Epilogue - Homecoming
As they approached Imladris, Elrohir felt unaccountably tense. It was not that he was reluctant to be home – far from it – but he would be glad when this first day was over. He knew there would be many waiting there, anxious to greet him and grateful for his recovery. There would be feasting and song in celebration and thanksgiving for his return. He disliked all the fuss and attention, but knew it was an inevitable part of the cost of his position. Yet all he really wished to do was to retire to the peace and quiet of his own rooms. Calmacil's words of warning that he would tire more quickly than usual was still proving only too true.
The journey from Lasgalen – one which he and Elladan had made many times before – had been taken slowly, over several days. Thranduil and Legolas had sent an escort of four warriors with them, who would return with the horses loaned to Elrond and Celebrían for the journey.
To Elrohir's immense relief, the courtyard was nearly deserted as they rode beneath the archway. Arwen – who had been left to run Imladris in her parents' absence – stood at the top of the steps with a handful of others, waiting for their arrival. As Elrohir dismounted, she dashed down the steps and hugged him tightly. She was smiling, laughing and crying simultaneously. "Elrohir!" she cried joyfully. "I am so glad to see you again! I was afraid that you would not come home this time. Welcome back." She hugged him again.
He held her close, and kissed the top of her head. "Of course I came back, Ar. I wanted to tease my favourite sister. But where is everyone? I expected a huge welcome."
"Are you disappointed?" she teased. "I know you would probably prefer a quiet supper, but Erestor insisted there should be feasting and merrymaking to celebrate tonight. You will see everyone there."
Elrohir kept one arm around her shoulders as he turned to greet Erestor and the rest of the family's closest friends and advisors, and finally Glorfindel.
"Elrohir! Welcome home." They embraced briefly, then Glorfindel stepped back, studying Elrohir closely. "You look well. Better than I hoped. When your parents departed so abruptly and dramatically by eagle, I thought – well, the most we hoped for was that they would reach your side in time. That you would return to us was something we dared not imagine. Imladris was a sombre place until we had word of your recovery."
Elrohir nodded. "I know. I was lucky, and it is good to be home again." He looked around at those assembled. "Thank you, all of you. Erestor, I beg of you – at least allow us to wash and change before your feast!"
Later that evening, Elrohir climbed the stairs again, Elladan at his side. The meal had been a joyous occasion, filled with greetings and good wishes, music and songs. He had enjoyed it rather more that he had expected, surprised anew at the depth of genuine love and respect with which he was held in Imladris – but it was now over, and he looked forward to calm and quiet. He still disliked being at the centre of so much attention – and had been immensely relieved when Elladan had subtly drawn the attention to himself, launching into a vivid, amusing and somewhat fanciful account of the race with Legolas.
They reached the corridor that housed their own rooms, and Elrohir paused outside his door. "Goodnight, El. I will see you in the morning. Thank you for your performance!"
Elladan grinned. "It was not all that highly embroidered, you know – the trees really did help Legolas!" He yawned. "It is good to be home. Goodnight, little brother." He moved on to his own room, as Elrohir pushed open the door. He was about to light a candle, but hesitated, then turned and left again.
There was one person he wanted to see, needed to talk to – properly; which had been impossible during the course of the evening. Glorfindel had been a friend, advisor and confidante for many years. Elrohir had often turned to him for help – as a child he had confessed misdemeanours he dared not tell his parents about, and throughout his life had sought Glorfindel's advice on all manner of things. There was a matter now that no one else could help him with, and at this time of night they were unlikely to be undisturbed.
Knocking on the door, Elrohir heard Glorfindel's reply. "Come in!" Pushing open the door, he saw Glorfindel sitting in a chair by the window, looking up in surprise from the book he had been reading. He set the book aside with a smile and stood. "Elrohir. I thought you intended to go to bed. Come in."
Elrohir shut the door behind him. "Glorfindel, there was something I wanted to talk to you about. To ask you."
"Of course. Come, sit by the fire. Would you like wine?" Pouring two cups, Glorfindel settled in the other chair next to the fireplace, gazing at the flames. "Well?"
Elrohir hesitated for a second, wondering where to start. "Glorfindel, a long time ago you told Elladan and me about the Balrog." Glorfindel, clearly surprised at this topic, nodded. "You said …" he paused, trying to remember what Glorfindel had said so long ago. "You said you remembered falling, then nothing until you awoke. Do you recall anything else, about – about when you died?" He glanced at Glorfindel quickly. "Do you mind talking about it? I know you did not tell us the whole truth then," he finished dryly.
Glorfindel averted his gaze from the fire, and stared at his cup in silence for a moment as he shook his head. "No, I do not mind. And you are correct that I did not tell you everything then – you and Elladan were very young, and sometimes a falsehood is justified. There were details you did not need to know." He paused, lost in thought. "I remember … after I fell, I could hear a voice – there was someone calling my name. And I saw someone – there was a brightness about him; he seemed to be made of light itself. There was such a sense of peace and happiness about him, such great love. "
"Námo," Elrohir whispered.
Glorfindel nodded. "Yes." He suddenly looked at Elrohir sharply. "Why? Why do you ask this? How do you know?"
"Because I saw him too," Elrohir explained simply. "He called me, and bade me to go with him. I was sure that it had happened, but then began to wonder if it had been a hallucination, or some fevered dream. But what you describe – the love, the peace – yes, that was it."
"You saw Námo?" Glorfindel repeated. He was silent for a moment, regarding Elrohir thoughtfully. "I see."
"I so nearly went with him," Elrohir continued slowly. "If I had crossed the threshold … but I heard El calling me back. I suddenly remembered him, and realised what my death would mean to him. I knew I had to go back – but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done," he concluded.
Glorfindel nodded thoughtfully. "It must have been," he agreed. "I had nothing to go back to – and I felt such warmth, such comfort and security. It felt like some sort of homecoming. To turn away from that – I could not have done it, I think." He remained silent for a moment, clearly remembering, then looked up and smiled at Elrohir. "It is as well that you resisted Námo. For all our sakes, especially Elladan's."
Elrohir laughed suddenly. "Yes. Do you know, Námo said a strange thing. He said it was the second time I had turned away from him – yet I have never been quite that near to death before. I wonder what he meant? I suppose he could have been thinking of Elladan, when he had that poisoned cut on his arm. Even the Valar cannot tell us apart!"
"Yes, that must be it," Glorfindel replied absently.
"Glorfindel? Thank you," Elrohir said finally. "I have spoken of this to El, of course – but he does not, cannot, understand – how could he? No one else could, I think."
"So you came to me? You know I never mind." Glorfindel drank the last of his wine. "Go to bed, elfling. You may tell me you are well, but you look tired."
Elrohir nodded. "I am," he admitted. "Goodnight, Glorfindel – and thank you."
Returning to his room, he lit candles, then looked up as Elladan entered from the living room they shared.
"Ah, there you are, El. I came to give this back – I wondered where you had got to." He tossed a tunic of Elrohir's that he had borrowed at his brother. "Where were you?"
"I went to see Glorfindel. There was something I wanted to ask him," Elrohir explained.
Elladan raised one eyebrow. "Whatever did you need to talk to him about at this time of night?" he asked.
Elrohir shrugged. "Finding Námo," he explained.