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by Mirasaui

Summary: Little Elrohir searches for one who is lost and Erestor finds there is more to life than work. Loosely based on the concept of a child's imaginary friend.
Disclaimer: The characters are Tolkien's creations, not mine. This is all just for fun.
Story Notes and Warnings: The Sindarin translation of "Maethor" is "Warrior" [Hisewelókë's Sindarin Dictionary]. Other Sindarin phrases and translations thanks to Orchyd Constyne. The names of the two non-canon characters are from the name generator on the "Council of Elrond" website and from "The Argonath" website. Mystery and romance, mild slash. Rated: PG-15.
Characters: Erestor/Lindir, Elrohir, Elladan
Many thanks to my betas, Lalaith Nienóri and Larienelengasse.

2004 MPA Nominee     2004 MEFA Nominee     2004 Mithril Award Nominee     2005 BAFTA Nominee

Chapter One: Elrohir

It was one of those nights. No matter what Elrohir did, he could not sleep. He tossed and turned and arranged his pillow countless different ways, but it did not help; sleep would not come. A beam of moonlight illuminated his brother in the other bed. Elladan was already in the land of dreams, and had been since he was first tucked in. Every night they would brush their teeth, wash their faces and put on their nightshirts. Then they would climb into bed and wait for their naneth. Celebrían would walk through the door carrying a large book, their favorite one, the one with pictures. For the next half-hour, her soft voice would lull them to sleep as she read their favorite stories.

Usually, they were deep in reverie before she finished, but tonight was different...at least for Elrohir...Maethor was missing!

Elrohir was worried. He had been afraid to tell his naneth, for he did not wish to be scolded. The last time Maethor was lost, he had been severely punished. He had intended to tell his parents that day after lunch that Maethor was missing, but in the excitement of play, he had forgotten. When he had finally remembered, chaos ensued. All of Imladris had joined the search until Maethor was located. That night Elrohir's parents had lectured him about responsibility and care. It was not enough to love someone, they said, you must also look after them, make sure they are safe. To reinforce that lesson, Elrohir had been sent to his room, grounded. While Elladan played in the sunshine the next day, Elrohir had only been able to watch from the window. And now, Maethor was missing...again!

Maethor was his best friend, but there were times the old warrior liked to be alone and Elrohir respected his wishes. Elrohir thought today was one of those days, for Maethor did not seek him out as usual. He was sad, but he knew Maethor usually came home for dinner; but by dusk, Maethor had not returned. Elrohir sighed. He could not help but worry about his warrior. He had known him a long time, ever since he first remembered.

Warrior's hair was not as shiny as it used to be, and his legs were crooked, so he had a hard time walking. Lindir said that was because he was old and old elves sometimes wore out. Elrohir hoped that it would be awhile before *he* wore out. He said so to Lindir, but Lindir only laughed. Lindir was his and Elladan's music tutor, and their best friend. Lindir was neither stuffy like Lord Erestor, nor stern like Lord Glorfindel. Lindir was nice and always, always happy. He had the most beautiful voice in the whole world and he could sing like a nightingale. At least that was what their naneth said. Elrohir had never heard a nightingale.

Tears filled his eyes. Warrior used to be fierce and brave, but as he aged his body betrayed him and he lost many of the skills he once had. When Elrohir first met him, he had a finely carved bow. But one day the bow disappeared. Elrohir and Maethor looked for it everywhere, but could not find it. Warrior was very upset; even Elrohir could not comfort him. Ada said Warrior would not get another one, and that made Elrohir sad. And now tonight, Maethor was out there in the dark with no weapon for protection. What if he were attacked by orcs or carried away by wargs? What if he had fallen in a chasm and could not climb out? The more Elrohir thought of the dangers that warrior could face, the worse the scenario became. Warrior lying injured, calling out for help with no one there to hear him.

Elrohir jumped out of bed and ran over to Elladan. "Elly, wake up...Warrior is missing, we must find him!"

Elladan moaned sleepily, "W-What?"

"Warrior is missing, please, you must help!"

"Go back to sleep 'Ro," Elladan replied, still half asleep, "We will look for him in the morning."

"No, Elly, we must find him...now! Please?"

But Elladan had turned over and gone back to sleep, and try as he might, Elrohir could not wake him. He began to cry. He had to tell someone about Maethor; it would be his fault if the warrior was hurt or injured! Lindir was the only elf he could think of, maybe the minstrel would not tell his parents that Elrohir had again waited too late.

Elrohir crept from his room and walked silently down the hall. Opening the door to Lindir's room he peeked inside. Lindir was still dressed and was kneeling against the bed, his long white hair undone from its braids and...he was crying. Lindir's whole body shook with his sobs and Elrohir silently backed away and slipped from the room. It had to be Warrior, he thought. Something had happened to him...that was why Lindir was crying! Something bad has happened and it is my fault! I should have told someone, I should have told Ada!

Elrohir cried for Maethor and for himself. He knew he was in trouble again and would be punished. It would be ever so much worse this time! Why had he waited? What if warrior was dead! Elrohir ran back to his room, grabbed his pillow and blanket and crawled underneath his bed. They would not find him here; he would be safe. He prayed to the Valar, "Please let Maethor be all right". Curling up into a ball, he hugged his pillow tight and cried himself to sleep.

Chapter Two: The Search

Morning dawned bright and sunny and Elladan
“Elrohir ran back to his room, grabbed his pillow and blanket and crawled underneath his bed.”  Art by Mira.  Click on the picture for a larger view.
awoke with a yawn. "Ro," he asked, "are you up?" There was no answer. Turning over Elladan realized his brother was not in bed. That was unusual; Elrohir was normally the last one to wake. Rising from his own bed, he put on his slippers and robe and looked in the adjoining bath. Elrohir was not there. He smiled, sometimes his brother hid under the bed. Dropping to his knees he peered underneath, but no Elrohir.

Elladan did not think he had overslept, but just in case, he hurried through his morning toiletries, then walked as fast as he could to the dining hall. The only elves present were the servants readying the table for breakfast. "Have you seen Elrohir?" he asked one of the maids.

"No, Master Elladan, perhaps he is with Lord Erestor, he was in here earlier."

"Thank you," Elladan replied, turning around and heading towards Erestor's office. He stood in front of the door and knocked.

"Come in," Erestor called out, and Elladan poked his head around the door.

"Lord Erestor, h-have you seen Elrohir?"

"No, Elladan, I have not. He is not in your room?"

"No, my lord, I even looked under the bed. One of the maids said she thought she saw him with you."

Erestor rose from his chair and walked over to Elladan. He put his arm around his shoulder. "Come, pen-neth, I shall help you find him."

After searching the wing that housed the family members and senior staff, and checking all of Elrohir's usual hiding places, Erestor began to worry. Elladan was usually the impulsive one, not Elrohir. What reason would the youngster have to run away? He did not want to cause undue worry, but it was time to notify Lord Elrond that Elrohir had disappeared.

Soon Glorfindel, Elrond, Celebrían and Lindir plus many of the household staff had joined the search. Every inch of the Last Homely House was covered but Elrohir was nowhere to be found. They decided to split into teams and search the grounds. Elrond and Celebrían paired together, Glorfindel went with Elladan, and Erestor searched with Lindir.

"Did you and Elrohir have a fight?" Glorfindel asked Elladan as they searched around the stables.

"No, my lord, we did not fight. Nana told us a story and we went to bed. When I awakened, 'Ro was not there."

"Was Elrohir upset before he went to bed?" Glorfindel asked, trying to think of what could have caused the young elf to run away.

"No, my lord" Elladan replied. "'Ro was not upset. He would have told Nana if he was."

 "'Did you and Elrohir have a fight?' Glorfindel asked Elladan."  Art by Mirasaui.  Click on the picture for a larger view." Glorfindel nodded and directed Elladan to search the stalls on one side of the barn while he searched those on the other. Together they opened every door, but the only occupants they found were the horses. They looked in the tack room, but Elrohir was not hiding behind the blankets or various other items that were hung from pegs or draped over wooden supports. Nor was Elrohir in the room where the stable lads and grooms sat and drank tea or told stories in their spare time. They checked in the sleeping quarters, but each bed was neatly made, there was no Elrohir hiding under them. Glorfindel climbed the ladder to the loft. He looked behind every hay bale and into any space he thought a young elf could possibly crawl into, but again, no Elrohir.

Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían were checking the garden and the trees near the house. They looked in and under bushes, up through boughs and branches, in the gardener's shed; Lord Elrond even dug through the compost heap, but there was no sign of their wayward elfling. They searched through the herb garden, the vegetable garden, ducked under and around the clothes hanging on the lines outside the laundry room, but he was not there either. They looked in the bathhouse, peering into each pool, wardrobe, dressing chamber, even clothesbaskets, but there was no Elrohir to be found. Celebrían grasped Elrond's hand. It was too early to panic, but where could her youngest son be?

"We must find him, Elrond, he could be hurt!" she said, her eyes telling her husband she was more upset than she cared to show.

Elrond put his arm around his wife. "We have everyone out looking, he will be found soon, try not to worry." But even he had a feeling of dread inside his stomach.

Erestor and Lindir were checking the paths through the nearby woods. Erestor was becoming more and more concerned. Hunger should have driven Elrohir in by now. He looked at his companion. Lindir's eyes were red and swollen and Erestor could tell the minstrel had been crying. "We will find him, Lindir, he is just an elfling, he cannot have gone far."

Lindir nodded. "I hope you are right, Lord Erestor. I have grown very fond of the twins and Master Elladan will be frantic if we do not find him soon. They have never been separated for more than a day."

It was true. Lindir was fond of the twins, having been chosen by Celebrían as the ideal elf to watch over her sons when she was busy. Lindir had a rapport with the young ones and they trusted him. But although he cared deeply for Elrohir and was as upset over his absence as the others, that was not why Lindir had been crying.

For the past fifty years, Lindir had been courted by one of the Imladris guardians; a tall, congenial, brown-haired elf named Cirith. Six months ago, they had discussed their future and Cirith had given Lindir a silver betrothal ring. Lindir had been one of the happiest elves in Imladris. But yesterday that had all changed. Cirith had told him it was over, that he had found someone else. Poof, just like that it ended. Lindir still did not believe it. He had made it through the rest of the day, through dinner, but that night in his room he had cried and cried. At least now, in front of Lord Erestor, he had an excuse for his red eyes and swollen lids.

The search continued all morning. Cries of "Elrohir!" could be heard all throughout Imladris, but by noon, he had still not been found. Celebrían was in tearful conversation with Lord Elrond, and members of the household staff were preparing to check the manor again. A grim looking Glorfindel was organizing a mounted patrol to search the deep woods, while Lindir and Erestor planned to continue looking in the woods closer to the house. The kitchen staff had provided cold food that could be easily carried, and once it was distributed, everyone went back to the search.

Chapter Three: Lost

"Maethor! Maethor!" Elrohir cried, "Where are you? Why do you not answer me?" Elrohir was so tired. He had awakened in the night and decided to look for his friend. But he had been unable to find him. What could have happened to Maethor? He had been to all their favorite places: the pond with the ducks, the apple tree, the bench where they would sit to feel the spray from the falls, but Maethor had not been in any of those spots. He had been to the cairn on the hill that Maethor often visited, where the old warrior would pick wild flowers and stand them between the stones, where sometimes a tear or two would trickle down his cheeks and he would let Elrohir wipe them away.

He had been to the stables, where they would talk to the horses and warrior would tell him about the flat plains of Rohan or the tiered city of Minas Tirith. The apples they had picked would disappear in minutes into the mouths of the great beasts. Elrohir would laugh as the horses' lips tickled his palm, for Maethor had taught him to hold the apple in the flat of his hand. That way the animal would not bite his finger when it took the treat.

Elrohir had gone to the river and walked along its banks, making sure that Maethor was not clinging to a rock, waiting for someone to pull him from the water, for Maethor could float but had never learned to swim. Relieved that his friend had not fallen into the river or drowned in its currents, he had sat for a while and listened to the night sounds, trying to imagine where an old elf like Warrior would go.

Glorfindel had told him that Warrior fought in the Great War. That he had been a captain who held the respect of all his soldiers. He said Maethor and his archers had kept the enemy at bay until all their arrows ran out and they had to use their swords. He also said Maethor was very brave and had come home a hero. When Elrohir asked Glorfindel why Maethor was no longer a captain, he said that eventually warriors got tired of fighting and wanted to spend time with their families. Elrohir could understand that. But the only family Maethor had was a brother and they argued a lot. Then one-day Maethor's brother went away and did not return and Maethor was sad.

Elrohir had been about to return to the Last Homely House and tell his Ada about Maethor, when he remembered something else that Glorfindel had told him. They had been talking about Lindir's parents and Glorfindel said that sometimes when elves were tired of living in Middle-earth they felt the call of the Sea and boarded a ship and sailed to the Undying Lands. Elrohir remembered talking with Warrior about the great ships and about Círdan, the shipwright, and Warrior had said he would go there one day, that at times the Sea called him.

So either Maethor had been carried away by wargs or had gone to the Grey Havens. Either way, Elrohir was determined to find him. So he left the river and headed for the path that went through the woods. He had been scared at first to enter the forest, but the moon's light shone through the trees and it was not as dark as he had expected. When his courage failed he remembered that Warrior was also alone, so he sucked in his stomach and kept on the trail. At one point, he thought he heard Warrior call his name, so he left the path and ran through the trees, yelling to Maethor that he was on his way. But he must have been mistaken, for he did not find his friend.

And now he was tired and discouraged. He hung his head and walked back the way he had come. He had made much better time when he stayed on the path. The longer he tarried here, the further behind Maethor he would become. He walked quite a ways before he realized he should have reached the path much sooner. He must have gone the wrong way in his haste. So he turned and began walking in the other direction. The sun had just begun to tint the sky when Elrohir admitted to himself that he was lost. Added to the tears for his friend, were now those for himself, for he did not know how to get home. He cried for his Ada and his Nana and called out to them, but they did not hear him. Tired, footsore and very miserable, he crawled inside the trunk of a hollow tree, pushing the leaves inside into a makeshift bed. Then he lay down amongst them and fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter Four: The Guardians

Anor had reached its zenith and even in the deep woods it was bright and cheery, but the day did not match the mood of the guardians as they searched for the missing elfling. Elrohir and Elladan were well liked by the sentries of Imladris, for the twins were always hanging about the barracks. They would listen to the warrior's tales, watch them fletch arrows and sharpen swords or join them in the old battle chants and songs that were always being started by one elf or another. Although they had to watch their language, most of the guardians enjoyed the elflings' visits, for they were bright, inquisitive and full of mischief.

If they were not at the barracks, the twins could often be found sitting on the practice fields, cheering on their favorite archer or swordsman in the grueling training rounds. Their champions would vary from day to day and whomever they picked would emerge smiling whether he had won or lost. Lord Glorfindel, of course, was their favorite, but it was rare he participated. The twins were fair and knew of their effect on morale. There was not a guardian in the ranks who had not been championed by them at one time or another and the soldiers loved them for that.

There were also those times when battle-hardened hearts grew warm and smiles were stifled as Imladris' protectors watched a harried chief advisor or white-haired minstrel come to fetch two wide-eyed elflings who had overstayed their welcome and were late for lessons. Two dark-haired heads would look up at the taller elves and although the warriors' could not hear the excuses, the site of the animated faces and bouncy steps left them smiling long after the young ones had left.

So it was with heavy hearts they searched the well-known territory of their watch, hoping to hear a little voice crying, "Here I am!" All too often the news they received was bad, and to think that something had happened to one of their young lords was distressing. Ground was covered again and again, and riders urged their horses to be very careful in the undergrowth, as none wished the animals to step on or frighten a small elfling. But as the afternoon wore on, neither a track had been sighted nor a shout of "found" heard.

Lord Glorfindel was perhaps the most worried and upset elf amongst them. He took Elrohir's absence personally. It was his job to ensure the safety of all that dwelled within Imladris' borders, and to lose sight of one of his lord's sons was, in his mind, a great failure. How the youngster managed to elude the sentries, he did not know, but after this was over, there would be changes made to duty schedules and watch posts. He sighed, and prayed to the Valar that the little one be safely found, and soon.

All throughout the woods, the great warhorses plodded while guardians called out Elrohir's name, but the skilled trackers of Imladris did not have any luck, the elfling did not answer.

Anendel and Cirith were two of the soldiers assigned to the search. They had been partners for centuries, and both had much on their mind besides the lost elfling. Cirith had found that his love for Anendel outweighed that for another and had broken the news to Lindir yesterday. He felt much guilt for leading the minstrel on, as did his new love. They had secretly harbored a desire for each other for ages, but neither had the nerve to tell his friend of his feelings. Cirith had finally lost hope, thinking he had no chance, and so met Lindir, a gentle soul who eased his pain and also won a place in his heart.

A confession late at night by his partner left him in a dilemma, forcing him to choose between the two. But in his heart of hearts, there was only one choice. And so Lindir had been the receiver of bad news. Both elves regretted hurting the minstrel, for he did not deserve such treatment, but rejoiced that they had finally found each other. All's fair in love and war.

Chapter Five: The Search - Lindir and Erestor

The duties of an advisor and a minstrel do not lead to an overabundance of physical activity and Erestor and Lindir made a decision to sit and eat the lunch the kitchen staff had packed. The day was warm and Erestor was wearing a tunic and leggings under his robe, but he was not the kind of elf to take off his outer layer of clothing. So he was thankful for a respite and a chance to rest and quench his thirst.

Lindir was not tired so much as depressed. Between his news the day before, and Elrohir's absence, he was again feeling teary-eyed. He played with his food, tearing it into tiny pieces and feeding it to the birds, reserving only a section of apple for himself.

"You are with Elrohir more in his leisure than I, Lindir; do you have any idea what could have caused his flight or where he could have gone?" Erestor asked.

Lindir did not hear the question. He was in another world, thinking about the conversation he had with his lover the day before. It was the quiet times such as this that brought it close to mind and he could not help the tears that welled in his eyes. It took him a moment to realize that Erestor had asked a question. But the advisor could have asked if the sky was falling and would not have received a reaction from Lindir.

"Lindir?" Erestor asked again, softly.

Lindir sighed, looking at the ground. "I am sorry, Lord Erestor, I did not hear what you asked. Could you repeat your question?"

"I asked if you had any idea where Elrohir could have gone or why he would take flight?" Erestor said, looking at Lindir carefully. "His absence truly has you upset. We will find him, Lindir."

"Yes, milord." Lindir mumbled, picking up the remains of his lunch and stuffing them in his carry sack. "We had best continue our search, we have wasted too much time already." He stood, turning his back to Erestor to wipe the wetness from his face, only to turn around and find the advisor standing only inches from him.

Erestor reached out a hand and gently lifted Lindir's chin so their eyes were on the same level. "There is nothing you could have done to prevent this, Lindir; it is not your fault. If anyone can find him, Lord Glorfindel will. He is an excellent tracker and knows these lands like the back of his hand."

"I am fine, Lord Erestor," Lindir said in an irritated voice, pushing the advisor's hand away. "We need to go now."

Lindir was embarrassed for his weak moment. Yes, he was upset over Elrohir, but if he had not been so heart-broken over his lover's betrayal, he would not have been reduced to tears. He was a grown elf, for Elbereth's sake, and it had been quite a few centuries since he reached his majority. Erestor must think him extremely sensitive. Now that he had something to focus on other than his misfortune, his anger rose to the surface. Why did Erestor not leave him alone? They should concentrate their efforts on finding Elrohir. He started down the path not even bothering to see if Erestor was behind him.

Erestor watched Lindir for a few moments before quickening his pace to catch up to the minstrel. Lindir was behaving oddly and for a few moments he wondered if the white-haired elf knew more than he was letting on about Elrohir's disappearance. But he immediately dismissed the idea as ridiculous. Lindir would never hold back information that would jeopardize his charge. No, something else must be bothering the minstrel, and when this was all over, he would see if he could figure out the puzzle. For now, a lost elfling was their main concern.

Chapter Six: Elladan

In a room inside the manor another elfling was miserable. Tears were rolling down his cheeks and his nose was red and itchy. Elladan did not understand why Elrohir had left him. All his favorite elves were out hunting for his brother and he had to stay here, alone. Well, Nurse was here, but as far as Elladan was concerned, she did not count.

He had argued and pleaded and thrown a tantrum, but Lord Glorfindel would not let him search with the guardians. That hurt! Elrohir was his brother; he should be out looking for him as well. Elladan pouted. The thought of no Elrohir in the bed next to him that night made his tears start again. "I want my brother! Why can they not find him?" he wailed, causing his nurse to pick him up and put him on her lap. He buried his face in her bosom and wet her dress with his tears as she rocked him in the big chair like she used to do when he was little.

Elrohir was his buddy, identical in looks, but not in personality. Where Elladan was rough and tough, Elrohir was gentle and persuasive. He was not soft by any means, and like Elladan wanted to be a warrior when he was older. He had more poise, grace and tact than his twin. For where Elladan was impulsive and loud spoken, Elrohir was subtle in his thoughts and movements, a thinker who planned before he acted, he was not like Elladan at all, they were total opposites!

But, in spite of their differences, most of the time they were inseparable. Oh, they had their spats, but Elladan loved his brother dearly. They were closer than most siblings, perhaps because they were twins. Ada thought so, and he used to have a twin brother, but he became a man and died. Elladan and Elrohir both did not understand why any elf would choose the path that Elros did. When it came time for them to make the decision, they would remain among the Firstborn. They had already told Ada, but he said they had to wait a long, long time before the Valar would accept their choice. That way, Ada said, they would know for sure.

But if Elrohir was not found soon, Elladan did not know what he would do. "Why had 'Ro not confided in him, told him where he was going? Did someone sneak in and take his brother while they slept? If so, why take 'Ro and not him? Was 'Ro more special? He began to sob again, crying even harder on Nurse's shoulder. "What if Elrohir never comes back and leaves me here all alone? I want my brother!" Elladan demanded, looking up at Nurse with angry, wet eyes. "I want Ada and Nana too. I do not want to stay in my room!" Nurse just said, "Shhh," and held him while he cried.

Chapter Seven: On the Path in the Woods

Lindir and Erestor had turned around when they met one of Glorfindel's mounted guardians. They had reached the border of the area they were to search, but had seen no sign of Elrohir. It was getting late. In a few more hours Anor would set. Erestor hated the thought of Elrohir alone in the dark.

As to his current companion, Lindir had been moody and depressed ever since they stopped for lunch and Erestor found the best way to deal with the minstrel was to keep quiet. So, they traveled the path back to the Last Homely House in silence. At least while they were not calling out Elrohir's name.

As to the object of their search, he had finally awakened from his bed of damp leaves. At first he was disoriented, but then the events of the night came back to him and he remembered he was searching for Maethor. "He will have such a head start on me now I will never catch up," Elrohir thought sadly. But he had to keep going.

He brushed the leaves and twigs from his clothes and hair, then set off once more on his trek through the woods. The going was much easier in the light of day and he began to think he might have a chance of catching up with Maethor. After all, his warrior could not walk fast and he had to sleep too. Elrohir was not tired anymore, but he was very thirsty and his stomach was growling from hunger. He would have to find a stream and edible berries. That is what Warrior would do. He rubbed one of his hands across his face, adding a streak of dirt to what was already there. He had just started toward a bush that might contain berries when he heard someone call his name.

"Maethor! Maethor!" he cried, running as fast as his little legs would carry him towards the sound of the voice. He ran for what seemed like hours, although it was only minutes, and suddenly he saw the path before him. He was so happy he did not notice the two elves that broke into a run when they saw him.

"Elrohir!" both Lindir and Erestor called out at the same time. Elrohir looked up, but when he saw whom it was, his face fell. Lindir made it to his side first and hugged him tightly. "We have been looking for you all over!"

Erestor gave Elrohir a hug after Lindir, then gave him some water. Elrohir drank almost all of it. When he had finished, he wiped his lips with his hand, turning the dirt that was already there into a smear of mud. Erestor knelt in front of him and looked Elrohir in the eye. With a stern expression on his face, he began to speak. "Everyone in Imladris has been looking for you since early this morning. Your Ada and Nana have been worried half out of their minds. Glorfindel has a mounted patrol searching from here to the border, and Lindir and I have walked this path for hours. "What on Arda possessed you to leave your bed and go traipsing through the woods in the wee hours of the morning?"

"I am sorry, Lord Erestor." Elrohir said, his eyes at his feet. In a voice that was so soft Erestor had to strain to hear, he mumbled, "Maethor..."

Erestor straightened and stood. Looking at Lindir over Elrohir's head, he silently mouthed the same word that Elrohir had just spoken..."Maethor". He arched his eyebrow when Lindir rolled his eyes, both of them thinking the same thing...not again!

Erestor sighed, then picked Elrohir up and began to carry him back to the Last Homely House. "Lindir, go on ahead and let everyone know he has been found." Lindir nodded and broke into a run, leaving the advisor and Elrohir behind.

His white hair flying, Lindir ran swiftly down the path, eager to tell everyone Elrohir was safe. When he left the woods, he shouted to the first group of elves he saw, "We found him! Elrohir is safe! Erestor is bringing him home now!"

Like a chain reaction, the news spread and soon all the search parties were on their way back. Those just arriving, and those already there, stood at the entrance to the Last Homely House and waited for Erestor and Elrohir to return.

Chapter Eight: Aftermath

It took a while, but soon the residents of Imladris were back to their daily routine. All that is except Elladan and Elrohir. Elrohir had been bathed, fed and put to bed, but the next morning, Lindir led him to his Ada's office. Elrohir walked slower and slower the closer they came to the door until Lindir turned around and frowned, making him speed up his steps. Once inside, the minstrel directed him to a large chair across from his Ada's desk. Then Lindir stood behind Elrohir in the back of the room and waited for Lord Elrond to enter. When he did, Lindir silently exited, leaving the elfling to face his father alone.

From the look on his Ada's face, he knew he was in trouble. Elrohir decided to quickly explain the reason for his transgression. Perhaps once his father understood, he would not be quite so mad.

"It was Maethor, Ada. I looked for him everywhere and could not find him. He always returns for dinner, but that day he did not. I worried about him all night and when I thought he might have hurt himself, I just had to go look for him. Please do not be angry with me, Ada. I love Maethor."

His father's expression did not change at these words, and Elrohir dropped his eyes to his lap. His little fingers twisted together as his eyes filled with tears. "I am sorry, Ada," he mumbled. "I did not mean to get everyone worried about me, but Maethor..."

"Elrohir," Lord Elrond replied in a very angry voice. "We have had this discussion once before concerning Maethor. Do you remember what I told you then?"

"Y-Yes, Ada." Elrohir whispered.

"I did not hear you, Elrohir," Elrond said, cupping his hand to his ear for emphasis.

"Yes, Ada." Elrohir spoke a little louder, his bottom lip trembling.

"When Elladan could not find you he was upset. He and Lord Erestor searched for you all over the house. When they did not find you, they came to me. Your Nana and I thought something bad had happened. We did not think you would leave without telling someone where you were going. Elrohir, the entire household staff of Imladris turned the Last Homely House upside down looking for you. Beds were not made, floors were not swept, and because of that, the servants will now have to perform double duty."

"When it was discovered you were not in the house, your Nana and I, my seneschal, chief advisor, and head minstrel searched the grounds around the manor. By noon, when you were still missing, Lord Glorfindel had to ask guardians who were not on duty to help. He put together a mounted patrol. The stable lads had to prepare the horses for the patrol and then bathe and care for them when the animals returned. My paperwork stayed in a stack on my desk, untouched, as did Erestor's. Lord Glorfindel could not work on his duty roster. My entire personal staff and the household staff of Imladris stopped what they were doing to search for you because they cared about you and were concerned."

Elrohir's Ada stood up from his desk. He could be quite imposing when he wished. Elrohir's eyes grew round and he stared at his Ada in fright.

"The entire realm of Imladris came to a standstill for most of the day, Elrohir, all because you were worried about a DOLL!"

Elrohir cringed when his Ada raised his voice. "But Ada, I told you that Maethor is not just a doll. He goes places with me and he talks to me, and I love him, Ada."

"I do not wish to hear any more about it, Elrohir. You are grounded for three days. During this time I expect you to think about your actions. How your worry over an inanimate object disrupted this whole household! In addition, you will apologize to all elves involved, starting with your brother. And from now on, I do not wish to hear the name Maethor mentioned ever again! You are dismissed. Report to Lindir and he will escort you to your room."

Chapter Nine: Two Months Later

Elladan was frustrated with his brother. For the last two months he had not wanted to do anything, just sit in his room and mope. If asked, he would go play, but his efforts were half-hearted, he was no fun. It was all about Maethor, the now forbidden word in Imladris. Carrots! Who had made that doll for him, anyway? Elladan did not remember, nor care much for that matter. The dratted thing had never been found and now Elrohir was sad all the time. Elladan just did not understand. What was it about an old carved doll that was so fascinating? And where was Elrohir now? Elladan wanted to go swimming, but it was not fun without his twin, so he went to look for him.

It was a beautiful day, but Elrohir did not notice. Nothing was the same after Maethor left. It was hard, losing a friend. It hurt and left an empty space inside. He wondered where the old one had gone, whether he was all right, even if he still lived. Maybe it would have been different if he had seen some type of closure, but he had not. Forever he would wonder, what happened on that day?

He sighed, leaning back against the trunk of the tree where he had been sitting for most of the morning. He figured it was time for Elladan to come looking for him. His brother could not be parted from him for long, especially since the 'incident'. Elrohir had changed since that time. He had grown inside and was not such an elfling anymore. At least he thought so. But he was also sad. Lindir told him time healed. He hoped so. He did not want to feel this way forever.

"There you are!" Elladan bounced into view. "Are you ready to go swimming? Ada said it was all right as long as we stay in the calm part and take a guardian with us. Come on, Elrohir, you are going to wear a hole under that tree. I want to swim, now!"

Elrohir sighed and rose to his feet. "Race you there!" he shouted, but he did not really want to. He did not wish to hurt Elladan's feelings or spoil his brother's fun. They reached the shallow banks of the stream and stripped out of their clothing. The guardian who had been waiting for them politely turned his back until they were in the water. Elladan immediately began splashing his twin, trying to win a smile from the other, but Elrohir just showed the same expression he had worn for the past two months. I want my brother back, Elladan thought, the elfling who was full of fun and laughter, who beamed excitedly at a butterfly or saw pictures in the clouds. I wish Maethor had never existed. I hate him!

When they had tired of playing in the water they lay on a large rock near the edge of the stream, drying themselves in the sun. Elrohir was moody and lay on his stomach, his head on his arms. Elladan continuously tried to cheer him, but nothing worked. Finally he gave up.

"Are you hungry, Ro? Want to go to the kitchen and see if Cook has made something sweet? I am sure she has, want to go?"

Elrohir nodded and started to get dressed. Soon, little feet were flying over the grass, heading towards that part of the Last Homely House where delicious aromas always wafted through the air.

"First one there gets first pick!" Elladan called out to his twin, he was already a good distance in front of Elrohir. It used to be his brother would double his effort to catch up, but not today. It was as if Elrohir was a shell with nothing inside it. Elly pouted. "You are no fun anymore, I want a new brother!"

Entering the kitchen, Elladan saw a tray of freshly baked sweet rolls set out on the counter to cool. They were covered with sticky icing, the kind he loved best. "Look, Ro, look what cook has made." The elleth in question suddenly appeared and picked out two of the biggest, one for Elladan and one for Elrohir. Both twins gobbled them down greedily, but it was Elladan's eye that held the twinkle, not his brothers. Cook just shook her head as she watched them leave. It was sad to see a young one so broken-hearted. She secretly hoped Elrohir's doll would be found soon.

Chapter Ten: Sorrow

His skin was like the finest porcelain, with a tint of rose on his lips and cheeks, and over the last few months, Erestor had not been able to keep his eyes from the face of his friend. Long lashes covered ocean-blue eyes that radiated a sadness that had been there ever since Elrohir had turned up missing. But the sadness did not go away when the elfling was found. What had happened to leave Lindir in this state and when had his attraction to his friend started?

He had worked with Lindir for a long time but he realized now he knew him not. He had thought he did, but the elf held secrets that mystified him. Lindir was an artist, an illusionist who painted pictures with sound. His beauty was reflected in his music, for his compositions were the melodic equivalent of a morning's sunrise or the birth of a new flower, wonders of nature that caught the eye and held it, as the sound of his voice in song caught the ear.

Tall and willowy with a curtain of snow-white hair hanging down his back, Lindir had the grace of a dancer and a brilliant inner light. Although his sorrow dimmed it somewhat, it still shone for those who cared to look, and Erestor was one who did. He sighed. For so long he had been caught up in nothing but his work. It had become his life and so he did not realize what he was missing. But now, when he looked at Lindir, he felt emotional stirring that had long lain dormant. The problem was that Lindir did not feel the same; at least that Erestor was aware of.

Erestor studied the minstrel again. He was determined to find out what the cause of his melancholy was. Rising from his desk, he walked over to Lindir's and sat across from him. "Lindir," he asked, "May I have a word with you?"

Lindir looked up from his paperwork. "Lord Erestor," he nodded, placing his quill in its holder, "Is there something wrong?"

"No, Lindir, at least not for my part, but you have changed these past months. Where once I always saw a smile, now you seem drowned in sorrow. I was hoping you would confide in me, that you would wish to speak of your trouble. Perhaps I could help?"

Lindir was surprised. Could it be that Erestor was not aware of his former relationship with Cirith, or the fact they had split? "It is no secret, Lord Erestor, Cirith broke our betrothal, h-he found someone else. It was a shock and it will take me some time to recover. I thought he was to be my partner for life." Lindir looked down at his hands.

Erestor had not known. He had been so wrapped up in his books and duties that he had not paid attention to the gossip that circulated around Imladris. "I am sorry, Lindir. If there is anything I can do, let me know. I did not mean to pry." He nodded and walked back to his desk, feeling rather foolish.

Lindir went back to work, but his eyes kept drifting to Erestor. What had prompted the elf lord to inquire of his welfare? The advisor had never expressed interest before. Puzzled, he returned to his figures, but every so often he could feel Erestor's eyes turn his way. Looking up once, he smiled and Erestor smiled back. Lindir finished the document he was working on and placed it in the stack on the left side of his desk, then stood and walked to one of the reference shelves. The library at Imladris was quite large, as Lord Elrond sought books and manuscripts from all over Arda. Lindir and Erestor spent much of their time there. Erestor was a historian and scribe and Lindir assisted him in his work.

Returning to his desk, he again caught Erestor staring at him; but this time Erestor quickly averted his eyes. Lindir wondered at the advisor's actions, but then shrugged it off. Erestor was probably speculating as to what happened between him and Cirith. Elbereth knows everyone else asked. Why was it that when misery hit, everyone suddenly became your best friend?

The rest of the day passed by quickly and Lindir cleaned off his desk and prepared to return to his room. He was filing the last of the reference books on the shelf when Erestor came up to him again. "I wanted to tell you once more, Lindir how sorry I am that Cirith chose to break off your engagement. I do not understand how he could choose another over such a kind and beautiful elf as you. I will see you at dinner." And with that Erestor left, leaving Lindir staring after him in surprise.

Chapter Eleven: One Year Later

Erestor had returned to his old self after that day, leaving Lindir to wonder if he had taken Erestor's looks and complimentary words out of context. As time passed, the pain he felt inside from his lover's betrayal lessened, but did not go away entirely. He spent his days working in the library or running errands for either Lord Elrond or Lord Erestor, or looking after the twins. Elrohir had still not regained the cheerful countenance he had before Maethor disappeared, and Lindir worried about him.

Although Lord Elrond had forbidden Elrohir to speak Maethor's name, Lindir knew that his lord did not really mean it. So he tried to encourage Elrohir to talk about what happened. "I know Maethor was a good friend to you, Elrohir, and I am sorry that we could not find him. I know you do not have many playmates your age, and although Elladan is your brother, he does not always understand you. But you do not really need your toy to continue your friendship with the warrior."

Elrohir looked at Lindir with sad eyes. Lindir was no different than the other adults in his life. He thought the minstrel had understood about Maethor. His warrior was real, not a figment of his imagination. Maybe they had not seen him, but Elrohir had, almost every day. And Maethor was as good a friend as anyone could want. His grief for the warrior was real. Why was everyone determined to belittle it? He sighed; it was enough to lose his friend, but to have those close to him not believe in him made it even worse. But although he was sad, the constant pain had ebbed. There were days that passed when he forgot about his friend. Time was beginning to erase the bad memories and leave good ones in their place.

There was another elf who understood about time and grief. Erestor had hidden his feelings for Lindir while the minstrel adjusted to his loss. But they had not gone away, if anything, they had grown stronger. It had been a year since Lindir's lover had left him and Erestor decided that was enough time to wait. It was act now or forever lose the chance.

That night after dinner when all retired to the Hall of Fire, Erestor took his usual place on a bench at the back of the room. Over the past year he had come often to listen to Lindir sing, the minstrel's voice was one of the loveliest in Imladris. Lindir's slender fingers would pluck the strings of his harp in accompaniment, the sweet notes a perfect harmony to his voice. As he took in the music, Erestor would dream that one day Lindir would sing just for him, a song of love.

That night, like most other nights in the Hall of Fire, there were many elves that had come to tell stories and listen to the songs. Lindir usually waited until later to perform, so Erestor was able to secretly watch him as he laughed and talked with his friends. The advisor's palms were sweaty and his stomach was in knots, for tonight he wished to speak with Lindir on a subject other than that of work.

Time seemed to slow and the night dragged as Erestor patiently waited for the festivities to end. When most of the elves had left, Erestor still sat alone on the bench in the back. He watched as Lindir carefully covered his harp with a piece of soft fabric and tucked it under his arm. The minstrel said his good nights and turned, walking out of the room. It was then Erestor stood and followed silently behind him. When they entered the corridors that led to the bedchambers, Erestor caught up with him. "Lindir?" he asked in a quiet voice, "Do you have a moment?"

Lindir smiled, "Of course Lord Erestor. If you can wait, I will put my harp in my room and be right out."

Erestor nodded and waited for the minstrel to return. True to his word, it only took a second and Lindir was back at his side. "What is it you wish to speak to me about?" Lindir asked.

Erestor hesitated for a second, then voiced his thoughts. "I wondered if you would care to have dinner with me in my room tomorrow night?" He held his breath and waited for Lindir to answer.

Lindir was caught off guard. He had not expected the conversation to be personal. He thought back to that time in the library when Erestor had approached him before and he smiled.

"I am honored to be invited," he replied, "And I accept. What time do you wish me to arrive?"

"I will have everything ready by the dinner bell, you may come to my room then." Erestor said, an answering smile on his face. "Thank you for accepting."

"You are welcome," Lindir replied, "I look forward to a lovely evening. If you do not mind, I will excuse myself and retire to my chamber for sleep."

"Good night, Lindir," Erestor replied softly.

"Good night, Lord Erestor," Lindir echoed.

Erestor nodded and waited until the minstrel had entered his room and closed the door, then walked down the hall to his own chamber. He went inside and removed his robe, hung it in the wardrobe then undressed for bed. He was pleased the minstrel had accepted his invitation and knew he would have much to do the next day to make the evening a success. He climbed in bed and was soon asleep, his lips curved in a sweet smile.

Chapter Twelve: The Courtship of Lindir

Erestor paced nervously. Everything was prepared and he was waiting for his guest. The dinner bell had rung a few minutes ago, and the advisor's heart rate had increased at the sound. There is no reason to be nervous, he told himself, you work with Lindir everyday. He is the same elf you have known for years. But he could not help the butterflies in his stomach when he heard the soft knock at his door.

When he opened it, the elf before him took his breath away. Lindir's hair was unbraided and fell softly about his shoulders. He wore a pale blue tunic with a floral design embroidered upon it in gold thread. Underneath was a white silk undershirt tucked into dark blue leggings. Soft tan boots completed the outfit, but Lindir could have been wearing rags as far as Erestor was concerned.

"Come in Lindir," Erestor said with an appreciative smile, secretly thanking the Valar for letting him have this chance.

Lindir returned the smile and presented him with a bottle of wine. "Lord Elrond gave this to me for a special occasion and I thought it would be appropriate."

"Thank you, Lindir," Erestor replied, taking the wine and inviting him in. The room was lit with dozens of candles and near the window a feast for two was laid on a small table. Erestor opened the wine, poured a glass for each of them and pointing to an over stuffed chair, gestured for Lindir to take a seat. When he had done so, Erestor sat down in a similar chair across from him.

They talked for a while and enjoyed the wine, then moved to the table to dine. The meal was excellent and they continued with their conversation while they ate. Erestor found Lindir charming and gracious, and Lindir thought Erestor a most kind host. After they had eaten their fill, they both agreed to a walk in the garden.

A gentle breeze accompanied them as they walked, carrying the heady scents of the many varieties of flowers that graced the well-tended beds. They spoke of nothing in particular, just enjoyed the beauty of the stars and each other's company. Soon it was time for both to call it a night and Lindir thanked Erestor again for the invitation. Erestor nodded and took Lindir's hand in his. "I would like to do this again, Lindir, if you would agree. Your friendship means a lot to me."

"As does yours, Erestor," Lindir said, smiling at the dark-haired elf he had known for so long.

They walked back to their rooms together, pausing outside Lindir's door. "Good night Lindir," Erestor said in a soft voice.

"Good night, Erestor," Lindir said in return.

That night, Erestor's dreams were filled with visions of a white-haired elf with ocean-blue eyes.

In his room, before he went to sleep, Lindir thought about their evening together. He had seen a side of Erestor that not many had, and it made him feel privileged...special. When he let down his guard, there was warmth and humor in the advisor's eyes, and it had pleasantly surprised Lindir. Erestor was not the cold, reserved elf most thought he was, and Lindir had enjoyed watching him come out of his shell.

Time passed, and Erestor and Lindir had many such dinners. Their friendship grew and they learned more about each other. Each loved the night and were often seen strolling through the moonlit gardens together after the sun went down. It was on one such night that Erestor pulled Lindir to him and kissed him. It was a sweet chaste kiss, for his lips just brushed those of the other elf. When the minstrel did not move away, Erestor became bolder. The second kiss was longer and lips parted and tongues entwined. They broke apart slowly and looked into each other's eyes. Erestor saw a sweet companion, a child of the light who would warm his heart and fill his days and nights with joy. To Lindir, Erestor was an anchor, a rock, a shelter from the storm. This was an elf who would honor and cherish him for all time. And where once his heart lay in broken shards, that night it began to grow whole, strong.

Chapter Thirteen: Silver Rings

Years passed and Lindir and Erestor as a couple were soon taken for granted by most in the Elven realm. The original speculation as to whether their love would last had long since died. But even though they spent much time together, the physical part of their love had not progressed past kisses and warm embraces. Erestor knew that Lindir had been hurt deeply by his former love and needed time to trust again. But slowly things changed, and one morning when they were working peacefully together in the quiet of the library, Erestor presented Lindir with a set of silver rings.

Tears welled in Lindir's eyes as he accepted the gift. But they were tears of joy, not sorrow. He knew Erestor would be true to him, that he, not Cirith was the elf the Valar had meant for him to love. He lifted his hand to the face he knew so well and stroked Erestor's cheek, then placing his hand under his chin, drew the advisor towards him and kissed him passionately.

The betrothal was to last the customary year, and at the end of that time, Lord Elrond would perform the bonding ceremony. It did not take long for the news to spread throughout Imladris and most were happy for the pair. Cirith even wished Lindir the best, and Lindir was able to thank him without the pain that would have crushed him in the past.

The year passed swiftly, and after a beautiful and moving ceremony, Erestor and Lindir were ready to complete their bond. In a secluded glade in the middle of the woods, Erestor took Lindir in his arms and kissed him. "Melin chen, Lindir," ("I love you, Lindir,") he whispered softly, running his hands through Lindir's soft white hair. It felt like silk between his fingers and he marveled at its color, for mixed within the snowy whiteness were strands of silver and gold. "You are as the swan who glides across the water, elegant, graceful." He moved his lips to Lindir's pale throat and the likeness became more apparent as the minstrel arched his neck in response.

"Melin chen, bevae, Erestor. Uireb," ("I love you, too, Erestor. Forever.") Lindir murmured breathlessly as Erestor's lips and tongue brushed against his tender skin, sending a shiver of desire straight to his groin.

Erestor's hands sought to loosen the fasteners of the minstrel's robe and soon he had divested Lindir of the heavy garment, laying it aside on the grass. Lindir's skin shone alabaster in the silvery beams of Ithil's light, and Erestor could not resist running his hands up and down its velvety surface. Lindir moaned at his touch and closed his eyes.

Erestor cradled Lindir gently in his arms and lowered him to the ground. He placed tender kisses on the minstrel's chest, stopping at a rosy nipple to lave it with his tongue. Upon hearing Lindir's gasp, he smiled and began to suckle the tiny nub, causing it to stand at attention like a tiny soldier. When he had finished sampling its delights, he turned his focus to the other one, giving it the same care as its twin.

Lindir could stand it no longer. "I want to feel you," he whispered, fumbling for the clasps of Erestor's dark robe. With nimble fingers, Erestor took it off, then moved on top of Lindir, pressing his chest against his beloved's. Lindir wrapped his arms around Erestor, and smiled. "I have waited so long for this moment, I wish it to never end."

"We will have a lifetime of such moments," Erestor whispered in his ear, taking its tip into his mouth, rubbing his growing arousal against that of his mate's. Lindir arched his hips, trying to increase the contact. "All in good time, Lindir, have patience," Erestor murmured as he felt the minstrel move against him. He tenderly kissed every inch of Lindir that was not covered with fabric until the elf was writhing under him, his blue eyes darkened with desire.

Laces were undone and leggings removed until both were bared to the sky and the stars. Arms and legs entwined as each reveled in the closeness they had denied themselves until now. "Take me, Erestor, make me yours forever," Lindir whispered.

Erestor did. Ithil shone brightly on the lovers as they consummated their love under the stars.

Chapter Fourteen: The Lost Ring

Centuries passed. Lady Celebrían and Lord Elrond were graced with a daughter whose beauty rivaled all Elvendom. They named her Arwen Undómiel, the Evenstar, and she was loved by all. Elladan and Elrohir grew into fine young elves. They were leaders like their Adar, possessing that quality that made others accept their command and seek their guidance. Lord Erestor had tutored them in history, and from him they also learned the art of diplomacy and statesmanship.

Lord Glorfindel taught them strategy and battle skill, and if they were not the strongest warriors, they were among the most intelligent, earning their rank among the protectors of Imladris with their fierce pride, cunning swordplay and proven ability. Peace had reigned over Middle-earth for a long time, but an ill wind began to blow that would soon strike terror in the hearts of all free peoples.

Erestor and Lindir's love for one another prospered and grew, and they settled into that routine that married couples find is comforting and rewarding. They were a perfect compliment to each other, yet complete opposites. Lindir was fair of skin and hair and possessed a cheerful and light-hearted outlook on life. Erestor was dark, exotic, with long dark locks that framed a stern and often unsmiling face. He held his own in the council chambers and his high intelligence and quick wit gained him much respect among his peers. But with Lindir, his gentle nature was revealed, for he treated his husband with loving kindness and tender care.

The day came when Celebrían and Arwen traveled to Lothlórien to visit with the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood. It had been long since the wife of Lord Elrond had seen her parents and she and Arwen were in high spirits as they left. Letters were exchanged regularly between Imladris' lord and the women of his family, and it was decided that Arwen would stay the winter with her grandparents and Elrohir and Elladan would travel to the golden realm at the turn of the season to escort their Nana home.

The twins spent an eventful two months in Caras Galadhon. There were parties and tournaments that tested their skill in archery and swordplay, and they mingled and reminisced with old friends. The good times passed all too soon and it was a crisp winter's day when the small party headed by the twins left to escort Celebrían home.

They made good time and after a week had reached the foot of the Misty Mountains. Elladan and Elrohir left the main party to scout the paths ahead. No one was prepared for the tragedy that would so change their lives. While her sons sought a safe path on the road ahead, Celebrían and the small escort that remained were attacked by a marauding band of orcs. When Elladan and Elrohir returned, the damage had already been done. Most of the males were dead and Celebrían suffered such hurt that she never recovered, sailing West soon afterwards to the Undying Lands.

The peace that had graced the Elven realms was shattered as all mourned the gentle lady that had stood at the side of her lord for so long. The passing years did naught to restore it, as darkness crept over the land and evil reared its ugly head. For over time, that which had been lost was found, and small creatures called halflings would hold the future of Middle-earth in their hands.

Elladan and Elrohir went wild in their grief. They became obsessed with destroying the creatures that hurt their naneth. Elladan's anger was mostly on the surface, violent and sudden. But Elrohir's went deeper; this was not his first great loss. He had never forgot the old friend of his youth, and this second, even greater loss almost drove him over the edge. As before, time lessened the pain, but from that moment on he rarely smiled and preferred solitude to the company of friends.

A human child was brought to Imladris that was destined for greatness. Only Lord Elrond and a few others knew of his lineage, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur, who in the future would wear the crown of men. He stayed but a short while in the eyes of elves, leaving to join the Rangers of the north. But he was destined to return.

Erestor and Lindir, on the happiest day of their life, had exchanged their silver rings for ones of gold. And in the ensuing centuries, they were happy. But the hint of darkness that the winds had brought grew and soon all of Middle-earth fell under its spell.

All know the story, how the One Ring was found and Sauron, the evil Maiar sought it. A Fellowship was formed to take the ring back to its source and destroy it. And in the end, good overcame evil, for a hafling named Frodo fulfilled his quest. And the time of the elves ended and the age of men began.

Chapter Fifteen: The End

Erestor and Lindir packed the last of their belongings into the wagon, then turned to gaze at the Last Homely House one more time. The elves were leaving, heading for the Grey Havens to take the ship west, to Valinor, the Undying Lands. Most had already gone. Lord Elrond had stayed long after the War of the Ring ended, but finally the Sea beckoned and he heeded its call.

It was a time of sadness for those that remained, especially for the twins, for Arwen was not coming. She had made her choice when she married Aragorn, to stay by his side and die a mortal. He had fulfilled his destiny, claimed the crown, and reunited the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. His reign was long, but he was not an elf, and one day, tired in mind and body, he took his last breath. Elrohir and Elladan traveled to Gondor for the funeral, then escorted their sister to the Golden Wood of Lothlórien. There, the majestic Mellryn shed their leaves in sorrow, for their time too was over. As their song died, so did Arwen's, and she succumbed to grief. The light of the Evenstar faded and went out forever.

So it was with heavy hearts that the small caravan left the place they had called home for so long. The twins, Lindir, and Erestor would travel to their final destination. The journey was not difficult and Lindir sang and tried to bring what cheer he could to the party, but he could not raise their spirits.

Their final night on Middle-earth was spent in the house of Círdan the Shipwright. It was he who would guide them over the waters to Valinor. The food was excellent and the wine of good vintage, but none tarried after the meal. There was too much sadness in their hearts.

The next morning the ship was loaded, and in the afternoon all went aboard. There was no one to see them off, but they all stood at the rail until the last glimpse of Middle-earth faded from view. Most of the elves that were making the voyage then returned to their cabins, but a few remained, including Erestor, Lindir and Elrohir.

Erestor turned to Lindir and embraced him. "Do not be sad, my love. We travel to a place of peace. Soon we will be reunited with those we have lost and our hearts will be glad again. We will make our new home one of happiness and light."

"I am not unhappy, Erestor, as long as I have you by my side, " Lindir whispered to his husband of many years.

They stood at the rail for a long time, an arm around each other's waist, hair blowing gently in the salt tinged air. Elrohir stood with them, his arms leaning against the rail as he watched the slow swell of the waves. Then another joined them and stood beside Elrohir. No one paid him much attention until he spoke. "You will be happy in Valinor," he told them. "It was the place of my birth and I loved it well."

Elrohir then glanced at the speaker. His hair was not as shiny as it used to be, and his legs were crooked, so he had a hard time walking. But he knew the face in front of him well. Elrohir stared at the elf, then embraced him, leaning his head against his shoulder. Lindir and Erestor looked at Elrohir and then at the newcomer.

The elf smiled. "Forgive me for not introducing myself...my name is Maethor."

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