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It was late summer, and in the hidden valley stronghold of Imladris the predominant sounds were of rushing water, droning bees and the soft conversations of birds. Suddenly, without warning, the afternoon peace was interrupted by scrabbling sounds accompanied by falling sand and twigs. These heralded the arrival at the river’s edge of a tall, well-built elf with black hair and a smile of surpassing charm. He strode across to join the lord of the valley, Elrond Half-elven, who had been following his progress with some amusement.

“You crash through the bushes like a pack of wargs. What happened? You used to have the stealth of a hunting owl. Is advancing age making you careless?”

The elf, who happened to be High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth, grinned at him. “I can be mouse-quiet when I need to. Not much call for it here, though. There’s no one around to notice except you.”

Ereinion Gil-galad went to stand where the bank sloped down gently into the river, marking one of the few shallow places along its course. He took off his boots so that he could stand barefoot on the tiny stretch of clean white beach and looked around, nodding in satisfaction. “Yes, the more I see of this place the more I like it, and the more I understand your reluctance to come home.”

Elrond flashed him a glance. “This is home now, Ereinion. I’ve given this place my time and effort and love for several hundred years already. Just as you built up your palace from a small fortress into a symbol of your kingship, so this is my place…. I know every rock, every tree by now. And they know me.”

Gil-galad nodded, bending to select a handful of pebbles which he proceeded to skim into the water. “I can see that,” he admitted. “You and this place, somehow you reflect one another. The house built into the side of the cliff symbolises your guarded strength, the river, your quick wit and silver tongue, and the tidy little communities that are settling along the valley mirror the ordered workings of your mind. I just…”

He paused, and stood looking across at the far bank lying in tree-clad late afternoon shadow. Elrond turned to watch him, waiting for him to continue. When he did, he kept his gaze averted and his voice deliberately even.

“I miss you.”