'In Middle-earth dwelt also Gil-galad the High King, and with him Elrond Half-elven, who chose, as was granted him, to be numbered among the Eldar; but Elros his brother chose to abide with Men.' --Tolkien
442 of the Second Age
My brother is dead.
He had been dying little by little, day after day, for over four hundred years. I knew this as well as he did, but we ignored it. It was easier that way, more diplomatic. I pretended I did not notice as silver began to streak his black hair over the centuries. He pretended to not notice that I stood a little taller than him with every visit, as his back gently bent with age. Not the graceful, empowering maturing of the Elves; like hardy trees, Elves root deeper into the earth and the past, wearing ever better against the weather of change, the longer they thrive. Old, wise, and hale trees; that is what Elves are like. For my part as well, I suppose, I am one of those fair trees in a forest of many. But Mortal age, menacing and deadly; that is what took my brother.
My brother grew old and died, right before my immortal eyes.
'The gift of man,' he said to me, eager to accept it, meaning to convince me to do the same.
Any other Elf might have been fooled. But the blood of Men too flowed in my veins, and I think in his senility, Elros Tar-Minyatur sometimes forgot that.
'Aye, brother,' said I. 'What about it?'
Elros sniffed, gazing beyond the Sea from the watchtower where we stood, looking for something beyond the horizon that only a mortal would care to find. 'I will receive it soon,' he said, 'gladly.'
His tone was honest, and Iluvatar help me if I did not wish for a moment he would resist instead. But the moment passed; a gift was a gift, even if to some it might seem as otherwise. 'So be it,' said I.
'Do not return again, Elrond, ere I am gone,' he went on. 'It would pain you too much, to see me any nearer to departing than I stand now.'
'You would not have your brother bid you farewell ere the end?' asked I, avoiding the issue for as long as I could. And immortals are accomplished at stalling against change, more so than any.
'I would indeed. On the morrow, we part ways for the last time, until we meet again beyond the circles of this world, if it be so destined.'
Ever a believer that the two kindreds would be reunited after the end of all things, my brother was. Yet I was not ready to give a final farewell, as I believed it would be. It was too soon, much too soon. But I said, 'As you wish, brother. It is your funeral.' And we laughed.
In the orange glow of early morning sunlight, the first King of Numenor and I parted ways, but not for the last time. The wind confided in me as much, as did my dreams the night before. As the ship sailed away, taking me with it, Cirdan stood by my side at the prow, smiling in his shrewd and easy way.
Farseeing he was, though not so near to the subject of his knowledge as I. My brother was dying, and with him a piece of me would shrivel and die as well. Had Cirdan known which piece of me it would be, I think no smile could have reached his face that morning.
I wrote a poem for Elros as I sailed home, sharing it with no one. Only once I read it before tossing it to Sea. The parchment fluttered in the wind, and fell to the waves, soaked all that it could, and tore asunder, carried under, destroyed. No likeness of a great white bird rose from the foam and flew to the heavens. I wept for all that was not, and thought I heard someone singing alone by the shore.
Little of that poem can I remember now. Some time after returning to the mainland, I wrote a song with what remained of a verse I cared to recall, and never sang it aloud but once, for no one to hear but the air. That music I also destroyed, by fire.
The years passed swiftly, as time is prone to do: Elven time, that is. Not a day went by in which I did not expect to collapse where I stood, broken with the sudden cognizance that my brother had gone. I found myself waiting for that moment, which never came. But a summons did.
All a pretense, an excuse to be civil and politic, because we can. As if I could not tell the pen that wrote the words was cradled in frail fingers, held by a trembling hand and guided by a weak arm. Elros asked me to sail to him, not a quarter of a century after he sent me away. The poor thing probably forgot he meant to spare me the pain. I would not remind him when I arrived, of course. To do so would not be courteous, it would be unbecoming. All a pretense. But no reason we both should suffer, for any reason. So I forgot his earlier proffered kindness, tucked his folded letter in a pocket over my heart, and sailed that very week.
We spoke sparsely together, for little strength remained within him. He smiled at my presence, relieved that I had come not too late, and said all he could, whenever he was able.
He chose to go, like many of his lineage after him. But for days before that, he was visited and pampered by his family, sipped hot soup and napped in his bed by the fire, smiled often and held on by a thread. He did not resist death as I had once selfishly wished he would, but rather lingered respectfully alive, maybe to prove that he also could.
But I knew why, really. Elros always did relish attention. It had little to do with keeping an even score with Elven capacities; he simply cherished being doted upon, and not a single one of his kin did not gladly contribute to coddling him in his last days.
Finally, just ere the end, he looked at me and nodded. Then his eyes fluttered without shutting, and he fell into the waking sleep of the Firstborn, as he had not done for a half-millennia. He dreamt there a while, as I watched over his pleasant dreams, and then the light left his eyes. What once burned fiery like the sun faded to a pale moonish glow, then faint as a faraway star, and lastly was no more.
I believe the light did not extinguish, but it did indeed leave. I felt him go, I heard the whisper of my twin's mind dissipate to a chilling silence, I stood there as my mirror image lay dead before me, I felt my skin grow cold with the realization that I was completely alone, despite how many mortals stood around me. And though I did not stand there for long, the loneliness has yet to abandon my destitute heart, as I fled that as good as empty room.
The burial was something I never wished to see, but Elros' family would not have understood that, so I did not tell them. The blood of Elvenkind flows potent through my veins, and I think in their likening of me to my brother, Elros' closest kin sometimes forgot that.
I was glad for the company, for the most part. Though several times I unwittingly sent a grandniece or distant sister-by-law into grievous tears, and I could have lived without such helpless guilt. Even my eldest nephew, then the new King, turned from me once in pain of remembrance. It was difficult for them, I imagine, to attend the funeral for a man whose mirror image too attended. Personally, I was heartened that I could be reminded of my brother's visage, any time I looked in a mirror. But even then, it was no surprise that the hearts of Edain mystified me.
That was long ago. Most of those who stood beside me on that day are also now dead, or were too young at the time to note my presence. It is more seldom that I sail to Numenor these days, though Cirdan is ever accommodating when I do. It is not so strange, my resemblance to the first King of that realm, for none now live who knew Elros in his youth; save those of Elvenkind who could tell my face apart from his, regardless.
Of late I think less frequently upon those days. Some memories should be preserved, shared, sacred; while others bring heartache and sorrow. For me, such memories should be revealed only when their unveiling could teach one a lesson, save another from falling under the same shadow, prevent others from suffering a similar hurt.
Some do not want to be spared. I would accept salvation, were it offered to me. I always would have.
Elros is often in my thoughts; I miss being the brother of more than a memory. I wish I had kept his poem. Perhaps one day, I will bring myself to write another for him.
But until that time, I await the distant light I spied so long ago. It seems long ago, and that is a strange feeling. Sorrow and loss I have now suffered, though unloved victory is not yet come, and I feel that I have not lost enough to deny myself joy of some achievement, and I am not so sorrowful to renounce triumph over an ordeal. So now through the imminence of yet more heartache and dispossession, I cannot see the distant light, nor the peace or hope. Though I do still sense the failure, the unloved victory. It is pending, and denial is futile. Another end and another beginning after it, neither of which I care particularly to see.
Once again I have more to lose than I ever meant to acquire. Not 'things' as such, but emotional attachments. This Age will be the demise of me, or someone. Nay, not me; I foresee my lot, and it spans further than I wish to tarry, even now. Yea, that I chose my own fate. Well, how wise could I have been at the age of fifty?
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.