1. One Last Thing
Elrond didn't know Celebrimbor well. He had known of him during his tenure in Lindon with Gil-Galad, met him often enough to be able to put a face to the name, and had felt the insult to his very being when news of the manner of his death had been told. But he had never spoken to him at length or been friends. Still, they were connected, by duty and the burden of one last task that needed to be accomplished as soon as possible.
He had carried the ring on a mithril chain about his neck, the ring itself wrapped in suede ever since that fateful day in March, when he'd felt the power in it flare and then fade as if made of steam. He couldn't bear to have it on his hand; it weighed him down, made him feel every single one of those thousands of years he had lived. It was cold now too, chilling him despite being wrapped in suede to keep it from touching his skin. It was dead: a relic of a by-gone time and a need fulfilled at long last.
But it didn't belong to him, in the end; it had been but a tool given to his keeping and for his use. So Elrond had put it in the safest place he could think of pending his returning it to its rightful owner at last. It had been a lump beneath his robes as he had put Arwen's hand into Aragorn's, consigning her to live an abbreviated life filled with the love she had always wanted and despaired of ever finding. It had been a weight he'd borne reluctantly for the amount of time it had taken to sort through all the centuries of a life in Imladris, preparing to leave that life, and so much else, behind.
Galadriel continued to wear Nenya. She claimed that she was doing so as penance for the audacity, ambition and arrogance that had brought her to Ennor in the first place. The mere thought of putting Vilya back on his finger made Elrond's skin crawl, and he had tried to convince her that she was being too hard on herself while they'd been together on the swan ship crossing the sea, with little success.
As for Gandalf, the keeper of Narya, Elrond knew little. Glorfindel had told him a few tales of knowing the Maia in Bannoth, when he had been known as Olórin. Those tales were so fantastic as to challenge the credulity of any sane man. Elrond had also heard the tale, told late one night by a very solemn Aragorn in Edoras, of how Gandalf the Grey – Mithrandir – had become Gandalf the White, The understanding and the stamina of the wizard was beyond his ken, as was whether Gandalf still wore the Ring of Fire that Círdan had gifted him, or if, as he himself had, he now simply kept it safely on his person.
No, Elrond didn't know Celebrimbor well, but once he had roused himself from the incredibly warm and welcoming embrace of his long-lost wife, whose eyes danced once more like they had long ago in Lothlórien when they were courting, his gaze landed on a dark-haired man, standing patiently aside and yet very clearly watching him – and Galadriel.
Celebrimbor was not prepared, however, for dealing with Gandalf; he looked quite astonished when the wizard approached him and very unobtrusively handed him something. The man smiled and then bowed, and Gandalf's entire demeanor seemed… relieved somehow.
"My love," he said in a voice that was still choked with centuries of unshed tears, "I must…"
"What?" Celebrían turned and followed his gaze, and then turned back with a look of understanding on her face. "I suppose it is time…"
He kissed her lips gently and then set himself apart from her. "Indeed. This should not take long." Their hands remained touching until he had taken enough steps that she couldn't reach him anymore, and the loss of her touch, her physical presence, was an aching blow. All the fatigue he had borne for so long closed in on his mind like a dark shroud.
As Elrond walked slowly toward him, Galadriel approached Celebrimbor as well. The two of them conferred for a brief moment; Galadriel shook her head firmly, Celebrimbor shook his with what looked like sympathy, and then embraced her. She freed herself and backed away, one hand protectively over the other. Elrond sighed; evidently she had decided to punish herself further. With any luck, perhaps her father or brothers would be able to convince her to give up the ring and then spend time in the gardens of Lórien.
That would not be his fate, however. The moment Celebrimbor was free of Galadriel, Elrond stepped near.
"I have something of yours," he said, fumbling with the mithril chain from which Vilya had dangled for far too long.
The grey eyes of the grandson of Fëanor were altogether too much like the eyes of Elrond's foster-father, whom he had not seen since being sent to Círdan nearly two Ages ago. That fact made Elrond yank all the harder until finally the suede wrapping appeared. With a supreme effort, he pulled the chain from around his neck and dropped ring and chain into Celebrimbor's hand.
The moment he was free from contact with the ring, it was as if that dark shroud that had cocooned his mind was jerked away, leaving him almost blinking in the brightness of the Avallonë morning sun. Vilya had been one of three keys to saving Ennor from the last and greatest of Morgoth's lieutenants; giving it up was the price required of him to gain the healing power Aman could hold. It was a price he was glad to have paid.
He reached out blindly, seeking Celebrían's hand, and he rejoiced when warm flesh quickly grasped and held his. He carried the hand to his lips and closed his eyes tightly. It was done; it was over.
When he opened his eyes again, Celebrimbor had closed his fist over the returned ring and pressed it to his heart and bowed. Elrond took a deep breath of salt air, and for the first time in a very long time, tipped his face up to the morning sun and felt energy pouring back into him. Finally he looked back at the Fëanorean and bowed, and then, without a word, tucked his wife's hand into his arm.
"So where are we going?" he asked, almost giddy with release.
"I have leased a small estate on the western coast for a little while, and then we shall go home," she replied, a contented smile hovering over her lips.
"Home?" He bend to nuzzle an ear, the reality of her presence still not entirely sinking in as yet. "And where is that?"
Celebrían shook her head. "First, you will rest, and I will tend you. Then, when you are feeling more yourself…"
"You are not going to tell me?"
"Trust me, my love," she whispered, hesitating in her steps just enough to rise up on her toes to gift him with a delicate kiss.
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.