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Crossroads of Time

Chapter 23: Chapter 23

by ellie

Many thanks to my betas: Michelle, Fianna, Julie (who helped with the bits and pieces of the beginning of this chapter), and Chrissie.

Disclaimer: Much of this is Tolkien’s. I am merely playing in his sandbox right now and make no money from this, however the sandcastles are pretty awesome.

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Ariella looked around and beheld a most pitiful sight. A pregnant woman lay in the operating room of a hospital. The instruments indicated a lack of respiration and cardiac arrest. The doctors, nurses, and healers were all scrambling.

“Cut her and deliver!” Someone commanded. “There is no time to waste. We may not be able to revive her.”

“How far along is she?” A female voice asked.

“Unknown. Just cut her and deliver. If she dies, the babies will die for sure. It’s not worth the risk,” came the reply.

“Get a neonatal team down here immediately!” someone distantly called, but the voice was fading.

Feeling a tug somewhere near her heart, Ariella looked up and noticed a shimmering golden cord. Curious, she reached out and touched it. A wonderfully familiar feeling flooded her, reminding her of the times when Glorfindel would wrap his fëa around hers to ease her distress and bring her peace.

Where was Glorfindel? She needed him right now. It wasn’t like him to be away from her.

Suddenly her vision filled with a whirl of stars and color. She looked about in wonder as water, grass, and trees took shape in a dizzying blur. A strangely beautiful city came into view, then an elegantly exquisite stone mansion. Passing into the house, she found herself gazing upon three elves in a room with a large fireplace. The elves fëar shone so brightly that their physical bodies were almost obscured, but she found that if she concentrated, their physical bodies came into sharper relief.

On a bench facing the fire sat an incredibly beautiful elleth dressed in white. Her lustrous blonde hair swept about her, mingling with the raven locks of the stunning, muscular green-clad ellon in whose arms she rested. On a black bear skin rug at their feet sat a second ellon clad in blue. His head was bowed; long, lank hair obscuring his face, his broad-shouldered back slumped and resting against the knees of the dark-haired ellon. The elleth and her husband, for Ariella knew instinctively that these two were bound, lovingly stroked the golden hair of the second ellon, obviously their son.

The hearts of the couple ached for the considerable pain consuming their child, though Ariella knew not how she was aware of this. It was incredibly difficult for them to watch him wasting away. They desperately wanted to love away his grief, but all they could do was keep him close to them and hope he would find healing in time. The shear emptiness and desolation in their son’s heart was almost palpable to her. More than anything, she wanted to reach out to him and comfort him, bring him peace.

Extending her hand, she found herself kneeling immediately in front of him. The couple gasped in shock. Ariella placed her hand on the side of his face, lifted his chin, and found herself staring into Glorfindel’s surprised, tired eyes. His skin felt warm and yet not so – almost as if she were feeling the fëa beneath and not the physical body.

He placed his hand over hers, wonder lighting his features. “Sweet Eru. Is this real?” he whispered.

Silently she nodded.

“Oh! Ariella!” he exclaimed, tears spring from his eyes and trailing down his ashen face to drip from his chin. He gathered her into his arms, and yet it was not so, and yet it was. The physical sensations made no sense to her.

His fëa flared so brightly, it blinded her. She nestled herself into his embrace, shielding her eyes, yet feeling closer to him than she had ever been before.

“My beloved, you have come back to me,” he choked. “I have missed you so.” Swallowing hard a few times, he continued. “I love you so much … so very much.” He sniffled, pulling her closer still. “I need you with me. I am so alone. So very alone. Please do not leave me again. I beg of you. Do not leave me again.”

“It was not my choice to leave you before,” she whispered. “They brought me back. I wanted to die in Gondolin with you. I do not want to live without you.”

Something gently tugged within her.

“Glorfindel, I love you so much!” she said, holding him closer to her.

The something tugged harder. Glorfindel obviously felt it, too for his grip on her tightened.

“Ariella,” his bewildered voice asked, “What…?”

The tug came harder still, nearly tearing her from his grasp. “No!” He screamed. “I will not let you go! I cannot be alone again. I love you, Ariella. You are mine!” His tears came harder.

She clung to him with everything that was in her and so he clung to her.

**You cannot have him like this.** A powerful voice said within her and around her. **You must go back now. It cannot be this way. **

“NO!” She screamed. “I will not leave him. I love him!”

**Your children need you. They will not understand. It is time to go back now,** the voice commanded.

She felt herself ripped from Glorfindel – body and spirit.

“ARIELLA!” he shrieked, diving after her toward the fireplace, his parents lunging after him to keep him from falling into the fire. Quickly he receded from her perception. Already he seemed light-years away as the emptiness surrounded her and isolation engulfed her in a blur of sight and sound and sensation.

Intense sorrow filled her. She gasped for air, opening her eyes and looking directly into the concerned tearful gaze of her mother.

“My child! My blessed little girl!” her mother exclaimed in a language Ariella barely remembered. “You are alive!”

“Nane-,” Ariella began, but an incredible pain took her breath away.

“I am so sorry, child,” her mother apologized profusely and the pain immediately vanished. “I feared you were dead and was so surprised and relieved when you returned.”

“Where is…,” Ariella whispered in Sindarin as her sight grew dim. “Where did my husband go?” The darkness immediately closed around her and she knew no more.

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Ariella opened her eyes again, surprised by how oddly the room was illuminated. This was so different from what she was used to. The light was not distorted as if made by flickering flames nor did it cast shadows like streaming sunlight. The walls on her left side were bright white and the equally white ceiling held the source of illumination. It was…

Gasping in terror, she bolted upright and immediately felt strong hands pressing her back down into some pillows. Too weak to struggle much, she complied and turned her wide-eyed gaze to see the source of the hands.

Her mother and father stood over her. Her mother began gently stroking her hair while her father took her right hand in his and kissed it.

Ariella stared at her parents as if they were from another planet. What were they doing here? They shouldn’t be here!

But, where was here? Where was she?

“Welcome back, child,” her father said smiling warmly.

Welcome back? Back from where?

“Ariella, how do you feel?” Her mother asked in her soothing healer’s voice.

Ariella stared at her parents for a few moments. The fingers of her left hand began to rub the blanket as she pondered her situation. How did she feel? She had to search her memory for the words she needed to respond in the language in which her parents were speaking to her. It was as if she had not spoken that language in years, yet she had been speaking it all of her life. How strange…

Slowly she remembered the words she wanted to say. “I…I am tired… and… empty… and alone? My heart feels … alone. I feel empty inside. What…what is missing?” Ariella paused for a moment and looked around the room again, noticing a couple of blue doors just behind her parents and the quiet hum of medical assessing machines beside her. She realized the machines were monitoring her health. Feeling quite bewildered, she looked at her parents again and asked, “Why am I in a hospital?”

“You were bleeding heavily and went into cardiac arrest. You spoke to me briefly when we revived you. Do you not remember?” Her mother said.

“No…I…” Ariella unconsciously placed her left hand on her stomach in what felt like a familiar comforting gesture. Her stomach felt unexpectedly small and soft and squishy in spite of the blanket, sheet, and hospital gown. That wasn’t right. It should have been hard because she was…

The memories came flooding back.

She fought to get out of the bed, but her parents firmly pinned her down. “No!” she exclaimed. “I have to go! Where…Where are my babies?” Ariella grew frantic.

“Where are my children?” she demanded. “Where are my sons and daughters? Where is my husband?”

Suddenly the will to fight left her as tears coursed down her face. “Oh my God! He died when the city fell, didn’t he? It happened just like history said it would! My children are gone! My husband is gone!” She turned her face away from her surprised parents. She clutched the edge of her pillow, sobbing hard into it. “He is gone,” she wailed. “My beloved is gone.”

Her parents said nothing in response. She felt them rubbing her back as she wept uncontrollably. Fortunately, sleep soon claimed her.

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When Ariella woke again, she felt strangely numb inside. She did not want company, but there was nothing she could do. Her room was considerably more crowded than it had been before. In addition to her parents seated quietly beside her bed, Ariella recognized her brother Arzus and his wife’s parents Celeborn and Galadriel and his brother-in-law Elrond seated in the room as well. She smiled weakly at the elves and peredhel in the room and they returned the gesture but with a touch of surprise and what seemed to be disappointment.

She briefly wondered if they understood what had happened to her and if they would even speak to her again after learning what she had done in Gondolin.

“Hello, Ariella,” Arzus said with a cautious smile. “Will you still speak to me after what you have been through?”

Just by looking at him, slouching behind their parents, fidgeting with the fabric of his belted shirt, Ariella could tell he felt horrible about what had happened to her. He looked so pitiful and so like her elder sons when they were in trouble; she could not help but smile back at him. “Yes, I will still speak to you,” she reassured him. It was because of him that she even had sons and daughters and a husband. However, she could not bear to think about them now. The grief was too much to bear. It was not his fault that they had been lost to her. “I am not angry with you, Arzus. In fact, I thank you for giving me the chance to go where I went.”

The warm relieved smile she received from her brother in return almost made her laugh. She could not help but wonder what their parents had put him through once they learned that he had sent his little sister more than 6,000 years into the past onto an alien planet.

A bit hesitantly, he asked, “Did you make it to the First Age?”

“Yes, I did,” she replied softly with a sad smile.

He sat up, grinning in pride, and pounded his right fist on his thigh in triumph. “How long were you there?” he asked.

“23 years and three or four days. It all seems so long ago and yet it seems like yesterday, too.”

He looked stunned. “23 years and three or four days?” He shook his head in disbelief. “There was a momentary glitch, a sudden power drain, or so it appeared. I only lost your signal for a moment and then got it back again. I immediately reset the machine and brought you back.”

She looked at him oddly for he was still shaking his head, staring at her in dismay. “Why are you so surprised? How long was I gone from this end?”

He took a deep steadying breath and she could tell he was trying to reconcile something to himself. He had always been so very easy to read.

“Ariella…,” he began gently, “Ariella, I do not understand how this could have happened. This did not happen with any of the other experiments. The amount of time the subject was gone from here was equivalent to the amount of time the subject spent either in the past or in the future. I just do not understand...”

“Arzus,” Ariella was trying patiently to understand why he was so disturbed by this. “Why are you so surprised by how much time I spent in the First Age?”

“Ariella, you were only gone from here for four hours.”

She gasped, staring at her brother in astonishment. “What! Only four hours?” It was her turn to be stunned. “You mean to tell me that I went back in time, fell in love with someone wonderful, got married, had a family and a nice home, and lost all of it in only four hours’ time?”

Her brother nodded, eyebrows raised and a grimace for a smile.

She could not believe it! That was impossible! Well, then again, no, just improbable.

Realizing that she needed time to think about the implications of what she had just learned, she changed the subject. Nodding toward the non-humans in the room, she asked, “Why are the lords and lady here?”

Her father answered her. “You did not return from the past alone. When your brother,” he paused, glaring lethally at his son who visibly shrank back. “Brought you back, you were accompanied by four males who appeared to be elves. Arzus said that he did not realize that additional living beings could be brought back to our time along with the subject he originally sent. We have shut down his time machine and destroyed it in light of this new and rather disturbing information. Because we did not know who these… these “ellin” were or what knowledge they may have had of you, we thought it prudent for them to be greeted by elves when they awoke.”

Hope unlooked for sprang to life in Ariella’s heart.

“Are they all right? Have they awoken yet?” Ariella anxiously asked, trying not to feel too hopeful, just in case…

Her mother replied carefully, folding Ariella’s hand in hers. “They have not awoken yet. But they appear to be fine now.”

Ariella breathed a sigh of relief.

“But that was not the case when they first arrived,” her mother continued with a frown. “Two of them suffered from severe puncture or stab wounds to the chest, which were only partially healed. A third, who appears to be the identical twin of one of the other two, was extremely weak after the manner of a healer of our race who has overly spent himself trying to heal another. We have speculated that perhaps he was the one who had partially healed the other two. The fourth is a little boy of maybe 5 or 6 years by our standards and perhaps 11 or 12 years by elven standards. He was uninjured, just physically drained beyond endurance, most likely from the time travel. Elrond has examined the four in addition to the medical staff here, including myself, and he agrees that these four ellin are not like any other elves we have encountered before.”

Galadriel, garbed as usual in her queenly white, gazed appraisingly at Ariella for a few moments. “We have examined the armor, weaponry, and other effects borne by the three elder elves. They all bore indications of having been in heavy combat. However, these ellin seemed to us to be entirely too young to have been allowed to see combat unless the need was most dire.” Galadriel leaned forward, her sapphire gaze piercingly bright as she gazed intently at Ariella. “The three also all appeared to be members of one of the Noldorin Houses. The uninjured twin wore the livery of the House of the Golden Flower and all of them have rings bearing the badge of the Golden Flower of Tirion.” Galadriel sat up coolly and glanced at Celeborn. “In addition, they all bear the golden hair of one of the Vanyar. Based on this, we must assume that they are in fact some close kindred of the Lord of the Golden Flower from either Nevrast or Gondolin. His mother was a Vanya and it is through her that he obtained his rather remarkable hair color.” She flashed a knowing smile at Ariella. “Well, it is remarkable for a Noldo. Your mother said that tests performed here prove that the four are indeed brothers.”

Ariella was grateful for the information. “Was there anyone else with me when I returned?” she asked hopefully although she already knew the answer. “Were there any ellith with me?”

“No, daughter,” her mother answered. “Only the four ellin.”

Ariella nodded and then looked away, fighting back the tears. She couldn’t cry now, she would mourn the loss of her daughters when she was alone. Unconsciously she reached down and pinched the blanket over her stomach with her thumb and first finger, a restless stir that was a longtime habit. It was then that she remembered that she was no longer pregnant. Her hand immediately stilled. This time the tears did escape.

She turned slowly toward her parents, her voice tremulous. “What has become of my babies?”

Her parents both gazed back sympathetically, and then her mother turned away, closing her eyes with a shake her head. Her father took a deep breath before answering, his voice gentle. “Ariella, they…they are…” His expression grew very sad as he struggled with the words.

Ariella stared and them in horror and then buried her face in her hands. “No! Not my babies. Nooo!”

Her father rolled her back toward him and pulled her hands away from her face to clasp them tightly in his. “No, love. It is not that,” he quickly reassured her. “The babies live. They just…They are so very, very small. It breaks our hearts every time we see them. Nevertheless, they are strong, like their mother. They are hanging on to life right now. You can go see them later when you are stronger.”

Relief swept through Ariella; bring a new flush of tears. Her father sat on the bed beside her and drew her into his arms, holding her close. She clung to him, burying her face in his shoulder as her mother stroked her hair.

When Ariella finally pulled back, her mother wiped her face with a soft cloth. “Ariella, how far along were you when the babies were born?”

Ariella sniffed, wiping her cheek. “I was right at 6 months.”

Her mother gave her a brief smile. “The babies, a boy and a girl, are small for 6 months of gestation, even for twins. I realize that you were living in a time without…” She glanced hesitantly at Elrond. “Medical care as you have known it here.”

Elrond arched a long brow at her mother. “Ro’lise, we learned excellent medicinal herb lore from the Valar. It is not as if we used stone knives and wore animal skins,” he declared dryly.

Ro’lise’s face flushed bright red and she apologized,. “I know, Elrond. I am sorry. It is just that…”

Elrond raised his hand to placate her and smiled. “I understand. Any medical care she may have received there would not have met the standards to which you are accustomed due to our different methodology.”

Elrond folded his hands in his lap as he turned to Ariella and continued. “Ariella, were you taking appropriate care of yourself during the pregnancy? Were you under the care of a midwife or a healer?”

Ariella smiled at him weakly. “I took very good care of myself during this pregnancy and was under the care of a midwife and the best healer available, both of which were pleased with my health and my progress… until the end. My unborn babies were of a normal size for peredhil.”

Elrond sighed heavily, looking down at his hands for a moment and then back at her with a faint frown. “I feared you would say that they are peredhil. Who was their sire?”

Ariella’s father leaned back away from her in dismay and then exhaled loudly, crossing his arms. Immediately, Ariella began fidgeting with the nearest bit of blanket she could grab. She really did not want to have to say this in front of her father, or her mother for that matter, but there they sat, staring at her expectantly along with her mentors and her brother, who looked totally fascinated by the whole conversation. Steeling herself for the worst, she clutched the blanket tightly and answered in a small voice. “Glorfindel.”

“What!” her father practically yelled, standing up stiffly in outrage.

Ariella had the very strong impression that if Glorfindel had suddenly and miraculously been spirited there from Valinor, her father would have killed him with his bare hands.

Everyone else gaped at her in stunned silence. Celeborn, ever the practical one, recovered first. “But Glorfindel lost his wife and most of his kin when Gondolin fell.”

“I know,” Ariella replied meekly. “And now I know why the history books were so vague about what happened to most of his family. No one knew what became of us.”

Celeborn sent her a wry smile. “Those four ellin are your sons then. And the battle in which they fought was the Fall of Gondolin.”

“Yes,” Ariella replied in a painful whisper.

Elrond sighed deeply but he smiled too, shaking his head in disbelief. “So you are Glorfindel’s mysterious wife for whom he still pined even when he left us to return to Valinor years ago.”

Ariella nodded sheepishly and felt a flush creep up her cheeks at the thought that Glorfindel still missed her – even after more than 6,000 years.

Arzus interrupted her thoughts. “Would you tell us what you remember?” he asked excitedly.

Suddenly Ariella felt her stomach rumble. “Could I have something to eat while we talk?”

“Certainly,” her mother replied grabbing Ardus’ hand and yanking on it until he grudgingly sat back down on the bed.

Ariella began her tale, continuing it during her meal and the one brought in for everyone else later. She left out the parts about Istadan and Lhûnedhel also being her suitors because her father seemed to be struggling rather viciously with the whole idea that his little girl had been courted and won by Glorfindel. As everyone in the room knew, Glorfindel had been her mother’s last suitor before she met her father. When Ariella telepathically caught her father thinking to himself, **The elvish bastard couldn’t have my wife so he took my daughter instead,** she knew she had been wise in her choice of omitting other suitor details.

The top of her gown soaked with fresh tears, Ariella finished the tale with her last memory of Glorfindel when he shook off Istadan, Lhûnedhel, and her daughters and lunged for her as she and her sons were transported back to the present.

A silence settled in the room for a couple of minutes until Celeborn cleared his throat. “It has been most interesting finally hearing your perspective on this tale. A great many things make sense to me now that had eluded and confounded Galadriel and me before.”

Galadriel was the only person in the room who did not look at Celeborn in confused wonder at that comment.

Smiling sympathetically, Celeborn explained. “Your daughters suffered much because of what others believed to be true about their maternal heritage and because of the reality of it. The survivors of Gondolin believed that you were from Doriath and were a student of Melian if not even part Maia yourself. They were dismayed to learn that no one from Doriath had even heard of you. Idril and Tuor had confided in us the truth about your heritage and together we managed to create a story to explain away your abilities and your existence. However, by then the damage was done and your daughters were disregarded in contempt and treated as outcasts. Some folk had even called for their banishment from the settlement.”

Ariella looked away as her eyes burned once again. Dear God, what had she done to her children? Why had she gone back in time? Her girls were innocent. Why did they have to suffer so because of her? It had never even occurred to her that her lies might catch up with her daughters in Arvernian. She should have thought of this. She should have realized it. Why didn’t she? Why? It was all so unfair, so unfair.

Celeborn rose to sit beside her on the bed, opposite her parents. He grasped her hand gently, smiling his encouragement. “Together with Tuor and Idril, we managed to remind everyone that your daughters were ladies of the House of the Golden Flower and the only surviving kin of Lord Glorfindel, no matter what their mother’s heritage may have been. And no one could banish these ellith simply because of what their mother was or was not. Istadan the loremaster from Gondolin and the master healer Lhûnedhel kept your daughters under their protection as they had since they had departed Gondolin. When a desperate need for healers arose again, your daughters volunteered. They put aside all that had happened to them and performed admirably. After that, no one cared what your daughters were, so long as they were available to help when the need arose.”

Tenderly Celeborn reached out and brushed away Ariella’s tears. “Do not grieve for your daughters. There was no way you could have known what would befall them. Istadan saw to it that no account of your daughters’ treatment in Arvernian made it into any recording of the history. I remember asking him why this mattered so much to him and he said he was doing it for Glorfindel’s wife. I did not understand what he meant by that at the time, but I believe that I do understand now. He was trying to protect you. He knew the truth about you and must have known that your knowledge of the First Age would come from history books, so he saw to it that none of the recorded accounts concerning Glorfindel’s wife and children gave any indication that they were of alien origins.”

So Istadan and Lhûnedhel had stayed by her daughters until the end, whatever end that was. This was a debt she could never repay and a blessing for which she could never be able to thank them. And considering what Tuor, Idril, Celeborn, and Galadriel had done for her girls, how could she ever…

“Thank you, my lord and lady,” was all Ariella managed to say when a sudden weariness took her.

Celeborn eased Ariella back against the pillows and then moved away as Elrond and her mother both took her hands. They gave her strength, filling her with a strong sense that everything was going to work out for the best even though she could not see how that could possibly be.

Her mother gently caressed her face. “Rest now, my child. I will be stay with you while you sleep. When you wake up, perhaps you can go see your children.”

Ariella smiled weakly. “Thank you, Momma.”

As Ariella watched the rest of the group walk to the door, she remembered something important she needed to say.

“Lord Celeborn,” she called softly, reaching out to him with her hand.

He turned and came to her side, taking her hand in his. “Yes, child?”

“I just wanted to let you know that you were correct.”

He looked puzzled. “Correct about what?”

“The stars of the First Age,” she tiredly replied with a smile. “They really were brighter than they are now.”

He smiled beautifully, the light of those ancient stars shining in his ageless eyes. “Silly elladaneth,” he said, shaking his head. “By the way, I have many stories to tell you later about your rather remarkable daughters.” He gently kissed her forehead. “Rest well, my lady, and be at peace. Your daughters loved you very much and are well worthy of your pride.”

Wearily, Ariella smiled her gratitude. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“Now sleep,” he commanded in a soft voice, his hand brushing the side of her head.

Ariella felt herself slip into oblivion.

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The familiar distinctive feeling of being pounced on by a child jostled Ariella into awareness as the bed shook. She opened her eyes, instinctively turning toward the little intruder, gathering him against her as he burrowed his way under the covers. It felt so good to hold him close just now. Reflexively, she established a healing contact with him and relaxed when she realized he was absolutely fine as her mother had said.

“Nana!” Glorindir cried joyfully, throwing his arms around her and giving her a big kiss on the cheek. “I am glad you are awake. I am hungry and I want to go play. Can we get up and go to Eärendil’s house now?”

Ariella kissed her son’s face until he wiggled away, giggling at her as he sat up. She recognized the clothes he was wearing as belonging to Arzus’ eldest son who was the same age as Glorindir. “I am glad you are finally awake, too, and I am hungry as well,” she said in an attempt to stall for time. How was she to explain all of this to him? She had never told him anything about her alien heritage.

She glanced up and saw her mother standing near the door. Elrond stood near the bed. Both of them were smiling at her and her son.

“Glorindir, have you met that woman over there yet?”

Her son eyed her critically. “Yes I have. She is your nana. And I have talked to this ellon with dark hair. But he lied to me, Nana.”

Ariella looked at her son in surprise with a stern reprimand. “Glorindir Glorfindelion, that was rude! Apologize to Lord Elrond immediately!”

Glorindir looked aghast. “But Nana, he lied to me! He said that Eärendil is his adar. That is impossible! Eärendil may be older than me, but he only comes up to my eyebrows.” Glorindir stood up on the bed and held his hand up to his eyebrows to illustrate. Ariella immediately grabbed his other hand and yanked him back down to a seated position so he wouldn’t fall off the bed.

“So,” her son continued matter-of-factly, “he cannot possibly be that ellon’s ada. And, Eärendil has gold hair like me and blue eyes and that ellon has black hair and grey eyes.” Glorindir crossed his arms in a huff and cocked his head in a perfect imitation of Glorfindel’s disbelieving look.

Then he addressed Elrond in a scolding tone. “Lord Elrond, it is rude to tell lies.”

The expression of amusement on Elrond’s face was so comical; Ariella had to fight the urge to laugh. Her mother was struggling with this as well, with her hand over her mouth and her shoulders shaking silently.

Smiling broadly, Elrond sat on the bed beside Glorindir and said, “Some children look like their mothers and others look like their fathers. Still others resemble both of their parents. I look like my mother Elwing of Doriath.”

“Glorindir,” Ariella gently admonished, “Lord Elrond does speak the truth. You need to apologize.”

The six-year-old released an exasperated sigh, then looked Elrond in the eyes and said, “I apologize for calling you a liar, but I still do not believe that Eärendil is your ada.” Turning to his mother Glorindir asked, “Nana, when can we go to Eärendil’s house? I want to get my blue boat back. I forgot it when we were playing in the fountain in Lady Idril’s garden yesterday. And if I do not get it back soon, then Eärendil will forget that it is mine and try to keep it like he did my little yellow boat. And I do not wish to have to argue with him again.”

Ariella turned her son to face her, taking his hands in hers with a heavy sigh. “Glorindir,” she said quietly, “you cannot go back to Eärendil’s house because he is not there any more. You were asleep for a very long time and he has moved to a new home. We will live in a new home too, now.”

Her son looked at her for a long time in disbelief. “But Nana,” he protested loudly, “I do not want to live in a new place! I was not asleep that long. I promise I woke up when I was supposed to. I really did. Eärendil did not have time to go away. If we go right now, we can find him and I can play with him.”

“No, you cannot,” Ariella quietly replied.

He gazed at her disconsolately, obviously realizing that she was not going to change her mind. Then he looked around the room, a curious expression on his face. “Nana, where is ada? He can take me to Eärendil if you are too tired.”

Ariella looked away, tears stinging her eyes. How was she to tell her little one that his father was gone beyond his reach, possibly forever?

Fortunately the door to her room opened at that moment and Ariella’s heart skipped a beat for joy. Galadriel entered followed by Glorfinion with Celeborn at his side, Glorion entered escorted by Ariella’s father, and Galanor was accompanied by Arzus. Each of Ariella’s sons wore pale blue hospital attire, their weary faces framed by unbraided, freshly combed golden hair. Seeing her twins with her father and brother, Ariella was surprised to note how closely the four resembled each other. The similarities made it all the more evident to Ariella just how much Glorfinion resembled his elven father and Glorindir was clearly a mixture of his parents’ races.

Elrond rose and moved to nearby chair as Ariella’s elder sons slowly made their way to her side.

Glorfinion called out in exasperation. “Glorindir, I could hear you from the corridor. We told you that Adar is away right now. Stop pestering Naneth about going to Eärendil’s. We told you that we will make a new blue boat for you and that you cannot go see Eärendil right now because he is away at the same place where Adar is.”

Ariella smiled her gratitude at her eldest son as little Glorindir reluctantly nodded his head, staring dejectedly at the floor. She sat up in her bed and hugged each of her elder sons in turn, taking the opportunity to assess their health as she did so. She likewise was surprised to sense that each of them assessed her as well. Relief flooded her as she realized that, though none of them had completely regained their strength, at least they were all healthy again.

Her sons sat on the bed around her with Glorfinion on her right with the pouting Glorindir, and the twins on her left.

Glorfinion took her hand. “Naneth, it is good to see you well. We…we had given up hope. This is sight we never expected to see again.”

Ariella squeezed his hand, blinking back tears. “I know. I never expected to see you again either.”

He looked around the room a moment, his face full of wonder. “You really did tell us the truth about yourself. So, this is your world.”

“This is a house of healing,” Ariella replied with a small smile. “When you are well, we will take you outside and you can see what my world is really like.”

He squeezed her hand. “Is there any chance that we can ever go back to Arda, that we can ever go home?”

Ariella sighed. “The home you knew is gone forever for Gondolin is no more. In time you can go back to Arda, but Middle-earth is different now from what it was when we lived there. When we are well, I will take you to one of the few remaining refuges of the Eldar.”

Galanor spoke up. “Lady Galadriel told us that Adar returned to his kin a few years ago. She also said that more than six thousand years have passed since we left Gondolin. We were told that your parents were friends with Adar when he was last in Middle-earth before he sailed.” Galanor nodded toward Celeborn, Galadriel, and Elrond. “They told us what happened to Adar and our sisters after we left them in Gondolin.” He paused a moment, looking away and wiping his eyes with his sleeve. His elder brothers’ faces were equally sorrowful. Forcing a weak smile, he looked back at his mother and said, “They told us that there are songs about Adar’s fight with the balrog which claimed his life.”

Ariella smiled at her sons. “Yes, there are songs about your adar.”

Glorion looked at her strangely and whispered, “Naneth, you knew Adar was going to die. You knew it before you even met him.”

Ariella pressed her lips together and nodded.

“You knew Gondolin was going to fall and when and how,” he continued. “And yet… and yet you chose to marry him and have us, knowing all along…” his voice trailed off and he looked away.

Ariella nodded. “I told you much of that before when I first told you of my heritage.”

Galanor shakily continued for him, “You knew your time with Adar would be brief and that our time would be brief and yet you still married him and you still had us. Why?”

Ariella closed her eyes for a few moments in an effort at keeping her tears at bay. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes. “Because I loved him. We both knew our time together would be brief, but we wanted a family. If I had it to do again, I would make the same choices just so I could have him and so I could have you.”

Glorfinion angrily wiped his face with his fist. “Naneth, since you knew what was going to happen, why did you save us and not our sisters, too? Why did you not save Ada? Why did you not warn anyone that this was coming? You could have.”

“Glorfinion, I did not even know that I was going to survive, let alone that I would return to my time and that you were going to be transported back with me! The history books never said what happened to Glorfindel’s sons or his wife.” She sighed, gripping his hand tightly. “As for warnings, I did warn Idril who already had foreseen the fall of Gondolin and I encouraged her and Tuor to build and complete the tunnel. Your adar foresaw his death years before the city fell and knew that he had to face the balrog alone. I told him of the good that would result from his sacrifice and he told me that that knowledge made it easier for him to bear what he had to do. Turgon was too blinded by his belief that Gondolin was impregnable to ever hear anything I might have said. He also was too blinded by his love for Maeglin to ever believe that his beloved nephew would betray the city to Morgoth. Besides, I would not have been able to justify how I knew that the city would fall and when and how that would happen.”

Her sons stared at her incredulously.

“Maeglin!” the twins exclaimed in disbelief.

“Yes, Maeglin. He was captured while out mining for ores and Morgoth tortured him into revealing the location of Gondolin and how to destroy it,” Ariella explained.

Galadriel spoke up in surprise. “I never heard from any of the survivors of the fall that Maeglin had been tortured during his captivity. How could you possibly know that?”

Ariella smiled blandly. “Because I had a reputation for being the most powerful healer in all of Gondolin and he came to me for healing afterward. I looked into his heart and saw what he had done. I foolishly confronted him with it and told him to go to Turgon and beg for forgiveness so there might be some hope of saving Gondolin. Maeglin’s response was to try to kill me. First he grabbed me by the throat and threatened me with a knife. Then he realized it would be very obvious that he was the murderer, so he punched me in the stomach and tried to smother me with a pillow. Fortunately I had already started calling for Glorfindel across our bond and he came running in just as I lost consciousness. I never told Glorfindel the whole truth about what happened that day.”

Ariella sighed. “To further punish me and my family, Maeglin encouraged young warriors of his house to harass my sons whenever possible. Fortunately, Turgon put an end to that but not before things went too far and one of my daughters was nearly killed by one Maeglin’s soldiers.”

Glorfinion bowed his head in shame in spite of the years that had passed in Gondolin since those difficult months. He fidgeted a bit, then said, “Naneth, you know it was an accident. Morang never meant to hurt Arianna. It was supposed to be between me and him. We never meant for anything to happen to her. He apologized many times for it in the days and weeks afterward, and he eventually became our closest friend.” He paused for a moment then met his mother’s gaze and asked in a small voice, “Naneth, do you know if Morang survived the fall?”

Ariella glanced over at Galadriel, Celeborn, and Elrond who were attentively watching and listening to the whole exchange. How should she say this? She wondered.

Galadriel looked at her in bewilderment and replied telepathically,** I have never heard of Morang of Gondolin. I am sorry I cannot help you. **

Ariella was startled. **The question was meant for myself not for you, my lady. I am used to Idril responding to my thoughts like this, but not you. I actually do know what happened to Morang, I just do not know how to tell my sons. **

Galadriel smiled knowingly.** Then simply tell them the truth, but remind them that their friend is probably alive and well in Valinor now, no matter what may have befallen him in Gondolin.**

Ariella took a deep breath, then looked back at her expectantly hopeful sons, not quite meeting their eyes. “The first thing you need to remember is that Morang, in all likelihood, is back with his parents in Valinor now, considerably older and wiser than before. When Maeglin was killed by Tuor for attempting to kill Eärendil and kidnap Idril, the soldiers of the Mole attacked the Guard of the Wing. Morang remembered what had happened to your sister and refused to raise his sword against another elf. He tried to stop the fighting and defended two soldiers of the Wing who were injured. One of those two was Captain Sindedhel.”

At this Glorion interrupted. “But Naneth, of course he would try to protect Captain Sindedhel. He knew what the captain meant to us.”

Ariella smiled. “Yes, Morang knew, and he also knew he was doing the right thing in protecting the injured. Unfortunately others of his own house did not see it this way. Two soldiers of the Mole stabbed him in the chest to get him out of the way so they could finish the captain. However, Morang had delayed them enough that Sindedhel had time to regain his feet and he slew the two. Sindedhel brought Morang to me immediately thereafter at Tuor’s behest. There was nothing I could do for Morang. His wounds were severe and Mandos was already calling him. I heard the call as did Lhûnedhel. Before Morang died, I asked him to join the house of the Golden Flower since the House of the Mole was no more. He accepted and I told him that his parents would be proud of him as we were proud of him. Then he died.”

Her sons looked away sniffling, their faces wet. Ariella’s mother handed each one of them a cloth which they quietly accepted, wiping their tears. They wept in silence for a few minutes, shying away from Ariella’s offer of an embrace, trying to master their feelings on their own.

When they had calmed, Galanor softly asked, “What of our aunts and…and the servants of our house? Did any of them survive?”

Ariella dabbed at her own eyes and replied, “I sent Linanna and a few other servants to your aunts to beg them to come to the safety of the king’s halls once the battle had begun. Linanna told me they all refused to believe the city would fall and refused to come. I honestly do not know if any of our household survived the fall, but I did provide them with travel bags filled with provisions for a long journey. I evacuated the house and led them to the king’s halls safely before the first wounded even arrived. I tried my best to see to their survival. I truly did.”

Her sons looked away again for a time. “Naneth,” Galanor asked, “is there any way we can send a message to Adar and tell him where we are so he knows not to worry about us?”

Ariella shook her head opening her mouth to speak a couple of times before she found the words. “My sons, I do not think you understand. Your adar and your sisters believed you died when Gondolin fell more than 6,000 years ago. They mourned your deaths more than 6,000 years ago and have moved on. There is no way to contact Valinor from here save perhaps by ship. However there are no return voyages from Valinor back to Middle-earth. What good would it do to tell them that we are here and alive when they cannot come see us?” Ariella paused a moment, gathering herself to face reality as well. “Your adar knew I was mortal and that once we were parted, he would be free to wed again. He has been in Valinor for decades now. What if he has since married an elleth there? Would you so selfishly deny him happiness now by telling him that those he once loved and lost thousands of years ago are alive when he cannot come and be with us and we cannot go and be with him?”

No one spoke for while, then Glorfinion mournfully asked, “What will become of us?”

“I…I do not know,” Ariella quietly replied, knowing there was nothing that she could promise them about the future. What kind of future had she brought them to anyway? They knew nothing of what it was to be of her race. No elf in Middle-earth now would ever treat her children as if they belonged on Arda for their alien heritage would be too obvious to those who knew aliens.

“Ariella how can you say that?” her father asked in a hurt voice. “You will stay here with us! This is your home and it will be home for your children, too.”

“Adar,” Ariella responded hesitantly, “Are you sure about this? They know nothing of our race, let alone the history of their own race for the last 6,000 years. And there are so many of us, even if my babies do not survive. Can you handle that?”

Her parents came to her side and her mother took her hand. “My child,” she said. “You and your children will live with us. We will not hear any further argument on this.” She paused and smiled. “Besides, who better to teach you children than those who are the current guardians of Arda? Perhaps in time, when your children have learned enough of both of their heritages, they will be able to serve as guardians of Arda as well.”

Ro’lise turned to her grandsons, sizing them up with pride. “Your adar trained you to protect Gondolin. Imagine how proud he would be to learn that you were protecting all of Arda. We will teach you all that you need to know. Think about it for now. We will speak more of it later.”

Numb with surprise, Ariella mutely stared from her parents to her sons. She could see the hope blossoming in her sons' eyes as they pondered the possibility. Unable to even think as far ahead as that afternoon, Ariella felt tears slip down her face, this time in relief.

**Thank you **she said telepathically, the words never finding her lips.

Her parents smiled back in reply.

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A few hours later after a meal and a bath, Ariella sat in the neonatal care ward, gazing at the tiniest babies she had ever seen. Each was so small she could have held it in her hand. A myriad of drugs and machines kept each child alive. With trembling fingers, Ariella gently stroked the miniscule bodies and tiny heads, enamored with how beautiful and how perfect they appeared.

“Look at the difference in their vitals when she is near them,” her mother exclaimed in surprise.

Elrond reply came from somewhere nearby. “It makes sense, Ro’lise. They are peredhil. They can sense their mother and are simply responding accordingly. If Glorfindel were here, they would respond to him, too.”

If only Glorfindel were here, Ariella thought wishfully. But then again, did she really want him to be here? Did she want him to have to see his children like this? Was it not bad enough that he had had to see his sons skewered by orcs?

Her eyes spilled forth yet again. How much pain had she caused that ellon since she had married him? Glorfindel was such a good person. He did not deserve to suffer as he had. And to finish it all off, she had left him at his weakest moment and taken his sons with her. He must have welcomed the opportunity to face that balrog. After her abandonment and what she had done to him, the balrog was probably good company. At least it had ended his pain quickly.

However, her pain continued. What was she to do? How could she possibly raise these children without him? What of the babies? Elven babies needed to draw strength and life from their parents throughout childhood. Would her babies even survive without their elven father? What of little Glorindir? Would he survive?

Then she remembered Elrond and his brother and mother. They had all survived being orphaned at very young ages. Perhaps her peredhil children could survive without their father after all. But could she survive without him?

Glorfindel had been a constant warmth and strength and presence in her heart and mind from the night they had wed until they were sundered by time and space. Could she return to being a singular solitary entity? Did she have the strength to go on and raise their children on her own?

As she caressed one little arm, the tiny hand clasped the tip of her finger. She realized her wedding ring could fit on that arm. Would this her youngest daughter live to marry and wear such a ring on her own hand? Would Ariella be there to speak the words, invoking the mother’s blessings on the marriage? She reached out and joined her finger tip to the hand of her son with her other hand. Who would speak the words for him when he wed? Which of his brothers would he choose?

It had hurt Glorfindel so very much that his father was absent from his wedding. Now he most likely would be absent from the weddings of all of his sons as well. It just wasn’t fair.

Would Glorfindel ever even know what had become of his children?

Still holding hands with her babies, she turned her head and wiped her face on her sleeves. When she looked back at her little ones struggling to hang on to life, she made a decision.

Yes, Glorfindel would know what had become of his children, she decided. She would see to it that he knew.

Her children needed her now and she would be there for them. She would teach them all that she could. She would see to it that they never forgot their father or his kin. She would see to it that they learned and grew into their high elven lineage and that they could just as easily walk in her world as one of her race, too. Then when her children were ready to leave her, they could sail to Valinor and present themselves before their father. Glorfindel would smile on them with all of the pride and love she saw in him when he had last hugged and kissed their sons. The children would be her gift to him to make up for all that his relationship with her had cost him. They would be her last token of love to her beloved husband.

To be continued...
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Elladaneth – mortal maid of the stars

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Chapter 23
Created
07 Sep 2006
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20 Jun 2007
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