(Imladris – a few days previously)
Elrond stared blankly at the document before him, realising he had read it at least three times, without taking in a single word. Other papers lay on his desk, some bearing his signature, but he could recall none of them. He pushed the papers away with a sigh of frustration. Just lately, he knew he had been tense and exhausted, short-tempered from lack of sleep and worry. He had found it impossible to concentrate. He was only too well aware of the reason why. Over two weeks ago – two long weeks – his younger son had left home on a simple, straightforward errand. One which should have taken him a few days; a week at the most. But since then, there had been no news. Nothing. Elrohir seemed to have vanished into thin air.
Since then, Elladan had also departed, in search of his twin. And still there had been no news, no word.
Elrond abandoned the pretence of reading, of working; and paced his study, crossing frequently to the windows which overlooked the length of the valley and the track from the ford. He was tense with anticipation. Something, some deep-rooted instinct, told him that today would be the day that there was news. How or why he knew that, he could not say, but he found himself back at the window, watching the path again. Perhaps they were riding home even now, Elladan and Elrohir in the lead, racing each other, arguing over who would reach the steps first, while Legolas and Bereth trailed behind, content to leave the twins to their self-imposed challenge.
There had been no news, no message, nothing, not since Elladan and Legolas had left to search for Elrohir. But they would be at least nine days behind Elrohir and Bereth, and by his reckoning they should have reached Tarlong some four days ago. He prayed that they had found some trace of the – what was that? His thoughts broke off as he caught a glimpse of movement, far below, on the road to Imladris. Two riders – but not either of the twins. Instead, what he saw chilled him with dread. Two unfamiliar men, guards from the look of them, rode slowly towards Imladris. Even at this distance he could see the crest of Tarlong on their tunics. And behind them – behind them they drew a litter, bearing a covered figure.
Then the men were gone again, hidden from view once more by the trees. Numb with fear, he raced through the halls to the courtyard, and along the path to intercept the men. He was met by one of his own guards from the patrol guarding the ford, running ahead to meet him. The guard made a hasty salute, then stepped full into Elrond’s path, forcing him to stop. “Lord Elrond! There is news – but first I must tell you one thing. This is not Lord Elrohir. It is not either of your sons.”
Elrond released a breath he had not been aware of holding. Thank the Valar. “Not – but then who – ” he began disjointedly. Who was it? Legolas? Please, no! Thranduil, he knew, could not bear another loss. Bereth?
“Bereth,” confirmed the border guard, after a quick glance to ensure that none could overhear. “These men say they have a message for you, but they will not discuss it with anyone else. But they let me see who it was they brought here.”
One of the men spoke up, interrupting the unintelligible conversation. “I have a message for Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían of Imladris. Would you take us to them, please?” He looked, and sounded, rather nervous. It could be a dangerous task, being the bearer of bad news.
“I am Elrond,” the lord replied, switching to Westron. “What is your message?”
“A letter,” said the man, removing it from a bag on his saddle and passing it to Elrond. “From Elladan. He asked that we escort the dead, and carry a message for him.”
Elrond broke the seal on the letter, and read it swiftly. If it contained bad news, he wanted to know before he gave the letter to Celebrían. The very first sentence told Elrond the most important news of all, but it was not what he wanted to hear. They had found no trace of Elrohir at all. Elladan described what he knew of Bereth’s death, and asked his father to explain the circumstances to Bereth’s family. He went on to describe the progress of the plague, and how it was affecting the communities along the Bruinen. Finally, he told of his journey south to Tarlong, and admitted that he had no idea what had happened to Elrohir. Elladan’s deep despair over his brother’s fate came through painfully clearly from the letter.
Elrond came to the end of the letter, and with a deep sigh, folded it again. It did not contain the answers he had hoped for. It did not contain any answers at all. Behind him he heard a sudden commotion, a gasp of fear and an anguished cry. “No!” Celebrían, drawn by the same awareness that had alerted him, had appeared, her eyes fixed on the covered litter.
He turned to her, holding her, whispering fiercely in reassurance. “It is not either of the boys! But there is still no news of Elrohir. This is Bereth.” She sagged against him in relief, then straightened immediately, once again the Lady of Imladris. Over her shoulder he caught the gaze of one of the other guards, also drawn by the commotion. He stared fixedly at the covered figure, his face ashen. Elrond went to him and drew him gently to one side. “Beregar? I am so very sorry. Your brother is dead. Come with me, I will break the news to your parents.”
As he left with the young guard, Elrond turned to the border guard. “Will you find Erestor, please? Ask him – ask him to meet me. After I have spoken to Bereth’s family.”
The meeting with Bereth’s family was hard. Elrond tried to explain to his parents, brother, and sister what had occurred, but it was difficult, so very difficult. They were numb with grief and shock, and totally bewildered. There was so little he knew; so little Elladan had been able to tell him. And all the while, he was hiding his own fear and worry, until Bereth’s mother spoke as he was leaving. “But Lord Elrond – what of your own son? They left here together – what news is there of Lord Elrohir?”
Suddenly he was no longer the lord of these people, comforting them in their grief, but just a desperately worried father. “There is no news,” Elrond admitted. “I have no idea where he is. Elladan is still trying to trace him.”
It was late by the time he left Bereth’s home and returned to his own chambers. He desperately needed the solace of his wife’s comfort and support – but she was not there. Going in search of her, Glorfindel told him that he had seen her near the twin’s rooms. Heading in that direction, Elrond went first to Elrohir’s room, and opened the door silently. The room was in darkness, lit only by starlight from the window. Celebrían sat on Elrohir’s bed, clutching one of his discarded shirts tightly. She was not crying, but her hopeless despair was somehow far worse.
“Where is he, do you think?” she asked, without looking up. “What has happened to him? Do you think he is dead?” Her voice trembled as she whispered, “Elrond, I cannot bear the thought that we may never see him again.” Tears finally began to fall, and she wept helplessly as Elrond held her tightly. “I miss him. I miss him so,” she sobbed.
“I know. I know. So do I. But – we must still have hope.” His own tears mingled with hers as he sought for words. “We cannot give up. For our own sake, for Elladan, for Elrohir himself. We must trust in him. We must trust in his courage, his skill, and his luck. Remember, we so nearly lost him before we ever knew him. Yet he came back to us.”
Against his chest, Celebrían nodded. “Yes. I know. I will never forget. And I do trust in him. But what about Elladan? How must this be affecting him? What if Elrohir is dead? I do not think I could bear it – we could lose them both.”
Elrond was silent, stroking her hair softly. He had to cling to whatever faint hope there was, but it was hard. Elladan’s letter had explained the few stark facts he knew. That Elrohir and Bereth had left Withypool together, heading for Tarlong. That Bereth had been found dead a few days later. That there was no sign at all of Elrohir. Was he wrong to hope? Perhaps he was being foolish. Perhaps it would be better to be realistic, to face the possibility – no, the probability that his beloved son was dead.
The sound of a single voice, lifted in a lament, drifted in through the open window. After the first few haunting bars a handful of other voices joined in, and were gradually joined by several more. The first singers would be Bereth’s family, then his friends and fellow healers. The laments and songs of mourning would continue through the night, until the stars faded, and would be followed by the burial. Elrond knew he would have to be there for that. But he found himself wondering. Would the next songs and prayers be sung for his son? Would he lead the laments that would plunge the whole of Imladris into mourning?
Pain knifed through him as he remembered Elrohir’s smile, so infectious it could brighten the dullest day; his sudden laughter as he teased his brother or sister; his unexpected, unyielding stubbornness. The interminable way the twins bickered endlessly, driving their parents, and all around them, to distraction. The way they would still speak simultaneously, or finish the other’s sentence. There was so much to remember.
He had survived the death of his own twin, although it had all but destroyed him, but in truth, the bond between him and Elros had been sundered long before that by their choices. His sons were much closer, their link much stronger. How would Elladan be able to cope? What would he do? Like Celebrían, he knew he could not face losing them both.
At length Celebrían stirred against him, and he stood, helping her to her feet. “Come,” he told her. “Come to bed. We cannot stay here all night. We have no need to.”
“No. I thought I would feel closer to him here, but it makes no difference. I can feel him everywhere, throughout the house and the valley, but he seems so far away.” She hesitated again. “He – he will come home again. I have to believe that.”
“Yes. Hold to that belief. Cel, I have been thinking. I think we should send word to Arwen.”
Celebrían nodded in agreement. “I already have. I wrote to her this evening, the letter is still on my desk. She should be here. She will have no idea of what has happened. And it will be a comfort to have her home.” She sighed deeply. “I wish I had my mother’s gift. Then perhaps I would know where he is, what happened to him.”
“No. It is an unchancy gift, you know that, with no way of telling what is true and what is not. Of what may already have come to pass, and what may never happen. It would just torment you. It is not a gift I would wish on any.”
They left Elrohir’s room together, and Elrond quietly closed the door, shutting out the soft strains of singing that still filled the night. Celebrían still clutched the shirt to her chest tightly. Slowly they climbed the stairs to their own rooms, to spend the night waiting sleeplessly, waiting for dawn, waiting for what news the new day may bring.Stories > First > Previous > Next