Disclaimer: This story is my tribute to the imagination of J. R. R. Tolkien. The characters are not mine, and I get nothing for writing it, besides good feeling.

Rating: T for description of injury

Beta: openmeadow

A/N: This is a "real-time story" that will be updated every day!

Dedicated to my friends openmeadow, Windsurfbabe and Lirulin-yirth-k'aio.


Gil-Estel

But on him mighty doom was laid,
till Moon should fade, an orbéd star

to pass, and tarry never more

on Hither Shores where mortals are;

for ever still a herald on

an errand that should never rest

to bear his shining lamp afar,
the Flammifer of Westernesse.

***

September 23rd, 2986 T. A.

---

I watch today. I watched yesterday. I will watch tomorrow. That is my fate – through the days, through the years, through the centuries. To watch… to pass and tarry never more…

Today I watch one man. He runs on a steep path in the Misty Mountains, through the winding shrouds of mist that gave them their name. Mist and darkness and cold stones surround him, and he runs like a deer hunted by wolves, looking behind himself every few moments. There is haunted expression in his eyes; they glisten like the eyes of a trapped bird that breaks his wings on the grates rather than accept the cage.

No… they glisten like the eyes of a warrior in the desperate fight for his life, in that moment when the shapes of the world are so sharp, and the sounds retreat into background, and every fiber of his body hums with tension, prepared to fight or flee. I know that moment… there are no thoughts in it, or they are strangely disconnected, like looking at your body from outside. No hopes, no fears… just the pure life, the heart beating in your chest, the movement of every muscle, and the sharp details of the world. It is an intense feeling when every moment can be the last, when every second can make the decision between life and death, and the senses sharpen, and the present is everything that matters.

The man runs, and death is at his heels. Orcs follow his track, and they are many – too many for one man to fight. I can only imagine how this chase began. I don't even know how long he has run – the short time of night when I pass above this place is the only knowledge that I have about him. However, I can see the breath forming small cloud of mists before his mouth. It comes in quick, short gasps, and he staggers and stumbles on the rough stones of the path. He must have ran for many hours… and there is nowhere to hide high on the mountain pass, just rocks and ravine and high peaks crowned with snow looking proudly from above. Steep slope lines one side of the path, and deep valley the other: forwards is the only way, speed is the only chance.

Oh, but he is exhausted, and orcs are tireless… he knows that he can't outrun them for long. Yes, he knows it – I see it in his eyes. But they are not defeated yet – the look in them is a look of determination – the look of a fighter. I know the man… I recognize his face, his features. The likeliness… It steals my breath for a moment, when I realize how similar they are – my son and this man…

Before my eyes, the years seem to blur together. The many faces, the branching tree of descendants: its branches flowering and bringing fruits… its branches withering and dying… its branches broken and burned on the pyre of passing years. I had two sons – two young trees under the brighter sun of a younger world. But the world has changed… the fates have changed…

Two young trees: one of them is evergreen, its leaves do not fall, slowly growing, and living forever. The second tree is different. It grows quickly, and its leaves wither and fall, the old wood dies, but the tree branches through centuries by new sprouts. Oh my sons… I planted two trees, but did not watch them grow. I was a poor gardener. I left you for the fate of the whole Middle-earth. I wanted to give you a future, but for the future, you had to trade a father…

Then a white gull flew to me with the last rays of the sunset, and my heart rejoiced. But there was strange bitterness in that moment. I had to think of you – mere boys, left parentless in the shadowed world – for the fate of Middle-earth that seemed like a foolish hope in that time. Yet my message reached the ears of Valar, and the Forces of Arda stirred in one magnificent and terrible fight. The evil was defeated… but it was a high price for you, my little trees…

I was allowed to sail above Middle-earth and watch… but never set foot on its shores again – the eternal mariner without haven on the shores where his heart stays. Yet now I do not know: was it a gift… or a curse, punishment for walking where no mortal should have walked and seeing things forbidden to the sight of the Second-born?

I was allowed to be the Star of High Hope, and bring light into the hearts of my descendants. It was a gift, to see the new hope in their faces when they beheld the light that I was allowed to bear. It was both gift and a curse to see my sons again. They knew… Watching the light of my lantern, they knew that I am there, watching them, too. It was a connection through the distance of the skies: at least some connection between us. Oh, as I saw them for the first time, I wanted to shout, and hope that they will hear my voice. I wanted to apologize, to explain, I longed for their forgiveness. I wanted to tell them, that there was no other way; that I am so sorry for leaving them alone…

A curse it was, to watch, and not be able to do anything. To pass, and tarry never more… It was a curse to watch one of my sons die, while having the life of an immortal myself. Parents shouldn't watch their children die… There were times of glory, when I watched my descendants with a smile on my lips. But soon I learned to fear to smile. I saw the downfall of Númenor, I saw the rising of the new evil – the servant of Morgoth rising to replace his lord, and the failure of Isildur, and the last ride of Eärnur. I saw them fight and suffer, fail even, and my helplessness was a burden almost too heavy to bear. And still it is…

"Elros…" I whisper when I see the face of the man. So similar they are: not by appearance, but by something deep within… I know him. He is the last of my son's line.

He looks up, and our eyes meet. He does not know that, he looks to the Star of High Hope, not to me, his ancestor. The hope is in his eyes with the reflection of Silmaril, but what is the hope good for, when there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide before the nearing death on the crude spears of orcs. What is watching good for, when I must watch the diminishing of the proud line of kings, and the death of the last descendant of Elros' blood? I crush my fist into the wood of my ship angrily. Oh Valar! Why did you curse me so?

I cannot watch anymore… The high peaks mercifully veil my sight. As though in dream, I sail to the West, away from the shadowed Middle-earth. Valinor awaits me – peaceful and beautiful as ever, as if these dark shores were nothing but a bad dream that can vanish with the morning light. As if nothing happened… as if the last mortal descendant of my line was not running and fighting for his life this very moment. If it is a dream, then it is one that I cannot wake from. The world seems dull to me, even the scent of the blossoms in Valinor is veiled, as if I was walking through mist. I find no peace in the Blessed Realm. Tomorrow, I will sail again. I fear the sight that I will see below on a nameless mountain pass.


The Song of Eärendil - J. R. R. Tolkien: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 1: Many Meetings