Standing on the beach, Elros looked out over the waves to the far horizon. He ignored Elrond’s call to join him in their tent, needing this night to be alone and think.
After the battle, the Maia Eonwë had come to them and instructed them to choose their fates. Elros knew where his brother’s choice would fall, for each twin knew the mind of the other. But now Elros desired something for himself alone, something not tainted with the weariness of the Firstborn.
His fingers sought the bead on its chain around his neck; he absently stroked the planes of the gold flower, as he always did when lost in thought. If only I did not have to choose. I know where my own heart lies, but to have to speak it aloud, to tell the world I desire a fate other than my brother’s…. I have no wish to cause him pain, and yet I cannot follow his lead merely to spare him grief.
Gazing up at the stars, he remembered where Eärendil’s heart had lain. When the fighting was finished, he and Elrond were permitted a brief visit with their father, but the reunion was bittersweet. Their memories of Eärendil were faint, for he had been away at sea through much of their infancy, and the figure who approached them coated in diamond dust with a white gem glimmering upon his brow was a stranger.
When their father held out his arms, Elros joined Elrond in an embrace, but even as Eärendil stroked his hair Elros reflected how his touch did not feel like Maglor’s. His arms were not warm or sheltering, but stiff and cold from countless nights spent sailing the Void. It was like embracing the moon.
On their return, Elrond and Elros learned their foster-father had attempted to take one of the Silmarils recovered from Melkor’s iron crown. In colorless tones, Eonwë told the twins how Maedhros and Maglor crept into the tent where the jewels were kept and each seized one for himself.
“Things so hallowed will not bear the touch of one so stained,” said the Maia. “The sons of Fëanor were told that their Oath was void and the Silmarils no longer their birthright. Yet they seized them and were burnt by them and have fled with their burdens into the darkness.”
Both brothers were appalled at the lack of emotion in Eonwë’s voice, even when the Maia explained that as the bearer of tidings it was not his place to feel. They could expect no pity from him, even when word came of the fate of the Silmarils and the two who had taken them. Elros was not surprised to learn Maedhros had cast himself into a burning chasm, for he had ever been hard and distant, and his end seemed to fit his temperament. But when Elrond told him how Maglor flung his jewel into the Sea and then fled half-mad into the wilderness, they both wept bitterly.
Eonwë came to them that same evening and told them they must choose, and there was no compassion in his announcement. “For as pereldar you have walked in both worlds, between both kindreds, yet that time is come now to an end. Now you must choose, each of you, whether you will be counted among the Eldar, the Firstborn of Arda, or among Men and become mortal.”
Elros clutched the golden jewel at his throat, the last shred of his childhood remaining to him, as if to draw strength from it. Already a messenger had come to Elrond from Ereinion Gil-galad. Elrond did not show Elros the missive, but it was clear he had been offered a place in the High King’s household.
“Something will come for you, gwanunig-nín,” he told Elros, “either from Gil-galad or one of the other great lords. You fought bravely against the Enemy; I have heard many say so.”
“You say that only to spare my feelings,” Elros said sourly.
“Nay, it is truly so. The High King praised your courage, and Lord Círdan and many among the mortals who fought with us. The Edain especially hold great love for you,” answered Elrond. “As for myself, I know not what Gil-galad sees in me. You have always been the brave one. He should make you one of his captains, muindor. I will ask--”
“I do not need your charity. I do not want it!” Elros did not wait for his brother’s answer before storming from the tent. Tears brimmed hotly in his eyes as he moved past the other tents, past Elves and mortals who paused to watch him fly past. Nay, I will not cry, I will not let them see my anguish. He bit back his tears until he was on the beach and alone.
A high tide lapped at the rocks and a wind had come up from the west. Perhaps a storm would blow in before morning, one of many predicted to come. Beleriand had been broken and ruined in the war, and would soon be reclaimed by the sea. One day soon, the land where Elros now stood would lie under the waves, and Beleriand would be but a memory.
Even the land deserts me, he thought. The cold wind stung the tears on his cheeks. First ada and naneth and now Maglor and Elrond have left me in their turn. There is no place for me among them. He clutched the golden bead, absently running his fingers along the planes of the flower carved into it.
“A rather brisk evening to be walking the beach alone, is it not, pen-neth?” asked a voice.
Hearing that voice, roughened by centuries of toil in wind and wave, Elros did not need to look to know who had followed him. “I am well above the tide, Lord Círdan,” he said.
The silver-haired Teleri smiled, wrapping his cloak about him as he lightly stepped up to stand beside Elros. “You have your father’s instincts when it comes to the sea. I did not have to repeat myself with him, save when it came to the making of ships. Many tries it took to craft the perfection that is Vingilot.”
Without taking his eyes off the horizon, Elros asked, “Why did you follow me? Surely it was not to discuss shipbuilding?”
The Shipwright did not answer immediately, but looked on him with quiet eyes. Finally, he said, “You are angry, Elros.”
Elros pursed his lips into a tight line. “I hate it that this choice falls to me. I know where my brother would have me choose, yet I cannot set aside the pull of my own heart merely to please him.”
Círdan nodded. “Perhaps you do not know this, but your father strongly felt the pulse of Men. It was only for the sake of your mother and the will of the Valar that Eärendil chose to be numbered among the Firstborn. He did not tell you this when you saw him?”
Of what had passed between him and the Valar in the Undying Lands, Eärendil said nothing. Perhaps it was forbidden for him to speak of it. Elros did not know.
After a moment, Círdan continued, “I have been told the Valar have raised a new land from the sea as a gift to those mortals who aided us in the War of Wrath. It is far from these shores. They will have much need of ships, and strong men to lead them, I think.”
For a long time Elros was silent, mulling this new knowledge over in his mind. Then, slowly, he met Círdan’s eyes and smiled.
* * *
“Nay, you cannot do this!” cried Elrond.
Elros looked at him, his calm, rehearsed tone warring with the pain he felt within. “I have already done it, gwanunig-nín. I cannot take back my choice.”
“Have you not marked what it is to be mortal?” Tears were now spilling from Elrond’s eyes. “You will grow old and feeble and die.”
“That is not quite true. Eonwë has told me that long life will be granted me, and that I may give back the gift at will and not have it taken perforce as with other mortals.”
“But you will die!” Elrond’s voice broke on the last word and he pressed his face into his hands, sobbing.
Elros nodded. “Aye, I will be released from the bonds of Arda,” he said calmly, “and be free of the weariness and fading of the Firstborn. I do not look upon that as an ill thing.”
Elrond wiped away his tears long enough to answer. “Had you not thought what pain it would bring me to watch you die, whatever soothing words you may put upon the act?”
“I am not staying here, muindor.” He did not wait for Elrond’s reaction before continuing, “Eonwë and Círdan have told me of a new land raised in the midst of the sea for the Men who aided the Firstborn in the war and whose homes will now be lost under the waves. Strong men will be needed to guide and lead them in this time of upheaval.”
“And what do you know of the sea? A fool you are to think you can guide anyone. You will be sick the first time you step onto a boat, and as for steering-- Nay, you are not Father to put your hand to a rudder with any such skill, and the sea has become so rough these days you will be lost before you ever lose sight of these shores.”
“Círdan is sending his own ships and mariners with us, and you yourself have said how the Edain looked to my leadership during the war. I have taken those words to heart, and now they shall look to me again, as one of them.” He saw Elrond shake his head, lips parted to argue, but there was no use in it. His choice had been made, with Eru as his witness. He could not reclaim what he had already given away. “I have sent word ahead that I will be joining them in the morning.”
Elrond stared at him, stricken. “So soon, muindor?”
“There is much to be done, and I think it is best that I do not linger here too long.”
Neither of them slept much that night, but lay awake in the shadows, Elros staring at the wall of his tent, feeling his brother’s eyes on his back. When morning came, filling the tent with thin gray light, he got up, quietly and stiffly making his preparations. It was more difficult than he thought it would be. It is well that I am going today and not lingering, though I do not wish to part from him on ill terms. It may well be the last time we ever see each other.
On the threshold of the tent, Elros paused, then stopped and set his pack at his feet so he could reach into his tunic for the thin golden chain that rested there. He undid the clasp with fingers that did not want to work, while Elrond watched and wondered what he was doing.
At last, the clasp came free and Elros pulled the chain and its pendant bead from his throat, spilling them into Elrond’s hand. “Take it,” he said.
“This is yours. You have always worn it,” Elrond whispered harshly. “I cannot take it.”
He started to refuse it, to hand it back, but Elros sealed his fingers around the gold with his own hand. “You will take it, gwanunig-nín,” said Elros. “I do not know if we will ever see each other again, if I will ever return to these shores or if you will ever come to see me in this new land. Perhaps this is the end. I know not, but let this be the one thing of me that stays with you when I become but a memory.”
He bent and lifted his pack, turning his steps toward the headland where the Edain made their camp. Though his heart tugged at him, Elros did not dare venture a last, backward glance at his brother. If he had, he would have seen his own mirror image standing at the tent flap, gray in the morning fog, clutching a golden bead to his lips and weeping anguished tears.
* * *
pereldar: (Quenya) half-Elven
gwanunig-nín: (Sindarin) my twin
muindor: (Sindarin) brother
pen-neth: (Sindarin) young one
The new land to which Círdan and then Elros refer is Andor, the Land of Gift, later known as Númenor.
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.