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Expecting Nothing

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"You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right." --Maya Angelou

Write a story or poem, or create a piece of art on the theme of leaving or returning home.

 

Erestor stared out over the water toward the shore, wondering all of a sudden why the docks were sparkling and filled with smiling, cheering people. In his mind, all he could see were the smoking ruins of Alqualondë he'd left behind too many Ages ago. Beneath his feet, the deck rocked gently as the ship closed the distance to land, making his already queasy stomach even more upset.

At his side, he felt Elrond shift and draw in a sharp breath that clearly communicated that his Lord had found his Lady among those who waited. Erestor didn't dare attempt to scan the gathered faces, for fear of seeing exactly who was not there. After all, everyone he had ever loved – save one – had ended up on board that cursed ship and fallen by the time of the final assault on Doriath. If they were anywhere, they would be in Bannoth, not waiting on a dock. There would be no one on the docks awaiting his return. It was enough he'd been allowed to return, he should expect nothing more.

Did any of the others feel this way? Erestor steeled himself not to turn and examine the faces of those around him, to see if any of the others who actually had raised their swords in aggression and struck down the defenders at Alqualondë felt as unworthy to be returning as he did. Even though all he'd done was defend himself his mother and sister against lethal attacks and ended up on board a ship he'd never intended to travel on, he had become one of them – a Kinslayer – and deeply ashamed both of what he'd been forced to do and the fact that he would do it again in a heartbeat. The Teler that had threatened him and his family had barely known what happened before he had fallen, cleft nearly in two by a sword that had, until that moment, cleft only melons.

So much grief had followed that tragedy: a sister fading of grief when she heard that her betrothed had perished on the ice, a father who had fallen in the very first assault on the Enemy's stronghold, a mother who had faded less than a year later, and finally a brother who had been involved in the desperate and futile assault on Doriath. Of those who had sailed with him, he knew of none save himself who had survived to sail back.

Could those who fell in Doriath have been rehoused yet? It was a question he didn't dare ask himself, for fear of setting himself up for disappointment. Better that he simply expect no welcome, no friendly or even familiar faces awaiting him. He'd lived without them for long enough anyway, he could continue doing so. He had drawn the family of the Peredhil around him, and with them he would remain until Ambar Meth.

The white ship thumped softly against the heavy bumpers that lined the docks, and the sound of joy and welcome and tears began to fill the air. Next to him, Elrond wasted no time literally vaulting the railing onto the pier to run that short distance to Celebrían, gather her to him and squeeze so hard that Erestor could see the poor lady wince through her tears. Soon they were surrounded by others who had waited for him with Celebrían, and Erestor lost sight of his Lord.

No matter. He drew himself up to his full height and moved away from the ramp. He would have plenty to keep himself occupied in making certain all of the precious belongings that had been brought out of Imladris found a proper storage facility until it was known where they would be sent in this new-old land. All he had to do was wait until the other passengers had debarked, so he could busy himself with administrative details, as was his responsibility.

"Sornamin!"

Busy with reviewing the parchment listing of all the crates and boxes from Imladris, Erestor started when one of Cirdan's men clapped him warmly on the shoulder. "You are missing your own welcome, dear fellow," the man told him with a wide grin, and then pointed.

Erestor's jaw dropped, and so did the hand holding the parchment. "Astarnis?!"

She was still a tiny thing with waving golden hair, although she wore it now braided back from her face and flowing down her back. Her dark eyes danced with joy and her smile widened as she saw she had finally caught his attention. "Sornamin!" she called again.

Oh. Yes. That was my name, long ago. No wonder he hadn't heard her calling to him; she was using a name that he hadn't heard uttered for nearly three Ages.

His steps were slow, and then he paused with a frown as several men approached and surrounded her, trying to pull Astarnis away. But with flailing hands and a few screeches of pure anger, the little woman drove her tormentors away and turned back to him, holding out her hands. One man – was that her father? – spoke harshly to her and received a harsh response. The man threw his hands up in the air and made some sort of lofty pronouncement that elicited only a shrug and determined steps toward the ship.

"Astarnis," Erestor whispered, the sound of his betrothed's name like a balm against the evil memories he'd been suffering. And then her hand was in his, and he stared at her as if not quite believing his eyes.

"They told me you were coming home at last," she said, her voice still as melodic as he remembered, although not quite steady. "My father insisted I stay home today, and was unhappy when I refused to obey, as you could see…" She jerked her head toward the dock. "I told him I had waited for this day and would not miss it. He is most displeased with me. He told me that if I continue on as before, he will disown me – and I don't care."

"Astarnis…" A trembling hand lifted and ghosted over a soft cheek. "I did not think…"

"I have waited for your return, as I promised," she whispered back, leaning into his touch as much as she could and closing her eyes as tears began to escape. "Sornamin…"

"Erestor," he corrected automatically, his other hand quickly tucking parchment lists into a pocket and joining its partner in very carefully cradling her face and thumbing away the salt drops. "Sornamin is the name of a young man who left these shores long ago. I fear he is long lost." Carefully his palm came to rest against her cheek. "Astarnis…"

"I, too, took another name when it became known that you had cast your lot among those who speak the Grey tongue." She grinned mischievously. "It irks my father to no end that I answer only to it now."

"What…?" She… took another name too?

"Sedilwen," she told him and put her hands flat against his chest. "I am Sedilwen now."

"How I have missed you…" Suddenly Erestor was in motion and had wrapped his arms about her and pulled her to him tightly, burying his nose in her fragrant hair. "I have been but half a man for so long…"

Her arms wrapped around him and squeezed him nearly as tightly as he was holding her. "No more," she wheezed. "I believe our betrothal is one of the longest in the history of all of Arda, and if you think I intend to let it go on one mo…"

"Before you say a word," Erestor choked and carefully set her away from him, still within tempting reach but knowing that things needed to be said before anything else could pass between them. "I… My… I am part of the House of Elrond Peredhel now," he stated quickly, getting it out. "I am his Chief Counselor…"

"You are?" Her eyes had gone very wide.

Erestor's hands were on her shoulders. "My home is with Elrond and his household, my love, and there it will remain, even here. If you join your life to mine, that is where you will dwell. Besides, if your father's attitude is any indication, it is obvious I would not find a home among your people – and I truly do not wish to."

"I have heard tales of this Elrond from those who have sailed. The son of Eärendil is known to be a wise and compassionate man. But understand this: my home is with you, from now until the Very End; so if you mean to make your home with his House, then it shall be my home as well, if they will have me." She cupped his face in her hand. "If you told me your home would be in a grass hut on the very edge of the sea and that you wished to spend the next hundred yeni gathering seaweed and fishing, then that would be where I would be also. I love you, and there is nowhere I would want to be but at your side."

Erestor gathered her to him and leaned his cheek on the top of her head, unable to stop the tears now. She had waited for him, waited for thousands of years and endured the ridicule and disdain of her own family for his sake.

He had expected nothing, but the Belain – or perhaps even the One Himself – had had something quite different in mind for him. There had been a welcome for him on the docks of Avallonë after all.