"Do you have any clue where we are?" Elladan asked his brother and looked around. There must be some clues where they ended up. Though it was diffcult after two weeks meeting the same scenery over and over again.
In the distance he saw mountains, tall and magnificent, stretching from East to West. The stone was dark and the peaks carried no snow. Otherwise Elladan could spot only grass wherever he turned his gaze. Sometimes the grass stretched high it touched his boots even though he was sitting on a horse. While he knew that they had returned to Endor theorectially, Elladan had trouble remember a name for this particular location. While it looked familiar, of sorts, he could't find a reference in his memories.
Much had changed since they last had been here and they had travelled a lot over the last centuries. Maybe he confused this plain with another one.
"Brother, I must admit that I'm just as clueless as you are," Elrohir shrugged and tucked the map away.
They had purchased it from a merchant three months ago with the hope they could find their way home with it, yet it proved more difficult than they thought. Only very few people actually took this route. Merchants chose the sea to avoid the great desert that laid behind them. Not to mention that the last time they lived in Middle Earth had been two millenia ago.
After Estel died and Arwen faded away neither of them had been able to stand the lands they had grown up in. Elladan and Elrohir had packed their weapons, a few change of clothes and took of heading south.
Most of the Elves still living in Middle Earth had understood. Endor was finally free of Sauron's shadow and urged the Sons of Elrond to make the best out of it.
But I doubt they thought us to be gone this long, Elladan mused. Over two thousand years we last in walked this corner of Arda.
Yet nothing had ever driven them back. Despite their expectations the world of men had a lot to offer. Many lifestyles that differed so much from each other that it seemed as if they stepped into another world. They argued with wise men, explored the sea with professionals sailors and touched even stranger animals.
By now the Fourth Age was slowly coming to an end. At least it felt this way. The Race of Men slowly turned into something else. Despite their short memories humanity they seemed to miss the Elven Kind. Often Elldan encountered people, tribes, scholars, who were well adversed in Sindarin and kept the old songs alive. Practiced them oven to the point, where they added their own kind of power into it. Every time Elladan witnessed it he held his breath, waiting for something.
He thought himself senitmental ... until a fresh wind rose from the West and its scent had drawn him and his brother homewards again .
"Let's just pick a direction and head forwards," Elrohir finally said.
At some point they had to met something familiar. Though much changed after such a long time. Forest come and go, starting out with a single sapling and ending with a hot sommer and a forest fire. Even moutains could change their shape through wind, rain and earthquakes. Not to mention that nature claimed even the finest buildings built by the Noldor in a single century if went untended.
In general weather was the main reason that forced even immortal elves to adapt. In Imladris water had been their constant enemy, washing away the founations of their houses or the Bruinen had so much water that they were forced to build on higher ground. Keeping plants from overgrowing their houses is a task that never went out of demand for helping hands.
Together the Sons of Elrond rode in silence. After so much time together they rarely needed to speak in order to communicate. Almost six millenia they spend side by side. Either fighting Orcs, aiding the Dunedain or visiting other realms. Not once they felt the desire to go seperate ways. They knew each others preferences and compromised whenever they had different opinions - though that didn't happen very often. Cities they explored together, watched its people and spend many nights on rooftops looking at the stars. Sometimes the only words they spoke were the travel plans they discussed in the evening.
After they had been tied to their duties for the better part of their lives, spending day and night defending the free world in and around Imladris the twins relished in the freedom of acting on a whim. There had been a time when they spend an entire decade on a lonely mountain. Or stepped on a ship not knowing where it would carry them. It was a novelty to come to a crossing and throw a stone to see of they would go left or right.
Before the Ring War their life was based on a purpose. Each step was measured and planned for leaving something to go to waste could kill you or your loved ones in an unfortunate moment.
They rode for five more days, living on birds they shot from the sky and herbs that were plenty around here.
Only when the mountains got taller and taller Elladan finally realized where they were. Though much had changed he remembered, the last time he had been here.
"This is Mordor," he said, reigning his horse in. Elladan dismounted, let his feet touch the ground in order to let the truth sink in. "Elrohir, we're in Mordor."
"Not possible," his twins whispered though his eyes travelled to his right.
Right there, a little greener than before but just as tall and old stood Mount Doom. The vulcano stood silent and waiting, like an old guard who carried out a sacred duty.
Both just waited for a moment, breathing in the clean air and took in the change the burned, broken land had gone through and since the only company they had was each other neither of them cared or commented on the tears that streamed down their face.
All death had fleed the land. Between Gil-galad's death and the descruction of the One Ring an age later nothing had been able to grow here. The land itself remembered the grief it witnessed. That the war hadn't ended yet. Now animals roamed the plain undisturbed by hunters. Bird songs filled the air and the wind played with the grass, bending it into all directions as it ran free.
Their keen ears even spotted a joyus river dancing through the earth, flowing over stones an washing away the remnants of the war.
"I haven't seen a single skull," Elladan said. He looked at his brother, needed to know if Elrohir knew what he was talking about.
His brother swallowed thickly, unable to speak the overbearing truth.
It spoke of the change Morder had gone through. Elven skulls lasted a long time. Their bones were as immortal as their souls, if the burial rites didn't make sure the hröa became one with the elements. Not even their flesh rotted properly. The twins had seen warriors in the Dead Marches that looked like as if they had just gone to sleep an hour ago, creating the desire to reach out and wake them up.
Both of them knew better than that.
"We should go and see what else has changed," Elrohir suggested.
Elladan felt the longing in his twin's heart as it were his own. Perhaps it was. He too, needed more. Needed to witness the healing of the black land first hand in order to believe it.