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'Even Quicker Than Doubt'
Armenelos, Númenor. S.A. 442
hundred years had passed since Eärendil’s son had set foot upon the
soil of his new home, and the years had been kind to him, more so
than to any Man of fully mortal birth. His carriage was still erect
and, although his face was deeply lined, his sea-grey eyes were
steady and alert. His shoulder-length hair, although now white with
age, still hung thick and straight – Elven hair, as his queen had
been wont to tease him. Tar-Minyatur they called him now, king of
Elenna the land of the Star, the Gift of the Valar to Men. In his
heart, though, he would always be Elros of Sirion, cousin to the
He wandered slowly about his sleeping chamber, dousing lamps as he
went, picking up and examining items that were close to his heart
before returning them carefully to their allotted places. There was
a little filigree box containing locks of hair belonging to his
queen and a beloved daughter, both dead long since; a small,
exquisitely-carved quartz dragon, delicately coloured, every scale
correct; a woven lap-rug, a gift from a grand daughter for his two
hundredth birthday; the painting Gil-galad had given him the night
before he sailed, the door to home still open to the morning…
Sighing, he replaced the painting and then slowly removed the ring
that Elrond had given him from his finger - the first time it had
left him since that day Círdan had pressed it into his hand. Almost
on a whim, he placed it in front of the picture. Vardamir, his son,
might not find it, but young Aranel, his several-times
great-granddaughter with her love for the small treasures with which
he had surrounded himself in these last years, certainly would. She
loved the ring’s story almost as much as he had as a child.
He smiled now, remembering how she and her brothers, like the
generations of children before them, had sat at his feet listening
in open-mouthed wonder to the tale of how the Ring of Barahir had
come into their family, and of Beren and Lúthien and their quest for
the Silmaril. There had been other favourite stories, especially the
rise and fall of hidden Gondolin, and of the great hero Glorfindel,
who had bought their forefather’s life with his own - and who Elros
had actually met after his rebirth many years later. And they had
all loved to hear about Gil-galad and his court, and the creatures
of the forests of Middle-earth…
So many memories in one room. So much of the past that still spoke
to him, cried out to him, especially in the long lonely years since
Faengil’s passing. He felt tired beyond weariness and had felt this
way for months now. His work was long since done, and he knew, as he
knew his birth name, that it was time to move on, to allow the
responsibility to pass to the next in his line.
He had originally intended to seek out the small, windowless
mausoleum set into the foot of the Meneltarna with the idea of
joining Faengil there, but the thought of going alone into that cool
darkness was too much for him; his heart quailed. Instead he had
chosen his bedchamber, surrounded by memories, as the place where he
felt best able to accept the Gift of the One, the end to labour, the
time of rest.
Still wearing his simple grey house-robe, and leaving only the small
alabaster lamp beside the bed lit, he went to lie beneath the formal
coverlet, gold silk embroidered with scarlet leaves, that he
normally removed in the evening and replaced with something warmer
and more homely. Not tonight, though. When morning came, he wanted
them to find everything neat and right and proper, an example for
those who would follow.
He folded his hands on his chest and closed his eyes and
concentrated on his breathing. He had no idea how to do what came
next - but then again, this had been the tale of his life. Somehow
he had always managed, through instinct and common sense and,
surprisingly often, by drawing upon the lessons in kingship learned
from Gil-galad hundreds of years ago.
He had done his best for the new kingdom, for his people, for the
future they had begun to build. He had often felt inadequate to the
task, but over time he had developed confidence in his abilities and
his people in their turn had developed confidence in him. It had not
all been work and duty, either. Not long after their arrival he had
wed Faengil, his support and refuge from the beginning, and she had
determinedly carved out a home for her family, a place where he
could put aside the crown and be himself. When the children arrived,
things had finally begun to feel ‘right’. He had missed his previous
life, but as time passed it had begun to seem more and more
dreamlike, another world.
There was no exchange of letters between him and Elrond; his brother
was lost to him forever, a pain long accepted but never quite
forgotten. There was news, however. Three, sometimes four times a
year, letters came to him from Tirion, forwarded from somewhere
within the household of the High King, delivered there, he guessed,
by Elves returning home from the Land of Exile. These unsigned
missives contained stories about his brother and cousins, court
gossip, political developments in Lindon, events in the lives of
people he had once known. They opened a window onto a world forever
closed to him and, certain of their origin, he regularly blessed
Galadriel for her thoughtfulness.
His body was beginning to relax, his breath flowing in and out,
slowing perceptibly. He could hear the rushing of blood, the beating
of his heart. There seemed to be nothing else in the world, only
him, only these sounds. He had planned to lie and think back over
his long, full life, but even thought seemed tiring and he realised
the time for such things was past. He felt a warm darkness drawing
closer, not frightening as he had imagined it would be, but
welcoming. A time to rest.
“At the last you will lie down and sleep and, sleeping, your faer
will pass to the place where the inner selves of the Second born go.
No pain, just a sense of rightness.”
Who had said that? Ah yes, of course, Galadriel on his last day at
the palace. Galadriel who had made him a promise at that time.
“When that time comes at the last, remember today and think of
Galadriel,” he whispered, remembering as though it had been that
morning. “I will be waiting in the shadowplace between worlds...”
And she was there; power, strength and compassion, a light within
the approaching dark, surrounding him with love and approval. They
exchanged no words: none were required. As time slowed around him,
as he felt the ties that bound him to the physical loosening, she
remained; calm, steady, her presence a promise that there was
nothing to fear, nothing to question.
And then finally he was aware of a change, a sensation of freedom
and movement as he was drawn at last towards the place he had chosen
when he picked eternity for his brother and the unknown for himself.
The last thing he knew as his heart faltered and his breathing
stilled, was a sensation akin to a kiss between minds.
And then the next stage of his soul’s journey began.
Eriador, S.A. 442
Galadriel straightened up, wincing at the twinges of pain in the
small of her back. Her vigil, begun the previous evening, had seemed
to last no more than a few short hours, yet she had returned to dawn
light and the sounds of birdsong and morning voices. She looked down
at the hollow in the rock which, when filled with clear lake water,
was proving a useful tool for expanding and directing her gift of
Sight. The Emyn Uial were reflected back at her, snow-capped the
year round; the silent bedchamber half a world away was no more.
It was not until she raised a cold hand to tidy back her hair that
she discovered her cheeks were wet and realised she was crying. She
sat for a few minutes, her face in her hands, and allowed herself
the rare luxury of tears. She had kept the promise made four hundred
years ago. She had watched with Elros at the end, and the soul whose
passing she had witnessed had more than earned this farewell
offering. Finally, the time for crying past, she wiped her face with
the hem of her gown and prepared to return to the everyday world. As
she was about to rise, the water rippled of its own accord and she
waited, disciplining herself to stillness, as a new vision slowly
In place of the bedchamber in Númenor, she now saw a man, his hair
and beard frosted with age, lying upon a stone bier. His hands were
clasped across his chest, his eyes were closed. Beside him stood a
woman, Elven fair, a golden circlet on her dark hair. For a moment
Galadriel thought she was looking back through time at Lúthien, but
the resemblance, though strong, was not absolute. And Lúthien, child
of the starlight that she had been, would never have worn gold. The
woman was weeping, pleading with the man who appeared to be in the
act of giving back the Gift of Life, even as Elros had…
A crash and a shriek followed by laughter drew her back with a start
to the world around her, and when she had gathered herself again the
image had vanished. She waited for a few minutes to be certain there
was no more, then rose carefully, her legs unsteady after so many
hours of kneeling on the cold ground. Slowly and with quite un-Elven
stiffness she made her way down from her glade, the one place where
she was never disturbed.
The path she followed brought her out near the cluster of houses on
the shore of Lake Nenuial where she and Celeborn with their unlikely
community now dwelt. They were an eclectic crowd - followers of her
late brothers, refugees from Doriath, a few Nandor and a number of
Silvan Elves. There was even a small settlement of Men further along
the shore, who looked to the strange though unarguably royal couple
for leadership. What they all had in common was a spirit of
adventure and a yearning for some place where they could feel they
The noise that had startled her seemed to have been caused by a
runaway calf, one of a small herd of cattle kept primarily for milk.
Its capture was being overseen by Celebrían, the sweet, dutiful,
though lamentably ungifted girl child who should have been a son and
upon whom Celeborn doted. The dog at her heels barked a greeting –
there was always a dog, ever since the day several hundred years ago
when Elrond had given a puppy from his pet’s first litter to his
toddler cousin as a begetting day gift.
Alerted by the barking, Celebrían turned, offering the habitually
uncertain, ever-hopeful smile she kept solely for her intimidating
mother. She spoke, but the veil between time and space was still
fragile after the all-night vigil and, without warning, the Sight
returned and Galadriel, caught up in a wave of inner visions, felt
as thought the world had fallen away beneath her feet.
Unbidden, the future crept up beside her to whisper softly in her
ear, sending a shiver of ice down her spine. For a moment she saw
her daughter sailing out from Mithlond under leaden skies, small,
sad and broken, alone at the railing, followed by a whirling
kaleidoscope of blood and horror and fire and war. She saw once
again the woman of Lúthien’s line and the king of Men and heard the
sound of her own voice whispering an apparently meaningless sentence
over and over again.
And then it was gone, leaving her breathless and shaking.
Taking a deep breath, Galadriel forced herself to stop staring at
Celebrían, who was moving towards her in concern. Managing a smile,
she drew her daughter into a rare hug, resting her cheek against
fine, silver-blonde hair. Every ounce of maternal instinct in her
was screaming at her to do something, but, although frustrated by
her impotence, she knew that whatever threatened Celebrían would
only be made clear in its own time. For now, all she could do was
try to keep her child safe for as long as possible. A good first
step, she wryly acknowledged, would probably be to accept that fate
had seen fit to send her a daughter instead of the politically
desirable son and begin to treasure her accordingly for who she was.
Stepping back, she put an arm around her daughter’s shoulders and
looked about, seeking someone reliable to entrust with a letter to
the High King, bearing news of the passing of the first king of
Númenor. The words in her vision came back and lodged in her mind,
where they would remain, returning periodically to tease her until
the day finally arrived when all things were at last made clear.
“And so the end begins.”
Beta - Enismirdal, Ilye Elf
A.N. : This story owes a huge debt to Enismirdel, Fimbrethiel,
Ilye_elf, Red Lasbelin (the calm voice of sanity) and Tricia, as
well as to all those who have encouraged me with their comments.
Love and thanks ~ Kei.