Summary: Elrond sails to Valinor and meets up again with Ereinion Gil-galad.
The white ship sailed through the vast ocean, its only companion the happy dolphins that glided alongside it. To those that stood on the vessel, the great ocean below and the wide sky above seemed to merge together, stretching towards forever. It seemed to them that the lands of Valinor would never be seen.
Glorfindel stared ahead, trying desperately to see any indication that their journey was near its end. Though he feared not for himself; there was someone inside the white ship that would not live long enough to see Valinor if they did not hurry.
He sighed. Glorfindel could not believe that after so many years of fighting and struggling that Elrond would simply wither before his eyes. They were so close to their final reward, so close to finally finding peace, that he could not accept it would end like this for his lord.
But it was true; Elrond was slowly wasting away even as they neared Valinor. They had not suspected anything was wrong until one day his lord failed to come on deck. That first day Glorfindel had sought him out but Elrond had claimed to be writing in his journal.
Glorfindel had believed him, but the second day the Peredhel did not come up from his cabin again. Even so, it took them a week to see that Elrond was thinner, paler and more silent too. Elven grief was eating at his heart, making the once bright grey eyes become dull and lifeless.
When he finally realized what was happening, Glorfindel despaired. He had begged, cajoled, threatened, but nothing seemed to affect Elrond. He lay on his bed, curled within himself, grey eyes focused at something deep inside himself that no one could reach.
Elrond would talk from time to time, even smile at them, and he seemed to try not to burden them with his presence. He would eat when asked and he cleaned himself but as soon as this was taken care of he would lie back and retreat inside his mind.
Galadriel, Gandalf and even Bilbo had started taking turns at his side, afraid that Elrond would one day give up. But it did not seem to Glorfindel that he was giving up, it was just that Elrond was so utterly weak he could not even muster the energy to fight anymore.
Glorfindel dropped his head, trying to hide his tears from the other elves gathered on the deck of their ship. It was of no use of course; Erestor easily saw what was happening and came to stand by him.
"Do not despair, my love. Círdan tells me that it will not be long now." Erestor tried to soothe his lover, though he himself felt close to tears. He had just come from Elrond's cabin and he did not have good news.
"I do not know what to do, Erestor. I feel so guilty," Glorfindel murmured desolate. "We are his closest friends; how could we not see what was happening?"
"Our lord has always been a silent and withdrawn elf, beloved. And we always believed he could endure anything."
"I remember a time when he was not so withdrawn; I remember a time when he would laugh at almost anything." Glorfindel turned to look his lover in the eye. "I failed my duty, beloved."
"I do not understand." Erestor frowned at him.
"I made a promise to our king when we first met." The blonde elf's voice was thick with emotion. "He asked nothing of me, just that I would keep our lord safe."
Glorfindel could only nod his head. High-King Gil-galad had begged him to take care of Lord Elrond for as long as he lived. The love between the High-King and his Herald had been known to few and Glorfindel had felt honored to be counted among those. When the king died Elrond had released him from his promise but Glorfindel had tried to hold true to his late king.
Erestor sighed and embraced his lover. There was nothing he could say that would lighten Glorfindel's heart, for he felt himself bound by a similar oath. He had never said the words but he felt bound by the same promise to always look out for the Peredhel.
It had been Elrond who had found him in the ruins of Eregion after Celebrimbor's death. The elf lord had taken care of him until Erestor became a lord himself. He had learned lore and diplomacy at Lord Elrond's side and the Peredhel was a second father to him. He had sworn to himself that he would repay the kindness he had been graced with his friendship and loyalty.
They stayed close together until Gandalf came up. It was then that Erestor remembered what he had come to tell Glorfindel.
"My love," Erestor said hesitantly. "I have something important to tell you."
"Erestor?" Glorfindel knew that look well; his lover had something unpleasant to say but did not wish to hurt his feelings.
"Lord Elrond has slipped into coma." Erestor watched as Glorfindel's eyes once again filled with moisture. He had shed his own bitter tears while he had watched Elrond's eyes sliding closed and his breath evening out.
They barely noticed Gandalf approaching them, so great was their grief, but the news he brought instantly lightened their hearts. Lord Círdan had promise they would arrive soon, probably by the morning of the next day.
The Istar was calm; he seemed confident that Valinor could heal their lord and that Elrond was strong enough to survive until the end of the journey. They took heart in Gandalf's words and returned to Elrond's side.
They would wait together for the next morning, hoping their presence would lend their lord the strength he needed to end this journey.
It was a long day and an even longer night. It seemed to them the hours crawled by and none of them had anything to say to each other. At least nothing that could lighten the atmosphere in the cabin.
They were all together: Galadriel, Glorfindel, Erestor, Gandalf and Bilbo, crowding the small cabin to its limit. None of them cared; they watched each rise and fall of Elrond's chest like hawks, and despaired when his breath grew more and more shallow.
Glorfindel held Elrond's hand, trying to remember all the prayers he had uttered in his life. He was so intent on it that he only noticed their ship had landed when Bilbo shouted his joy. He raised his head, not knowing when he had lowered it, and was amazed to see the warm glow of the sun again after such a dreadful night.
Erestor and Gandalf left the cabin to better understand their situation. Glorfindel stayed there and a dozen pragmatic questions came to him: where would they stay, who would look after Elrond, who should they turn to?
He peered outside through one small hatchway and was startled as he saw white glistening snow falling. It was winter in Valinor; had they traveled that long? He remembered leaving Arda on a bright warm summer day. Had they been traveling for almost two seasons?
Glorfindel turned to Elrond and frowned. The Peredhel was wearing only a nightgown; he would freeze in that cold weather. He stood up to locate a warm cloak to cover his lord when he heard Galadriel's sharp intake of breath. He turned and Glorfindel later swore his heart stopped beating for some seconds.
There, before him, stood Ereinion Gil-galad.
Ereinion held his breath, waiting.
This was the ship that would bring his beloved to Valinor. For a hundred years he had been remade but he had been aware of himself for more than three thousand years now. Even as his fëa roamed the Halls of Waiting his only thought had been about his beloved.
Was he well? He knew he had survived the battle against Sauron for they would have already met otherwise. It had been a long wait in the care of Mandos. Some days he would wish his beloved would come to him but then he would remember he was dead and dread would fill him. He would despair something had happened and search for the beloved face as each new soul entered the Halls.
It took Mandos himself to tell him their destiny was not to meet in the Halls of Waiting for his fear to abate.
Other times he would wonder if he was still loved. Insane jealousy would assault him at the mere thought of someone else touching the body that had once belonged to him. And then he would tell himself that he did not wish Elrond to be all alone for so long. His beloved was such a loving soul; it would be a shame to see it wasted in grief and regret.
It took him almost an age to finally settle down and accept his fate. To face his mistakes objectively and admit to himself he had lived his life as best as he could and that he did not regret anything.
When that peace settled over him Mandos came. The Vala had smiled at him and explained his time to be reborn had come. He understood then that his time in the Halls of Waiting was not a punishment but a chance to reevaluate his life.
He left the Halls and was sent to Finarfin's house, his body remade but weak like a new born. His uncle was delighted to have him there and Ereinion was humbled by his calm and affectionate acceptance by the High-King of the Noldor.
Finarfin asked nothing of him but sat by his side for as long as it took Ereinion to tell his story. Ereinion himself was amazed to find out how much he remembered and to see that he was still the same elf he was. But now he was calmer and surer of his place in the world.
There were not many of their line that had been granted the chance to come back. He was a little disappointed to see that Fingon, his father, was not among those that had been remade. Finarfin though thought it was extremely merciful of the Valar to allow his nephew to stay in the Halls.
"All his life, I was told, he had only loved two people: your mother and Maedhros. You know Maedhros will never be allowed to come back. I think your father would prefer to stay by his side than to be made anew ten times over."
This was said with Finarfin's raucous laugh. For such a beautiful and elegant elf, the Great King could laugh like no one he had ever known: totally guiltless. It comforted Ereinion and gave him the courage to talk about his love for Elrond freely.
"You need not say you love him, nephew, it is written all over your face."
There were others who wished to meet him, especially after he confessed his love for the Peredhel. Turgon was not impressed; he resented his father's and Maedhros' love, but he did not impose his opinion and only asked for caution.
Tuor and Idril had the opposite reaction. Their son would never come to them; Eärendil was designated to sail the night sky forever, and they were desperate for news of their grandson. They listened, fascinated, to every little thing Ereinion could tell them, tears glistening in their eyes.
"He married a Lady called Celebrían; she lives here with us," Idril said one day, after another one of their talks. "But she talks about him as one would talk about a distant cousin."
"It is as though she knows nothing of him," Tuor sadly surmised.
Ereinion had been aware of Elrond's marriage. Finarfin had told him, but after that revelation he finally sought out the Lady Celebrían. Their confrontation was surprisingly friendly, and Celebrían was ready to step aside and renounce her vows.
"Ours was a marriage of convenience," Celebrían said with such a sad smile. "He bore that burden with his innate grace and dignity, but not even once did I see him happy. I will not stand between you and Elrond; he is a good friend and I wish him only happiness."
It was then that Ereinion took his life back into his hands. Elrond would come back to him and he wanted to greet his beloved properly. He refused to be idle and begged Finarfin for something to do in his household.
Finarfin explained to him that, as the Third Age of Arda came closer to an end, an influx of elves had started. Not only were those who were leaving Middle-earth sailing to Valinor, but also many souls were being remade or reborn.
For the Noldor, the elves being given a second chance in life were their main problem. They had taken part in too many battles and their numbers crowded the Halls. It was not easy for those who had lived in Middle-earth to adapt to in life in Valinor.
The Noldor in Valinor, not concerned with wars and survival, had turned fully to what they loved the most: experimenting. It did not matter with what, as long as it was new or as long as they could make it better. For those who had been struggling against evil all their lives it was a hard transition to make.
Ereinion embraced the task gladly. It was not as easy as he thought; there were those that had been remade, just like him, their bodies a perfect reconstruction of the bodies they had possessed in their first life. But there were those who had been reborn and had to go through a very difficult childhood.
He thought about his beloved. He knew Elrond would like to help those children to adapt to their new lives. The Peredhel had always been a healer, and he did not doubt Elrond would be able to help and counsel those troubled elves.
He started by asking Finarfin for a better place in the city for his wards, and was soon building a new section in the city. And when he was satisfied that he had a proper infirmary for the ones remade and a safe place for the families that had reborn elves among them, he started on his obsession.
In the beginning he had only wanted to allow his beloved to have a place for himself in the citadel. Then he wanted to give him a gift and soon he wanted to present him with the perfect gift. A hundred years later and he was still perfecting his gift.
He came back to himself with a start when Tuor grabbed his hand. A white ship was landing in the haven of Valinor, a group of elves running around to help the crew on the vessel.
"They are here, my friend." Tuor's voice was thick with emotion. Meeting his grandson was something he had wanted to do for a long time now. His wife had stayed behind to prepare everything for his arrival.
Ereinion could not talk; his throat was thick with emotion. His eyes scanned the crew of the ship desperately until finally he saw Lord Círdan coming down to land. He hesitated until Tuor pushed him forward and he found himself almost running to his foster father.
Círdan saw him and he seemed unable to understand what was happening but Ereinion simply hugged him. It still took Círdan some moments to react but then his arms were hugging him back.
"You are alive!" Círdan choked on his tears. He clutched Ereinion to him and the shipwright was surprised to feel laughter bubbling up from his chest. He could not prevent it from escaping and he laughed joyously. "Praises to the Lady, you are alive!"
"Yes." Ereinion did not know what else to say. There was so much he wished to talk about, so much to ask. But the one thing he wanted the most just came out of his mouth. "Where is Elrond?"
Apprehension settled in his chest when Círdan froze. It turned into fear when his foster father pushed him away and explained in hushed tones what was happening with the Peredhel.
Ereinion nodded his head, trying to calm his thoughts. He had never imagined his lover would be anything other than perfectly well when he arrived in Valinor. He gathered his courage and followed Círdan to the ship, every step he took making his heart beat faster.
Erestor was standing on the deck of the ship, together with a human with white long hair and beard. The counselor bowed deeply but Ereinion stepped forward and embraced him. They parted silently, and Erestor guided him to the cabin where the Peredhel was resting.
Galadriel was there and she stood up, her lovely blue eyes staring disbelievingly at him. Glorfindel was there too and he seemed unable to comprehend what was happening. Ereinion barely noticed them; all his attention focused on the one lying on the bed.
Elrond was thin, almost gaunt looking, his face sallow. His eyes were closed, lips parched and slightly open. He seemed to be breathing with some difficulty, his chest barely rising with the effort.
Ereinion thought he might be sick. He stumbled to the bed and sat beside his lover. For what felt like an eternity he sat still, not blinking, aware distantly that any sudden move or wayward thought might shatter his heart. He forced himself to reach forward and touch Elrond's hand lying upon the blanket that covered him.
Elrond's body shuddered once and the grey eyes blinked open. The Peredhel looked around, disorientated, until he finally saw Ereinion. He smiled a small calm smile that Ereinion had seen many times before.
"My love," Elrond whispered, his fingers curling around the hand that held his. "Do not leave me again..."
"Never again," Ereinion promised. He knew Elrond was probably not even aware of what he was saying but he meant what he said. Nothing would make him leave the Peredhel, not even Mandos himself. Elrond's smile broadened and he settled down again.
A sense of calm invaded Ereinion while he watched Elrond falling asleep. He turned to the other occupants of the small cabin and was surprised to see only Glorfindel waiting for them. The blonde warrior had a woolen blanket in his hands which he presented to the former king.
Ereinion smiled and covered Elrond as best as he could before lifting his beloved into his arms. Elrond murmured something and snuggled closer with a satisfied sigh. Ereinion spared a moment to appreciate the pleasure of holding his lover once again before turning to Glorfindel.
"Come with me, my friend," Ereinion said and it was a clear order.
Glorfindel bowed and moved ahead to open the door to his king. In the haven, Tuor and Círdan had arranged horses for everyone and Ereinion's own grey stallion, Isil, was waiting for him.
The beast snuffled at Ereinion's burden, his ears flicking back and forth in apprehension. He sensed that the one in his master's arms was very weak and he lowered his great body to the ground. Ereinion thanked the stallion and managed to mount with Elrond still in his arms.
"Take us home, Isil," he said and the horse started in an easy gait towards the citadel.
Elrond knew that it would happen sooner or later. He had pushed himself too far and for a very long time. No elf had been strong enough to command a river and protect so many against the darkness. Not even him. But he had something that no other elf in Middle-earth had possessed.
Vilya, mightiest of the Three.
He had used its powers with as much care as he could afford but even so it had been too much. Vilya had given him power and strength and not even Sauron had dared attack him until the very end, when it had been too late for the Dark Lord.
But Vilya's powers ate at his soul, dampened the fire of his spirit and finally consumed his body. He fought against it until the moment his feet touched the ship at the Grey Havens. The fight was over and he wanted to rest.
Little by little he started to wither away and then one day he had not the strength to stand up anymore. He tried not to burden his friends, especially Glorfindel, but he was as weak as a newborn.
And he was cold. No matter how many blankets covered him, he was always curling within himself, trying to warm his limbs. He wanted to see Valinor, very much so, but every day it was harder to stay awake or focus on anything. He was afraid but he did not voice his fears lest they come true.
One day he allowed himself to fall asleep and he felt like his soul had left his body and roamed the night sky, following his father's star. His mother was there too, smiling at him and she held him close. She rocked him like a baby and he had never felt safer in all his life. He did not know how long he stayed with her but suddenly his father was there.
"It is time for you to go back, my son." Eärendil smiled at his son and stroked his raven hair. "He has come for you."
"Who?" Elrond asked confused. They did not answer but he felt something; it was warm and called to him and he was filled with a longing that he could not explain.
He had awoken then and Ereinion was there. All the fear vanished as did the cold that had lingered in his body. He begged his lover to not leave him behind and he had promised not to. Peace settled over Elrond and he finally was able to rest.
Elrond did not know how long he slept but when he woke again he was covered in a heavy blanket, resting in strong arms. He instinctively knew it was Ereinion holding him and he relaxed. It was already dark but he could see the lights of a great city not far ahead.
His back was aching and he tried to raise himself a little. The arms around him helped Elrond to sit more erect in the front of the saddle and the Peredhel turned to look at his lover.
Ereinion looked back at him, a huge smile of pure love on his face and Elrond smiled tentatively back. Ereinion kissed his lips lightly and tucked Elrond's head under his chin, supporting his weight without much effort. Comfortable again and secure that Ereinion would never allow anything to happen to him he tried to go back to sleep.
They soon came to the citadel and Ereinion gave instructions to the servants to guide their guests and allow them time to bathe and eat. He took his leave, carrying Elrond with him while Tuor went to find the rest of the family.
Ereinion took his lover to the room he had prepared specially for him and was not surprised to find Nindalf there. He was a young elf, recently remade, whose family could not be found. He had no special education and had died very early in his former life. He was happy to serve in the citadel and even more so to take care of the future resident of those rooms.
"Is this him, my lord?" Nindalf asked excited as soon as Ereinion came into view. He rushed forward to peer at the Peredhel.
"Yes, this is Elrond Peredhel, my beloved," Ereinion answered in hushed tones, not ready to wake him yet. "Fetch me a basin with hot water and clean clothes. We will clean and dress him so that he can be more comfortable."
Nindalf nodded his head and left the rooms in his usual hurry. He came back with what had been asked for and another servant to help Ereinion with his own needs. Ereinion bathed Elrond in the bed, as slowly as he could and then dressed him in the finest sleeping robe.
Through all this Elrond only muttered and frowned but did not wake. Nindalf watched him with curiosity. He had expected the Peredhel to be an impressive, beautiful elf but he looked to be old and worn out. He did not understand how someone like the former High King could love someone like Elrond.
But love he did, the very room they stood inside was a proof of it. It had taken Ereinion more than eight years to get it ready and another ten to fill it with everything the Noldo thought Elrond might wish for.
Nindalf did not understand it but he remembered himself that he was very young. He had been only thirty the first time he died and now he was just past his majority. He did not have much experience and he was fascinated by Ereinion and his history with the Peredhel.
When Ereinion was satisfied that Elrond was clean and comfortable he rushed to his own rooms for a quick bath and a change of clothes. He thought he had been quick but when he came back there was a small gathering at Elrond's door.
"Tuor has told us what happened. May we see him?" Idril questioned, wringing her hands in her excitement.
"If he is not up to it, you just have to tell us," Turgon said with a stern look at his daughter, but he too was excited to finally meet his grandson.
"Are we not treating him like the new baby of the house?" Finarfin asked with clear amusement. "Though, I would like to meet him as well."
"He is asleep," Ereinion explained with as much amusement as Finarfin but he opened the door just the same.
Nindalf was putting out the candles, the fire in the fireplace keeping the room alight with a warm inviting glow. He slipped out of the room as the group of elves moved to the bed and they all peered down at Elrond, each one of the touched with a deep emotion none could name.
"He looks so much like Eärendil," Idril whispered, her fingers ghosting over Elrond's hair. She felt elated; it was like her son had come home to her at last. She pulled back to stand beside Tuor, their hands entwined.
Turgon smiled at his daughter and felt a burden being lifted from his heart. This one had struggled a long time against the darkness in Middle-earth. He was relieved he had finally made it to Valinor. Elrond had been denied many things throughout his long life but now it was time for him to be pampered.
It was Finarfin who reminded them they should leave Ereinion and Elrond alone. He stirred them to the door, promising to come later. When the mighty lords had left Nindalf entered the room with a tray of soup, bread and wine.
Ereinion ate with no real interest and then he dispensed Nindalf for the night. He lay down beside Elrond, facing him, and laid a comforting hand on Elrond's shoulder. It was not easy for him to understand that they had eternity together from now on. Their lives had always been filled with worry and responsibilities toward many. Now they could finally concentrate in one another.
He would have to take it a day at a time.
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