Please review! Reviews are always greatly appreciated and highly motivating.
With this chapter, this story comes to an end, but by no means are the tales of the lives of Elladan, Elrohir and Aragorn complete, for there is much more to tell. I have many more ideas formed in my mind, both for a prequel and a sequel to "Day and Night," but I would very much like to hear some feedback from you, dear readers, about the final chapter of this one.
The prequel is likely the one that I would write first, as it would introduce Elrond and Gilraen, two other characters whom I find utterly fascinating, and take a look at Elrond's relationships with his sons (perhaps a little different than you are used to) and Gilraen's relationships with them all.
(Shameless plug) And, of course, "I Will be Your Memory" is already a sequel of sorts to this story, taking place a month or so after this ends, so go and give it a read if you haven't already. (And don't forget to leave a review!)
One quick note on this chapter, since it comes up and some of you may not know this: "Elladan" translates from the Sindarin as "elf-man."
This is getting rather long, but one more important note: I would like to dedicate this final chapter to my beta reader and my biggest fan--my husband. He first introduced me to Tolkien's world, for which I am grateful, and without his constant encouragement, I am quite certain that none of my writing would ever have made it to the light of day. Our fifteenth anniversary is in a few days (I'm not that old—we got married young!) and I would like to take the opportunity to let him know how much I appreciate his support.
Happy New year to all!
A wonderful aroma drew Elrohir from his path of dreams. Blinking his eyes into focus, he looked around, slightly confused. Judging from the position of the sun in the sky and the lengthening shadows, it was now late afternoon. His face flushed slightly with his dawning realization that he had practically slept the entire day away.
Turning his head to the right, he saw Elladan, with his eyes tightly closed, still deeply asleep beside him. Elrohir reached over to gently touch the side of his brother's neck in order to reassure himself of his condition. With a sigh of relief, he found that his twin's breathing was deep and even and that he was merely in a healing sleep.
On his other side, Estel slept lightly and restlessly. He moved around a lot, muttering softly to himself, and a frown marred his young face. Elrohir was deeply saddened by the realization that even in his sleep he now seemed weighed down by care.
Upon sitting up, Elrohir could see that the others had set up camp and caught some game, and that the source of the delicious smell that had woken him was a pot of stew which bubbled merrily on the campfire. Though, no doubt, Glorfindel had still set a careful watch, with the elimination of the threat of the trolls he had allowed the comfort of a fire and some warm food.
The aroma drew his attention to a feeling of emptiness in his stomach, and Elrohir realized that it had been long indeed since he had last tasted food. With one more concerned glance at his brothers, he stood and joined the others around the campfire, gratefully accepting the proffered bowl of stew.
He was well into his second helping when he was joined by Glorfindel, who was smiling brightly. "It is so good to see you finally awake and, by the looks of it, eagerly filling your belly! I am sure, though, that all present can understand your desire to eat so heartily, considering the amount of time you spent in sleep and the quality of the meal."
Feeling quite content now that he was rested and fed, and, most importantly, now that his brothers were safe, Elrohir returned the smile and responded in a jovial tone: "Who could resist a meal as tempting as this? I believe I taste your skill in its creation, for no one else could produce a stew so savoury!"
Elrohir quickly grew more serious again, however, as he continued with a slight bow of his head: "Clearly you were correct, as usually you are, my captain. Truly, I was far more weary than I was willing to admit. How did Elladan and Estel fare while I slept so soundly?"
Glorfindel responded with a reassuring smile. "Worry not, for your brothers too remained asleep for the duration of your rather lengthy nap, and the rest will do them both much good as well." Turning his gaze to look at something just behind Elrohir, he then added: "Although, now it appears that one does stir, and we will soon be joined by another who could no longer resist the temptation of my cooking."
Following Glorfindel's gaze, Elrohir saw Estel approaching the campfire. The young man's mood seemed somber as he sat at Elrohir's side and accepted a bowl of stew with no response but a slight nod of his head. He kept his eyes directed toward the ground, as if in deep thought, and he began moving the food around with his spoon without taking a bite.
Elrohir frowned in concern. The youth had always had a healthy appetite and truly he should have been famished by now. He watched him play with his food for a while and, when he was quite certain that Estel had no intentions of actually eating any, he placed a hand gently on the young man's shoulder as he asked: "Estel, what say we take a short walk, if you are feeling up to it?"
Estel looked up sharply, suddenly pulled from his thoughts. He seemed to consider Elrohir's suggestion carefully before he nodded his head slightly in acceptance.
As the two stood to leave, however, Elrohir hesitated and glanced in Elladan's direction. Glorfindel had been observing all with an interested eye and, understanding the source of Elrohir's reluctance, he spoke: "Go and take your walk, as long as you remain within the perimeter of the watch. Worry not about Elladan. He will be in good hands while you are gone. I will see to it."
Casting Glorfindel a look of gratitude, Elrohir guided the young man into the surrounding woods. Throughout his childhood, Estel had always sought solace in the forests of Imladris whenever he had needed comfort or simply the opportunity to think. As he was clearly troubled, it seemed fitting that they should walk between the trees now. They walked together in silence for a while, though they had not gone far when Elrohir stopped Estel with a hand on his shoulder and motioned for him to sit on a large fallen log.
Looking at him directly, Elrohir spoke earnestly: "Tell me what troubles you, Estel."
Estel looked down, gathering his thoughts, before he responded. "I assume that Elladan told you what happened in the cave?"
Elrohir answered softly: "We did not speak much of it, but he told me a little. He told me that you healed him."
Closing his eyes at the recollection of his ordeal in the cave, Estel spoke, a slight tremor in his voice: "I do not understand what happened. At first, I nearly gave up hope. I was trapped in that dreary dark place with Elladan in dire need and no healing supplies to aid me. I knew not what to do for him and I feared for his very life."
Drawing in a shaky breath, Estel continued: "Then, suddenly, the answer came to me. It was not so much a conscious thought as an instinct, a knowledge which flowed from a source deep within. Since I was a little boy, ever have I sought to learn all that I can of the healing arts, and I would watch our father at his work whenever I was able, but never did I think myself capable of such ability. To heal with a touch belonged in the realm of mighty elf lords and was far beyond anything I could hope to achieve."
Again Estel paused briefly, a look of bewilderment upon his young face. "I do not understand how I was able to heal him with my touch."
Placing a hand on Estel's shoulder, Elrohir responded with a hint of awe: "It is a gift, Estel, a very special gift that has been granted to you."
At this, Estel raised his head to look at Elrohir directly, his eyes pleading for knowledge. "But who am I to be given such a gift?"
Sighing in frustration, Elrohir carefully considered his answer to this dangerous question. What could he now reveal to Estel? Though much needed to be said, there was very little that he felt able to say. He had sworn to his father never to speak to the youth of his true lineage, and it was the charge of Elrond alone to reveal that truth.
Suddenly, he recalled the conversation he had had with Elladan but a few days before, and he found thereby a response of sorts, though he well knew it was not the answer that Estel sought. "Recently someone else very dear to me posed a similar question, and I find that I must give to you the same answer that I gave to him: it is not our place to question the will of Iluvatar. All we can do is accept gratefully that which we are given and trust that all is unfolding as it should."
Estel frowned at these words. Yet again Elrohir had skirted around the heart of the answer to the question which plagued him once more: who was he and what was his place?
Seeing this reaction, Elrohir felt moved by pity for the young man, and he deeply wished that he could help Estel unravel the mystery of his past and his future, but unfortunately it was not his place to do so; at least, not at this time. "I am truly sorry Estel, for I can tell you no more, though I do believe that father will have a great deal to discuss with you upon our return to Imladris, and it is my dearest hope that your questions can finally be answered."
Estel continued to frown, but said nothing in response, for well had he learned over the years when a subject was closed and he would gain no further information from his brother.
Elrohir, wishing to lighten his little brother's mood, placed his arm around the young man's shoulder as he continued in a much more jovial tone: "Father will be very pleased and most proud of you when he hears of the bravery, cunning, and skill you have displayed here, Estel, for I will be sure to tell him of every detail!"
Feeling his face flush slightly, Estel smiled a little as he responded: "Perhaps you need not tell him everything. He need not know that I destroyed my cloak to wrap Elladan's wounds and used scabbards to set his broken arm!"
Still smiling brightly, Elrohir shook his head. "Nay, I will be sure to include that detail, for it shows your ingenuity and your ability to be creative under pressure!" Then his smile faded slightly as he grew more serious again. "Truly you are a gifted healer, Estel. Father will help you learn to channel your gift and use it reliably, and you will be able to do much good with your skill."
With a bow of his head and a smile, Estel responded humbly: "For that, I would be most glad."
Then, for a time, the brothers spoke no more of what had occurred in the cave or what was to come upon their return to Imladris. Rather, the conversation turned to much lighter matters, and once again, Elrohir was able to ease Estel's mind as they sat and talked merrily of many things until the fading light of evening gave way to the soft glow of twilight.
Elladan had begun to rouse himself from his sleep soon after Elrohir and Estel left the clearing. His first conscious sensation was of the pain that seemed to course through his body in rhythm with the beating of his heart and he was half tempted simply to return again to the peaceful path of dreams. However, he was also aware of the presence of another nearby and he could not resist the desire to open his eyes and greet the one who was faithfully at his side. To his surprise, however, it was not his twin, but rather Glorfindel who knelt beside him, a cup of steaming liquid in his hand.
Glorfindel smiled slightly at the look of disappointment on the other's face as he offered the cup to Elladan and helped him to sit. "I have prepared for you some more of your father's medicinal tea. You have slept so long that I judge the effect of the last draught to have worn off by now."
"You judge correctly," said Elladan weakly and, for once, he did not protest, but rather gratefully accepted the cup and Glorfindel's assistance as he quickly consumed the bitter pain-relieving brew. As he began to lie back again to await the tea's effect, however, he stopped himself and looked around with concern.
Glorfindel, understanding the source of Elladan's worry, gently placed a hand on his chest and eased him to the ground as he told him: "Your brother and Estel have just now left for a walk, for I believe they have much to discuss. You need not worry, for both fare much better than you, of that I can assure you."
Satisfied with that response, Elladan remained on his back as he waited for the herbs to take affect. Though he lay down, however, he was unable to relax, for his mind was heavy again with thoughts of all that had occurred. He needed time to think, but he was restless and overcome by a desire to get up and move, to try to take some action to ease his distress.
Soon, the pain had receded greatly and he felt well enough to sit up with little difficultly. Again, Glorfindel was at his side. "How do you feel now, Elladan? If you are hungry, I have prepared a most delicious meal."
Casting Glorfindel a look of exasperation, Elladan responded, slightly testily. "Nay, I thank you, but I do not wish to eat. What I desire most is solitude." Suddenly, and as impetuously as always, Elladan stood, swaying only slightly as he added: "I wish to take a walk."
"You want to take a walk in your condition?" The expression of utter disbelief on Glorfindel's face at that statement struck Elladan as rather humorous, for rarely did he have the privilege to witness such a sight.
Elladan allowed a slightly pleading tone to enter his voice. "I can no longer simply lie here, Glorfindel. If I do, I think I shall go quite mad. I have most certainly spent more than enough time lying around during this past day already."
Shaking his head, Glorfindel responded: "I can not believe that I even consider this, but I will allow you to take a very short walk on one condition: I will come with you." Before Elladan could even open his mouth to argue, Glorfindel added in a tone of finality: "It is the only way I will allow it. Your brother would surely have my head if I permitted you to go wandering off alone in your state."
Looking resigned, Elladan responded with a sigh. "Very well, then, come along. We will not go far."
With that, Elladan turned and slowly began walking. However, much to Glorfindel's surprise, he headed not towards the woods, but rather towards a large outcropping of boulders on the side of the mountain. Stopping him with a hand on his shoulder, the elf lord asked incredulously: "You have a broken arm, cracked ribs and a bump on your head and now you wish to climb rocks?"
"I do not wish to climb the mountain, Glorfindel. I simply wish to get a better view of the surrounding terrain."
"Ever does your gaze turn to the horizon, young one," said Glorfindel quietly with another shake of his head as he studied the cliff wall toward which Elladan continued to walk. Finding a relatively easy path up to one of the larger boulders, he followed closely behind his charge, ready to catch him should he drop where he stood.
The short climb was gradual and easy, but still Elladan relied heavily on Glorfindel's assistance as they carefully made their way up. Soon, they sat side by side atop the boulder overlooking the forest to the west. Much to his displeasure, Elladan found that the small exertion had taken its toll far more than he would care to admit, and his need for action was quenched, at least for a time.
For a while neither spoke as they sat, each deep in thought, until finally Elladan gave voice to one of the many questions which plagued him. "Why did you insist, against my objections, that Estel be included on this mission?"
Glorfindel weighed his answer carefully before turning to look at Elladan directly. "Your objections were borne from the warning of your foresight. You knew that the path ahead would be treacherous and fraught with danger, and, fearing for Estel's safety, you sought to protect him from harm. In truth, your fears did prove valid, for you both have endured great pain and hardship on this journey."
Raising a hand in order to forestall the words of a rather bemused looking son of Elrond, Glorfindel continued: "It is my experience, Elladan, that unfortunately there are times when the hard road is the only way to reach an important destination. Though you have devoted much attention to teaching Estel, perfecting his skills, and trying to keep him from harm, never have you allowed yourself to truly know him. Say what else you will, but your experiences here have enabled you each to learn a great deal from the other, though the course to true knowledge was difficult, as often it is."
Elladan could not resist a slight smile at those words. "I would say that 'difficult' is most definitely an understatement. But then again, you were not the one who endured a mountain of rock descending upon your head!"
Glorfindel returned the smile. "Nay, 'tis true. I was merely required to remove said mountain from atop your head!"
As suddenly as it had appeared, Elladan's smile faded and he bowed his head as he pondered Glorfindel's words. His mind returned, as often it had during the course of the past day, to his vision of Aragorn crowned and the nobility of the kingdoms of men restored. Again turning to face Glorfindel, he spoke softly. "You do speak the truth, though. I have indeed learned much from this trial, and not only about Estel, but also of myself and my purpose."
At first, Glorfindel did nothing but look at him with an intensity that seemed to pierce him through, and, though he knew better, for a fleeting moment Elladan could swear that the ancient elf lord was able to read his hidden thoughts.
Then Glorfindel's expression softened and he turned his gaze away as he responded, a hint of sorrow in his voice. "Ever have you walked in two worlds, Elladan. Even your very name highlights the dichotomy of your being. Your father did not choose to call you 'Elladan' lightly. Though it pained him, he could not deny the truth of it, for your name cleaved to you from the moment you came into this world, screaming and strong of will, or, as your mother would tell it, even before, judging from the strength of your movement within her womb. Ever since you were but a babe, you have charged through your life, restless and driven by the need to control and change the world around you."
Elladan bowed his head and did not speak, for the truth of these words weighed heavily upon his mind.
Glorfindel continued, his voice earnest and tinged with melancholy as he spoke: "We each have our role and our place. Long have elves dwelt in Middle Earth, content to live very much as we have always lived, but the end of our time here draws near. You know that the shadow grows and a time of great darkness is upon us. Very soon, as elves count the years, all we who dwell still upon these Hither Shores will face our final challenge and the fate of Arda will be indelibly decided."
Glorfindel now turned again to look at him directly, and there was a depth of sorrow in his eyes that Elladan found he could not completely comprehend. "So too, Elladan, do you and your brother and your sister face a challenge, and so too will your fates be finally decided. As you well know, the time will soon be upon you all when you must make a decision, a choice which once made can never be revoked. Your decision, whatever it may be, will have many repercussions and affect many lives, for the better and the worse, though I can say no more of it, for your path is not open to me and no one can make this choice for you."
Elladan said nothing in response, for he was at a loss for words and his heart was conflicted, filled at once with deep sadness, but also with great hope. Moved by empathy, Elladan lay his right arm around Glorfindel's shoulders, and they sat together in silence for many minutes as they watched the sun begin her descent into the west, and as, in one final blaze of glory, she painted the sky in brilliant hues of red and orange and gold before she finally succumbed to the inexorable force which drew her to her rest, and day yielded to the night.