda to the time not long after the sun and moon first arose. I said I wanted to go to that time and destination because I had heard from elves in my own time that the stars were brighter in this age than they are in the time that I come from. I was only supposed to be here for four hours, but something went wrong and I was unable to return home.”

Glorfindel slowly wiped his face with his hands as if trying to remove her words. He started to speak a few times, then paused for a few moments before articulating, “Elves in your time? You wanted to see the stars? Wh …when? Who? A device that enables others to travel through Eä and time?”

She smiled at him sadly. “Yes, a machine that travels through Eä and time. Some of the elves that I knew in my time who had also lived in Beleriand during this time were Prince Celeborn of Doriath, Princess Artanis or Galadriel as she calls herself in my time, and Cirdan the shipwright. Celeborn told me that the stars were at their brightest when the sun and the moon were young, In my time, the stars have waned and become much dimmer. He was correct.”

“I remember your comment about the stars being brighter after we kissed the night before our judgment day.” He smiled weakly. “I did not realize that you actually had a different basis of comparison other than before and after kissing me. I must have sounded rather arrogant that night.”

Giving a small laugh, Ariella responded, “No. You did not sound arrogant. I was actually quite relieved that you made that comment for I had no explanation to offer you at that moment that you were likely to believe.”

Her left hand trembling, she tentatively reached out and laid it atop his right where it rested on the table. Since arriving in the room, he had not touched her at all, and she feared he would reject her. Much to her relief, he opened his hand and squeezed her fingers, holding her hand in place on his. She had not realized how truly terrified she was that he would never want her again, until this simple sign of acceptance.

“I am not certain that I understand or believe all that you have said, but in my mind I can find no other explanation. My heart tells me that you speak the truth and I sense across our bond that you believe what you say to be true.” He sighed, looking down at their joined hands and then into her eyes. “You still have not told me why you chose Arda or how you came to know of Arda.”

“Thousands of years from now, an enemy will come to Arda against which you will have no defenses. This foe is an enemy of my people as well. When my people learn of what has befallen this world, they will come and eradicate this foe. My kin will be among those who do this. My people will then send representatives to Arda to learn more about the peoples, languages, and customs of the free folk here in order to help protect against further trouble from this enemy. I am one who was in training to help defend Arda. When I told you that I served Celeborn and Galadriel, I did not lie. I learned from them and Cirdan the Shipwright and from others in order to serve all of the peoples of this world.”

Glorfindel looked at her curiously. “If what you say is true, if you are familiar with the lore of our people and indeed know Celeborn and Artanis, then you surely would have known how dangerous these days are and how foolish it was to venture this far north.”

“I did know, but I was only supposed to be in this time period for four hours and I had no intentions whatsoever of coming to Gondolin or of meeting anyone while I was here – elf or otherwise. The precise location of Gondolin was not known in my time, either. I also had no intentions of being shot by two of the Noldorin who were out hunting when they should not have been, and subsequently brought to Gondolin without my consent.”

“I concede that we should not have been hunting, but were we supposed to leave you out there to die?”

“No, and I am very glad that you brought me here. I am simply saying that it was not part of the plan.”

“What exactly was ‘part of the plan’ as you put it?”

“I was to gather samples of the air, the foliage, the water, and living animal tissue in order to study the impact upon these items when I traveled back to my time and as well as to assess how much things have changed between now and the time from which I come.”

“Is that why you were petting the deer?” Laughter rang in his voice.

“Yes,” she admitted, looking down at the table.

“How were you going to obtain a sample of the air? Take a deep breath before you left and compare it to the next breath you drew upon your return?” He asked dubiously.

She laughed. “No. The items I carried in my bag were designed to obtain the necessary measurements. This equipment was disguised to look like ordinary personal objects so that no one would be made suspicious by what I carried if I or my belongings were discovered.”

He shook his head as he reached for his glass and drained it. Ariella poured him some more wine, refilling her own glass as well. After a long drink, she looked in his eyes and asked, “Do you have any more questions for me?”

Glorfindel sighed. “At least a thousand, but I will not ask them all tonight. What I do want to know though is why you have not aged since you have been here? How is it that you heal the way you do? Why can you heal what elves cannot? How have you kept your thoughts concealed from me and everyone else since you first awoke here? Why have you never fallen ill when Tuor, even in his seven short years here has?”

“Where do I begin answering?” She thought about it for a few moments, seeking the best and briefest answer he might accept. “All right. The race of humans from which I am descended has existed for many thousands of years. Over that time, we have developed ways of changing our bodies so they heal quickly and do not succumb to sickness. We are strong, agile, and swift. We also developed our minds in the areas of language, mathematics, and memory, increasing our ability to learn, process, and retain information. Additionally some of us gained the ability to perceive the thoughts of others while hiding our thoughts from others as well. Some of us even acquired abilities of the mind and body such as healing others or manipulating our environment using only our thoughts. Over time, these traits and abilities were bred into us as a part of what we naturally were and have been passed on to each succeeding generation. I am a product of this – as are the children I have borne you.”

Looking down at his glass, he squeezed her hand again. Sighing, he commented, “I have observed many traits and abilities in our children that they should not possess at such tender ages, and some that they would not possess at all if they had been full-blooded elves. Ariella, they know they are different, but they have never questioned their differences. What will we do when they do ask? At what point do we burden them with the truth? I fear they will be unable or unwilling to accept it well. I know I would not if I were one of them.”

Ariella closed her eyes and bowed her head. If they could just wait eight years, the problem would solve itself, for most of their children would be dead, as would she and Glorfindel. A couple of tears escaped, but she angrily wiped them away as she opened her eyes.

Glorfindel was staring at her intently. He gently drew the hand he still held to his lips and bestowed a soft kiss. She noticed tears glistening in his eyes as well as he whispered, “It will not be long now, will it? What will become of them once we are gone? I know in my heart that my atar was wrong in his prophesy and we will not lose all of our little ones. But Ariella, … what will become of the ones who remain? Who will care for them? Who will protect them? Who will love them when we are gone?”

He brushed her hand back and forth against his lips as he turned introspective. They sat in companionable silence for a time, her hand still held to his mouth. She knew he contemplated the unthinkable as did she – the loss of their children and their powerlessness to prevent it.

At length, she spoke again. “Beloved, we still have some years yet. Let us teach the children what we can in order to assure their survival. I started their formal education early for this purpose and you have already taught our sons much about survival in the wild and how to live off the land. Perhaps you should teach our daughters these things as well.”

He nodded. “Yes, I believe I shall.”

Silence descended once again as they finished their glasses. A wave of weariness suddenly washed over Ariella causing her to question whether she would make it her bed before she collapsed. The wine combined with the unburdening of so much that had worried her for so long had depleted her. Glorfindel gave her a small knowing smile as he arose and helped her up. He wrapped his arm around her and she leaned upon him heavily. Together, they blew out the candles in the library before slowly making their way upstairs to bed.

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Eä – I can’t remember which of the HoME books says that Eä, as revealed to the elves, is basically the solar system. I looked it up a long time ago and can’t remember the source now. Sorry.
Atar/ata – Quenya for father/daddy
Atani – humans of Arda
Ulmo – the Vala of the sea and water. He did not abandon the exiled elves to their cursed fate but continued to try to help them even though none of the other Valar did.

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Chapter 16
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21 Jun 2005
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21 Jun 2005
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