Chapter 5: The Ring of Doom
Elladan returned in the morning. Elrond thought he looked rested, as if he had slept long and without dreams. He did not go to his brother's chamber, but instead sat beside Celebrían and greeted her and his soon to be born sister.
"Well, my daughter," said Celebrían, resting her hands over her large belly. "One year ago today you were conceived. Are you ready to meet everyone?"
The baby seemed to somersault, Celebrían's gown moving as a foot kicked. She grimaced and then laughed. "Little Mûmakil!" She turned to Elrond and held out her hand. He pulled her to her feet, and she led him out into the gardens. "Let us walk until it is time."
The morning passed in the timelessness of that place. They strolled the many paths of Lórien in silent anticipation of their daughter joining them.. After Celebrían's water broke, she bathed in the fountains and was refreshed. Her contractions increased in frequency, yet she hardly seemed to feel them. Then she turned back to their cottage and entered directly to their room. Elwing and Galadriel were waiting. Elrond held her as she pushed, and their daughter came forth immediately in what Elrond thought was likely the easiest labor in the history of elvendom.
"She looks just like Celebrían did at her birth," said Galadriel as she wrapped the cooing kicking infant in a receiving cloth. Elwing bathed her granddaughter and laid her in Celebrían's arms, and Elrond felt the deepest sense of contentment he had ever known come over his wife.
"Alassë," said Elrond as he kissed his daughter and then his wife. "Our joy."
"A joy she has been so far and a joy she will be," said Celebrían. "Thank you, my love, for this child." Then she laughed and looked out into the garden where family and friends had gathered. "Come!"
Elladan came first and took his sister in his arms. His eyes glistened. "She looks like you, naneth. Oh, what joy!" he cried, and then he held her up. "Alassë, I am glad to welcome you to the family in person."
When all had greeted the bright eyed infant, Celebrían put her daughter to her breast, and leaned back in Elrond's arms. Elrond held her and forgot all other concerns for a time. He had just wondered if someone should awaken Elrohir when his son appeared in the doorway. When Elrohir caught his gaze, he smiled. Elrond motioned for him to join them.
As Elrohir came to them, Elrond noticed that Estë had also entered the room. Her presence was healing and strength, and Elrond could feel the effect though she stayed at the edge of the room.
Elrohir looked upon his sister and Elrond, touching his arm, felt a sharp pain pierce his son's heart, as if a blade had been run through him. He slipped his arm about Elrohir's shoulder. Celebrían took the now satiated infant from her breast and placed her in Elrohir's arms.
At first, Elrond thought Elrohir might refuse to take the child. Then he drew a deep breath and cradled her to his chest. Elrohir's tears fell silently. Suddenly it seemed as if something broke inside him, as if those tears had opened his heart. He let the pain flow through him and his love pour out, and the two were mingled and bound beyond parting. When Elrohir looked up at his parents, Elrond felt the same raw emotion extend also to them.
Lindórië had stood at a distance when everyone else had come to meet Alassë. Now she came when Celebrían beckoned to her, and she sat beside Elrohir and stroked the fine silvery gold hair before kissing Alassë's head. She met Elrohir's eyes and did not recoil at the love and pain there. In her eyes, though, there was only love.
A movement from the garden side of the room caught Elrond's attention. Elladan stood flanked by Eärendil and Celeborn, but he paid no attention to them. Neither was he focused on his parents. His eye were wide and his heart bared, and Elrond could feel the currents of his swift mind racing with many unguarded thoughts as he looked on his brother, the maiden and the baby. Then he turned and looked at Eärendil. Elrond watched his sire incline his head, as if in answer to some question, and understanding crept into his son's heart.
Elladan smiled. And he laughed. Eärendil embraced him, and when he was done, Celeborn did the same. Elladan strode forward, took Alassë from Elrohir, and placed her in Lindórië's arms. Then he pulled his brother to his feet.
"Come, Elrohir," he said. And the two disappeared into the shadows of evening.
Elrond wandered out of the cottage later, leaving Celebrían surrounded by doting family and friends, for his curiosity and concern for his sons had grown. He found them on the same flat stone where he had comforted Elrohir just a few nights before. Elladan sat behind Elrohir, holding his twin against his chest. Elrohir had melted into that embrace.
He felt the same restraint he had felt that first night in the garden, and knew his sons were being watched over by others. He left them and returned to the cottage.
"You do not look like an elf who has just given birth." He leaned over Celebrían's shoulder and wrapped his arms about her, gazing down at Alassë, who looked at him with wide blue-green eyes.
"I am not tired at all," said Celebrían. "I think this is a gift to us, or an effect of being in Lórien. Regardless, I will not complain." She sighed and smiled. "I am so glad to have both our sons here, and our parents. Alassë will have all the love a child is meant to have."
Their daughter yawned and smiled in response, then drifted to sleep.
The next morning, Olórin came to them. While his greeting and smile encompassed them all, his eyes were on Elladan and Elrohir.
"You are summoned to Valimar," he informed them. "To the Máhanaxar."
Elrond felt his heart rise into his throat. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. His sons did not look surprised. Olórin looked at him. "I am guessing you and Celebrían will wish to be there. We will arrange transport for you."
Elrond nodded, mute. Then Olórin led Elladan and Elrohir away.
There was silence in the room. Elrond looked at Galadriel. "Do you know what this about?"
She hesitated. "I thought I did, but I think I guessed only part of the story."
"I suggest we do not speculate, but go to hear what is to be said," said Eärendil.
Elrond looked at his father and knew that Eärendil did know, at least in part, what was about to happen. He had stood himself in the Ring of Doom.
Then it seemed the Gardens of Lórien emptied, of at least those who had been intimate with the Peredhil. They went to Valimar, the city of the Valar.
The Valar sat upon their thrones in a half circle about the Ring of Doom. The sight of the Valar sitting in splendor together was a rare event, and all were silent as they approached the outer perimeter of the circle. Beyond them were the great golden gates and they formed a brilliant backdrop as the sun reflected from them in a dazzling rays of light.
Elrond was drawn back to the encampment of the Valar in Beleriand where he and Elros had stood once to be told of their choice, and a second time to make it. He had been awed at the Valar then, and he was not much less so now.
Next to him, Celebrían trembled as she clutched their daughter
Then Eonwë stood and blew a small trumpet. When the sound had faded away, he called Elladan and Elrohir forward. Elrond watched in bewilderment as his sons walked hand in hand to the herald, who stood before the thrones of Manwë and Varda. On either side of them were Ulmo and Námo. Irmo and Estë were also present, as were Nienna and others.
Elladan and Elrohir bowed low before the King of the Valar. When he motioned for them to rise, Elladan did so. Elrohir rose more slowly, and one of the attendant Maiar held his arm, steadying him. Elrond's feet itched to go forward and stand with them, or at least aid Elrohir.
Then Eonwë spoke. "On the day that Eärendil stood before us in this place and pleaded the case of the two kindreds, Eru gave it to Manwë to decide the fate of the half-elven. A choice he granted to Eärendil and Elwing, and to their sons Elrond and Elros. Eärendil and Elwing appointed their fates to the Firstborn, and never again set food in the outer lands. Elros their son joined his fate to the Secondborn and became father of a mighty people. But Elrond chose also to abide with the Firstborn, and the way west was opened to him.
"To Elrond's children was given the life of the Firstborn for so long as he abode in Middle-earth, but each was also granted a choice: that they may choose their doom. To those with foresight it was seen that the destiny of Elrond's children was tied to the blood of the Secondborn. In the choice of Arwen Undómiel was this brought to fruition, and the lines of the Half-elven were reunited. And so, like Lúthien and Elros, she has passed beyond the circles of the world. Now on this day a final decision must be made."
A murmur rose all around Elrond as the meaning of the herald's words began to take root in their minds.
Then Námo, Doomsman of the Valar, rose and walked to the twins. He turned first to Elrohir, and his unfathomable gaze looked through the pale and luminescent hroä before him. With one hand he reached out and caressed Elrohir's face, and Elrohir leaned into that touch. It was as if Námo were calling Elrohir to follow him, and Elrohir's response was one of trust.
Elrond nearly cried out 'No!', but then he felt the touch of a mind on his own. Do not speak, child. This choice belongs to Elrohir. He gasped. Choice? What choice?
The voice in his mind soothed him, and Elrond suddenly realized he could not speak even if he wished to. Some greater power was restraining him.
Námo did not remove his hand from Elrohir, but he turned to Elladan. He studied him long, and his face was grave.
"One delay of your choice was granted you, that you might stay in the east after Elrond your father had departed." He paused. "A second delay was granted when you entered the Straight Road, for your heart and mind were in conflict, and yet you could not stay. The time of your choice has come, son of Elrond."
Celebrían gave a low cry and stumbled, and Elrond wrapped his arm about her. Eärendil and Elwing stood beside him, and Galadriel and Celeborn beside Celebrían. Galadriel took her granddaughter and quieted her, for she had sensed her mother's distress and begun to cry.
Námo turned back to Elrohir. "Elrohir son of Elrond, you made your choice before each delay was granted. Do you abide it still?"
"I do," answered Elrohir. "I will abide the fate that Elladan chooses."
A cloud of words, thoughts and deeds flooded Elrond's mind.
Námo faced Elladan. "Elladan, son of Elrond, thy time has come. Make thou thy choice."
Elladan looked steadily at Námo. Then he looked upon Elrohir for a long moment. He turned and sought his parents, though his gaze rested longest upon his baby sister. He seemed to be searching beyond them, for someone else. Who it was, Elrond did not know, but Elladan finally turned back to face Námo.
"Twice you have blessed me by not forcing my decision in haste. My heart may ever yearn to know what lies beyond the circles of the world, but I find I desire equally to be here with my family and to experience the gifts you have given me. I choose to be judged with my elven kindred," replied Elladan.
Námo smiled. "Your choice is accepted."
Then Estë came forward and took Elrohir's hands in her own. "Now, child, healing may begin."
Elrond found his tongue freed and then heard voices all around him. Eärendil and Elwing and Celeborn and Galadriel were speaking and he realized they had guessed that Elladan's choice was not yet made, but even they were surprised by what they had learned of Elrohir. Celebrían was weeping and clinging to him, and he took a deep breath and calmed himself and her. His eyes remained on his sons, and as Estë touched Elrohir, he saw his son's light begin to grow and soon he was as bright as Elladan. Elladan did not remain unchanged. Peace settled on him and his restlessness was assuaged, at least for the moment.
When the Valar were done, Elladan and Elrohir turned and faced them. Their hearts were guarded, Elrond realized, and he realized his shock must still be obvious. He cleared his mind and heart and held out his hands to his sons.
Celebrían also broke free of the shock that had paralyzed her and ran to Elrohir, joy lighting her face at the healing that had taken place in him. She clasped him gently though, as if afraid he might break.
"I am sorry, Adar," said Elladan softly as he walked into his father's embrace. "It was with you I most wished to share my fears and deepest desires, but I could not. I knew Elrohir's choice. I have known it for many, many years. I loved and hated him for it." Elladan's voice became hoarse. "It seemed a heavy burden for him to place on me, and it was not until I saw how splintered and broken he was in Dol Amroth that I began to understand why he had chosen as he had. When we sailed, I chose what I thought he wanted.
"Manwë did not accept my choice, for it was not freely made. The Straight Way was closed to us. I was in conflict, and I begged Ulmo to let the others pass. But he had already pleaded our case to the Valar, and Manwë granted it.
"I say 'our' case," continued Elladan softly, "but it was my case. Elrohir could not live long in Middle-earth, but I convinced myself that here he could heal. I told myself that if he would but try, it would happen, and then we each could make our choice freely. That is why I left." He paused for a long moment and his voice was so low that Elrond could barely hear him. "That nearly killed him. Elrohir refused to plead his case to the Valar, to be healed, to be released from his choice. They accepted his choice when they would not accept mine!"
Elrond held his son, speechless.
"I thought Elrohir had chosen to be judged with the Elves and that …." Elrond stopped. What had he thought? That Elrohir had pressured Elladan to choose alike? "And that you had made your choice in Middle-earth because he was weak, because you feared he would die if you were to choose otherwise." He shook his head, as if it that would clear all his misconceptions. "I did not know you had been granted a second delay! I did not know Elrohir's choice. Oh, Elladan, how you have both suffered, each alone! If you had come to me, I would not have tried to dissuade your from your choice, no matter how deeply grieved I might have been!"
Elladan hugged him tightly. "You were so happy when we came. And then we knew about the baby, and I would not steal your joy."
"Is that why you chose as you did?" asked Elrond in horror.
"No," replied Elladan gently. He pulled back so that he was looking Elrond in the face. "My mind is open to you, Adar. You know I speak the truth. My desires are in conflict. I thought at first that the desire to be free, to go beyond the Circles of the World was the greater. But when I came to Lórien I realized that my love for all of you was an equal desire. I was swayed by Alassë, for I realized that there was joy to be found here in new life. I was swayed by the gifts the Valar have given me, to fly with Eärendil and Elwing, for there are new explorations yet to be made and I am told I may be part of them. I was even swayed by the love of the Lórien maiden for Elrohir. I want him to know the joy of marriage and being a father as much as I have ever wanted anything.
"If Eärendil is right, I will never wholly be over my restlessness. Yet he abides it, and so will I, with as much grace as can be contrived. I am content with my choice."
"Elladan," cried Celebrían, turning to them. She pulled on his arm until he lifted it and drew her close to him. "I hardly know what to say to you. I am so deliriously happy now that I know the truth, yet I am deeply wounded that you did not speak to us."
"Forgive me, Naneth," he whispered.
She clutched him tightly. "Forgiven," she breathed.
Elrond turned to Elrohir, who was standing silently, watching him, paying no heed to those who were waiting to speak to him. For a moment, Elrond did not know what to say. So much of what he thought he had known, Elladan had destroyed with a few words. Elrohir sensed his hesitation and did not move, and he felt the distance grow between them.
Elrond shoved aside his feelings and walked the three steps to him. He wrapped his arms around Elrohir, and after a moment, he felt Elrohir return the embrace. He wept over this child and it was long before he could speak.
"Forgive me, Elrohir," he finally managed to say. "Forgive me."
Elrohir sighed in deep contentment and rested his head upon Elrond's shoulder. If anything, that broke Elrond's heart further. This son had always thrived on his approval, and only now did Elrond realize that he had withheld it.
"I love you, Adar," replied Elrohir.
For the first time since he had arrived in Elvenhome, Elrohir opened his heart fully to his father. Elrond could see clearly the dilemma he had faced. He smoothed back Elrohir's hair and held his gaze. "Tell me, Elrohir."
"My choice was never between the fate of the Firstborn and Secondborn. It has always been choosing to be with Elladan or choosing to spend the rest of time in the Halls of Mandos. For if we chose fates apart, he with Men and I with the Elves, then I would fade and spend the rest of time a disembodied spirit, for I knew I could never heal from that sundering."
"I would have wished you had followed him then," Elrond whispered. "I see now your choice was sound. But, Elrohir, I could not understand why you were not choosing to heal. I did not know why you were failing, and you seemed unwilling to my eyes to take measures to live. I thought your will had failed, and yet it was not so. Your will was of iron."
"I am weak, Adar," corrected Elrohir. "I am too closely bound to my brother to live apart from him. He has always had the stronger fëa and I the lesser, and our bond was nearly as irrevocable as that between spouses. Living forever disembodied in the Halls of Waiting I rejected. There is enough blood of the Secondborn in me to wish to know what lies beyond. Arwen and Aragorn are there, and if Elladan were too, then I would have gone.
"My choice was made, but my struggle began anew when I realized Elladan had been granted a second delay. Your love grieved me, for I knew our coming brought you joy, and we might crush you and Naneth if we chose to depart. I faltered when meeting Lindórië, and again when Alassë was born, for I saw then things I would have to forsake that I now wished to have. Yet I would not pressure Elladan by speaking of it to you. His choice had to be made freely. I would not have him regret his decision until the world ends."
"And yet, Elrohir, few will understand that the reverse is not also true, that in allowing Elladan to choose for you both you might have to live with regret until the world's end."
"It matters not what others think." Elrohir stepped back. "I do care that you understand, Adar."
"I think I do, Elrohir. At last I think I do. My adar let my naneth choose for them both, and I see a shadow of their choice in your own." Elrond looked over Elrohir's shoulder and saw Lindórië standing apart from the family. She had come from Lórien after them. In her eyes, Elrond saw undisguised love for Elrohir. He turned his son in his arms. "Lindórië is here."
Elrohir smiled at her. "With your permission, Adar, I will be seeking her adar's permission to court her."
Elrond's heart leapt. "Permission granted." He nudged his son forward. Elrohir went to her and took her hands, and they spoke for a moment. Then she flung her arms about his neck.
Elrond barely caught Celebrían as she did the same to him. She did not speak, just held on to him. "He said nothing to anyone," Elrond told her in wonder. "He counted himself weak and then made a choice with a will of iron and held to it despite the pain in his soul and the failing of his body."
"The Peredhil are stubborn." She kissed his cheek. "I am married to one and parented three others. I am the foremost Elven expert in the world on the subject."
"Alassë seeks her naneth," said Galadriel.
With a cry of joy, Celebrían took her daughter in her arms. Elrond thought of the moments he had wondered at their hastiness in conceiving this child and cast them all aside. She was a balm to their souls.
They turned at the sound of their names to find the Doomsman of the Valar standing before them. Celebrían instinctively clutched their daughter to her breast. Námo inclined his head to her. "Do not be afraid."
Elrond was surprised by the gentleness of the voice. His mind returned and he bowed before the Vala, and Celebrían managed to do the same. When they looked at him again, he continued.
"The choices of the Peredhil are over. This child, and any others born in Aman, will be judged with their elven kindred. You need have no fear for her, or any future… grandchildren."
With that, Námo winked and they followed his gaze to Elrohir and Lindórië who stood hand in hand, speaking quietly.
They laughed. When Námo held out his arms, Celebrían gave him their daughter. He pronounced her fate again and blessed her, and laughed as she gummed the shoulder of his robe. "May she bring you great joy and may you now live in blessedness in these lands."
He gave her back to Celebrían, bowed his head slightly, and walked away. Then he disappeared right before their eyes.
Alassë began to fuss. Elrond led Celebrían to a bench, and sat down. She leaned against his side, fitting perfectly against him, and set the baby to her breast. She sighed in contentment. He watched as her eyes drifted close, a mirror to their daughter.
He looked over the small crowd that remained. He was struck by how alive they all seemed, and realized that the troubles had weighed upon all of them. Now, it was as if the darkness had lifted and the sun again shone.
His gaze rested on Elrohir. His inner light was strong and pure, but no longer did it consume his body. The long shadow had passed, but he was clearly tired. Lindórië indicated she wished to sit down, and Elrond smiled at the move, for clearly what she wanted was for Elrohir to sit. Yet, she allowed Elrohir to lead her to a bench and see to her comfort. Smart elleth. Already she managed him well. A moment later, Elladan went to them.
He sat at Elrohir's side and took his hands, and poured himself into his twin. For all the times he had strengthened Elrohir, the bond he shared with his brother was stronger still. To see them together like this gladdened Elrond's heart.
"I think it is time we took our daughter home," he murmured to Celebrían.
"Is Elrohir ready? Estë said his healing was just beginning."
"Elrohir found respite and comfort in Lórien, but I see now that his healing was never the purpose of the Valar. They could heal him now, for he is yet weak." Elrond paused as Irmo's words came back to him. "Elrohir has always healed best at home, with his family. That is where he needs to be." He laughed. "He also needs to speak to Lindórië's father."
"I do like her," replied Celebrían with a contented smile. "I knew she was perfect for him. Will Glorfindel put in a good word for Elrohir with his brother?"
Elrond laughed. "I cannot imagine there will be need. Who could not love our son?"
He felt Glorfindel's presence before the elf's hand came down on his shoulder. "No one, Elrond, no one." A great smile lit his face. "My brother is here. He came to be with Lindórië and has already granted his permission for Elrohir to court her."
He knelt on the ground behind the bench and rested his arms on it, one hand caressing the baby's head absently. "I have spoken with Elrohir and Lindórië. Elrohir wishes to go home and has invited Lindórië to come with him. My brother grants it if I come also, but has asked Elrohir to return with Lindórië when he is stronger, so our family may come to know him better."
Elrond's attention was caught by movement in the Ring of Doom. He saw Elladan standing before Manwë, Olórin at his side. Elladan bowed and the hand of the king of the Valar rested upon his head for a moment. Then Elladan straightened and accepted some token from the King.
"Whatever is happening?" asked Celebrían.
Glorfindel smiled. "Olórin told me that it was Ulmo who pleaded Elladan's case to the Valar, as he has ever taken the part of the Peredhil. But it was Manwë who granted Elladan the second delay of their choice and extended it to after the birth of Alassë, and he also who allowed Elladan to sail with Eärendil and fly with Elwing. He believed that Elladan would eventually decide to be judged with the Elven kindred. That is a greater boon than I think we can understand. But he also has his purposes. He would not tell Elladan before his choice was willingly made, but he has some task for him befitting one with the dual nature of mankind and elvenkind." He smiled at them. "I do not know what the task is, and if Olórin knows, he will not say. But as with Eärendil, the Valar will do their best to find purpose for his restlessness."
"Elladan has always needed purpose," replied Elrond. He smiled. "We began this day in bewilderment and confusion. We end it with more joy than I could have imagined."
All save Eärendil returned to Lórien that night. Estë called to Elrohir and he went to her gladly. When they returned the next morning and Elrond saw his son, he could scarcely believe the change that had come over Elrohir.
"Why are you surprised?" asked Estë. "His dual natures were in conflict, but now one is chosen to rule his fate, and no longer will he be torn in two. He will soon be whole and strong." She kissed Elrohir's forehead. "Go home in peace. You will always be welcome here, if ever you desire rest and refreshment." Then she disappeared into the trees.
A comfortable carriage had been provided for Celebrían and Alassë, and they set out for home a few hours later. Elwing joined them in the transport for a while.
"On the coast north of the Swan Havens and south of the tower, there is an inlet and small bay where the steep walls of the Pelori were torn asunder, creating one of the most beautiful spots I have seen. I have flown to it often, for there is a stream of cool water that splashes over the rocks to the sea below."
Celebrían's face lit up and she turned to Elrond expectantly, and he remembered her words of the sea.
"We will come and see it as soon as Elrohir is stronger and Alassë a little bigger," replied Elrond.
Elwing held Alassë for a while, but when they next stopped she kissed them all goodbye. She walked away from the carriage to the top of a small hill, then lifted her arms and leapt into the air.
Elladan watched her go. "We need to go there soon, Elrohir. I want to learn to fly properly, and you must see the tower."
Elrond smiled. Perhaps it was time for the House of Elrond to move to Aman.
Thanks to daw for beta reading this chapter.
Behold I love the Earth, which shall be a mansion for the Quendi and the Atani! But the Quendi shall be the fairest of all earthly creatures, and they shall have and shall conceive and bring forth more beauty than all my Children; and they shall have the greater bliss in this world. But to the Atani I will give a new gift.' Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else; and of their operation everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest.
Ilúvatar, Quenta Silmarillion
This story is dedicated to all who yearn for what lies beyond the Circles of the World and seek the source of the Imperishable Flame.