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Thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter, and to Karri, for her wonderful thoughts regarding the potential relationship between the elves of Middle-earth and the Men of Númenor early in the Second Age.
Chapter 24: New Lives
Elrond awoke in the early morning hours after only a few hours of rest. He and Celebrían had talked long into the night about Elros, and he felt a wonderful lightness in his spirit. He glanced down at her, peacefully sleeping, and tenderly stroked her hair from her face, then bent and kissed her. She stirred, but did not wake, and he smiled as he considered his silver queen. She seemed to know just what questions to ask to cause him to remember something special about his twin, or to recall a wonderful memory of something they had done together.
He had never talked about Elros this much to anyone, and had not thought this much about their younger years together in a very long time. Through the second age discussions about Elros had been about his kingdom, about Númenor, or his people, but seldom about Elrond and Elros as brothers, as twins. Only with Gil-Galad or Círdan had he spoken personally of Elros, for they missed him too. But now his wife and his sons wanted to know their husband and father – what was important to him, what he thought, what he felt, whom he loved, what had made him happy and what had caused him pain.
I did not realize that in the silence about us as brothers I had again grown bitter and resentful about losing him, he thought. I have long known that Elros made the only choice he could make; yet it seemed like a new revelation to me. I cannot let this happen again. Elrond glanced at his wife and smiled, for he knew she would not let him.
He rose and dressed in the darkness, the sun’s light barely peeking through the trees on the cliff above them, and decided to check on his sons. He had been surprised that with the Balrog and Dragon roaring contest the night before, he and Celebrían had not ended up with one, if not both, of their sons in their bed. He entered their room quietly, and nearly burst out laughing.
Glorfindel lay on his side on Elrohir’s bed, his knees bent and touching one end of the bed while his head was pushed up against the other. Elrohir was spooned up against his chest, his hands wrapped in the long golden mane of hair, pulling it around him like a blanket and cuddling it to his chin. Celeborn had apparently given up such contortions, and lay on the floor next to Elladan’s bed, Elladan sprawled out on top of him, sound asleep.
Elrond moved first to Elladan, gently prying his fingers from Celeborn’s tunic, and then placing the sleeping child in his bed and covering him with his blankets. Elrohir was easier, his small fingers gladly exchanging Glorfindel’s hair for his favorite cuddle toy. Elrond stepped back, hands on hips, as the two old elf-lords stood and stretched, and then followed him from the room.
“Your wife is cruel,” Celeborn commented as soon as the door closed behind them.
“Your daughter learned from the best,” replied Elrond with a grin.
“You are obviously speaking of her mother, as I would not inflict such torture upon another.”
“What did she say to you last night?” Elrond asked, curious.
“She thanked us for keeping watch during the night on her impressionable children, who might have scary dreams of balrogs and dragons,” said Glorfindel, yawning.
A smile crossed Elrond’s face as he considered the Lady of Imladris. A mother lion when it came to her cubs, or himself, he thought wryly, yet she was gracious and hospitable to guests; ran the house as if she had been organizing and caring for many people her whole life; and commanded his warriors – and her father – fearlessly and with great humor. He gave a sigh of satisfaction. Gil-Galad had told him before the war to marry Celebrían, that he would find no greater love and no better wife. Gil-Galad always was a good judge of people, he thought.
“I am going to go soak in the hot spring,” said Celeborn.
Glorfindel stretched again, pondering his morning run against the thought of hot water soothing his contorted muscles. “I will join you. So will Elrond,” he decided.
Elrond arched a brow in response to his seneschal speaking for him, but decided it did sound like a fine idea.
The baths were quiet at this time of morning, and they had the large hot spring to themselves. The three were quiet for some time, enjoying the soothing warmth in silence. Elrond closed his eyes as his mind reviewed all that he had to do that day, foremost being to check on Albast. He expected improvement today.
“Elladan said last night that he wished he had known King Gil-Galad,” said Glorfindel unexpectedly.
Elrond opened an eye and looked at Glorfindel, who was wide awake and watching him closely.
“I wish Gil-Galad could have known my sons,” he agreed.
“He would have cherished them like grandsons,” said Celeborn.
Elrond opened both eyes and sat up straight. He eyed the two before him, wondering what purpose they had in speaking of something so obvious, yet something which obviously could not be.
“Of this I am sure, but it was not to be,” he finally answered.
“But they can know him through your memories,” said Celeborn gently.
Elrond closed his eyes again, his fists clenching and unclenching under the surface of the water, as he considered both Celeborn’s words and why he spoke them.
“In some ways you have changed little since you were a child,” Celeborn continued, his voice soft and unusually gentle. “Even then you held all your emotions inside. Only with Elros would you really let loose and laugh or cry. Gil-Galad was steadfast after Elros departed, and perhaps he was one of the few people who you let get close to you. Now you have Celebrían and Elladan and Elrohir, and you do laugh and you love them, but you have kept part of yourself hidden from them too. Until these history lessons and stories were started, you had not spoken of Gil-Galad or Elros, or of your life before this age.”
Elrond’s eyes opened in a flash of fury clearly seen by Glorfindel and Celeborn. His anger died, though, as he really looked into the faces before him. He had long been able to read the hearts of others, and what he read here was love and truth. He suddenly wondered why their words had angered him.
“You lost your mentor, friend, king and father on that battlefield a century and a half ago,” Glorfindel said. “You have settled back into Imladris, you care for all who pass your way; you have even found love in Celebrían and now you have your own children to love too. You are a fine father and husband; and you lead your people and your house wisely. But you had locked away your old life since returning from Dagorlad. Share your memories of Elros and Gil-Galad. Let others know who they were through your own stories and experiences with them.”
Elrond listened to the words and a litany of emotions raced through him, though the shadow that had crossed his face was visible only to those who knew him well. He knew about grief; he had certainly mourned the passing of those he loved. He felt anger that they were bringing this up at all, anger that they would bring it up today after he awoke feeling so refreshed from talking to Celebrían. But were they not saying the same thing he had told himself this morning? Had Celebrían not just said this past night how glad she was that he was sharing this part of his life with her?
He again closed his eyes, and this time they remained mercifully silent as he gathered his thoughts. When he next looked at them, he unshuttered his emotions and they saw the depth of his feeling, the depth of his grief. They had not caused him new wounds with their words; they had merely allowed him to see old wounds that had never fully healed. Gil-Galad’s death had been a terrible blow to them all; that he and so many others had died for only a temporary victory only salted the wound.
“You are both right,” he finally said with a sigh.
The patter of small feet on the stone interrupted them, and they watched as Elladan and Elrohir flew into the room. Their faces lit up with joy at seeing three of their most favorite people together, and they began stripping off their night tunics immediately. Celebrían entered at a more sedate pace behind them, an indulgent look on her face as her now naked sons jumped into the pool, splashing water over their father, grandfather and Glorfindel.
The twins immediately swam to their father, and Elrond found himself hugging those slippery little bodies close to him. He kissed them each on the head before returning his gaze to Celeborn and Glorfindel.
“For them, Elrond. They deserve to know you and to know about those you loved,” Glorfindel finished.
“Your clean clothing is here,” Celebrían gained her sons’ attention and pointed to the low shelf. “Make sure you wash your hair.” With a smile and one last rather maternal sigh at the relaxing elves in the pool, she left the bathing room.
Elrond looked at his sons, now bouncing in the water and splashing water at one another. He smiled as Elladan shrieked when a large hand closed about his foot and his grandfather began pulling him through the water. He did want them to know about Gil-Galad and Elros, and he did want Celeborn and Glorfindel to tell them about Eärendil and Elwing, Tuor and Idril, Dior and Nimloth, Beren and Lúthien and Turgon and Melian and Elu-Thingol. His sons were descendents of people both ordinary and extraordinary, and were fortunate to have elves like Glorfindel and Celeborn who could tell them first hand accounts about their ancestors. The same feeling of lightness he had felt earlier that morning floated over him again, and he slipped under the surface of the water and tickled the bottom of the smaller sets of feet. He heard their delighted cries even below water, and surfaced between them.
“Ada, this is fun! We should all take baths together more often!” Elladan laughed, then splashed water at his father.
Elrond laughed as he agreed, and then began washing his sons’ hair. He saw the glance shared between Celeborn and Glorfindel, a rather triumphant look, and then they were climbing from the water, leaving Elrond to finish with his children. He watched them go, silver and gold, and shook his head. They argued and fought like small children sometimes, to the absolute delight of the twins, and yet they were obviously working together when it came to Elrond.
He played with the twins for a while longer, then helped them to dry and dress. As they ran ahead of him to the dining hall, his thoughts turned from Elros and Gil-Galad to Celeborn and Glorfindel, and he smiled. He had been fortunate in each age to have beings such as these around him.
* * *
Elrond heard laughter and talking as he entered the healing rooms, and he was unsurprised to see Albast sitting up in his bed and eating breakfast. A smile lit Albast’s face as he saw Elrond, and Elrond noted that the man’s color was vastly improved, and his eyes were clear and bright.
“Good morning, Master Elrond,” said Albast cheerfully.
“A fine morning it is indeed,” replied Elrond, “for you have improved much in the night.”
The faces of the healers who had faithfully changed bandages and cared for Albast beamed with pleasure as they stood near him during Elrond’s examination. Elrond carefully inspected the wound on his leg that had been responsible for the infection that had nearly claimed his life, pleased when his touch did not cause further pain. He could not help the small smile that tugged at his lips as he ran his fingers lightly over Albast’s face and neck, wrists and hands, and down his ribs.
“No fever, no swelling, and well on the mend,” he pronounced. “We will recast the leg in several days, and have you on your feet with aid not long after that.”
Albast grinned. “Thank you, my lord. I hope I will see my small friends soon, then, too? They are a balm for the soul and their entertainment has helped pass many a long hour.”
A true smile did cross Elrond’s face then, and his whole demeanor softened. “Elladan and Elrohir have been most concerned for you, and are only awaiting word when they may see you again. They have spent hours planning the picture they will paint on your cast.”
As Elrond moved away, he thought how glad he was that there would be a cast for his children to paint. They were so young, and while he would not hide truth from them, he was more than willing to let lessons of mortality wait until they were older. The years of childhood were short enough without adding such burdens.
* * *
Elrohir carefully wrote down his questions, then folded the scrap of parchment and tucked it into his tunic pocket. At a nod from Istuion, the brothers raced out the door, glad to be done with lessons for the day. They ducked under the arms of big elves coming in the front door of the house, and then jumped off the porch and rolled in the sweet smelling green grass.
“Let us go ask Daerada if we can practice archery today,” suggested Elladan.
“He will say no,” answered Elrohir after a moment’s thought.
“We could find Glorfindel and see if we can practice with our training swords.”
“He will say no, too.”
“How do you know?” asked Elladan in an exasperated tone as he sat up, crossing his arms over his chest and staring at his twin.
“I heard Ada tell them that we could not practice every day. It is not good for our growing bodies and our bones need to rest because they were broken,” explained Elrohir.
Elladan flopped back down in the grass, and rolled to lie near his twin. “How do you find out about these things? You knew about Nana and Ada kissing like they did in the library too.”
Elrohir shrugged. “I do not know. I just hear things, I guess.”
“What other things do you know?”
Elrohir chewed on a blade of grass for a moment, thinking. “Remember how we wondered why Daerada painted a gown on my cast? I heard Daerada telling Daernaneth that Erestor put that dress in Glorfindel’s pack.”
“Erestor?” said Elladan in disbelief.
“Glorfindel thought Erestor put a gown in his pack, and Erestor thought Glorfindel did something to make his hair smell funny. But Erestor did not do it,” replied Elrohir with a giggle.
“Nana!” answered Elrohir through his laughter.
“But how do you know this?” Elladan sat back up and poked his brother in the shoulder.
“Daernaneth told Daerada that Glorfindel and Erestor were planning to do something and it was exasperating Ada. So Nana got them both first!”
“Our Nana?” asked Elladan incredulously.
“Our Nana!” laughed Elrohir.
“When did you hear this?”
“In the garden yesterday.”
“What did Daerada say? Does Glorfindel know? Does Erestor know? Did Daernaneth help?”
Elrohir dissolved in giggles again. He finally sat up, and held up his hand to stop the questions, just like Ada did when he wanted them to stop talking. “Daerada seemed very proud of Nana and said she was a credit to them, whatever that means. I do not know if Glorfindel or Erestor know. But I do not think Daernaneth helped. She did not sound like she did.”
Elladan leaned back into the grass again, crossing his hands over his chest as he stared at the bright sky. “Our Nana did that,” he repeated proudly.
“We have a very good Nana,” agreed Elrohir.
* * *
Dinner was finished, but the twins had not asked to be excused. Instead, Elrohir waited patiently at his father’s elbow until Elrond had finished speaking, and then carefully laid out his piece of paper.
“Ada, Istuion asked us questions about the First Age today, and we could answer almost all of them,” explained Elrohir, pointing to the paper.
Elrond picked it up, and looked at it closely. “Your penmanship is improving nicely,” he said. “The fate of the Silmarilli and the name of the new city Gil-Galad founded. These are the questions you did not have answers for?”
“Yes, Ada. I do not think you have told us that part of the story yet,” said Elladan.
“I think we can finish the First Age and tell a little about the second age for tonight’s story,” said Elrond.
Elrond’s pronouncement was met with grins of delight, and the twins danced and skipped their way from the dining hall and towards the family sitting room. Elrond offered his arm to Celebrían, and they walked slowly after their children. Once settled together on the large couch, Elrond said, “Now where did we end last time?”
“Elros made his choice and you forgave him because it was the right choice, Ada,” Elrohir reminded him. As he spoke the words, Elrohir patted his father comfortingly on the leg.
“Even though it hurt you,” added Elladan, a little fiercely. “You were going to go with Gil-Galad to build a new kingdom. And Círdan was going to stay, and Daerada and Daernaneth.”
Elrond smiled at their very good memories, while also noticing that hearing Elros’ choice spoken of this way did not cause his heart to ache. Glorfindel, Celeborn and Galadriel had followed them into the room, and he looked at them and smiled. In that moment of silent communication they acknowledged his unspoken ‘thank you’, and he knew no other words were necessary.
“We had moved to the highest spot on the hills of Dorthonion, and the Valar were holding back the floods. The lands were soon mostly covered in water, and we were waiting for the ships to come to us . . .”
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
Night had descended on the camp, and for the first time in recent memory nearly everyone was relaxed, sleeping or involved in discussions of the future. The hills they were camped on were now surrounded by water and for several days now there had been no signs of any enemies.
Elrond leaned back against a log, watching the camp activity with curiosity. The elves had split into two divisions: those who were sailing west and those who were staying in Middle-earth. The men were visiting with both groups, for their immediate plans involved staying with those elves who would be remaining in Middle-earth, but they were fascinated by the Valar and spent time speaking with those elves who would be moving to live among them.
He watched as one figure left the group of men and approached him. Elros had been full of joy these last few days as he discussed the future with the men of the Edain. Elrond had purposefully kept his distance, for he sensed that he was a damper on that joy. The shock of Elros’ decision had finally diminished, but Elrond found acceptance was slow in coming.
He shifted slightly as Elros sat down next to him, their shoulders touching, and Elros leaned into him. Elrond felt the tension in his brother, and shifted again to maneuver Elros in front of him. He began to massage Elros’ neck and shoulders, imparting calm and healing in his touch. It was several minutes before Elros began to speak.
“I knew the moment Eönwë looked into my eyes which destiny I would choose. I gave it no thought, did not even consider what I was giving up. My spirit heard the promise to Men, the chance for them to throw off the yoke of slavery that they fled from years earlier, but which had pursued them. My heart heard the promise made to me, to be able to lead them into a new life. I had no fear of mortality, for it seemed to be a promise and a gift to leave the weariness of life when I tired of it.”
Elros paused, his eyes closed, as he relaxed into his brother’s touch. Elrond had determined he would listen, and he concentrated on soothing the tension from his brother’s body. After a moment Elros continued.
“You are my earliest memory. You protected me, picked up the pieces when I tried new things, and were always there when I came home. You always loved me, always listened to me. You are the one person I cannot imagine leaving, and yet I have chosen to do just that.”
Elrond gripped Elros’ shoulders and buried his face into the black mane of hair before him. He bit the inside of his lip to hold back the tears, tasting blood. Elros’ fingers covered his, and he could feel Elros’ chest heaving as he struggled to control his breathing. It was several moments before Elrond could speak.
“You have been fascinated by our human heritage since you were old enough to understand it. You have long seen the good in Men, and all they could accomplish given the opportunity. You have led men in battle. But in all your interactions with Men, you lived among Elves. It never occurred to me that you would choose their fate to continue with them. It never occurred to me that you would leave us.” Elrond’s voice broke.
“It does not mean that I love you less,” answered Elros, his voice shaking.
“I will love you until time ends,” Elrond said, and a single ragged sob escaped him as he considered how long he might exist with emptiness where his bond with Elros belonged.
Elros turned and pulled Elrond into his arms, and a low growl escaped him as he felt Elrond tense and shutter all that emotion inside of him.
“Do not hold your pain inside! I would rather you were angry at me!” Elros shook him.
Elrond drew in a deep breath and raised his eyes to meet his brother’s. He could not be angry with Elros; he would not burden his brother with his grief. He pulled from Elros’ arms, and resumed his ministrations on the tense shoulders. Even as Elros relaxed against him and accepted his comfort, Elrond could feel tears splashing down on to his hands from their tracks down Elros’ cheeks.
* * *
Gil-Galad watched from the shadow of his tent as the brothers talked, and then Elros passed by him and returned to his tent in the early morning hours. He waited to see if Elrond would follow and seek the rest of a more comfortable bed, but it appeared he planned on spending the night on the hard ground. Elros had found release in tears and a soothing touch; Elrond seemed determined to remain stiff and cold. A slight sound caught his attention then, and after a moment he realized what he was hearing. He pulled a blanket from the tent and then walked to where Elrond sat. He sat down in the spot where Elros had been, wrapped the blanket about Elrond’s shoulders and then pulled him into his arms.
“Still so stubborn; still trying to be strong for your brother,” Gil-Galad scolded him gently.
The dam broke then, and shuddering sobs racked the slender frame in his arms.
* * *
Dawn had not yet come when a strange light was seen in the distance. The first rays of the light seemed to spread through the sea, moving through the water quickly, far faster than the tide could carry it. It then emanated upward and into the sky. At the same time a brilliant flash of light lit the mountains, the earth quaking and then rising in a sheath of orange light that spread out across the surface of the earth, seeping deep into her chasms and then rising high above her surface. The light rising from the sea joined the light rising from the earth, and the Star of Eärendil set forth a sudden burst of light as they all met.
Gil-Galad had watched in wonder, and a number of elves who had been awake walked near. Murmuring, they questioned what they were seeing.
“The light can only be from the Silmarilli,” Celeborn finally said aloud.
They all watched as the light faded, and then Anor rose and the day began. Before they could even seek answers about the strange light, the guard watching on the highest hill point called out more news: the ships had arrived. An array of ships approached, the beautiful swan ships of the Teleri, and Círdan’s beautiful ships of natural wood and white. The ships dropped anchor in the deep water, and then small boats were lowered and rowed to the shores.
Elrond watched as those paddling the small boats from Círdan’s ships pulled the crafts on to the shore and came to greet long missed friends and family. Those who paddled the small boats of the Teleri remained in their crafts, though they appeared equally glad to see those they had dropped off so long before. Eönwë appeared then to speak to Gil-Galad, King Finarfin with him.
“The Silmarilli have gone to their homes, where they will remain until the end of Arda,” Eönwë said, answering the question lingering from the morning. “Maedhros held on to the end, and cast himself with the Silmaril into a fiery chasm of the earth. Maglor has cast the other into the sea.” Eönwë paused as he looked over the camp, then turned his attention to Gil-Galad.
“The time has come to leave these shores. Ereinion Gil-Galad, are your people prepared?” Eönwë asked.
“Yes, my Lord,” Gil-Galad answered.
“Do you sail east or west?”
“I sail east, my lord, though many others will sail west,” Gil-Galad answered.
Eönwë studied the still-young elf, while behind him the face of King Finarfin reflected sadness.
“I understand the tie to the land of your birth,” Eönwë finally said. “It has been a joy to know you, Gil-Galad. Come when you are ready.”
Finarfin then stepped forward, and with grief in his eyes and voice, he embraced his nephew. “I had wished to bring you home. Know that you will be welcome, when you do come.”
Finarfin drew Elrond into his embrace next, and he traced his long fingers over Elrond’s face, from his forehead to his chin. “I am memorizing you, son of Eärendil, that I might adequately describe you to Elwing. Come soon, Elrond, that the scars of your heart may be healed.”
Elrond found he could not speak, but fortunately Finarfin did not seem to expect him to. He watched as Eönwë moved among the men and elves, speaking to those who would stay and those who would go, organizing them and sending them to appropriate ships. He saw Eönwë come to Elros then.
“Elros, son of Eärendil and first King of Andor: Stay with the elves of Middle-earth and aid them in building their new kingdom. When your land is prepared, the Star of Eärendil will guide you to your new home. I will be there.”
Farewells were said, and ships were loaded, and the majority of the ships sailed West, while Círdan’s minority that would be staying in Middle-earth sailed east. The sun was setting as the last sails were seen on the horizon. Elrond and Gil-Galad had been the last to board, and now as they watched the ships disappear into the sunset, they heard a familiar voice.
“Ereinion! Elrond!” Círdan called.
Círdan stood before them, silently surveying them, and Elrond and Gil-Galad both smiled as he looked them over. While his words were few, the embrace he pulled them into spoke of his love.
“I have found a perfect place to build a port, on either side of the new bay where the Ascar River used to run. The lands of Ossiriand west of the Ered Luin have survived. The shape of the earth has changed, but already Galadriel has sent out scouts to map the land. A small village has been built on the southern shore, and all from Balar and the Edain who were rescued from along the coast are already there.”
Elrond listened as Círdan laid out the plans to them, his mind noting all Círdan said and all the questions Gil-Galad asked, but his sight was drawn to a ship near theirs. It was the Mîriel, and Elros was at her helm. He felt Círdan’s arm slip around his shoulders then and Elrond leaned unconsciously into that comforting presence. Elrond suddenly thought of the way that Círdan had taken over the direction of Elros from a young age, pointing him on paths that allowed him to meet and interact with men, build and sail ships, and in many ways prepare him for the destiny he had chosen. Elrond looked at Círdan then, and Círdan fell silent as he met his gaze. There was pain there, Elrond thought, but also acceptance. Elrond thought of the ships they had built long before war had come and of the foreknowledge Círdan had gained from the Sea, from Ulmo and Ossë. Círdan had prepared Elros for this time, he realized. He opened his mouth, the words about to pass his lips both questioning and accusing, but Círdan held up his hand for silence and Elrond had been long trained to obey that command. Instead, Círdan pulled him close, and he buried his face in the white beard, and in both of their eyes Elrond was five years old again and learning to trust in what he did not understand.
* * *
Círdan had begun assembling the people and ships a week before the Star of Eärendil appeared in the sky and stayed present even in the morning light. The seas grew abnormally calm, and it was with great excitement that the Edain gathered at the docks in the harbor of Lindon.
Elrond walked out of the palace in Gil-Galad’s kingdom of Lindon and followed the brick streets to a garden overlooking the Havens. In only thirty years they had built a city, fortifying her walls and havens against any enemies that lay beyond them to their east, and work was well underway to the North in Mithlond, where Círdan would rule the second haven. The Edain had aided them, and in turn developed tools and skills, textiles and other items they would need in their new home.
He knew they were anxious to be settled and have their own kingdom and their own king. While Gil-Galad had not required any loyalty from the Men, they had lived and served under his rule. None could complain of their treatment, but they still longed to be their own people. Soon they would be free to build their own destiny far from the shadow and curse that hung over Middle-earth.
Elrond watched as people began boarding the ships. It would take most of the day, and they would sail when Elros determined all was ready. He saw his brother calling orders and moving through the chaos below, solving disputes and problems with calm and grace. Elrond was torn between an overwhelming pride in Elros’ abilities, and the knowledge that today was the last day they would spend together. They had not spoken the words, but both knew that they would never see each other again. A clean break from Middle-earth and all ties to her shores, thought Elrond.
By late afternoon the ships were loaded, and still Elrond sat beneath the arbor in the gardens above the havens. He knew Elros had seen him, and would come when he was ready. He turned his gaze away as Elros said goodbye to Gil-Galad.
He sensed his brother’s presence before Elros came into sight, and he stood to meet him. Elros walked to him, and the two stood facing each other for a long moment. Each reached out at the same moment, hands tracing the line of the face, the curve of the cheek and the cleft of nearly identical chins. Elros took his face in both hands then, and kissed him on each cheek, then ran his hands down Elrond’s shoulders, to his arms, and finally took both hands in his.
“Goodbye, my brother,” Elros finally said, his voice sounding strangled.
“Farewell, Elros. May the Valar guide and protect you, and may you live long and well in this new place,” Elrond managed to say.
Elros pulled him into his arms, and they embraced. For some minutes they stayed like that, and Elrond memorized the feel and smell of his brother, the feel of his heartbeat and the depth of his breaths. Elros finally pulled away abruptly, and walked away without looking back. He ran down the path to the havens, and up on to the docks and on to the Mîriel. The gangway was pulled back, and Elros steered the ship from her dock. Some of the ships would be staying with the Edain in Andor, but most would be returning with their crews and captains. Círdan was at the helm of the Alphiel, long his favorite ship.
Elros turned the wheel over to another as soon as the Mîriel had left her berth, and he climbed into the rigging, up to the crow’s nest. He stood against the mast, watching the land recede from sight, until he could no longer see Middle-earth or his brother.
Elrond watched the ship until he could no longer see even one sail on the horizon. Still he sat in the garden as darkness fell; the Star of Eärendil, though, still shone brightly as it led the ships westward. It was the darkest hour of the night before he rose and walked back along the brick paved streets of Lindon.
The fountains bubbled, and the lanterns were gaily lit, as they were every night. Elves danced and sang in small groups in the streets, and many of the songs were for safe passage and joyous life for their friends, the Edain. He entered the palace, the guards nodding to him respectfully as he passed, and walked the silent halls to his suite of rooms. He entered the antechamber, and noted that someone had left a lantern burning for him in his study.
He pushed open the door to find Gil-Galad sitting in a comfortable chair before the fire, his feet stretched out on a footstool before him. Elrond moved silently to sit down in the other chair, and accepted the glass of wine Gil-Galad offered to him.
They raised their glasses, and Gil-Galad said softly, “To new lives.”
The glasses clinked, and they sipped the wine in silence.
~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~
“Oh, Ada,” said Elrohir and he rested his cheek against Elrond’s as he hugged him. “I am trying to be happy for Uncle Elros but I am too sad for you.”
Elladan had both of his arms wrapped around his father’s arm, and Elrond could feel tears against his hand.
“Do you see now why Albast and the other Men like him are special to us?” Elrond asked gently.
“Yes, Ada,” sighed Elrohir.
“It was a time of joy,” said Elrond, surprising himself with the words. “Morgoth was bound and evil banished, at least for a time. Gil-Galad was right – it was a time for us to live and not just survive. Living in Lindon was unlike anything I had experienced before.”
“Was this the Second Age, Ada?” asked Elladan.
“This was the very beginning of the Second Age, and a time of peace in Middle-earth.”
“Will you tell us about living then, Ada? Did good things happen?”
“Many good things happened in the Second Age, Elladan. I can name two quite easily,” said Elrond. His sons both sat up and waited expectantly for him to continue. “Your Nana was born, and Glorfindel returned.”
Elrond found his lap quickly deserted as his sons turned to their mother.
“Well, I can tell you about the first time I saw your father, and how handsome I thought he was and how I fell in love with him. . .” Celebrían explained, laughing as she was cut off by groans from her sons. “Well, perhaps I could find a story more to your liking. Although. . .,” she paused dramatically, “Glorfindel helped to drive Sauron from the land, and could tell you what it is like to be the mightiest and bravest warrior the second age has ever seen.”
The whoops of delight as the twins dove on top of Glorfindel made everyone laugh, and the golden warrior scooped up the twins effortlessly and stood.
“At least some people recognize mighty feats of courage and bravery when they hear of them. Come, I will tell you my story . . .” With a wink and a grin, Glorfindel carried the twins from the room.
“Who knew that a mighty Balrog slayer would make such a fine nanny?” mused Celeborn.
Galadriel stood with a long suffering sigh and held out her arm for her husband to rise and depart with her.
Once they were alone, Celebrían moved to curl up at Elrond’s side. He pulled her close, his hands delving into her hair to stroke the beautiful mane in the way he knew brought her pleasure.
“Did you ever see Elros again?” Celebrían finally asked.
“No, although a few letters were exchanged when Círdan’s ships met Elros’ on the seas. I knew he married and had children. He said his oldest son was much like me, and this was both a blessing and a curse to him. His wonderful humor came through even in his letters.”
“Did they send word when Elros passed from this life?”
“They did, but there was no need,” answered Elrond slowly. “The emptiness I had long feared descended upon me one day while I was in Gil-Galad’s court. The bond that tied us together was just a mere thread at that point, but I always felt it. At times that thread brought comfort and at times it brought pain. Then it was gone, and only emptiness remained. I am not sure there are adequate words to describe that hollow feeling.”
“Is it still there, this empty feeling?” asked Celebrían tenderly.
“I think it will always remain, but I have learned how amazing the heart is, and how resilient the soul. Around that empty spot new bonds have formed, and their strong threads insulate and protect and strengthen the spirit, so that the hollowness is but a tiny gap in a finely woven tapestry.” He leaned down to kiss her gently on the lips, and brushed a tear from her cheek.
“I love you, Elrond,” she whispered.
“And I you, my silver queen,” he replied, “for so long as time exists.”
* * * * *
Final Author’s Notes:
The Silmarillion does not say how the elves knew that Maedhros and Maglor had met the ends that they did, so the descriptions of the light are my own liberties taken to show that something occurred that the elves could see. “Unfinished Tales” tell us that Círdan’s ships and sailors transported the men to Andor (Númenor) and left some of their ships there. I could not find any information to suggest that Elros and Elrond had much contact after Elros departed Middle-Earth. I think a clean parting was best, given time, distance, the need for Men to build their own lands and kingdoms, and the ongoing heartbreak that would otherwise occur between the two brothers. The Númenorians sailed back to Middle-earth in the year SA 600. Elros died in SA 442.
I had considered adding a few scenes from Elrond’s life to the end of this story, but have decided to hold off as I consider whether I wish to tackle the Second Age (or maybe the Third Age - can you see Elladan and Elrohir teaching Estel?). These included Gil-Galad’s death, Arwen’s birth, Celebrían’s departure, and Arwen’s decision. Each one is another significant event – but most are another blow, another loss, to this incredibly tragic character. It seems that all he loved were taken from him, some temporarily and some permanently. All of these things except the last had occurred by the time of “The Hobbit”, and yet Tolkien described him thus:
“He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.” (“The Hobbit”; ‘A Short Rest’).
It was a challenge and a pleasure to explore some ideas of what made Elrond into the person described above, despite his many losses. Thank you to all who read, and especially to all who encouraged me with reviews and emails.
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