11. Summer Storm
At the wedding of Arwen, in some oversight of protocol, the twins Elladan and Elrohir were seated beside each other. Many eyes were drawn to them, for they were almost identical in face and form, and new kin by marriage to the King of Gondor and Arnor. Arwen’s handsome brothers looked well suited for such an elevation, dressed in fine garments brought for them from Rivendell. Elrohir wore the deep blue and silver of Elrond’s house, and Elladan had donned sage grey-green, embroidered with designs of birch leaves and runes.
The Lord of Dol Amroth, seated across from the brothers, had become fond of them as they all journeyed and fought by Aragorn’s side. “Now that your sister is wedded, surely you two fine fellows will be next to be married,” he said to them, in a lull between toasts and minstrel-songs.
Elrohir’s eyes flicked over his brother, and then he grinned broadly. “That is a good jest, my lord! Our elven-ladies are so fair that I cannot decide. Look at all the beauties here and tell me if you could set one above another!” Laughter spread out around them, and more turned to listen.
“And you, Elladan?” asked Dol Amroth.
“To wed is no light thing. What, truly, is marriage? I would choose well when my choice is made,” said Elladan, with an inward smile. “Give me your counsel, lord; what makes the best of marriages?”
Dol Amroth had not spoken for more than a minute before he was interrupted by another, who loudly proclaimed his thought on the best of marriages. The debate span up and down the table, and had no sign of ending soon. In ten minutes, only one person at the high table besides Elladan and Elrohir remembered the question that began the heated converse. And that one looked sadly at the pair.
Arwen and her twin brothers were considered the youngest lords and lady of the High Elves, though they had both human and elvish blood. They were all children of Galadriel’s own daughter, Celebrían. Galadriel was the eldest noble of the High Elves who remained. She was done with counsel for Arwen’s choice to wed a mortal man, a choice that she could approve despite its rarity among the Elves. Elrohir and Elladan were another matter.
Galadriel noted that the twins often fell into the same expression when listening, or made similar gestures, even speaking together sometimes. She remembered when this had not been so. They had been so unlike one another that it had been thought that, like Elrond and Elros before them, one would choose the life of the Elves while the other would choose mortality. Neither had ever spoken of their choice, and it was clear that they would choose together, now. Galadriel hoped that it was she alone who knew the reason. Her Mirror had shown her many things, bidden and unbidden. It had been a heavy day when it was revealed to her that Elladan and Elrohir were lovers.
The two together were united in a near-impenetrable leaguer, using all their warrior wiles in the constant battle to practice desire in secrecy. Now, the hour was come for her to take up her deferred duty as the eldest of their kin, to speak to the twins. And she would need to break that leaguer and talk to each alone, that she might learn their true thought and hearts. She watched them laughing and bantering at the table of celebration. Not tonight. But soon.
Three evenings after the wedding brought the first darkened weather Gondor had seen for a week: clouds of rain out of the West. The guests visiting for the nuptials drew close together that night, away from the balconies where the downpour blew along in sheets. Many guests were missing, and the evening declined into informality after Aragorn and Arwen retired early.
Elrohir was laughing with a few of the elves of Lórien when the elves left off their mirth and became dutiful. He looked behind him and saw the Lady Galadriel there, patient as any humble maiden.
“Greetings to you, our Lady,” said one of the other elves.
“Greetings, grandmother,” Elrohir smiled.
“Greetings to all. Your pardon, but I would speak with my daughter’s son. Elrohir?”
Elrohir went with her, his unease at her coolness growing as they approached a courtyard, the Court of the Fountain. In the rain, the fountain’s playing was beaten down, and a white sapling swayed beneath the wind and weather. A cloistered walkway encircled the courtyard, arched and roofed with stone. As Galadriel drew him to a benched niche at one corner of the covered path, Elrohir felt that this conversation would bring him as little joy as the fountain felt, hammered by the rain.
“Why do you wish to speak to me so? Might we not have spoken in the hall?” Elrohir looked at her cautiously.
“I have always admired your directness, Elrohir. You are truly my daughter’s son, as fearless and daring as she,” said Galadriel.
“Is it about my mother?” he asked.
“In a way. It is because of her that I speak to you now. Will you go to the West, as I do, to where Celebrían waits?”
Elrohir settled back into the bench with relief. “Elladan and I are still discussing this. It is not an easy choice.”
“Do you not hear the sea-call?” Galadriel’s voice was soft; Elrohir had to lean closer to hear. “Or do you hesitate because you and Elladan are lovers as well as brothers?”
Elrohir’s warm expression was swept away in an instant by a soldier’s grimness when faced by his foe. “How came you by this knowledge? How do you know it is true, and not a lie of malice?”
“My scrying is my own,” she said, eyes glinting at the change in him. “And it is as true as the fact that you sit by me now, with fear in your heart.”
Elrohir was aghast. Elladan had set wards of elvish lore around the two of them, to guard their secrecy against chance and misfortune, and the wards had served, it seemed. But if any might pierce such wards, it was Galadriel. At least he was alone, and might speak as seemed best to him. “It was naught of Elladan’s will. Let your wrath fall upon me, for I went to him first, and persuaded him to this.”
“I cannot believe that Elrond would not have shared with you the laws of our people,” said Galadriel.
“He did. I knew that such a thing was against them,” Elrohir said, very matter-of-fact.
Galadriel took a deep breath, and spoke very slowly to still her rising anger at such willfulness. “If you knew such deeds were ill, then why did you seek to do them? What in Arda was your thought? Did you work your will with force?”
“No!” Elrohir cried, and Galadriel saw his hard expression fall away. “I would never hurt him! I told him – only how I …” He paused and collected himself. “I knew it was not right to turn to him. Yet it felt like I would have been turning from love itself had I not spoken to him. I have known enough of others to know that I cannot love them. I might have gone on so, living a false life. My thought was that if I asked and he refused, then my heart would crack. But I would know his answer at least, and I would be more free.”
Galadriel was silent, so Elrohir continued. “We have done what we have done; there is no denying it. Still, as things are, we hurt no-one but ourselves. And now our honour is in your hands.” He saw that she listened, yet looked away; he turned and saw Elladan stiffly approaching along the cloister.
“Well met, grandmother. A star shines on the hour of our meeting,” Elladan said when he drew up to them, bowing formally. He looked at Galadriel, perplexed. In the hall, Elladan had felt a pang of tearing fear, and sought swiftly for his brother. Yet there seemed to be nothing there to cause such distress.
Galadriel stood, dismayed. “Well met, Elladan son of Elrond.”
“She knows,” Elrohir said. Elladan took a step back, and the stone carvings of the cloister had more expression than he did at that moment.
“Yes,” said Galadriel. “And I would speak to Elladan now, and alone.”
“I do not wish to leave a counsel that concerns me so closely,” said Elrohir, standing beside his brother.
Galadriel spoke sternly. “I will trust the truth of what you said before, Elrohir, if you let me have this wish. If Elladan cannot speak freely to me, what does that say about you?”
“Then I shall go. No-one shall ever say that I lie.” Elrohir bowed in turn, and walked away, looking back at Elladan until he left the courtyard.
When Elrohir was out of sight, Elladan spoke, and his voice was tight and cold. “What have you said to Elrohir? Can you not let us be? Why is this any of your concern, lady?”
“This matter concerns me for the sake of your mother, and myself. Do you wish to say anything to me?”
“This was no fault of Elrohir’s. I am certain I drew him to me. He was too pure to come to wish such an…alliance… alone.”
Galadriel raised an eyebrow. “This is not what Elrohir says. He claims he came to you: I believe ‘persuaded’ was his word for his approach.”
“Lady, that is also true. Yet twins such as we are not free spirits. Perhaps it was my own long thinking about this that put it into his heart. It is not a darkness on any other of our house, but a shadow of our own. There have been no others like us.”
“And why do you speak so certainly?” she asked, interested to see that his thoughts ran alongside her own.
“Either such a thing was thought so forbidden that none of the Eldar recorded it, if it came to pass. Or, as the sin of Maeglin was credited, the way our hearts are turned is a late stroke of the Curse of Mandos. The Disposessed we shall be forever!” Elladan seemed strangely alight as he met the challenge he had awaited for so long. “You may query me all night. If there is any dark lore about the Eldar, I know it, having sought at first to vindicate our love, and then to try and escape further shadow. Why do you think we did not go with the Company of the Ring?”
“I felt the draw of Sauron’s ruling Ring when it came to Rivendell, borne by the halfling. And well did the tool of Sauron know what to promise me; order among Elves and Men, new laws, redemption… Elrohir and I took counsel and I shared what I had learned of this thing. It was best not to be tempted further. I said it was not my place to go, and Elrohir that he would not venture without me. While the Ring remained in Rivendell, we rode our long errand to bring tidings to you in Lórien. And we went to the war only when the Ring was beyond our reach.”
Galadriel remained quiet, and her thought could not be read from her face. Elladan slumped down on one of the stone benches, bewildered by her silence. “Now you know all ill of me, incest and call to evil, and how low I have been brought. Go on and scorn me! I will not deny your words.”
She reached out and touched both of his shoulders with the finger-tips of her white hands. With the worst said, he did not turn aside from her spirit-deep look, finding there not wrath nor disgust, but sadness and kinship undiminished.
“Bring your brother,” she said, softly. “I would speak to both of you.” Elladan reeled up from the stone seat. “Please bring him,” she repeated, and Elladan left, walking like one reprieved from being slain.
Galadriel sank down, exactly where he had sat, and leaned back to the wall behind the bench. The Mirror had shown her the twins’ passion, but not the peril of which Elladan had spoken. As Elrohir had sought to make Elladan blameless of their desire, so too did she perceive that Elladan tried to distance Elrohir from the lust of the Ring. The Ring gave power according to the bearers’ stature. How mighty would the sons of Elrond have been, had they taken it up? If they had not loved, would they have not been tempted, or would they have not taken their saving counsel?
When at last the brothers returned, Galadriel was standing again. None of them spoke for a time. The twins saw her slender and stern, her expression fuelled with unknowable emotions. For all the twins’ grimness, Galadriel saw in them still the children who had been her delight, and the warriors who had brought her pride. Looking on them, hardened by whatever counsel they had taken in their brief absence, she was reminded of many Elves she had seen in the past bound to a fate or an oath, beyond any advising. And these, she sighed to herself, I must counsel in turn.
“Children of my daughter,” spoke Galadriel. “I have had both joy and grief of you, and yet the grief has been the greater. Long have I sorrowed on your behalf. I would not go from you in anger, kinsmen who I meet seldom. I have only one counsel for you.”
They waited, straight-backed and clear-eyed for all their dread.
“Take ship and go over Sea. Go to the West! Do not bereave your mother three times, of all of her children. Seek the judgement of the Valar, which you cannot elude, by short road or long. For they do the will of Eru, the One.”
“But there are none like us among the Elves,” said Elrohir.
“And of the kin of Men?” Galadriel replied. “Legend says that the souls of Túrin and Nienor, siblings wed unknowing of their kinship, were forgiven by the Valar. For a dark fate was brought on them by a curse; and they loved each other. All your family’s fates are strange. It would seem to be the world’s way of saying that there should be no more half-elven.”
The twins each took a step back at these troubling words. “Will you speak to others of this?” asked Elladan.
“Not if there is no need,” said Galadriel.
Elrohir and Elladan looked at each other, not able to discern if this was promise or threat, waiting for the other to speak. At last, Elladan said, “We will bide and choose as seems well to us.”
“Yes,” Elrohir said, with a defiant glance at Galadriel. “Shall we go?”
“Is there aught else you would say to us, grandmother?” asked Elladan.
She smiled at that, and shook her head. “Namárië.”
Galadriel watched them go, then walked out into the open courtyard. She stood long, uncaring of the rain, beside the White Tree of Gondor, the sapling of Nimloth; symbol of a noble line unfailing, of love and high things enduring beyond hope. Its leaves were sleeked down and its flowers shaken by the curtains of rain, but better that the tree should quiver in the storm that nourished it, than that it perish in drought undisturbed.
Once they left the courtyard, the brothers went directly back to the house of Dol Amroth, where they abode as guests. They had no cloaks against the rain, and their fine garments were soaked to their skin. When they arrived at their suite of chambers, without speaking one locked the door, and the other tested that the small mullioned windows were closed and shuttered. A fire had been lit against the chill of the summer rain. They lay their sodden clothes out before it, placing their light shoes on the hearth. Near to naked, they sat on the bench in front of the fire, but at opposite ends, the wet clothes between them.
“A drink?”asked Elladan. Elrohir nodded, and his brother poured out two cups of wine, unmixed with water. Both downed the wine in swift draughts, and Elladan refilled for them.
Elrohir began to drink again, then lowered his cup. He said, “We used to be better than this. There was no need for us to be besotted when we first turned to each other.” Elladan put his cup down, and listened as Elrohir spoke further. “With all that has come to pass, and our kinswoman’s words, I do not regret that I let you know how I loved you. Desired you. But I have tried to keep you bound to me, never speaking of the wrong we do, and soothing you when you doubted. And this I now rue.”
Elladan looked wondering at his brother. “Elrohir. To hear you speak so, almost I feel as if you stand beside me for the first time. My own first thought on hearing such words from you was -- to reassure, as you did for me many a time.” He stood and rearranged the garments drying between them, so that he might sit by Elrohir. In the space that remained between them, the air was alive with the yearning to touch, but they held back.
“What do you think of her advising us? I know you are more inclined to mortality,” Elladan said.
“All these fine Men pass from us, and so too will our dear sister, and our friend for long years, Aragorn,” said Elrohir. “It would be an honor and a mystery revealed to join them. Yet our mother…”
“Yes,” said Elladan. “I had thought that there was no hope for us in the West, although I yearned to see it. Would Galadriel bid us to go hence to our destruction? I think not. She is our kinswoman.”
Elrohir’s face was grim. “She is Galadriel. This I marvel at: that she did not tell us to cease what is between us.”
“She is very wise not to waste breath with what I would not heed. I did not cleave to you all these years to abandon you at the last,” said Elladan, clenching a fist.
Elrohir covered his twin’s knotted hand with his own. “My heart says the same. You are mine. No, you are the other half of me.”
“And you, the riven part of me.” Elladan said, then shook his head. “We sound like madmen.”
Elrohir looked at him anxiously. “Do not mad ones think and feel that their madness is right? It chills me. For so feels my love for you, in spite of everything.”
“What everything? It was you yourself who said to me once that our love mattered little, affecting us alone if we stayed secret,” asked Elladan.
Elrohir spoke slowly. “I thought of this while you spoke with our grandmother. I have loved others less through my passion for you. You have been all to me. My friendships have diminished, and I speak less to our father and sister. Now I am reminded of our mother, whom I would grieve to be spared from judgment. And that seems deeply false, after we have fought to avenge her for so long.”
“You speak true.” Elladan looked into the fire, thinking. “We cannot undo what we have done in the past. But we might make amends with others in the time to come, our family and our folk, Elves and Dunedain. If we do as well as we might in all other things, we can say to the highest ones that though we might be outlawed and dishonoured, our deeds are our own, sprung from our own strangeness, and that we sought to do naught else ill.”
“I would stand beside you as you said that,” said Elrohir.
As they spoke, they had moved closer, so that they were now joined down one side and clasping one hand. Together, they leaned in to embrace, hesitantly at first, then with a passionate fury, restrained only in its quiet. The breathless silence they kept was broken briefly when they pushed the bench well out of their way, to have plenty of room on the floor before the fire.
Next day, the concourse of guests came together again. Elladan and Elrohir arrived very late. Galadriel marked that their leaguer seemed closer than ever; their very stride was in rhythm. After their matched bow of courtesy to the company, they did not greet her, nor any others.
Instead, they walked to join Elrond where he sat, near a window full of the brightness of the day. Galadriel could hear what one of them said to him. “Father, we would speak to you about venturing over Sea. Would there be a way that we may dwell for a time in Middle-Earth after you take the great journey, and yet still follow after? So that we might spend more years with our sister?” It was Elrohir who spoke, she noted. And Elrohir, she had seen last night, did not lie.
* The sin of Maeglin – In The Silmarillion, an elf named Maeglin is drawn into treachery by his incestuous desire for his cousin. This whole sorry state of affairs is blamed on the Curse of Mandos that was placed on the High Elves. Maeglin happens to be Elladan and Elrohir’s great-great uncle.
* Túrin and Nienor – Yet more Silmarillion incest, a human brother and sister who married each other without knowing they were brother and sister. Túrin and Nienor also happen to be Elladan and Elrohir’s great-great uncle and aunt. The judgment upon their souls is mentioned in footnote #17 in “The Problem of Ros” in The Peoples of Middle-Earth. “The (Valar) had mercy on their unhappy fate.” Really, really obscure, sorry.
* And yet still follow after – In ROTK, Appendix A, “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen,” it is stated that the children of Elrond live with the life of the Eldar while Elrond remains in Middle-Earth, and that when he departs, they have the choice to go with him or become mortal.
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