Epilogue – We'll Meet Again
As dawn broke, Elladan awoke. He felt refreshed, and realised that he had slept peacefully and without nightmares for the first time since Elrohir had died. His thoughts, as always, turned to his twin; but the pain of loss was not quite so acute. The raw, gaping hole was beginning to heal – a little – around the edges. But there was a part of him that would always be missing, and nothing would ever change that.
He crossed to the window and gazed out at the valley. It was a fine, beautiful morning in late spring. Wrapped in his sense of loss and desolation, Elladan realised he had not even been aware of the changing seasons – they had faded together into a blurred image as the years passed.
It was early, and the morning sun was just lifting over the mountains behind Imladris. Across the lawns, a haze of blue carpeted the grass beneath the trees. When had the bluebells flowered? He recalled Glorfindel's words a few days previously, and wondered what else had escaped his notice.
Dressing quickly, he crossed to the door leading into the sitting room. The fire had died, and the candles were cold. No-one had been in yet to remove the glasses and wine bottles of the night before – why should they? All knew that the room was never used now. He walked straight across the room and stopped before the door which led to Elrohir's bedroom. He hesitated for a long time, his hand outstretched to push it open, but then slowly turned away.
Not yet. That was still a step too far. The room would be littered with Elrohir's possessions – for Elladan had forbidden anyone to move them – and still too full of memories. Soon, though – before Arwen and Aragorn returned to Gondor, he would face this final hurdle.
Glorfindel was right – it was time he began to live again.
Aragorn and Arwen stayed for several months before they had to return. "Eldarion is quite capable of ruling Gondor," Aragorn pointed out. "He is grown, and ready for kingship. But we must return before the winter."
Elladan journeyed with them as far as the gap of Rohan, then turned north, travelling with Glorfindel and two guards from Imladris past Fangorn and through deserted Lórien, then along the banks of the Celebrant and through the Redhorn Pass. The last nest of orcs to infest the mountains had been wiped out in the battle when Elrohir had been killed, but Elladan still felt uneasy. He had painful memories of this place.
"Elladan?" Glorfindel questioned. "What is it?"
He shrugged. "Nothing. I will be glad when we reach Eregion, though. I do not like it here, as you can imagine."
Glorfindel eyed him warily. "Is that the only reason? You have your grandmother's foresight for evil and danger. Do you sense a threat?"
"There are no more orcs here. We made sure of that," Elladan said rather bitterly. "As for my foresight – it is useless. Premonitions and forebodings of things that may or may not happen; always too vague and insubstantial to act upon. Where was the warning when Elrohir died? There was nothing! If I had seen what could happen, I would never have let him go."
"I think Elrohir may have had something to say about you 'letting' him go or not," Glorfindel commented dryly.
Elladan shrugged again. "Perhaps. But if it meant that he was still here … who knows? Come. The sooner we leave this place, the better I shall like it." He kicked Ninglor into a trot and moved ahead. His skin still crawled. Although he and Elrohir had occasionally travelled this way since their mother's attack, he had never felt at ease here. The fact that this time it was so much worse was simply because Elrohir was not with him.
They climbed higher; the path becoming icy and treacherous. Here on the heights winter was more advanced, and they moved with great care. Dark clouds, heavy with rain, appeared over the mountain peaks as the day progressed, and as they made camp for the night the rain fell in torrents.
Elladan wrapped himself in his cloak, cold and damp. "El, for once I am glad you are not here," he murmured as he fell into sleep. "You would hate this!"
Dawn broke, cold, grey and wet. They reached the crest of the pass, and began to descend on a steep, slippery track. The rain continued, and rivulets of water and mud ran down the cliff and along the path. They rode in single file, strung out along the trail, when the downpour increased. Elladan, guarding the rear of their party, could see nothing through the blinding deluge of the horse or rider just feet ahead of him. The river of mud became a torrent, carrying stones and rubble into their path.
Faintly through the noise, Elladan heard a cry of warning and jerked his head up. He realised with a sudden sense of fear that the roar of the rain was in fact an avalanche, a great cascade of water, mud and stones tumbling down the mountainside towards them. He echoed the warning, and kicked Ninglor into a gallop as they began a headlong rush out of the path of the fall.
It was too late though; the path was too uneven for speed, and it was too far to the bend in the track that would have given them shelter. Elladan looked up, freezing momentarily as he saw the wall of rock and mud falling towards him. Kicking Ninglor again, he had almost managed to outrun the mudslide when the horse's hooves slipped and skidded on the loose rubble and they fell. Elladan scrambled to his feet, urging Ninglor to rise, when the fall hit him. He heard, faintly, as if from a great distance, cries of horror and Glorfindel screaming his name, and knew that this was the end of all things. Oddly, he could have sworn that he could hear Elrohir's voice as well, raised in a shout of warning. "El, look out!" A choking, blinding cloud of mud and rock enveloped him, and he knew that this time there was no escape. There was a brief, nauseating flare of agony as the boulders slammed into him, then there was nothing but darkness and silence.
Slowly, Elladan became aware that there was something. There was a voice calling to him patiently, gentle and full of love. He lay still for a moment, wondering where he was. The air around him seemed warm, with the sweet, fresh scent of an early summer's day, yet his last memory was of the icy mountain path, the rockfall, and the choking mud. There had been a flash of pain as he had fallen, crushed and broken beneath the rocks, as his life was snuffed out like a candle flame.
He was dead, then.
There was only a fleeting regret and sorrow at the thought, and a calm acceptance – and, surprisingly, an extraordinary sense of well-being. There was no hint of the many and varied injuries he knew he must surely have sustained. Indeed, he felt better than he had for many years; better than he had since – better than he had for a long time. He turned his head towards the voice that still called him patiently and blinked, opening his eyes to a dazzlingly bright, white light. The voice continued to call him softly. "Elladan. Elladan, wake now and come with me. Awake, my child."
Elladan blinked again, slowly focusing on the shape that hovered above him. It was a face, framed in light, old and venerable, yet at the same time – impossibly – young and full of vitality. The face smiled, and moved away a little, out of Elladan's sight. He turned his head, and realised that he lay on his back, on a hard surface that felt soft and welcoming, and slowly sat up and got to his feet. Full of awe and curiosity he looked around in an effort to locate the speaker again, but could see no-one. The voice came again, drifting gently through his mind. "Elladan. Welcome, little one."
Slowly, Elladan turned. Behind him there was a great arched gateway, shining like sun on snow. The pillars seemed to be wrought of light, but the intense brilliance did not hurt his eyes, and he could clearly see the intricate carving on the gateposts. A figure – the being he had seen before – stood in front of the gate.
There was not the slightest doubt in his mind. He knew who this was – it was Námo. Everything he had ever believed, ever read of the Valar, was true. Námo, who came to guide the souls of the dead into the Halls. Námo had come for him. Elladan dropped to one knee before the Vala, his head bowed. "Námo," he said simply as he was raised up again.
He allowed himself to be drawn closer, as Námo folded him into an embrace full of love, comfort and warmth. "Elladan. Come, my child."
With a wordless nod, Elladan stepped forward over the threshold of the Halls, still wrapped in the balm of Námo's love. And then … over the Vala's shoulder, he saw another face, familiar, beloved, and so very much missed.
"Elrohir," he breathed. "Elrohir!"
Námo stepped back with a smile, and then Elrohir was there, smiling and laughing. With a sob of disbelief, Elladan embraced his twin, hugging him tightly, fearing to let him go in case he was lost again. This was Elrohir as he had always been. Not like Elladan's most tormented memory of his twin – grey and pale; his eyes glazed, a trickle of red running from the side of his mouth, lying in an ever-growing pool of his own blood. It was not even as the last time Elladan had seen his brother – lying cold and still on the funeral pyre; his face peaceful, his hair washed and braided, free from the blood and filth that had covered him; his body draped in a richly-embroidered cloak of midnight blue that hid the hideous wounds. This was Elrohir as he had always been – warm, solid, whole and healthy; vibrantly alive. Elladan hugged him again, simply holding his brother, then drew his head back to look at him once more, brushing tears from his face.
Elrohir smiled as he released his own tight grip. "Tears, brother? I hoped you might be pleased to see me again!" he teased gently.
Elladan gave a choked laugh. "I am pleased, you great oaf! Ah, El – I missed you so much, little brother."
Elrohir smiled. "I suppose I should say the same thing – but time seems to move differently here. It just is. I missed you too – but sometimes it feels like only moments ago that I left. How long has it been – for you?"
"One hundred years," Elladan replied bleakly. "One hundred long, lonely years. I felt so lost and alone during that time – it has only been recently that I thought I could begin to live again." He remembered the utter desolation of that time, the self-recrimination at being unable to save his brother. "I felt so helpless, so useless – I knew you were dying, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it," he confessed.
Elrohir shook his head. "It does not matter, not now. You were there – that was what was important. Did you not realise that? It was the only thing that mattered, in the end. There was just one thing that frightened me – that I would die before Glorfindel found you. After that, nothing else mattered. There was nothing more you could have done – nothing more I could have done, had it been you – but what you did do was so important. I knew you would be grieving – I wanted so much to reach out to you, to let you know that I was well, and at peace." Elrohir shook his head. "I tried, but it was impossible." He smiled slightly. "A long time ago Námo showed me what would happen. Although I knew it was pointless, I found myself shouting your name, trying to warn you. It was foolish, I know – it was merely an image of what was to come. Yet I tried."
"I heard you," Elladan whispered. "Over the noise of the avalanche, louder and clearer than Glorfindel's voice. I heard you. But it has only just happened. How could it be a long time ago?"
Elrohir shrugged, unconcerned. "I told you; time flows differently here. Now, come with me."
He clasped Elladan's arm, pulling him away from the Gates of Mandos. With one hand on his brother's shoulder, he steered Elladan along a mazy path. "El, there is so much to show you here, so much I have to tell you! Námo said he would have sent me on to Valinor before – but I told you, he allowed me a glimpse of the future; and I knew you would be joining me one day. So I waited for you, and soon we will go on – together."
Elladan smiled and laughed, suddenly joyous. "Very well, little brother – lead the way!" He knew that somewhere, back on the mountainous path, Glorfindel and the others would be digging desperately through the rubble, searching for his body. He felt sadness, and a slight guilt over the grief and sorrow they would experience – and a profound sorrow over Arwen's devastation at the loss of both her beloved brothers. But she would have Eldarion and her daughters, and Legolas, whom she had always loved like a brother. She would not be alone. And now, faced with the reality of his own death, he knew that nothing could be altered. Nor would he wish it to be. He was here, reunited with Elrohir, and one day they would be released onto the shores of Valinor – together.