August 5, 3019
Elrond woke with a start when his head nodded forward.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he touched his son's thoughts and found him well. There had been no knock on the door, no other sudden noise to wake him. His Ring, then? No, Vilya rested quietly in its pouch on a chain around his neck, and he felt nothing more ominous than the vague sense that he always had that the Enemy was searching for him through it.
No threat or disturbance manifested itself, and slowly Elrond's breath slowed down and his heart stopped pounding. As weary as he was of late, it was no surprise that he had nodded off, though he had merely closed his eyes for a moment to collect his thoughts. As uneasy as his sleep was when he did sleep, it was no surprise either that he would wake suddenly.
Elrond's thoughts went back to the day that his sons had ridden off with Halbarad and the Grey Company. They had both turned around in the saddle for a quick wave just before the riders disappeared from sight. That had been the last time he had seen Elladan. Elrohir alone had come home. Elrond had known as soon as he looked at him that Elrohir had chosen to be reckoned among Men. He, too…
Abruptly, Elrond stood up, unable to sit still any longer. Elros had once said that his occasional habit of pacing when he wanted to think was the only sign of Mortal restlessness that Elrond had. He had also, ironically, found it deeply annoying. The thought of his brother led Elrond to yet something else that bothered him. Eärendil.
Why now, Father? Why now? So much of Eärendil's heart had been given to the Sea; there had been room for Elwing, but very little for their sons. Not that Eärendil had ever been harsh, or unkind; just too often absent, even when he was there. And there had been happy moments too. Elrond shook his head. Maglor was a Kinslayer, in thrall to the Silmarils and the Oath, but he had been more of a father to him and Elros than Eärendil. Yet Elrond could not dismiss his sire's actions either. There was a debt of gratitude that must be acknowledged. Without Eärendil's aid, not only would Elrohir have died along with Elladan, but Aragorn might well have become a wraith under the Enemy's rule. For that alone…
Elrond stood at the window, but quickly turned and sat down again. Leaving aside that he had no answer for why the Valar would allow Eärendil to interfere in even such a small manner… It would have been so much easier had he been able to dismiss Elrohir's assertion that Eärendil had spoken to him as the result of a head wound and the shock of his twin's death.
Now, there was a knock on the door, immediately followed by the door opening and Glorfindel looking in.
"Elrond," Glorfindel said. "Did you forget that we would go over the patrol schedules together?"
Curse it! He had forgotten, Elrond thought. "Go ahead to my office. I will join you there."
"As you wish." Glorfindel nodded and went away again.
Elrond gathered some notes, but as he left the room he hesitated a moment and turned towards Elrohir's room rather than to his office. He would look in on his son first before spending the rest of the afternoon on patrol schedules.
Clutching the bundle of papers, he knocked on Elrohir's door and opened it. "Elrohir, do you mind if I come in for a moment?"
"Father." Elrohir nodded a half-hearted invitation.
All considered, Elrohir was recovering well, at least physically, Elrond thought as he looked at his son. He was no longer as gaunt as when he had first come back, though still thinner than he should be. Though he still suffered occasional headaches and flashes of temper, those were not unexpected as it always took time for the effects of head wounds to wear off.
"Did you go outside and do sword practice this morning?" Elrond asked.
"Yes," Elrohir said.
"Any light-headedness or headaches?"
"No," Elrohir shook his head.
"Normal for sparring, I would say," Elrohir replied.
"Very well. Keep it up then," Elrond said. "It is not good for you to sit in here all the time."
Elrohir looked away. "I know," he said, "But as long as I cannot go on patrol…"
Shedding his stern healer's mien, Elrond quickly moved over to put his arm around his son's shoulder. Elrohir tensed briefly, but did not draw away, despite his objection. "Father, truly, I am fine, and I do not need you to watch over me every moment of the day."
"No, that is true," Elrond said. It is what I need…
After some time Elrohir, sounding hesitant, asked. "Father? Did you, did you feel it when… when uncle Elros…, did you know?"
"I knew." Elrond closed his eyes as he remembered that day. He also noted Elrohir's unexpected use of the word 'uncle' for Elros – neither of the twins had referred to him as such since they were children. "It had been over four hundred years since we had seen each other, and there was close to two thousand miles between us, but I knew when he died."
"I did not, or I did not want to admit the truth," Elrohir said. "Not at first." He raised his hand to touch the scar on his head. "Did you ever regret your Choice?" he went on.
"No," Elrond answered, perhaps too quickly, for his son looked at him sharply. "No, I never regretted it," Elrond went on, "And I do not think Elros did either. We both knew we were choosing what was right for us." As Elrond spoke, Elrohir flinched and looked away, leaving an uncomfortable silence between them.
I do not regret it, and yet I wonder… Should I have taken my brother's lead instead? Arwen chose for love of one who is as dear to me as a son himself – though I always knew that Estel would one day die – and Elrohir for the sake of his brother. But why did Elladan choose mortality? For Arwen? For Estel? Or was it always his inclination? Elrond sighed, and quickly glanced at his son, but Elrohir was still deep within his own thoughts. Oh, this is pointless. Had I Chosen otherwise, none of my children would even have been. Celebrían… He had been without her for so long, and now he feared the grief he could only bring her should they ever be reunited.
"We used to talk about it," Elrohir eventually said. "But only when Ar… only recently did we think about it again. Perhaps, had I been first, we might…" He shook his head. "I could do no other than follow Elladan's Choice, but I do not regret doing so."
Truly? Elrond thought. If not for me, then not even for your mother's sake? He knew better than to say it, though. But Celebrían was always the absence not spoken of, and even now Elrond could not bring himself to do so.
Eventually, as the silence lengthened, Elrond realised that Elrohir had fallen asleep leaning against him. There was no possibility for him to stand up now without waking his son. Would Glorfindel still be waiting? Perhaps he should let him know that he would be delayed, Elrond thought. He looked again at Elrohir. Sleep well, my son.
"I understand," Arwen said. "Truly. There is nothing for you to apologise over."
Arwen shook her head as soon as she was alone again in the library's scriptorium. Elwen was the fourth of her maidens to announce she was going West in the last few weeks. Nor were they the only ones. There had already been an increase in Elves leaving since the spring, but in the weeks since Elrohir's return it seemed as if there were people going every day.
Three weeks. Three weeks since they had heard of Elladan's death. Arwen clenched her hands tightly, ignoring the pain of her nails digging into the palms of her hands. Elladan… Could her brothers not have waited longer before attempting to return? Could not Grandmother have foreseen their path and given them warning?
Again, Arwen shook her head before returning to copying out the final pages of Aranarth's diary. She had not planned to do the work herself, but had found no one who could spare the time – Thavron, the head scribe, had been one of the first to go West. At least so far no warriors had left. Now that her father could not use Vilya to hide Imladris anymore and had to rely solely on his own power, they would need all the strength in arms they could retain.
If only she could use Galadriel's spells to ward Imladris – but though she knew how her grandmother maintained her wards, Galadriel had set them using Nenya's strength. While Elrohir had said that Galadriel still warded Lothlórien, he had not yet told her how their grandmother did so without drawing on Nenya. It was something she would have to ask her brother soon.
Arwen stood up and walked over to the window. Tentatively, she extended her mind to where Eärendil should be in the day sky – something she had not yet done before. She did feel a presence, but drew back again quickly before she was detected. As she sat down again, she wondered what she could say once she brought herself to speak.
Before long, there was a knock on the door. At first, Arwen did not respond, but the knocking continued, and finally she called, "Come in."
"Lady Arwen." It was Bilbo.
"Bilbo, good afternoon." She set down her pen. The day was turning into a loss for getting anything done, but Bilbo's company was always welcome.
"I expected I would find you in here," he continued, "And since I was looking for a book, I thought I would say hello."
She smiled. "I would offer you tea, but I fear it has gone cold."
"What are you doing?" he asked as he looked at the book she was copying.
"Copying this. I will send the original to Halbarad." She turned the pages until she found the map of the Angle, and showed it to Bilbo. "Did Estel ever tell you about this?" she asked as she pointed out one of the notes in the margin.
"Ancient Hobbit holes near Caras Dirnen!" Bilbo read the words out loud. "Yes, he did. I would have liked to see them. He said he would take me to see Caras Dirnen one day." As Arwen looked away, Bilbo went on. "I am sorry, I did not mean to…" He sighed and fell silent. "How is your brother doing?" he finally asked, when the silence became too uncomfortable.
"Better than at first," Arwen replied. In truth, Elrohir was still far from well, no matter that his physical wounds had mostly healed, and she doubted he would ever be fully himself again.
"I am sorry," Bilbo said again as she sighed. "I did not mean to make you sad… sadder, I …"
"Bilbo, it is not you that makes me sad," she replied.
"Oh, good. Oh, that is not what I mea… Oh, drat!"
At the old hobbit's distress, Arwen quickly knelt down to face him, and enfolded his hands in hers. "Bilbo, old friend, naught we say to each other can worsen our griefs. I do know what you meant."
Some while later, after Bilbo had left, Arwen returned to her copying. If I want to send the book any time soon, I ought to finish it now. The next several days she would be working with the other Yavannildi to extend the area where the lembas grain grew. The grain's blessing would serve Imladris well once the Shadow extended its reach. She wondered if she might mingle the lembas mail with common grain to make it go further That was of later concern, though; meanwhile, she could only hope that not too many of the Yavannildi left before harvest time. And right now, all she wanted to do was finish this day's work. Only a few more words. There, done!
Arwen put the last pages she had written down to dry and cleaned her pen; she would see both to sending the original to the Angle and binding the copy that would remain in Imladris soon. Casting a glance at the slowly darkening sky outside, she decided to look in on Elrohir.
On her way from the library she ran into Erestor.
"My lady, have you seen Elrond?" he asked.
"No," she replied. "Do you want me to tell him you are looking for him?"
Erestor hesitated, then shook his head. "No, it is no longer important. Glorfindel was looking for him earlier."
When she came to Elrohir's room, Arwen opened the door softly, and stepped in. The room was unlit, but she did not hesitate. It would not be the first time that she had found Elrohir sitting in the dark. As her eyes adapted to the half-light, she saw Elrohir and Elrond. Her father had his arm round Elrohir's shoulder; both were sitting on the couch fast asleep.
With a smile, Arwen backed out of the room again, and closed the door even more softly than she had opened it. It was just as well that Erestor had left her no message. She doubted she would have had the heart to disturb her father and her brother.