12. Chapter 12 / Epilogue
- Chapter 12 / Epilogue -
Five years later
The patches of tall, yellow grass swayed gently in the lazy wind; the earth was recovering from a harsh winter, yet the air already smelled of warmth and spring. The little boy ran laughing through the field, the sun reflecting on his long, dark hair. As he approached the oak tree he slowed down, coming to a respectful halt beside a man kneeling before the ancient tree. 'Ada?' he asked cautiously. 'Why does the wind blow?'
The man smiled. Fair-skinned and dark-haired, he seemed to be the boy's older brother. 'Because the Belain have made it so,' he replied. 'Do you remember what I told you about the Creation of the World?'
The boy wrinkled his nose. 'Nooo!' he wailed, a smile breaking through the grimace. 'Not that one! It's boring!'
'Boring?' repeated the man incredulously. 'Which one do you find to your liking, then?'
'The story of Glorfindel!' cried the boy. 'Glorfindel and the Balrog!'
'A good choice,' chuckled the man, standing up. 'I used to like this story as well, when I was your age...' He glanced one last time at the tree, and the two graves that lay in the shade cast by its majestic canopy. The boy waited for an instant but, with the impatience of his youth, soon raced away; Elladan shook his head. 'You would have loved him, brother,' he said quietly. 'He looks just like you...'
Sighing, he turned away and, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand, searched the field for his adoptive son. 'Naerind!' he called. 'Come, we are leaving!'
Elladan strode down the narrow path, Naerind racing around him in circles, chasing the lazy insects that tried to gather sustenance from the fields; his laughter echoed down the valley, and soothed Elladan's dark mood.
Nothing would ever fill the hole left by Elrohir's death. Suddenly, Elladan had been alone in the world, alone forever: the road to Valinor was closed to him because of the choice he had made. He wondered whether things could have been different if Elrohir had listened to what he had tried to tell him, the day Elrohir had left for Black Oak. Or if he had had the courage – or selfishness? – to tell his brother of his own choice... Would Elladan have been able to bring him back from his grief? Elrohir had never felt the change in Elladan, had never known that he was not alone in his mortality... Could it be that Elladan had made the wrong decision? Could it be that Elrohir's death was his fault?
The little boy who came running back to spontaneously hug him reminded him so strongly of his twin that it was painful. Naerind was so full of joy and innocence, so playful and mischievous that Elladan sometimes had the impression of seeing a young Elrohir prancing around; he half-expected to see the younger version of himself come tearing out of a bush as well.
'Have you ever seen Glorfindel?' asked Naerind, craning his neck to look into Elladan's eyes. He chuckled. 'Indeed, I have seen him,' he said. 'He ever was a dear friend...' Naerind gaped at him in admiration. 'You were Glorfindel's friend?' He halted so suddenly in Elladan's path that Elladan had to dig his heels into the earth in order not to collide with the boy. 'How was he?' Naerind exclaimed, grabbing Elladan's cloak and clinging to it. 'Was he brave?'
Catching the boy by the shoulders, Elladan spun him around and gave him a gentle shove, propelling him out of his way. 'That he was,' he said. 'He rescued Frodo from the Ringwraiths!' Naerind watched him with wide eyes, and Elladan decided to use this newfound worship to his advantage. 'Yes, he was very brave, Glorfindel. He even ate his vegetables.'
'Beuark!' Naerind made a disgusted face pranced off: Glorfindel's prestige had apparently drastically dropped in his eyes.
The mimic was so full of childlike spontaneity that Elladan laughed and took off after Naerind, caught him and lifted him off the ground, enjoying his excited shrieks. He kissed the dark hair, the delicate temples, inhaling the sweet scent of his adoptive son. Sometimes he forced himself to remember that Naerind was not his own blood, that he owed him the truth... Yet the pride he felt when the boy would call him Ada or fall asleep in his arms discouraged him. A few more years, he would think, I will tell him when he is older...
Truth was, Naerind had become everything for him, his fragility and need for love forcing Elladan out of his brooding, reminding him his own words about duty. He had found a new quiet joy in caring for the boy, and his life had acquired its lost purpose. And Elladan could see now that in each one of Naerind's smiles, each joke, each steady breath when he slept, Elrohir lived on.
- The End -