Winter Came Earlier by Oshun

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"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore.” – Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron


Winter came earlier, stayed longer, and was generally harder to bear than it had been before Imladris had been released from the protection of the Ring. He enjoyed the first several days of his trip home, soothed as they passed into the quiet woods, he was pulled forward with an ache that approached joy as they neared the range of the Misty Mountains beyond.

After leaving his fellow travelers behind, despite the fact that he felt increasingly unwell, he was ever more anxious to complete the last leg of his trip before the debilitation overcame him. And Glorfindel waited for him also. Once he had arrived home, after a couple of days of recovering from his physical malaise, he would take up the details of his daily life slowly. He intended to allow himself the gentle delight of reuniting with his spouse. Of course, Glorfindel would be annoyed with him for arriving sick. He would assume the better choice would have been to stay in the White City until he felt better. But there was nothing to be done for that now and, anyway, there was no possibility that he would permit the impending winter to interfere with his return.

He realized a few days earlier that he had caught a bad cold on his holiday. He’d probably encountered the infection through his close proximity to so many Men in the Palace and in the raucous celebrations of the harvest festival of Eruhantalë in the streets of Minas Tirith--one of the inconveniences of having the constitution of the Peredhil. He did not suffer as Mortal Men did from these minor ailments, but suffer he did and always had, even more than his twin or his sister. He wondered if this would trouble him still after they had sailed. No one sensible would take a position on that one way or the other, Estel always told him. He would tease him that if Elladan enjoyed fruitless arguments, he could no doubt encounter no small number of individuals at the Houses of Healing would be willing to enthusiastically argue either side for the sport of it, on the basis of speculation alone.

The heartening rays of the sun that broke through the canopy above him, thinning as he rode higher, had helped Elladan keep his back straight and his chin up during the morning hours. Once, shortly past midday, he thought he heard the sound of someone chopping wood filter through the background music of birdsong, the constant crackling of animals scurrying over fallen twigs and leaves, and the soft wind in the branches above. The sun’s warmth dimmed and grew less effective as the day progressed. The trees grew sparser causing him to feel the chill of the wind more keenly. The cold moisture from nearby springs and fountains increased. He grew more and more able to discern the full roar of a not-so-distant waterfall interrupted occasionally by what might have been the voices of men at work in some clearing in the wood beyond his line of sight.

If he had not been so thoroughly chilled, with a pulsating pain behind his eyes, he might have begun to feel drowsy. Thank the Valar, he was drawing closer to the cleft in the rock that would lead him down to the steep path into the valley below.

Whenever he left Minas Tirith to return to his valley home, it always took him a day or two of morbid gloominess before he was able to regain his equilibrium. While in the city he spent time with his sister, his nieces, and Eldarion his only nephew. Arwen and Estel were doing well. But it bothered him to see how slowly but inexorably his law-brother showed signs of aging. Estel’s hair had turned almost entirely silver, although he was still a handsome man. His sister showed few conspicuous signs of age, but an older brother who loved her could not help but notice a dimming of the vibrancy of her slowly waning beauty. The blush on her cheeks and the glint in her eyes had started to fade.

Lucky for him, the horse knew the way. He gave up his struggle for consciousness with nary a protest when he saw a vision of an Elven warrior, hair shining in the light of a hand-held lantern, as he emerged from a turn in the trail in front of him.

When he came to, he found himself bound from chest to waist to the form of another, astride a horse—must have been an admirably powerful beast to have plodded so steadily forward bearing the weight of two men. He did not even try to open his eyes. In fact, he allowed himself to relax heavily against the inviting body again. Inhaling a familiar scent, he thought ‘Glori!’as he continued to regain sensibility. He was safe. Elladan sighed and accepted his fate with a resignation which produced a singular overlap hovering between faint mortification and total relief.

In their bedroom, next to a fire of hot-burning hardwood, nearly smothered by a mountain of blankets and quilts, Elladan was willing to consider how much of his sadness was rooted in his head cold and how much a prolonged grieving process that he perhaps was not handling well. Home and warm, dry, and cuddled in Glorfindel embrace, Elladan said, “It’s easier to talk to you about all this than anyone else."

“It should be! But, why do you think that is?” Glorfindel asked, in his best professorial tone.

Elladan had to laugh, not at Glori, but at himself. “Because you listen but never tell me what to do, or why I am full of shit.”

“Works for me. No one ever got anywhere trying to tell you what to do. I sometimes think about what a brat you were as a kid. But even then, hard not to love.”

“It still makes me twitchy to think about what an ungrateful wretch I was.”

“You should not think that. You had parents who carried the weight of a lot of history. They came together with the shadow of tragedy over their hearts and tried to heal one another as best they could. But they also tried to protect and nurture their children and keep all pain away from them. Holding all pain away is ever a losing proposition.” At the bottom of a frozen cliff surrounded by a wintry forest, Glorfindel had stroked Elladan’s forehead with a strong, calloused hand, gentle and comforting. But finally they were now warm inside of a homely house with the damp and dangerous twilight well behind them. “We all know that never works! But parents do have to try.” He shook his head, laughing.

“Well, I was lucky to have you.”

“Not everyone would agree with you. Although Elrond finally forgave us. He had trusted Erestor and I with the tasks of looking after the heirlooms and treasures of Imladris. 'Restor got the library and I got the kids! I didn’t handle my side very well, did I?”

“Get out of here! I was nearly a thousand years old before you noticed how much I wanted you and another 500 years before you succumbed to my flirting and stalking. And it’s been another millennium more since anyone thought of our union in terms of any impropriety.”

“Ah. Yes! I’m a legend and you’re my lucky partner!”

“That’s about it.” Elladan received a sweet kiss in return for his uncharacteristically sweet capitulation to Glorfindel’s teasing.

When they broke apart, he said, “But, don’t get too smug. Maybe when we cross over to the West I will be the more adulated. I do have a more impressive list of antecedents—all the way back to Finwë first King of the Noldor! Why there are those who even tell me that I remarkably resemble Dior Eluchíl, Dior the Fair . . . .”

“Please, what a choice! A pretty face, known for his vanity, poor judgment, and his loss of the realm of the great Thingol!”

The affectionate squabbling of two stalwart lovers masked the melancholy sounds of a winter night’s wind. Come summer, there would be time enough to face future losses or sorrow, but a well-stoked fire, warm embraces, and lasting friendship seemed most consoling when the wind blew cold.




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