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Tales from Vairë's Loom  by Fiondil

Tenn’ Ambar-Metta

Summary:  Elrond receives a final letter from his brother. Written for the 2009 SWG ‘Akallabeth in August Project’. MEFA 2010: Second Place: Races: Elves: Noldorin Elves.

****

Lindon, Second Age 600:

Elrond Peredhel was just finishing up binding the ankle of an elfling who was not much older than thirty and who had had the misfortune of slipping on the wet deck of a ship, when Erestor entered the examining room. The Half-Elf looked up in surprise at his friend. Erestor’s mien was carefully neutral, but Elrond could see that he was somewhat upset.

“Erestor! Is there something wrong?” he asked.

“Gil-galad requires your presence, Elrond,” was all Erestor said.

Elrond frowned. “Has something happened to the king?”

“No,” Erestor said, giving a shake of his head, “but he does need to see you now.”

“Very well.” Elrond turned to the elleth sitting on the examining table and smiled. “You’ll need to stay off this ankle for a couple of days, Merillos,” he told her, then glanced over to where the elleth’s parents were standing, looking concerned. “It’s only a bad sprain, nothing torn or broken, but she will need to be kept quiet for a few days. Bring her back on Orgilion.”

Merillos’ parents nodded, looking more relieved as Elrond finished putting away his supplies before following Erestor out. As they headed across a courtyard which separated the Houses of Healing where Elrond spent most of his days towards the king’s residence, Elrond pondered what could possibly be wrong. He had never seen Erestor this upset before.

“Are you sure there is naught wrong with Gil-galad?” he asked as the two ellyn made their way up a flight of stairs that led to Gil-galad’s study which was at the top of one of the towers overlooking the city of Lindon.

“No, Elrond,” Erestor said, giving his friend a brief smile. “Gil-galad is fine, but... well, it’s best if you let him tell you.”

Elrond resisted a sigh and only nodded as they climbed the stairs. When they came into the king’s study, he was surprised to see one there whom he did not expect — Círdan. He could not help smiling at the sight of the Shipwright.

“Círdan, what a pleasant surprise,” he said, going over and giving the Lord of Mithlond a warm greeting.

Círdan smiled, though Elrond could detect an aura of sadness surrounding his old friend and mentor. “It is good to see you, too, elfling,” the Shipwright said.

Elrond gave him a jaundiced look and just barely stifled a groan. “Are you ever going to call me anything other than ‘elfling’?” he demanded.

Now Círdan’s smile was more genuine. “Lord Elfling?” he replied with a sly wink and Elrond couldn’t help laughing. The others joined in.

When they were calmer, Elrond turned to Gil-galad, giving the king his obeisance. “Erestor said you needed to see me. Is something amiss?”

The king looked upon the young healer with a kindly, though sad, expression and handed him a message tube. “Círdan brought this,” he said gently. “It came from Númenor.”

A frisson of dread spread through Elrond’s fëa as he took the tube from Gil-galad and stared at it for a moment or two before opening it. Rolled up vellum covered with seals slipped into his hand. Elrond examined the seals carefully, noting that one was of a crown with a single star above it. He felt something tighten within him and found it difficult to swallow. Gil-galad silently handed him a thin-bladed knife to cut the seals. Unrolling what turned out to be several sheets, Elrond began to read.

            My beloved brother,

            By the time you read this, I will be gone....

“Elrond!” he heard Erestor shout and felt his friend grabbing him as the vellum sheets dropped from nerveless fingers and he started to crumple to the floor. Even as Erestor gently led him to a chair he was vaguely aware of Gil-galad bending down and picking up the scattered sheets while Círdan went to a sideboard and poured some wine into a cut-crystal goblet, handing it to Erestor, who encouraged him to drink. When he happened to look up he noticed that Círdan’s expression was unreadable, while Gil-galad’s was one of deep sorrow and sympathy.

Elrond drank the wine in two gulps and found his world steadying. He felt tears running down his face and he sat there, staring out a window that ironically looked onto the sea. The words of the letter rang through his mind: I will be gone... I will be gone....

Gil-galad placed the letter in his hands, but all Elrond could do was sit there, his eyes seeing nothing, his mind frozen in shock. He felt rather than saw Gil-galad kneel before him, his expression one of deep compassion. “Would you like one of us to read this for you?” he asked quietly.

Elrond nodded mutely and looked to where Erestor knelt on his other side, handing him the vellum sheets. He was not sure why he wanted Erestor to read the letter rather than Gil-galad or even Círdan. Perhaps it was simply because he and Erestor were close friends while Gil-galad and Círdan were his mentors. Erestor gave him a sad smile and nodded, moving to sit in a chair next to Elrond. Gil-galad motioned for Círdan to find a seat even as he sat on Elrond’s other side, placing his hand on the ellon’s arm to offer him comfort.

When all were settled, Erestor looked at the letter, scanning the words for a moment, then sighing before beginning to read, his voice low and gentle.

“‘My beloved brother, By the time you read this, I will be gone from the Circles of Arda. Before I go I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to you one last time, even if only through the medium of ink on vellum. I know we parted with some bitterness and it has been my deepest regret....’”

****

Númenor, Second Age 442:

Elros Tar-Minyatur, once Peredhel, now counted among the Edain, sat at his desk and pondered the words he knew he must write. His time was short, but he could not return the Gift of Life to Ilúvatar until he had done this last thing. He glanced over at the neat pile of letters which he had already written, one to each of his children and one to each of his close friends. This would be the last letter, and it was the hardest to write. He sighed, picking up the quill, dipping it into the inkwell and resumed writing.

‘.... my deepest regret. I do not know if the years have softened your heart towards me. I can only hope and pray that you have forgiven me for what you must have deemed a betrayal. I assure you it was never that. My choice was one that could not be other than it was and I do not regret it.

‘O hanar nîn! You cannot know the joys and sorrows I have experienced in these years since bringing my people — Yes! They are my beloved people — here to Númenor. The early years were a struggle as we strove to build a civilization, one that I hope will continue to flourish in the ages to come. You should see the city that we built. It is called Armenelos and I think it is quite fair, though perhaps to elven eyes it will seem a paltry thing. Yet, we Edain — and yes, I think of myself as one — built it with our own hands, though admittedly we had some help. You recall that there was little time for any to learn the finer arts and crafts of civilization while fighting against Morgoth. You know that Lord Eönwë spent many years with us while we were waiting for the ships to be built that would take us to our new home, teaching us what we needed to know in order to thrive as a people, discovering or perhaps rediscovering our heritage as Edain. And we have been blessed with the presence of Elves from Tol Eressëa who occasionally sail into our harbors bringing fair gifts of flowers and trees with which to beautify our land. We welcome them gladly and they have taught us much. I even like to think that we may have taught them a thing or two along the way, as well.

‘I know that you will read these words in disbelief, believing that I could never have found happiness in my life, having forsaken my elven heritage. Yet, are we not also of Mortal blood, you and I? Should we disdain the blood of Beren or Tuor that runs through our veins? I think not. Indeed, I hope that you do not. But do not think that, though I chose to be counted among Mortals, that I in turn disdained the blood of my elven ancestors, for I did not. If anything, I think I have honored my elven heritage by becoming Mortal, for in doing so, I have given my children and my children’s children something of that heritage. And as they marry, that elven heritage will be infused into the blood of later generations, thus ennobling the Edain even more than they were simply by their association with the Eldar.

‘I remember how excited I was when we at last took ship to our new home, excited and frightened. Oh, yes, my brother! I, Elros Eärendilion, knew fear. Even as I write these words I can see you shaking your head in disbelief, but it is the truth. I recall what Gil-galad told me when I told him how frightened I was, unsure if I could lead my people wisely and well, for I was still young as the Eldar account such things, and I knew well my inexperience.

‘“Remember, Elros, thou mayest be accounted young in the eyes of the Eldar, but if thou rememberest all that Círdan and I taught thee, thou shalt do well. Forget not that, though thou hast chosen to be counted among the Edain, thou art still of the House of Finwë. I am very proud of thee....”’

****

Elrond looked up at Gil-galad in surprise. “Did you really say that?”

Gil-galad gave him an understanding smile. “Yes, Elrond, I did, and I meant every word. I was very proud of Elros for making the choice that he did, no less than I was proud of you for your choice. Neither of you had an easy decision to make. As much as I grieved at losing your brother to Time I knew that he could not have chosen other than he did. It was his destiny.”

Elrond grimaced. “That is what he told me, that it was his destiny to join the Edain even as it was mine to cleave unto the Eldar, but all I knew was that my only brother was deserting me as all have deserted me.” The utter sorrow and despair that laced his words pierced the hearts of his friends.

“We have not deserted you, elfling,” Círdan said. “And though you have lost your brother in truth, you have found another to be the brother of your heart.” He gestured to Erestor. “Do not disdain such a precious gift which Ilúvatar has given you.”

“Nor do I,” Elrond said with a sigh, “yet, I cannot help but feel as I do, that my family, one by one, has deserted me, leaving me to fend for myself.”

There was silence between them. Elrond noticed the look of hurt and sorrow on Gil-galad’s face and realized that in his grief he may have hurt one who was of his family in Ennorath. “I’m sorry,” he said with chagrin, “I did not mean to....”

“It’s all right, Elrond,” Gil-galad replied. “I knew what you meant. We are, after all, distant cousins. It’s not the same thing.”

Elrond nodded, then turned to Erestor. “Pray continue,” he said and the ellon  complied, taking a moment to find his place.

“‘In the intervening years, whenever I despaired of having made the right decision, these words have brought me great comfort....’”

****

Elros paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts, smiling slightly as certain memories flitted across his mind. He could not possibly relate them all in this one letter. “I should have thought to write a book to send to Elrond,” he said aloud to himself, chuckling at the thought. He had decided against sending his brother his diaries, for he felt it more important that they remain in Númenor, for much that was written within them pertained to life among the Edain and he did not think Elrond would have found the little doings of Mortals of any interest.

Or perhaps he would have, but it was too late to make copies now and so this letter would have to do. He dipped his quill into the ink and continued writing.

‘The early years were the hardest, yet, I think, they were also, for me, the happiest. It was during that time that I met the woman who would capture my heart. Her name was Emeldir and, like her namesake, she, too, was of the House of Bëor, so we were very distant cousins. You will never know how nervous I was when I proposed to her. I practically fainted from relief when she said yes. She’s been dead now for over a century.

‘You would have liked her, brother, for she was very strong-willed and quite the scholar, founding several schools and the royal library. She gave me several beautiful children. The oldest, Vardamir, takes after his naneth, for he is a loremaster and we nicknamed him ‘Nólimon’ for his love of ancient lore. He has already told me that he will not accept the scepter once I am gone but abdicate in favor of my grandson, Amandil, for he is already three hundred and eighty-one years old and has no desire to rule. He is too in love with his books! But Amandil is only half my age and is quite ready to take on the mantle of kingship. I have no fear for the future of my people with him as king.

‘And so it comes to this: though I have retained the physical attributes of the Eldar, in choosing mortality, I find that I am grown weary and in this last year I have felt a need to ‘seek else-whither’ as some of the Eldar have called it when referring to the chief characteristic of Men. Also, I miss my beloved Emeldir and would fain be with her once again.

‘Oh, Elrond, how I wish I could share with you all the triumphs and tragedies of my life, for yes, there have been tragedies, though the triumphs far out-weigh them. I have missed our long talks at night when we lay under the stars dreaming about what our lives would be like once the war was over. Little did either of us imagine the reality. Still, though I will soon be gone from the world, I do not fear my passing. Indeed, I am looking forward to it and see it as one more adventure. You know how much I always craved adventure. Ah! I can see that smile on your face.

‘Be well, my brother, and be happy. May the Valar bless you even as I have been blessed. I do not know when you will ever receive this letter, though I have faith that you will someday read my words. To that end, I will place this in a message tube and I have left instructions with my children and grandchildren that if ever a ship of Númenor makes its way to Ennorath, this letter will go with it to be delivered into your hands....’

****

Elrond glanced at Erestor when the ellon stopped reading, giving him a quizzical look. “Is there not more?” he asked, reaching out for the letter. Erestor gave him the sheets of vellum and Elrond read the last part to himself.

“‘Tye-meluvan ilumë, hánonya, tenn’ ambar-metta ar pella,’” he whispered, reading the words on the page. He looked fondly at the name that was scrawled afterwards, tears flowing freely. He idly glanced at the words following the signature and felt his breath hitch. “The date of the letter,” he exclaimed, looking up at his friends in anguish. “He died a hundred and fifty-eight years ago and I only just learn of it!”

Gil-galad stood and took him in his embrace, giving him comfort. “Be glad that you have finally learned of it, child,” he said quietly. “If it were not for the ones who braved the wide ocean to bring you this letter, you would never have learned of it.”

Elrond pulled back, giving Gil-galad a puzzled look. “What do you mean?”

It was Círdan who answered him, though. “A ship arrived this morning, a ship out of Númenor,” he said. “Its captain told me that he is the first to venture so far from the island since it was founded.”

“I... I wondered how this letter came to be here,” Elrond averred.

“When Círdan brought the captain to me,” Gil-galad said, “we thought it prudent to have you read this letter before meeting him, for he says he would fain greet you. Would you like to speak to him? He will be able to tell you something of your brother and his descendants. I understand Elros’ great-grandson now holds the scepter of Númenor.”

Elrond nodded, wiping away tears. “Yes. I would like that.” Then, he turned to the others, giving them a shy smile. “Thank you. Thank you for being here for me.”

“You are most welcome, Elrond,” Erestor said with a smile of his own, giving the ellon a brief hug. “After all, that is what friends are for.”

“And we will be here for you in the days to come, Elrond,” Gil-galad said, “for I think you will need time to properly grieve for your loss, but for now, put aside your grief for a time and listen to what this good Man has to say.”

Elrond nodded and Gil-galad turned to Erestor. “Will you bring Captain Vëantur here, Erestor? I think we would all like to meet him.”

Erestor bowed and left even as Elrond resumed his seat, reading his brother’s letter to himself as they waited for the Númenórean’s arrival.

****

Elros finished the letter and after spreading sand across the final page to dry the ink, he carefully rolled the pages together and placed the royal seals on it before shoving it into the waiting message tube. He sighed, gazing out the window, enjoying the view of the sun setting behind the Meneltarma. It would be his last sunset. He stared at the message tube still in his hand, wishing idly that he could have given his brother more than a few words on vellum, but he knew this was the only gift he could give him, other than the gift of his love.

“Be well, my brother,” he whispered. Then he went to the door and opened it to find his family and friends and members of the court waiting for him in the anteroom to his study. He handed the message tube to Vardamir. “You will see that my brother gets this?” he asked.

Vardamir nodded, not even bothering to wipe the tears from his cheeks. “Yes, Ada. I or another who comes after me will make sure Uncle Elrond receives this. I promise.”

Elros nodded, then gave them all a wistful smile. “Come, then. It is time,” he said, as he accepted the scepter that his grandson, Amandil, had been holding for him. They made their way through the corridors of the palace in silence with Elros in the lead and Vardamir and Amandil flanking him. Guards opened the main doors of the palace, giving Elros deep bows, and he could see the multitude waiting silently for him in the plaza. He paused for a brief moment and then, taking a deep breath, the first king of Númenor walked out to greet his people for the last time.

****

Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted.

Tenn’ Ambar-Metta: (Quenya) ‘Until World’s-Ending’

Peredhel: Half-Elf.

Elleth: (Eldarin) Female Elf.

Orgilion: Star-day, the first day of the Eldarin week.

Ellyn: (Eldarin) Plural of ellon: Male Elf.

Fëa: (Quenya) Soul, spirit.

Hanar nîn: My brother.

Tye-meluvan ilumë, hánonya, tenn’ ambar-metta ar pella: (Quenya) ‘I will love thee always, my brother, until world’s-ending and beyond’.

****

Notes:

1. Accepting that Gil-galad is the son of Orodreth, who is the son of Angrod, as Christopher Tolkien states was his father’s final decision regarding Gil-galad’s parentage (see Peoples of Middle-earth, HoME XII, ‘The Shibboleth of Fëanor’), Elrond and Gil-galad are third cousins once removed. Even if you accept the genealogy given in the Silmarillion instead, Gil-galad is still two generations ahead of Elrond and they are first cousins twice removed.

2. ‘When six hundred years had passed from the beginning of the Second Age Vëantur, Captain of King’s Ships under Tar-Elendil, first achieved the voyage to Middle-earth. He brought his ship Entulessë (which signifies “Return”) into Mithlond on the spring winds blowing from the west; and he returned in the autumn of the following year.’ — Unfinished Tales, ‘Description of the Island of Númenor’. Tar-Elendil was the great-grandson of Elros, born in the year 350.

3. The name of Elros’ wife is non-canonical. The original Emeldir was the wife of Barahir and mother of Beren and was herself descended from Bëor the Old.

4. The description of Elros’ son and grandson is derived from ‘The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor’, found in Unfinished Tales. Elros was born fifty-eight years before the end of the First Age and lived until the year 442 of the Second Age, thus he was five hundred years old when he died.





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