Nobody knew how the cloaked figure had entered the room, but he was there, standing unobtrusively by the door, head bent, and seemingly not noticing the men who moved towards him to remove him forcibly from the room.
The tone was commanding, powerful, and betrayed no sign of weakness.
Elros sat up in his bed, eyes bright, back straight.
"Father," Vardamir began, "He - "
"Leave him," repeated Elros again, softer, and Vardamir obeyed.
One by one, the men paid their respects, and moved out, until only Vardamir was left, and the stranger, standing half-hidden in the shadows, who then moved forwards.
"My brother," said Elros. "It has been a long time."
"Ay, long indeed," said Elrond, "But somehow it feels like but a day."
"A day!" laughed Elros, but he was mirthless, and bitter. "A day, a month, a hundred lives of Men. It matters not to you any longer, not so?"
"No," agreed Elrond quietly. "Indeed it matters not to me."
"It matters not to you, but see how it matters to me!" muttered Elros, and Elrond cast his eyes away, to hide a forming tear.
"What of your life, brother?" asked Elros. "How is it?"
"It is well," said Elrond. "The High King is noble, yes, and kind, and indeed I love him greatly. We are working hard on our lands, though they are nothing to match yours. "
"See how different it could have been!" said Elros. "On the one hand, I, with my courtyards, and a people to rule over, and my loving son, and on the other, you, with your talk of High Kings and their kindness! Which is better? I do not know, but truly there could not have been a pair of mirror-images with fates more different."
Elrond looked away for a moment, and he thought of mirrors.
"Look at me, brother," commanded Elros suddenly. "Look at me!"
Elrond looked, and he could not stop looking.
"See you any difference?" demanded Elros.
"Indeed, pityo," Elrond said, after a long silence, "I do not."
"You do not," said Elros morosely. "Nay; you cannot, for there is none. But in another ten years - who knows! I would lay down my life now, rather than live ten more years falling into decrepitude."
"Do you, then, wish that you had chosen differently before?"
"Mayhap I indeed wish that," said Elros. "Or no. For to live on, knowing that I would have to watch all I love and look after fade and fall away would be to me worse than this momentary uncertainty of what lies before me. Here at least I will have peace!"
And Elrond had no response to make, and he gazed at the floor.
"The younger should not pass before the elder," he said at last. "But you are my younger by full twenty minutes, and I will remain for longer than you."
"Perhaps it is better this way," said Elros. "For perhaps my mind would not bear the strain of an endless life. Nay, brother, I envy you not."
His voice echoed strangely in the room, sounding almost ghostly.
"Do you remember the games we used to play?" he asked. "That we would finally find our parents, and perhaps come at last to a home, a real home where we could rest and be at peace."
"That will never be real for me," said Elros. "For though I perhaps go now to a better place indeed, I shall tarry no longer in the circles of this world, and when I leave it I leave them too. But you, you might perhaps see them again, and that is the only thing you have which I would."
"I would exchange places," said Elrond hoarsely. "If you would that I give up my life for yours, I would do it!"
"Nay, that choice is for me long past," said Elros. "For I have accepted the fate of Men, and by it I shall live, and by it I shall go. I could not change it now, even if I would. Stay with me, brother."
"Always I will," said Elrond. "Did I not promise you?"
"Ay, you promised," Elros said, in bitterness, "You promised, but where were you when I would have had you by me? Where were you when my wife died?"
"You know I would have come, if you had but asked me," said Elrond.
"Would you?" asked Elros. "Or would the love of your High King and his land keep you from even your brother?"
Elrond cast his eyes down, and he was troubled, but then Elros laughed, a real, gay, exultant laugh.
"That look was answer enough," he said. "But even if you were not there, that time when I wanted you, you are by me at this end. Do not leave me!"
"I will not," said Elrond, but so soft that it could scarce be heard.
Vardamir had slipped out quietly, and only Elrond and Elros were left, now clasped in an embrace.
"I go!" said Elros. "Weep not for me, Elrond, for I go willingly. May thy life be long and joyous! Weep not!"
Elros lay himself down, and Elrond held his hand, and they remained there for long; like reflections of each other - both seeming real, but separated by the thick glass of a mirror.
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.