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A special thank you to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter
Chapter 23: Dragons, Silmarilli and Decisions (Part II)
Anor had risen and Elrond and Elros were walking back to their tents when a messenger mounted on horseback passed them. The messenger greeted them cordially, continued on to deliver the message and was returning along the path by the time the twins walked past the tent of Gil-Galad.
“You have both been summoned by Eönwë,” Gil-Galad greeted them.
Elrond took the small parchment roll from the king and read the words requesting the presence of the sons of Eärendil. “We are expected upon receipt of the message,” Elrond said to Elros. “It does not say why we are being summoned.”
Elros read it and then shrugged, his appearance nonchalant, but it was clear to Elrond that his brother was as tense as he was. “Breakfast first,” decided Elros.
Fed, their hair brushed and braided and their clothing refreshed, the sons of Eärendil walked down the path that led to the camp of the Valar. Many watched them leave, curious, but only Gil-Galad was aware of the summons and his face was carefully impassive. Elrond did not look back, but kept his eyes on the road ahead, until they came to the camp of the Valar.
The structure of the Valar could hardly be called a tent, so magnificent was its façade. Elrond and Elros approached it together, their shoulders nearly touching. Awe and fear consumed them, leaving no room for words, and so they approached silently. Their passage went unchallenged; shining elves with the light of Valinor gleaming in their eyes and Maiar of great power and might watched them pass with looks that hovered between curiosity and an almost paternal love. At last they came to a guard who lifted one hand in a signal to halt, then motioned for them to follow him.
They entered the tent and found it lit more brightly than the outdoors, but the source of the light was neither the beams of Anor nor an external flame. The light seemed to emanate from the beings who sat in the court, and the mightiest of these sat upon a magnificent dais. Despite the glory and beauty of his surrounding, Elrond found that his eye refused to linger on the inanimate objects, for the ones who sat upon the thrones demanded his attention by their mere bearing. In front of the dais sat Eönwë, whom they recognized from the incident the night before.
Eönwë rose, and the guard halted and then turned aside, leaving Elrond and Elros standing together before the Maia. Both knelt and bowed their heads before the dais.
“Rise, sons of Eärendil,” said Eönwë. When they had done so he continued, “I am Eönwë, herald of Manwë, the High King of Arda.
“Elrond and Elros, you are begat from the lines of the Eldar Kings and the three houses of the Edain, Fathers of Men. To each kind Ilúvatar has appointed a doom: for the Eldar not to die, but to live bound to Arda for so long as it shall endure, and for the Edain a Gift, to die as mortal beings, and travel beyond the circles of this world upon passing.
“To you of the peredhil a choice of destiny has been granted: You may choose to live and be judged as the Firstborn, or you may choose to live as mortal men. Even as the end of Beleriand draws near, the Edain shall not be forsaken. As heirs of Eärendil you would lead your people in their new land.
“For two days you will consider your choice. On the third day you will choose your destiny.
“Go in peace, sons of Eärendil.”
Elrond and Elros bowed and turned, a guard again at their elbow, and they were escorted from the tent. Many eyes followed their departure and as they returned to the camp of Gil-Galad it seemed as if the entire host was gathered, waiting for their return.
The brothers had not yet looked at each other nor spoken a word, both yet overwhelmed by the experience of meeting with Eönwë and the choice they had been given. They entered the camp and Elrond felt a momentary panic fill him as all seemed to be waiting for them to speak. He breathed a sigh of relief as Gil-Galad spoke.
“Elrond, Elros, please come to my tent.”
They entered the cool darkness and sat as Gil-Galad motioned to several chairs. Elrond glanced down at his hand and realized it was shaking. He quickly pressed it against his thigh to still it, and felt Elros’ hand cover it a moment later. Elros’ hand was warm and strong, and Elrond drew comfort from his brother’s touch, as he knew Elros did from his. He heard laughter, and finally turned to look at his twin.
Elros was laughing. His grey eyes were twinkling and his body shaking as mirth overcame him. Elrond felt himself drawn in by the absurdity of it all, and began to laugh as well. Finally, tears streaming down their faces, they calmed.
“I feel much better now,” sighed Elros.
“As do I,” agreed Elrond.
“Good. Now, are you ready to tell what has happened?” Gil-Galad asked, amused.
Elrond exchanged a quick glance with his twin, both of their faces sobering immediately. As Elrond was pondering how to answer the question, Elros spoke.
“The herald of Manwë has informed us that being half-elven, we must choose with which kindred we are to be judged. We may live as the Firstborn, or choose to be mortal men. The Edain are to be given a new land, and if we choose that fate we would lead them in this new place.”
“When must you make this choice?” asked Gil-Galad, his face suddenly serious.
“In three days,” replied Elros.
Gil-Galad was silent for a few moments, then spoke cautiously, “I encourage you to speak to those with whom you might have questions as you make this choice. To be allowed to choose your destiny. . . perhaps none can truly understand what you are facing as the fate of mortals is not known to us.” He paused, seemingly at a loss for words. “Take what time you need,” he finished, then quietly left the tent.
Elros rose immediately, and with a final squeeze of his brother’s hand left the tent as well.
Elrond breathed a long sigh, grateful for the quiet and calm. Standing amidst all that power and grandeur had been overwhelming, but the choice was not. There was only one choice – they had been born and raised amongst the elves. While Elrond respected Men and had even come to love them, he was not one of them.
* * *
Elros left the king’s tent and walked to his own, finding it amongst the tents of men whom he had led and fought with for these last many years. After Tauron had been killed, he had taken leadership of the main army of Men. The men were brave and courageous fighters, and Elros took pride in their abilities.
He thought back over the meeting with Eönwë. The herald had seemed to look within him, into his very soul, and a great promise had been communicated to him. ‘You will lead your people in their new land.’ The words were meant for him.At some point in this war Elros knew that the Men had become his people. For a great many years he had felt a kinship with them, even before the war, but it had heightened as they fought together and become sealed in his heart in the battle in which Tauron died. He was one of them.
As he confirmed his choice in his heart a great pain nearly overwhelmed him, for although he knew he must choose as his heart led him, he also knew his choice would separate him forever from the one he loved most in the world.
* * *
Elros awoke early on that third day, and was sitting at his table preparing himself for the meeting with Eönwë when Gil-Galad entered his tent unannounced. The king motioned for him to stay seated when he pushed his chair back to stand, and instead sat down across from him. Their eyes met, and Elros saw the pain in Gil-Galad’s. Elros lowered his gaze. Neither spoke for a few moments.
“Elrond is blind to your destiny,” Gil-Galad finally said, and there was no question in his voice.
“Yes,” whispered Elros. He took a deep breath, “Whether he truly does not see it or chooses not to see it, I do not know.”
Gil-Galad reached out and took both of Elros’ hands in his own. “You will make a fine leader, Elros, of a fine people. Your grandsire Tuor and great-grandsire Beren would be proud to see you take the mantle of leadership of their houses. From your line a great people will grow.”
Elros rose and allowed Gil-Galad to envelop him in a warm embrace, and tears slipped unashamedly from both of their eyes.
“You and Círdan have been as fathers to me, and I will miss you both,” Elros said, his voice rough. “You raised me to be who I am today.” He paused. “Elrond will not…,” Elros’ voice broke, “he will not understand, Gil-Galad. Please help him to understand.”
Gil-Galad stroked the dark hair, pride and grief and love for both of the children he had helped raise flowing through him. “I will try, Elros. I will try,” he promised.
* * *
Many eyes watched as the peredhil twins walked the long path to Eönwë’s tent. Word had quietly spread of the decision the two would need to make, and although not discussed in their presence, it had been heavily debated and discussed among both the hosts of Beleriand and the hosts of the Valar. The elves of Aman had been unfamiliar with Men prior to the War, and were curious about them, impressed with the valor with which they fought and gave their mortal lives.
Elrond felt the eyes on him, but felt less apprehension than he had the first time they had trod this path. They were led inside by the same guard, and bowed low before Eönwë again. His powerful voice soon filled the tent.
“Rise, sons of Eärendil. On this day you are summoned to choose your destiny. Are you prepared to make your decision on this day?”
“Yes,” the twins answered in unison.
“Elrond, son of Eärendil, son of Tuor and Idril of Gondolin; and Elwing, daughter of Nimloth and Dior, son of Beren and Lúthien, daughter of Melian of Doriath, how do you so choose?”
“I choose to be counted among the Firstborn, my Lord,” answered Elrond solidly.
“Your fate shall be of the Elder, Elrond Peredhil,” Eönwë answered, with a slight nod of his head. “The west is open to you, and I bid you hearken to my call to live in the peace and tranquility of that land.”
“Elros, son of Eärendil, son of Tuor and Idril of Gondolin; and Elwing, daughter of Nimloth and Dior, son of Beren and Lúthien, daughter of Melian of Doriath, how do you so choose?”
“I choose to be counted as a mortal man,” answered Elros.
Elrond jerked his head to the side, but Elros was focused on Eönwë; indeed, he seemed held in place by the eye of the herald of the High King.
“Your fate shall be as that of Men,” answered Eönwë. “A new land will be prepared for you, and you will be its first King, Elros, son of Eärendil. Long life you will be given, but the Gift of Ilúvatar not even Manwë may renounce.”
Elrond felt the sights and sounds of the tent recede, and even the voice of Eönwë dimmed and vanished from his mind. He felt the ground shake and then someone steady him as he swayed. He reached for his brother, but the farther he reached the farther away Elros seemed to be. He saw the pain in his brother’s eyes, saw Elros stretching his hand out to him too, but he could not reach him. Pain gripped him, squeezing his chest, forcing the air from his lungs and refusing to allow another breath to be taken. He felt his heart would burst, and he clutched at his tunic as if to throw off the vise that held him so tightly. Instead the vise tightened, and to that unrelenting pain Elrond succumbed.
* * *
Elros was held in Eönwë’s gaze as the Maia spoke his fate. When Eönwë released him he bowed his head, and then turned to his brother, ready to face the disbelief and hurt that he was sure would greet him. Instead he saw Elrond falling, one hand reaching for him, his name on his brother’s lips, while Elrond’s other hand clutched his tunic over his heart.
Elros’ mouth gaped open as the most beautiful female he had ever seen easily picked up his brother, and carried him to a private antechamber set up nearby. Elros did not remember it having been there before. He attempted to follow, but found Eönwë at his side, gently holding him in place. He clenched his jaw, tears pooling in his eyes.
“Estë has come for him, and Nienna waits for him,” said Eönwë kindly. “Their comfort and healing will sustain him.”
“They are Valar,” breathed Elros in awe.
“Yes,” said Eönwë simply. “Elrond was unprepared, as we knew he would be. The bond you share has been partially sundered, and his spirit, being of the Eldar, has felt it keenly. You also feel the pain, but are better prepared.”
“I did not wish to cause my brother such pain,” Elros said, a single tear slipping down his cheek.
“Arda has been marred and pain will always be with those who reside here. If Elrond hearkens to my call to sail West, he will be healed there and live in peace,” answered Eönwë gently. “Come. You and I have much to discuss about the lands being prepared for you.”
Elros allowed himself to be led away, but to his sorrow, when he felt for the bond with his brother, he found himself unable to discern the state of Elrond’s well being. The bond had already diminished.
* * *
Gil-Galad looked up for what felt like hundredth time that afternoon, wishing to see Elrond and Elros coming down the path from the camp of the Valar. They had been gone for hours and his concern was growing. Celeborn had come and gone twice, organizing the warriors into groups to prepare for departure. The earthquakes and floods continued, the sea drawing ever nearer, while the elves stood watch on the high cliffs.
With a sigh, Gil-Galad returned his attention to the reports in his hands. Elven slaves had escaped from Angband when the mountains were thrown down. Many were Noldor – his people, taken from the Noldor strongholds - and others were Falathrim – Círdan’s people captured at the Falas. They would nearly all sail west with the Valar, their hurts and pain only able to be healed there. Círdan had sent word that he had begun filling the ships with people as the lowlands began to sink into the sea. The Teleri from Valinor were tending the freed slaves and would begin transport of them to Tol Eressëa. Calendîn had sent his people east to their usual homes in Ossiriand only to receive news that the Blue Mountains were breaking apart near the Ascar River.
Gil-Galad stared towards the camp again, but no movement was to be seen or sound to be heard. He forced his thoughts back to the matters at hand, of those who might need homes yet in Middle-earth when the destruction ended. Homes for elves who would not heed the call of the Valar. Tol Eressëa was open to them, they were promised, a place where they could build their own cities and harbors. They could then all come to Valinor, even the exiles, for the ban was lifted and they were forgiven.
Most of the Noldor would go and some of the Sindar, but many of the Moriquendi would not leave their homes. Many like himself, Gil-Galad thought, who were born in Middle-earth amidst her wars and struggles, wished to live in the only home they had known in peace.
If he were honest with himself, he might admit that he did not wish to move to a settled land full of Kings and Princes, where he would have no people to serve and no lands to rule.
Elros’ voice broke through his thoughts and he looked up to see Elros finally approaching him. He seemed excited, yet Elrond was not with him.
“Elros, come and tell me what has happened,” answered Gil-Galad, relief in his voice. He stood to lead Elros into his tent, then looked once more down the path. “Is Elrond coming?”
Elros shook his head and lightly touching Gil-Galad’s elbow, let him lead into his tent. Gil-Galad frowned but entered, seating himself and motioning for Elros to sit.
“I have been sitting all afternoon,” Elros declined the offer. “I have much to tell you.” He seemed then to note the concern on the King’s face. “I will start with Elrond. He remains with the Valar, and they will continue to watch over him for the rest of the day. I was not allowed to see him, but Eönwë had word sent before I left. Gil-Galad, I have caused my brother great pain.”
Gil-Galad had watched the excitement left Elros’ face as he pushed aside his news in favor of delivering the news of his twin first. Despite his earlier statement, Elros now sat, and he even slumped slightly in the chair.
“We knew your choice would be difficult for Elrond to accept,” agreed Gil-Galad.
“It is more than that,” explained Elros, grief in his voice. “The bond we share as twins was partially sundered when Eönwë accepted my decision and pronounced my fate. Elrond looked as if he were stricken with great pain, as if I had stabbed him through the heart. He was reaching for me, and I could not help him. Estë appeared, and carried him away to Nienna. They are tending him.”
Gil-Galad sighed and closed his eyes. The image of the twins at the age of five, when Maglor had freed them, came to mind. He recalled his thoughts then, about how young they were to have lost so much. So many bonds broken – no parents, no grandparents and then even Maglor who had loved them gave them up. The weeks and months of investment in those small children had led to great reward as they grew older and seemed secure. Neither Círdan nor Gil-Galad had over-protected them, for the world they lived in was one of sorrow and grief. But this pain Gil-Galad would have spared them if he could. Choosing different Kindreds for their destiny would separate them for all eternity, or at least until the end of Arda.
A hand covered his, drawing him back to the present. He opened his eyes to see Elros kneeling before him.
“I did not wish to harm him,” whispered Elros. “If I had known of this sundering pain, I might have chosen differently.”
Gil-Galad shook his head at the words. “No, Elros. That would be the wrong reason to make your choice. In your heart you know you have made the right decision. Hidden in your eyes I see great joy at news you have received. Elrond is in the care of the Valar. Tell me your news now.”
A grin spread across Elros’s face, and he sat down across from Gil-Galad. “A land is being prepared for us to the west. It will be an island, nearer to Valinor than to Middle-earth. Andor the Valar call it, for it is a Gift of Land to Men. I have been named her first King. The Valar will prepare the land for us, and when it is ready they will calm the seas and the star of Eärendil will guide us there. I am mortal, Gil-Galad, but the Valar have promised long life to me and my descendents.”
Gil-Galad stood, drawing Elros to his feet as well, and he clasped arms with him saying, “King Elros! Congratulations!” Then he had him in a bear hug, holding him tight. “Imagine a land free of evil and deception, Elros. You will be able to build and sail and do all that you have dreamed!”
Elros laughed then, the happiness and cheer in him obvious. “Eönwë will announce this to the Men in the coming days, and when we move to Andor, Eönwë himself will come to aid us.”
When Celeborn returned, he found Gil-Galad and Elros sharing a triumphant cup of wine, and Elros was only too happy to pour another cup and repeat his news.
* * *
Elrond awoke in the warm glow of firelight, a thick blanket covering him. The bed was softer and more comfortable than anything he had slept on since leaving Balar decades earlier. A dull ache within notified him that all was not well, and he began to wonder where he was and why. He started to sit up, but found himself restrained by a slim hand on his shoulder.
His mind was unable to form words adequate to describe the ethereal beauty and tranquility of the female before him. Stunned, he lay silent as she moved to kneel gracefully next to the bed.
“I am Estë,” she said in a low, musical voice. She ran her fingers across his forehead and then down to cup his cheek. He could feel a soft probe of his heart and something told him she had been there before.
A rush of memory came to him then, of the words Elros spoke and the crushing pain that had overwhelmed him. With the memory came a sudden resurgence of that pain and he gasped aloud before he could even think to stifle the sound. Almost immediately he felt a soothing calm brush his spirit and he heard the Vala speak, “Calm, Elrond. Allow the pain to flow through you.”
The pain diminished but did not leave, and when he focused his eyes on the healer again he saw not a face of tranquility, but one of great power and determination. Her eyes were like fire then and he felt her strength flow into him as well.
“Elrond, son of Eärendil, your heart bears many wounds, the scars of many losses. These wounds cannot be fully healed in Middle-earth.” Estë’s voice wove a melody about the words that surrounded and enveloped him. “The cares of this world will weigh upon you and crush your hope if you do not learn to temper your desires and rest and refresh your own spirit.”
Elrond felt as if he were floating on air, mesmerized by the sound of her voice, and yet her words confused him. “I do not understand, my lady,” he whispered.
A hooded figure appeared next to Estë, and Elrond never saw the face of the one hidden within. Her voice was haunting, and he sensed a deep sorrow within her. She raised his hand in her own and Elrond’s eyes opened wide in surprise as he felt her tears dampen his skin.
“I am Nienna, son of Eärendil. For the marring of Arda I grieve, and for all that is blemished and lost I mourn. Hearken to me, Elrond,” she commanded gently, “for it is through pity you shall replenish your own soul. You shall find hope through endurance, and in compassion for all who come into your care you shall find strength.”
A tear slipped from Elrond’s eye as his grief began anew. “My brother will be lost to me forever,” he said as the understanding of Eönwë’s pronouncement settled upon him. Nienna bent over him and he felt her tears fall softly to mingle with his own. He felt strangely comforted and his grief lessened as she spoke above him.
“Mourn freely, my child, for in this you will receive comfort.”
An understanding began to grow within Elrond, and as the meaning Estë and Nienna intended dawned on him, they both rose, and with final caresses that touched his face and delved deep into his soul, they departed. Elrond felt a great peace wash over him at their touch, and he slipped into a deep, healing sleep.
* * *
Gil-Galad and Celeborn spent the night seated beneath the starry sky. They had toasted Elros as Anor set, and the new young king drifted into sleep as Ithil began her night’s travel and Eärendil sailed overhead, the Silmaril shining gloriously and triumphantly down upon them. Few words were spoken between them, and it was Celeborn who broke the long hours of comfortable silence as Anor’s light first broke upon the horizon to their east.
“The sea does not hold sway with me and Valinor is not my home. For many an age we lived in twilight, but with Anor came evil and destruction. Morgoth is vanquished now, and we shall see what is new under the sun in the lands to the east, on the paths our forefathers walked so long ago.”
“I am glad you will be here with me,” answered Gil-Galad with a smile.
A grin spread across Celeborn’s face. “Aye, this land yet needs a king, my friend.”
Their decisions made and announced at least to each other, they resumed their patient waiting. A short while after Anor became fully visible, Elrond appeared on the path, finally returning from his audience with Eönwë.
Gil-Galad rose, but his greeting faltered as he found himself fumbling for words. Elrond was no longer a child, even in the eyes of the elves. Despite the irrationality of the thought, Gil-Galad felt he had failed him. He had seen this painful separation coming, and yet not prepared Elrond to face it. But as Elrond drew near, he merely folded him into his arms and held him tight.
“I am sorry I could not spare you this pain,” he whispered in Elrond’s ear.
Elrond did not answer, but instead drew in a deep breath and steadied himself. He pulled back, and turned to greet Celeborn. The words died on his lips as he looked beyond the elf, and Gil-Galad and Celeborn both turned to see Elros step from the tent.
The twins stood facing one another, a distance between them now where once there had been no separation. Elros took a step forward, but stopped as he saw a shadow of pain cross Elrond’s face. Elrond’s hand again clutched at his heart, but only the sounds of his deep ragged breaths could be heard. As they watched, he seemed to gain control, and he took the next few steps forward and in only a moment had his brother in his arms. Elros’ control broke then and he clutched his twin as tears streamed down his face. In that moment all was forgiven between the brothers, and they held each other as if it were their last day together.
* * *
Elrond slipped from the warmth of the tent into the coolness of the night air as the others continued to discuss the future, grateful that no one stopped him. His emotions were in great conflict, and he hoped that some time to reflect on the last two days would help to give him perspective.
Eönwë had summoned Elros at dusk, and together they had gone to speak to the Men. Elros had been flushed, excited, and Eönwë’s eyes had twinkled, reflecting Elros’ excitement in his otherwise peaceful countenance. Elrond had forced himself to smile and laugh with the others, when inside he felt as if a part of him had died. He hoped he had appeared genuine in his joy at Elros’ good fortune and happiness, and in truth he was glad for his brother. Now, however, he wished to be alone.
He walked slowly down to the same rock he had leaned against the night before, and with great weariness sank down upon it. He turned himself around slowly, until he faced west, and let his thoughts drift to Valinor. When he had awakened in the early morning hours, one of the Noldor elves of Aman had brought him food and drink. While Elrond ate, the elf told him about the peace and beauty of the land of the Valar. All hurts were healed there, and the elf told him he would feel young again. Elrond had not bothered to tell the elf that in the eyes of the elves he had only just recently reached his majority – that he was young. Then Eönwë had summoned him once again, and spoke words whose meaning Elrond did not understand.
“The way West will ever be open to you, son of Eärendil. Yet your destiny lies in the shared blood of the Secondborn. Hearken to Nienna, Elrond, and you will find your way.”
I do not feel called to Valinor, he thought. Perhaps I am too young, or not weary enough of Middle-earth. He turned, looking east, to the tent of the King. Gil-Galad had not talked about whether he would sail west. He did not know what Círdan would do. He did not think Celeborn would go. What would I do if I stayed here?
He sensed the presence of another before he felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder, the comforting touch of one he knew well. He instinctively leaned into the touch, suddenly finding he did not desire to be alone.
“May I join you?” asked Gil-Galad.
Elrond nodded gratefully, and Gil-Galad sat down beside him. They were quiet for a moment, staring at the western horizon, and then Gil-Galad began to speak.
“Many are preparing to sail West, eager to begin new lives on Tol Eressëa. Some will be reunited with families long parted, and others seek the peace and healing promised to them. The Sea calls to them and their hearts are turned ever westward.”
“Your heart, Gil-Galad, is it called west?” Elrond asked quietly.
“No, it is not,” sighed Gil-Galad. “Others will stay, as will I. I will build a new Kingdom, Elrond, and explore the lands to the east of the Blue Mountains. Our people will increase again, children will be born and grow up without the threat of Morgoth that has shadowed this last age. We will live and not just survive.”
Elrond was silent, but he felt a new tug on his heart, and realized it was hope.
“If you decide that your heart is also not called West, Elrond, I would hope that you would come and build this new Kingdom with me.”
He drew in a deep breath, ensuring he had control of his emotions, and then turned slightly to face Gil-Galad. “I would be glad to still call you my king,” he answered.
“Then come, my son, for you need to sleep so that tomorrow we may begin planning for our future,” said Gil-Galad as he wrapped an arm around Elrond’s shoulders and pulled him from the rock. “I am sure Círdan is already searching for a worthy port.”
“Círdan will stay?” asked Elrond hopefully.
“Círdan will not leave these shores yet, not while there are elves left who wish to dwell here,” answered Gil-Galad.
Elrond realized that the pain in his chest had lessened as he and Gil-Galad had talked, and a momentary panic rose in him – that he also could not sense Elros’ presence. But as he thought about his twin, he realized the bond they shared was still present, merely diminished, and he took comfort in the ache he could feel in heart. It was emptiness he would fear, for then he would know Elros was truly separated from him forever.
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Elrond finished speaking and the room remained silent, as all seemed lost in their own thoughts. A small hand covered his then and tugged, and Elrond was surprised to realize that his own hand was twisted in the fabric of his tunic over his heart. Elladan was pulling on Elrond’s hand, and when Elrond looked down at his son, the child’s expression reminded him of Elros – a mixture of fierce determination and stubbornness and love. Elrond forced his fingers to relinquish the fabric and instead engulfed Elladan’s small hand in his own.
“All is well, Elladan,” he said soothingly.
“But it was not well, Ada,” argued Elladan. “Your brother hurt you and brothers should not do that.”
“I do not think Uncle Elros meant to hurt Ada,” Elrohir broke in. “He did not hurt Ada . . . intentionally.”
“Sometimes we make choices that cause others pain, but if it is the right choice,” explained Elrond, pausing as his own thought seemed to stun him, “then you must make it regardless of the pain it causes.”
“Was Elros’ choice the right one, Ada?” Elrohir asked.
Elrond felt his breath catch as the pain and emptiness in the spot of his fëa reserved for Elros swept over him. His mind flew over several thousand years of history, of the rise and fall of Númenor, and the rise of the Kingdoms of men in Middle-earth. He thought of how men and elves had stood and fought together, how the weakness of one man had destined them to have to fight again one day. But did the current state of the Men of Westernesse reflect whether Elros’ decision was right? Would another have been named King if he had not? Would he have been as good a leader as Elros? Better? Worse? How was he to know if Elros’ choice was right?
“I think it is too . . .,” began Elrond, his voice trailing off. He drew in a deep breath and looked at his sons, now both clinging tightly to him. “Elros believed it was the right choice.” He raised his eyes to meet those of Celeborn and Galadriel, who had joined them midway into the story. Galadriel’s mind brushed his and he heard her words repeated, ‘Elros was a man. He had to choose the destiny that fit who he was.’
“It was the right choice,” Elrond finally admitted. He felt tears welling in his eyes, and then heard Celeborn and Galadriel coaxing his children from his arms with promises of bedtime snacks and more stories about the dragons. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and then felt the soft, soothing, loving touch of his wife on his body and in his heart. He wrapped his arms about her as she curled up next to him.
“The husband I love has been shaped by pain and separation and loss,” Celebrían whispered in his ear, her breath warm on his cheek, “but more so he has been tempered and refined into the finest gold by mourning and compassion and hope.”
They sat in silence for a while, the room darkening as Anor was hidden behind the steep slopes of their secluded valley. Glorfindel had left them quietly, his eyes dark with emotion. Alone with his wife, Elrond twisted strands of Celebrían’s hair around his fingers, watching as it sprang free each time he let the end loose. He smiled at the low sound coming from her.
“You, dear wife, are purring,” he laughed.
“And I shall growl if you remove your fingers,” she threatened playfully. She then turned to him, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Elrond, I understand what Eönwë might have meant by telling you to hearken to Nienna, that she would help you find your way, for I see evidence of this in your life. But what did Eönwë mean by saying that your destiny lies in the shared blood of the Secondborn?”
“I do not know,” answered Elrond honestly. “Perhaps he meant in the alliance of men and elves, or maybe it is something yet unseen. Isildur may have failed, but there is still strength in the blood of Men. They may yet rise to some great deed, and perhaps our fates will again join together.”
Careful to keep one hand stroking her hair, Elrond pulled Celebrían to her feet. “Let us put our sons to bed; otherwise questions will bring them to us in the night.”
Celebrían’s eye lit with pleasure. “That will not do,” she answered as she slipped her hand around Elrond’s waist. “Your time this night is already claimed.”
As they walked down the hall to their sons’ bedroom, they heard laughter and arguing pouring from the room. They paused outside the door and Elrond had to purse his lips tightly together to keep from laughing.
Celeborn sat on Elladan’s bed and Glorfindel on Elrohir’s bed, each with a child in hand, snarling at each other as the twins shouted and bounced in excitement.
“A Balrog is scarier than a dragon!” shouted Elladan, pointing at Glorfindel.
“No, the dragon is!” squealed Elrohir, motioning wildly at his grandfather.
The contest moved from snarling faces to roars and growls, and Celebrían shrugged Elrond’s hand from hair. “I will handle this,” she said.
She walked calmly into the room, not flinching at the awful sounds coming from her father or the golden one. She held her arms out to Elladan, hugging and kissing him, and then to Elrohir for the same. Glorfindel and Celeborn both quieted, watching her in amusement. When the twins were occupied with saying good night to their father, she whispered something in her father’s ear, then Glorfindel’s.
Celebrían slipped her arm back through Elrond’s then, and they left the room as the twins leaped back on to their storytellers. Elrond glanced back once to see looks of pained resignation on the faces of his father-in-law and seneschal.
“What did you say to them?” he asked.
Celebrían smiled sweetly. “Nothing, meleth-nín, but we will not be disturbed this night.”
* * * * *
meleth-nín = my love
From the Silmarillion, the ‘Valaquenta’:
Estë the gentle, healer of hurts and weariness, is one of the Valar. She resides in the gardens of Lórien with her spouse Irmo, the master of dreams and visions. The gift of Estë is rest.
Nienna is sister to Mandos and Irmo, and dwells alone. ‘She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor.’ Those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. Those in Mandos’ Halls cry out to her, ‘for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom.’
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