5. The Other Twin
The tears were dry now, as was his voice, which could no longer echo his lamentations in sobs or song. If neither death nor sorrow would give him release, then he would call upon himself the Everlasting Darkness, the last privilege of his heretofore unclaimed kinship to the House of Feanor.
Elrond paid little heed to the opening of his door or the approaching footfalls. And though golden hair gleamed in the moonlight above him like a memory of Laurelin, Elrond's eyes looked without seeing at Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod.
Gildor nuzzled his face to Elrond's midnight hair. He pushed the hair back with his lips and gently nibbled on Elrond's left ear. In any other situation, Elrond would've become a puddle of jelly, but on this night, he remained still, as if he hadn't even felt Gildor's overtures. Gildor remained undeterred. He ran his hands along Elrond's body, seeking the sensitive spots that he'd discovered earlier when exploring Elros's body. Gildor slowly parted Elrond's robes and sucked at the base of his neck. His kisses flittered along Elrond's collarbone before tracing its way down. Gildor's golden hair tickled Elrond's thighs. Try as he might, Elrond found it impossibly hard to continue to await death. His breath was fast and heavy, and he arched to meet Gildor's rhythm. It was awfully hard to think about darkness taking him when his thoughts were filled with more basic pleasures. A part of Elrond felt guilty, for he knew he should've been mourning his brother and feeling great sorrow-and he did, part of him did-but mostly all he could think of was Gildor. Any who thought the Blessed Realm lieth in the West had apparently never been in Gildor's mouth.
Elrond was not healed, for only time could heal grief at such partings, especially of two who had been together since birth, but he definitely felt alive.
Elrond awakened in Gildor's embrace and sighed, to which Gildor said sleepily, "Do not sigh, Half-elven, or I will have to comfort you anew, and to be quite honest, I think I am too exhausted for the task."
Elrond smiled faintly at that and kissed Gildor. Elrond no longer had any doubts that Gildor had indeed been with Elros, but he found that he did not mind, for Gildor was but a lover whom Elros had chosen for the Sea Festival and not the one Elrond truly desired to make his own. Though Gildor called him Half-elven, making love to him made Elrond feel like a Man. It was not manhood in the sense of physical fulfillment. The sex was not the cure. Gildor and Elros had not bonded in the marital sense of the word, but Elrond could certainly feel something of Elros each time they joined, and what he felt was a sense of peace, of a Fate fulfilled, for the Fate of Man was to live and then pass beyond Arda. Elrond, as an Elf, would not be able to fulfill his own Fate even after death should he be slain by weapon or by grief, for the Elves were appointed by Iluvatar to abide in Arda until its unmaking. His Elven half was yet incomplete, but his Mannish half felt complete in Elros's absence, and fulfilling the designs of Iluvatar was apparently a very pleasant, almost euphoric feeling.
Each time Elrond was made to feel like Elros in his sex with Gildor, he was able to share that heavenly bliss that belonged to Man after the fulfillment of Man's destiny. Who would have thought that Elros's wanton pursuit of physical pleasure before his death would have provide Elrond with a bridge to the spiritual pleasure that Elros enjoyed in his afterlife? It certainly meant that sex with Gildor was the best that Elrond had ever experienced (not that Elrond had had that much past experience with sex). Or perhaps Elros was lingering about even after death as a ghost and that his presence somehow enhanced the sexual experience. Elrond missed his brother, but he rejoiced in knowing that Elros had found his place in the created world of Ea in his death. Elros was no longer a misfit, and Elrond was certain that he was not one either.
"I have just lost my brother, who was brought into this world just moments before me. I am in need of much comforting," said Elrond in an attempt to draw Gildor into yet another round.
"Hm." Gildor ran his hand over Elrond's bare buttocks but did not move to return his kiss. "You lost your brother well nigh 400 years ago. Why mourn it now?"
"Nay, Gildor, for though I myself have sometimes thought such things to be true, whenever I saw my brother again, it was as if no time had passed at all, and we were together and comfortable in each other's presence, as if we'd never been parted, but this time, there will be no reunion." Elrond kissed Gildor on the cheek. Gildor brought a hand up to play with Elrond's ear but it slipped onto Elrond's cheek instead as Gildor dozed off again. Well, it was no surprise that Gildor should be so exhausted; Elros could not have been an easy lover (certainly not as easy as me, Elrond mused), and after that, they had traveled far to Maglor's house before returning to the Sea Palace. Elrond took Gildor's hand and kissed it, and only then, though they had been together for many hours already, did Elrond notice Elros's ring upon Gildor's hand. "The Ring of Barahir!"
Gildor awakened again. "Verily. It is the Ring of the House of Finarfin." He absently kissed Elrond's hair and held his hand before Elrond so that the ring could be studied. The heads of the two emerald-eyed serpents met beneath a crown of golden flowers that one upheld and the other devoured, and for the first time, Elrond thought of the serpents as twins set in the circle of Arda, like himself and Elros, and wondered that the badge of the House of Finarfin had been passed to them from their mortal ancestry. "How came Elros to possess it," Gildor asked, "for though I knew it to have passed from Finrod to Barahir in the Dagor Bragollach, I had thought it long lost."
"The ring passed from Barahir to Beren, as you must know from the Lay of Leithian." Gildor nodded, lips still caressing Elrond's silky hair, but he was certainly awake now and intent on hearing the story of the ring of his House. "Beren passed it on to Dior the Beautiful ere they parted, and when the sons of Feanor attacked Doriath in search of the Silmaril, Maedhros found it upon Dior's slain body. He took it and purposed to give it to Dior's sons should he ever find them in the wild, and though he did not, he kept the ring until he gifted it to my brother Elros, descendant of Barahir." Elrond looked at Gildor, who was the striking image of Finrod Felagund, more so than even Inglor, and at last understood why Elros had sought Gildor for his last moments of life.
"Speak your mind, Peredhel," Gildor said, for Elrond's look could not go unnoticed.
"I understand at last what Elros saw in you," Elrond said and kissed Gildor's cheek. "When we were young, the tale of Finrod Felagund was his favorite, and he bade Maglor tell us of Finrod many times. I could not have known that, even then, the seed of Man had been planted in him." Elrond ran his hand along Gildor's golden hair. "Finrod was first of Elves to see Man die at the death of Beor Balan, my ancestor, and he was the first, maybe only, Elf to die for Man in turn, for though Elves and Men have died side by side, it was always for the cause of the Noldor, not for the individual. At the end, when all others had left, Elros spoke to me the words that Finrod the Faithful spoke to Beren: '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.'"
Gildor studied Elrond for many moments before taking the Ring of Barahir from his finger and placing it in Elrond's hand. Elrond tried to object, but Gildor stopped him and said, "I realize now that you know more of my grandfather than I do, for you were raised by one who knew him personally. I give this ring to you, Elrond Peredhel, and in return, I wish for you to tell me of Finrod Felagund, mightiest of the House of Finarfin."
Elrond shook his head. "I would gladly tell you such tales without a fee."
"Nay, keep it." Gildor closed Elrond's hand around the ring and kissed his fist. "When you deem the time right, gift it to a mortal descendant of Elros, for though I was at first overjoyed to receive the ring of my household, I perceive now that it has passed out of the House of Finarfin to be the heirloom of the descendants of Barahir, and in this way may we be reminded of the bond that Finrod forged between Elves and Men." Gildor's bright eyes shimmered. "It seems to be a night of mourning, for though I knew my grandfather not, I now find myself moved to grief at the thought of his death."
Elrond pulled Gildor on top of himself and drew Gildor's face to him for a long kiss; no one should be unhappy at the Sea Festival. "The night has passed, Lord Gildor," Elrond said. "Dawn is at hand, but before the sun begins another day of the Sea Festival, let me comfort you as I may, and in so doing, I will myself find comfort for my loss."
Gildor laughed and kissed the Half-elven. "Very well. The stories of Finrod the Friend of Men can wait."
Cirdan came to Gil-galad's chambers before the beginning of the day, for there was yet much for the High King to do and each day of the Sea Festival was another day of ritual as well as of celebration. Gil-galad needed little instruction, for he had aided Cirdan in the Sea Festivals of years previous, but even so, Cirdan preferred to remind the King of certain things and to groom him personally for the festivities, for Gil-galad had been as a son to him since Fingon had first sent him to the Falas after the Dagor Bragollach. He found Gil-galad already awake and sitting before the open window, waiting for the sun to rise.
"My King?" Cirdan said. He set a tray of morning refreshments on a small table beside Gil-galad.
"I did not want to see the end of such a high and mighty king," Gil-galad said without preamble, and Cirdan knew immediately that Gil-galad spoke of Elros. "He left at the time of his choosing, but the same will not be true for me, I suspect. A darkness is coming, one from which he chose to flee, for he did not wish to see his Paradise on Middle Earth tainted."
Cirdan took up his brush and began to run it through Gil-galad's hair, knowing such an action to be soothing to Gil-galad from the days when he was still a child. "Your forefathers fell fighting the Darkness and their memories live on in song. You will be no less great. Indeed, you will be the most renown High King of the Noldor since Finwe, who I knew in the days before the Noldor departed from these shores."
"I do not know if what you say is true, but nevertheless, I mourn the passing of the Kings: Finwe, Fingolfin, and Fingon. It is a heavy burden, to be the scion of so many great kings," Gil-galad said. Though he awaited the rising of the sun, his gaze was to the West. Cirdan said nothing and continued to sooth Gil-galad with the brushing and stroking of his dark brown hair. At last, Gil-galad said that which was most strongly on his mind, before even the matter of Kings and Darkness. "I had wanted to be the one to comfort him."
Cirdan braided Gil-galad's hair in his favorite fashion and then kissed the back of his head. "You will in time, my Lord, but you could not this night, for you are the King of Elves, not of Men, and Elrond Peredhil is not himself right now. When the shadow of Elros has passed from his heart, then he will receive you." Gil-galad only nodded, and at that very moment, the first rays of the golden sun touched the horizon.
Notes: Again, happy birthday to Soledad. Without her birthday, I wouldn't have discovered such things about the characters as I have, so I'm most grateful. It's not your imagination, Elros's death scene is an echo of Arwen's, or rather, Arwen's will later be an echo of Elros's, so I bow to Appendix A in thanks as well. As Elrond said, Elros's last words quote Finrod's last words but parts also echo Aragorn's last words. Sauron will start stirring in about 8 years, and so Elros seems to have departed at a good time.