Sweating freely, I scale the sheer rock face. The familiar roar of the waterfall nearby bespeaks home to me: where always we return, no matter how wearied or how far astray. At last, I clamber onto the pine-shaded rim.
Our birthplace nestles below, secluded yet welcoming. Slanting sunbeams gild the rooftops scattered amongst the beeches. The brink of the ravine casts a shadow along the loud-flowing Bruinen.
Though our valley appears unaltered, our world has forever changed.
As I ponder, the evening gloom creeps towards the house, stealthy and unyielding.
If we sail, will we ever again find home?
Elfaron picks his way along the cliffside, headstall jingling. Despite the darkness, I trust him to sense a safe route for us.
Whenever Elladan wants to mull over important matters, he seeks his mount and gallops fast and far. His brother prefers to challenge his own body.
In childhood, Elrohir would climb the bell-tower, alarming Celebrían. Now, he pits his skill against the steep cliffs of Imladris. It helps him reflect... yet when he stays atop for so long, his musing turns to brooding.
I will join him. Though he resists, talking over what troubles him often raises his spirits.
I settle myself next to Elrohir, confident of a moody reception.
"Gil-Estel seems especially close tonight," I remark, "almost within reach."
Eärendil progresses along his star-strewn path.
Elrohir sighs. "I sometimes wonder whether a real person could sail the skies in a ship... or is he a myth? Did you encounter Eärendil in Aman?"
"No." I chuckle. "I was elsewhere when the Valar launched Vingilot. But the Mariner does indeed steer it — remember how he felled Ancalagon? Your father witnessed it himself."
Glancing sideways, I add, "And he would truly rejoice to meet his grandsons in the Undying Lands."
"Do you ever miss Gondolin?"
"How can you bear never seeing it again?"
"I carry its memory with me always, in my heart. The city was magnificent — but what made it home was the people I loved there.
"And I have had several homes, each one dear to me."
A sudden thought disconcerts me. "Would you reestablish the Golden Flower in Aman?"
He squeezes my shoulder. "Whether I dwell with the House of Elrond or not, I will always be nearby. How could I settle far from the mewling infants who grew into staunch warriors while I watched?"
My eyes moisten. "You are no mere onlooker, my dear friend and mentor!"
His smile brightens.
I compose myself to ask, "Why have you not married?"
"Because, like you, I dedicated myself to a task of great consequence." He sounds wistful. "When it is complete, I will be free to seek a kindred soul."
"And what task is that?"
"To guard the immortal line of Turgon in Middle-earth."
I blink. "But... what if either of us chooses mortality? Would you leave him here alone?"
"No. I would bury him. And then I would grieve."
Finally, my tears begin to spill.
I hold Elrohir as he at last mourns for the losses he will face — whether he leaves or lingers.
Elrond's sons are loath to abandon Imladris, knowing no other home.
But neither are they aware yet how much the gradual fading of Middle-earth is wearing them down. Elladan is far thinner than when Elrond sailed, Elrohir's melancholy more frequent.
I ache to comfort him with assurances that both can find renewal in the Blessed Realm — to extol its healing virtues — but I deem it not my place to influence their decision.
Yet however they choose, I will stand by them.