9. Until the Sun is Dead
First evening of the Fourth Age, The Gray Havens
After the white ship vanished over the horizon, the Hobbits dried their tears and began to make ready for their homeward journey. They lingered, examining the many Elves present at the Harbor, and their various forms of grief. Cirdan alone wore a faint smile. Noting the Elf-Lord's long gray beard, Sam could guess how Cirdan might feel - every such departure brought closer the day when Cirdan could at last go himself. The other Elves of the Havens, long used to such partings, for the most part seemed merely wistful, though some were clearly dismayed by so many of the Great Ones sailing at once.
Glorfindel, always different and alien, seemingly incapable of any weakness, Elvish let alone Hobbitish, nonetheless stared fixedly out to sea. Though, Sam supposed, not at anything visible to Hobbit or even ordinary Elvish eyes. Gandalf had given Glamdring "back" to the legendary warrior before boarding the ship, saying (in his best 'Gandalf' fashion) that the sword's task was not completed.
Those with family members who had gone on the ship were grieving indeed. The few ellyth of Imladris and Lothlorien present wept openly - most had just been parted from brothers and sisters, husbands, parents, or even children.
Celeborn wept silently. Tears on that regal face were hard to bear, though understandable - who would not weep when his wife abandoned him? Seeing Sam's concerned face, the Lord of Lothlorien sought to ease him: "Do not trouble yourselves on my account, my friends. For I will surely see my Lady again, one way or another." This would have eased the Hobbits, if only Celeborn could have managed to take comfort in his own words, but for once the proud, ancient Elf-Lord failed utterly.
Elladan and Elrohir were most to be pitied, if one could ever pity such grand figures, for the Hobbits knew, as Frodo had explained long before, the twins could not count on ever seeing their father or grandmother again. They looked precisely like Aragorn would have at such a moment.
Most of those present essentially ignored the Hobbits, offering polite though brief condolences if they came near. Briefer than Hobbit politeness would have allowed, but after all, what did Elves know of Hobbit custom? The one who had known the most, Elrond, had gone on the ship.
Inglor Aegnorion - Galadriel's half-Elven nephew - had also left on this evening's ship, eager to rejoin his own son, and so the House of Finrod was now lost to Middle Earth forever. Few indeed of the Noldor still remained in Middle-earth, as Frodo had explained. Why was Erestor still here? the Hobbits wondered. He was Noldo through and through, with his dark hair, gray eyes, love of knowledge, and (at times) flashing temper. For love of Rivendell, they supposed.
As if sensing their curiosity, Erestor now approached them with a mien far different from that of any of the other Elves on this day. Abject misery was there, but curiously, the counsellor's face also betrayed a terrible anger, even hate. The Hobbits felt a strange fear - but what was there to fear here?
"Erestor," Merry said with a bow, "this is a sad day for us all. Grief lies heavy on us, and so it seems on you. Our condolences." This was hardly the proper politeness, but the Elf's look was very disconcerting.
"Indeed it is and indeed it does, young ones." Not a polite reply, either. Sensing their fear, the tall Elf tossed his greatsword in the opposite direction and sat on the ground a few yards in front of them. "There, now you have nothing to fear."
Apologies followed, Sam quickest as usual. "Oh, we're sorry you saw that, Erestor. But you look - you look as if you could kill a score of Uruk-Hai with your bare hands." And as if you'd like nothing better than to do so, Sam didn't add.
"I was never good at keeping my thoughts off my face, except in matters of diplomacy." Erestor replied, as if he had guessed Sam's last unspoken thought. "And truth be told, I've not been so angry in many a long year."
Pippin could contain himself no longer. "Angry at whom? Why? Today is a day for grief, and aye, bitterness, but why anger?" Was the Elf angry that Elrond was leaving? Surely he and Elrond's sons could manage Rivendell now that Sauron was defeated.
Again thoughts were read, and Erestor gave a short bitter laugh. "Yes, I think we can keep the Last Homely House in order, Peregrin. But I am angry at myself. And at others. Not those who go over the Sea today as you guess, but ... those who dwell beyond it."
This was a surprise. Sam replied first: "I understand, I think. I feel as they're taking Frodo away from us, these Valar. I'll not deny I'm angry at them as well. But ... no, I guess I don't understand. Most of Rivendell's folk have already left, though why anyone would want to leave such a place is beyond the likes of me. If you don't mind me asking, why didn't you go with the ship?"
"I cannot!" he screamed, his fair face contorted into a mask of loathing, and it was all the hobbits could do not to flee. The nearby Elves looked in their direction. All froze for a moment... but it passed, and the others looked sadly away. "Indeed, as much as I wish to, I cannot go that way." he continued. "Except by death, and Glo- Lord Glorfindel assures me I would find Mandos' Halls most incommodious."
The Hobbits all stared at him agape, totally forgetting their manners. Surprised, Erestor asked "Did Bilbo and Frodo tell you nothing of my past? Though a loremaster and counsellor, I am not a librarian, as some seem to believe. Would that I had been!"
The Hobbits replied awkwardly that of course Bilbo had told them that he had been Elrond's chief adviser for more than an Age, he had proven a useful strategist during the Last Alliance, et cetera, et cetera. Merry, who knew the most, added a few brief legends about Erestor's valiant deeds in the Battles of Beleriand - but of course, only those battles where all the Elves fought on the same side.
A faint ghost of a smile accompanied the reply. "I am surprised any Mortals remember those last stories, though of course Bilbo learned of them from Elrond or others in Imladris." He paused again before continuing, "But Bilbo was a kindhearted fellow, and not all tales are told willingly, or made into song for the Hall of Fire. Did he tell you nothing of the Ban?"
Now Sam spoke up, "Oh yes, the Ban of the Valar and the Doom of Mandos. But Bilbo seemed to believe that truly applied only to..." Sam turned red and stopped. "Numbskull!", he thought to himself, as Erestor finished his sentence.
"The House of Feänor. Indeed, Bilbo has been proven correct as I had feared. The ban has been lifted for most of the Noldor, even their lords and ladies." Erestor said, with a touch of dark emphasis on 'ladies'. "Those of the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin are pardoned," - the Hobbits afterwards reasoned that this meant Elrond and Galadriel - "but on the House of Feänor, the Ban remains. This we have discovered only today. Cirdan does not permit any on his ships whose presence would endanger them, and he ... received a message." He continued sadly, "I had thought that by assisting in this last war against Sauron and the destruction of the Ring, we might at last be pardoned, but it seems it is not to be."
Pippin, unable as usual to contain his curiosity, blurted out "But what did you do? How could an Elf be kept out of Valinor?"
Erestor seemed shocked at the bluntness of this question, but merely asked "On the Quest, would you have done anything to take the Ring to the Fire? To save Frodo? Anything?"
Pippin hesitated, but Sam replied, "I would have. I ... maybe I did."
"You promised in your heart that nothing but your own death would stop you, Samwise. I understand that, and honor it, perhaps more than any other Elf you are likely to meet." This seeming compliment did not please Sam at all, but he merely sat dumbstruck.
The majestic Elf paused for a long time, more than a minute, before continuing. "The Valar smiled upon your promises, and for that I am glad. But they do not always do so. Unfortunately, in this Arda Marred, 'promises' and the willingness to do anything to accomplish a goal can turn on you. Long ago, many of my friends and kinsmen set out to put an end to a Dark Lord, even as you did. And also to reclaim the Silmarils, which were rightfully ours. Yet what few who were not present understand is that the second goal was in service of the first, and the two were inseparable so long as the Morgoth stood. So we believed. So I still believe."
He shook his head wearily. "How would it have gone if one amongst your Fellowship had claimed the Ring? The Valar smiled upon you, that Boromir did not take it, and that Gollum did."
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.