AN: Well, it took me forever, but I finally got this done! Sorry for such a long delay. As it turned out, this section is just as long as the previous chapter, so instead of an "epilogue" I'm calling this "Part Two."
Rumors are flying around that you can't do review responses anymore... Apparently, people are having their stories deleted. That makes me sad. So instead, I would just like to say THANK YOU to everyone who reviewed! If anyone has any specific questions I'd be happy to answer them through email. (just be sure to leave one!) I hope all of you enjoy this second part! Let me know what you think!
Thank you to Othrilis who read this section over.
"Mae govannen, mellyn nin," Círdan said as he stepped onto the dock. "It has been too many years."
"That it has, my friend," Elladan said as he embraced the older elf. In all actuality, it had been centuries since he and his brother had traveled this far west. "I wish we could have met again under different circumstances."
With a sad sigh, Círdan turned his eyes to the large grey ship anchored in the harbor. "I'm sorry it has to be this way, but with only one ship left, I could not in good conscious keep the others waiting any longer. I tried to tell them that you…"
"No, please," Elrohir interrupted. "We know how much others have sacrificed for us. When father left, there had only been the faintest hope that we'd have so many years to wait. You've done more then you possibly know."
Círdan smiled and stood quietly for a moment as he studied the twins. They had changed since he'd last seen them. Their hair, which had once been long, was now cut so it hung just under their chins, and they no longer wore the braids that marked their status as lords and warriors. Their pants and shirts were loose fitting with patches of bright vibrant colors, not at all like the grey and earth-tone attire they had worn in years past. He knew styles among men changed often and could only assume the brothers had followed the culture they'd lived in. However, now that they walked among Elves once more, the twins stood out sharply.
But it was not just their hair and clothing that caught Círdan's attention. Their eyes held both a depth and sorrow which he'd rarely seen in ones so young, and soft lines traced their features. In truth, they appeared to have aged in the handful of centuries since he'd seen them last, but whether in mortal years or just in wisdom, he did not know. What had caused them to suffer? Was it simply the weight of their choice, or did something darker haunt their steps?
The brothers waited patiently for him to finish his search and did not shy away from his powerful gaze. "Have we changed that much, my friend?" Elladan asked quietly after Círdan finally looked away.
The older elf nodded slowly before meeting their eyes once more. "Great sorrow echoes in your eyes, and you are old beyond your years. I do not know what you have witnessed, but something in you has changed from the young lords I once knew. Could it be that you have chosen to live as men and have simply come to see us depart?"
Sadly, Elladan had seen those same changes in the mirror-like face of this twin, and Elrohir had surely observed it as well. Until Círdan had spoken, he'd prayed the differences were small enough to remain unnoticed by friends. Perhaps they were in worse shape then he thought. "No, we have not made that choice yet, but the years have been difficult none the less. I fear what you see is the consequences of our failure to choose. My brother and I have hovered between two worlds these last centuries, and I think our bodies have grown tired of the indecision, floating between Man and Elf. Perhaps we should not have delayed so long, but the heart and mind do not always speak of the same desire."
Elladan paused for a long moment before he spoke again. When he did, Círdan was not surprised to witness a flash of intense emotion coming from Elladan's eyes and voice. Anger, sorrow, and most prevalent, regret all radiated from the young lord for the briefest of moments while he spoke. "We have seen both beautiful and terrible things. Some of those tales we will gladly tell."
"However, many we will never speak of," Elrohir added softly, his own emotion echoing his brother's.
Elladan confirmed his twin's words with a single nod but said no more. Some things they'd witnessed were simply too painful and having to relive them would reopen old wounds and damage their hearts even further. They would keep those things tightly protected in their memories until the end of their days. "When have you scheduled the departure?" Elladan asked quietly.
Círdan easily caught their desire to change the subject, and he did not press them. Perhaps there would still be time for tales and explanations. "Nearly all our supplies have been brought aboard. Most wish to sail when the tide turns in two hours, otherwise the next opportunity will be midday tomorrow. However, if you require more time, we can always delay."
"I do not think that will be necessary, but thank you," Elladan said. "I believe my brother and I will walk through the woods for a while. We will return within two hours with our final decision."
"At which time I will be waiting for you on these docks." Círdan smiled, bowed low and turned back to his ship.
The red sun was low in the sky before the brothers finally immerged from the trees. They had taken nearly the entire two hours given to them, but in the end, a decision was finally reached. They wanted to go home. They wanted to be back among the people of their youth where the days were timeless and the faces familiar.
Over the years, every remaining orc or servant of Sauron had been destroyed or driven far to the south, and then, their lives' purposes were forced to change. Elessar had declared this to be the Age of Peace, and even now, over four hundred years after his death, his descendents continued to preserve that proclamation. The twins had no one left to fight, no evil malice encroaching on what was good and pure, no unquestionable objective. Now there were highwaymen, mercenaries, and ruffians. Those were not the enemy of warriors, rather of constables, sheriffs, and lawmakers. After Imladris had been closed forever, it had been this reality that had driven the twins out of the wilds and back into the cities of men before finally settling in the fourth level of the White City.
The centuries spent in Minas Tirith had gifted them with both joyous and sorrowful occasions, and time raced as it never could among elves. People, their friends, had been alive for a heartbeat and then disappeared beyond the memories of the world. Outside of a warrior's lifestyle where the desire to form fast, deep bounds was universal, the twins found it difficult to cultivate friendships like those they had enjoyed in the past. It had taken them too many lonely years to understand that every day was important, and friendships became neglected quicker then the brothers thought possible. But they had learned, and even thought they had fought through difficult times, Elladan and Elrohir would not trade their experiences for anything.
All those years ago, an aging Eldarion had asked if they would consider opening an academy within Minas Tirith, a place where the common citizen could learn ancient lore and the vanishing ways of the elves. The brothers had poured their hearts into every aspect of that school. It had given them a purpose and a perfect way to interact with their community. They could remember the faces of every student, and they had honored them by attending every one of their funerals. It had been difficult to know that every scholar they trained would die before them. Loosing a friend to old age or illness had never been something they'd dealt with in a peace-time lifestyle. Death from battle wounds was the only thing they really had experience with. Rangers didn't generally live long enough to die of natural causes. It took the twins many years to understand the true implications of living among mortals, but their school worked as an important tool where not just the students were given an education but the instructors as well.
When the brothers had left the city a few weeks ago, preparations had been made for a new headmaster, just in case the brothers decided not to return. Unfortunately, over the years, interest in the school had diminished, and now, the number of applicants had dwindled to a little more than a dozen. Had the twins decided to return to the city as men, they would have been forced to consider a new profession in order to support themselves through their last years. Unfortunately, now the fate of their beloved academy was out of their hands, but they had faith it would survive as long as it was needed. After all, that was what they wanted, to offer Men what they could for as long as they desired.
There had been so many factors to consider when making their choice, their school being an important one. However, during their walked through the forest, the twins opened their hearts to the land and listened. As the wind blew through the leaves and the birds sang, the brothers remembered their family who had come before them. Their household was so rich in history. It was filled with many stories of great sacrifice and endless hardship, but there were also triumphant victories and enduring love. Their thoughts strayed to those who had chosen to live among men; Lúthien, Elros, Arwen… Those three had done incredible things with their unselfish decision.
Lúthien and Beren's love was legendary and conquered even death. Their uncle Elros had become the first king of Númenór and created a mighty civilization. Their sister's love for Aragorn mirrored Lúthien's passion, and Arwen supported her love in uniting the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor.
If Elladan and Elrohir had chosen the fate of men, they would certainly keep impressive company. Would their reasons have been as honorable as their ancestors'? There was no empire for them to build, no mortal to call their true beloved. The best they could hope for would be to rebuild a new household and raise families with loving wives. What would have been their reason for living as men? What could they do in Middle-earth that could not be done over the sea? It would be for the promise of death and their complete removal from the world. They had to admit to themselves that death would be their underlying reason, and it was a selfish one. It would be to surrender and a dishonorable defeat.
Aside from that truth, in the end, Elladan and Elrohir simply did not feel like their lives' calling had ended or would end in Minas Tirith. Years before, they could have convinced themselves of it, but now things were changing again, and their desires were pulling them elsewhere. They had formed a new passion. While their father had chosen healing after his warrior lifestyle, the twins wanted to teach. They sought to join together the two worlds they dearly loved, and that could no longer be done in Minas Tirith. The whims and fancies of men changed as quickly as the seasons, but the elvish community's desire to learn and study would never falter. The brothers would bring everything they had learned across the sea, and see to it that the people who remained in Middle-earth would always be actively remembered in the minds and hearts of the Firstborn.
Through the years, the pain over their household's departure, which had threatened to crush them after their father left, had been an ever present companion and had been amplified when the last room of Imladris was sealed. Now it was finally time to go home to them. Friends they had not seen since childhood were waiting for them. Their father would be standing on the beach waiting to hear the last news from Middle-earth. They longed to see their mother, healed in both body and spirit. The eradication of her tormentors had been a major factor in their delay, but now the orcs were gone and their oath fulfilled.
However, they would not look forward too was telling their parents of Arwen's fate. The twins had failed her, and while news of their sister's death had surely already reached the Undying Land, the tale of their involvement had not. Perhaps a better term was lack of involvement. This was a memory Elladan and Elrohir feared to remember. Failure to support Arwen in her time of need was an enormous regret they carried with them.
Even though Aragorn had chosen the time of his death, it still came rather suddenly and without preparation. That year, Elladan and Elrohir had decided to travel westward, simply enjoying the land. Unfortunately, they were deep in the snowy wilds of the northwest with no way of being contacted, and even members of their household did not know exactly where they'd gone. After many months of searching, Gondor's desperate messenger finally tracked them down north of the Shire, but days later, Aragorn left the world and vanished forever.
For nearly nine months, he had lingered, waiting for them. However, his mind had deteriorated faster then expected, and Aragorn feared loosing his capacity to choose. He left a detailed letter for his brothers explaining everything he could and apologizing again and again for not being able to delay. The very last line pleaded with them, begging for forgiveness…
Unfortunately, Aragorn's fate was far from their mind when the brothers reached Minas Tirith. They'd been so far west that they arrived in the city over three weeks too late, and their sister had already vanished. No one knew where she had gone, not Eldarion, her daughters, or any of the citadel's staff. Elladan and Elrohir could only imagine the anguish she felt, and fearing for her life, they frantically began their search. They did not want her to be alone.
They thought perhaps she would return to Imladris to be somewhere familiar, but after a rapid chase home, they could find no trace of her. So, they then gathered what elves they could from their household and scattered them east and south throughout the wilds. The brothers were not surprised to see how many were willing to drop everything and search for their grieving Evenstar. However, the two were still not convinced she would not come to her childhood home, and the brothers methodically tracked the roads south east, desperately searching for any sign that Arwen had been near. It wasn't until they had reached the long emptied Lórien that they finally found a trail. Unfortunately, too much time had passed, over six months, and while the signs were not that old, there was no hope of finding her still alive. Although they could never be certain, Elladan and Elrohir found a green mound where her tracks ended, and they set a vigil. Through the winter, they remained and mourned.
For nearly twenty five years, the brothers grieved, feeling hurt and betrayed. They had not returned to Minas Tirith and had rejected every attempt Eldarion made to contact them. It was during those years that Elladan and Elrohir nearly abandoned Middle-earth, toying with the idea that even the Halls of Mandos would be a better destination to relieve their suffering. They did not want to return to the cities of men and face those memories, and they did not want to cross the sea and bring this news to their parents. So instead, they wandered. Imladris continued to empty, and the enduring house of Telcontar continued to live and age.
After a fourth of a century had passed, the brothers finally returned to their valley where they were greeted by a handful of remaining elves. The years had not been kind and those who lingered could not preserve its beauty. The twins were forced to decide the fate of their home, and within five years, the last door of Imladris closed forever.
Soon after, Elladan and Elrohir returned to Minas Tirith and begged Eldarion to forgive their actions. The aging king saw a new grief in their eyes, and privately, he mourned for their suffering. He told them that all hurts were already forgotten and that through the years, he'd missed their council. Knowing that their elven homeland had been sealed, he helped them find a new residence within the city walls and asked if they would consider opening an academy. From that point forward, their lives took a new path, and it would continue across the sea. As their two hour limit approached, that was their final contemplation.
Just as he promised, they saw Círdan standing at the end of the dock next to a small ferry. The setting sun reflected red light off the water, casting a warm and welcoming glow on the older elf. As the brothers approached, they saw he had a gentle smile on his face as though he already knew the path they had chosen.
Without any words being exchanged, Elladan and Elrohir followed Círdan as he turned and climbed into the small transport vessel which waited to carry them out to the anchored ship. A promising, steady wind blew off the mountains in the north, and it carried the sent of the wilds. Together the twins turned their faces into it and took a deep breath. This was going to be their last memory of Middle-earth, the sun at their backs and the fresh breeze sweeping over their faces and through their hair.
The wind seemed to swirl around them and carried with it a soft voice which whispered only in the brothers' ears. The voice was neither male nor female, neither one nor many; it simply was. Their ears could not clearly hear what was being spoken, but their hearts heard and understood. The land was calling to them, saying that everything would be alright and giving them permission to depart.
Had this been what they had waited for? Perhaps, but either way, it was welcomed, and they felt better then they had in decades. They knew that Valinor would not be completely free of sorrow, but it would not be like anything they had known. All their years of struggle and trial were essentially over. For good or ill, men would rule over the land they'd loved, and from that day on, elves held no place in it. Elladan and Elrohir found that their hearts now completely and unconditionally accepted this knowledge and would never again grieve over it. They would miss the land they loved, but it would be as one remembers a happy childhood, full of laughter and joy, trials and forfeit, a time and place that can ultimately never be returned to. Their time here was done, and they would leave it in good hands.
With their complete attention directed to the shoreline, the brothers did not notice when they pulled alongside the tall ship and their belongings hauled aboard. Círdan gently called to them, pulling them out of their reverie. "Sons of Elrond, dwell in the past no longer, but instead come and look to the West where you will find the peace you seek." He held out his hand to them as they climbed aboard. "Stand among your people once more, and know that you leave behind only what you wish to forget."
"Indeed," Elladan said, and as soon as the ferry withdrew, white sails were unfurled, and the sea air filled them, propelling the great ship west. Gulls and other sea birds followed closely as if bidding farewell to the last of a soon to be forgotten Age. That was the last time the brothers looked east toward the trees of Middle-earth.
The wind was strong, and soon even the great mountains to the north were disappearing from elven sight. However, on board, no eyes were focused toward them. A calming peace had descended over the ship, and each passenger was lost in their own thoughts.
Elladan and Elrohir were standing side-by-side in the forward section when Círdan found them. "What do you think on, my friends?" he asked as they looked over the water.
For a moment neither elf spoke, and Círdan feared they had been too lost in thought to hear him. However, Elrohir's voice quietly rose above the sound of the sea. "Those that have taken this journey before us," he said without looking up, "and those who will greet us when we arrive."
"I can tell you with certainty that you are not alone in those thoughts." For a moment Círdan's eyes drifted down to the waterline, and he watched the waves beat rhythmically against the hull. "Who will you greet first?"
Elladan answered immediately with a somber face. "Our mother. We will tell her that we are home and that she has been avenged."