Epilogue - Eldarion
For three years after the death of Elfwine, Eldarion was not seen by men.
The heir of Gondor came out of Meduseld after leaving the grieving family, and came across a sight that drove a barbed spear through his heart. Three boys, two with dark hair, one with a fair mane, playing outside Edoras. They were, inevitably, Elfwine's grandchildren, or possibly children from Dol Amroth or even Ithilien that were being fostered in Edoras - the tradition had become popular - but that was not what Gondor's prince saw.
He saw three boys, strangers in the world, in search of glory and grand adventures and unaware that boyhood did not last forever. Eldarion suddenly could not breathe. Time had stolen from him all that which mattered and he could not cope with the agony. He took to horse and left Rohan, never to return. He did not go to Arnor, which he had been shepherding for decades, but instead went into the forests of Ithilien and vanished.
Eldarion ceased to be and Whisper emerged.
Alone with his grief and his loss, the prince went deep into himself in those three years, seeking and finding a strength he had never known he possessed. Seemingly, with the last anchor to his childhood severed, Eldarion was at last able to truly grow up.
He returned to Arnor in 103 and dug into the chore of reforging the northern kingdom with boundless energy. He had learned to plan and organize from Elfwine and Elboron had taught him everything he needed to know about leading men. It was a task of epic proportions, but he never once paused or faltered for seventeen years.
As has been written before, King Elessar felt his strength eroding and in the year 120, he summoned his son home to pass him the crown.
Eldarion gazed sadly at his father, knowing arguing was futile. And loss was something he had made a home for in the hollow of his heart. But there was some part of him that could not yet let go.
"Father...can you not wait a few years? You are strong and healthy yet. Let me take the burden of the crown from you. Give yourself a few years of idleness with mother, at least..."
Elessar, gray of hair and much reduced in stature, smiled fondly at his son. "I thank you, Dar, but such time is not mine. The years are rapidly catching up to me, I fear."
Eldarion squared his shoulders and nodded, moving to hug his father. "Thank you, father, for all you gave me. And all you taught me."
Elessar hugged his son tightly, clapping him on the back. "You have always made me proud, my son. Gondor is yours, and I know she is safe with you."
There was a great deal more that Eldarion wanted to say, but there was not truly anything else that needed to be said. Though he had his father had never been very good about speaking to each other, their feelings had never been hard to determine.
The love between them was too heavy for words anyhow.
And so Elessar took the Gift of Man, as has been written. And afterwards, Arwen made ready to depart Gondor forever. She spent time saying goodbye to all of her children and did her best to set their hearts at ease.
Eldarion's pleas were as futile with her as they had been with his father. She allowed him only to escort her as far as the border and then she insisted they say goodbye.
He clung to her like the little boy he had once been and squeezed his eyes shut, as if by doing so he could block out the truth of her leaving.
"Always my little star," she murmured in Elvish.
"I love you, mother," he told her and then he made himself let her go. He turned his horse and rode back to his kingdom, the hollow in his heart that much more painful.
Eldarion ruled Gondor with the same mixture of compassion and strength his father had always demonstrated. The peace he had inherited he made endure, staying in constant contact with his vassals and the King of Rohan. The Haradrim were quiet and Mordor remained barren and empty.
The matter of a wife and heirs was a difficult one, for his heart would truly only ever belong to one person, no matter how long Elboron had been dead. Eldarion met and courted one of Barahir's descendents, and he grew very fond of her. But he did not deceive her about the fidelity of his heart, and he was relieved to find that she was accepting of that. After all, the romantic tales of Elboron and his princely love were family treasures.
The two were wed in 135 and their son was born but a year later. He was named Elmiron and he brought to Eldarion a tremendous sense of peace. The King of Gondor was often found sitting in the babe's room, in the dark, just staring at the crib with a happy smile upon his face.
King Eldarion did many great works during his reign, but he easily conceded his father's rulership had been greater. He would laugh when comparisons were drawn in his presence and ask who exactly could hope to compare to Aragorn Elessar?
Elmiron grew into a strong and thoughtful leader, and Eldarion was proud. He was also aware that the bloodline that had bred so true in him had not done so with his son. His heir would live a long time, but not so long as his father or grandfather.
That was a loss Eldarion was quite certain he could not take.
He chose the year 200 to surrender his throne to his son. Elmiron was, at that time, already starting to grey. Eldarion's own hair had barely begun to turn, a fact many were regarding with wonder and jealousy.
In the year 201, he decided to abandon Gondor for good. He and his son bid each other a warm farewell and then Eldarion, no longer King, struck off west. He skirted the northern border of Rohan, staying well away from areas that would bring up memories of innocent days of careless fun. His course was unspecific, his purpose more in the journey than the destination.
His wandering steps, though, brought him to the faded glory of Lorien, and he stood before Cerin Amroth and knew he was at the place his mother's grace had come to its end.
Rather than sorrow, he felt peace, and he laid down upon the green grasses and closed his eyes and slept. And in his dreams he saw a great ship awaiting him, which filled his heart with joy.
When he awoke, it was nightfall. And he was not alone.
There were two figures silhouetted in the moonlight, and he knew them immediately to be elfkind. And more. Their identical faces bore too strong a resemblance to his mother to be anyone but Elrohir and Elladan.
Their smiles put him at ease.
"Your wandering steps have carried you far from home," Elladan told him serenely.
"Please forgive my brother. He feels obligated to speak in prose," Elrohir remarked, helping Eldarion up. "We've been waiting for you."
"Waiting...? For me? But how could you know I would come here? I didn't even know..." Eldarion had spent decades among men and had forgotten much of the more subtle workings of the world.
"She told us you would come, years ago. She told us to watch for you, that she would guide you to her." Elladan shot his brother a warning glance, daring him to make another sarcastic comment.
Elrohir rolled his eyes. "He did, actually, sense you coming. He's very proud of himself."
Eldarion laughed a little, still disoriented and confused. "But...why? What is this all about, uncle?"
"We have lingered long to catch the last ship from these shores," Elladan remarked.
Elrohir sighed, tucking a braid behind his ear. "We've been waiting for you, nephew. I imagine there has been a ship in your dreams, eh?"
Eldarion's heart began to hammer in his chest. "Yes..." Oh the longing within him was almost enough to make him weep. "But...is it not forbidden?"
"Not forbidden, just...restricted," Elrohir conceded.
"Do you think your mother would not bestow what grace she could upon you? All of our family who went into the West, never to see her again, they all anxiously await the arrival of her firstborn."
Eldarion's heart filled, and at last that aching void within him subsided. His weathered face split into a boyish grin, the likes of which had not been seen in many a year. "Then, pray tell, what are we waiting for?"
His uncles laughed heartily at that, for they were still boys themselves. The three traveled quickly south and then west through the Gap of Rohan. Their path became a familiar one to Eldarion, who recalled fleeing along the banks of the Isen to escape an insurmountable pain.
In some ways, he was still doing so. But this journey was not just about escape. It was about realizing a dream.
They arrived at the inlet where the Angren emptied into the sea - the very spot where Eldarion had stopped all those years ago - and found there a ship waiting for them. It was the ship that the son of Elessar had dreamed of since boyhood.
With a great enthusiastic smile, Eldarion followed his uncles aboard. The years of loss, the decades of responsibility, they all fell away. He was off on another adventure, and his beloved friends were with him in his heart. All was just as it should be.
So the last of the three friends departed Arda forever. His life after reaching the white shores was one of happiness and peace, and while it did not last forever, it was a long and wonderful life. However, as happy as he was, and as content, he never again knew such happiness as he had when the heir of Ithilien and he had kissed on one lightning-torn night in a place that now no longer existed.