The Choice of Elros

By Lalaith

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 58

Chapter 58

The cry of gulls filled the air, and the full, sweet scent of the ocean filled her lungs as Andreth stood upon the quay, her eyes gazing westward, out toward the horizon she could see between the arms of land that enclosed the bay.

Like so many swans riding lightly upon the water, the ships that would bear Elros and her, as well as their people across the vast sea to their new land, floated patiently upon the water, bobbing gently with the swells.

She turned her eyes to the northern arm of the bay, the finished lighthouse stood where she had first met Lord Círdan the day she had come to Mithlond, so flustered at their first meeting, and smiling as she recalled the reason why. Elros, naked to the waist as he worked, his muscles shifting gracefully beneath his lightly tanned skin stirring within her, the embers of simmering longing. She smiled at the memory, though she did not linger long on it, warm though it was, remembering her task.

All along the wharf crowds were gathered, the Edain, burdened with packs upon their backs, or their arms loaded with belongings, or with children, climbing the wooden gangplanks that led up onto the decks of the fair ships that would carry them from the bay when the tide was ready.

She touched a hand to the pack she held at her own side, the precious seeds of the athelas that she held charge of, that she would plant, and nurture in their new land. Which, she hoped, would bless uncounted generations in centuries to come.

Not far from her feet, the edge of a gangplank rested upon the edge of the quay, leading up to the deck of one of the ships that rose and fell gently with the swells of the water beneath it. From the topmast, fluttered a bright flag, embroidered with the form of a star, the symbol of Eärendil. This ship would be her home on the voyage. But to this ship, Andreth's feet did not carry her. Rather, she walked toward the ship docked beside it, somewhat larger than the one that would be her temporary home, though just as elegantly crafted.

Several elven men busied themselves about the deck of this ship, though none of the Edain were boarding it. Its inhabitants had already been herded on board, and made comfortable. She smiled at this thought, gathered her skirts, and mounted the gangplank to the deck which rose and fell gently beneath her feet. She touched a hand to the railing and wavered a little before regaining her balance and smiled as one of the sailors strode near, offering her a nod of his head.

He was an elf, one who, like Aelin had elected to sail to the Blessed Realm. Númenor would be but a short stopping place for him, and his fellows.

"My lady, Andreth?" he queried.

Andreth returned his polite nod. "I presume this is the ship on which the horses and-" her smile quivered, "my little goat have been housed for the journey."

The elven man grinned and nodded. "Master Sigil is seeing to their comfort, now," he said, nodding toward a wide opening in the deck that sloped downward into the shadows of the hold.

"May I?" she asked, to which the sailor nodded, and gestured his leave with his hand.

She nodded her thanks, and with her skirts still in her hands, she carefully made her way down the ramp, and into the shadows, the familiar, homey smell of sweet hay and of animals surrounding her.

At first she blinked, blinded in the darkness, though she could hear the solid stamp of horses' hooves, and the quick staccato tap of smaller cloven hooves.

As her eyes adjusted, Andreth smiled, seeing now, the two horses, Nórui and Maidh, on the other side of a low fenced enclosure, their faces bent toward the shoulders of a large, familiar figure.

Andreth could not withhold a smile at the sweet sight, especially when she noted little Lavaniel where the goat stood faithfully beside her larger, four legged friends while a short distance away a small handful of sheep nudged each other, jostling as they fed from a newly filled manger. The smell of hay was strongest behind her, and she turned, seeing on the other side of the hold, several piles of sweet hay, as well as rakes and shovels hanging neatly from the walls. Sigil had done all of this. And he had done well.

"Now you be careful of your lady, my Lord Nórui," Sigil said, his voice deep like a man's, but with the tone of a child as he stroked the necks of both the horses. She smiled at his next words. "It is no easy thing to be with foal."

The stallion nodded against Sigil's neck as if he understood, then lifted his head in a proud whinny of welcome to Andreth.

"Oh, my lady," Sigil muttered as he turned, suddenly shy as he met her gaze. He ducked his head like a shy boy. "I did not see you. Forgive-"

"Master Sigil, do not worry," Andreth assured him, stepping forward and holding out an assuring hand to the gentle, simple man. "I only just arrived in the last moments." She smiled. "You are being so gentle with the animals."

Sigil grinned, gesturing over his shoulder. "I like them. The horses, and the sheep. And your wee goat. They are good friends. I think on our new land, they will have many little ones."

Andreth grinned. "I think you're right, Sigil. And you will look out for them so well."

"Well, I-" he rubbed his hands, clearly pleased. "I should go and gather the last of my things. I will stay with the animals the entire crossing and keep them company. You won't need to worry about them at all." He drew near, and bowed his way past her, grinning as he went. "Farewell, my lady."

"And you, Master Sigil," she said as he turned, and vanished up into the light.

She turned forward, and moved across the floor toward the horses. "Well, my friends," she sighed, stopping a pace from the low wall. "Your little family will begin in our new land, just like mine."

Andreth sighed, and lowered her eyes to the leather pack she held across her shoulder, bearing the precious athelas Maglor had given her, the weight of it resting against her hip. The precious athelas.

She smiled as with her other hand, she covered her still flat stomach where grew one even more precious.

Andreth's smile only grew as from behind her, warm strong hands circled her, to cover her own where it rested on her stomach, and Elros' firm jaw pressed against her hair as he drew her securely against his chest.

"I thought I might find you here," he breathed, a teasing tone in his voice.

"Even on a wooden ship, you move lightly on your feet," she said in return, half turning her head, her body shivering warmly as Elros pressed a kiss to her brow. "I thought you were meeting with the chieftains of the Edain."

"I was, but we concluded our meeting, and I wished to come find you."

"I wanted to make sure that Lavaniel and our horses were comfortable, and these gentle sheep. Lord Círdan was most kind to gift Maidh to me."

"I'm glad he did." Elros grinned as she turned within his arms, and lifted her eyes to his face, smiling through the soft shadows of the hold. "As is Nórui." He chuckled, and reached out, ruffling his hand in the stallion's mane.

"And Maidh herself." Andreth smiled.

Elros released a low chuckled. "They do not wish to be parted." His arms tightened about her, and his smile softened as he gazed down into her eyes in the soft shadows.

"I know how they feel," she said, and he answered her with a smile. But a moment later, his smile faded.

"But we cannot stay with everyone we love," he breathed.

Andreth's face fell at this as well, and her arms went about his waist; his own arms circled about her, one hand weaving into her hair as she rested her head against his sturdy chest.

"And we must say our farewells," she murmured as she listened to the steady murmur of his heart. She felt him nod against her hair, but he did not speak.

Andreth drew in a ragged breath, and then stepped back finding the warm strength of his hand, his fingers lean and firm as they wove through her own.

"Come," she breathed. "I expect Elrond has arrived by now."

To this, Elros did not speak, but he nodded, and followed her lead as she turned, and led him up the wooden ramp, and into the light.

…oOo…

Standing beside Galadriel upon the wharf, Elrond drank in the sweet scent of the sea breeze. Above the ships, white gulls circled in the sky, swinging now and again, about the masts of the ships their haunting cries echoing across the water, and over the city. He swallowed stiffly, and glanced about him. A short distance away, Aelin stood, a pack on her shoulder. Aelin's eyes gazed westward, her countenance entranced, lifting now and again to the gulls that wheeled and dipped above her.

In her heart, Elrond knew, the longing to sail had taken hold, unlike the countenance of Ereinion, who stood beside her, his face solemn, and sad. He said something softly to her, and Aelin turned, her eyes fixing at last upon the young king who would have been her kinsman, had his beloved, her sister, not been slain at the Mouths of Sirion.

When would the sea take hold in his own heart, Elrond wondered. When would the longing to leave these shores draw him to these same docks in some distant age, bidding him to board a ship, his feet mounting a gangplank to feel a wooden deck beneath them, never to know the feel of the soil of Middle Earth beneath them, again? What kind of man would he be then? What sorrows and joys would he have seen? What dear ones would he have gained, and lost? What wounds upon his heart and soul would he have, that would bring him here, seeking for solace and healing? He did not feel such a longing, now. Nor did the lady beside him, or her lord who stood on her other side. Nor did Ereinion, though the eyes of the childless Noldorin king were sorrowful as he drew Aelin into a close embrace. "Farewell, sister," he said, his voice low.

Elrond looked away, where stone steps descended from the higher slopes of the city, Círdan came, his steps slow, almost reluctant. Behind him, followed two younger elves, a dark haired youth, and another with lighter hair, bearing a carven chest between them.

"Good morning to you, Elrond," Círdan greeted, his smile warm, though Elrond could see the sadness in the eyes of the bearded elf.

"And to you, my lord."

The two young elves set the chest against the stone wall that bordered the wharf, then stood, one on either side of it, as if guarding it.

"My lord?" Elrond asked, nodding to the chest. It was fashioned of dark, polished wood, bound with golden hinges and clasps. It looked distantly familiar.

"Gifts," Círdan said, nodding to the chest. "For Elros, and for Andreth, and for their descendants. Heirlooms, if you will."

"Heirlooms?" Elrond asked, turning now to Círdan, curious.

"Heirlooms of your houses," Círdan said with a nod. "Recovered from your mother's chambers after the attack on the Mouths of Sirion, when you were carried away as children."

Elrond's lips parted slightly. That was why the chest seemed so familiar. And if he remembered rightly from his infancy, the chest contained a number of weapons, ancient ones, finely crafted and beautiful. But- a fleeting sensation of injustice touched his heart. All of them for Elros?

A stirring upon the nearest boat turned his head, and his gaze moved to the one ship that none of the Edain were boarding. The ship that would house the animals, good Sigil who insisted on sailing with the animals to watch over them, and a few elven sailors who would leave their charges in Númenor before they sailed on to their own destination, unattainable now to Elros.

Elrond's throat suddenly grew tight as he saw his brother, and Andreth emerge from beneath the deck into the sunlight. Though their eyes were turned on one another at first, Elros, seeming to sense his brother's eyes on him, looked up and found Elrond's gaze across the distance between them. Any fleeting shreds of injustice vanished from his heart at the sight of his brother. These gifts were meant, Elrond realized, for the race of men. For Elros, and his children who would take his place after-

Elrond's throat choked, and he could not finish his thought.

Elros smiled as their eyes met, though his mouth trembled, and Elrond could see the pain in his eyes. Andreth's other hand, in a gesture of support, reach over, and gripped Elros' hand, a whispered word seeming to urge him forward. Elros released his wife's hand, and started forward alone. Elrond felt his throat stiffen and close as Elros came down the plank of the ship. The tightness in his throat left Elrond able to do little else but breath, and he feared he could not speak if he tried. This was not the last time he would see his brother, he knew, but a day would come that would be the last, until the world was remade, and a fist of grief gripped his heart.

A gentle pressure touched his arm, Galadriel's hand, and into his trembling frame, Elrond felt a faint strength infusing into him.

"Go to him," her soft voice soothed. "He needs your strength now, Elrond. Give him something that will bear him up. Both him, and Andreth."

Elrond nodded stiffly, and started forward, leaving Galadriel's comforting presence behind him as he made his way toward his brother.

Elrond drew to a stop but a few paces from his brother, his eyes fixed upon his twin, so much alike himself in appearance, but so vastly different in his own destiny. Elros had given up the life of an immortal, and while he looked no different than he had so many months ago when he had chosen a mortal life, Elrond knew that he would slowly and inevitably age and weaken, and at last embrace the gift that was bestowed to all mortals.

At this thought, Elrond's eyes moved past his brother to the fair lady who stood some distance behind her husband, loath to intrude upon the farewell between the two brothers. She was beautiful, Elrond admitted. In Elros' eyes more beautiful than all the wonders and glories of the Blessed Realm, and worth the sacrifice of his immortality.

Andreth caught a breath as their eyes met, and managed a faint, tremulous smile. His little sister.

What could he say to the two of them? What few words could he speak to convey his emotions, his great joy for them, and his sorrow at their parting? He would see them again, he knew. For he would come now and then, to Númenor, and they, perhaps, would come now and then to Mithlond. But it would never be the same again. And one day, inevitably, the day would come when he would not behold either of them again, until the ending of the world. His heart grew to a great weight in his chest at this.

At last, Elrond drew in a breath.

"You will be a magnificent king, little brother," he said.

Wetness gleamed in Elros' eyes at his brother's pet name. "Thank you."

Elrond took another step forward, and let his eyes drop to the wood beneath their feet.

"I will not lie to you Elros. Your choice has been hard for me," he said.

"I know. And I am sorry."

"Do not be. You chose as the Valar willed." Elrond heaved a deep breath and looked up. "I love you, little brother," he said at last.

Elros' lower lip trembled at this, and tears gleamed in his eyes. "And I love you, Elrond."

About them, the busy wharf had grown still. The Edain had all paused in their tasks, their voices fallen silent. Even the gulls seemed to sense the weight of the moment, and had stilled their cries. But Elrond hardly noticed as he and Elros stepped forward and threw their arms about each other.

Elrond buried his head against Elros' shoulder, and at last began to cry, unable to push away the understanding that his brother's years were numbered; that one day, Elros would die. Against his own shoulder, Elros was doing the same, neither brother caring that so many others looked on. For now, for these last few moments with his brother before Elros sailed, it was as it was in the beginning. In the silence, and stillness and warmth of their mother's womb. Just the two of them.

…oOo…

Andreth's throat tightened, and she dropped her eyes to her clasped hands as her husband and his brother embraced. Long they stood thusly, she could not say how long, before a faint shifting of cloth lifted her head and she met Elrond's eyes, his cheeks damp with tears.

In a moment she was in his arms, her head buried against his chest, his own face pressed against her hair.

"I am sorry I could not see the rightness of your love from the beginning, my little sister," he murmured in her ear as she trembled in his arms. "I am sorry for the pain I caused you, for the doubts I put in your heart. I know that all is now as it should be."

"All is forgiven," she murmured in return, feeling her tears wetting the front of his robe.

Andreth pushed back from Elrond, and he let her go, his cheeks wet, his eyes sorrowful as she looked up into his face. "You are my dear brother, Elrond. You always will be."

"And you will always be my cherished little sister," he murmured, bending to press a kiss against her brow.

Andreth smiled as he drew back, and lifted a hand, touching his face. He grieved, she could sense it, almost as if she, as if Elros, were already dead. She managed a smile. "You speak as if you will never see us again, Elrond. Will you not come to see us now and then?"

"Of course I will," he said, his eyes almost like a child's seeking comfort. "But the day will come, when-"

"When we will die," she said, and his face twitched with the very pain she had hit upon.

Andreth remained silent for a long moment as she watched a new tear spill over his lashes, and trail down his cheek. "But when the world is remade, and our sundered kindreds are brought together again, we will find each other."

Elrond swallowed hard and managed a faint, tremulous smile. "Nevertheless, I will- miss you, and remember you and Elros. Until that day."

Andreth swallowed, and drew in a ragged sigh at the mention of her husband's name. "There was a time when we both hoped he would see the Blessed Realm one day," she murmured.

To this, Elrond sighed, and turned toward his brother who stood a short distance away, his head turned slightly away. "As Elros himself said, you are his blessed realm, Andreth. You are to him more beautiful than all the wonders of Valinor. He has chosen rightly."

To this, Elros looked up and smiled as he offered a slight nod, meeting Andreth's eyes.

With reluctance, she drew back from Elrond's arms, and stepped to Elros' side, slipping her hand into his strong, warm grip.

"Andreth, Elros."

Galadriel's voice murmured from a short distance away, reminding Andreth of the presence of others.

Life and motion stirred about her again as Elros and she turned, meeting the lady's gaze, her countenance smiling, though it was sorrowful. Beside her, stood her silver-haired lord, and Ereinion, who had joined them. Círdan stood a short distance away as well, the faces of her elven friends written with both sorrow, and hope.

"My lady," Andreth sighed, and at this, Galadriel's countenance trembled, her eyes growing vulnerable, motherly.

The elven lady stepped forward then, and encircled Andreth in her slender, though strong arms, enveloping the younger woman in a sweet scent that brought to Andreth's mind the thought of flowers and of sunlight.

"I hope my daughter is like you," Galadriel breathed. "Wise, and goodly, and fair."

"And I hope to be a mother like you," Andreth returned.

To this, Galadriel's embrace tightened briefly, before it loosened, and the elven lady stepped back, her eyes gleaming brightly and her smile trembling as she returned to Celeborn's side as her lord offered Andreth a tremulous smile of her own.

Elros had only just released Ereinion where the two elven men had embraced, and he turned to smile again upon her, moving to take her hand.

"Elros, my lady, Andreth."

Círdan stepped forward, his robe whispering as he did.

"My lord?" Elros said, turning to the silver-haired shipwright who smiled sadly behind his beard.

"This," the shipwright said, "is for you. It contains gifts for the both of
you."

At this, two young elven men, one with dark hair, the other with light hair lifted the chest, and brought it forward, setting it beside Círdan.

The shipwright thanked them with a nod, which the young elves returned, then turned and retreated back up the stone steps.

Elros tipped his head, curious, and reached down, stroking the wood. "I remember this," he murmured, almost to himself. "It was mother's."

"It is yours, now." These words came from Elrond, and Andreth turned her eyes to his as his smile trembled.

Círdan reached down, and unfastened the clasp, lifting the lid back.

Andreth's breath caught in her throat as she studied the gleaming weapons inside. A sheathed sword, clearly of elven make, lay beside an elegantly crafted axe. Over them, lay a bow, unstrung, crafted of light, flexible wood. It seemed unremarkable beside the gleaming weapons. Indeed, if she was not mistaken, Círdan had often given it to her to use during her practices with Hathel. And- yes, there was no mistake, from that slight notch upon one side, it was the very one Hathel had pushed into her hands the day she had slain Lang to save Elros' life.

Truly, it had done a great deed that day, but what was it doing here, with these ancient, and honor weapons? Beside the bow, in one corner, a small leather bag lay. Clearly, Andreth mused, it sheltered something smaller, yet perhaps just as valued as the larger weapons.

"Aranrúth," Círdan explained reverently as he picked up the sheathed sword, and handed it to Elros.

Andreth drew in a breath as she watched her husband's eyes brighten with wonder. A soft metallic whisper met her ears as he drew the blade partway from the sheath, and studied the exposed blade with admiration.

"Aranrúth," he echoed. "The sword of Thingol, our great, great grandfather."

"And Dramborleg," Círdan added, now lifting the mighty axe.

Elros sheathed the sword with a soft clap, and returned it to Círdan as he took the axe. Andreth's heart quickened a little at the ease with which he hefted it, despite its obvious weight. "The axe of Tuor, our grandfather," he said softly.

"And this, my lady," Círdan said, directing his smile now toward Andreth as he lifted out the unstrung bow, and offered her to her. "Is the Bow of Bregor."

"The Bow of Bregor? But you gave it to me, to use in my practices with Master Hathel," she murmured, feeling her heart come to a standstill. "I did not know its greatness. This is truly the bow of my ancestory Bregor, son of Boromir of Bëor's house? Bregor, the brother of the Andreth for whom I am named?"

Círdan grinned and nodded as she took the weapon into her hands, her fingers caressing the smooth surface of the wood. "I could not think of a better use for it, than to let his fair descendant learn with his ancient bow," Círdan said.

"And this, though smaller than the others," the shipwright continued, and lifted up the small leather bag as Andreth continued to caress the bow reverently, "is perhaps the most precious of them all."

He nodded now to Elros. "You hand, my young friend," he said, before tipping into Elros' extended palm, a gleaming silver ring.

Andreth's eyes trailed to the ring, silver it seemed, or mithril, the image of two serpents twined one about the other, their heads crowned with golden flowers, framing a glimmering green jewel. At the sight of the ring, her heart nearly stopped.

Ai, she had heard of this before.

"The ring of Barahir," she breathed, returning the bow of Bregor to Círdan's hands as she cupped one hand beneath her husband's to touch the ring in his palm with a reverent finger. "The ring gifted to Barahir, by Lord Finrod Felagund, himself, meant to be an heirloom of Barahir's house for all time."

"Indeed," Círdan returned, his voice clearly pleased. "You know the history of your own house very well, Andreth."

"All of these for us?" There was reluctance in Elros' tone as he looked toward his elder brother. "What of Elrond? He is as entitled-"

"They are meant to pass to the race of Men, little brother," Elrond assured him gently. "They are for you, and Andreth, and for your descendants."

"Then here," Elros murmured gently, and lifted the ring from his palm. Gently, Elros took her hand in his own, and before she realized what he was doing, had slipped it gently onto Andreth's thumb. The ring slid to the knuckle, a fair fit despite its having been fashioned, she could tell, for a man's finger.

"But you should wear it," she protested softly. "You are to be king, and-"

"And you are my queen, and of the Noble House of Bëor as well," he returned, smiling as she lifted her eyes to his. "You have as much right to wear it, as I."

His hands gently squeezed, to which Andreth found herself returning his smile, and gripping his hands more tightly in return.

"My lord, Círdan."

All heads turned at the sound of an elven man's voice.

The elven sailor who had spoken to Andreth, and one other, both fair-haired, strode near.

"Yes, Master Nithron?" Círdan returned.

"The ships must needs sail soon, my lord," said the fair-haired elf, Nithron. "For the tide is ready."

"Very well," Círdan said, his voice solemn as he closed the lid of the chest, and latched it with a soft click.

Andreth shivered a little at the sound and looked up as Elros met her eyes in silence.

Nithron and the other elf picked up the chest between them, and carried it, seemingly with little effort, toward the nearest ship, and up the gangplank, disappearing with it down steps into the hold.

"Come," Elros murmured to her, and Andreth followed his lead, though her steps were heavy, as he guided her to the wooden gangplank that the sailors had just ascended. A bright flag fluttered from the top mast, where the large canvas sail remained bound to the gaff. An elven sailor had climbed the mainmast with the light footed grace of his people, and perched at the juncture of the mast and gaff, ready to loose the sail. Aelin already stood at the railing, her hands clenching the wood with tight knuckles, and a single tear trailing down one cheek.

Andreth paused at the lip of the plank, and turned back, her eyes lifting to the rising walls and hills of Mithlond, her thoughts flying beyond what she could see to the forests and meadows where she had lived and grown. To Firiel's grave. She thought of her father who had died fighting the evil of Melkor. She thought of her mother who had given her life, but whose face she could not remember.

At her side, Elros seemed to sense her feelings, and his hand gently squeezed her own. She turned and met his eyes. Long she held his gaze, before she sighed, and nodded.

Elros turned then, his chest heaved a breath, and started up the wooden plank. She followed behind, her fingers woven through his. Her feet left the stable wharf, the plank bobbing and rising softly beneath her.

At last they reached the deck, and hand in hand, they turned, and gazed back down.

Elrond stood at the side of Gil Galad, whose hand clasped his shoulder. Andreth's heart eased a little, knowing the Noldorin king would watch over her brother-in-law. Beside them, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Círdan looked up with somber faces. All along the quay, the last of the Edain were boarding their ships.

She felt a movement at her side. Aelin had joined her. The elven woman touched her arm, and they exchanged a trembling smile as Aelin slipped her arm through Andreth's. Joy and sorrow gleamed in Aelin's eyes.

Behind her the flutter of loosened canvas was followed by the broad shadow of the sail falling over her and her companions.

The ship began to move, a soft whisper of water as the prow split the waves, pointed toward the entrance to the harbor.

Andreth did not look forward though, past the sail toward the opening of the harbor where the prow of the ship pointed as the waters of the Lhûn, lapped at the sides of the boat beneath her. Rather she moved as the ship did, gliding to the aft of the ship, stopping only when she reached the railing of the stern, and gripped it tightly, her eyes fixed upon Elrond, and her other elven friends who stood upon the wharf, their eyes fixed upon her, and her companions.

A hand touched the small of her back. Elros stood at her side, shuddering slightly. She turned to look at him, finding herself not surprised to see tears streaming down his cheeks.

Upon the wharf, Elrond raised a hand, and at this gesture, Elros clasped her own hand, and lifted their joined hands together in farewell.

…oOo…

Without Gil Galad's hand upon his shoulder, Elrond was certain he would have fallen to his knees as Elros' ship, trailed one after the other by the ships in his armada, made for the harbor opening overlooked by the very lighthouse they had help build together.

He swallowed hard and lifted a hand as they drew further away, his heart clenching in his chest as Elros and Andreth together raised their joined hands in farewell. Beyond them, the harbor mouth loomed.

Evening had not yet fallen, but-

Elrond's lips parted in wonder. For there, in the sky as it was suspended in the evening, hung Eärendil. His father's distant ship, gleaming with the light of the silmaril. From where he stood, the star gleamed just above the heads of his brother and sister in law.

Upon his shoulder, Ereinion's fist tightened. He too, had seen the star.

The star that would hang ever in the western sky, guiding his brother and his people across the water to their new home. Out through the mouth of the bay Elros' ship passed, followed by the others, one after another.

The quay began to empty of elves, filtering away as mortal friends vanished from sight. But Elrond remained.

Even after the last ship had left the harbor, and the boats were naught but distant specks vanishing into the distance, Elrond remained, and to his gratitude, Gil Galad remained at his side, as did the other three elves. Long after the wharf was entirely empty of all others, long after the sun had sunk to the horizon, filling his vision with her splendour, long after a bright lamp alighted in the tall lighthouse, and night deepened, still with Eärendil hanging over the distant ships, Elrond remained.

Elrond and his companions did not turn away until the darkness and the distance had swallowed the fading ships to their elven sight. And even as he turned away, Gil Galad's hand upon his shoulder to trudge with heavy feet up the stone steps, Eärendil remained, gleaming motionless in the western sky.


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