Lord Círdan was kind to me, and I came to think of King Ereinion as an elder brother. He would make good time for me, and thanks to him I grew as a leader of my own people. His passing saddened me greatly, and for a brief while the management of Imladris fell into the hands of Celebrían and of Erestor.
It was Elros' death, however, that was a sore blow to me. I have yet to decide which was more painful: waiting for him to die or seeing his pale skin grow cold and grey. I stayed with him during his precious last few months in Middle-Earth; he remained strong like the monarch he was, but I could see the hunch in his posture, the unsteadiness of his veined hands. His eyes – his eyes were still as bright as ever, though. Never had I thought that I would see tender wrinkles at their corners.
When he first told me his decision, we were still in our early youth, and I thought he was not serious. I'd been curled at my window, a volume of Rúmil's poetry in my hands, when he strode right in my chamber and, in an abrupt, staccato voice, announced that he wished to join the Edain. At first I did not even raise my eyes from my book; so sure was I of Elros' loyalty to me. He was joking, trying to get me to fall off the sill, likely. It was only when the silence in the room grew tense that I looked at him; his eyes were glassy, and his lips quivering.
I had leapt up and flung my arms about his neck, nearly as frantic as I had been when we were first taken captive by the Fëanorians, and begged him to change his mind. You're jesting, aren't you? Why are you leaving me? You are my brother, my dearest friend. If you go, what will be left for me in this world? I will die, yes, I will die, and then you will regret your decision!
For several fortnights I did everything I could to convince him to stay remain our Elven kindred. I hounded him about the fort in Balar, held long talks with him by the sea, even turned up in his chamber in the small hours of the morning, in hopes of catching him off-guard and having him mumble, in a moment of carelessness, that he would stay.
He was granted his wish, but I told him I felt more connected with my Elvish blood. Elros peered at me closely. "That is not the only reason." It wasn't a question. When I turned my face away he said, "You cannot wait for them. We will not meet again." I remained silent and kept my hopes in my heart, which ached as though it would implode.
When Maedhros passed away, I allowed myself only a black tunic for mourning; no one save my brother understood. And when I heard what happened to Maglor, I searched for him myself, spending hours and sometimes days trudging along the beach. I never found him. Eventually his name all but disappeared from the records in Middle-earth. A book or two in my library, however, mentioned him; at times I'd sit with them alone in my study and lightly run my index finger across the faded letters of his name. Always, I thought with sadness, was he coupled with the words kinslayer, traitor, thief, and never husband, father, or brother. I could not blame the masters of lore; they'd have been harshly criticised, even booted out of their work, for recognising human qualities in a murderer – for acknowledging that there is hope even for a person labelled 'kinslayer'.
What sort of world do I live in? I would think with despair at times such as those. Cruelty, coldness, and lack of mercy seemed to rule the day. In Mithrandir and Círdan alone did I find true hope and wisdom. And in my family, I added silently, resolutely. And in my family.
I ruled Imladris responsibly till I could bear my loneliness in Middle-earth no more and arranged to sail.
My sons' decisions surprised me. Like their sister, they wished not to depart, and stayed behind in the realm in which they were born. I let them, of course – who am I to withhold their happiness? But I sailed to the West with Mithrandir and Galadriel and several others who wished to behold the Blessed Land, whether once more or for the first time.
Valinor was a balm that soothed my aches. I was joyfully reunited with Celebrían, and it heightened my humour to see folk who never seemed to be truly unhappy. The fields were green and stretched as far as the eye could see, the jagged teeth of the mountains were frosted with snow, and the rivers babbled merrily. Tirion was a feast for the eyes and a convenient place to live. Tall towers of white marble rose like fingers from the hill of Túna, tipped with gold brighter than Vanyarin hair, and one could hear the calming sounds of great bells every half hour. Of course, there was also the noise and the chaos and the occasional coarse city-person, but oddly, I liked the bustle; it reminded me somewhat of Amon Ereb.
For the first few fortnights I was obliged to mingle with people of high rank or calibre. It was all rather tiresome, but I plastered a smile on my face anyway. Father and I met with formal bows and strained conversation. I barely knew him. Even so, we made it a point to meet every month or so; there was much we needed to speak about. When I met my mother, neither of us knew quite what to say. We sat beneath the awning of a music shop and could barely meet each other's eyes. At length I told her she had nothing to forgive; she had done what she felt was right. How could I berate her for that? Her decision stung me, but I understood it better than I had in my youth. But here I must curb myself, else I will not stop talking; how my parents and I were reconciled is a tale for another day.
Now, I stand in the balcony of what was once Prince Fëanor's house, leaning against the balustrade. I cannot see the Belegaer, which is obstructed by hills and by buildings, but I can feel the cool sea-breeze against my face, and smell the heavy scent of the large, damask roses that straggle the weathered masonry.
"Do you think he will come back?"
I turn to look at Nerdanel, who sits on a rocking-chair with a half-finished tunic on her lap; her fingers have stopped their restless knitting. Her hair is not as red as Maedhros', and her face is rounder and paler, with a dusting of freckles across her nose. She has lost her athletic build, I am told, but she is still strong; none can call her flimsy. She watches me with an earnest, hopeful expression.
I take a long while to answer her. At length, I turn back towards the Calacirya and say softly, "Yes."