The Fellowship - Departures
by Meimi


Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with J.R.R. Tolkien or anyone who hold rights to Lord of the Rings. It isn't mine, I'm just playing with it.

Note #1: This story is basically Alternate Universe, though, perhaps I should say Alternate Timeline since it is still based in the same world, events just happen differently.

Note #2: Again, I am late. However, this chapter is three times bigger than usual so I do have something of an excuse. I should have broken it up, but I really didn't want to do that again (especially as this is the last chapter in Part 1 - The Fellowship). The next chapter, thankfully, will be more of a normal size and shouldn't take nearly quite so long to finish (it will also start Part 2 - Moria).

Note #3: Movie canon? Book canon? Hell, I don't know anymore.



Aragorn hissed in pain as he yanked his hand back from the door latch. He had been about to enter his father's study, having been summoned there by the Lord for some reason or other, but the instant his hand had touched the latch he had gotten a rather unexpected and painful shock. He shook the injured appendage in an attempt to rid himself of some of the tingling, but gave up almost immediately and instead reached up and sucked soothingly on his stinging fingertips. Using his other hand, and making sure that he was well out of reach of the treacherous latch, Aragorn knocked on the study door.

A moment later a rather curt sounding "Yes, what is it?" wafted out.

"Could you come get the door, father?" Aragorn mumbled past the fingers stuffed in his mouth, "There's a bit of a problem out here."

"Just a moment." Aragorn could hear the muffled sound of a chair being shifted, but nothing after that, which really wasn't a surprise. Most elves were quite adept at being soundless in their movements and Elrond was a bit above even the norm for his race. A few seconds later the door was pulled open and the Elf Lord himself glanced out into the hallway, arching an eyebrow curiously at his youngest son, "What is the matter, Estel?"

"There's a curse on your door," Aragorn exclaimed as he continued to suck on his fingers, which were still stinging rather sharply.

"Truly?" Elrond blinked in surprise then turned his gaze upon the suspect door. He studied the latch for a moment, it appeared innocent enough, though he knew better than to take things at face value, before stretching a hand out towards it.

Aragorn grabbed his father's arm, halting any further movement, "Don't touch it! It hurts."

Elrond gave Aragorn a reproachful look, one of the 'Do I look stupid?' variety, and shrugged off his son's grip. What did he take him for, an elfing just out of nappies? Turning his attention back to the door, Elrond reached forward ghosting his fingertips just above the surface of the latch, feeling for what could not be seen, only sensed. He scowled as he felt a familiar spark of something, oh yes, something very familiar. Muttering heatedly under his breath, he whipped his hand over the latch as if he were tearing something away. Aragorn winced as his ears popped at the very same moment. "Do not be concerned, Estel," Elrond growled as he turned and stalked back into his study, "It was just Mithrandir thinking that he is clever."

"Wait." Scrunching his brows up in bewilderment, Aragorn blew on his fingers as he finally removed them from his mouth. "You mean to tell me that Gandalf pranked you?"

"If that is how you wish to describe it," Elrond grimaced, shooting his human son a scathing look which was promptly ignored, "Then yes, he pranked me."

Aragorn chuckled as he shook his hand out again. It still tingled painfully, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as it had initially been. "How old are you two again?"

Elrond speared Aragorn with an even darker look, one that clearly held a dire warning. Proceed at your own risk. "I don't see what that has to do with anything," he said snidely in conjunction with the look.

"Oh nothing, nothing at all." Aragorn waved his non-injured hand airily, heeding the obvious threat and quickly changing the subject, "You wanted to see me about something?"

"Yes," Elrond murmured simply and frowned. Turning back towards his desk, he hesitantly reached down and picked up something long and slender. He stared at it forlornly for a moment's time, then shook his head and turned back around, holding it out for Aragorn to take.

Aragorn blinked in surprise at the object his father was offering him. Elrond was giving him a sword? Reaching out, he wrapped his non-tingling hand around the sheath and hefted it easily from the elf's grasp, but stopped when he finally took a good look at it. This was... He lifted his shocked gaze back to his father's face, a question he could not put words to just yet apparent in his eyes.

"Aye, it is Narsil reforged," Elrond supplied as he leaned back heavily against his desk. For some odd reason he felt mildly unsteady, though perhaps it wasn't odd at all. He had been far too emotional of late and gifting his son with this particular burden was certainly trying, to say the least. "As it was meant to be upon the reemergence of Isildur's Bane."

Aragorn shook his head at his father's words. This was... too much. He couldn't handle this on top of everything else. He did not want it. He had never wanted it.

"Estel- Nay, Aragorn," Elrond began, sifting through the words in his mind's eye and what he wished for them to convey even as he spoke them, "This was meant to be. A sword cannot decide its own fate. But... it will only bear as much significance as you place upon it. Its fate is not its own, yours is. Do not let it decide for you, allow no one to do that, not I or your brothers, not the wizards or the elves, not even your fellow man. Make your own decisions about your future, my son, and let them not be clouded by the desires of others."

Aragorn's eyes widened in complete shock, then slowly he nodded, smiling softly as he murmured, "I understand. Thank you."

"You are my son, Estel, and you will always remain so, no matter who or what you decide to become one day," Elrond explained, his own soft smile mirroring his foster son's, "And where ever you may travel, where ever you may come to live, Imladris will always remain your home. Do not forget that."

"I won't." Aragorn said quietly, a soft smile still gracing his lips, then shook his head, "Nay, I could not forget even if I tried." Grinning broadly, he reverently drew the sword from its sheath, staring agape in awe when its entire length glittered and gleamed in the light. This truly was the great Sword of Elendil, but it did not even appear as if it had ever been shattered asunder. "Remarkable. If I had not spent my childhood racing past the Shards enshrined here, I never would have guessed that it was still in pieces only a few days past."

"Aye," Elrond chuckled lightly, "Elladan does good work. I had expected it to take longer, but he surprised me. Your brother has greater skill at smithing that I had originally surmised."

"Elladan?" Aragorn boggled, but then he remembered the conversation he and his brother had shared just a few days before. "This was what he was off doing?"

"Yes, he was the only one I trusted enough to get the job done properly," Elrond confirmed, his smile turning fond at old memories as he further clarified, "When they were very young, and still quite the little hellions, your brothers took more than a bit of interest in blacksmithing. Their grandfather, Lord Celeborn, was somewhat concerned by this odd interest of theirs, and rightfully so considering the disaster that came of Celebrimbor's foray into the same craft. Thankfully, the twins had enough sense to not take things too far."

"I'll have to give him my compliments later," Aragorn said in wonder as he shifted the sword around in his grasp, allowing the light to strike it from every angle. It truly was a beautiful blade, its mirror sheen reflected light so clearly that it almost appeared to be lit from within by a silver flame. He could well see the reason for why it had become such a legend, even without the history of its wielders. "Have you named it yet?" he asked absently, his eyes still glued to the sword, admiration shining in their depths.

"Nay, I shall leave that task to you." Elrond's lips curled slightly in amusement at the bewildered look Aragorn gave him as he explained his reasoning for that particular decision, "It is a sword meant for Man, Estel, thus it should be the Hope of Man who names it."

"Oh please, not you too," Aragorn grumbled, rolling his eyes as he resheathed the sword that once was broken, "I've gotten teased more than enough about that recently, I don't need you joining in on the fun. Erestor is bad enough on his own."

Elrond bit his tongue to keep from snickering at his son's obvious discomfort on the subject, "Choose wisely, Estel. You wouldn't want to shame your family by picking something embarrassing." The Elf Lord grinned impishly at Aragorn's audible groan before he added a fell warning onto that, "Do not, and I must stress this, do not ask Arwen to aid you in this task. Your sister's idea of giving proper names to objects leaves much to be desired."

Aragorn eyed his father suspiciously. "I don't really want to know, do I?"

"No," Elrond shuddered visibly as he recalled the last time Arwen's creativity had gotten more than a little out of hand, "No, you really don't."


It had been many a year now since Elladan had had any need to set foot into the stables of Rivendell. Elrohir's long ago command to stay behind and his own hopeless decision to continue to wait had eventually translated into him simply never having need of a mount, and thus he had not had one for a very long time now. And yet, here he was, walking back into the familiar territory that he had shunned for so long, and all at the request of his twin. He had assumed that Elrohir would not wish to speak with him again before the time of the Fellowship's departure, they had both been effectively avoiding each other so far, but apparently he had been incorrect in that assumption.

Elrohir wanted something else from him and that made him nervous. His brother's last request, if it could even be called that, was still a rather hot object of contention. Elladan was quite sure that it would get even worse when his own choice about it finally became known. Hopefully, he would already be in Mithlond by then and would only have to deal with Arwen. Arwen and their father's ire could be weathered well enough separately, together, not so much.

Steeling himself for what lay ahead, Elladan rounded the last corner that he knew would lead him to his twin. Elrohir was there, of course, it would have been rather ridiculous to summon him and not be present. At the moment, his brother was tending to a dark bay, a horse that could be nothing other than one of the Mearas. He had not disbelieved any of the whispers going on about it, but still, it was a bit of a surprise to see in person. The entire thing practically begged the question of just what Elrohir had been doing lately to warrant having a Mearas for a steed.

Once, long ago, he would have known such a thing. They always knew what the other was up to in one form or another back then. But that time had long since passed into history, all they were to each other now were familiar strangers. No, he shouldn't allow himself dwell upon it, there was nothing that could be done for it now.

Shaking his head at his own thoughts, Elladan schooled his expression into neutral blandness and strode purposefully up to the stall door. "You called for me?"

"Yes," Elrohir answered simply, then beckoned Elladan within with a welcoming gesture, "Don't just stand out there, come inside, I want to introduce you two."

Elladan blinked in surprise at Elrohir oddly pleasant demeanor. What was all this about? Reaching down, he unhitched the latch and slid within, closing the stall door behind him. The horse nickered softly at his approach and stretched forward, bumping Elladan squarely in the chest with its head.

"He likes you. That's good," Elrohir commented quietly, a small smile hinting at the corners of his mouth.

"He's beautiful," Elladan murmured appreciatively as he brushed his fingers over the slender white star centered upon the steed's brow. "What's his name?"

"Brego," Elrohir supplied readily as he crossed his arms and leaned companionably against the horse's shoulder.

"A kingly name for a kingly horse," Elladan chuckled lightly as the so named steed started nipping and tugging gently at his hair, "Rather presumptuous though, don't you think?"

"Not if you take into account the person who named him," Elrohir snorted indelicately, then explained further at Elladan's curious look, "Theodred wasn't very keen on proper etiquette when naming horses. Some of his choices could get downright bizarre, but thankfully he reined himself in, so to speak, when naming his own mount."

"Theodred," Elladan muttered as he mulled over that particular name in his head. It sounded somewhat familiar. "Isn't he-"

"Yes, Theodred is the son of Theoden, King of Rohan," Elrohir answered quickly, cutting his twin off in mid-question. Twisting slightly, he closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against the horse's velvety coat. "I spent several years in Rohan and made the acquaintance of Theodred and his cousins, Eomer and Eowyn." He smiled softly at the memories his words recalled. "When I decided that it was finally time for me to move on, Theodred insisted that I take Brego with me. He said that his horse would serve me well in his stead, since he, himself, would not be able to do so."

"He was a good friend to you." Elladan observed, watching in wonder as the warmth bled back bit by bit into his twin. Was there some hope left for them, after all?

"Aye, he was, all three of them were," Elrohir said sadly as he opened his eyes slightly and looked dismally over at his brother, "But it wasn't enough. It's never enough."

"No, I suppose not," Elladan muttered in defeat, a downcast expression flitting across his face. The past could be forgotten for a moment here and there, but it always returned to them. Always.

"I'm tired, Elladan, so very tired," Elrohir sighed heavily as he reached up and ran his fingers through the tail ends of Brego's soft, glossy mane. "I go through the motions but I can't seem to find it in me to care anymore."

"I know," Elladan scowled morosely, blinking his eyes rapidly to keep himself from crying yet again. He had shed enough tears already, and would surely shed more soon enough, but not right now, he really didn't need them right now.

"There I go again," Elrohir tsked as he straightened back up, "I'm hurting you. I don't mean to, but I can't seem to stop."

Elladan shrugged bitterly, "What else are you going to do? You can't exactly read me anymore."

"No, I can't. I am sorry for that. I wish I could change it, but there's nothing I can do anymore. I don't think I could get through even if I tried," Elrohir frowned, reaching up and gently removing his twin's hair from Brego's mouth, bringing the horse's playful nips to an immediate halt.

Elladan grimaced and scrunched his nose up as he surveyed his very soggy hair. "Yay, horse spit. Just what I needed."

"Sorry about that," Elrohir grinned mildly as if refuting his very own words, "It's just his way of showing affection."

"Great," Elladan grumbled, practically cringing as he rung the excess spit out of his hair, "I'm going to have to take another bath before lunch."

"It could have been worse," Elrohir said conversationally, his grin widening ever so slightly at the flat glare Elladan sent his way, "At least he likes you, you wouldn't want to see what he does to those poor souls that he does not care for."

"No doubt, being favored by him is unpleasant enough," Elladan grumped as he gave up on his hair and flipped it back over his shoulder, "By the way, what did you want to see me for?"

"It is Brego's fate that I wish to speak with you about," Elrohir began, crossing his arms absently as he raked his gaze across his mount. "Mithrandir's Fellowship will not be taking horses upon its fool's quest, thus I will have to leave him here."

Elladan nodded, noting Elrohir's already apparent mental separation from the Fellowship he was meant to be a part of, but not really surprised by it. If the Grey Pilgrim wanted his twin's full participation in this endeavor the wizard was going to have to fight for it the entire way, and good luck to him too. He was going to need it.

"I do not expect to return to Imladris, nor do I plan to," Elrohir explained further as he began to scratch self-consciously at one of his elbow, "And while a more steadfast steed I could not ask for, nor a better friend, I know that he grows weary of the continual conflict I keep dragging him into."

"World weariness is not limited to us elves," Elladan said simply in understanding.

"No, it is not," Elrohir chuckled humorlessly, "I must leave him soon, but I don't want to abandon him. He deserves better than that." Giving himself a little shake, Elrohir stood up straighter and locked his eyes with his twin, "I want you to take him with you when you leave. He deserves peace, the peace that I cannot give him but that you can."

"Of course," Elladan murmured quietly as he reached up and scratched gently at Brego's muzzle, "I'm honored that you would entrust something so precious into my keeping."

"I trust you implicitly, Elladan, nothing can change that," Elrohir said flatly and frowned, "And I trust that you'll make the right decision in the end."

Elladan blinked in surprise, shooting his twin a suspicious glance before returning his attention to Brego. Had Elrohir guessed about his decision to not sail? Surely not, no one else had figured it out as of yet and their bond was still encased in ice. Then again, they hadn't always needed their soul-deep connection to know each other's mind. Perhaps there was something of the Elrohir of old that still remained.


The room, if it could even be called that, that housed the Shards of Narsil did not, in any way, fit his idea of a proper shrine for such a legendary artifact. It wasn't even really a room proper, it could better be described as a glorified balcony, or a porch, for that matter. It was not, in Boromir's opinion, an appropriate resting place for something so very important to the history of Middle-earth. Granted, the elven architecture was breath-taking -but that could easily be said of every structure in Rivendell-, and the murals depicting the Last Alliance were without peer. If only Faramir were with him, surely his brother could have wheedled the identify of the master painter out of the elves, and then somehow convinced said personage to come back to Minas Tirith with them. It had to have been an elf who did the work, and since elves lived forever -supposedly-, surely the fellow was still around somewhere.

Boromir sighed as he gazed longingly at the mural that portrayed Isildur, his father's shattered sword in hand, standing against the looming shadow of Sauron. That a man, a simple man -well, a Numenorean, but still mostly a man-, stood up against such oppressive might should give hope to mankind. Instead, it seemed of late, that people, while eager to feel pride upon the accomplishments of others, were even more eager to forget the strengths of will and determination that were the true foundations of such. They could use reminders such as this, though perhaps he was giving them too much credit. It was just a painting, after all, it could only convey as much meaning as the observer was willing to accept.

It would have still looked good in the citadel, though. It was a pity that Faramir's absence prevented any possibility of that. Oh well.

Shaking his head at the lost opportunity, Boromir turned his attention to the statue that he knew held the shards. It was an odd altar, if serenely beautiful, but it served its purpose well. Though, he did wonder exactly what the elves did when it rained. Surely they didn't leave the broken sword out in the elements, then again, the elves were a bit odd when it came to nature. Still, he hadn't seen any evidence of weathering when last he had come to view this particular piece of history, so perhaps the elves had things well in hand after all.

Boromir stepped closer to the statue and frowned. Everything was as it had been during his last visit, though that had been over a week past now. The statue's arms were still held out in supplication, still holding up the surface upon which a cloth of silk was stretched, but where once the Shards of Narsil lay, now there was nothing. Where was the Sword that was Broken?

Chewing nervously on his bottom lip, Boromir glanced around in confusion. The elves must have removed it for some reason or another, though hopefully not because of his interest in it. They hadn't seemed overly suspicious of him -And really, who would be fool enough to steal something like that from the elves? Dream or no dream.-, but that didn't mean much. He had enough trouble reading his fellow man, trying to figure out what the elves were thinking was an effort in futility. But no, the Grey Wizard had said that the broken sword belonged to Aragorn, so surely the elves wouldn't have done anything with the shards without the ranger's permission.

Aragorn would know. He should ask him. Nodding decisively at that, Boromir took one more glance around the room before turning to head out. He halted in mid-stride when what he had glimpsed finally registered in his mind. Whirling back around, he stared hard into the darkness of the far corner. It was partly blocked by the statue and the columns, but yes, there was someone sitting over there, someone who was fast becoming familiar to him.


Seek and you shall find. Boromir thought as he strode over towards the corner, feeling just a slight tinge of irritation. The ranger must have been watching him the entire time, but no, Aragorn didn't even seem to be paying one whit of attention to the rest of the surrounding area. The ranger was instead staring out into the ink black vista, his chin resting upon his hand, his elbow propped upon the balustrade. Aragorn's brows were drawn together in deep concentration and a frown marred his lips. One of his legs was crossed upon the other, and the ranger's free hand rest tensely upon a sword laid out across his lap.

"Aragorn?" Boromir ventured warily. During the planning sessions for the quest, he had noticed that the ranger could descend into frightening intensities of thought when they were called for, some that could be almost as disturbing as the elf's, but this seemed different. There was something about the Dunadan's expression that made him uneasy.

Aragorn blinked, then glanced around in abject surprise. What was Boromir doing there? When had he gotten there? Why hadn't he noticed? For that matter, what time was it? Aragorn glanced around again, noting the weak, dull glow of the moon peaking through high up in the clouds. By the looks of it, it was quite late. Great, just great. He had just spent a better portion of the night mulling over a decision that he didn't even have to make just yet. He might not even have to make it, the chances of any of them surviving the quest weren't all that good, after all. Still, knowing his luck he'd have to make it at the worst possible moment, so pondering upon it now was probably better done sooner rather than later.

Valar, but he didn't want to be a king.

Giving himself a mental slap, Aragorn shoved all of those particularly troublesome thoughts into a back corner of his mind and schooled his expression into something bordering upon pleasant, or at the very least, helpful. "Is there something I can do for you, Boromir?" Aragorn asked the Gondorian genially.

Boromir cocked an eyebrow in pure skepticism. That abrupt shift in the ranger's expression and mood fairly screamed 'Something's bothering me, but I don't want to talk about it!' to him. "Is there something wrong?" he inquired cautiously.

Aragorn barely avoided grimacing. Of course, Boromir would notice that he was out of sorts, he was practically projecting gloom and doom. Really, if Elladan could see him now he'd probably start worrying over what could possibly make Aragorn start emulating Elrohir. And wasn't that a lovely thought. "Nothing more than the usual," Aragorn answered cryptically, his fingers unconsciously clenching tighter around the sword in his lap.

Boromir frowned, debating with himself over what to do. Should he pry? Were they anywhere else, or if it was any other acquaintance that he had made of late -well, mostly the hobbits and the dwarves, definitely not the elves-, he wouldn't have hesitated on pressing the subject. However, this place, the elven... ness about it, made him feel like a little toddler if he even stepped wrong; so prodding somebody who was looked upon well by the elves would just make it that much worse. "As you say," he finally relented.

Aragorn smiled affably and thanked the Valar that Boromir hadn't attempted to make him open up or anything. He just wasn't in the mood for that. "Did you need anything?" he queried in an attempt to cut through the remaining tension.

Boromir blinked in confusion for a moment before remembering what had brought him there in the first place. "Oh, yes, I was wondering if you knew what had happened to the Shards of Nar-" He stopped in mid-word as he finally looked, really looked, at the sword that Aragorn was holding. "Is that-" he began in wonder, but couldn't quite make himself complete that question either.

Aragorn glanced down, brushing his hand up along the hilt. Ah yes, the sword that was the crux of his problem. Of course Boromir would recognize it. "Aye, tis Narsil reforged," he answered plainly.

"But how?" Boromir murmured in shocked awe. He had never imagined such a thing could come to pass.

"It was meant to be remade anew when Isildur's Bane was found," Aragorn explained, again barely keeping himself from grimacing, "As Lord Elrond was kind enough to remind me."

"I see," Boromir gazed longingly down at the blade, his fingers clutching at the air as he desperately tried to rein in the urge to lay hands upon such an integral part of his land's history. He shook his head at himself a moment later. Really, he was acting like a child who had just seen his first bit of candy. No, he would be respectable, even if it killed him, but... he still wanted to touch it. Gesturing helplessly at the sword, he hesitantly asked, "May I?"

Aragorn considered saying no for a few moments. It was a sword of kings, even if he wasn't one nor wanted to be one. But, who was he to say no? The sword that had once been broken represented something infinitely precious to the Gondorian, perhaps even more so than it did to him. And, to say no now would be selfish of him, his wasn't the only destiny that may yet be carved out of the weave of fate by this particular blade. Nodding his silent assent, Aragorn offered the sword hilt first to Boromir.

Boromir couldn't resist a giddy grin as he wrapped his hands around the hilt and reverently drew the sword from its sheath. The mirror sheen of the blade instantly caught every available source of light and reflected them in coruscating waves. "Amazing," Boromir said breathily in veneration, "Tis truly a sword of legend. Never have I seen such a beautiful sight. It is as if it is lit from within by a silver flame."

Aragorn smiled indulgently at Boromir's admiration of the sword. The Gondorian was right, it was magnificent work, but he hadn't been able to feel the same way about it. At least, not since he had left his father's company. When he was with Elrond he could forget all that it entailed for him, the choices that it would demand from him, and thus could properly admire its beauty. But ever since he had left his father's study, he had not been able to do that. He hadn't even been able to think of a proper name for it. He'd been too busy wallowing in despair over what was to come.

"You know," Boromir said thoughtfully, an almost lulling note in his voice catching the ranger's full attention, "This light... it is almost like the one that Faramir and I saw in our dream. The light that rose from the west to combat the darkness of Mordor." He blinked blankly for a moment, as if he had lost his thread of thought, before turning a bewildered gaze upon Aragorn. "I wonder if it is the same."

Aragorn bit the inside of his cheek to hold back the hysterical laugh that he felt bubbling up at Boromir's words. Ah yes, prophetic dreams. He should have known. He could feel it in the air, the weight of something important that was about to pass, something that must be. All he needed now was Gandalf popping out of the woodwork and muttering something nonsensical to make it perfect. Why did it have to be him?

Aragorn sighed helplessly at the words his mind eagerly latched onto. They were important words, an important name. "Flame of the West," he mumbled quietly as he smothered his hysteria. If it was meant to be, then it was meant to be. But it would only mean as much as he let it, just as Elrond had said. Thank you, father.

Boromir raised an eyebrow curiously at the ranger's words. What was he going on about?

"Anduril," Aragorn explained, answering Boromir's unvoiced question while he gestured pointedly at the newly named sword that the Gondorian still held, "The Flame of the West. That shall be its name."


Elrohir hummed in appreciation as he pulled on his new dark brown overcoat, the final piece to the new attire that he had requested of the Rivendell tailors. The Mirkwood warrior's garb that he had favored of late had served him well, but it wouldn't work quite so well along the path that Mithrandir had chosen. The garb of the rangers, in their deep browns and blacks, suited the Misty Mountains better. They'd probably prove better for concealment in Mordor as well, assuming he could stand this fool's quest long enough to get that far.

The fit was perfect, though that wasn't much of a surprise. They had most likely still had his measurements on record somewhere, and barring that they could have just used Elladan's measurements. Physically, he hadn't changed much at all since he had left those many years ago. Of course, that was probably the only aspect of him that was still the same as it had once been. Too much else had changed. Too much of him had grown cold, grown hard, or simply grown weary.

A soft knock on his bedroom door thankfully prevented him from going further down that particular thread of thoughts. Elrohir's lips quirked up slightly at the corners as he called out, "You can come in, it's open." He had a pretty good idea of who this was.

The door slowly creaked open a bit and the head of his little sister hesitantly peeked out from behind it. She glanced around the room, noting Elrohir's singular presence, then smiled happily and slipped through the doorway and into the room. She held a finger over her lips, forestalling any questions on his part about her behavior, as she pushed the door closed and listened carefully to whatever lay beyond it. Finally satisfied with whatever it was that she was doing, Arwen nodded and strode over to join him by the bed.

"What are you up to?" Elrohir asked curiously as he crossed his arms.

"I just wanted to make sure that I got here first," Arwen answered innocently enough, "There's no telling how long father or Elladan will take once they get here."

"What?" Elrohir frowned in some confusion, "What are they coming here for?"

"Really, Elrohir, you can be so dense," Arwen admonished, her eyes sparkling in amusement, "Of course, they're going to come see you tonight. The Fellowship is leaving shortly after dawn tomorrow. They're not going to want to say their goodbyes in front of all of those people."

"Oh," Elrohir said dumbly and grimaced. He should have thought of that. Though, he did have his doubts about Elladan coming to say his farewells. Why would his brother want to subject himself to more pain if he could avoid it?

Arwen shook her head in mild exasperation. Despite all that had happened, all that had changed him so very much from the brother she had known, Elrohir still had his moments of familiar cluelessness, rare though they were. It gave her hope, a meager hope, but hope all the same.

Her gaze fell to the floor and Arwen began twisting her fingers together nervously as she recalled all that she had wanted to say to him, all that she had wanted to do, but... she couldn't. She couldn't say the words, her tongue was too heavy and her throat too constricted with sorrow to rasp them out. She couldn't take him into her arms to comfort him, she feared that she would start crying and never stop. She couldn't even shake him or slap him to try and make him see reason, it was too late for that. He was too far removed from them now, too distant for her to reach. She could do nothing for him now but say goodbye and wish him well.

No, that was incorrect. There was something else left that she could do.

"Arwen, are you all right?" Elrohir frowned at his sister's continuing silence. She had never spoken to him about her decision to sail, but it obviously still weighed heavily upon her. No doubt, his presence only succeeded in making it worse, and perhaps he was even one of the mitigating reasons that had decided her.

"I am well enough," Arwen whispered as she slowly reached up and unclasped the silver chain from around her neck. She held it up before her face, staring long and hard at the pendant dangling from it, the one that she had worn for so very long now. Her Evenstar. It would do. She gave her brother a watery smile as she reached over and swiftly secured it around his neck.

"There," she murmured softly as she brushed her fingers down across the glimmering jewel, "Now you will have something of me to take with you when you go."

"Arwen," Elrohir began, clasping her hand within his own, "I do not need a necklace for that."

"Then I am glad," Arwen said quietly, a tear trickling down her cheek despite her desire to not weep in front of him. She had not wanted his last memory of her to be marred so. "But take it with you anyway."

"As you wish," Elrohir responded simply in acceptance. He knew better than to argue with her about it, to do so would only cause her more grief.

Arwen opened her mouth, unsure of what she was going to say to him, but needing to say something, anything. A soft sound from out in the hallway prevented that. Snapping her jaws shut, she cocked her head and gazed suspiciously at the door. The sound came again and she knew her time was up. Their father was coming and Arwen knew that she did not have the strength to stay and witness his pain as well. It would be her undoing.

Squaring her shoulders, Arwen wiped the stray tear from her cheek then placed her hand upon his chest, just above his heart. "Be well, my brother," she said evenly, proud that she could at least manage this without breaking down, "Or at the very least, try."

"Arwen-" Elrohir started to deny the possibility of that, but was instantly cut off.

"Do not say it," Arwen declared sharply. She was quite sure that she could not stand to hear him say nay to her words, not and retain the small hope she still had left. "This is not the end for us, Elrohir, tis only an interruption." She smiled tremulously as she reached up and brushed her fingertips across his cheek. "We will see each other again. Someday."

She stared at him for several more moments, studying his face, searing it into her mind's eye so that she could take it with her when she departed these shores. He was right, they did not need an object to carry something of the other with them, but she did not regret her gift to him. It would shine for as long as it was needed, forever perhaps.

When at last she could stand no more, Arwen turned away from her brother and walked purposefully towards the door. She did not look back as she pulled it open, she did not need to.

Elrohir watched his sister leave in silence. There was nothing more that could be said between them, nothing more that wouldn't cause harm. She would find peace soon enough upon the shores of Aman, where she would join their mother and be free of the darkness infesting Middle-earth. They would all be there... eventually.

He waited patiently and was soon rewarded by the hushed sounds of a brief conversation wafting in from the hallway. It was their father's turn to say his farewells and perhaps more. Elrond was not pleased with his addition to Mithrandir's Fellowship, he knew this, but he was and there was no altering that at this particular point in time. The Grey Wizard would never shut up if he changed his mind now.

Several seconds passed and then a gentle knock upon his door proceeded it being pushed open again. Elrond knew that his son was aware of his presence, so there was no need for the triviality of requesting entrance. Besides, even on the off chance that Elrohir would bade him go away he still would have entered. He needed to see his son this one last time alone. No matter what small bits of hope that Mithrandir had tried to give to him, he could not accept them. The despair had lingered too long in his family for that.

They eyed each other carefully, trying to gauge the other's mood, as Elrond walked over to the bed and wearily sat down upon its edge. The elder elf arched an eyebrow, taking in his son's interesting choice of garb, and smiled slightly, "You look like a ranger."

Elrohir glanced down at himself and absently fingered the edge of his new overcoat. "It seemed the best suited for where we will be heading."

"Of course," Elrond said vaguely, his gaze growing sharp as he spied the familiar necklace hanging from his son's neck. "I find myself at odds with myself," Elrond began uneasily, his expression becoming troubled as he continued, "I would ask that you remain, but I know that is an impossibility now. Part of me wants to demand that you do so, but I cannot do that either. You are not an elfling, nor have you been one for a very long time now. I cannot force you to obey my will, and to be perfectly honest, I would not want you to either. Thus, I am at a loss of what to do."

"Just let me go, father," Elrohir sighed, tucking the Evenstar away beneath the layers of his shirt and coats. "I am confident that you will weather whatever fate has left to throw at you. You have already borne so much of it already, there cannot be much more left to it. And when the time comes, you will sail to join mother and the others in the Undying Lands. You deserve that amount of peace, at the very least."

"I suppose that is all that is left to me now," Elrond murmured hopelessly, "But you will not be there."

"No, not for some time," Elrohir quirked his lips in a cheerless smile, "It will be awhile yet, but the Valar willing, it will not take too long."

"You'll forgive me if I am not overjoyed at that prospect," Elrond muttered sourly and crossed his arms. "But if it must be, then it will be. There is little I can do to change it now." He scowled darkly for a moment then lowered his chin slightly in thought as something else occurred to him. "There is something I can still ask of you though."

"Really?" Elrohir cocked an eyebrow in curiosity, thankful that his father's gloom had dissipated just a tiny bit at what was probably a change of subject. "And what would that be?"

"It is about Estel," Elrond explained as he reached up and rubbed his chin in contemplation, "I would like for you to watch out for him."

"I would do so anyway," Elrohir responded quickly, a small amount of surprise evident in his voice. Elrond did not think that he would ignore his human brother, despite their having known each other for such a short amount of time, did he? "You need not ask."

"Do not take offense," Elrond said, his tone calm and even to settle any possible ruffled feathers on the part of his son, "It is not in the physical sense that I am asking. I want you to watch out for Estel where Mithrandir is concerned."

Elrohir blinked blankly in confusion for several seconds, before he simply asked, "Why?"

"It is not that I do not trust our old friend," Elrond attempted to clarify, "Out of all of the Istar he has been the most caring. But I fear that he is more inclined to the greater good rather than Estel's feelings on one particular subject, and I am not fool enough to believe that the 'greater good' has my sons' best interests in mind." He smiled humorlessly to himself then, realizing that Elrohir would not catch the plural in his words. "I am afraid that in his typical meddling, Mithrandir may prematurely force your brother into making a decision he is not yet ready to decide upon."

"You know," Elrohir offered almost flippantly, "Killing him would effectively solve some of our more pressing problems where wizards are concerned."

"Probably," Elrond grumbled, "But the Valar would most likely frown upon getting rid of one of their more useful servants."

Several seconds passed in mutual silence before Elrohir asked, "Are you sure he's useful?"


The evening was truly beginning to wane when Elrohir received his last visitor for the night. He had dimmed all the glows earlier and had retired to the balcony, knowing that he would get no rest that night nor really caring to. It was not as if he needed it, being an elf did have its advantages. And time... well, time had become something of a meaningless march of events leading into other pointless events, ones that he just could not care for. This night, however, was a bit different as it was the last night that he ever intended to spend in Imladris, his home, so perhaps he had reason enough to not sleep and time well enough to waste.

No sounds came in from the hallway, and surprisingly, the door did not even creak once as it was slowly pushed open, but Elrohir did not need to hear anything to know that someone was entering his room. A warrior did not live long while fighting the evils of Middle- earth if they were not attuned enough to their environment to notice the changes in it, and he had been at war with so much of that darkness -and himself- without pause and for so long that by now it wasn't just second nature, it was his nature.

Elladan made not a sound, no soft brush of clothing or even a muffled sigh of breath, as he slipped through the doorway and tiptoed over towards the bed. He frowned thoughtfully as he drew near it, Elrohir's bed had obviously not been used at all recently. It was still well made, the sheets and blankets drawn up impeccably so that there was nary a sign of wrinkles. That did not surprise him though, it was simply another symptom of the overlying problems. They had never been quite what anyone could have called exceptionally neat before, but why should that remain the same when so much else had changed?

Elladan's frown tightened into a thin line as he glanced around the room and discovered his twin watching him from the balcony. "Have you had no rest at all this night?"

"No, but it is of no matter. I slept well enough the previous night," Elrohir explained as he straightened up and moved to join his brother inside, "And we are elves, after all, such an inconsequential thing as a sleepless night is not much of a problem for us."

"I suppose not," Elladan mumbled as he looked away and began nervously bouncing his fist against his hip. He had been hoping to find Elrohir asleep, but as that was not the case he no longer knew what he was doing there. No doubt, his twin did not desire or have any need of his company. That was no longer a part of who they were now.

"I did not think that you would come," Elrohir said conversationally before the silence between them could become even more uncomfortable.

"Neither did I," Elladan replied with a weak chuckle. "I wasn't really planning to either. But..." he shrugged then and shook his head, "I don't know. It doesn't matter now anyway."

"It does," Elrohir sighed heavily as he took a step closer to Elladan, "But it won't change the future. The past has already set our course."

"No, it won't," Elladan murmured softly, the nearness of his twin slowly lulling him into a sense of fragile comfort. This was all that was left for them now, all that they were. Hesitantly, he reached up and slid his arms around his brother, drawing them both into a chill embrace. He lay his chin gently upon Elrohir's shoulder and smiled bitterly as he felt his brother return the gesture. "It will never be like this again for us, will it?"

"No, it will not," Elrohir smiled cheerlessly as he almost parroted his twin's earlier words. Closing his eyes wearily, he tightened his grasp as Elladan held onto him in nigh desperation. "It will not be like this ever again. This uncertainty will pass, and either we will find our way, in the end, or it will be lost to us completely."

"It's something to hope for at least," Elladan muttered morosely, remembering those same helpless words from long ago. He couldn't quite believe them anymore, if he had ever believed them in the first place, but what else was there left to him?

"Time will tell the tale, Elladan," Elrohir sighed again, though this time more in mild contentment than anything else. Their embrace may have begun chilled, but Elladan's warmth was quite suddenly affording his twin an unexpected pleasure. He had been much too cold for far too long... and he should have come back much sooner. Maybe the majority of the grief he had caused could all have been avoided if he hadn't been such a stubborn fool. But he had wasted his chances, he could only hope now that Elladan did not waste his own.


Aragorn stifled a groan as he shouldered his packs and effusively thanked the Valar that Sam had convinced Gandalf to allow the hobbit to bring his pony, Bill, along. Of course, the convincing had been more along the lines of out-arguing the old wizard -as unbelievable as that sounded-, but either way Aragorn was quite thankful for it. He hadn't been looking forward to trudging all the way from Rivendell to Mordor while carrying all of the supplies necessary for such a journey. Granted, it could be done. He had tromped around a good deal of the northern lands of Middle-earth carrying all of his gear more than a few times when the situation called for it. But if that could be avoided, then he was all for whatever it took to do so. Horses, or in this case, ponies were such marvelous creatures at making life that much easier.

He gave the room a thorough once over, to make sure that he wasn't forgetting anything, before heading to the door. Aragorn reached for the latch, but hesitated at the last moment and turned around, leaning back against the bedroom door. This was his room. It had been his room for as long as he could remember. When he was small his mother had often been joined by Elrond and Elladan in sometimes futile attempts to put him to bed. They had watched over him, soothing away his fears when night terrors had him screaming awake at odd hours of the night. It was in this room where his human sicknesses and frequent bruises and scrapes had been tended; and it was here where they would come to when he was a teenager and attempt to entice him to dinner on the numerous occasions he would be holed up and sulking over something stupid.

This was his room. This was his home. He had often been absent from it the past few decades, but it continued to remain the same. But somehow... somehow Aragorn got the feeling that he wouldn't ever see it again, or that if he did it would be different. Something was going to change soon, for better or worse, and then nothing would be the same ever again.

Aragorn shook his head, pushed off from the door and turned around, gripping the latch resolutely. This was foolishness. Even if everything changed, it would still be home to him as long as he held the memories of it in his heart. Only he could change that. He still hesitated though, giving the room one more long, doleful glance over his shoulder before pulling the door open and stepping out into the hallway. There was an end here, somehow he couldn't deny that. There was just something in the air that informed him of it, something that couldn't be ignored.

Sighing at his oncoming melancholy, Aragorn pulled the door closed behind him and with an almost palpable feel of finality headed down the hallway. He didn't get very far. Elladan and Arwen lay in wait for him at the first corner, bringing their 'little' brother to a rather abrupt halt.

"What are you two doing up here?" Aragorn asked as he eyed them both suspiciously. Both were poised and pleasant looking, but there was a frisson of tension below the surface that he doubted even one of the hobbits -who could be utterly oblivious at times- could miss.

"We were waiting for you, Estel," Arwen smiled brightly as she stepped forward, "We will not be attending the Fellowship's departure, thus we must make our farewells in our own time beforehand."

"Oh," Aragorn said dumbly and fidgeted. Why had he even asked? It was kind of obvious now that he thought about it. They wouldn't want to watch as Elrohir left them behind again. Some things were just too painful to bear. "Well... uh..."

Arwen chuckled lightly as she reached up and cupped his cheeks, kissing him once upon each before leaning back slightly and gazing deep into his eyes. "This is one regret that shall always be with me," she murmured softly as she stroked her thumb along the edges of his beard, "Being gone from home for so long that I missed out on knowing my littlest brother."

"It is well, Arwen," Aragorn said comfortingly as he covered one of her hands with one of his own, "I am simply glad that I finally got the chance to meet you."

Arwen frowned, her eyes flickering over Aragorn's face as if she was search for something elusive. "I fear this is the last that we will ever see of each other," she whispered after a moment, slipping her hand from his grasp and laying it over his heart as she allowed the other to drop to her side. "Live well, Estel."

"Goodbye Arwen," Aragorn mumbled simply, his voice catching as he leaned down and placed a kiss upon her brow. "Find your peace."

Tears glimmered in her eyes as she smiled again and reached up to caress his cheek one last time. It was a regret full of grief, but it was one among many. There were too many of them now that could not be shed, too many that drove her to the sea. Nodding at last, Arwen stepped back, and with one final look, turned and headed back down the hallway, leaving Aragorn alone with Elladan.

Aragorn silently watched as she walked away and couldn't help but feel as if something infinitely precious was slipping through his fingers. He couldn't really explain why, or even how he knew, but somehow he just knew that this, all of this, had never been meant to pass, had never been meant to be. But what had been meant to be, he couldn't say.

Elladan moved beside Aragorn while the ranger's attention was focused upon their sister and placed a steadying hand upon his brother's shoulder. "It will be well, Estel," he said softly in comfort.

"No," Aragorn shook his head sadly before shifting to face his elven brother, "No, I don't think that it will be. But I can hope, I'm good at that."

Elladan grinned at that, "Yes, I suppose you are." He took a step back and looked Aragorn over from head to toe before asking in a vague tone, "When did you grow up on me?"

Aragorn laughed outright as he answered, "When you were dragging me in and out of trouble, no doubt. I still have some scars left over from those years too if you need visual aids to help you remember."

Elladan sniffed scornfully in false offense, "I did no such thing. I would never hurt my baby brother. No, you did that all on your own, you clumsy brat."

Aragorn snorted in abject disbelief as he reached over and yanked Elladan into a tight embrace. "A likely story."

"Mhmm," Elladan hummed in contentment as he rest his chin upon Aragorn's shoulder and closed his eyes. It had always been like this between them, even on the rare occasions when they fought. It had always been comfortable, always easy. He never had to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing around Estel, because he knew that even if he did he would always have the chance to make amends. There was fear, of course, whenever his human brother left home, fear that he would run into trouble -and usually did-, but it didn't crush Elladan's spirit. The ranger had always returned home without fail, even when it meant dragging a few injured limbs the entire way.

This was what he missed with Elrohir. But no, that wasn't quite right. It was something even more than this that he had lost when his twin had left him behind. Half of his soul was missing still and he couldn't figure out how to get it back.

Mentally shaking his head at his own self-pitying thoughts, Elladan abruptly shoved them into the back of his mind. This moment was not about himself or his twin, it was about Estel. He would not bog it down with thoughts of what had been lost so long ago. "Take care of yourself, Estel," Elladan said finally as he moved back, but retained a strong grip upon his brother's shoulders, "And I will see you again, hopefully, someday soon."

"Be well, Elladan," Aragorn mumbled around a heavy tongue and a tight throat. He would not weep now. He wouldn't. He would be strong. This, at least, was not an end, not in the least. They would meet again. "I'll look forward to the day when I will see you again."


The courtyard was bustling with activity by the time Aragorn arrived. Sam was still in the process of securing packs and supplies upon a rather uninterested looking Bill. The pony flicked an ear at the ranger as Aragorn passed several of his own packs over to Sam, who grumbled good-naturedly about all the stuff getting piled up on his pony but accepted them nonetheless. Frodo, who hovered nearby, gave a muted nod of greeting. Merry and Pippin were clustered around Boromir, who was regaling them about something or other but would occasionally look up and share a rather chill glare with Elrohir. That didn't look promising. Aragorn couldn't help but do a double-take upon his first glance at the elf's attire. Save for the ears and the almost imperceptible elven glow -which he was probably the only one in the company who would notice-, Elrohir could have easily passed for one of the band of rangers Aragorn typically traveled with. He... didn't know what to make of that. It was certainly different.

Gandalf, meanwhile, stood closer to the main doors to the Last Homely House, having what appeared to be something of an animated chat with a rather unaffected looking Elrond. Glorfindel and Erestor stood off to the side watching the proceedings with bored interest. Aragorn briefly wondered if his father had gotten the wizard back yet for the prank. Probably not, since Gandalf didn't look anywhere near as discomfited as he would have been otherwise.

Aragorn was about to join his father and the wizard, but was stopped when the Seneschal and Chief Advisor broke off their observation of their lord and the Istar in favor of harassing him. Glorfindel smiled in good cheer as they drew near and quipped, "Well Estel, you will soon be departing our company on yet another Valar forsaken journey."

"Where you will no doubt get yourself half-killed in yet another one of those stupid stunts that you seem so eager to pull," Erestor finished blandly for his golden-haired friend. They both shared a similar put upon expression before the advisor thrust a small, somewhat hefty seeming, satchel into Aragorn's arms.

"Three bottles of miruvor ought to get you to Mordor and back in one piece, if not completely whole," Glorfindel explained as Aragorn glared at them both in annoyance.

"And if not," Erestor shrugged, giving off the disaffected air of someone who would wash their hands clean of the whole affair if Aragorn's luck turned for naught, "Then there really is no hope for you after all."

"I'll do my best," Aragorn grumbled in exasperation, barely keeping his balance as Glorfindel clapped him heartily on the back.

"Be careful, Estel," Erestor cautioned, all mannerisms of non-caring shed from him for the moment, "And be wary of Mithrandir's counsel. The wizard may indeed be wise, but in tenuous situations he is just like the rest of us. He too can die. Heed his words, but do not let them override your own minimal sense of self-preservation."

Aragorn blinked in surprise, but nodded his understanding and was rewarded by a soft smile from the usually dour advisor. Glorfindel gave him one more pat on the back, this one much gentler than the last, before steering his fellow elf back towards the main hall of the Last Homely House. The ribbing and snipes from them had become their usual send off for him over the years. They never said an outright farewell to him and probably never would, it was as if they ignored the very concept of such a thing altogether. Not that he minded, he rather looked forward to a bit of humor -even if it was at his own expense- before heading off on a long journey.

Shaking his head, Aragorn continued on his original course and soon stepped surreptitiously up besides his father as Gandalf apparently wound down on whatever point he was trying to make. Elrond spared his son a rather bored seeming look before returning his attention to the wizard.

"So really, there's nothing at all to worry about," Gandalf said reassuringly, though the hard grip he maintained upon his staff belied his tone, "Even if the worst comes to pass, things should still run smoothly enough."

"Of course they will," Elrond responded blandly while his expression grew even more bored looking, if that were even possible.

"Yet you do not seem to be very convinced," Gandalf alleged carefully. The elf lord's behavior was setting off more than a few warning bells, but he wasn't quite sure what it was leading up to. He had been, surprisingly, unmolested the past few days, which was very surprising considering what he had done to Elrond's study door. The other shoe had yet to drop and that made him more than a little nervous.

"Oh, it is not that," Elrond smiled pleasantly, though it did have an edge to it, "I am simply distracted."

"Distracted," Gandalf repeated slowly and frowned. That wasn't the answer he had been expecting, not in the least. Had something else happened without his knowing? "Distracted by what?"

"Why, by the many conversations we shall be having in the future," Elrond replied, his eyes widening slightly as if his answer was the most obvious thing ever, "You know of what I speak, the many, long discussions that we shall be having about suicidal wizards who place foolish curses upon the doors of unsuspecting elf lords."

"Right, of course, silly me," Gandalf grumbled as he tipped his hat at the oh so very innocent looking elf lord in question and whirled around, "I'll be sure to find a bottomless pit to fall down on the way back."

"You do that," Elrond called cheerfully after the retreating back of the disgruntled wizard. Content that he had the upper hand, for the moment, the elf turned his attention to his snickering human son. "Well?"

"You realize that he'll be spending all of his free time worrying about what you have in store for him?" Aragorn managed as he attempted and eventually succeeded in swallowing his laughter.

"Of course, that is half the point," Elrond explained as he reached up and fondly clasped Aragorn's shoulder. His good cheer faltered almost immediately as he studied the human he had taken in so long ago, the one who had easily become family to him in more than just name. After a few moments, Elrond's brows drew together in uncertainty as he hesitantly asked, "Will you return home after this journey, be it good or ill?"

"Of course," Aragorn said strongly in reassurance, shifting the satchel full of miruvor so that he could free up one hand. Reaching up, he softly clasped his fingers around his father's. "You need not ask."

"I do not know why," Elrond murmured, casting a weary glance over towards Elrohir before returning his attention to Aragorn, "But I feel that I must. I feel... as if fate is being rewritten even as we speak. Change is coming, a great many changes, and I fear that we may not even be able to recognize ourselves when it has all come to pass."

"Even so," Aragorn said soothingly, gently squeezing the elven fingers held within his own, "You will still be my father and this will still be my home."

Elrond smiled softly at Aragorn's words. "You are right, that cannot be changed. But I can't help but fear what may come." He shook his head, forestalling any further retorts and reassurances from his son. "Just be careful, Estel, and come back alive. Do not let this be our final farewell," he whispered sadly as he stepped forward and wrapped Aragorn in a comfortingly familiar embrace.

"It won't be," Aragorn vowed as he gazed out at the courtyard over his father's shoulder, his eyes unerringly falling upon his newest brother, who was watching them with an unfathomable expression. Not for any of us.


Elladan had never been one for lurking around in the gardens. Admittedly, the flowers were nice and he had a great deal of fond memories from playing around in them, but fond memories often caused more harm in their remembrance of late than comfort. The pain had begun after their mother's rescue and had continued from there. After she had healed, though only in the physical sense, she had spent nearly every waking hour out in the gardens... hiding from them.

Twirling a small white flower between his fingers, Elladan leaned back against his mother's willow tree and glanced up into the hanging branches. It had not really been his mother's tree originally. In fact, it hadn't ever really been anyone's tree back then. His father had insisted that a willow tree be planted in this spot for one reason or another, much to the consternation of anyone with any sort of sense where plants were concerned. The location wasn't near any water, and in fact, the soil for this particular area was some of the driest in the valley. Yet, his father had insisted that the tree had to be right there and that it had to be a willow tree. Some foreknowledge, Elladan supposed, had told his father that it would be needed but not the why of it.

The why for it, they had all eventually discovered, much to their despair. It was to this tree that Celebrian had retreated, and it was to this tree that they had come in the dark hours of twilight to try and bring her back home. Sometimes they had been successful, oft times they had not. She had forbore sleep in her anguish, dreading the terror that her dreams had visited upon her over and over again. She had stayed awake for days on end, huddled beneath her willow tree, barely touching the food that they had offered her. Only when her exhaustion had afforded her a dreamless sleep, an empty relief, had they been able to part their mother from her tree and take her within to her bed. But she did not stay there. She had not stayed.

He had not intended to come here, but Arwen had wished for him to accompany her while she checked over the bushes in this part of the gardens and he could not deny her. Nor could he remain by her side it seemed, for at the first opportunity given he had wandered off and eventually found his rest beneath his mother's tree. It was strange, really, for willow trees did not live so long. It was rare for them to even flourish for a century's time, yet this one had remained for nearly six hundred years. The power his father possessed could not have kept it alive for so long, not unless it had reason to stay. And perhaps that was the only explanation necessary. It had given his mother comfort when she had so desperately needed it, perhaps she had not been the only one meant to gain benefit from its presence. There may yet be someone else who would have need of it.

"You remind me of mother," Arwen said quietly as she kneeled down in front of him and dropped an armful of flowers into his lap. She smiled sadly as his gaze finally dropped from the tree branches and focused on her. "Have you returned now?"

Elladan tilted his head slightly in vague confusion. "I've been here the entire time, as you well know, sister, for I did not wander far from you."

Arwen snorted indelicately and shook her head. "You know that I did not mean that in the literal sense. And nay, you were not here, not in the least. You were somewhere else. A far distance from here, I'd wager. The past, perhaps."

Quirking up a corner of his mouth, Elladan looked down at the flowers covering his lap in varying shades of white, pinks and blues. "Possibly, but it is of no matter. I am here now and you have been busy."

"Aye, quite busy indeed," Arwen agreed absently as she reached down and, after a moment's decision, selected a frilly little pale pink blossom with a long stem. Grinning impishly, she slid the stem behind one of her brother's ears then gently caressed his cheek. "Do you remember? Before she departed, mother put flowers in their room."

"I remember," Elladan nodded, his eyes clouding at the memory, "Father managed to keep them alive for years." Elrond had used Vilya's power to do so, but Elladan wasn't fool enough to mention such in passing.

"I thought I might put some flowers in each of our rooms," Arwen murmured as she skirted her fingertips lightly down to his chin. "We will leave soon. You cannot remain like this for much longer."

Elladan sighed and closed his eyes, leaning ever more heavily against the tree trunk. He wanted to reassure her that everything was fine with him, but he just couldn't seem to muster the energy needed to do so. "I am just tired, Arwen. That is all."

"Of course you are." Arwen smiled weakly as he cracked one eye open and looked at her curiously. "Mirror images, Elladan," she explained, "You have both grown weary of the world. You are just the better liar."

Grunting noncommittally, Elladan allowed his eyelids to slide shut again and settled himself a little more comfortably back against the willow tree. He could argue semantics, but there really wasn't much point to it. Whatever hope he may have held onto for the past three centuries had finally departed, all that was left to him now was time. Ever dwindling time. But no, he couldn't give up just yet, he did wish to see Estel again. That desire wasn't much, but it would keep him going for a little while longer.

Elrond frowned as he watched his daughter attempt to comfort his eldest child down in the garden. He was not surprised at Elladan's lethargy. There had been too little hope to maintain his son for so long, and now even that had been lost to them. His children were fading before his eyes, already they were mere shadows of who they once had been. Estel's presence might have warded off the grief somewhat, but his youngest had his own life to live. To ask anything further of him would have been selfish and perhaps cruel. Thus, there was nothing left to be done. Elrond's only remaining hope was that Arwen would be able to get Elladan to the sea before the inevitable occurred.

Sighing dejectedly, Elrond drew back from the balcony and returned to his study. He gave Erestor a simple nod, an acknowledgement to continue upon what had been interrupted by his melancholy, as he seated himself wearily behind his desk.

"It is not necessary to go over these matters today, my lord," the Chief Advisor said carefully as he studied the elf lord in mounting concern, "They can be delayed a few more days."

"No," Elrond shook his head sadly as he laced his fingers together, "It is best to get it taken care of now. Time... we do not have much of. I, even less."

Erestor's brows furrowed in confusion. "What do you mean?" Lord Elrond was not making much sense, but something told him that he would not like the answer to this particular query. The elf lord was much too subdued.

"Once Arwen and Elladan have departed, I will have a decision to consider upon," Elrond explained somberly as he leaned heavily back into the chair, the drooping slant of his shoulders mirroring his eldest son's. "One that will not be easy to make."

"And what might that be?" Erestor asked cautiously. He did not like the sound of this, there was a sense of doom permeating his lord's words, a doom that might be unavoidable.

"My own fate," Elrond answered simply as he closed his eyes. He was much too fatigued for such an early hour, but it was to be expected considering the emotional upheaval he had been forced to weather the past few months. "Should we survive what is to come, I will have a choice that I must make. I can either sail to Aman to join Celebrian and all who have gone before or I can remain, to fade and die."

"That is no choice at all, my lord," Erestor declared in growing alarm. That Lord Elrond would even consider the latter was shocking, to say the least.

"Ah, but it is," Elrond announced in resignation, crossing his ankles under the desk as he tried and failed to bury his despair, "As appealing as it may seem to join my beloved Celebrian, there is something else I must consider." Opening his eyes at last, he gazed up at the ceiling, as if he could delve through the stone and wood above, past the sunlight to what lay glittering beyond. "Father continues to sail the sea of stars, and mother plies the wind. Elros has joined his fate to that of his children, and I feel as if I must do the same. The only soul who roams the Halls of Mandos who can be considered close family in any sense of the word is the High King, Gil-Galad, and that is not enough."

Elrond lowered his gaze to Erestor then, causing the advisor to shift uneasily at the fell determination that shimmered within the depths of his eyes. "I do not wish for my son to dwell there alone, with none present whom he can truly call kin."


As if one suicidal elf wasn't enough... Eheh. Elladan and Elrohir's blacksmithing hobby and Celeborn's subsequent concern over it is actually a nod to Marnie's wonderful stories ('A Family Trait' in particular), which can easily be found on