4. Twins Apart
“And why would you want to leave?” Gildor absently stroked Elros’s hair in turn. His other hand rested at Elros’s hip. Elros knew that he should’ve stayed quiet. Now awake, Gildor began to gently nibble on Elros’s ear. “You are not what I expected, Peredhel.”
“Perhaps because I am not Elrond.” Elros hoped that would deter Gildor from his distracting ear nibbling, but it did not.
“I know. You are Elros, twin brother of Elrond.”
Elros stiffened and drew away. “You knew?”
“How could I not?” Gildor tugged Elros back to him and kissed his cheek before returning to more ear nibbling. “You do not act or react like your brother. Though you resemble your brother in face, your heart is like mine.” He ran his finger over Elros’s chest. Elros laughed and straddled Gildor. There was no hope now of leaving before having one last round.
“My dear Prince,” Elros said as he moved against Gildor and felt the flesh harden beneath him, “if only I’d met you at the end of the First Age, but you weren’t born then.” The oil from their previous bout had by now dried or soaked into the bedsheets. Elros poured fresh oil onto Gildor and massaged his length.
“What would you have done differently?” Gildor asked, mildly amused. “Would you have given up the Kingship of Numenor to be with me?”
“Nay, my Lord,” Elros confessed. “I enjoy ruling, even as you do.” He kissed the fair, golden-haired Elf beneath him and sucked Gildor’s tongue into his mouth. Below, his hand worked Gildor’s length still harder. “But,” Elros said when he at last broke away for breath, “I might have chosen differently had I known you.” Elros impaled himself on Gildor in a now all-too-familiar motion. He wanted to be in pain for their last round. Rather than withdraw and allow himself to rest and prepare for still deeper penetration, Elros pushed himself down the hard length and gritted his teeth. “We are cursed, those of us with Noldorin blood who remain in Middle Earth. We are arrogant,” he withdrew, “and driven to rule,” and impaled himself again. “Your fate will be no different from that of the sons of Feanor, but I will escape before the curse finds me, though my descendants will not be so fortunate.” Elros found it far too difficult to do two things at once, so he abandoned speech and turned his attention fully to pleasuring Gildor, repeating in his mind “cursed, cursed, cursed” with each pounding, though he knew not for certain why he should suddenly feel cursed at the end of his 500 long years of life, a span of time only slightly shorter than all the time of the First Age.
When they were spent, Elros slipped his ring off and put it on Gildor. “When I am gone, take care of my brother.”
Elrond felt as if he were in a dream as he beheld his foster father for the first time since the War of Wrath. Gil-galad woke him from his daydream.
“You were never to come back among the people of the Elves, Son of Feanor,” Gil-galad said. Elrond wanted to protest but knew better than to speak against his King. Gil-galad was not armed with his sword, but his fists were clenched tightly, and his knuckles were white.
“I have not yet broken my word in that matter, High King of the Noldor,” Maglor said. Though his face was still wet with tears, his voice was strong and undaunted by the King. “For this reason, I have refused to enter the Gates of the Eglain. I come only to see Elros Half-Elven.”
“Be at ease, my Lords,” said Cirdan. Though he must have come straight from the waterball game, he was dressed in snowy white robes adorned with small pearls and groomed as if it were the beginning of the day. Some of his hair was pulled back in a bun and pinned in place by two decorative hairsticks; the rest of his silver hair fell about his shoulders like liquid moonlight. On a heavy necklace of platinum hung a single perfectly round white pearl. Beside him was Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, dressed in silver with black embroidery and adorn with no ornament save a ring of mithril (a new silver substance that had been found in the eastern mountains) with neither stone nor gem set upon it. Cirdan put a hand on Gil-galad’s shoulder. “Prince Maglor is here at my behest, though as you say, King Gil-galad, he is not welcomed and will not enter the Elven kingdoms. I have called for Elros Tar-Minyatur. He will be here shortly.”
“I am here already,” Elros called out as he crossed the courtyard to the main gates. Beside him was Gildor, dressed in royal blue and silver. Like Elrond, Elros’s hair was no longer braided. At first, it seemed ridiculous that the two walk together, as if they were purposefully encouraging the rumors that Legolas had spoken of earlier. But when Elros and Gildor came to stand by them, Elrond at last understood that this was the assemblage of the remaining male descendants of Finwe Noldoran. And yet, Inglor was not among them, and Finarfin was in the Blessed Realms, so it was not, after all, the full assemblage of the male descendants of Finwe. Elrond looked curiously at Gildor, as blond as the Vanyar, and wondered at his presence, and yet, it did indeed feel right, for Gildor alone of his family seemed intent on remaining in the Hither Lands. Of the descendants of Finwe, Elrond found that he resembled Celebrimbor most closely (aside from Elros, of course), for Celebrimbor was like Curufin and Feanor in appearance, raven-haired and porcelain fair of face. Elrond wondered at this, for he had not since his childhood given much thought to his ties, both of blood and of spirit, to the House of Feanor.
The Princes of the Noldor stood together in a Ring of Silence (for Cirdan had stepped away from them) on the shores of what remained of the otherwise drowned Beleriand, representing all Three Houses of the Kings of the Eldar, the Three Houses of the Noldorin Princes, and, in the Peredhil, all three Houses of the Edain. The meaning of such a moment was impossible to fathom, except perhaps to Iluvatar.
Elros at last broke the Ring of Silence by addressing Maglor: “Father.” They embraced and shared kisses on the cheeks. Elrond had seen such shows of affection before, but for the first time, he felt as if he was a part of the unlikely family. “I am going with Father,” Elros said to Elrond.
“Then I am coming with you,” Elrond said.
Elros shook his head. “Like Maglor, I will not return again to the people of the Elves. You cannot come with me to where I go now.” The dread that had been building for days before the Sea Festival crashed over Elrond again like a great tidal wave. Even before Elros explained himself, Elrond’s heart knew what was to come. “I am accepting the Gift of Iluvatar to Man and will pass beyond the confines of Arda.” For many moments, silence as heavy as darkness on a clear sunny day descended upon the assembled Elves.
“Allow the Princes of the Noldor to travel at least as far as your resting place, Elros Peredhel,” Cirdan said. “Thus requested Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, in return for permitting Maglor to step foot before the Gates of Mithlond.”
Glorfindel stepped forward and bowed before Elros. “I had wished to see you before your departure, but now that the hour is at hand, a part of me regrets having come to see this.” He kissed Elros’s hand, for Elros was descended from Idril Celebrindal, daughter of King Turgon of Gondolin. Galdor and Legolas stepped forward and paid their respects to Turgon’s descendant in like manner.
Ecthelion, who had escorted Elros from the Isle of Elenna to the Land of the Eglain, was the last of the Noldorin Elf-lords to pay his respects. “May the stars shine upon your face.” As Ecthelion kissed the hand of his lord, his silver hair cast an odd play of shadows upon the sleeve of Elros’s robes. Cirdan and the four Noldorin Elf-lords departed quietly back to the Sea Palace with somber faces.
“You are the First King of Numenor,” Gil-galad said. “Why not lie among them in the end?”
Elros shook his head. “I was the First King of Men in the New Age, indeed, but I am no Man. But nor am I an Elf. I chose to be of the Dispossessed, and so my body will remain in the House of the Dispossessed.” Gil-galad nodded, not understanding the plight of the Peredhil but accepting Elros's final decision. Though Gil-galad was King of the Elves, it was Elros, King of Men, who led the descendants of the King of the Noldor along the shores.
Glorfindel and Ecthelion had no desire to return to the festivities after they had taken their leave of the Son of Earendil the Blessed, and so they retired early to Glorfindel’s quarters, where they shared a bottle of strong wine. For many moments, they spoke no word, and when the sun’s rays began to slip beneath the horizon of the waters, the two went out onto the balcony overlooking the Firth of Lune and watched the light pass into the West. Even after the sun had passed from their sight, its light lingered in the dimming sky, and the Elf-lords put an arm on the other’s waist and held each other to support their heavy hearts.
“What will you do, Lord of the Fountains, now that your charge has passed on?” Glorfindel said at last. “Dare I hope that you will remain here by the shores of Lindon? Or will you pass over the Sea to the West?”
Ecthelion stared out across the starlit waters, now dark and frightful, for the waters were not tranquil and still as those about the Blessed Realm. “I will indeed remain here, for I have chosen to share in your great task for love of our late Lord, the King of Gondolin. And though Elros is now beyond harm, what will you do, Lord of the Golden Flower, if you protect Elrond for the many years to come only to find that you cannot guide him over the waves to the Blessed Realm? I hear that High King Gil-galad wishes to establish his own capital of Lindon elsewhere, and doubtless Elrond Peredhel will accompany him, and thus you will follow him. But I will not go forth when that time comes. Instead, I shall abide here by the shores and guard over Mithlond so that the white ships of the Teleri, once wrongly taken and burned at Losgar, which is no more, will remain safe in this Haven until the time when the Elrond chooses to depart from these lands forever.”
“Morgoth has been defeated. What darkness now remains to threaten the white ships of the Mithlondrim?” Glorfindel asked, but even as he said it, he knew in his heart that the fear and foreboding was unfounded, for Eonwe had warned upon his announcement to remain in Lindon that the Prophecy of the North was a prophecy, not a curse, and that all that had been proclaimed would come to pass, though none save Mandos could see the manner of its passing. Perhaps Ecthelion felt something of Glorfindel’s thoughts, for he said nothing. “It bodes ill that such a thing should happen on the night of the Sea Festival,” Glorfindel said.
Ecthelion put his head on Glorfindel’s shoulder, and his silver tresses mingled with the golden hair of his friend like the blended Light of the Two Trees that were no more. The circlet of pale niphredil upon Ecthelion’s head seemed to sigh with the yellow elanors woven in Glorfindel’s wreath like the sorrow of Arda that whispered in the waters of the Sea. At last, night fully descended upon the longest day of the year. Above them shone Gil-estel, the Star of Hope, and the Elf-lords took comfort in its light, though they had not known that hope was needed.
The Princes of the Noldor traveled in silence westward, and when they reached Maglor’s cave along the shores of the Firth of Lune, the sun was almost set. There, Elros lay down on the long bed that had been prepared for him. Maglor kissed Elros’s brow and left with tears unnumbered streaming openly down his face, and his song of grief could be heard echoing in the winds of the Sea. Gil-galad and Celebrimbor bade Elros farewell and left. They did not know him well and did not wish to dwell upon the moment. Gildor clasped forearms with Elros, squeezed him tightly, and departed as well. Then all had left Elros save Elrond, and he stood alone by his brother’s bed and wept. And for all of his long years of both war and peace, death and life of friends and foes alike, and wisdom gained from experience, Elrond could not forbear to plead with his brother to stay yet for a while, for Elrond was not yet weary of his days.
Elros’s face softened but he was resolved. “I will not be seen among the Eldar again, and it may be that we shall not meet a second time in death or life, for the fates of our kindreds are apart. But do not now repent of your choice, for our past and our love cannot be changed, not now or ever, and in you and your love for me lies my immortality for as long as Arda remains. I speak no comfort to you, my brother, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world, but beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!”
“Elros, Elros!” Elrond cried, but even as he took his brother’s hand and kissed it, there, in the House of an Exiled Elf, as an image of the splendor of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world, Elros fell into sleep.