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Crossroads of Time

Chapter 24: Chapter 24

by ellie

Many thanks to my betas: Fianna, Michelle123, Chrissie

Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien’s. I make no money from this.

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Sorrow and depression filled the weeks before the first anniversary of Ariella’s arrival back home and the first birthday of the babies. No matter what she did, she could not escape from her memories of Glorfindel and their daughters and how desperately she missed them. Even the children were painful reminders of the elf she had loved and lost. It was nearly impossible to look on her eldest son without bursting into tears for his face and voice were so much like his father’s she could hardly bear it. Every trait of Glorfindel’s borne by her children: his smile, his nose, his eyes, his gait, his bearing, his sense of humor, seemed more pronounced than ever before. Whenever she held her baby girl, she could see her other daughters in her face and unwillingly remembered the different milestones of their lives.

The children coped with the impending first anniversary of their loss of home and kin by being fussy and moody. Her elder sons found a small amount of comfort in the few things that they had left from Gondolin - swords, bits of armor, their rings - but even these only reminded them of that horrible last night and their losses all the more poignantly. She tried talking with them about their happy memories, but that brought more pain than poultice to the wounds of their spirits. Even the babies who had never seen their father reacted to the uncomfortable tension in the house with nightly problems, exhausting their mother even further.

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A week before the anniversary, Elrond, who happened to be visiting at the time, took Ariella aside. With a couple of glasses of wine in hand, they slipped away from the children and out onto the back porch of her father’s house. For a time, they sat in companionable silence side by side on a glider bench, slowly rocking back and forth, watching the birds in the garden and the sunlight reflecting off the pond. Finally Elrond took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“I remember when Celebrian sailed, rapidly fading and too wounded to endure in Middle-earth any longer,” he reminisced sadly. “My children and I were devastated. We had done all we could to heal and help her, but we just could not save her. I am the greatest healer of my kind in Middle-earth and I could do nothing for her. I had never before felt so helpless. My vast knowledge was worthless. The only respite she could find lay across the sea and I can only hope that she survived the journey and is waiting there for me even now.”

Ariella looked over at their still joined hands. “That must have been very difficult for you,” she quietly observed.

“It was. We saw her off at the Havens and watched long after her ship sailed out of sight. The journey back home after that was the longest one I have ever made in my life. I wondered the whole way what I was going back to and for, and why I was bothering to go on. I came to realize that I was doing it for my children and because there were those who depended on me and still needed me in Middle-earth. Otherwise, I swear to you, I would have been on that ship with her.”

Ariella took a long pull on her glass of wine, then meet his eyes, bluntly asking, “Why are you telling me this?”

Elrond smiled and sighed. “You never were one to mince words, my lady. I am telling you this because I believe that you still blame yourself for not being able to save Glorfindel. I know that you know his death was not your fault and that it had to happen to fulfill history.” He took a deep breath. “But I also know that you keep questioning if there was something you could have or should have done differently. For all of your wealth of knowledge, there was nothing you could do and it is eating away at you still. I have seen you looking on your children, wondering if you could have done anything differently with them and if they would have been better off with their father than with you.” He paused for a drink of his wine, then continued matter-of-factly.

“Your elder sons would be dead if they had stayed in Gondolin and you would have died with them. With you, your then unborn youngest both would have died as well. I remember survivors telling stories about how the majority of those who died in that desperate flight from Gondolin to Arvernian were the children. In all likelihood, young Glorindir would not have survived that treacherous journey either.”

She looked down at her drink, trying to blink back the tears that she felt forming in her eyes. Perhaps it would have been better for her children if they had died, if she had died, then they would not suffer so now.

“Ariella, events happened the way they were supposed to happen and you need to accept that.”

He was right. She didn’t like admitting it, but he was right. But she hurt so much inside! And the hole in her heart and soul where Glorfindel used to be cut so deep, so very deep.

Elrond squeezed her hand again, then set their glasses aside and arose, pulling her to her feet. Gently, he gathered her in a warm, fatherly embrace.

“But...” She burst into tears, sobbing loudly. “I feel so very empty where his thoughts and feelings used to be. I am so truly and absolutely alone.”

He pressed her face into his shoulder, her tears dampening his silky burgundy robes.

“I know. I know,” he softly crooned in her ear. “Valinor divides us completely from those whom we love. That is just the way it is. It takes time to get used to the severance of the bond. It took me years to recover from Celebrian’s absence from my heart and fëa.”

Ariella burrowed into his shoulder, continuing to cry. She did not know how long he held her, but Elrond finally sighed and pushed back to hold her at arms’ length, his hands gripping her shoulders reassuringly.

“Ariella, there is one more thing I will tell you. It was told to Elladan, Elrohir, Celeborn, and me in confidence – well in the confidence shared by drunken close friends anyway.” He chuckled to himself at some memory, then continued.

“We were gathered for the Gates of Summer celebration the night before Glorfindel departed for the Grey Havens to sail. It was just a few weeks after the birth of your brother Arzus. Glorfindel had become unusually drunk and most talkative, telling us for the first time about his wife and children in Gondolin. However, he failed to mention that his wife was a time-traveling alien from another world and that his children were gifted beyond typical elven children. He did tell us that those were the happiest years of his life, and wept as he described the loss of his family. He said that he had begged Mandos to reveal the fates of his wife and children, but Mandos said they were not in his halls and refused to comment further. Mandos did tell him that if he wanted the chance of having his wife or children, he would have to embrace life and ultimately return to Middle-earth. Glorfindel, along with Finrod and Ecthelion, returned to life at the same time and helped train the army of light in Valinor to prepare them to fight Morgoth.

“Glorfindel’s two elder daughters arrived in Valinor at the end of the First Age, accompanied by their husbands Istadan and Lhûnedhel and their children. His youngest, left her husband in Middle-earth, arriving quite pregnant with twins and terrified of miscarrying. Glorfindel remained in Valinor for a thousand years, helping to raise the twins and being grandfather to his other grandchildren. He told us how he felt somewhat purposeless and half empty where his wife’s thoughts and fëa used to be.

How well I could relate to that feeling myself and still can!” Elrond gently brushed a tear from Ariella’s face, and then continued speaking, his hand cradling her cheek.

“Glorfindel said he was summoned by the Valar and told that his services were needed in Middle-earth once again. This gave him purpose at least, so he departed over the sea via Numenor to help Gil-Galad and me.

“Downing yet another glass of wine, Glorfindel then told us how much your mother reminded him of his wife. He said that the relationship he had had with her had been sweet, but he realized he loved in her the things that reminded him of his wife. He also said that when he held Rho’lise and Ardus Ellatur’s infant son, Arzus, the child reminded him so very much of his own children that his heart ached fiercely to be back with them. He knew he could not stay in Middle-earth much longer after that moment. His heart and fëa ached for his wife and children so very much. He was so very weary of waiting for them.

I do not know if that helps, but I thought you should know,” Elrond concluded.

Ariella buried herself in Elrond’s embrace one again. Glorfindel still loved her and still cared for her! But to what end? For more than six thousand years he had yearned for her only to be disappointed again and again. She felt even worse, knowing that as recently as thirty-five years ago; he still loved her and missed her. It wasn’t fair for him to have suffered so much and for so long because of her. All that she could hope was that he had gone on with his life and found someone else by now.

Ariella finally calmed down and pulled back, meeting Elrond’s sad, but compassionate gaze

“For the first few years after Celebrian sailed, my children and I would go to the Grey Havens on the anniversary of her departure and just rest there, watching the waves and wandering the beaches. It was the closest we could be to her with the same water that brushes the sands of Aman touching us as well. It is not much, because the Sundering Sea is a chasm you can never cross to be with Glorfindel again, but it is better than nothing.”

“Did it help?” she asked weakly.

“Yes, my child, it did.”

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The anniversary of her greatest joy and greatest sorrow found Ariella on a beach around a bend from the cove that harbored the Grey Havens. Her mother had taken charge of the children for her so she and her father could go for an early evening walk. The wind was unusually chilly for the time of year, but Ariella did not care.

After several minutes of wandering in companionable silence, her father stopped her, taking her hands in his and said, “Ariella, I realize that the past year has been filled with unbelievable heartache and sorrow for you. You have traveled back in time on an alien planet, found a life and love for yourself there, suffered the loss of it, fought and struggled to adapt and survive in your new life, and lived to tell about all if it. Your mother and I were so incredibly angry when we heard about what had happened to you and that children were involved as a result of the events caused by your choices. In our eyes, you quite literally grew up overnight.” He chuckled. “Actually, you grew up in one morning for you were 25 when you left us and then 4 hours later you were 48!”

Ariella smiled at him amidst her melancholy and could not resist a brief laugh herself. “That must have been strange for you and mother.”

He looked at the ground shaking his head. “Oh! You have no idea.”

“Father,” she began tentatively. Suddenly serious again, he looked into her eyes which were identical to his own. She took a deep breath, then continued, “I am very sorry for all that I have put you and mother and the rest of the family through this past year. I am sorry for all of the worry and heartache and fear and anger. I had no idea that any of this would or even could happen when I took part in the experiment. I just…I never imagined... I did not know... I... Daddy, I am so very sorry.” She looked away at the rushing waves, unable to meet his gaze any longer. She felt so very ashamed for what she had done.

He placed his hand on her cheek, turning her to face him again. She stared at his nose, too scared of what agreement and scolding might be coming to look into his eyes again. “Yes, you have put us through a lot this past year, but we have seen our way through this, supporting and helping each other along the way. Ariella, you do not need to apologize to us. We are family and that is what family members do for each other. We take care of each other and help each other in times of crisis and need.”

She looked up into her father’s eyes and saw only love there.

He raised his other hand to cup her face. “Ariella, your mother and I are very proud of you. You have shown strength and courage beyond anything we ever could have hoped for you. You are a wonderful mother and are raising your children quite well. I am proud that they are my grandchildren.” He paused for a moment and smiled. “I feel extremely old when I look at them seeing as how some of them are older than your younger siblings, but I am most proud. We could not have wished or hoped for you to experience what you have and come out as a stronger, greater, more mature woman than you have proven yourself to be. My child, please know that your mother and I will always love you no matter what.”

Ariella smiled amidst the tears she felt forming in her eyes. “Even if I married and had children with the last boyfriend mother dated before she met you?”

Her father turned red and laughed. “Yes, even if that. But, please do not remind me that he is or was my son-in-law. I just...” He shook his head. “I have tried for a whole year, but I am still having trouble coping with that little detail of your life. I guess it is justice though in a weird sort of way. He could not have my wife so he took my daughter instead.”

She laughed. “Father, if it makes you feel any better, the same justice was served Glorfindel as well.”

Her father looked at her curiously. “How so?”

“Well...”

Should she really be telling her father this? Well, she had already started so she might as well finish. Why not test the ‘declaration of love no matter what’ while the ink was still drying on the parchment? Her hand immediately dropped to her side where her thumb and finger started rubbing the fabric of her dress.

Feeling her face flush with what she feared would be a vivid shade of red, she took a deep breath and blurted out, “Glorfindel was not my only suitor in Gondolin. I had two others: a healer named Lhûnedhel and the famous loremaster Istadan.”

Her father stared at her in shock. She snuck a peak into his unguarded mind at the turmoil within him as he tried to reconcile the quiet obsessed girl who left him with the woman he apparently hardly seemed to know who stood before him now.

She continued hurriedly. “I was told that once my elder daughters reached maturity, my other two suitors married them in Arvernian. So, Glorfindel has had to live with twice the problem that his marriage to me has caused you. I thought it might make you feel better to know this.”

He shook his head as if to clear it of his previous thoughts, then grinned. “I guess there is justice in this universe. Yes, that does make me feel better.”

He hugged her close as a gust of wind blew hard, tangling her hair and making them both shiver. After a few minutes, he released her and looked at his time piece.

“It is getting late. Cirdan said the feast will begin at sundown. Will you be joining us?”

Ariella sighed, suddenly sad again. Sometime in the next few hours, she would have been another year married, and sometime in the last few hours completed a whole first year without her beloved husband. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“I do not know if I can, Father. I just do not know if I can. Tell the others to start without me. I think I will stay out here and wait to see the stars before I return to the house.”

He brushed her cheek with his fingers. “I do not like leaving you out here alone.”

“I will be all right,” she reassured. “I need some time by myself.”

“I will bring you your cloak at least. It is getting very chilly out here.” He hugged her again with his warm comforting arms, kissed her forehead, then turned and hurried back toward the Havens.

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Ariella lost track of time, staring at the waves and later the spectacular sunset when it splashed across the sky. She hugged herself, rubbing her arms trying to stay warm.

Glorfindel had shared many sunsets with her during their betrothal time and their married life. Was he watching the sunset tonight? Was he thinking of her?

As the sky began to fade from gold and orange to darker blues and purples, she saw the light of the Silmaril as Eärendil sailed across the heavens. She suddenly felt extremely old. She had helped deliver him, changed a few of his diapers, given him a bath or two with Glorindir, and attended his first seven birthday parties. It all seemed so long ago. Was it only a year ago or was it more than six thousand years ago or was it just yesterday like she remembered it?

She felt her cloak as it was wrapped around her shoulders and warm comforting arms embraced her, holding her close. She hadn’t heard her father approach, but was glad he was back. She suddenly no longer wanted to be alone.

Not wanting to disturb her solace with needless conversation, she left her mind unguarded while she watched the waves reflect the setting sun and the Evening Star as she quietly hummed one of Glorfindel’s favorite songs,. This was the closest that she would ever be to her beloved again – touching the waters of the same sea.

She remembered the night before her wedding when she had stood atop the walls of Gondolin wrapped in Glorfindel’s strong arms, feeling the songs of welcome resonating in his chest. He had such a beautiful, rich voice. She remembered the lullabies he had sung to the children while she nursed them and as he rocked them to sleep at night.

She knew all along that her husband was going to die and how and when and why. But in the end, she was the one who had left him – left him to die and to live again all alone. What had she done to Glorfindel, sentencing him to an eternal life of loneliness filled only with the memories of a few good years? She had accepted that she would be alone now as a consequence of her choices, but why was he chosen to be the victim in all of this? What had he done to deserve to drink from such a bitter cup? He was going to be alone forever because of her. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair!

And what of her daughters? Their lively banter, beautiful faces, and joyous playfulness still visited her in her dreams. What kind of life had she sentenced them to simply by being their mother? Everyone would always know her girls were different, branded forever as aliens not only by their gifts, but by their very eyes. How many times had she had conversations with others about her own unusual eyes which marked her as alien and different? How many times was she certain that someone had guessed her secret? How much pain had her family endured because of her alien heritage?

Why didn’t she think of any of this before she left on that foolish fateful trip one year ago today? Why didn’t she think of this when Glorfindel asked her to marry him? Why didn’t she think of this when he asked her to bear his children? Perhaps she did consider this in some way each of those times, but the choice to say “yes” to each of those things was so very easy to make. So very easy…as if there really were no choice before her.

The elves believe that their fates are pre-ordained in the Great Music of the Ainur. They also believe that humans are sometimes outside of the Song. Why was she, an alien woman, allowed to walk the roads of Gondolin and lend her own voice to those bars of the Song? She was and is no one of importance, yet she could have changed Arda’s history, changed the Music so easily. Fortunately, her choices resulted in the fulfillment of history and the Song instead.

She gasped as sorrow suddenly overwhelmed her, her tears falling harder now than they had since the first weeks after her return. The embrace tightened protectively as if seeking to shield her from her pain. She stood slumped a while weeping openly.

When she felt reasonably in control of her emotions again, she said aloud, “Elrond said that Glorfindel returned to Aman seeking solace from his pain, missing me and the children. That was 35 years ago. Do you think he is still somewhere across the sea right now missing me?”

“No.” The tone was quiet, barely a whisper, but very matter-of-fact. Her father never was one to give false hope.

She bowed her head. “You are probably right. It was only a short time that we were together. I am foolish and vain to think that he would not have gone on with his life. He went to Valinor to find healing and peace. It is probably best to hope he has forgotten me and gone on.”

Fresh tears streamed freely down her cheeks as she was turned in the warm embrace. She felt a finger beneath her chin, raising her face to meet piercing grey eyes filled with tears.

“No, he has not forgotten. He went to Valinor to find peace and healing, but they eluded him. A year ago today, he saw you again as if in a dream made real. Eonwë arrived at his parents’ house immediately thereafter, summoning him to Manwë’s halls where he was told of your fate. Glorfindel is not across the sea missing you for you are in his arms and he prays he will never have to miss you again.”

“Glorfindel?” She put her hands on his face, touching him, verifying his existence. “Praise Eru! You are real! You are really here! For the last year I have wanted nothing more than to be in your arms one more time. Just one more time. I love you so very much. I have missed you so very much…so very much.” She buried her fingers in his soft silky hair and pressed her mouth hard against his in a deep, bruising kiss. He did not respond at first, but he soon recovered and met her fervor with his own, his fingers wrapping in her hair, pressing hard against her head.

She pulled back when she thought she would collapse from lack of air. Panting, they looked at each other, still holding on tight, too terrified to let go.

“You are real. You are really here!” She exclaimed breathlessly. She searched his eyes and saw the deep abiding love within them. “Oh…You are really here!” She moved her arms to his neck and hugged him close, smelling his wonderful, familiar scent. He lifted her off the ground and swung her around, laughing.

When he set her down again, he nuzzled her neck and whispered, “This is where you and I belong - in each others arms. And I never intend to let you go.”

“But...” She pushed back in his embrace far enough to see his face. “I am mortal. One day I will die and you will have no choice but to let me go.”

He smiled at her strangely, almost in wonder as he raised his hand to trace the line of her face from forehead to chin and back up to her cheek. Slowly shaking his head, he said almost in a whisper, “So, you do not know?”

She regarded him curiously, “I do not know what? What are you talking about?”

Speaking almost to himself, he softly speculated, “But how could you not know? You could not have... Did you not wonder how...”

Seeming to focus on some distant point over her shoulder and out to sea, he swore softly in Quenya, then asked, “Why did they tell me and not tell you? I would have thought...”

Glorfindel closed his eyes, bowing his head as a heavy sigh escaped. He took a couple of deep breaths, then opened his eyes. Cupping her face in his hands, he looked into her eyes, then looked away again with an almost embarrassed laugh.

“My love,” she admonished. “You have not changed that much in the thousands of years since I last saw you. What are you so nervous about telling me?”

His eyes sparkled with joy as he met her gaze again. “Ariella, did you not wonder how it was that you came to me on this day last year?”

Her brow furrowed in puzzlement. “What do you mean by that?”

He smiled at her engagingly, making her heart skip a beat. It was a beautiful smile, the smile she remembered from the night he first kissed her. “When you returned to your time last year on this day, you were in labor,” he gently reminded.

She nodded, even more puzzled. How had he known this? Unless... Someone at the Havens had told him. Perhaps her mother...

“Your heart stopped beating and your fëa left your body for a brief time. I was at my parents’ house in Tirion at the time,” he continued evenly.

She shook her head in disbelief. “But that was only a dream. I ... I never told anyone about it. How do you know of it?”

“Because you really came to me, or at least your fëa did.” He held up his right hand and traced a shiny mottled scar from the base of his little finger across his palm to the base of thumb. “I badly burned my hand in the fire when I lunged after you and tried to grab you as you faded away. All I managed to get my hand around was a burning log. I was so bewildered by what had just transpired that my atar had to pry it out of my hand, burning his hands, too. My amil was furious with both of us.”

Ariella backed away, still shaking her head and looking at him in wonder.

“My lady, you went to a land where no mortal may set foot. Even in death, mortals cannot come to the Blessed Realm.” He reached for her, but she backed further away, her hands covering her mouth.

“It was not real, Glorfindel,” she said flatly.

Glorfindel lowered his hand and stood very still. “Eonwë brought me a summons from Manwë immediately after you departed. My parents went with me for they had seen you, too.”

“But Glorfindel,” she said again, trying to make him see how absurd he sounded. “It was only a dream. It was not real!”

“Ariella,” he continued in exasperation, taking a step toward her and reaching out again, but she backed away. Sighing, he stood still yet again. “It WAS real. Manwë told me that now that you have caught up with me in time, you and I share the same fate that was granted the other union of elf and mortal in Gondolin.”

Ariella shook her head again. This could not possibly be happening. She must be imagining that Glorfindel was here and that he was speaking to her. It was all some elaborate hallucination borne from grief. It had to be. He could not possibly be standing there telling her this. Telling her that she was now...

Swiftly, before she could even react, he took a few strides and caught her by the shoulders. “Ariella!”

She turned her head away from him, unable to look at the apparition before her, tormenting her in her grief.

“Ariella,” he commanded sternly. “Look at me!”

Flinching under his tight grip, she slowly, nervously met his gaze. “Ariella,” he said again in a gentler tone. “Ariella, I am real. Feel my hands upon your shoulders? I am truly here telling you this.”

She meekly stared at him, too scared to even move for fear that he might go away . . . for fear that he might be telling her the truth.

“Ariella,” he said more gently still, his grip relaxing a bit. “Your fate has been joined with that of mine. My lady, together with me, you have the life of the Eldar now.”

She looked at him in mute wonder, unable to even move.

The smile returned to his face. “You...We were granted this in payment, in reward for all that we have done in service to my people. You already know what I have done. You have read about it in the history books. But, there were so many things that you could have done to change history and yet you did not – even when you knew the consequences meant death for yourself and for the ones you loved. You even saw to the welfare of many others when the city was falling. And what you did not know was that the provisions you gathered enabled the survival of many on the journey. Our daughters distributed much of what you had packed for yourself and for me and our sons. Ellyn and ellith had clothes and blankets and food and healing herbs and ... and Eärendil and some of the other children had clothes and toys because of your careful planning. The crops and healing herbs the refugees had to sustain them their first year in Arvernian came from the seeds you sent.”

Cautiously, he raised his hand to her face, brushing away the tear that slipped down her cheek. He took a step closer and she could faintly feel his warm breath upon her face as he looked down at her.

“My lady,” he quietly pleaded. “Join yourself with me again. I will follow you and be at your side wherever you wish to go - even back to your world - and whatever you wish to do for as long as you wish to remain here. Then, when you are ready to sail, we can go to Valinor and be together there forever.”

She felt herself tremble as the words sunk in and realization settled upon her. This … this was far more than she ever could have hoped for. How could it be real?

Yet she knew it was.

Slowly she lifted a shaking hand to touch his face. He leaned into her caress, his bright eyes shining with a more powerful light than she had ever before seen in him.

When words found her lips again, all she was able to say was, “I love you so very much.”

His brilliant smile lit the night. He took her in his arms and she wrapped hers tightly around him, too. How long they stood there locked in each other’s embrace, she really did not know or care. All that mattered to her was that he was hers and she would never have to part with him again.


The End

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Amil – mother (Quenya)
Atar – father (Quenya)

Author’s Notes:
1) Many thanks to all of you, my readers, for your time, your encouragement, and your reminders to post another chapter. And many thanks for all of the reviews!!! Please let me know what you think of the ending! I hope you are pleased! I can’t believe I have finally finished my first novel-length tale and to think it was my first piece of fan fiction, too!

Many thanks to all of my wonderful, patient, kind, nit-picky, sometimes feisty betas over the last two years and especially to Julie and Fianna for all of their help and encouragement in pursuing my passion for writing. I hope I made you proud!

Much love and many thanks to my family for putting up with my obsessive writing and my not always getting the housework finished because the muse was calling to me.

2) I have outlined a sequel to Crossroads telling the tale of Ariella’s daughters, so be on the lookout for it when time permits me to write it.

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Chapter 24
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07 Oct 2006
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07 Oct 2006
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