I have never fought a war.
I have never even been in a skirmish, an altercation, a tussle. I am skilled in the bow, the long knives, the sword but I have never used them in battle or even beyond the training fields.
The world I live in is pristine perfection. No war; quarrels but no battles. There once was slaughter on these shores and it has left scars so deep we all vow never again. Even those of us who did not exist then, and know of it only through history books or tutors.
Still, the day Findaráto rides in announcing we will go to war is exciting.
He arrives like a glorious god, golden hair glinting in the light. I know him well for we see him often, but today . . . Today he is something else; something special.
“Legolas!” he calls to my father, as he swings off his horse and strides towards us. “The day is here! We go to war!” And my heart pounds a rhythm of excitement in my chest.
“What do you mean?” Father is at his side in an instant. “War where, Finrod? What has happened?”
“Where else?” he cries. “Arda! The end of Days—the call is out. For the last time we will fight Morgoth, and we will win!”
My Father has waited for this day for centuries and now it is upon us. Truly it is a joyous moment, for him at least. The smile upon his face lights up the sky. . . The very world.
My mother is not as pleased.
As soon as Findaráto is out of earshot she collars my Father.
“You should not have to go, Legolas,” she protests, hands on hips. “You have paid your price already. You bear enough scars. No more!”
But Father shakes his head.
“They call for me! Finrod asks for me to go. Of course I must—I have never fled from a fight, and this one, Maewen? The Battle to end all Battles? I must go!”
Then before my eyes she crumples—my strong, fierce, warrior mother. Her eyes fill with tears as she leans against him, resting her head upon his chest, and it frightens me.
“I cannot go,” she says. “Rhawion is too young. I cannot go with you.”
“I know that.” Father is instantly solemn and he presses his lips into her hair. “I will come back. I came back before; I will again. It is a chance to return to Arda, Maewen. I have to take it.”
“I promised myself after the War of the Ring I would never do that again—sit and wait.” She lifts a hand to wipe her face clear of those uncharacteristic tears.
“Erynion will come with me this time,” Father says softly, “to keep me safe for you.”
Of course, that is no comfort to her at all, for then she risks losing them both.
And she loses me.
At least, I assume I will go with my Father to fight for his homeland. Finally a chance to put my training into practice. Finally a chance to do something real—a chance to become a warrior like my father, my uncle, my grandfather, instead of the aimless nothing that I am.
I am wrong.
He refuses to take me. He will not listen to reason. He does not bend in the face of my anger, my rebellion, my frustration. He stands, arms folded and stares me down.
“You treat me like a child, Father, and I am not one. I am grown. Others my age will go—are going!”
“Your mother needs you here. Our people need you here in my place, ” he replies firmly.
“With both Erynion and I gone, it is important you stay.”
It is a lie.
“My mother does not need me to help her rule our people! She can do that —has done that before—by herself easily. If that is so important to you, leave Erynion here and let me come with you,” I cry.
But he is resolute.
“You do not know what it is you ask, Estel. How could you, living your life in this place? We go to war. It is not pretty. It is not glorious. It is death, and it is terror. I will not take you there.”
“You always do this!” I am so angry and I rain my fury upon him. “You keep me trapped in a gilded cage for your own sake. Not mine!”
“Oh, it is for your sake.” He meets my shouts with quiet, unbending determination which is impossible to defeat. I would rather deal with his usual volatile temper. I am thrown off course by the rock he has become.
“There is so much of the real world you do not know, Estel. You are skilled with your weaponry, that is true, but you know nothing of the horror of war . . . Of anything but this artificial perfectness we live in. You would be a lamb to the slaughter, and I would be no father at all to lead you there. I have told all my warriors not to take their young ones. If they chose to ignore me, so be it. I will not be pressured into losing you.”
I tell him of my resentment with silence.
For every day remaining, as he packs and prepares to leave us, I shut him out. I ignore his attempts at conversation. I present to him the unbreachable wall of my anger. I do not speak to him. I do not seek him out.
The night before the warriors leave, my mother prepares a dinner. Erynion joins us so we are all there—together. But I do not go. I sit outside, on the grass at the foot of our tree, in stubborn isolation. I do not want to join in this farewell. It should be me going with them. It should be me.
In the end, it is Mother who comes to lecture me, not my Father.
“There is food on the table, Estel,” she says, “and we wait for you.”
“I am not interested in joining you.”
“Do not do this.” She does not sit beside me and plead. Instead, she stands above me and frowns. “ I am telling you to join us.”
“He always does this, Mother, and I am sick of it. This is my chance and he denies me it because of his own issues. You know this is true. Why do you not defend me?”
While my mother is usually soft and gentle, her lap warm, her arms welcoming, she has also the strength of steel. She unleashes that steel upon me now.
“You behave like a child, Estel, with this sulking. No wonder Legolas will not take you to war. You demonstrate how right he is. You are not ready. I do not defend you because you are indefensible . . . Because you prove him right. They go to war, Estel.” She bends down to look me in the eye, so I must face the full fury of her fire. “They go to death. He is right that you have no idea what faces them; no idea. You will not let him go without a word. I will not let you. I did not raise my child to behave so. You will come with me now, and farewell them like a man.”
And so I go. I simmer with resentment, but I go with her. I sit and eat with them, but I do not smile and chat. My politeness is just that—politeness. The politeness of a visitor, not the love of a son. So when my Father leaves the next morning—gathering my mother in his arms, stroking my sisters hair as she rests her head upon his chest-—I do not return his hug. When he tells me he loves me, I do not reply with love of my own.
Instead, Goodbye, Father is all he hears from me.
While they are gone, we do not hear much from them. There are letters during the time the warriors assemble; long ones from Erynion and short notes from my father, then they are off . . . They leave these shores and head for Arda, and there are no more letters, no more contact—nothing at all. It is as if they have vanished into a void.
Those few of us who are left—women and children mostly—rattle around in an empty land… Too much space, too few of us. Even Earendil has gone from the sky. All my life he has been there every night and now . . . Nothing.
Mother sends my sister to help Grandmother, who has been left alone by the departure of my Grandfather and Uncle. It is no hardship to Calithil to go. She loves the Sindar. Grandfather’s palace is her favourite place to be. It is strange how—in Calithil and I—it is as if my father’s mixed blood has split itself in two. I am all Silvan and she is Sindar, through and through.
And so it becomes just Mother, Rhawion and I.
Rhawion is a whirlwind. He is energy and light—too young to understand where his father has gone and why we are alone. He is indeed true to his name; a wild, untamed boy.
I love him with all my heart, thought I get tired of his questions as to why the forests are so quiet now, so empty.
“Where are all your friends, Estel?” he asks me, and it reminds me how I have been left behind. I am not the only one my age to stay but still . . . Enough have gone that it hurts.
But time goes on, and my resentment fades. Days turn to weeks and to months, and I only wish to have my Father home again. My anger at him is blown away on the wind. I miss him. This is the longest we have ever been apart.
Rhawion grows so tall. He is becomes more sensible, more helpful, and I wonder if Father will even recognise him on his return.
When the messenger finally arrives, we are all taken by surprise.
He is one of our people, breathless and agitated. He stares at my mother with wild eyes.
“The war is won!” he cries. “I am sent to tell you . . . The war is won.”
“Won . . .” Mother says it almost as a sigh, her hand flying to her chest. “Are you sure? Did Legolas send you? Have you seen him?”
But the messenger shakes his head.
“I have not seen him. We have all been separated, intermingled in the chaos. I have not seen him for months. The High King sent me. Finarfin himself. He has sent all of us out to tell our own people. It is true. Arda is broken, and it will be remade. Evil is defeated.”
That night, Mother and I sit in silence as Rhawion sleeps upon her lap. She holds him tight, as if she fears someone will steal him from her.
“What will happen now?”
The sound of her voice makes me jump. I am deep in my thoughts and I do not expect it.
“What do you mean, Mother? They will come home. That is what will happen.”
“The Valar say we are bound to the fate of the world,” she says, “and the world has been broken. What of us? What of our children?” She lays her face upon Rhawion’s head. “Is he doomed to no life at all now? Do we vanish into nothingness?”
I wonder . . . Has she been worrying about this all this time?
“Findaráto does not believe that to be true,” I reply. You said you believed him! He says we will make Arda anew, us and the Men . . . Together.”
“I do believe him,” she says softly. “What he says makes sense, but it is not set in stone. Who knows what the truth is?”
She is right. Who has the truth of it?
Findaráto? Or the Valar?
“The war did not end today or yesterday,” I say in the end. “It has taken time for Finarfin to get news to us . . . Days, Mother, and we are still here. We have not disappeared. That is a good sign surely! Rhawion will grow up in the new world, in Arda. He will.”
“We have not disappeared.” She repeats my words back to me, and then she smiles. I want her smiling always. I hate to see her weighed down with worry. “You are right, Estel, we have gone nowhere. What do the Valar know of us anyway!”
I tilt my face to the stars, basking in the fact I have eased her heart and made her smile. It is then that I see it, but I do not tell her.
Earendil is still missing from the sky. The war is over—has been over for days—but he has not yet returned.
It chills my heart.
They come back to us in dribs and drabs then, our warriors.
Groups of them arrive one at a time. They come back exhausted, dishevelled, and battered, full of tales for war. Stories of our heroes from long ago, those we have only read about in books, fighting like gods against the dark. Where are these heroes now? Were they really there, or was it just delusion? If they they have returned with our warriors to Valinor, then we do not see them.
And to every newly returned group of warriors my Mother asks the same questions: Have they seen Legolas? Or Erynion? Is there any word?
Their answer is always the same. They have not seen Father or Erynion for months. They were separated from them, sent to fight elsewhere. Our Silvans have been led by the great Beleg for the most part, and my Grandfather. Time and again they tell my mother:
“We do not know where Legolas is.”
And, every time, her smiles fade further, until she does not smile anymore, at all.
Worse than the warriors that return,though, are the ones that do not. So many—hundreds and hundreds of them. Every group that arrives home brings news of others who never will. So many of them are young, my contemporaries, Valinor-born. My friends, who I have grown and played with. The grief crushes me until I wake every morning wishing I had not, for another day simply means another loss.
And still Father does not come.
Our last words haunt me. I did not tell him how much I loved him. I shrugged off his hug. My stomach ties itself in knots, tighter and tighter each day until I feel sick with it. Everyday as I watch another family grieve one who will not be back, I wonder if we will be next. It was easy, when everyone was gone, to pretend Father was just away, visiting perhaps, as he often does with Elrohir. But now that they all come home without him, I cannot pretend at all.
“I would know if he were gone, Estel,” my mother tells me one night as I poke at the fire forlornly. “I would know it. I have felt it before, the emptiness of the world without his soul. I do not feel that now. He is out there somewhere, Estel. I am sure of it. We just do not know where.”
She sounds so sure, so determined, but I think she fools herself. Father is all the way over the sea in Arda. How could she possibly know?
“I did not tell him how much I loved him.” I send a burst of sparks flying with my stick.
“He knows.” She brushes a hand over my head, as she used to when I was young. “He knows how much you love him, Estel.”
It does not make me any happier.
The next morning Faerthurin comes.
He is my mother’s cousin who works for my Grandfather, and he comes with a letter.
“From Laerion,” he says as he holds it out to her. “He travels back with the King and he sent this for you. He will come here soonest, once he has seen the Queen, to see that you are well.”
She looks at that letter as if it would burn her, and takes it reluctantly.
“Have you heard from Legolas?” she asks. She must be so sick of that question now.
“He is not back?” Faerthurin is startled. “I thought he would be by now. All the Silvans left before us.”
“He was not with the Silvans,” Mother sighs. “He went to fight elsewhere, they say. I thought Thranduil might know something . . .” Her voice trails off as if she simply does not have the energy to speak any more.
“If he does, I have not heard it.” Fearthurin frowns. “Still that does not mean anything, Maewen,” he continues hurriedly. “It is such chaos there—you have no idea. No-one knows where anyone is.”
I do not think it comforts her.
When I arrive home from my work that evening I find my small brother outside, sitting in the grass under our flet, in the sun, legs crossed, shelling peas.
“What are you doing, little one?” I cannot help but smile at his eager face that grins up at me.
“I am helping Mother,” He exclaims. “She is quiet and sad, Estel. I will make it better!” His eagerness to help makes me sad for I know he can do nothing about it, no matter how hard he tries.
When I climb up into the flet, I find Mother sitting alone at the table with Laerion’s letter in front of her, untouched and unopened.
“You have not read it yet?”
“I dare not read it,” she says.
“How can you bear not to?” I pick up the letter and turn it over in my hands. It is such a relief seeing Laerion’s careful writing. Thank goodness he is not lost to us.
“Because when I read it, it makes it real, Estel. Until then—until I see the words—it has not happened.” She is so pale, so burdened.
“There is no bad news in this, Mother,” I reassure her; at least, I try. “If there were, Laerion would be here himself . . . Or Grandfather. They would not let you know in a letter.”
“I know that. I am almost more afraid that they know nothing, for if they know nothing then perhaps he is lost. Perhaps they are both lost.” It is hard to listen to the destruction of her hope. “Read it for me please, Estel.” She asks me. “It needs to be read and I cannot do it myself. I have sat and stared at it all day.”
So I open it and begin to read aloud from my uncle’s small neat writing.
I hope beyond hope this finds you well, he says, for we have no idea what awaits us in Valinor, if indeed any of you still remain.
Finrod is convinced all will be as we left it and I suppose we have no option but to believe him now for the alternative is too awful to contemplate.
So he too worries, like my mother, about us vanishing into the mist.
It has been truly horrific here, Maewen. A war like none I have ever seen. And yet I have managed to survive intact this time, due probably to Father’s obsession with keeping Legolas and I no less than a mile apart at all times.
I stop reading for a moment, for my heart sinks. He has not been with my father either. He will know nothing. When I glance across to my mother, I see she has her hands clenched in front of her, knuckles white.
“He may still have knowledge of him, Mother,” I say quietly. “They may still have been in communication.”
“Of course Thranduil will have separated them.” is all she sighs. “I should have known,” though it makes no sense to me.
We have lost so many, Laerion continues, especially the young who, no matter their skill, had no chance. Bewildered and distracted by the chaos of war they were cut down where they stood. Thank Eru, Legolas saw fit not to send Estel. I could not have borne to lose him in this nightmare, nor lose Legolas in defence of him. I would not wish that on anyone, for you know what it did to us.
I stare at the words that dance across the page before I raise my head to look at Mother’s pale face.
“What does he mean?”
“He means,” she replies, “had you gone to war unprepared for the reality your father would have watched your every step. He would have given his life in a heartbeat to save you. He tried to keep you from that . . . From living with that, because of what happened to Laerion—last time.”
I know she refers to my uncles death in the Greenwood, centuries ago, before he was returned to us.
“Because of what happened to Laerion? He was killed by the enemy protecting the wood as hundreds of our people were. Mother, that is what fighting for your home is about.”
“He was killed protecting your father who was not ready to be in the south. And Legolas had to live with that, Estel. It nearly destroyed him. I was there. I saw the look on his face as his brother lay dead at his feet. Can you imagine what it would have been like? If your father had had to do that for you?”
I can not imagine it, and I am horrified.
“Why did I not know this?” I cry.
How can they have kept this from me?
“Because it is painful, Estel, and haunts them both even now. They neither of them like to speak of it.”
“But when he left; when I was angry . . . Why did he not tell me then?”
“Would you have heard him, Estel? Would you have listened? Be honest with yourself.”
And she is right. I would not have listened. I could not see past my resentment and hurt feelings. The tears burn behind my eyes. Tears for the farewell I did not give my father. When I drop my head towards the letter they make my uncle’s words slide off the page so I must read what he has said next twice, no three times before I understand it.
“Mother!” I reach across and grasp her hand tight before I read it to her.
Legolas is just the same. He sends his love, he and Erynion both. He complains as always of his dreadful penmanship as reason why it must be me that writes this for him. They will be home as soon as they can though at the moment they tarry with the Noldor. Legolas says you cannot rush the Noldor and he would know.
I imagine they will return with the Elrondionath, but know that they are safe, and will remain so.
“They are safe! They are safe Mother.”
It is then that my mother cries..
Rhawion and I are in the stables the day they arrive. He sees them first for he is bored, and I am distracted by my work.
I jerk my head up at the high cry of his voice,
“Father!” he calls and he is off. Then it is I see them riding towards us.
Erynion dismounts first, quick as lightning and runs towards us. He is rewarded with the heavy weight of a small boy as Rhawion piles into him, laughing as they tumble together to the ground.
Father is slower, his dismount more steady and cautious, he looks towards me and I wonder, is he remembering how we parted? Does he think my anger will still remain? Is that why he takes his time?
But then he turns away, towards Rhawion and he stops to ruffle his hair gently.
“Rhawion, you have grown so big.” He smiles down at him.
“I have been helping Estel,” Rhawion is eager to boast of his accomplishments, “and Mother too while you were not here!”
“Helping Estel?” Father looks my way again. “Well I am sure he is grateful for that my little one.” And he smiles at me too as I join them. Is it my imagination or is his smile uncertain?
“Father,” I am unsure myself when I meet him so I stand awkwardly not knowing what I should do. I want to hug him as I did not when he left. After waiting so long it seems unreal he is finally here in front of me.
In the end my uncertainty does not matter. He does not wait for me to do anything. He sweeps me into his arms and holds me tight, and this time I accept it. This time I hug him back.
“I have missed you.” He murmurs into my ear. “I have missed you so much, Estel.”
“I have missed you too.” It is not enough, but my brain has turned to mush and the words elude me. He holds me out at arms length then to look at me. Laerion was right. He is just the same.
“Beautiful as always.” He smiles. “How did I come to have such a son? It is all Maewen of course.” He is so silly and he makes me laugh despite my unease, for we look so alike those who do not know us constantly mistake me for him. Any beauty I have is his.
“Shall we go and see her?” He says then as he throws his arm across my shoulder. “Will she be pleased to see us? Or will she lecture us for our late arrival?”
“She will lecture us, Legolas as well you know!” Erynion complains behind him as he hoists Rhawion on top of his shoulders.
They always bicker, my father and Erynion, yet they cannot survive without each other. They are the best of friends.
“She will do both,” I say firmly, and I am right.
Someone has run to spread the news of their arrival for Mother is running down the path when we turn the corner towards our home. Her hair flies about her face and she is barefoot as if she is a wild thing. She catapults into Fathers arms just like Rhawion did earlier with Erynion.
When finally she pulls back from him to look at him properly her face is wet with tears but then she punches him in the shoulder hard enough to make him flinch.
“Where were you?” She asks him. “What was this nonsense about your writing that meant we got no letter from you? Erynion?” She would thump Erynion too I think if she could reach him. “Why did you not write if Legolas would not?”
“Peace!” Father holds his hands out in supplication but he is smiling. “I asked Laerion. He writes a much sweeter letter than I.”
“A letter with your name on it was all I needed, Legolas. Even if it contained one word only, still it would have been sweetest.”
She cannot stay angry with him though. How could she. It is such a joy to her to have them home. Such a relief.
We sit up late. They talk, Mother plies them with food, Rhawion jumps excitedly from one to the other, and I bask in the wonder of having them in the same room as us, finally home.
They tell stories of places I have never heard of, but my Mother has and she exclaims in excitement over every familiar description they give her. She is full of questions.
But while they tell us long tales of the land they do not mention the war. Perhaps because Rhawion is there?
I notice as I sit in the corner and soak up their tales, that though he smiles brightly and laughs often, Father is quieter than I would expect, and stiller. It is Erynion who is the most animated—an unusual sight.
And as I watch I see Erynion, through his chatter and good mood, is also watching. Watching my father carefully. Whispering in his ear when Mothers back is turned. Attention, which every single time, is met by a frown.
Darkness is falling when Erynion scoops up Rhawion, who has finally settled on his lap, and stands.
“I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight,” he smiles. “If I still have one, Maewen? My flet has not fallen apart in my absence?”
“Of course you have!” Mother exclaims “All is prepared for you. What do you take me for?” She swats his arm and laughs.
“May I take this mischief-maker with me to give you some peace?” Rhawion giggles in his arms. “I have missed him.”
“You may. I expected it.” Mother leans over to give Rhawion kiss on the head before she envelops them both in a hug. “Be good Rhawion.”
She has no hope of that. Rhawion is an over-excitable ball of silvan energy tonight. He will never go to sleep.
It is quiet when they leave. Father sits in his chair and smiles at me but suddenly he looks tired. They must have travelled far today. But my mother, when she has farewelled Erynion, turns around arms folded, and is suddenly stern and serious.
“How bad is it, Legolas?” She asks.
“How bad is what?” He throws out his hands as if her question is a mystery.
“How bad is whatever you have done to yourself. Whatever it was that delayed your return. Whatever it is that makes Erynion watch you like a hawk tonight. Do the pair of you think me stupid?”
“Never stupid,” He smiles at her with his most charming smile. The one that can melt hearts but it does not melt hers this time. She simply raises her eyebrows. She is unimpressed.
“Show me.” She says.
Suddenly I understand what it is she sees. I realise why my father was so careful dismounting his horse, why he has been so quiet and still, why Erynion and he whispered behind her back. He is hurt.
It is a shock; the idea of that. He is a hero, my father. The best with the long knives I have ever seen. He is invincible.
In the end he shrugs,
“It is nothing, Maewen. Do not make a fuss.” And he gives me a rueful smile, but Mother is having none of it.
“If it is nothing then there will be nothing for me to see.”
And he gives in.
He struggles to remove his tunic and in the end she must help him. Underneath it are white chrisp bandages and Mother sighs at the sight of them.
“Nothing?” She says sadly. As she begins to unwind them her hands are shaking.
“A sword blade to the ribs, Maewen—” Father reaches down to trap her hands within his own and hold them still. “It is alright. I am here. I have come back as I promised. This is a near miss, that is all.”
But she will not be consoled.
“Why did I not know of this?” Her voice is tight and tense. “Why did Erynion not write to me if you could not? Why? The war has been ended for days . . . Weeks now. Why are you still bandaged? When did this happen? I thought you were with the Elrondionath. What were they doing?”
“I was with the Elrondionath and they cared for me as you can see—”
Mother will not hear his platitudes. She cuts him off before he has even begun, sitting back on her heels, pulling her hands away from his. She is angry.
“Do not condescend me!”
But beneath her fire there are tears, sliding in silver tracks down her cheeks.
“Tell me. Do not hide things in secret with Erynion behind my back. Do I not deserve to know?”
I know what this is, these tears. It is the discovery that after all these days of waiting, the worst of her fears may have nearly been true after all.
“I am sorry.” Father's voice is soft and sad and he cups her cheek with his hand so she must look at him. “We only wished to protect you. Things were bad, I admit, but I do not remember that. A blade from an orc, coated with poison, courtesy of Morgoth, meant a serious wound would not heal. It defeated even Elladan. Erynion did not wish to tell you when things seemed hopeless. What could you do? He would rather be with you when you heard. But Elladan knows people in high places, and Morgoth is no match for Finarfin and Finrod combined. Not any more.
“Then Laerion and my father arrived. I knew who I was and where I was by then. It seemed sensible to ask Laerion to contact you . . To minimise the danger since it had passed. I am well, I promise, or soon will be. The wound begins to heal. Do you think Elrohir would let me ride here if there were any doubt of that? I am sorry, sweet one.”
And when he bends down to kiss her forehead. She gives him back her hand. She has forgiven him.
But I am horrified. We nearly lost him. How close did I come to never seeing him again?
“I would strangle you if you were not injured.” Mother says then as she returns to his bandages. “And it is well Erynion is not here for I would strangle him as well.”
And Father laughs.
“I do not doubt it! Why do you think he ran?”
He lets her unwind those bandages then, and she does it quietly, carefully. He leans back in his chair and smiles up at her as she does so, and his eyes dance.
“I saw him.”
Mother pauses in the midst of her movement.
Her eyes open wide.
“You saw him? What did he say? Where is he? Oh Legolas!”
“He said nothing. It was across the battlefield only, but it was him. How often have I seen him fight? I know him when I see him . . . And I am sure he saw me also.”
And Mother drops the last of his bandages away. She raises her hands to her mouth and she smiles—broadly.
But my eyes are not on her. My eyes are on my father’s chest, as that last piece of cloth falls away, spiralling to the ground. While my mother asks excited questions about the King of Men I can only see my father’s damaged side.
The wound curls around him like a snake, red and angry, edges held together with tiny stitches. I remember when my best friend Emlinion sliced himself with a knife when we were fishing. He had those tiny stitches then. They looked nothing like this.
It looks as if someone has tried to cut my Father in half.
I know with certainty I am going to be sick.
As I dash to the door, out into the sharp coldness of fresh air I hear my mother call my name, but Father stops her following me.
“Leave him be,” I hear him say and I am glad.
By the time I have descended to the soft carpet of grass below the worst of the nausea has abated but my head is filled with imaginings; horrific pictures. Father as the blade hit him, falling to the ground. Erynion on his knees beside him covered in blood—for there must have been so much blood. His pale, lifeless face.
I sit, head between my knees, and sob.
I do not know how long it is until I feel the soft thud of Father landing beside me. It is an old name he calls me. One he has not used for many years—since I was small.
“I am sorry, Father. You must think me a child.” I am mortified at my tear-stained face when he . . . He is the one who has suffered.
“I do not think that.” He sits himself down beside me, drawing me close. It feels safe and I need it.
“I will be alright.” He says. “I am alright. In a few days it will be just another scar. I promise.” I have seen my father’s scars. I have always known he has them. It is the easiest way to tell an Arda elf from a Valinor born one. They have these silver tracks upon their skin while we have none. Every scar is a memory, Father says. Now he has another.
“You were right.” I say, “How hopeless would I have been at war? I cannot even look at a wound without crying.”
“You would have been courageous . . . But perhaps not a healer . . . ” He makes me laugh.
“I am sorry.” Finally I say what I should have said months ago. “It was right to keep me here. I am so sorry . . . ” The tears hover once again behind my eyes as I think of our parting. “I did not say goodbye—” I have to stop in the end.
But he only pulls me closer.
“I know, Estel, how that made you feel. I know you regretted it. It made me fight harder when I needed to—to make sure I came back—so you need never live a day more with that regret.”
“I am a fool,” I berate myself. The fact he understands somehow makes it worse.
“Well we are both fools then. I have been where you sit. I have made your mistakes. When I was young, in the Greenwood—and angry with my father for he had seperated your mother and I and I felt it unfair—I went on patrol to the south and in my anger I rejected his goodbye. I regretted it the moment I left the stronghold. You are not alone in this Estel. And my Father was right—as I have come to learn he always is.”
“My Father is always right also.” I say and he laughs out loud.
“Oh there are many who will tell you you are wrong in that! Starting with your mother, and Erynion, and Elrohir, Elladan, Gimli if he were here!”
I want to ask him about his brother. About the story my mother told me—when he was sent to fight too soon, but I hold my tongue. I remember her warning it still hurts him, even though Laerion is back with us. I will not ask tonight when he has just returned from a war and is injured.
Perhaps I will ask my Grandfather when he comes instead. For he will surely be here soon. He will bring Calithil home, and he will need to see my father if he truly has been as ill as he says.
That makes me think; he should not be here.
“You should be in bed, Father.”
“No, I think not.” He leans back against the tree . . . Our tree, keeping his arm around me. “I think this is where I need to be. Amongst the trees, underneath the stars, with my son. There is nowhere better. This is what I need. And anyway—” he turns to me with a smile, “Maewen will be down to send me to rest in bed soon enough.”
He tilts his head to the stars, their silver light illuminating his face and I follow his gaze upwards.
Earendil is still not there.
Before I even think if I should ask him, the question is on my lips.
“Where is Earendil?”
I know Earendil. I have met him, Elrohir took me. Surely he has not been lost? Not him?
“He is free.”
I do not understand what it is my Father says.
“Never again will he ride in the sky. Never again must he endure that loneliness. He is free to be Earendil. He is home now; he will go back to Arda of course to search for Elros.
But he has always been there, up above us. As long as I have lived Earendil has been in the night sky. He is familiar, he is comforting.
“I will miss him.”
“We all will,” Father says. “But now Earendil can live his life and we must celebrate. We will get used to a new night sky soon enough, after all he was not always there.”
“What do we do now, Father?”
After all the war is won, we are obviously still here. There must be something else.
“Now we wait.” is his answer.
“I am sick of waiting! It seems as if Mother and I have been waiting forever.”
And Father smiles. He leans against me as he watches the stars. It is so good to be with him.
“But this is different, Estel” he says quietly,
“Because now: We wait together.”