It was the evening of the second day of their reunion, and as the clouds gathered in the sky all had met at Auros's home. Melëar had won their game earlier, and so led the toast. All had come: Melëar, Arandil, Curulin, Meneltir and his son Telperos, Aldawë, Malril, and Maikalkar who had been dubbed "Telwë" by Arandil since he was typically the last to arrive. Only Farothel was missed, having fallen in battle to overthrow Sauron, but he was not forgotten, and the first toast was to his bravery. The second toast was to the completion of Auros's house. While it had been completed many years before, this was their first gathering there all together. Much of the night was spent in mirth and the company of good friends.
Once everyone had had their fill of the food, the group adjourned to the planning room, as Auros had arranged it, where stood a few tall shelves with books, some chairs, and a round table large enough for all gathered to have a place. The windows were closed tight, but the beginnings of rain could be heard through them. A map lay across the table, with a couple of books holding it flat. Auros waved everyone around the table, eager to begin the discussion held every time they gathered. "There's our map of Eregion. Telperos scouted the area recently, and has made some adjustments. I've marked a few places on the map we should keep an eye on."
Taking his place at the table last, Meneltir nodded to Telperos to proceed.
Motioning to the places Auros marked on the map, Telperos said, "These are places where I found evidence of orc camps. It looks like they're recent, but they didn't stay long. I tried not to disturb the area, because it looks like these camps have been used more than once, and I didn't want to give them any reason for alarm. We might be able to catch them unaware and clear them out for good rather than driving them to different routes."
"Do we have an idea of the how many orcs have been camping?" Arandil asked. "Telwë might have to find a few more good soldiers to join us." Arandil looked slyly at Maikalkar as he said the name.
Ignoring Arandil's needling, Maikalkar said, "I might be able to convince a handful of Elves to come with us to clear out the orcs, but they're not interested in our goals beyond that."
Meneltir nodded. "Aldawë, what about you?"
Aldawë stood silent for a moment. "Seven, maybe eight that would help drive out the orcs, but...," Aldawë paused for a moment, looking up with a mischevious smile towards Maikalkar. Maikalkar looked back with a glare, almost daring Aldawë to call him Telwë. "... as Maikalkar said," his smile faded as he returned to business, "they would have no interest in founding a new realm. They're content to serve in Imladris."
Meneltir's expression didn't change. "So let us discuss that then. Have we had any new interest in our desire to reclaim and resettle Eregion?" Everyone was silent.
Auros spoke up. "No new interest." The disappointment in his voice was clear. He retrieved a scroll from one of the shelves then nonchalantly sat in his chair as he prepared to open the scroll. "And some of those who were interested have withdrawn their commitment," he said with a sigh of exasperation. "It's as if we've given up altogether on having a Noldorin realm in Endor." Auros froze. He had meant to say Eriador. Now suddenly he felt like he had just admitted something aloud that he had been denying to himself for a long time. Auros looked around the room. Everyone was looking at him. He could see in their eyes that they had already known this. Every one of them. Anger and shame welled up inside him. He clutched the scroll in one hand and shook it. "There are enough names here to build a settlement with the means to protect itself from any orc invasion!" he shouted, knowing even as he said it that he was overestimating the ability for that short list of names. Frustration now joined the anger and shame; frustration at realizing that no matter how hard he fought, there would never be a renewed Noldorin realm. Not in Eregion, not anywhere. "They've all either sailed West or plan to set sail soon!" He threw the scroll down on the table. The room was silent as everyone looked down. Not knowing what else to do, Auros left the room, then walked out of the house.
The anger, the shame, and the frustration all welled up inside him as he stepped out into the rain. Yes, it was the rain. He'd left his cloak in the house. He couldn't believe he was the last to realize what should've been obvious. All the doubts and thoughts he had successfully ignored for so long finally settled upon him. There would be no great revival of the Noldor, no last moment of glory before the High Elves faded from history. Whatever happened with Sauron, whatever happened with Sauron's Ring, that time had already gone, and he was too late.
Auros walked, alone and unheeding in his thoughts, and the guards did not stay him. He continued until he came to a stone outcrop, and then he sat down and leaned against a giant stone that blocked the view over the ledge until one got close. He sat in silence in the rain, sheltered somewhat from the wind by the stone. He took no heed of the time when the rain abated, the clouds parted and a sliver of moonlight began to shine upon the valley below. That is where Meneltir found him: the guards had watched where he went and directed Meneltir there. He sat down next to Auros in silence.
"I've done it, haven't I," Auros said after a moment, not turning to face his friend. Auros paused. "I've lived up to my name. I'm Auros, the arrogant Noldo with the audacity to think he can bring his people back to a golden age."
"We all shared in that dream," Meneltir said.
"But for how long? How long have you all held out hope in that dream? I look back on it now, all of our meetings, and I see with clearer eyes. I have always followed you. Since the Last Alliance, I followed you Meneltir. We all followed you. But I now realize, in this, you all have been following me. How long have I held you all here, held you to this mission, when you would have rather departed Endor in peace?"
"Calasulo," Meneltir looked sternly at his friend. "We all have many desires to see to in this Middle-Earth. This "mission" as you call it, while a factor, is just one of many. More to us than that, we wanted to be there to see you through to your goal. Even if we could not succeed, we were willing to fight as long as we could to help you."
"And let me live on in my blind vanity."
Meneltir snorted. "You're not in a mood to be consoled, I see."
Meneltir made ready to rise, but Auros put a hand on his arm. "Fëalkaro, I'm sorry."
Meneltir snorted. "I need to get up anyway. Someone has to let everyone know where you got off to."
Auros paused for a moment, his temper cooling. "Wait,.. 'as long as we could'... what are you not telling me?"
"Telwë," Meneltir paused and closed his eyes, realizing what he'd done, "Maikalkar told us after you left. He's been trying to find a way to say it all night. In a few days he's making his way to the Havens to sail West."
"Well then," Auros rose, "if this is the last time we shall all gather East of the Sea, we should give our good friend a fitting sendoff." Meneltir saw something in his friend as he spoke, something that could not be good if it carried on for too long, but for now he understood Auros was doing all that he could.
Nothing more was said of the plan to retake Eregion over those next few days. It would be a while before it was discussed openly again. The group celebrated past times, made merry over their individual successes since their last meeting, sang old songs, and even made some new ones. The stone outcrop was discussed for having an excellent view, and after a brief visit it was suggested that they should all meet there on Maikalkar's final day. Auros joined in all the celebrations, but he had lost something. When he was alone, he studied the scouting maps of the orc camps. The motivation was gone, the purpose was gone, but Auros still had the mission.
The day of Maikalkar's departure came, and everyone gathered at the stone outcrop. Maikalkar was there first, to the surprise of all the others. He had spent since the first rays of dawn at the outcrop in fact, and the others arrived to find he had carved all 10 names of their group into the stone. "This at least shall stand long after us," he said, "a monument that we all joined together here in Endor united in purpose and brotherhood." Next to Farothel's name Maikalkar listed his fall at Dagorlad. For himself, he carved the name "Telwë" and the Tengwa letter numen. There were no jokes now. "Namarië, my friends... my brothers."
"Namarië," said Auros, but not just to Maikalkar.