Chapter Two – Letter Received

Minas Tirith, July, 3019.

Exhausted, Faramir ran his fingers through his hair, utterly bewildered.  He stared in disbelief at the piles of papers littering his office.  Where did all the work come from?  His admiration for his father increased tenfold.  Before he had descended into madness and despair, Denethor had ruled Gondor and Minas Tirith with wisdom and efficiency for many, many years. 

Since taking up his own authority as Steward, Faramir had begun to realise to enormous task he faced.  In the latter months, Denethor had neglected his duties, allowing petitions, correspondence, invoices and plans to lie untouched.  It was now Faramir's unenviable task to begin to sort the urgent from the important from the frankly too late.  What was more, the influx of documents had not ceased with the accession of the King, rather, it seemed to have increased.  There were letters of commiseration on Denethor's death, and congratulations on his own accession, and the return of the king.  There were pledges of allegiance too, some from those who had bided their time when Gondor requested aid during the war, waiting to see which way the fortunes of battle swayed.  There were lists detailing the damage to different levels of the city, the shops and homes destroyed.  There were other lists, heartbreakingly long, of men, women and children who had been killed in the siege.  There were details of children orphaned, and destitute widows, who would have to be sheltered and provided for – somehow.

With a weary wave of his hand, Faramir indicated a table groaning under the weight of paper.  "Belegund, help me please.  Look at that, what you deem vital pass to me; deal with everything that you can and file away anything that is simply irrelevant or trivial."  With a nod, the secretary sat at the desk and began to wade through the sea of paper.

Belegund had been working solidly for several hours when he leaned back in his chair wearily.  His eyes settled on the mantel above the fireplace, and an envelope that rested there.  It was, he realised, yet another letter that had never even been opened.  About to break the seal, he realised that it was not addressed to Denethor, Faramir or the king, but instead to one of their noble guests.  It read, with an elegant simplicity,  'Lord Elrond Peredhil, Imladris'.   Clearly, it had been somehow overlooked, and never sent.  It was an error that could be easily rectified – Lord Elrond was here, now, a guest of the king.  Leaving the office quietly, Belegund went in search of the elf lord, welcoming the break and the opportunity to walk in the sun and breeze.

~~**~~

Elrond sat on the wall of the highest tier of the city, looking down as the streets and houses tumbled away below him.  It was peaceful here, a welcome respite from the tumult of the city, and a reminder of the tranquillity of Imladris.  He had found a tiny green oasis here, a place of trees and plants, of pools and waterfalls.  It had been the favoured place of Finduilas, Denethor's long-dead wife.  Faramir had assured him that the elves in the city – and any others who desired it – were most welcome to his mother's haven.

Remotely, from beyond the screening bushes, Elrond could hear the voices of his children, all of them, as they relaxed among the shaded bowers and trickling streams.  Elrohir's voice suddenly rose in a shout of laughter at some comment of Elladan's, and he found himself smiling.  This child had always been so precious to him, and could brighten the dullest day with his infectious mirth.

The sound of footsteps approaching drew his attention, and Elrond rose to his feet,  turning as one of Faramir's staff approached.  "My lord?  My lord Elrond?"  The man bowed, then continued,  "I am Belegund, Lord Faramir's secretary.  I have been assisting him in sorting and filing papers, and I found this.  It's a letter, addressed to you.  I can only apologise that it was not sent on to you before."  He presented the letter, bowed again, then left.

A little surprised, Elrond studied the letter.  It was sealed with the waterfall insignia of Imladris, and was addressed in flowing Elvish script.  He recognised the writing as one of his sons – Elladan, probably; his writing tended to be neater than Elrohir's.  Throughout their travels, over many long years, the twins had sent intermittent letters home, delivered sometimes months after they had been written, when fortune and willing messengers prevailed.  But they had always written.

He broke the seal idly, and began to read the letter.  His breath caught in his throat and he sank back down into the embrasure on the all, devouring every word.  The stark simplicity of the words tore at his heart, and his eyes blurred momentarily. 

Elladan wrote with a resigned certainty, but utterly devoid of self-pity.  There was just a lingering sadness at the sorrow his death would cause to his father – and his twin.  Elrond had not realised just how hopeless the battle at the gates of Mordor had been, how those who had marched had been prepared to sacrifice their very lives in the slight hope of providing more time for the Ringbearer to complete his task.

Elrond knew that Elladan had never meant for him to receive this letter, not now, and he thanked Elbereth that it had not been necessary.  His heart swelled with pride at the courage and fortitude of his son, walking unafraid to certain death.  Elladan had known that he and Elrohir would be a favoured target – it would not be the first time that orcs and other, even fouler, servants of Sauron had hunted them in revenge.

The words again swam before his eyes, and he bowed his head.  To his surprise, gentle hands dropped to his shoulders, caressing, and a concerned voice asked, "Father?  What is it?"  Elrohir, one of the few who could approach him unawares, stood behind him, looking down in concern.

When Elrond did not reply immediately, Elrohir reached down and took the letter from his father's lax fingers.  He scanned the letter briefly, and gave a wry smile.  "I should have guessed that he would have written to you as well,"  he commented.  "I wrote a very similar letter that same night.  I left it with Galathilion, the warden of the houses of healing here.  I took the greatest delight in burning it the day we returned!"

"I had not realised quite how desperate your situation was,"  Elrond admitted.

Elrohir nodded slowly.  "It was.  I think none of us really expected to return.  But I was more selfish than Elladan, I fear – I did not want to be alone, whether in the Halls of Mandos, or here on Arda.  Whatever the outcome, I hoped that we would be together."

They sat together on the high wall, watching the hustle and bustle of the city, the stonemasons at work rebuilding the shattered walls and defences, or repairing the docks of the Harlond.  Presently Elladan, drawn by some unspoken signal, joined them.  He saw the letter that lay between his brother and his father, and sighed.  "I meant to ask for that back,"  he said quietly.  "Faramir was not supposed to send it, not unless –"  he stopped.

"Not unless you were killed,"  Elrond finished for him. 

"Yes.  None of us expected to survive that battle – we were the bait; and Sauron took it.  We were vastly outnumbered, there were orcs and trolls all around."

"And then the Nazgûl came,"  Elrohir added sombrely, remembering.  "We were lucky.  If Frodo had not destroyed the Ring when he did, we could not have long withstood them."  He picked up the letter that still lay on the stone wall, refolded it, and passed it to his brother.  "I am glad your fears did not become reality," he said quietly.

Elrond stood then, placing an arm around each of his sons.  "As am I," he told them.  "Now come.  Let us burn this letter, together.  Let us be thankful that such bitter sacrifice will no longer be necessary."

Together, they walked back to the citadel.

Author's Notes:  I did not intend to write an epilogue to 'Letter From Elladan'.  But so many reviewers asked, 'What if Elrond *did* receive the letter?'  that I decided to pursue the idea.  This is the result.