1. Dies Irae
For the purposes of this story, Elrond and Elros were twins of whom Elrond was the elder. There will be points at which Elros calls Elrond variations on "little one." Please see these as a reflection on the ageing process and an affectionate nickname precisely BECAUSE Elrond was the oldest.
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They had waited for him for months, gazing ever eastwards over the wild grey seas. They had waited for him until their hopeful hearts had grown as grim and dull as the wide waters, yet still he was not there. No elven ship, bright and fair, made land in Romenna on one of those fading mornings; no keen-eyes visitor had solemnly trod the paths of Númenór. Now even the king had relinquished hope and, closeted from all, awaited lonely death.
Thus it was that a solitary figure, cloaked and hooded in grey, his face shadowed, paced through the palace corridors, unseen and unexpected. Each of his footfalls was inaudible, even in the moonlit silence. Beneath the soft folds of cloth, starlight glinted off a slender band of mithril and reflected in weary grey eyes.
He had been borne into the great haven unnoticed, his ship as nondescript as his garments. With all speed, he had hastened on a hired mount along the road to Armenelos, fear threading through his veins. Even when he was so tired that he almost fell from the labouring beast, he had forced himself onward, spurred by the chant which echoed in every beat of his heart.
Too late. Too late.
Now this drove him through the palace, deserted though it was in these hours before the dawn, its majesty sombre and muted with approaching mortality.
He gazed up at the vaulted ceiling, tracing the patterns which were so familiar to him, yet so alien: such a perfect melding of the art of the Firstborn and the Followers. At the thought he grimaced.
No. There could be no such thing. One was either of Elves or Men. There was no life in between. There dwelt only the void.
At the corner, a guard dozed, lulled to sleep by wine and silence. The shadowy figure padded across the cool tiles to him. Almost hesitantly, he tapped one fleshy shoulder. With a start, the soldier sprang awake, reaching for the sword which hung by his side. In an instant, his wrist was caught between long fingers, held firmly away from the leather-bound hilt.
"Peace, you fool," a melodic voice laughed. "I do not come to this place as a marauder, but as a friend. I merely pray that you tell me where the chambers of the king are."
Groggily, the man pointed one finger down a dimly lit corridor, its white marble shimmering under the flicker of candles burnt low in their sconces.
"There," he muttered. "But the king lies dying, and will receive no one since his brother does not come to bid him farewell."
The stranger's heart twisted in sorrow at this, but he smiled nonetheless, and simply replied, "I dare to hope that he may yet receive an old friend."
Releasing the man, he started off down the corridor, his cloak wrapped tightly around his body.
At the door of the chamber he paused, suddenly hearing the tumultuous cacophony of his own heart in his ears. He was paralysed as sick dread at what he might find within flooded him, blinding him, making him as weak and frail as a child.
It would be so easy to turn and walk away, to return to familiar lands. No one would ever know.
Overcome with emotion, he swayed against the wall, raising one hand to touch his brow, slightly damp with nervous sweat. He was disgusted at himself, at his own selfishness in this hour when all could be gained or lost.
As he stood there, fighting the deadly impulse to flee, a soft hand touched his shoulder. Spinning hastily around, unused to being thus caught off his guard, he found himself staring into a pair of nervous eyes.
"What is your business here?" the servant inquired, her voice quiet to avoid awakening the occupant of the next room.
"I come to offer my last homage to Elros Tar-Minyatar," he answered in a grave voice.
The girl shook her head resolutely, determined not to fail in her duty at this last pass.
"The king rests and must not be disturbed, by his own orders," she stated calmly.
"So I have heard. Nevertheless, please admit me. If he does not wish that I stay, I will leave instantly."
Still she was steadfast in her prohibition.
The tall lean frame seemed to slump somewhat.
For a heartbeat, the dancing candlelight illuminated the face under the hood, highlighting steep eyebrows drawn together in a despairing frown. Brilliant grey eyes set under them shone with unshed tears, on fire with melancholy. She almost believed that she had seen those same eyes before, but dismissed the thought as fancy born of the lateness of the hour and the sadness which pervaded the city.
She had been about to dismiss the visitor as just another importune subject, but something in the depths of sorrow reflected in his gaze halted her. Almost against her will, she found herself nodding and stretching out one hand to open the door.
He bowed to her, a deep and graceful gesture, and then slid past into the room.
The single lamp in the was shuttered, shedding no light on the occupant of the high bed, but the heavy brocade curtains were flung wide open to admit the silver moonlight and, far off, the haunting sounds of the sea. The pooling light flashed on the magnificent embroidery of the coverlet, and on the torrent of white hair which covered the pillows.
The tall visitor stopped dead, surveying the fragile figure. Elros' hair poured back from his head, revealing the pointed tips of his ears. His face was deeply scarred with the passing of the years, worn and furrowed, laughter lines heavily painted around his eyes. His chest fluttered only lightly as he breathed, and the intruder let out a small sound of misery.
Elros' eyes flickered open, and their starlit depths focused on the shadowy figure standing in the room.
"Who is it?" he demanded, his voice still oddly bright and youthful. "If one of you has decided that 'no one may be admitted' has a different meaning from that which I recall, I would remind you that I may be dying, but I have not yet surrendered my wits to my creator."
A cracked sob escaped the other at the petulant tone, remembering a day nearly five hundred years before, and two small elflings who steadfastly refused to eat kelp, and an exasperated High King picking the offending substance out of his mithril circlet.
With faltering steps he entered the shaft of moonlight, sweeping his hood back from his face, then removing the cloak.
"Suilaid, my brother," he replied in a teary voice. "Might I be forgiven the interruption?"
Elros struggled to raise himself on one elbow.
"Elrond?" he exclaimed incredulously, his aged countenance lighting up. "Are you here in truth? I had given up all hope that you might come."
Elrond's face crumpled, and, sinking into an ornate chair, bent his head over the bed, tears flowing freely from his eyes.
"Forgive me that I did not come sooner. I was afraid..." he trailed off. "And forgive me, for I fear that I can give you neither succour nor respite in this sorrowful hour, for I am sorely grieved, and I do not know what to do."
He rested his forehead on the rich velvet, his tears soaking it until the deep blue turned the colour of the twilight.
With effort, Elros raised one spotted hand and laid it on the ebony locks. Tenderly he stroked the trembling head until Elrond's sobs subsided, just as he had a lifetime before when his elder twin had suffered from horrific nightmares which his own sunny nature had prevented.
With one final shudder Elrond lifted his head, fixing tear-drenched eyes on his brother's face. Elros returned the gaze, studying the ageless features of his twin.
"Still so beautiful after all these years," he muttered with affectionate mockery. "As I was once."
He let out a small laugh, dissolving at the end into a dry, wracking cough.
Instinctively Elrond reached for the satchel which sat at his feet. His fingers frantically fumbling with the soft leather straps, he emptied its contents onto the low table beside the bed.
A gentle touch halted him. Worriedly, he spun to face his twin.
"Daro, Elrond. Not even all the lore of my bookworm brother can thwart the will of Ilúvatar himself."
Helplessly Elrond acquiesced, returning to the chair. Pinching the narrow bridge of his nose to stem the flow of his incipient tears, he felt his soul itself reverberate with the agony of helplessness and looming loss.
"I'm sorry," he offered.
"Faeg hên," the old man soothed. "Do not be sorry, for I am not. What more could even the greatest among us ask than to live according to his nature and share the fate of the kindred he loves the most? If Eönwë stood before me again, I would choose as I did, and live the life I have led."
"Why did you...do you choose the Edain? Why did you leave the people who raised you?" Elrond asked abruptly, his melancholy eyes curious.
"I love the resilience of men, their fleeting joys and sorrows, the innovation of their minds and their hands. Anyway, I never had the patience to watch all the beauty and splendour of Arda fade and fail. My heart does not have the strength to love yet watch that which I love the most gradually sink into unchanging dusk. I leave that to you, my dearest elder brother. You have the determination to endure all the ills of Arda and yet only be tempered by the flames."
Elrond shook his head vigorously, denying his brother's appraisal. Elros simply grasped one of his brother's intricate braids and tugged. The elf grimaced and then, very gently, reciprocated, curling an ivory strand around his youthful fingers.
"You knew I would do that; I always did."
"Yes, but I never could resist pulling your braids despite that," Elros retorted mischievously.
"Do you remember the day that Gil-galad found us in the mud by the little stream, clutching handfuls of each others' hair?" Elrond asked, quirking one eyebrow.
"The memory has never left me, nor have the scars."
The elf grinned widely, and clutched his brother's hand in his own, drinking in the companionable silence to store against the long years of drought he now faced. Exhausted, Elros slipped into a dream of bright sunlight and voices calling to him just beyond his hearing.
*I am coming. I am ready,* he replied, but the brush if a sword callus against his hand recalled him and, opening his eyes, he looked up into a matching pair filled with terrible fear.
"I live yet," he whispered in a voice as light as a mallorn leaf on the spring breeze, and the elder twin sighed in relief.
Elrond's fair countenance contorted with baffled despair as his mind returned to Elros' earlier words.
"Instead of the fading, you would choose to die, and pass beyond this world, and be forgotten?" he asked sombrely, his throat constricting around the words.
"In the end, it is, it seems, such a small price to pay for such a full life," Elros responded with a small sigh of acceptance.
"Will you forget me with the passing of the Ages?"
"Never!" Elrond rasped, gripping one thin shoulder almost fiercely. "You will be in my thoughts every day. I shall not forget you, not even at the end of Arda. Gweston."
Elros smiled contentedly.
He lifted Elrond's hand and held the pair up to the moonlight, noticing the differences between the two, matching his own gnarled fingers with the slender ones of his brother.
"Will you do one thing in remembrance of me?"
"Of course," Elrond said fervently.
"Do not forsake the Edain," he begged. "If a day arrives when the race of Men is imperilled, give them your help and your wisdom."
"I shall," Elrond promised gravely.
"I thank you. In truth, I confess I did not imagine that you would refuse this request. Now I may leave the world without fear."
Elrond choked on his grief. His limbs felt weak and numb as if he were drugged.
"What will become of me now that the last of my close kin is gone away?" he whispered, barely able to speak under the burden of emotion.
"You might adopt some dwarves," Elros quipped to cover his own distress at Elrond's misery. He had faced and conquered his own fear of death long years before, but he was distraught to see silent, stoic Elrond so crushed.
His brother smiled wanly, blinking back the tears hovering in his stormy eyes. The younger twin cast his mind round for some distraction despite the fog which was gathering in his thoughts.
"Tell me of Middle-earth," he asked finally. "How fares Gil-galad? Are you still annoying him with your presence?"
"I should imagine I am," Elrond laughed. "Glorfindel certainly is. Last year the enraged father of one of his dalliances threatened to set a pack of wild dogs on Gil-galad if he would not curtail Glorfindel's...wanderings."
Elros chuckled softly, and they slipped into superficial conversation, revelling for one last time in their easy rapport.
The moon dropped lower into the west, and with its slow progress Elros spoke less and less, savouring instead the beloved sound of his brother's musical voice. The shadows seemed to creep closer and closer, not threatening but beckoning his fëa to relinquish its last tenuous grip on his wearied body.
Elrond's healer's instincts penetrated his bittersweet cheer and he knew that his younger brother was fading from life. He was unable to restrain his wretchedness.
"Why must I say farewell to you, to my younger brother, my other self?" he burst out.
"Do not say farewell, pen-nîn tithen," Elros soothed him, "for indeed this is not the end. We will meet again beyond the last days of Arda, and be reunited when everything is made pure and true under the gaze of Eru Ilúvatar himself when even time is but a memory. Do not fear."
"How can you know?"
"I cannot, but I believe, for the One is great and merciful indeed even though his music is hidden from us."
They sat in silence, listening to the sounds of their breathing, one melody deep yet ragged with emotion, the other smooth and shallow.
"Elrond," the man said eventually, stirring himself from his contemplation of the last fraction of the moon's silver disc, "go to my desk."
Uncertainly, the elf rose, relinquishing the cooling hand only reluctantly, and crossed the room.
"Open the left-hand drawer, and take out the mithril box."
Elrond obeyed, weighing the tiny casket in the palm of one hand, admiring the delicate craftsmanship and the inlaid panels of mother-of-pearl.
"'This was mother's," he mused, resuming his place by Elros' side. The dying man nodded.
"Open it. I wish you to have what is within as a parting gift, a token to bear with you in the years to come."
Elrond lifted the lid cautiously and tipped the contents into the palm of his hand.
"Gwilwileth," he breathed, holding the delicate mithril ornament up to the light. With one finger he traced the outline of the elegant piece.
"Yes, a butterfly to remind you of the fleeting lives of men, but also of their beauty and determination," Elros responded.
The elder twin closed his fist around the jewel, clutching it to his chest.
"I shall wear it always."
His face was set in harsh lines, a deep frown cutting between his brows. Suddenly, he felt the burden of the years on him as surely as Elros did.
"Do not grieve, my brother," Elros whispered, feeling the air leave his lungs and his heartbeat slow. "When I next see you, you will be great and mighty as a mallorn, learned above all others, and you will have known much and loved much."
"Foresight?" Elrond asked.
"No. I leave that to you," his brother replied slowly. "'Tis merely that I know your heart."
He felt the end drawing nigh, and welcomed it, not fearing what lay beyond.
"But for now, will you hold me, pen-nîn tithen?"
Elrond crawled onto the bed, wrapping his arms around Elros. Breathing in the soft pine scent of the long hair, he cradled his younger twin to him as he had when they were children, lost and alone in the wilderness. Against his chest he could feel the drumbeat of the other's heart become quieter and quieter, fading into the stillness. Desperately he tried to warm Elros' body, already knowing that the effort was futile.
The man opened his eyes and regarded his brother tenderly.
"All the children of Ilúvatar are truly blessed," he whispered. "Never forget that."
With a last beatific smile curving his lips, he willingly relinquished the world. The solemn rhythm of his heart faltered then ceased entirely. Elrond felt as if his own heart had stopped with it, as if the icy claws of death were digging into his own flesh. He no longer made any attempt to check the tears which engulfed him and he wept bitterly into his dead twin's shoulder. He imagined that half his soul, his very being, had been ripped from the world with this loss. A bright light shattered within him and he sobbed uncontrollably, his thoughts incoherent.
After an immeasurable span of time he tiredly lifted his leaden frame from the bed. Donning his dark cloak and scooping up his healer's satchel, he pressed a farewell kiss to Elros' forehead and left the room.
Outside in the corridor a servant hurried to his side, only to recoil at the sight of his tear-streaked face. Hastily Elrond pulled up the hood which he had forgotten in his grief.
"Elros Tar-Minyatar has passed beyond this world," he intoned, scarcely hearing his own words. Any response by the servant was lost to him as he strode away along the corridor.
Retrieving his mount from the stables, he fled the palace which now seemed so empty to him. Turning the horse's head eastwards, he galloped down the broad road until he could ride no more.
Stumbling into a grove of lofty trees, he collapsed unceremoniously into a bed of leaves and cried himself to sleep. For the first time in centuries when exhaustion overcame him he slept with his eyes tightly shut.
Anor's searing golden rays awoke him, beating unrelentingly on the lids tightly shuttered over his swollen eyes. Blinking in the midday glare, he could not remember for a moment how he had ended up in such a place, but then merciless memory assailed him. Lethargically, he wandered to the horse tethered to a tree. Untying the rope and springing lightly onto her back, he urged the mare back onto the road and set off for Romenna at a brisk pace.
As he reached the docks, he saw the stunned and saddened expressions on the faces of the townsfolk as they listened to the royal messenger relay the news of the passing of the first king, and grief once again swelled in Elrond Peredhil's heart.
Returning the faithful horse to her master with a purse of gold and sincere thanks he made hastily for the boat which he knew awaited him. The air itself seemed to bid him to depart before he simply lay on the cobblestones and passed to Mandos from grief. He was sickened by the smell of fresh fish piled on the endless stalls, and he averted his eyes from the passers-by to hide his sorrow in the deep shadows of his garb.
Treading softly down the gangplank he greeted his companion with a curt nod, sighing with relief that he was finally leaving this place.
Glorfindel's eyes swept compassionately over the tear-stained face and then widened in horror.
"You are bleeding, mellon-iaur," he stated bluntly.
Elrond glanced down incuriously at his own left hand to see a crimson trickle soaking his cuff. It had never occurred to him that he had not used his it throughout his journey from Armenelos.
"It matters not," he bit out. "He is gone. Naught matters."
The golden-haired elf stepped forward.
"Nonetheless, let me attend to that," he murmured reassuringly, prising Elrond's fingers open.
The mithril ornament glinted in the bright sun as Glorfindel delicately plucked it from his friend's raw palm.
"He...he gave it to me," Elrond explained. "Please wash it. I wish to wear it."
"I shall, but first your hand needs bandaging."
Despite Elrond's protests he led the younger elf into the cramped cabin as the mariners began to cast off. After a few minutes of having his hand washed and bandaged by Glorfindel, who looked at him as if he might shatter into a thousand shards, he emerged and stalked to the stern of the boat. Tears soaking his face and his tunic he gazed at Númenór as it began to retreat into the distance.
He held his bandaged hand stiffly by his side, and in his black hair the mithril butterfly glittered restlessly in the sunlight.
"I shall not say farewell," he murmured, "as you do not wish it, but rather I bid you on your journey until we meet again, my brother."
The day was warm and fine as the ship returned to Middle-earth, but for Elrond there was neither joy nor light to be found. He surrendered to the abyss which yawned before him, his unshielded soul broken as he was sundered from his twin by the Doom of Men. He looked upon the sun-flecked sea with eyes which did not see and listened to the voices of the sailors with ears which did not hear. Thought itself escaped him as a sorrowful song slipped from his lips, and he felt alone as never before.
Suilaid -- greetings.
Daro -- stop.
Faeg hên -- poor child.
Eönwë -- the herald of Manwë
Gweston -- I swear.
Fëa -- spirit.
Pen-nîn tithen -- my little one.
Gwilwileth -- butterfly.
Mellon-iaur -- old friend.
Most of these are Sindarin but a few may be Quenya. I apologise for any misspellings. I got these phrases from a variety of places and wrote them down on paper. Unfortunately, I can't always read my writing. Thanks to Nemis for helping with Sindarin. The words she gave me are the ones which are spelt correctly.
A/N3: Yes, the butterfly clip is that butterfly clip. A plot bunny insisted I put it in.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.