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Shadows of the Past

The lost tale of Lord Elrond between the time of the Battle of the Last Alliance and the forming of the Fellowship.

Chapter 1


 Shadows on the Mountain  

The mountains were cast into eerie darkness and a foreboding mist hung in the atmosphere. Fire reddened the sky and battle cries filled the air. Orcs ran across the open fields to be met with the spears, arrows, and swords of Men and Elves. In the distance stood the menacing form of Mt. Doom, red-hot lava spewing from its top. An Elf stood among the masses, searching in vain for one face. As his eyes scanned the scene before him, a look of horror spread over his face. Then over the dreadful noise of battle, he heard a voice, strong and clear call out. "Elrond!"


Elrond ran towards the voice, taking down any foe that stood in his way. As he approached, a terrible sight met his eyes. A lone Elf stood against the enemy as it approached, tall and powerful, dressed in full armor, a black helm concealing its face. Its hand held a sword unlike any ever seen in Middle Earth. As Elrond stood there, fear gripped his heart.


"Sauron," he whispered. With those words, an evil presence filled the entire whole valley. At that moment, Sauron raised his sword, poised to strike and brought it down, felling the other Elf beneath its blade.

"No!" cried Elrond as he ran toward his fallen comrade, sword drawn and ready to fight. Before he could reach him, Sauron turned and disappeared. Elrond knelt beside his fallen comrade.


"Gil-galad..." he said, tears choking his voice.


"Elrond..." the High King gasped in a weak voice. "Keep... keep it safe...." he said as he took Elrond's hand in his. "Keep it safe..."


The last Noldor High King died there on that battlefield, his herald, Elrond at his side.


"Those were the last words he ever spoke.." Elrond looked up into the eyes of the young Elf seated before him. The fire roared in the fireplace, shadows playing on their faces. Subconsciously, his fingers played with the ring on his hand as he studied Agladir, a young Elf, who had lived his life in the splendor and beauty of Imladris. Young in years as Elves accounted, he loved to hear tales of long ago, and Elronds tales of the Last Alliances battles totally captivated him.


"What did he mean?" he asked. "Keep what safe?"


Elrond sat in silence for a moment, staring into the fire. Finally, he looked at Agladir again.


"This," he said, holding up his hand to show the golden ring on his finger.


"Your ring?" Agladir asked in surprise. "Why is that so important?"


"Because this is one of the three Elven rings of power. I assume you know of the rings...or have you forgotten all I have taught you?"


"Yes, I know of the Rings of Power. Three rings for the Elven Kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf Lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie."


"Very good. I see you have not ignored all of my lessons. Yes, this is one of the three Elven rings. This is Vilya, most powerful of the three. Gil-galad first bore it. He gave it to me before the battle of the Last Alliance for fear something should happen to him and the ring fall into the hands of the enemy...." Elrond sat in his chair, staring into the space, the light of the fire dancing on his face. His eyes held a far off look, as if he searched for something.


"Tell me about it, Elrond. Please?"


"It is a story long in the telling," said Elrond. The two sat in silence; the crackling and hissing of the fire the only sound that could be heard.


"After the battle of the Last Alliance, the Elves scattered. With Gil-galad gone, we had no leader... Many of us had nothing left, losing everything we had fought for in those last years. So we formed bands and spread out, searching for a place to call our own. A small group followed me. Numbered among them, Meldince, loyal servant and a brave officer in Gil-galad's army, Glorfindel, one of the greatest and wisest Elves, and Aranel, a young Elf maiden who had lost her father and brothers in the battle. Meldince became my advisor, a source of great wisdom and council. Aranel and I had grown up together and had been childhood friends. Younger than I, she was a spirited companion. We played together, doing the sorts of things children do...but that had been long before. When I left to join Gil-galad's army, we never met again for many years. I wondered what had become of her until I found her at the battle. Aranel...." Elrond's voice trailed off.


"What about her?"


"Aranel remained with the company and we grew to be even more than friends."


Agaladir looked at Elrond, surprise written across his face. "You were...."


"Lovers? Yes. Young hearts will do things one would never expect." Elrond closed his eyes as he traveled back to the day when he came upon Aranel on the battlefield those centuries before. He remembered the sight, sound, and smell of death as the small band fled Mordor. Elrond had ridden alongside Glorfindel as the ragtag group of Elves followed.


"What losses did we sustain?" he asked his companion.


"I am afraid it will never be known for sure, but we lost a great many, my lord," the golden-haired Elf replied regretfully.


"Narnen ? Elegond ? Legoan? Siran? Thinuial? Valathar?"


At each name Glorfindel nodded sadly, indicating each had been lost.


"And Gil-galad, too..." said Elrond, his voice tight with sorrow. He turned and scanned the small group of Elves. Seeing how weary they had become from hard travel, Elrond called for a brief halt. As they stopped something caught his eye.


He focused on the figure and found a young Elf maiden, sitting near a large rock. She bowed her head in grief, appearing as if she wept.


"Who... Who is that?" he asked.


"Aranel, daughter of Valathar," Glorfindel replied. "She lost her three brothers as well."


Elrond stared in disbelief. Aranel had become this grieving Elf woman? Last he had seen her, she had been young and innocent, still childlike. Now she had grown, her youthful looks transformed into fair beauty. She wore her hair long and it shone like gold in the mid day sun. Her face, though worn and dirty, still remained fair indeed. Elrond could hardly believe it! He barely recognized her. Slowly, he approached her. So lost in her sorrow was she that she did not hear or see him. He walked up to her and put one of his rough, worn hands gently on her shoulder. Aranel looked up at him in surprise.


"Lord Elrond!" she exclaimed as she started to rise.


"No... No... Sit," he bid her softly as he knelt beside her. "I know your fathers and brothers fate and I grieve with you for them."


She looked up at him through her tears. "How is it you know of my brothers? For this was their first and last battle."


"It is the duty of the officers to know those who are under their command." He remained beside her for a few minutes, neither saying a word. "Come, we cannot tarry any longer. It is not safe," Elrond said as he stood and held his hand out to her.


Aranel looked up into his face, worn with sorrow and dirty from the ravages of war. His eyes however, still shone like the stars. Compassion and honor sparkled in those eyes. Slowly, she took his hand and stood.


As they walked back to the company to start on their way again, Aranel could not keep her gaze from seeking Elrond. Many, many years had passed since she had last seen him. The day he rode off to join Gil-galads army. She had remembered him as that young Elf, full of energy and excitement about fighting beside the High King. She remembered he had always been wise and strong beyond his years, and seemed a born leader.


Yet something she had forgotten, if indeed she had even noted it before, was his radiance, for he remained one of the most handsome Elves she had seen. His hair, long and dark, flowed over his shoulders, the wind blowing it as he walked. His eyes, clear and alert, recalled the color of the sea after a storm, and when they fell on her, Aranel felt as if they could peer into her soul. His face, fair and beautiful, seemed neither old nor young and full of wisdom and mystery. His hands, large, strong, and worn with the evidence of his toils, could crush with a grip, yet they could also caress and comfort with a touch. His voice could be harsh and commanding in anger, yet sweet as a sigh in times of sadness. She found everything about him perfect.


Aranel trudged along with the company for days as they left the lands of Mordor. Each day proved harder than the previous for her and one day she began lagging behind. She kept her gaze cast to the ground before her as she trudged on, exhausted. Suddenly, she sensed someone standing before her. Looking up, she saw Elrond on his white horse, Lightstorm, known throughout the lands as one of the fastest horses in Middle Earth.


"Come, Aranel, you are weary," he said softly, holding his hand out to her. "Come ride with me for a while."


Aranel stood there for a minute, not knowing what to do. She looked into his eyes as he smiled at her. She returned that gesture, then took his hand to allow him to swing her up behind him. Shyly, she put her hands at his waist to hold on as they turned and followed the company. Aranels face heated and a funny feeling grew in her stomach. What made her respond like this? Did she feel embarrassed to be seen with him?


Stop this right now, Aranel! she scolded herself. It's only Elrond, the same one whom you tried to drown all those years ago. He's the same one who used to pull your hair and chase you through the fields. Indeed, he's grown up, indeed he has changed, and indeed he's good looking. But don't overreact!


For a while they rode in silence, neither one knowing what to say, until Elrond finally broke the silence.


"How is it you came to be here at the battle, Aranel? I have not seen you in such a long time that I wondered what had become of you."


"My father and brothers joined the battle, as you know. My father did not want me to be alone, so he bid me come with them, for he knew I would not have willingly parted with them. "


"Was there no one to care for you at home?"


"No, Mother died years ago... And now I am alone."


"I am sorry, Aranel," said Elrond as he cupped a hand over one of hers. The warmth and kindness in that touch filled her with a peace she hadn't felt in many years.


"I miss them all so much. Since Mother died, father did the best he could to raise me. My brothers became my closest friends, always standing up for me and protecting me. Like the time you teased when I had to wear that dress to the big banquet. Remember?" Aranel chuckled at the memory.


"Yes, I remember. You hated wearing dresses, but your mother insisted you wear it. I could not resist the urge to pester you about it."


"You were such a bother sometimes, Elrond. Yes, and remember how they came to my rescue. Remember what they did?"


"How could I forget?" said Elrond with a slight laugh. "Elestel picked me up and held me by my feet over the cliff next to the waterfall. Malear told me I had better leave you alone, and Sulthar threatened that if I ever teased you again he would tie me up in the tallest tree and use me for target practice! I learned that day not to upset you with your brothers around."


"Yes, they always looked out for and protected me, but now... Now they are gone, and I am alone..." Aranel fell silent.


Not knowing what to say, Elrond rode on in silence. After a while he spoke, his voice thick with emotion. "I, too, know the pain of losing someone close. My brother, Elros."


"Elros? What happened to him?" asked Aranel, genuine concern in her voice.


"Well, as you know, we of the Peredhil or Half Elven, had been granted a choice: to become mortal and live among man or to remain as one of the Firstborn. My heart has, is, and always will be true to my people. Elros, however, chose to become mortal. That day we walked different paths. It was a very grievous time, our parting. The last words he ever spoke to me were these: 'The bonds of brotherhood can never be broken. Not by time, nor distance, nor choices.' That was the last time I ever saw him. When I received word of his death, what seemed like only a short time later, it was a heavy blow. Elros and I lost our parents at a very young age. I have no true memory of them. Meldince raised us and cared for us like a father as best he could, but he was not our father. Elros is gone, and I too am alone."


"I am sorry. I never knew that," Aranel murmured, her hands hugging his waist. Gently, she laid her head on his shoulder to comfort as much as receive comfort.


They continued on in silence, both very tired, physically and mentally. As night drew near, Elrond called for a halt and soon the group had set up a small camp. Aranel stood in the doorway of her tent, watching Elrond standing next fire, preparing to take his watch. The shadows from the fire fell on his face. As he stood here, a tear rolled down his face, glimmering in the firelight.



Chapter 2

Lines are Crossed

Aranel!" Elrond called when he saw her. "I have a present for you!" he told her, indicating the smoke-gray horse beside him whose mane and tail appeared black as night. Aranel reached up and gently stroked its neck.

"She's a good one. Strong and swift, she will carry you well and not allow you to fall," said Elrond, a broad smile on his face.

"How beautiful she is, Elrond! Where does she come from?"

"The High King chose her as his mount. I would not see such a fine creature reduced to a pack animal. I have known her for years and understand she prefers someone in the saddle."

"Oh, Elrond... It would not be right for her to carry me. Gil-galad's horse..." Her fingers caressed the smooth hide, her face wistful. "She bore the last of the High Kings. I... I am no one."

"Aranel, do not say those words. To me you will always seem special. Please, take her..."

Aranel looked up at Elrond, realizing how much taller he stood beside her. How he has grown since I first knew him. So long ago Back then I had to look down a bit to meet his eyes. Now She gazed up into his eyes, lost in the captivating gaze.

"Very well," she said finally. "And her name?"

"Windstorm. Gil-galad always said she could run as fast as the wind."

Aranel stroked the horse's neck, and then mounted. Elrond pulled himself onto Lightstorm's back and together they headed out. If those in their company considered Elrond's horse one of the fastest in Middle Earth, then Windstorm came a close second. A very large yet stately horse, she frightened Aranel at first, but as they rode on, Windstorm's steps continued strong and sure. Elrond had been right that the mare would fit a king and, though feeling a bit unworthy, it thrilled Aranel to ride such a grand horse next to him.

They rode in silence for most of the day and Aranel's thoughts traveled to long ago. Memories of years past filled her mind, those of her home in Anfalas, when her mother still lived and she and Elrond had spent time together. She could not help chuckling softly as she recalled the incident where she almost drowned Elrond...

They had been playing in the river playing during the heat of the day. Aranel had stood ankle deep in the water, watching Elrond swim farther out. Not wanting to get her dress wet, Aranel stayed in the shallows of the river, despite Elrond's attempts to get her to come out. When he did not succeed through gentle persuasion, he proceeded to drag Aranel in and get her completely soaked, which she did not appreciate at all. As he stood there laughing, Aranel charged at him. She took him off guard, knocked him on his back and proceeded to hold his head under the water. Fighting and struggling, Elrond had not been able to free himself and indeed almost drowned before she let him up. Panting and gasping for breath, he stared at her in complete shock and disbelief. Calmly, Aranel stood, smoothed out her soaking wet dress, turned and walked off, leaving Elrond in the river.

He certainly learned a thing or two that day, she mused as they made their way over the barren landscape. She turned and studied him with a smile. I wonder if he still has that scar from the rocks on the riverbed? A tiny snicker escaped her as she tried to find the evidence of her childhood adventure. At the sound and her obvious fight not to laugh, the object of her perusal raised an eyebrow at her.

"What amuses you so?"

"Oh, nothing... Merely the memory of our the time at the river when you almost drowned..."

"You mean the time you almost drowned me!" Elrond protested. "You instigated that episode!"

"I instigated it? You doused me first! You asked for it and I gave it to you," Aranel replied with a laugh.

With their shared laughter Elrond found himself smiling into her eyes. How long they might have continued studying each other none would ever know for Meldince rode toward them, breaking the spell.

"Lord Elrond!" Meldince called out. "We have nearly arrived." As he pulled up next to Elrond, he eyed them suspiciously, and then gave Elrond an odd look. At the query in his friend's eyes, Elrond looked away, his face heating.

Why does being with her embarrass me so? Why do I feel so strange when she comes near? Blast! Perhaps because I no longer see the gangly adolescent I remember... How she has changed... so pleasant, friendly, and beautiful... Desirable... Stop it Elrond! Stop this at once! Its just Aranel. Dont over react!

He managed to meet Meldinces eyes and spoke briskly. "Very good. Thank you, Meldince.'

Meldince nodded, his face betraying his disapproval, then whirled his horse away and sped toward the back of the company. Elrond twisted on Lightstorm's back to give Aranel a shy smile, trying to hide his embarrassment.

"We will make camp at Cair-Andros."

"The island?"

"Yes. Saurons forces remain quite near and I feel we shall be safer with the Anduin around us." The thought of facing more of the foul Orcs silenced them both, driving more pleasant conversation away.

The company rode on for several hours in silence with only the occasional hoof beat or squeak of leather to mark their passing. The archers on horseback had their bows ready, resting on their laps, and their eyes and ears tuned to any sign of danger. They reached the island as the sky began to fill with the colors of the setting sun. Elrond sent Aranel to the back of the company to ride with Meldince, then lead his people toward a remembered ford. As they approached the river she saw it flowed with great speed and force, white foam breaking along the shore.

"The horses will never be able to cross that," she remarked. "And those on foot wont stand a chance!"

"Do not worry. Lord Elrond will know what to do," Meldince reassured her.

As Meldince spoke, Elrond dismounted and walked to the edge of the river, the water lapping at his feet. He closed his eyes and lifted his hand. In the language of the Elves he spoke this command. "Waters of the Anduin, hear my voice! Be still and let us pass!"

Aranel stared in amazement, unable to believe her eyes. The waters that just moments before raged, calmed to that of a peaceful stream. The company crossed as Elrond remained on the shore. When the last person stood on the island, he himself crossed over. As soon as his feet touched dry ground, the waters began to flow again and soon it appeared as if nothing had ever changed. Soon after the company made camp, darkness fell. Aranel sat beside the fire, talking with Meldince.

"How did he stop the river, Meldince?"

"Lord Elrond is a mighty Elf lord with many powers few know of or can even comprehend."

"But what gives him that power?"

"That, dear Aranel, you will have to ask him yourself."

That night, Aranel fell into the peaceful dream world of the Elves, thinking of Elrond, what he had done and what Meldince had said. She pondered what had happened and what it could mean.

They crossed the Anduin again in the same manner that next morning and found themselves on the opposite shore. The following days they spent in hard, wearying travel as Elrond led them along the river Entwash toward the great Fangorn Forest. Urgent matters occupied him and many days passed since he had spent time with Aranel. When she heard where their path took them, she became afraid.

"Why does he choose this course?" asked Aranel. "Do tales not say that many mysterious things dwell in these woods, that great magic moves in the air?"

"Do not be afraid Aranel," Glorfindel told her. "We shall be safe here... Lord Elrond knows these woods. We need not fear the enemy in this place for the powers of evil have no hold in this ancient wood."

A few days later they found themselves deep in the Fangorn Forest. One evening Aranel stayed in her tent on the edge of her cot, lost in thought. As she sat there, she suddenly sensed someone standing beside her, and she felt a hand rest on her shoulder.

"I know I have not seen you in a while. I am sorry Aranel," Elrond murmured, his voice deep and sincere as he sat on the bed behind her. "I have missed you greatly..."

Ive missed you too, Elrond, she whispered as he reached up gently to touch her cheek.

She turned to face him, falling into his eyes, lost in their entrancing gaze. Elrond ran his fingers through her golden hair. He took Aranel's hand in his and looked deeply into her eyes. Without speaking a word, they read each other's heart and knew the truth. Long ago the spark had been ignited and had burned within their hearts for years. Yet only now could they acknowledge they shared the same feelings. Aranel wrapped her arms around his neck. He held her close, then leaned forward. Aranel closed her eyes in anticipation, not disappointed when their lips met in their first kiss.

Elrond's mind traveled back to those days long ago when he would chase her and the time she almost drowned him. So very different now, he thought. This is what I always wanted...

Aranel lost herself in his embrace, as her mind wandered. He certainly took long enough for him to get this far... All I wanted from him was his notice...

She looked up into his eyes as he smiled down at her, then laid her head on his chest. At that moment everything around her faded until her entire awareness revolved around being in his arms.

When she awoke alone the next morning, she wondered if it had all been a dream. However, the warmth and love in his eyes he directed at her made her realize how very real the night had been. As they made their way through the Fangorn Forest in the following days, Elronds nightly visits under the cover of darkness highlighted the journey's monotony. Though neither spoke of it, both understood that once they departed the forest the visits would decline.

The last night in the wood, Elrond and Aranel spent time together in his tent. They rested on his cot, propped on pillows. Aranels white gown spilled over Elronds black breeches as she lay between his legs, her head resting on his bare chest. Her hand had burrowed beneath his red shirt, the front unbuttoned and opened as Elronds arms wrapped around her.

"Elrond," she said softly. "Ever since that day at the river, I've wanted to ask you something."

"Go on."

"How did you stop the waters? Meldince said you had powers. What gives you those?"

Elrond remained silent for a moment, his face clouded over. "I cannot say, Aranel."

Aranel pulled away from his embrace and sat up. She stared at him with hurt evident on her face, then turned her back on him.

"It's nothing personal. I just can't tell you."

"How can you say you love me if you keep secrets from me?"

"I do love you, Aranel. I will not tell you, for it is too dangerous at this time. I keep this secret from you for now, to protect you, because I love you... and I want the best for you. I want you safe so you can be with me... always..." He took her hand in his and brought it to his lips for a gentle kiss. Elrond looked at her, sadness in his eyes. "Trust me, Aranel."

She looked up at him and smiled sadly. "Oh, Elrond... I do trust you," she said. "I do love and trust you, I trust you with my heart," she said as she wrapped her arms around his neck and he held her close.

"Then show me you trust me," he whispered, his hands fumbling with the tie on the back of her gown.

Morning came to find Elrond and Aranel lying beneath the white crisp sheets, Aranel's gown at the end of the bed while Elrond's breeches and shirt lay cast into the corner. They curled together in the bed, facing each other, a smile on Aranel's lips at Elrond's strong arms around her. She felt his heart beating and his breath on her skin, brushing at the golden hair that fell over her bare shoulders. His eyes remained closed as if in sleep. Aranel sighed sadly as the first rays of light began to shine.

"Elrond," she said, softly rubbing his chest. "We must part my dear. Dawn will soon find us."

Elrond said nothing just sighed and pulled her closer.

"Elrond!" she said with a laugh. "What would you say if someone saw us together like this?"

He opened his eyes, leaned back, and looked at Aranel. "I would say to them Give me a few more minutes and I'll be right with you." He looked at her, a twinkle in his eyes.

"Oh, Elrond!" she protested with a laugh and slapped him playfully. When he would not release her, she laid her head on his chest and closed her eyes.

When she turned over, sat up, and slipped on her gown, it seemed only a few minutes later to Elrond. Once finished dressing, she stood in the doorway of the tent for a moment, then turned to look at him.

"Just one more?" he asked in a playful voice.

"Youre incorrigible!" she exclaimed.

He looked at her that same twinkle in his eyes. Aranel smiled and walked back to the bed, leaned over, and gave him a final kiss before she turned and walked out, leaving him alone in the bed. About an hour later Elrond staggered out of his tent into a hazy mist.

"Lord Elrond!" a voice called out.

Looking towards the voice, Elrond saw Meldince walking towards him.

"Ah, Meldince. How go things?"

"Elrond, we must talk... privately." The tone of his voice held no hint of jest so Elrond led him into his tent. He beckoned Meldince to sit, and then joined him, waiting for the other to speak. He could see something troubled Meldince from the expression in his eyes.

"My lord, you care for Aranel don't you?"

The acute assessment took Elrond aback. He smoothed his features to hide his surprise and fear as he tried to think of what to say. "Shes friendly and fun to be around..."

"But beyond that," Meldince persisted, eyeing Elrond. "I've seen the way you look at her and I know whats been going on between you two. Last night proves it."

Shock, fear, and disbelief tumbled over Elrond.

"It matters not how I know... I know. I know, Elrond, and it bothers me."

Elrond said nothing. What could he say?

"I fear how this relationship with Aranel might affect your ability to lead us," Meldince continued.

"Do you question my integrity, Meldince? My authority? What gives you the right to run my life?" asked Elrond, his voice mixed with anger and annoyance.

"No, my lord, that is not my purpose. I advised Gil-galad and now I would advise you. I need to know this, Lord Elrond. When the choice arises between Aranel and your responsibilities, which will come first? Between Aranel and your honor, which will you choose? Will it be Aranel or your duty as Elf lord? Will you choose Aranel or your power as bearer of the Elven ring Vilya? Who comes first Aranel, or your people?"

Elrond and Meldince glared at each other in the deafening silence.

"Meldince... I will choose my responsibility, my honor, my duty, my power, and my people. I will choose these above Aranel, but I cannot utterly forsake her, for one cannot stop a heart from loving."

Meldince smiled slightly and nodded. "Exactly what I hoped to hear from you, my Lord. If you have spoken the truth to me from your heart, then I have no fear of your relationship with Aranel... Though I would caution you that you stand on the edge. Once you cross that line you cannot go back."

With that Meldince stood and walked out, leaving Elrond alone to his thoughts. All morning Elrond sat there lost in thought. Even as they rode out of Fangorn Forest, he seemed lost, his mind miles away.

To be continued...

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