Beneath the Shadows of Twilight - Part 2. Elladan and Elrohir face a difficult choice.
However, its presence in their hearts was no secret. Every night before he retired, Elladan climbed the highest tower of Minas Tirith and gazed over the Bay of Belfalas. Each time he climbed, he spent a longer time gazing at the rippling silver water capped by crests of foam.
Elrohir at first waited for him at the foot of the tower, but after a while he no longer did, and went to bed while Elladan was still gazing out across the Sea.
As this continued, Elrohir and Elladan began to drift apart. They no longer talked much, only exchanging a few cursory bits of conversation at mealtimes. Elrohir thought more and more about the choice to become mortal, while Elladan dreamed only of crossing to Eldamar.
And while they tarried, the world was still changing, and almost all the Elves had gone. The world of Men was rising strong, and even in Minas Tirith itself several held that the Elves no longer existed at all.
This choice, and its implications, began to haunt Elladan so, he began to build a ship in secret outside the boundaries of Minas Tirith. As it took shape, he could see the lines of a pure vessel, cleanly cut and with flowing lines that matched that of the Sea.
He slipped off whenever he could to work on it, and as such the popular opinion began to hold that only one of Eldarion's uncles was still alive.
Elladan began to regret his words to Elrohir that one night when they had been discussing their choice. The call of the Sea was so strong that he knew he would never be able to resist it and choose mortality. If he did, he knew he would go mad and die.
Elrohir, however, had not yet seen the Sea and as such did not understand the effect it had on Elladan. He was still leaning towards selecting the mortal half of their choice, and as the world changed ever more and the Elves faded ever more to memories, phantoms of a world that was, the twin sons of Elrond spoke almost not at all.
Eldarion grew older, although not as fast as a mortal man, and eventually married. Elladan and Elrohir came together to the wedding, but they did not speak except to the king and his bride. Neither of them had any rest in their minds.
At last, the day came when Elladan finished his ship. She was strong and small, and would swiftly bear him to Eldamar. He could no longer delay the choice, and he had to speak to his brother, even though he was not excited about doing so.
Elrohir was surprised to see his brother standing by his door. His first response was to shut it, but the look on Elladan's face stopped him. Slowly, he slid it aside and let his brother in.
"I have built a ship." Elladan never wasted time.
Somehow, Elrohir wasn't surprised. "You have been gone each day. And Lady Elbereth knows that we have put off the choice long enough."
"Before we choose, I have a request to make of you." Elladan's gray eyes were entreating. "Let us go and see our sister one last time...Let us go to her grave on Cerin Amroth. Come. We have much to do."
Elrohir smiled faintly. Yes, Elladan had never wasted time.
They begged leave of Eldarion, telling him it was unlikely that they would return, and rode out that evening, as twilight seemed most accustomed to them now. Their elven-horses were still as swift and light of foot, seeming as changeless as their masters.
The ride to Lórien was long, but for both of the twins it passed in a scattered collection of images and feelings. Night beneath the stars - the Misty Mountains cutting up proud and sharp - a path winding through a thick forest and across a rushing stream. Again, it was dusk when the sons of Elrond reached Lórien.
The ride across the small forest kingdom was both short and heartbreakingly sorrowful. The leaves fell around them in a golden rain, pooling on the ground and falling away into crumbling piles. The once-proud mallorn trees stretched starkly to the sky, their smooth gray flesh devoid of their leaf-clothing. And it was so silent, Elladan could hear his own heartbeat.
"The Elves have gone," Elrohir said to his right, startling him.
Elladan nodded, but tears welled in his eyes.
At last, they reached what had once been Caras Galadon. The telain were still intact, but they were weathered and worn. Celeborn and Galadriel's palace was empty, and golden leaves were scattered about it.
To the right, a path lined with stones spread down to what had been the Mirror of Galadriel - the stone basin now empty and cracked. Leaves rimmed it, some still newly-fallen and gold, others older and brown. Elladan and Elrohir were the only living beings in Lórien.
"It is sad," Elladan said.
It was easy to find Cerin Amroth. The green hill was the same as it had been when Elladan and Elrohir had seen it long ago as elflings. It was the only thing besides them that seemed alive. The grass was long and flowers covered it in trails. In the very center, on the flat spread before the hill rose up, there was a mound covered in flowers.
"Muinthell," Elladan breathed, crossing over to the grave and kneeling by it. He pressed his hand against the soft earth. "I wish that you were here. It has been a long time since we last saw you, but I still remember you, and I will carry your memory to the next world with me."
Something caught the last ray of sun, and Elladan leaned forward to look more closely. Lying on the top of the burial mound was the Evenstar.
Letting out a long sigh, Elladan lifted it. It was stained slightly with dirt, but still its simple pureness and clarity reminded him so much of the Elven woman that it had symbolized that he had to clench his hands to keep back a howl.
He stroked the smooth silver, then laid it gently to rest atop the mound again, forever to stay beside his sister.
A choked sob from behind him made him turn around. Elrohir was kneeling beside the mound, holding a withering bloom of niphredil, covering his face as tears slid out from between his fingers. His slender shoulders were shaking.
Elladan stepped back from the mound and looked down at his grieving twin. "So, at last do you taste the bitterness of the mortality that our sister took down upon herself? Do you at last see the Doom of Men clearly? You were given a chance to escape it by being born one of the Quendi, and yet you stubbornly persist on choosing mortality? Are you so shortsighted? Why would you forsake this gift that has been given to you?" His voice was breaking.
Elrohir did not answer, his body shaking with sobs. Regretting his harsh words toward his brother, Elladan put a hand on his twin's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "There, there. Forgive me, Elrohir, for I spoke sharply."
Slowly, the younger son of Elrond wiped the tears from his eyes and rose, standing pale and silent beside his mirror image. Together, they looked down on the mound of their fallen sister, neither of them speaking as the stars opened above them and a cold wind whistled through the empty trees.
At last, Elrohir spoke. "I see now what you mean, brother. You do not wish to lose me to death the way we lost Arwen."
Elladan nodded, slipped his arm around his brother, and rested his hand lightly on his shoulder. "I am glad that you at last understand. Now, here, before the very essence of the mortality that claimed our sister's life, we will at last make the choice that our father and his brother did so long ago. Know that if you should choose mortality, I will still love you, and I in no way will make you come to any decision."
Raising his arms to the sky, he cried, "O gracious and mighty Valar, heed the call of this half-elf! At last I have claimed what is my birthright. I, Elladan, son of Elrond of the Peredhil, choose to become Elf!"
There was a soundless flash of brief white light that sliced between Elladan and Elrohir's shoulders. When the light died, Elladan stood apart from his brother, a newfound warmth and wisdom in his eyes.
Elrohir reached for him, but Elladan gently pushed him to face the burial mound of their sister again. "No, brother. Now it is your time. Choose what you will." The older twin stepped back.
The vision of the dream played over and over in Elrohir's head, until he thought he would bear it no longer. Falling, and seeing Elladan in the white ship, seeing him drowning, unable or unwilling to help him.
Suddenly, Elrohir understood.
It wasn't his brother that he'd seen.
It was himself.
The water was the bitter essence of mortality, the black abyss that would claim him in the end if he took the choice that at first his heart had desired - to have the blessing - or perhaps curse - of knowing that if life ever became too much, he was a mortal, he could end it.
The ship was the immortality that his brother had wanted him to choose, so that they would not be parted, so that they could pass together to Eldamar. He had seen both sides of himself, only to experience the mortal side as that had been what he had been more willing to choose.
Then the younger son of Elrond knew at last, with a calm, peaceful acceptance, which it was that was the true path.
Elrohir raised his arms to the sky and closed his eyes. He heard, as if from a very great distance, his own words ringing across the night.
"O gracious and mighty Valar, heed the call of this half-elf! At last I have claimed what is my birthright. I, Elrohir, son of Elrond of the Peredhil, choose to become.....Elf."
His voice cracked on the last word and he stumbled, fearing that the white light that had struck them apart would burn him.
There was no pain, instead a glorious sensation of at last being truly released. There was a whisper of air, the sensation of the wind of sweet Elvenhome, and then it was over.
Elladan and Elrohir stood on the same side of Arwen's burial mound, although they had been standing on opposite sides before Elrohir had chosen to become an Elf. The moonlight was vibrant and strong, and with a long, unsteady sigh, Elrohir knew that at last it was finished. Things would come to rights between them.
He looked over at Elladan tentatively, afraid that there would be the usual rift between them. However, Elladan erased that fear with a gentle hand on his twin's shoulder. "It is over, Elrohir. No more nightmares."
Elrohir smiled, said nothing, and long the twins stood together before the last remnant of their sister, until the night grew old and the stars began to fade.
At last, Elrohir roused himself from the almost-stupor that he had fallen into. He bent gracefully to the mound and laid a hand on it. "Namárië, amin muinthell vanima." (Farewell, my beautiful sister.)
Next, Elladan bent toward the mound and gently kissed the Evenstar. "Vanya sulie, Undómiel. Lle nae i'quelin muinthell amin oi sinta." (Fair winds, Evenstar. You were the best sister I ever knew.)
The twins took their last leave of Lothlórien, the home of their mother, and fair Caras Galadon, now little more than a ghostly shadow of its former beauty. Then they mounted their horses and rode back for Imladris.
The road between Imladris and Lórien was far shorter than the road between Minas Tirith and Lórien. However, it wound through the treacherous paths of the Misty Mountains, and Elladan and Elrohir used the utmost of caution when traversing the paths.
It was late in the morning when they rode into Imladris for the first time in many years, but the sky was overcast and the sun was hidden from them.
At the sight of his old home, Elladan nearly broke into tears. Imladris was a phantomlike wraith. The trees, as of Lórien, were bare. The buildings themselves seemed weary, too spent to hold themselves upright any longer. The waterfalls were almost dry, and the gardens were empty.
"We have been away too long," Elrohir said grimly.
Dismounting easily from his bay mare, he called, Celeborn! Celeborn! several times, but the call was not answered.
A cold fear gripping his heart, the younger son of Elrond ran into the dead refuge of Imladris, his footfalls echoing in the vastly empty space. The elaborate mosaics were chipped and crumbling. The statues had lichen growing on them, and they were cracked. It seemed impossible that anyone would want to live in the former home of the Lord Elrond; it was a deserted dream.
Elladan hurried after him, adding his own voice to his brother's, but still the call drew no answer. Fearing the worst, the twins thoroughly searched Imladris - and yet found no sign of their grandfather.
"Where has he gone?" Elrohir asked, despairing.
Elladan rounded a corner and saw that he stood in a long corridor, wide and open. Large windows that lined the entire space threw grayish light on a white stone slab on the far end.
Whipping around, a cold certainty rising in his heart, Elladan tried to stop his younger brother from seeing it. "Elrohir, no, go look down another corridor -"
"No," Elrohir said firmly. "What is it?"
When Elladan grudgingly yielded his position, Elrohir looked down the hallway, and his face paled. "But still, there is no proof that it is - that it is -"
Biting their lips, fear and anxiety gripping their throats, the twins walked toward the slab and looked down at it. Carved on its smooth top was a message in Elvish runes, a message obviously intended for their eyes only.
By the time you read this, I will have passed, but not into the Halls of Mandos as you most likely assumed upon seeing this. Rather, I have died to the world of Middle-earth and passed to the glory of Elvenhome to be with my Galadriel again. I will see you if it is your will to become one of the Quendi - if you choose to be of the Edain then farewell, and a good life to you both whichever you choose.
Your grandfather Celeborn
"So it is true then," Elladan said, tracing the curves of the runes with his finger. "He could no longer bear Middle-earth without Galadriel, and has died to us indeed." The older twin sighed. "In a way, I am relieved that he is gone, gone to find happiness in the world he truly belonged in, and in another way I know that I will miss him. You said that you wished that this would be set right, Elrohir, and now it has. So when shall we pass? We shall have to return to Minas Tirith one more time; my ship waits there."
"Is the Sea-longing so strong that you cannot bear it?" Elrohir said quietly.
"No," Elladan answered. "That is, I can delay it, if that is our choice. I do not wish this world to forget us entirely, Elrohir. If you should agree, then I believe we should tarry longer in this world, until all is changed and the Elves are just a memory, until these times are no more and the world of Men has grown strong. In that way, we shall know that we do not leave Middle-earth weak."
"But where?" Elrohir said. "We cannot live here in Imladris; you said many years ago, before we left for Minas Tirith, that it was a queen on her bed of state before she died. Well, now she has died, and her servants, having mourned her, must move on. There are other queens, other kings, other times for grief and joy."
"I do not think that there is any true Elven home left in this world, as Imladris and Lórien are dead and I have no doubt that Eryn Lasgalen is as well," Elladan replied softly. "As such, Elrohir, we should wander, and when at last the world has changed or fallen, we will leave - the last Quendi to depart these shores."
And so it was that the sons of Elrond went forth from their home, and never looked upon it again. They rode away from Imladris, leaving the valley, and after they had departed no foot ever walked there again, whether of Man or Elf, Ent or Dwarf.
And even though it was left to sink in the waters of obscurity, it is said that Imladris never indeed fell, but remained standing, until at last it was a skeleton and the fallen leaves filled it and the rain that fell there was the tears of Nienna mourning the death of the last great home and refuge of the Quendi.
And as for the sons of Elrond, they roamed far and wide over Middle-earth, seeking out its wonders and watching as the world changed and the Elves indeed fell into memory and tales. The kingdoms of Men grew strong, and their banners flew over the towers and castles that they built. No longer were the Elven-tongues of Quenya and Sindarin spoken, and the deeds of the Elves themselves were overshadowed.
It made Elladan and Elrohir sad, but still, they stayed in Middle-earth until the world had changed. Most of the Men now living did not believe that the Elves had ever existed, and the rest kept them in memory as a fair tale to tell around the mug or fire. Elladan and Elrohir were never recognized as the only remnants of a lost race.
And when Minas Tirith had passed into the hands of Eldarion's great-great-great grandson, and the Elves were no more, and the kingdoms of Men had been raised tall and proud, Elladan and Elrohir at last judged that the time had come for them to truly leave Middle-earth to the hands of those who had done much in building it.
So they went out to where Elladan's ship was still kept, unchanged either through the durability of its timbers or a strange magic that neither of them had known or comprehended. Then they dragged the ship down to the shores of the Bay of Belfalas, and went aboard, and Elladan raised the sail.
They took one last glance at Middle-earth, thriving now in the hands of Men. Yes, the lesser Edain were imperfect, and they would never be as fair and flawless as the Quendi. Yet through it all they had persevered, and through their hard work had risen to where they stood now - proud, fierce, and strong.
"Namárië, land of my birth," Elladan said softly.
"Aa' i'sul nora lanne'i ar kola lye arauka an Valannor," Elrohir added, touching his forehead. (May the wind fill the sails and carry us swiftly to Valinor.)
As he spoke, a fresh wind filled the sail and drove the last gray ship from the Bay of Belfalas, carrying the last two Quendi of the old world toward Eldamar, Eressëa, the Elvenhome of their people.
As the ship glided through the silver water, carving up wakes of foam, seabirds flapped about and gave their mournful cries. The ship began to pick up speed. The twins' dark hair fluttered behind them, and the briny sea-breeze was sweet to taste.
Behind them, the Bay of Belfalas dwindled to a silver star, then was lost in the deepening shadows of evening as the gray ship was accepted by the sea.