Different Time, Different Place - Chapter 6
News that the last patrol was spotted along the border had arrived late last night, along with news of several wounded, and two dead. Muineth had been in a tizzy for hours, and the sun was rising now as the guard arrived. From a distance, I could see glimpses of a golden head of hair, though dulled by the black blood covering it. I was selfishly glad to see that he hardly appeared wounded, if at all. He walked near the rear of the group, pulling along a travois, and he wasn't the only one.
Muineth was not calmed at not seeing Aennen amongst those walking or riding- nor would I have been. That left only two options, and I prayed for her sake that he was only wounded. As the troupe approached, ever and ever closer, we saw more of their faces clearly, and one by one, we were able to eliminate all those we could see as being her love, and as we did so, I could see her heart growing heavier.
Yes, when finally I caught Glorfindel's gaze, and recognized his reluctance to even glance at Muineth by my side, I understood. So too did she, for before they had properly reached the gates, she collapsed against me, weeping for her lost love.
My heart went out to her, and I fell to my knees with her, holding her close as she sobbed into my robes. Tears of empathy sprung to my eyes as well, and as I held her, all around us healers gathered the wounded and helped them onto proper stretchers and carried them to the halls.
Slowly, as the horses were brought to the stables and the guards were ushered away, Glorfindel approached, magnificent despite the blood and grime covering him, despite the grief on his face. He looked old - older than I had ever known him - like the burden he carried weighed not only on his body, his heart, and his mind, but also on his spirit.
He approached and brought the travois with him, lowering it at last before myself and Muineth, and a great sob - like the released of a river long kept by a dam - left her as she threw herself to him. Her trembling hands touched Aennen's face, his shoulders - shaking him, his chest - hovering over his heart, until finally she took one of his hands and kissed it.
No, no no no. Please. Not this. Anything but this. You cannot be gone, my love. Ai! Aennen! Aennen please. Awaken! Look at me, my love. Look- Look- Love me again, please, my heart.
I felt her pain sharply. It was one I had once been intimately familiar with, but a dark vision passed over me, for while I had suffered and wished death upon my enemies and the weight of my loss had been a heavy one, it came so at a time when duty kept me alive. In these days where these missions were few and far in-between, I feared Muineth lacked the purpose - the drive - to stay, even with her children.
I was suddenly glad for Melpomaen's newly begun studies in lord Elrond's library, for he would be kept well busy for the day - at least - and young Lindir... He would be with Celebrian and the twins at this time, no doubt. The poor boy would barely have known his father.
As Muineth grieved before us, Glorfindel came to me, holding me as he sometimes did after an especially gruelling excursion. I cared not for the blood and the dirt and whatever other manner of filth he was coated in. He held me and I felt at home once more. I pushed the hair away from his face and kissed his lips with as much passion as could be conveyed in a kiss so light.
Together we remained, silently, beside the body and grieving soul of our friends, and praying still for Muineth's wellbeing, though I knew in my heart, there wouldn't be much to do about it, and so we did the best we could. We stayed by her side until her tears ran dry, and took her solemnly to fetch Melpomaen from the library, and Lindir from Celebrian. We brought them together to their family home and sat with them to explain what had happened, for Muineth seemed unable yet to speak the words.
And just like that, their family was torn apart, and my heart bled for them.
It would take years, but eventually, Muineth would succumb to the loss of her beloved, and despite Melpomaen being older than Lindir by several decades, it was believed by all of us, that he was still much too young to be raising his brother. He was a quiet boy, heavily dedicated to his studies, and Lindir at only 20 years of age very much still needed the supervision and support of an adult figure in the home.
And so it was that Glorfindel and I moved rooms, previously separated by a cozy sitting room, and with a adjoining office space shared by the both of us, where I kept my private library and Glorfindel kept his relics. Glorfindel's things joined mine, squeezing our clothes into the same drawers and hanging our robes in the same closet. Our office things were relocated to our respective work offices, and the now empty rooms were transformed into two new bedrooms for the boys.
Their things were brought over from their home, and while the home was not immediately appropriated, neither did they stay very long there after their mother announced her intention to sail. She helped them gather their things, and helped us to acclimate ourselves to the change - extending her stay almost a full week - but eventually the escort was at our door, and the boys spoke their tearful goodbyes.
Together we went to stand on our westward-facing balcony and watched as their naneth disappeared into the distance - the small lights created by the party's lanterns hidden by the dense forests - and finally we returned to the sitting room, gathering together in a huddle before the fire.
I watched them now.
Glorfindel's beautiful golden hair seemed to be the most cheerful thing in the room, for the way the firelight danced over it. His face was a mask of sorrow, mixed in with a guilty sort of joy. It was no secret that he loved these boys as his own, even Melpomaen - whose temperament and interests seemed more like my own - but it was clear also that this day, reminded him dearly of the friend he'd lost when Aennen had passed.
Melpomaen sat next to Glorfindel, on his right, with his legs crossed and a deep pain lining his features. I wished for nothing more than to reach out to him, but I knew not if the touch would be welcome, for he seemed faraway just now - lost in his thoughts as he played mindlessly with a loose button on his clothes. His dark hair seemed the colour of wine in the evening sun and firelight, or the colour of a more terrible substance. It seemed accurate for how his heart seemed to bleed at the loss of his mother, so soon after his father.
Young Lindir. Only 20 years of age. He'd hardly known his father, and been so close to his mother. There was no telling how this would affect him. I sent a silent prayer to the heavens once more that he would come through this hale and whole. His light hair hid his face like a silver curtain as he attempted to bury himself in Glorfindel's chest. Aye, that was something I had done many times, and I could not envy him that comfort.
It wasn't until Melpomaen spoke my name that I realized how deep within my own thoughts I had fallen, nor how the tears had begun raining down my cheeks. Quickly he came to me, and sat within the circle of my crossed legs - a full grown elf, sitting on my lap like a child - and suddenly I pulled him ever closer and wept with him, for he ever had deserved better for his kindness, and this world was yet unfair to him and his family - our family. We would be his family now, and so he reminded me.
"M-may I call you papa?" he asked me, and I pulled back to gaze at him in wonder. I would never have expected such a thing of him, nor could I ever have asked, and yet he offered it so freely. "I... I do not think I can call you ada," he shook himself, remembering his father, "but papa seems appropriate, for it is of the language you taught me, and I would honour all that you have been for me - for us."
I understood, of course, though I could not answer, for words were still lost on me in that moment. I nodded silently, tears streaming down my face, and hugged him so closely. Over his shoulder I glimpsed Glorfindel, watching us, holding Lindir to himself, and I needed to be with them.
Pulling away from Melpomaen once more, I gestured to him my intent and slid closer to my love, allowing him to slip an arm around my shoulders, and letting Melpomaen settle back once again, this time facing his sweet younger brother. We leaned together all of us, and allowed our hearts to mend.
It may be that we had wanted children, my lover and I, but this was never what we had intended. Despite that, we could never have asked for more beautiful children than Lindir and Melpomaen, whom we had known and loved since their birth. They knew us first as uncle, then later as Erri and Glorf, but now as da and papa, and we could only hope this would be for the best.