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2
Great Tidings

Disclaimer and rating: as in the Prelude


~~~

Chapter One - Great Tidings

After a long, solitary night of grieving, spent in the guest room where Boromir had stayed while in Imladris, Elladan gathered himself together again, ready to return to his father's house and face his family - neither of which promised much pleasure. For Elrohir still did not speak with him, Arwen was strangely absent-minded, wrapped up in her own grief and worries, and his father…

It was painful for Elladan to watch his father's anguish. The Lord of Imladris had retreated more and more into his own inner world, and his eyes were looking westwards all the time... as if he had forgotten the perils of the East where his foster son and his lover were facing the Enemy more closely than anyone since the Battle upon Dagorlad, save perhaps Mithrandir, who had dared to enter Dol Guldur while Sauron still dwelt there.

"'Tis not his fault," Glorfindel sighed, when one of them made a hushed comment about their father's strange behaviour, "'tis the Sea-longing. He has suppressed it for three Ages, considering the fight against the Darkness his uppermost duty. Now, that this fight seems to approach its end, whether for good or for ill we cannot say yet, the Call of the Sea became very strong, almost unbearable."

"You believe he is planning to go to the Havens?" Elrohir asked, deeply troubled.

Glorfindel shook his head. "Nay, he would not leave Middle-earth while the fate of the Ring remains unfulfilled. He swore, standing by the broken body of Gil-galad, that he would remain here as long as the Ring remains. But withstanding the Call is very painful for him, Eärendil's Heir, even moreso than for other Elves. It is in the blood of us all - save mayhap the Silvan folk, who never left these shores."

"Do you feel it, too?" Elrohir asked. Glorfindel nodded thoughtfully.

"I do... but 'tis different for me. I have already lived in Aman, have seen the light of the Two Trees of Valinor - even after my return, part of my soul still dwells in the Blessed Realm. And having died and been reborn makes one see things very differently... makes me greatly different from all other Elves, even from the Firstborn who awoke alongside me at the dark waters of Cuiviénien."

"What would happen to Father should the Ring-bearer fails" whispered Arwen. What might happen to other people, she did not even dare to ask, though her heart was full of anguish.

"If he is not killed, he will fade and die from the Sea-longing," Glorfindel answered sadly. "For should Sauron get his Ring and its terrible power back, Elrond Eärendilion would not flee to the Havens. He would stay in Middle-earth and fight the Darkness, even with no hope left. He is the Keeper of Vilya. He cannot do otherwise."

"And what about you?" Elladan asked.

Glorfindel gave him a sad smile. "I shall stay at his side till the end comes. I have been dead once - I fear not to die again. There are worse fates than that."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Elladan sighed and shook his head. He felt restless, driven by the urge to do something - anything - rather than sit in the safety of Imladris, awaiting the outcome of the quest that had killed the Man he loved.

He had wanted badly to go with the Company of the Ring, if only to protect Boromir from the Ring's evil powers, yet the hobbits had a stronger claim, and his father was an impartial judge, even if it broke his heart. Now that Boromir was dead, there still remained a promise to fulfil - and Elladan intended to keep his word, even if it cost him his life.

He crossed the bridge of Bruinen and went to his own chambers, shedding impatiently the heavy, gold-embroidered brocade robes his rank demanded he wear while in his father's court. He could not bear them any more.

Being a Prince of Imladris - and that he was, even if Elrond was not called a King - meant being passive, detached, sitting calmly and waiting for events to unfold on their own. This was something he always had been hard-pressed to do, yet since he made his choice, it had become almost unbearable - just as much as the Sea-longing had become for his father.

He was not the Heir of Elrond any more - that was now Elrohir, if Imladris would remain at all after their father's departure, without the power of Vilya to protect the valley. He did not want to be treated as Elrond's Heir anymore. Nor was he ready to remain passively between the rock walls of their Valley when the White City Boromir loved so much was in great peril and needed protection.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Several members of Elrond's household stared at him in wide-eyed shock as he hurried along the delicately arched corridors of his father's house, clad in the fashion of the Dúnedain, though not in their colours: dark leggings and high boots and a silvery-shining mail shirt under a short-sleeved, soft leather tunic, covered with a long, hooded grey cloak, made in Lórien. A long sword was girdled at his waist, a quiver strapped across his back, and he held a great bow, beautifully crafted by the hands of the Galadhrim, made to fit his hand alone.

"Where is my father?" he asked a shocked Amaldor, the new chief counsellor and steward of the house since Erestor's departure, who had just begun his daily work.

"In his study," the older Elf replied, "but I think not you should bother him right now. He is occupied with some disturbing tidings that came in the night."

Elladan paled. Could it be that someone had witnessed the death of Boromir? Could there be tidings about the progress of the Company? Nay, his father would already have sent for him then.

"What tidings?" he asked, almost tonelessly.

Amaldor sighed and shook his head in his usual helpless manner when dealing with the headstrong twin sons of his Lord.

"I know not. Only this I heard: that the Eagles had come shortly before sunrise, in great hurry. They flew straight to Lord Elrond's balcony and called him out to speak with him. Then they left again, even more swiftly than they came."

"Eagles, you say? More than one, I deem… "

"There were two of them, or so I was told," said Amaldor; "and the second one must have come from far away, for he looked weary. And great hardness it had to be, to wear out even a Great Eagle."

Elladan nodded. For an Eagle to tire, he had to come far and very, very fast. Galadriel had the power to summon them from their dwellings in the Far North and send them forth again with messages if the need was great, for they were friends of the Lady of the Wood. As did Mithrandir. But Mithrandir had fallen into darkness...

"I regret to say that now I need even more urgently to speak with my father," he said. "I must know what those tiding are, ere I leave the valley."

Amaldor raised a questioning eyebrow. "I was not aware that the Lord of Imladris had sent his son on an errand," he remarked; and indeed, had Elrond intended to do such a thing, he would have spoken about it with his counsellor first. Or so it should be - but Amaldor knew that, unlike Erestor, he was no part of the Lord's family and therefore might have been left out of matters in which Erestor would have been included.

"He did not," Elladan said in a clipped tone. "I am leaving. On my own."

Amaldor became as pale as Celebrían's marble bust in the anteroom. Such a breach of custom was unheard of in Elven families of high birth, where proper ceremonies belonged to daily life and everything was done on its proper way. Of course, Elladan had always been strong-headed, even more so than his brother, but never had he gone this far before. Elrond was the Lord of the Valley, his royalty akin to that of a King. His word was law, and no one had ever questioned his authority or his decisions, least of all his children.

"I beg you to reconsider," the counsellor murmured in defeat, knowing all too well that his plea was in vain. He had watched Elladan growing up and knew: once Elrond's eldest had made up his mind, there was no way to change it.

As he had expected, Elladan shook his head stubbornly. "There is naught to reconsider, Master Amaldor. 'Tis is something I have to do, and I am certain that Father will understand. Now, give me leave or I shall be forced to go without his knowledge."

Seeing that Elladan would not be held back by anyone, Amaldor sighed and moved out of his way. Elladan nodded his thanks and - without announcing his presence - entered the quiet study of his father.

It was a magnificent room, and looking to the West as it did, its high ceilings and farther corners were still in shadow. Elrond stood at the window, watching the pale grey sky, as yet uncoloured from the early sunrise. His face was calm, collected, but very pale in the dark frame of his long, unbraided hair. Against his usual routine, he was not fully clad yet, wearing only a heavy robe over his sleeping gown. The tidings must have been disturbing indeed.

"Come in, Elladan," he said, without turning away from the window. "I have been expecting you since the sunset two days ago."

"You have?" Elladan was more than a little surprised.

His father nodded slowly, then finally turned towards him, clear grey eyes darkened with sorrow, pale face drained from worry and lack of sleep. He had been sitting awake for two days, in case his eldest needed him.

"He is gone, is he?" he asked softly.

"How can you... Have the Eagles brought tidings about the Company?"

"Nay," Elrond sighed, "they brought other tidings, no less disturbing. But I have seen the light fading in your eyes. I, too, once lost someone someone to whom my sould was bound. I can understand your pain. I only wish you had come to me."

"I am no longer a child, Father," Elladan said, sounding harsher than he had intended, and regretting it immediately when he saw the hurt feelings flickering across his father's face. And your mind seems to be elsewhere in these days," he added with more than a little discomfort.

"Sadly, 'tis true," Elrond nodded ruefully. "I try to fight it, for I need to focus as long as the final battle against Sauron is not won, yet it becomes more and more difficult with every passing day. The Sea is finally demanding what is his - too soon, far too soon."

"I cannot imagine what it is like," Elladan admitted. "I have never heard the Call."

"Oh but you did," Elrond said with a sad little smile, "even though your Call is a different one. You are called by Middle-earth and by your mortal blood, and your path shall be different from mine. I saw how my brother was called, nearly two ages ago... and I have seen it coming to your heart for a long, long time."

"And still you were shaken when I made my Choice," Elladan said.

"Of course I was," Elrond answered. "You are my firstborn, and you were my Heir. And though I feared your choice all your life, I secretly hoped it would be different. But, as I already said, the choice is yours to make, and I accept it, no matter how it pains me."

"In that case," said Elladan, "mayhap I can hope for your blessings ere I leave."

"Where would you go?" asked Elrond.

"To Minas Tirith," Elladan looked him straight in the eyes, seeking understanding, "to defend his city, now that he cannot do it any more. I promised him I would protect all that is his, Father, and the White City was his one, true love. I have to go there and defend her, even if I die on her walls."

"Her walls?" Elrond repeated with a faint smile. Elladan smiled back.

"Boromir always spoke of the city of Ecthelion as if it were a person... the shining Queen of the South he called her. He would have given everything to save her."

"Even his soul?" Elrond asked gravely.

But Elladan shook his head, still smiling, albeit sadly. "Nay... he departed in peace. The last kiss of his soul upon mine was gentle and peaceful. Whate'er may have happened, he fought the Darkness well, and in the end, he won. Of this I am certain."

"And what about you?" Elrond searched the calm face of his firstborn for signs of that violent grief that ran so deep in their family, the grief that almost destroyed him after Celebrîan's departure.

Elladan still smiled. "I am at peace, Father. It hurts, for sure, but being mortal now has its advantages. I have no time to grieve for centuries, for I shall follow him and be reunited with him when my time has come. Till then, though, he had left a legacy behind, which I intend to fulfil."

He paused. His father said naught, only watched him with saddened eyes, as if he had known what was to come.

"I have to go, Father," Elladan said again. "Give me your leave, I beg you."

"I always let you choose your own paths did I not?" asked Elrond. "If your heart tells you to go, then go with my blessings, and my prayers shall be with you. Tell me just this: do you intend to come back ere I leave?"

For a moment, Elladan was silent, pondering the question.

"I know not," he finally answered. "If the Ring-bearer succeeds and we win, Estel might need me in Minas Tirith. And Arwen might need my support, too, for despite all her wisdom, she is not used to dealing with mortal Men. But I shall come to say farewell ere you leave, if I survive. And I shall escort you to the Havens and send my messages for Mother. This much I can promise."

"And what if the Ring-bearer fails?" asked Elrond solemnly. "What would become of you then, my son?"

"If he fails and Darkness will come, I shall stay in Minas Tirith and defend her walls and her people till my last breath," said Elladan. "Then we shall not see each other again, I fear, for you shall go to Mandos' Halls, but I am mortal now, and Mandos would not embrace me. I shall go over the Rim where your brother and my beloved are waiting, and we shall be apart till the end of Arda... for not even you can tell me what is beyond that."

"True," Elrond nodded. "Our fate is in the hand of Ilúvatar, and to none but Manwë himself are his thoughts revealed. Yet we all have to do what our hearts tells us; and if yours is certain that your place is in Minas Tirith, then go, my child, fulfil your promise and your destiny."

Elladan knelt before his father in gratitude and kissed his hand. "I thank you, sire."

Elrond smiled and bent down, kissing his brow. "Rise, my son. Sit and listen, for, in truth, I can even help you to reach your goal as swiftly and safely as it might be done in these unsettling times."

"The messages...?" Elladan guessed, taking the proffered seat. Elrond nodded.

"Great tidings have come on the wings of the Eagles, indeed. For it seems, that Mithrandir has returned from the darkness and is clad in white now, taking over for Curunír who has fallen from grace."

"Mithrandir?" Elladan repeated, stunned. "Mithrandir came back from the dead? Is then such a thing possible?"

"So it seems," said Elrond solemnly, though the joy at these tidings shone clearly in his eyes. "You should remember, though: although he wears the disguise of a mortal Man, he is much more than that. He is older and stronger and more powerful than any of us, even Glorfindel, the Twice-Born, who is now nearer to the Maiar than to his own Kin himself. [His - whose, G's or M's? unclear - I assume Mithrandir's, labours here are not done yet - not as long as the Ring is whole and Sauron is alive."

"These are great tidings, indeed," Elladan agreed, relieved. "We might win this struggle, after all."

"We might," sighed Elrond, "though our victory or defeat still is in the hands of a hobbit whose only strength is his own weakness. Mithrandir cannot fulfil his task for him; nor can any of us."

"Yet we can and must do our part in the struggle," said Elladan. "What other word has come?"

"Less joyous news," his father answered. "It seems that Curunír finally made his move against Rohan. There was a terrible battle at the Fords of Angren. The son of Théoden-King was slain. Still, the Fords have not fallen yet. The Rohirrim are valiant people, though I know not how long they can hold against Curunír."

This saddened Elladan deeply. "So Théodred son of Théoden is dead?" he repeated. "How strange a fate that they had to die almost at the same time! He was Boromir's closest friend for nearly twenty years. I heard he was a very brave Man."

"Mortality," Elrond remarked dryly, "has its disadvantages, too."

"I am aware of that, Father," Elladan replied. "Yet I still fail to understand how these tidings might help me to reach Minas Tirith swiftly and safely."

"They cannot," said Elrond, "yet there was a third message, too, and it said: 'Aragorn has need of his kindred. Let the Dúnedain ride to him in Rohan.'"

"Estel is in Rohan?" Elladan wondered. "Then they must have run fast indeed."

"I know not," his father shrugged, "the Eagle would not say. But since he came from Lórien with the news of Mithrandir's return, I would think that the Lady of the Wood has seen something in her mirror again."

They laughed in quiet understanding. Then Elrond spoke: "Therefore, I am in need of a messenger who would ride swiftly to the hidden dwellings of the Dúnedain and seek out Halbarad, their captain. He is to gather as many of their kindred as he can. And they will need someone to lead them on the shortest way to Rohan."

"Then you have found your messenger, Father," said a third voice from behind. Elrohir entered, clad alike his twin, ready to leave.

Elrond lifted a mock eyebrow. "I intended to send your brother. After all, he is better suited to deal with mortal Men and their affairs, since he is one of them now."

"He may have foolishly given up the grace of his life," Elrohir answered morosely, "but that means not that I must let him walk in the outside world alone... a mere mortal among all the perils of these times."

He paused, then he grew very serious and very sad at once, and added, with downcast eyes: "Forgive me, brother. I had no right to question your choice... or the reason of it. I was being selfish, I know. But the thought of losing you…"

"You will never lose me, Elrohir!" Elladan clasped his brother's forearm in a warrior's embrace. "Some bonds endure beyond the Sea, they say... even beyond Death itself."

"Does yours?" Elrohir asked seriously.

Elladan sighed. "I know not... not yet. I shall have to wait and see what happens."

"Nay, you shall have to get ready, both of you," said Elrond. "You leave within the next hour."

TBC

~~~

End notes:
I let them call the wizards Mithrandir and Curunír, instead of Gandalf and Saruman, for those are their Elvish names, and I thought that among themselves the Elves would use these.

The Galadhrim are the Elves of Lórien, called so after their chief city, Caras Galadhon.

Angren is the Elvish name of the river Isen.

Amaldor is an insignificant OC whom I created to replace Erestor. Erestor has left for the Grey Havens some time earlier (in this particular story arc, that is) but has not yet crossed the Sea.


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