After all they had been through together, for it to come to this; the thought went around and around in Elladan’s head as he cradled the still figure of his brother in his arms. Heavy rain, a scrambling animal, a young horse…
They had ridden forth, for the pleasure of feeling the early spring sunshine, planning only to stay out for a few hours. Elrohir had taken the young gelding he had been schooling.
Heavy rains in the week past must have loosened small stones in the bank above them and some small animal, scrambling for a foothold, had sent a pebble shower down onto Elrohir and his mount. Elrohir had come unseated as the gelding reared suddenly, fallen onto the stony surface, his head had hit a jagged rock….
After all they had been through together, for it to come down to this…
Elrohir’s face was white, his eyes looked at nothing, his thick black hair was matted with blood – or maybe worse. Elladan’s hand was on his brother’s chest – it was still. There was no movement of breathing and, now, no steady thump of heartbeat. He could not comprehend that it was so; his mind refused to accept what his senses told him.
Then he heard Elrohir’s voice, clearly, inside his head.
“Dan, Dan, I am so very sorry, Dan… I should have been more careful. I cannot stay much longer. But you must promise me that you will not attempt to follow me; not by this route nor, yet, any other. Promise me!”
Elladan tried to focus on his brother’s voice. He understood the words; he understood what was happening; and yet all he could really comprehend was that he held his brother’s body in his arms.
Elrohir’s voice continued, urgently. “You must stay. Arwen and Estel need you. You must stay. Promise me! Do not give in to grief – promise me… now Dan!”
“I… I…” he stumbled, even within his own head, on the words.
“Dan – I am truly sorry. I thought that we would make our choice together – but I know now that mine is made. I am of the Firstborn; I hear Lord Namo call me to Mandos Halls and soon I must obey. They will need you until… until it is Estel’s time… stay with them. I do not want to make your choice for you – but I will see you in Valinor, my brother, if you choose it…
“I must go… Promise me!”
Hardly knowing what he promised, Elladan nodded. “I… I promise…”
He felt, quite clearly, a kiss on his cheek, heard “I love you, Dan…” and then there was nothing but a sighing breeze.
After all they had been through together, for it to come to this; to be severed from his twin, the other half of his fëa, by heavy rain, a scrambling animal, a young horse…
Hours later the search party found the twins, Elrohir’s head still cradled against Elladan’s chest, one alive, one dead. Elladan seemed almost as if his fëa, too, had fled his body – he looked blankly at them when they spoke, or took him by the arm and rode, when helped onto his horse, only by instinct.
He knew that he was lying on his bed, in his own rooms, but it seemed as if everything around him was a dream, a pain-filled dream.
“We will lose him, too…” he heard Glorfindel’s voice, “how can we tell Arwen and Estel? Celeborn? How will I ever face Elrond or Celebrian?”
“You must stay. Arwen and Estel need you. You must stay. Promise me! Do not give in to grief. Promise me… now Dan!” Elrohir’s voice echoed, unbidden, in his memory. He tried to drive it out, forget the words, to lie still within the pain.
“Arwen and Estel need you!” Still the voice echoed in his memory.
“I… I will go and tell Arwen and Estel.” They were the first words he had uttered since… before.
They did not let him ride alone; Glorfindel rode beside him, others behind. As each day of the well known route passed it seemed less real, more like a dream, easier to believe that Elrohir was still at home. But then the knowledge, that he had to tell Arwen and Estel that their brother was dead, brought reality back to him.
Each night he tried to deny that reality before he rested; after the first few nights, when images of that still, pale body, stalked his dreams, he tried not to sleep. Glorfindel noticed, and began to soothe his rest as if he was an elfling – he wanted to object, but didn’t.
Eventually they rode up the steep streets of Minas Tirith to the courtyard of the King’s House. For only one brother to visit the Royal couple, especially in the years since the twins had taken over as Lords of Imladris, was not unheard of and so nothing forewarned the royal couple of the news Elladan brought.
Even so, as soon as she looked at her brother, the Queen’s face blanched and she insisted he tell her what was wrong. Elladan found he could not hold back the truth; Glorfindel had to support her as they hurried back indoors, away from the eyes of the court – her husband could hardly walk unaided himself.
Elladan had expected their grief, had steeled himself for it so that he would not collapse completely under it. What actually happened next he had simply not considered at all; his sister turned on him, beat him with her fists, demanded to know how he could let Elrohir die.
He stood motionless, wordless, shocked beyond telling. He had accused himself in the same words over and over – if Arwen also accused him of being at fault it must be so.
He remembered little more of that day – he shut his fëa so deeply inside that nothing outside his body registered. At night he found himself lying on the bed in ‘his’ room in the King’s House and was almost surprised to find that he was not alone; he could not believe anyone would care about him when it was his fault that Elrohir was dead. Glorfindel sat beside the bed, murmuring gently that he should feel no guilt, it was not his fault.
He slept, but was not rested; inside his head words warred all night. He did not know if he could ever face his sister, or Estel, again. So much for Elrohir’s insistence that Elladan remain, not follow him to Mandos Halls, because Arwen and Estel would need him.
As the sun rose, and the day began, the sounds outside the open window were muted. Glorfindel said that the guards wore black armbands and there were black ribbons on their pikes – signs of mourning. Elladan could not bring himself to look.
A servant had knocked gently on the door, a little earlier, but Glorfindel had dismissed them. At mid-morning there was another knock but this time the door opened, before Glorfindel reached it, and Estel entered. He was dressed all in black and he looked more tired, and older, than Elladan had ever seen him.
Elladan waited for the words of accusation and blame that were sure to come. Instead Estel came to him, flung his arms around him, buried his face in Elladan’s shoulder, and wept.
“Muindor-nín, muindor-nín,” Elladan could only just make out Estel’s words, as his voice broke with grief. (My brother, my brother.)
He realised that Estel meant both of them, that his tears were for both Elladan and Elrohir. Something inside felt as though it had broken and Elladan wept alongside this ‘baby brother’ of his heart.
“I told the children last night,” Estel said eventually. “They are upset, of course, but they all want to see you when you feel able.”
Elladan wondered if they, too, wanted to blame him. Estel must have known his very thoughts, though, as he continued speaking.
“The girls all thought that you needed to be hugged. Eldarion did not phrase it in quite the same way but he wants to tell you, in person, how glad he is that you came to tell us yourself, that you did not just send a messenger. He needs you, I think, before he can let himself cry, as a child, rather than try to be strong for his sisters.”
Estel paused briefly, and then went on, “I understand how he feels because I, too, needed you, my brother, before I could let my tears flow. I am sorry, Elladan, to behave like that.”
Elladan reached out and held the King close to him again, reassuring him that it was right for them to share their grief. Elrohir had been right, Estel did need him. Eldarion, too, needed him. But what about…
“Arwen?” he asked Estel.
“She is calm now. But she is ashamed to come to you; she doesn’t really believe Elrohir’s… death… is your fault, Elladan.”
Elladan was less than sure about that, but said nothing.
“What has distressed her so is that she will never be able to say good-bye to him,” Estel went on. “Neither will I, but it is very hard for her to come to terms with.
“She had expected that you would both be here for her, when it is my time to die, that she would say her farewells to you then. But Elrohir will go to Mandos and then, at some time, be re-housed and re-awoken in Aman. Arwen will follow me beyond the circles of this world and she will never, ever, see Elrohir again. Unless he had chosen mortality…”
Elladan could hear, as clearly as if his twin stood beside him, “I thought that we would make our choice together – but now I know that mine is made. I am of the Firstborn.”
He knew that this, too, would be his own choice – there had never, really, been any doubt. The only doubt had really been whether to sail, or stay in Imladris, knowing that he might slowly fade there over centuries. Now he would have to choose between his land and his brother… but that choice did not need to be made just yet. He admitted to himself, though, that his final path had already been determined at the bottom of that bank in Imladris.
Elladan knew that he must pass Elrohir's parting words on to Estel, and hence Arwen, even though it would take away from his sister all hope that her brothers might follow her along the path of mortality. Death would now separate her from them until the World was remade.
Time flowed on. Eldarion and his sisters grew, slowly by the measure of ordinary men, to adulthood. It seemed, throughout those years, as if Arwen had difficulty coming to terms with Elrohir’s death; she rarely mentioned him within Elladan's hearing and turned away if Elladan ever mentioned his twin.
More than once, over those years, Elladan wanted to give in to the emptiness he still felt, day by day, but he was not always sure whether he wished to simply fade away – not eat, not move from a favourite spot until his hröa could take no more and his fëa would be free – or to leave for The Havens.
He envied Legolas his sea-longing – even though he knew that every day the other elf stayed in Middle Earth was an individual small battle. But, if Elladan had been struck with the sea-longing on that same journey, he knew that Estel would now have encouraged him to leave. Then he could have ignored that oft-remembered voice saying “You must stay. Promise me!”
Yet when he thought of taking the path to The Havens, or that soft, slow, fading path to Mandos, he knew he could not. He would, eventually, see Elrohir again but, if he left Middle Earth whilst Estel and Arwen lived, he would regret time not spent with them until time itself was no more. And so he came, every few years, to spend time in Minas Tirith, with his sister and the brother of his heart.
There was never any doubt of the warmth of his brother’s welcome – but from the day he told Arwen of Elrohir’s death it was as if there was an unseen wall of ice between them. Estel, and Arwen herself, reassured Elladan that she had never, truly, blamed him for the death of his twin… and yet that divide was there. Sometimes, when they were in the same room, he felt her absence almost as much as he did Elrohir’s.
He discussed it, once, with Grandfather.
“She thinks it will make it easier to say goodbye to you,” Celeborn said. “Easier too, she thinks, for you to say your farewell to her when the time comes.”
Perhaps, Elladan thought, she was right; but he had never felt so alone, despite the friendship of Glorfindel and the others who remained, or the contact with his grandfather.
Then, in the fifty-fifth year of the reign of King Ellesar, Elladan came to meet Eldarion’s new daughter. As he rode into the courtyard of The King’s House, for the first time in all the years since he had ridden in with news of Elrohir’s death, his sister met him as he got down from his horse. Ignoring all protocol – Elven and Gondorian – she threw her arms around him and held him close. She kissed his cheek and he felt a wave of love wash over him. He felt tears on his cheeks and cared not who saw them. Arwen was truly his sister again. He was no longer alone – although he did not, immediately know what had thawed that wall of ice.
Once he was sure that his beloved sister no longer kept her fëa apart from him, Elladan asked her what had made her brave enough to open herself, again, to the pain of future loss. It was, she said, when she saw her grandson welcoming his infant sister – the care with which he held her, the love in his eyes.
Ever after, Eldarion’s eldest son and daughter were, secretly, Elladan’s favourite great niece and nephew…