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Elvish Translations: Namarië: Farewell, mellon: friend, melamin: beloved, tenn' omentielva enta: until next we meet
Bonds of the Heart
The night is dark and peaceful, its blackness enfolding me in a comforting shroud as I stand on my balcony in Imladris. I stare out over the gardens and forests, letting my eyes wander the paths my feet have traveled so many times. I know them by heart, of course—can envision each bush and tree. But still I walk them, marveling at each new blossom, reveling in the sheer power of life that Vilya had helped me harness.
Yet Vilya was dead now, and the valley faded with her. I knew the moment when the hobbit Frodo completed his quest. There was a stunning absence of power, of the support that I had depended on for many centuries, and I knew. Vilya and Sauron were both dead. I still wonder that something so small as Vilya could hold such power, and could have been controlled, albeit indirectly, by such evil power as the One Ring had held—a piece of Sauron himself.
I still remember the night Gil-Galad gave me Vilya. We were two days' march from Mordor, when my King and dear friend summoned me to his tent.
Elrond made his way through the lonely camp, his passing silent as the shadows. The tents about him were dark; most of the men were asleep. Most—but not all, it seemed, for Gil-Galad had sent a page to summon him.
When he reached the complex of tents at the center of camp, Elrond was unsurprised to see more than one tent lit with flickering candlelight. All the commanders were worried about the upcoming battle. Gil-Galad, however, was the only one outside of his tent, his pale face turned to the stars. Elrond went to his side, sharing the comfortable silence until Gil-Galad chose to break it and disclose the reason for his summons.
Finally Gil-Galad sighed softly and turned to his herald. "Come and sit with me, Elrond," he said, a hint in his voice of weariness deeper than that which sleep could cure. "I would speak with you of this battle."
Something within Elrond stirred at those words, a vague unease so deeply rooted in his subconscious that he nearly missed it. Yet it must have put an edge on his voice when he answered Gil-Galad with a nod and a soft "As you wish, my lord," for the high king looked searchingly at Elrond before allowing him into the tent.
Within, Elrond found Gil-Galad pacing his tent. For a moment as the candlelight flickered, Elrond saw Gil-Galad striding forth arrayed in shining armor, Aeglos in his hand, the fumes of Orodruin swirling about him. A great dread gripped Elrond's heart in iron claws as the black mists gathered into a shadow, haunting Gil-Galad's step, drawing ever nearer…
"Elrond? Elrond!" He opened eyes he did not know he had closed. Gil-Galad stood before him, clothed in tunic and leggings, a hand on his shoulder.
For several moments Elrond did not speak, the sudden terror shining in his eyes. "You must not go to battle, my lord!" he whispered finally, voice soft with a fear he did not attempt to hide.
Gil-Galad regarded him searchingly for many minutes, and then turned away. "And what would my men say, Elrond, if I did not? The battle would be lost before it began."
"But my lord, my foresight—" Elrond began, struggling to express the horror of his vision.
Gil-Galad interrupted him. "—lies not. Yes, Elrond, I know this. Yet perhaps you read this vision wrong." Elrond said nothing, dropping his gaze to hide his frustration.
"It matters not," Gil-Galad continued. "I shall go forth to battle, for there I am needed." Elrond heard the words as a death-knell, but still said nothing. Gil-Galad stilled for a moment, his back to Elrond. "Yet perhaps…perhaps some precaution might be taken, in case this vision proves true."
He turned and went to Elrond, who had still not raised his head, attempting to master his emotions before he looked again at his lord. Taking the Peredhil's hands in his own, Gil-Galad regarded them thoughtfully. "You wear no jewelry upon your fingers," he remarked teasingly. "Have you found none who might share your heart?"
Elrond's gaze flew up to meet his lord's. "No, my lord, I—" Elrond stopped as he felt Gil-Galad press something into his right hand. As the high king stepped back, Elrond opened his hand to find a slender silver ring, unadorned but for a small stone the color of deep water. A light seemed to shine from within it; even without slipping the thin band upon his finger, Elrond could sense the power it exuded.
"Vilya." he breathed, a part of him quivering with fear that he had spoken its name aloud.
Gil-Galad smiled grimly. "Aye, Vilya. The Ring of Air, gifted to me by Celebrimbor. Long have I borne it in secret. It would grieve me indeed to see such power for good fall into the hands of Sauron the Deceiver. Thus, if your foresight prove true…"
Elrond gazed at him in shock. "But my lord, I am not worthy—"
"Worthy?" Gil-Galad chuckled. "Mellon, I know no other more so. I have no heirs. You know me and my ambitions best of all my counselors. If I fall in this battle, I would entrust my people and their future to no other."
"As you wish, my lord," Elrond bowed his head briefly, trying to hide his doubts.
Gil-Galad approached Elrond and grasped his shoulders lightly. "You came to me, many centuries ago, an Elfling searching for his place in the world." Gil-Galad smiled fondly. "I took you in, and in my house you learned much of history and war and politics. Yet you also learned patience, and wisdom, and leadership. You have a good heart, Elrond, and a strength not unlike my own. With Vilya you will achieve much. Our people will follow you, and you shall lead them well." He raised Elrond's head until their eyes met. "Do you not trust my judgment, mellon?"
Elrond swallowed once, his sorrow outlines in the creases of his face. "I trust it, my lord," he answered softly. "You have been as a father to me. I shall not forget you."
"I should hope not!" Gil-Galad smiled briefly. "But you should not cling so to my memory, nor should you judge yourself by it. You are your own man, Elrond, and a good man. Have faith in it."
They shared a quick embrace, and as they parted Elrond noted the weariness in the high king's eyes. "You should sleep, my lord."
Gil-Galad sighed. "I know it, Elrond, and yet my sleep is restless and my dreams ill."
"Nonetheless you should try, my lord," Elrond said.
"I shall. You should rest as well, mellon," Gil-Galad said, and Elrond left, but his dreams too were ill, and he found little rest that night or the next.
To my deep sorrow, I had seen truly. Gil-Galad fell, and Elendil with him. Even now I shy from the memory of that battle. There, within the Crack of Doom, I failed. I allowed Isildur to escape with the Ring. Many blame the events of the Third Age upon that moment, and upon the weakness of Men, but I know better. Weakened by sorrow for my king and ever-pervasive self-doubt, my strength failed.
Unlike Isildur, I survived, leading the Noldor back to Imladris, where we built a haven from the world. I threw myself into my work, trying in vain to escape my memories and inner torment. Yet they followed me into my dreams, whispers that haunted the paths of my thought until I felt I would go mad. The shards of memory cut at my heart like glass, clear in my mind but painful to relive. I sincerely believe that, had I not been occupied with the ruling of a realm, I might have faded. I had little to hold me here; I had no family and few friends, none truly close enough to inspire me to remain. I closed myself off from the world, taking no lovers, allowing none to claim my friendship.
And then the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien summoned me to their sunlit forest to discuss the future of Elvenkind. Many were invited to that council, and many decisions made, not the least of which was the formation of the White Council. Yet a bond still more important was made there as well, for beneath those golden canopies I met Celebrian.
She was beautiful. Not merely in body, though her exquisite features never failed to tease a smile from my lips. No, Celebrian's true beauty was within. She was so easy to love, bubbling with happiness and an infectious love for life. Her laughter soothed my wounded heart, bathing it in kindness and understanding. She was the one person to whom I could unburden my heart, knowing that I would see only compassion shining from those green eyes. Making the step from friends to lovers was so natural; politics played little part in our proposed marriage. Celebrian's acceptance of my proposal was the first time in my life I was moved to cry for joy.
I loved her; perhaps too much. When she was brought to me by my sons, broken in body and spirit, her enthusiasm for life withered into a husk of its former brilliance, the sight nearly broke me. I do not think I will ever fully comprehend how I managed to survive the year she spent with us before her departure. I could heal her body, but my love and determination was not enough to cure her troubled soul. Every glance, every word from her was a further reminder of how I had failed her, another dagger in the heart which she had so carefully mended when first we met. When finally she made the decision to depart for Valinor, I found in my heart both anguish and relief.
Celebrian took a few steps onto the salt-encrusted wood of the deck before she turned back to face her family. She stared at them each for long moments; first the twins, then Arwen, and Elrond last. He saw in that gaze the sorrow she felt at her own inability to face her inner turmoil, and he knew that he had not been able to hide completely his own anguish at his failure. As she regarded her children, he also saw there a calm acceptance, though acceptance of what he did not know.
Elladan and Elrohir stepped forward first to bid her farewell, and Elrond moved his gaze to the Sea. He was holding to his composure by a thread, and did not wish to relinquish it before his children. No, he must be strong for them; he must show them a path to accepting the fate their mother had chosen.
The Sea rose and fell, breathing like a living creature. Elrond felt a deep trepidation at the idea of Celebrian traveling so far upon that unsteady road. He supposed it was a childhood fear, borne of his mother's death by water and his father's disappearance. Perhaps he had always known that the Sea held his father's heart more completely than he and Elros ever could.
He had done his best to show his own children unconditional love and affection, as had Celebrian, though she often spent time in Lorien as well. He hoped that it would be enough of a bond to pull his children through this tragedy. He hoped his bond with them would be strong enough to retain his own sanity.
Elladan spoke first, always quicker than his twin to display emotions. Elrond could not force himself to look at them, but he easily made out Elladan's words. "We are sorry, mother."
"Do not regret, Elladan," Celebrian replied, and though Elrond could not see her, he could hear the kind smile in her voice. "Were it not for you, I would not be here at all. At least you may see me when you make the Sea-crossing."
Elladan spoke no more, bowing his head to hide his sorrow. Elrohir stepped forward and embraced her. "You shall be ever in our hearts, mother," he said in a soft voice.
"As you will in mine, dear Elrohir," she replied. "You have both made me proud. I regret that I will miss so much…"
Arwen moved to stand beside the twins as Elrohir drew back. "We shall have many stories for you when we join you in Valinor, mother. You shall relive it with us."
Celebrian's voice was strange to Elrond's ears when she answered. "Yes, you shall tell me much, dearest daughter. For you shall have a husband, and children as well, will you not?"
Arwen laughed, though it sounded strained to Elrond. "Perhaps I will, mother. But none know what the future will bring."
"No, indeed. That is why mistakes are made," Celebrian remarked. "Yet I hope that you, my dear children, shall make very few before I see you again. Farewell, all of you."
Then each bade her a safe voyage and returned to Cirdan's house, their soft shoes making little sound on the stone quay. Finally Elrond was left alone with Celebrian, and he found that as he gazed at the beautiful, changed face of his beloved wife he knew not the words to speak.
Instead he embraced her, holding her for many long moments, relishing the feel of her warm body against him, the soft fabric of her dress beneath his fingers. It would be long before he held her thus again, this he knew. His task was not yet finished, nor would it be for many lives of Men.
Finally he drew back enough to look into her eyes, and she met his gaze steadily. There each read the emotions that words could not express. In each they saw a deep anguish, tainted by regrets, surpassed only by a love that had bound them for millennia and which would endure until the very ending of the world. In each they saw the tears they both refused to shed, the words they could not bring themselves to speak.
They stood thus for long minutes in silence. Then Celebrian broke it, laying her head against his chest as if to hear the beating of his heart. "I shall await you. Every day I shall look eastward and think of you."
Elrond paused a moment, not immediately trusting his voice. "It will be a long wait," he said finally.
"I know." Celebrian replied, and Elrond felt her soft smile against his chest. "But I shall wait nonetheless, for I shall not be truly whole until we are reunited."
"Each day I shall look westward and think of you," Elrond said, smiling sadly into her golden hair.
"Yet think not too much of me, dear husband," she said. "For you have duties and tasks which must share your thoughts, and which shall have great effect upon this Middle Earth."
"I know, melamin," he said, sighing. "I know."
Finally she pulled back and met his gaze, and they came together in a last, tender kiss. As their lips met each felt a sudden surge of emotions deep within them, which found expression in that final act of love. When their lips parted, both reached up to wipe away tears.
Without another word Celebrian turned and boarded the boat, disappearing below decks, and the ship began its journey. As it passed between the cliffs of the harbor Elrond realized he had never bid Celebrian farewell. "Namarië, melamin," he whispered as the wind carried the ship into the horizon. The finality of that word struck him suddenly like a physical blow, and he could no longer hold back the tears. Yet as he knelt there upon the quay, shoulders shaking with the force of his sobs, it almost seemed that he heard her voice upon the wind, "Namarië, melamin, tenn' omentielva enta…"
For a very long time after that even my beautiful Imladris brought me no joy, though in my work I found a sort of distraction from my pain. I think perhaps the only reason I held on after she passed over the Sea was the knowledge that I would one day rejoin her. That belief has sustained me for many centuries, along with the support of my beloved children. I am grieved beyond words that they will not join me in my journey to Valinor, but Arwen's future lies with Aragorn, and the twins are yet too attached to Middle Earth to leave it. I know not what their choice shall be, though they have been given more than three millennia to ponder it.
I remember well the indecision that gripped me for many years as my choice neared. Elros and I had lived for only eight centuries, yet we both felt an anxiety, a subconscious knowledge that our choice must be made soon. I thought long on my choice, and tried to guess what Elros might choose, because he was dear to me and I did not yet wish to part from him. Yet finally I realized that I must choose not by Elros's desires, but by my own. And then I looked into myself and saw that my choice was clear.
Though the banquet was splendid, a rich feast for all the senses, Elrond could bring himself to do no more than pick at his food. Less than two weeks ago he had made his choice, and it could not be retracted. He had gone to Maglor and told him, and his foster father had smiled on him and said, "At last thou hast chosen. Your brother has already come to me. When he returns from the patrol I shall order a feast, and thou shall each announce thy choice." But what Elros had chosen, Maglor would not tell.
Elros had returned late this afternoon, though messages had already warned Maglor and Elrond of the date of his arrival, and thus preparations for the feast were in progress. Elrond had been unable to corner Elros for a decent conversation, managing only a question or two in the privacy of his twin's room before Elros reported to Maglor. Elros had evaded Elrond's questions, an answer in itself. Still, Elrond dreaded to hear the words spoken aloud.
At the head of the table Maglor rose and addressed his people, and a knot of anxiety twisted in Elrond's stomach. In a few minutes his agony of ignorance would end, and a new pain begin. "My lords," Maglor began. "We have not always judged the Valar's decrees fair, but in one matter they have been just indeed. Elros and Elrond, twin sons of Earendil and Elwing, descended from both mortal and immortal blood, have been given a choice, to be made by them and them alone. Shall they be counted among Men or Elves? They have now chosen, and would announce it here."
Then Maglor nodded to Elrond, and he knew the moment had come. For a moment he hesitated—had he made the right choice? But no, in his heart he knew it to be the right decision. Elrond would walk this path, alone if Elros chose so, knowing that it was what his heart willed.
Elrond stood, maintaining a serene façade only through great determination. When he spoke, he was proud that his voice was steady.
"I choose to be numbered among the Eldar."
He did not look at Elros, seated a couple of places away, though he could imagine the quick spasm of grief passing across his twin's face. Maglor nodded in acknowledgment, and Elrond sat. Still, he did not look at Elros.
Maglor gestured to Elros, and the other twin rose. Elrond could keep his gaze from his twin no longer; as Elros stood, Elrond could see the tightness in his jaw and shoulders that belied his composed expression. Yet he did not hesitate, speaking in a strong voice:
"I choose to be numbered among Men."
To Elrond, the words were as final as the stroke of a sword. He glanced away quickly, not trusting himself to maintain his composure if he were to meet his twin's gaze. For a few moments silence reigned throughout the hall as the assembled Elves accorded the announcement its due weight. Gradually conversation returned, initially concerning the twins' decisions, and then moving to other topics. Some came to Elrond and offered congratulations, and he treated them as politely as courtesy dictated. He could bring himself to do no more; well-wishes and cheerfulness seemed like morbid humor after his twin's declaration. When Maglor called forth the minstrels for entertainment, Elrond could no longer endure it. He excused himself and retreated to the privacy of his rooms.
Elros came to me only an hour later. I let him into my room, no longer hiding my feelings. I was angry with him for many years afterwards; angry that he should separate us, that he should be so cowardly as to choose death, he who had always been braver than I. We spoke many words, very few of them in polite tones. He was angered and hurt that I could not accept and understand his choice. I eventually accepted his decision, although I never understood it. To this day I respect Men for many things, but I would not choose to be one of them.
Fortunately those were not our last words. Elros remained with me for many more years, awaiting his future. Yet it was plain that he was not content among the Eldar, for I was not alone in my incomprehension of his decision. Many confronted him and argued with him, as if by doing so they could change his mind. At first I too had done so, until I realized the futility of it; I knew better than most the nature of our oath. It had been sworn, and it could not be retracted.
He was shunned, though never openly; those who had once been friends or acquaintances merely found others to associate with. But perhaps I am unfair to them; many were my friends as well. For his part Elros also withdrew into himself, until even I no longer felt as though I knew him.
There was a hill a few miles from the city that he would ride to sometimes. It was a lonesome, windswept hill from which one could see in all directions. He would sit there for hours, thinking and waiting and looking west. I know; I followed him once, and he invited me a few times. We would sit and talk about many things, but never the reason that drew him to that hill.
And then one day he returned from such a ride, his face alight with purpose. Ulmo, Lord of Water, had come to him and shown him his fate: to become King of the Edain, who would dwell upon a sacred island far from Middle Earth. He was eager to depart, afire with the passion of new ideas.
That night Elros invited me to his hill, and we spent our last night together. We hid nothing of ourselves. We wept our sorrow upon each others' shoulders, we laughed as we recalled moments of joy and merriment, and we shared our hopes and dreams for each other. When finally Elros departed there was no anger between us, only a strange mixture of sorrow, love, and pride.
As he rode out of the courtyard, his tall form shrinking into the rising sun, he looked to me a true King of Men. I cherish that image, for it was the last time I saw him.
My own destiny revealed itself more slowly. I went to Lindon, where I served Ereinion Gil-Galad as a scribe and then a councilor. I thought often of Elros, though we exchanged no letters.
I continued my studies of lore and history, and the library of Lindon became my second home. It was a welcoming place, with large windows looking out over the palace gardens, a crackling fire that was always lit, and a multitude of comfortable chairs—the most comfortable in the entire palace, I always thought.
I learned much there; perhaps that was the reason I was elevated so quickly into the position of councilor. Though I was competent enough in strategy and swordsmanship, I much preferred the council room to the battlefield. While Gil-Galad eventually asked me to lead his armies, I did not take up military duties until the situation became truly dire.
It was during this time that I became great friends with Gil-Galad. He counted all his councilors friends, but he and I became particularly close companions. And thus I was content in my own life, though an ache remained in my heart where my love for Elros still resided. Yet a small, buried part of my mind still knew that one day the faint connection I had always felt with my twin would break.
Elrond stared at the half-filled page of parchment on the table before him and tried to concentrate on the droning voice of his fellow councilor, Nadrith. Surely he would say something important in the next few minutes…Elrond's notes comprised a few statements of the previous speaker and a few scribbled lines of poetry that had come together in his mind as he attempted to listen to Nadrith. The man was competent and gave good advice, or Gil-Galad would never have promoted him to the status of councilor. But he also seemed to be particularly talented at finding the most uninspiring words to explain his ideas.
Elrond glanced at Gil-Galad, seated at the head of the table and giving every appearance of listening attentively. He caught Elrond's gaze, and Elrond rolled his eyes almost imperceptibly in a gesture of annoyance at Nadrith's long-windedness. The corner of Gil-Galad's mouth twitched slightly in agreement, and he sat forward abruptly, as if having suddenly understood something. Nadrith stopped speaking immediately, and the rest of the council turned their attention back to the present discussion.
"Councilor Nadrith, you are saying that this human trader should be allowed to enter the city and sell his wares during the summer festival, and if he is successful and causes no disturbances, we shall allow him to trade here regularly?" Gil-Galad asked.
Nadrith bowed his head slightly. "Yes, my lord."
Gil-Galad smiled. "I think it is an excellent idea. What say the rest of the council?"
He asked each in turn, beginning with Councilor Minrelon at his left, and circling the table until he came to Elrond at his right.
Elrond nodded briefly. "I agree—"
He stopped speaking suddenly as a shaft of pain lanced through his chest, as sharp as a blade. White light burst before his eyes and a sweet song filled his ears, awakening a strange longing in his heart. The next moment the pain and the vision had passed, leaving him wide-eyed and breathing hard.
Gil-Galad's face was full of concern. "Elrond? Are you well?"
Elrond swallowed before replying. "I…I am not certain, my lord. I think I shall step outside for a moment." He bowed to the council and quickly left the room.
Outside he leaned against the wall, allowing himself to concentrate on his body. Though he had chosen life as an Elf, the blood of Men still ran in him, and it made him susceptible to sickness, though perhaps less so than other Men. He had learned to recognize it in himself, using the heightened self-awareness that the Elves had taught him.
Yet as he examined himself, he became increasingly aware of a strange emptiness left behind by the pain. It was not a physical absence, but an emptiness of the soul…
And then he knew. As surely as if he held the letter in his hands, he knew.
Elros was dead.
The light, the music—it had been the spirit of Elros passing into the realm where the souls of Men dwell until the End of Days. And the emptiness was the broken bond that had existed between them. It had been so insignificant all these centuries, so easy to forget. Now its absence screamed at him with a thousand voices, driving him towards a dark abyss of grief. He teetered on the edge, the tears building, his throat contracting…
Elrond took several deep breaths and gathered his thoughts. He had told Gil-Galad he would step outside for a moment; therefore he was expected back inside soon. With a practiced self-control Elrond pulled himself together and put on a mask of calmness before turning back to the door and reentering the council room.
Gil-Galad raised an eyebrow as Elrond took his seat. "Are you certain you are well enough to rejoin us, Elrond?"
"Yes, my lord," Elrond forced out, mildly surprised his voice sounded normal. "But I would speak with you after the council."
Gil-Galad's eyes narrowed briefly; obviously Elrond's performance hadn't been enough to reassure him. "Very well," he said finally, and the council continued.
Elrond paid little attention to it, his stare frozen upon the lines he had written in his boredom.
Souls swathed in song and light
Carried upon star-paths bright
To a realm of peace and joy.
Suddenly the rest of the world faded out as Elrond's awareness became centered on those words. They awakened within him a need to release his pain, a need so great it caused him physical pain. With a great effort he held in the keening cry that strained against the walls of his heart like a caged bird. He battled against the flood of tears which threatened at every moment to overwhelm the façade of calm that he had so carefully constructed and which was supported only by his personal determination not to break down under the scrutiny of so many eyes.
An hour later Gil-Galad ended the council, though Elrond was barely aware of it. The rest of the councilors filed out, each clutching their notes and talking in low tones, but Elrond could not find the strength to rise. The emptiness that had at first been so small now seemed to pervade his entire being, robbing him of strength and sanity.
Then he became aware of Gil-Galad standing over him, worry written across his face. "My lord," Elrond said, rising stiffly. He swayed slightly as he straightened, his weariness affecting even his balance.
Gil-Galad steadied Elrond with a hand on his shoulder. "Something must be amiss, mellon, or you would not act so. Tell me."
Elrond held his breath, the three words repeating themselves in his mind. Elros is dead. That was all he needed to say, and Gil-Galad would understand. Elros is dead. Elrond said it in his mind ten times, but he could not force the words past his lips. To speak them aloud would make them real, and Elrond did not think he would be able to hold back the grief once he had done so.
"I…I would prefer we speak of this…in my rooms." Elrond said finally. Gil-Galad agreed easily, and the two of them set out for Elrond's quarters. It was not a long walk, but Elrond once again lost touch with the world, and in the end it was Gil-Galad who led them to Elrond's rooms. When Gil-Galad halted, Elrond looked up in surprise to find himself at his door.
"The key, Elrond," Gil-Galad prompted, and Elrond brought out the key, but found his hands were shaking too badly to fit it into the lock. His anguish was rising closer and closer to the surface, and he knew he could not hold it back much longer. Finally Gil-Galad gently took the key and unlocked the door himself, giving Elrond concerned looks as Elrond half-stumbled into the room.
Gil-Galad shut the door behind them, and Elrond collapsed against it, locking his knees to keep himself upright and turning his gaze to the ceiling. He felt he barely had the strength to remain standing. He swallowed hard and opened his mouth, then closed it again as the words refused once more to pass his lips.
"Elrond, mellon, I have not seen you so distressed in all the centuries I have known you. Tell me what ails you." Gil-Galad's voice was soft, inviting.
Elrond took a deep breath. He was in his own room; there were no pretenses to keep up here, no façade that he must maintain. He closed his eyes and let the first tears flow, even as he finally spoke the words he had been dreading. "Elros is dead."
Gil-Galad sucked in a breath. He did not question how Elrond knew. He merely grasped Elrond's shoulders, drawing Elrond away from the door and into the warm, strong shelter of his embrace. "Ai, mellon…"
The feel of Gil-Galad's arms around him brought back memories of his childhood, memories of Elros, memories the twins had shared and laughed at during that last night upon the hill. Suddenly the weight of his grief was too much; he slumped against Gil-Galad and sobbed, his pain flowing from him with his tears.
I do not believe I have ever fully recovered from that first confrontation with mortality. My parents had left me earlier, but they still lived. I can still turn my gaze to the sky and know that my father sees me and all I do. But Elros…Elros has gone, and I cannot follow him.
Sometimes, on the nights when I feel most lonely, I look up to my father's ship and ask him why. Why did they all leave me? Why must I, after so many years filled with friendship and love and children, now make the Sea-crossing without them? Even my books, such steadfast companions, cannot answer those questions, for many of them will not make the journey either.
A hand touches my shoulder briefly, startling me from these dark memories. Glorfindel stands beside me; I did not hear him enter, so lost was I in my thoughts. He gives me a meaningful, sympathetic look. "Elrond, mellon…it is time."
Glorfindel…dear Glorfindel. We have been close friends from the moment he bowed to me in greeting upon his arrival at Imladris. Many were intimidated, even terrified by the idea of living and working in the same household as the great Balrog-Slayer. But there is an air about Glorfindel which draws you to him; he is a vibrant light that we cannot help but be attracted to. I have not yet met the unhappy person who can hold a grudge against him.
In my journey through the past I had forgotten him, forgotten all the friends I have here in Imladris. Many will cross with me; more have already crossed. In their absence Imladris seems empty. Once she was glorious indeed, bustling with Elves. Music and laughter rang in her gardens, children played in her halls, warriors sparred upon the practice grounds. Even in the dead of night the activity never truly came to an end.
Now entire wings of quarters stand deserted, and the garden paths are well-kept but unused. With the departure of its lord the last support of Imladris will be gone, and she will fade as surely as the memory of Elves which Men now hold so dear. Not quickly, for my sons at least shall rule here for awhile. But she will fade.
I nod to Glorfindel. He is halfway to the door before he turns back. "Come, my lord. Imladris fades now. You must come, or you shall fade with her."
"I know, Glorfindel. Give me but a few more moments with her." I reply, turning my gaze one last time to look out from my balcony. Countless nights I have stood here for hours, listening to the sounds of my Imladris. Sometimes I spoke to her, for to me she is a daughter as precious as Arwen. So cruel, to deny her in her last days the comfort which I myself desire: someone with which to share her memories and her regrets, someone who will keep her company in her final hours.
At last I turn away and follow Glorfindel, moving slowly through halls which have been my refuge for millennia. Figures flit across the walls: Arwen, learning to walk; Elrohir carrying his injured brother to the healers after their first battle; Celebrian, bringing a glass of wine and a cake to me during a late night of work. Love, friendship, joy, pain, sorrow…all are etched into the walls of this house, a millennia-long story that has at last run out of characters. I read them all as I make my way to the courtyard where my horse awaits to carry me away.
When we reach the courtyard I mount quickly, Glorfindel to my right and Erestor to my left. Even the ever-cheerful Glorfindel rides in melancholy silence. I discard my thoughts for awhile, letting my eyes wander the land as we pass it, imprinting it in my memory. Part of me cannot believe that I shall truly never see this place again. I have spent so long here, poured so much of myself into shaping it. A piece of my heart shall always dwell here, if only in memory.
At last the trail turns upward for many minutes, leveling out finally at the rim of the valley. There, at the border of Imladris, we stop. All the escort dismounts, turning back for one last look. There she lies, entombed among the lofty peaks of the Misty Mountains, wreathed in fog and darkness, lights glittering in her windows. She is beautiful in her end.
I hesitate, unwilling to turn away. To do so will be to turn my back on the most memorable chapter of my life—relegate it to the books of history which I have left behind and the memories of those who have lived it. I am seized with a sudden, irrational desire to remain, to dwell in the memories of glory and joy until my days are over.
But I know that I have much yet to live for, much to anticipate. My Sea-crossing may be the end of an age, but it will be the beginning of a journey of both body and heart. There will be new experiences to enjoy, new challenges to face, new joys to savor. The thought lifts my heart a little from its mire of depression.
And I shall see Celebrian again. Celebrian—beloved, sweet Celebrian. You broke my heart when you left me, and now for the second time you must mend it with your love. I have waited and longed for this day far too long to turn back now.
With a soft smile of both sadness and joy I bow to the land that has sheltered me for the last three millennia. I built her, protected her, and gave her everything of myself, and in return she shaped me. I owe much of who I am to her.
Finally I turn back to my horse, finding the others have already remounted. I remount as well, once again between Erestor and Glorfindel. In their expressions I see a deep sadness, but also a great concern. I take one of their hands in each of mine, smiling slightly at both of them in turn. "Come," I say finally. "If we make good time, perhaps we may halt early and convince Glorfindel to sing for us."
The relief in their faces was clear. They had worried that breaking my bond with Imladris would in turn break me. But they do not fully understand. I broke no bond, for though she fades and passes from the memory of mortals, she shall live ever in my heart and the hearts of those she sheltered.