Elrond stood alone in the crowd, waiting for the start of the Midwinter celebrations – yet he felt none of the usual joy and anticipation of the season. A melancholy hollowness filled him, as bleak and empty as the stark winter trees.
Surrounded by the families of Imladris, he was acutely aware that his own family were sundered. Celebrían was gone, Arwen had fled to Lórien, and his sons … the Valar only knew where his sons were.
As dusk deepened and the sky darkened, the laughter and murmur of conversation died away, and an expectant silence fell. Elrond gazed up, along with everyone else, his eyes fixed on the spot where Eärendil would soon appear.
On cue, a faint light blossomed in the twilight, and he raised a hand in greeting. The quiet was shattered by an excited squeal from a young girl: “I see it! I see the star! Happy Midwinter – make a wish, make a wish!”
“Happy Midwinter!” The greeting was exchanged and passed on, families hugging and kissing in celebration, yet it only accentuated his own loneliness. It brought back sharp, painful memories of the twins, so very many years ago; their voices blended as one as they called out together on seeing the star, and the inevitable squabble that followed. He smiled sadly. Where were they now? The only thing he was sure of was that they still lived – though they had grown so distant over the years that one day he feared he would not even be able to feel that.
Did they even know it was Midwinter? Or were they still lost in bitter revenge and hatred, too engaged in the relentless hunt for orcs to acknowledge the season at all?
A hand on his shoulder roused him from his melancholy. “Happy Midwinter, Elrond.”
He managed a smile. “And you, my friend. Happy Midwinter, Glorfindel.”
The people slowly dispersed for private celebrations; to exchange gifts with family and friends before rejoining for the feast in the great hall. Elrond did not follow. He remained alone, gazing up at the stars, deep in thought.
“You miss them.”
Startled, Elrond turned – he had not realised that Glorfindel was still there. “Yes. All of them. But Arwen at least is safe in Lórien, and Celebrían – she is finding peace and healing. But my sons – ” he paused. “I do not know where they are, or even if they are well. Yes, I miss them.”
Glorfindel nodded. “So do I. But they will soon be home, safe and well – I am sure of it!”
“Will they? They do not even call it home any more – it is just ‘the valley’, a place for them to stay between their quests for revenge. And when they do return they are usually battered and bruised, often injured.” He sighed, voicing his deepest fear. “And one day they will never return – an orc will make an unlucky strike, or one of them will take a risk too many. I will lose them both, and never even know what happened.”
Glorfindel clasped his shoulder again. “You must have faith. Faith and hope – for without hope there is only despair. Trust them, Elrond. They will return – and one day they will stay. It is Midwinter - make a wish.”
After Glorfindel had gone, Elrond remained outside in the frosty air. Far above, Eärendil flashed again, and slowly other stars winked into being and joined him in their slow dance across the skies.
Staring upwards, he made a simple, fervent wish for Midwinter.
Two weeks later, Elrond stood again on the steps in the cold, bitter air. Restless and unable to sleep, he had again risen before dawn, returning to his study to work by lamplight. Yet something had drawn him outside to greet the clear, crisp, frosty day. The bare trees were rimed with sparkling hoarfrost, and the music of the distant waterfall was muted by ice.
Through the skeletal trees he saw movement on the path, still far off. An early rider approaching? But no, there were two riders. He stared, his heart quickening. Two riders, on matched, jet-black horses, riding swiftly. As he watched, one broke into a gallop, followed less than a heartbeat later by the other, racing each other along the track.
His heart leapt, then fell again. It could not be his sons after all. For far too long now their rare homecomings had been slow and sombre, almost reluctant. The days of the exuberant races to reach the courtyard first seemed long gone, gone with their laughter and joy in life. And yet …
Slowly, he began to descend the steps, telling himself that he was mistaken, that it was merely some unexpected visitors – but as he reached the final step they raced beneath the archway into the courtyard; laughing, arguing, disputing the winner as always.
For a ridiculous moment he wondered who these strangers were, then ran forward to meet them as they swung down from their horses.
“Father!” Elrohir called, breathless. “Who won?”
“I did, of course!” Elladan exclaimed. “Father, tell him!”
He ignored the disagreement with the ease of long practice, hugging them both tightly, then Elrohir, then Elladan, then both of them again. “Welcome home, my sons – welcome home!” He hugged them again, then stepped back to look at them.
They both looked weary, though mercifully uninjured; and a faint shadow of grief, rage and guilt was still there – but it was greatly diminished, and through it he could see his sons again.
“You missed Midwinter,” he heard himself say, and could have bitten his tongue.
Elladan nodded sadly. “I know. I am sorry – we should have been here.” He smiled. “We saw the star, though!”
“We missed you,” Elrohir added. Hoisting his bags onto his shoulder, he turned to go up the steps, an arm slung around Elrond’s shoulders. “It is good to be home, father.”
He revelled in the sound of the word. Yes, at long last his sons were home.
The EndPrevious: "Far from Home" > "Thoughts from Home"