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Partings  by Bodkin


Elrohir stopped and looked down over the valley. 

The Bruinen flowed cautiously between its frozen banks, avoiding the areas where slow-moving water had gradually chilled to a temporary solidity, but the trees dripped steadily in the brief bright sun of late winter.

He drew a deep breath of the icy air and released it as a stream of mist to drift away in the breeze.  ‘We should have come sooner,’ he said anxiously.

His brother rested his gloved hand on his shoulder.  ‘We are here now,’ he said.

‘What has happened to our home?’  Elrohir fretted.  ‘We have never seen it like this.  It is – petrified.’

‘The Rings have failed,’ Elladan said with certainty.  ‘Imladris, like Lothlorien, is beginning to fade.’

‘I hope Adar is all right,’ his twin frowned.  ‘We should not have stayed away so long – we should have come back with him when he returned from Gondor.’

‘It is too late for should haves.’ Elladan encouraged his horse to pick its way down the sheltered slope towards the hidden valley.  ‘Come on, Elrohir.  There is no point waiting here and worrying.  Let us get home and out of the cold.’

Over centuries they had returned from their adventures to enjoy the welcome and comfort offered by their home.  Frequently they had left thick mud and bitter winds, blizzards and torrential rain to enter the shelter of the mild valley, where snow was an enjoyable rarity, the gentle rain nurtured the land and the very air refreshed them, but this was the first time that the chill of the outside world seemed to have settled into the woods of the haven and congealed.

‘The birds are silent,’ Elladan mentioned as they pushed forward with increasing unease. 

‘I cannot hear the trees,’ Elrohir added.  ‘They have always had a song of greeting, even in the depths of winter.  It feels as if they are waiting for something.’

Imladris sparkled with a layer of frost that turned the elegant framework of graceful buildings set subtly among the trees and streams into a magic realm.  Long icicles reflected the light and the trees bent under their unaccustomed weight of pristine snow.

The twins exchanged glances as they rode into the courtyard calling for attention.  A bustle sounded in the house as word of their arrival spread.  Grooms came to relieve them of the responsibility of caring for the horses, and they took their packs and headed through the nearest door to the comfortable warmth of the house.  Attendants beamed at them and brought them mulled wine.

‘You will want to change into dry clothes,’ Erestor told them, lifting an eyebrow at the drips they were leaving on the floor.  ‘And a bath would not come amiss.’

Elladan grinned.  ‘We have been travelling a while,’ he said, ‘but I would have thought that the cold would have been enough to prevent us from becoming too ripe.’

‘How is Adar?’ Elrohir asked with concern.

Erestor’s face stiffened somewhat.  ‘He will be better for seeing you,’ he allowed.  ‘He has been waiting long enough.’

‘Just because the war has been won, it does not mean that there is nothing left to do,’ Elladan snapped.  ‘We have been working to clear up some of the mess Sauron left behind him.’

Elrohir placed his hand on his brother’s.  ‘Finish your drink,’ he said easily.  ‘We will go and rid ourselves of the evidence of our journey.  Where will we find Adar, Erestor?’

The reliable and responsible advisor, whose patient work kept Imladris running smoothly, looked worn almost beyond words.  ‘I am sure Glorfindel will come and speak to you before you have finished your preparations,’ he said.  ‘But, should he not arrive, your adar will be in his study.  He is almost always there these dark days.’

‘Adar is clearly not coping well,’ Elrohir said, throwing off his travel-stained cloak and unbuckling his sword-belt.  He dropped into a smiling silence as several servants brought in buckets of hot water and filled the tubs.  He thanked them and responded cheerfully to their good wishes. 

Elladan rummaged in the cupboards in the bathing chamber, looking for the preparations to fragrance the water and cleanse hard-driven elven bodies.  ‘He could just be tired,’ he suggested.  ‘He must have found it painful to watch Arwen commit herself to Estel’s fate.’  He stopped as the servants returned with a final contribution of heated water, continuing as they closed the door behind them.  ‘After all, we found it hard enough to keep smiling.’

‘You know what Daernaneth said,’ Elrohir told him implacably.  ‘The destruction of the One Ring hurt both her and Adar – they will have to sail, and sail soon.  Adar knows he will lose Arwen, he does not wish to lose us, too.  We can help Adar endure best by telling him that we will sail – not now, but in time.’

Elladan shed his dirty clothes and sank into one of the tubs.  ‘Bathe, brother – while the water remains warm, which will not be long on a day like this.’  He ducked his head under the water, lathering his black hair and ducking again before he continued. ‘I cannot say that I will not sail – but neither can I swear that I will.  I know I will not leave while Arwen might need us.’

Stripping swiftly, Elrohir proceeded to wash his own hair and remove the grime of the journey.  ‘Neither will I – but I am prepared to admit that I feel certain that I will go in time – and I see no harm in telling Adar.’

‘I am glad to hear it,’ Elrond’s calm voice remarked.  ‘I did knock, but I am afraid there was no response.’  He handed Elladan a towel to rub his head.  ‘You do not wish to leave your hair wet on such a day,’ he said.  ‘I have no desire to put pressure on you, my sons,’ he added gently.  ‘Do not keep your distance over the short time we have remaining for fear that I will try to extract a promise from you.’

Elladan stood up and reached for his robe, wrapping it round him as he stepped out onto the wet floor.  ‘I am sorry, Adar,’ he apologised.  ‘I do not feel that I am ready to make any undertaking.’

Taking a towel to dry his hair, Elrohir remained silent.  He was as certain as he could be that Elladan would respect his twin’s decision that he would eventually sail, just as he would uphold Elladan’s wish to remain for the foreseeable future.  For three thousand years they had supported each other and he saw no reason why this choice would divide them.  He thrust his arms into his robe and turned to hug his Adar.

‘You look tired,’ he said, drawing him through to sit in front of the fire now blazing on the hearth.  ‘We have some wine here somewhere.  Would you care for some?’

‘We have been busy – and the winter seems to have eaten into us this year,’ Elrond remarked, accepting the glass his son handed him.  ‘There have been wolves in the valley, and it is many years since they have approached so close to us.’

Elrohir perched on the arm of his adar’s chair and placed his hand on his shoulder. ‘It seems particularly cold to me,’ he agreed, ‘but, of course, we have come from the south.’

‘Did you see Arwen on your way back?’ Elrond asked wistfully. 

‘We did,’ Elladan told him as he sat on the opposite side of the fireplace. ‘She is blooming – both she and Estel sent letters thick enough that we almost rebelled against carrying them.  We saw Legolas, too.  He had spent some time at home and Thranduil had consented to his return to Ithilien – he was taking some advisors to decide how many elves should accompany him.’

‘We called in at Edoras,’ Elrohir remarked, ‘and paused at Isengard, just to see what was going on – before we spent a week or two with Daernaneth in Lothlorien.  Daeradar was busy, but he returned a few days before we left.  The wood suffered considerable damage while we were with Estel in Gondor,’ he added soberly.

‘And it is suffering further now that Daernaneth is weakening,’ Elladan added.

‘Just as Imladris is experiencing change – and so is its guardian,’ Elrohir said softly, his voice almost inaudible over the crackle of the fire.

‘Is it that obvious?’ Elrond asked, closing his eyes wearily. 

‘We need to talk, Adar,’ Elrohir said, leaning over to kiss Elrond’s brow.  ‘Not tonight, but soon.  I think you will feel better once some things are in the open.’

Elrond patted his son’s knee.  ‘You are right, my son,’ he said.  ‘There are too many shadows – we need to open the shutters and scare them away.’  He rested his head against the chair’s high back for a moment, then drew himself up.  ‘I will leave you to dress,’ he said briskly, setting his untouched glass down on a small table.  ‘I believe a feast is being prepared to welcome you home,’ he smiled.  ‘I will see you shortly.’

The twins remained silent as Elrond withdrew, gazing at the flames, their thoughts preoccupied.

‘I have never seen Adar as being weak or needing support,’ Elladan said moodily. ‘He has always been so strong – even when Naneth -.’  He broke off and drank a mouthful of the rich red wine.  ‘To find him so – diminished – is even worse than seeing Daernaneth looking like an alabaster vessel filled with light.’

‘They are both inconceivable,’ Elrohir sighed.  ‘If ever we needed proof that the Age of the Elves is past, my brother, then it has been provided to us.’

The twins paused outside the dining hall to prepare the required expressions of delight with which to greet the unexpected celebration of their return, when a hand clapped each on the back with an unnecessary force.

‘Ha – strangers!’ a familiar smooth voice declared.

‘Have we offended you, Glorfindel?’ Elrohir asked mildly, turning to greet the tall golden elf who led Imladris’s defence.

‘Offended me?’ he smiled narrowly.  ‘How could you?  I can scarcely remember who you are!’

‘We have been busy,’ Elladan snapped.

‘You have been avoiding your adar,’ Glorfindel corrected him, ‘because you did not wish to make up your minds – or because you were unwilling to tell him what you intend to do.’

Elrohir flicked a warning look at his brother.  ‘I do not deny it,’ he said ruefully.  ‘But we are here now – and we will not leave again unless we must.’

‘Good,’ their friend and mentor said simply.  ‘Your adar needs you.’

‘Arwen sent you her love,’ Elladan said stiffly, choosing to retaliate with simple words that made the golden elf lord wince.  He, perhaps, returned as he was from Mandos to a second life defending the descendants of his king,  had, more than anyone, found the thought of his beloved Evenstar’s choice a bitter one.  His desperate pleas to the Valar to grant to Arwen and Estel the fate of Idril and Tuor had gone unanswered, as he had known in the bright light of day that they would.   The founders of the dynasty of Telcontar of the greatest House of Men could not be granted the destiny of elves – but that made their doom no less harsh.  ‘She would like to have you come to Gondor before you sail,’ Elladan continued.  ‘She misses you.’

Glorfindel cleared his throat.  ‘I doubt I will be sailing soon,’ he remarked airily.  ‘I am in no hurry to return to the Blessed Realm.’ 

‘We are in no need of a minder,’ Elrohir informed him, lifting an eyebrow in an unconscious imitation of his adar.  ‘We are grown old enough to care for ourselves.’

Glorfindel smiled blandly.  ‘Would you force me to sail against my will?’ he asked. ‘Your daeradar will need someone who can talk of the old days.  I will remove to the Golden Wood if I find I am no longer welcome here.’

‘Our home is yours,’ Elladan said, rather less harshly.  ‘You are family, Glorfindel.’

The older elf pulled the twins into a swift hug.  ‘And, as such, subject to all the abuse a family member receives,’ he said dryly, as he pushed them through the doors to receive the happy acclaim of the household.

They found themselves reluctant to leave the fireside as the night wore down and elves drifted off to their beds to prepare for another freezing morning.  Finally, only Elrond and his sons, together with Erestor and Glorfindel, remained beside the burning logs.  The Hall of Fire was quiet in the intimate darkness of night as the candles flickered out and left them in a room brightened only by firelight and the intermittent gleam of distant stars.

‘You will both be the Lords of Imladris when I am gone.’  Elrond broke a silence that had extended companionably across an hour or two.

Elrohir turned and stretched, cat-like, from where he sat on a pile of cushions at his adar’s feet, his hand or shoulder or knee in constant contact.  ‘Both?’ he said, surprised. ‘Is it not Elladan’s place to deputise for you?’

Elrond ran his fingers through his son’s dark mane.  ‘It is,’ he said.  ‘But this is the result of a conversation I had with your brother many years ago.’  Elladan smiled apologetically at his twin.  ‘He said, and I suspect still feels, that between you, you will make a formidable leader.’

A slight sniff from Erestor preceded his contribution.  ‘Elladan knows who will be best suited to all the fine detail the role requires,’ he said.

Elrohir bristled at the implied criticism of his brother. ‘I would support Elladan, no matter what my title or lack of it,’ he said.

‘Do not bother to argue about something so obviously true,’ Elladan told him lazily. ‘I am better at the big picture; you look after the details.  It works – why change it?’

‘Neither Glorfindel nor Erestor wish to sail as yet,’ Elrond continued, ignoring the interruptions.  ‘They both intend to remain in Imladris, but there are many who mean to join me on my trip to the Havens.  I am afraid, my sons, that I am leaving you a very small domain to guide into the new age.’

‘Adar -,’ Elladan hesitated, and a sudden shaft of moonlight caught the tears in his eyes and turned them to silver.

‘I understand, my son,’ Elrond responded, his voice husky with an emotion too deep to express.  ‘I do not ask you to be anything you cannot be and I will say nothing to push you one way or the other.  You are my sons and I love you, but the choice is yours to make.’

Without thought, both surged to take their adar in their arms and hold him; longing to shield him from the sharpness of the wounds inflicted on him by harsh divisions and the ravages of time and wanting to take comfort from his presence while they still could.  Elrond returned their hug, relaxing as the twins’ defensive wall, erected to hold in the pain of Arwen’s choice and their sense of loss at the imminent departure of their adar and daernaneth, crumbled and he finally found himself able to say the words that haunted him.

‘I am not leaving you through my choice,’ he said, his voice a thin thread of pain. ‘I would never do that.  I would stay for you all beyond all reason.’

‘It is not the same,’ Elladan told him softly.  ‘You are not leaving elflings to make their way in a world filled with kinslayers and the minions of the Dark.  You have done everything and more that can be expected of you, Adar.  It is your time to rest – to join Naneth and seek peace.’

‘The responsibility has been passed to your children,’ Elrohir reassured him. ‘Throughout three ages you have borne your burden.   It is time to let it go - to leave it to Elladan and me – and, most of all, to Estel and Arwen.’ 


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