The air beneath the shading canopy of trees was cool, as was the soft breeze that caught at his hair and cloak. Gentle forest sounds echoed about him as Elrohir sat somberly upon his mount, the reins held loose in his hands. They were familiar and comforting to him, and at any other time, they would have eased his heart.
But this time there would be no ease. His heart was too troubled to be comforted by such cheerful things. Glancing over his shoulder at his sister, cloaked and hooded, sober faced upon her own mount, his heart gave another painful thud. He should be glad she was going across the sea, he reminded himself. She would be with mother again, her beauty would never diminish. He would not lose her to-, he ached to think of the word death.
Yet a shadow of misgiving hung low over his heart, and he could not help but think that this was a choice she would forever regret. Though in all his life Elrohir had never known such love himself, he could not but sense the deep bond that rested between his sister and Aragorn. Theirs was a thing apart, no less hallowed by the Valar than the bond between Lalaith and Legolas, though Aragorn was a mortal. Even the eternal bliss of Valinor could not replace her love for the heir of Elendil.
As if sensing his gaze upon her, Arwen looked up. Their eyes met briefly, and he could see the turmoil within her soul. How he wished he could wheel his horse about, and go to her side, gathering her into his arms like a child. But her eyes swiftly darted away again, as if she followed something seen only by her, off into the trees, and Elrohir sighed, turning his face again forward. His brother rode a space ahead of him, and Lord Glorfindel, on foot, walked at the head of the quiet column of Elves. The three of them would be the only ones of the company to return to Imladris.
The light of the Elves was slowly waning from Middle Earth, and one day, though he wished not to think of it now, he would sail, too, beyond the sight of this land that had cradled him from birth, to the untold glories of Valinor. Yet, for now, he was not ready to leave. His heart still lingered in these lands, as did his brother’s and Lord Glorfindel’s. Though, he admitted to himself, their hearts were not bent towards the beauty of the land alone.
For a moment, he allowed a small smirk to touch his face. For there was a certain auburn haired maiden yet in Imladris, not yet ready to sever her bonds with these shores, who, Elrohir did not doubt, occupied the greater part of Elladan’s thoughts, and was his chief reason to stay. Miriel was her name, the daughter of Arphen, one of Elrond’s skilled smiths. A slight, doe eyed maiden she was, a few decades older than Lalaith, that his elder twin had been seeing much of for many month’s time now. Their friendship had been blossoming since she had been a youthful maiden of naught but one hundred years, and only now was the pair beginning to understand their true feelings for each other.
Elrohir glanced down at the reins that hung loosely within his hands, pursing his lips in solemn thought. Such a thing had long been expected.
But for Glorfindel, who for centuries, millennia even, from Gondolin to Mandos and back again had shown no sign that he would ever be so audacious as to give his heart to any woman, his courtship of the fair Ithilwen was a thing unlooked for.
The golden haired maiden had come from the realm of Mirkwood with the children of Elrond and their retinue scarcely more than a year before to dwell for a time with kin in Imladris. And from the first time the fair Ithilwen came to their sheltered vale, Glorfindel had become entranced by her gracious manner, and fair beauty. The maiden herself, youthful for an Elf, and near Arwen in age had been in awe of the great lord of whom many tales were told. At first, she had been shy of his attentions. But Glorfindel’s patience and unfeigned kindness were at last slowly winning her heart over to him. And Elrohir was happy for them both. For what was age, when Elves were considered? Aside from the deep light of wisdom that ever rested within his eyes, Glorfindel appeared to be of no greater age than Elrohir himself.
He was a youth again when he was near Ithilwen, ever shining eyed, ever eager to please, to do anything to make her happy. Even now, as he walked at the head of the solemn line of Elves, Glorfindel seemed lost in a world of his own making, and Elrohir could only imagine the look of stupefied delight that seemed never to leave the older Elven Lord’s features. His thoughts were bent upon the completion of his task, only so that he could return to Imladris and to her. And soon, Elrohir did not doubt, when this darkness was past, and the world was made lighter, there would be much joy in their sheltered vale, for the bonding of his dear cousin Lalaith to Prince Legolas would not be the only wedding to anticipate.
He sighed and his smile faded at thoughts of Lalaith. Where was she now? Was she safe? What was she doing at this moment? Brave, foolish girl to go scampering off with Estel and Mithrandir, simply because Legolas was going with them. He clenched his jaw, stifling the thought, and admitting to himself that she had her own will. And her friends would watch after her. If one could not, another would. For she was dear to them all. She would return home well and whole, he promised himself, if but sadly disappointed that Arwen would be gone. And at thoughts of his sister, Elrohir’s heart darkened again.
“Lord Elrohir!” A cry interrupted his scattered thoughts, and he came again to himself to hear above the cry, the departing pounding of a horse’s hooves. Swiveling quickly, he turned to gaze down into the troubled eyes of a young dark haired Elf who pointed back in the direction from whence they had come. “Your sister, the lady Arwen!”
His eyes jerked up, in time to see the flutter of her cloak, and the flash of her horse’s tail as it disappeared beyond a bend in the trail. A swell of pride mixed with ragged pain cast itself over his heart at the realization of what she had just done.
“Elladan!” He cried, spurring his horse nearer to his brother who had turned his head at the commotion in time to see the flash of light as his sister disappeared beyond the trees. The brothers’ eyes met, Elladan’s own face reflecting the emotions that roiled inside Elrohir’s heart.
Turning forward, Elladan called in a louder voice, “My lord, Glorfindel! I must turn back. Arwen cannot go unescorted.”
“Indeed,” Glorfindel agreed, as the column drew to a halt, and cast a quiet gaze at the trail behind them. “And perhaps another should ride with you as well.”
“My lord, take my horse.” Elrohir spouted, leaping swiftly down from his mount, and holding the reins out to the golden haired Elf lord. “I will guide the others to the Havens.”
“Me?” Glorfindel queried, an amused expression playing across his face. “She is your sister.”
“But I have no one waiting for me.” He countered swiftly. “And Lady Ithilwen-,”
Glorfindel smirked like a child at the sound of her name, though he shook his head. “Your thought is a noble one,” he murmured, his expression fading to a patient smile, “but I do not mind. Ithilwen will be waiting when I return. Go, my young lord, for your sister will have need of you.”
“Come, Elrohir.” Elladan urged, wheeling the head of his mount about, and trotting quickly back the way they had come, his head turned back as he waited for his younger twin. And so with a shrug of his shoulders, and uttering a sigh of acceptance, Elrohir leapt smoothly again to the back of his horse, wheeling his head about and nudging his heels gently into his mount’s side. Swiftly catching Elladan, the two brothers broke into a gallop, leaving the column swiftly behind them as they followed after their sister.
“Come, my friends.” Glorfindel called, once the hoof beats of the brothers’ mounts had faded. “Let us continue our journey.” He turned his face forward again, away from trail at their backs, his pace unhurried, and subdued.
Slowly, his smile faded, as his countenance turned away from the others, and he faced his thoughts alone, finding himself fighting a surge of crippling despair that he had thought long ago defeated. His thoughts were no longer on the sweet graces of his dearest Ithilwen, but on another maiden. A gentle young face, fair, and golden haired, though now lost eternally to him.
He had thought her dead at first from the news Tuor’s lady had given him, and in his despair, he had cast all caution aside and faced the balrog fearlessly, thinking it no sacrifice to die in his grief, that others with more meaning to live than he, might have that chance. Yet he had found no comfort in death, for she was not in the Halls of Mandos as he had thought. And knowing the fate that had claimed her, he had only found himself sinking deeper into his grief amid the swiftly passing centuries. Surely it could only have been pity that moved Lord Namo to extend to him the rare mercy of his life renewed, though the true reason, Glorfindel did not think he would ever know.
“But my lord?” The young Elf’s voice broke Glorfindel from his despairing thoughts, and he turned to smile into the pensive eyes of the young dark haired Elf who hurried to his shoulder. “What are we to do for Lady Arwen?”
At this, Glorfindel offered him a comforting smile, and clapped a hand upon his shoulder. “Come, my young lord, Sadron. We need not worry for her. Her brothers will not fail their sister.”
The young Elf nodded reluctantly, and said nothing as the column continued its unhurried way along the cool forest path. Slowly he fell a step behind Glorfindel, leaving the older Elven lord to his own thoughts, and to a name, spoken silently upon his lips like a prayer, and cast upon the soft wind that lifted it up, and carried it away into the sky.