The white ship, diamond dust coat gleaming in the reflected light, passed overhead. Its captain, silmaril shining upon his brow, looked down over Arda as he had each morning and each evening since the Valar had given him this task.
With both mind and eyes he looked for his sons, left behind, but never forgotten.
"Ada?" A voice, tentative and young, floated up to him one morning as he passed over Lindon. "They told me you are my ada, Cirdan and Gil-galad have. Elros says they're just telling us that just to make us feel better. I really miss Nana."
The Mariner focused on a small form, wrapped in a blanket, standing on one of the palace's balconies. The peredhel below wiped at his eyes using a corner of the blanket.
"I would really like to think it is you, Ada. That you are up there, keeping an eye on Elros and I. I love you, Ada, and miss you and Nana."
The elfling turned away and started to go back inside. Eärendil poured all of his love through the gem he wore, softly alluminating the balcony.
Almost to the door Elrond stopped and looked about, wide-eyed. He tilted his head back. "It is you!"
He watched his son as the ship carried him back to Aman, listening as Elrond told him eagerly of how he and his twin had come to be there and what had happened since their Nana, Elwing, had thrown herself into the sea to preserve the silmaril now bound to their ada's forehead.
Each night following, for a week, Elrond was out on the balcony and Eärendil eagerly listened to his son's telling of his day and what new things he and his brother had gotten to try.
Then came a night where Elrond did not appear. Nor was he there the following night. A week later, as the Vingilot dimly reflected its master's mood, the slight form of Elrond, bundled warmly and thoroughly, reappeared.
"Ada?" his voice was hoarse, "I am sorry I have not been out to speak to you. I caught the chills the healer says, from spending so much time out in the cold night air. Cirdan says that my edain heritage makes me susceptible to illness…so I am not allowed to stay long. I am feeling better now! …Though Elros is not…he apparently caught my sickness and is quite mad at me. He will be all right, though, do not worry! He is just miserable right now and blames me."
Elrond's teeth as he grinned upward gleamed in the silmaril's renewed light. Then the smile dimmed again. "Cirdan also says there are storm clouds gathering so I may not be able to see you for a few days. But I know you are up there. I love you, Ada."
Years passed by. Every night that the skies were clear enough to see the stars, Elrond would step outside and speak to Eärendil. Occasionally others were with him and he would introduce them to his ada. Gil-galad, Cirdan (though he pointed out they'd previously met), a young friend named Erestor…Elros however never joined him.
One night however, despite the distance, despite the similarity to his twin, Eärendil knew instantly that it was not Elrond who stepped out onto the balcony.
Elros shuffled his feet and pulled his cloak tight around himself, disregarding the warm spring air. He looked uncomfortable and did not look up at the sky. It took him several starts before he managed to say anything.
"…Ada? …Elrond says that is you up there. I have heard the same stories, but…anyway. He believes. I…I hope it is true. For his sake." Eärendil's older son finally looked up. "Because of your sacrifice I have a choice…the choice to follow my heart and destiny. I am in love with a mortal woman."
There was a long pause. "I'm telling Elrond my decision tonight. It is going to be hard for him. His destiny is so clearly among the Eldar. Someday…someday my descendants will be so grateful for him. Be there for him Ada? As much as you can? I…I…" He stopped, rubbing his eyes. Abruptly he turned and reentered the palace.
Eärendil's tears fell indistinguishable from the diamond dust. How he wished he could be there for both his sons.
Later that same evening Elrond came out. He didn't say anything, but simply collapsed against the railing, sobbing. All Eärendil could do was shine his light down on his suffering sons and pray to the Valar that they feel his love.
The next few brief centuries, Eärendil watched over his sons. Both blossomed under the choice they'd made. The Mariner watched Elros with both pride and sorrow as he forged a strong kingdom, family and legacy on the Isle of Númenor. It was difficult seeing his son grow old. Eärendil took comfort in the fact his son was the father he had not been and died surrounded by his children and loved ones.
Elrond blossomed in a different way. No longer a scared elfling he made a name for himself as a warrior, a scholar and as a healer. His friend Erestor by his side he went into Gil-galad's service, eventually becoming the High King's Herald.
"I wanted the ceremony to be out here where you could see it, Ada, but the arguments for having it in the afternoon in the throne room were valid. Gil-galad wanted to show how proud he is of me and that I earned my position honestly." Elrond wrapped his arms around himself. "It was…amazing, Ada." He looked up, the light shining down on his face. "But I promise, you will get to witness whatever next momentous happens in my life!"
Passing over the surface of Arda every night, Eärendil witnessed Sauron's bid for power and the growth of his armies. He took great pleasure in shining brightly to aid those who might otherwise fall afoul of the orcs. Those night-living creatures did not like the cold sting of the silmaril's light.
But even that light could not stop Celebrimbor's fall and the forging of Sauron's Ring. He could and did cast his light warmly over the new realm Elrond founded, called Imladris.
"At least the three elven rings are not tied to Sauron," Elrond said, leaning against the half-finished balcony of his new home. He was taking a break from building it and discussing the current news with his father above as he ate his dinner. He wrapped the remains of his meal in his napkin and set it aside before grabbing another brick. "I appreciate the light, Ada. I've been so busy during the day getting the Healing Hall done, the gardens laid out and the refugees housed that this is the only time I have to work on my rooms. Poor Erestor has been running so many messages back and forth from here to Lindon and back that I fear he might someday meet himself on the road!"
Elrond stepped back to judge the effect. "Does that look crooked?" He reached forward and twisted the last brick slightly. "Cirdan sent word that the Valar have sent someone from Valinor back here." He looked up for a moment. "I wish it were you, Ada. Though I admit the light does come in handy right now!"
Eärendil twinkled so his son knew he was amused as he laughed.
"Lady Celebrían and her mother passed through here yesterday. Celeborn has sent them to Lothlórien for safety. Celebrimbor…Galadriel is taking it hard. It must be a comfort to her to have such a lovely daughter though."
Eärendil heard his son's sighs and cast his long sight over Arda looking for his golden-haired cousin, Galadriel. Camped a long days ride from Imladris he found a silver haired ellith distracting her mother from her grief with comments on the many charms of Imladris…including those of its grey-eyed lord. Eärendil smiled down at the two and their escort and promised himself to keep an eye on their journey.
Two days later an ebullient and joyful Elrond dragged a tall blond ellon out onto his balcony. "Ada! 'Tis Glorfindel! They have sent me the elf who saved you!"
Eärendil looked down into the puzzled upturned face. Glorfindel. His protector and guide from when he was but an elfling, who had given his life so that Eärendil, his mother and the other refugees could make their escape from Gondolin. He sent a burst of light to welcome the other back to Arda and back into his family.
Elrond laughed at Glorfindel's expression. "Yes, that really is Eärendil up there, sailing the night skies. I often come out here to speak to him."
"I see." It was not easy to bow to someone directly above you, but Glorfindel managed it gracefully. He was not a particularly large elf, though Eärendil knew from experience he was quite strong. He was built more for speed and quick deadly attacks, though in the end the balrog's whip was faster. "Greetings to you Prince Eärendil. The Valar have once again put me in service to your family; to guide and protect your son Elrond and his family…once he has one, that is."
Elrond shook his head. "I see you will get along famously with my friend Erestor. He too cannot wait to see me settled!"
The years blurred into decades into centuries. Even though he was quite enamored of her and she of him, Elrond and Celebrían remained but friends, frustrating Lords Glorfindel and Erestor utterly.
However, what started as late night walks to discuss their lord's stubbornness eventually turned to things more intimate and Eärendil considered himself fortunate to be the only witness the night Erestor proposed. Though Glorfindel's response woke the house, bringing forth many to congratulate them in the uncommonly bright gardens, Elrond first and foremost among them.
It was not until several years later, after the Battle of the Alliance against Sauron wherein Gil-galad lost his life, that Elrond, walking among the trees of Lothlórien with Celebrían, did also propose by the light of his father's star.
The wedding a year later was held at dusk and lit only by a father's love. How deeply he wished he could go down there, to hug his son and kiss his new daughter.
In the following years of peace, Eärendil witnessed many changes in his son's life. Elrond became better known for his wisdom and healing skills than for his fighting prowess; the gardens under Celebrían's care flourished and grew; and Erestor and Glorfindel still took nightly walks to discuss everything that happened in Imladris under the sun. Eärendil was grateful to them and made sure their paths were lit, as his son, newly bound, was not often out on his balcony.
The night he and Celebrían did come out, to tell Eärendil of the impending birth of his grandsons, it became so bright that the roosters thought it dawn. His son and new daughter then had to explain why, breaking the news to the peoples of Imladris while most were in their night clothes. The official party a week later lasted until true dawn.
As he had the night of Gil-galad's death, but with joy, not sorrow in his heart, Eärendil stayed the Vingilot's movement across the sky as long as he could the night the Elrondioneth were born. Long enough for Elrond to bring them out, heavily swaddled, and introduce Elladan and Elrohir to his father.
The twins, as they grew, took up their father's habit of talking to Eärendil as he passed overhead and shared all the important details of a young elf's life that he had missed with his own sons: the first time they heard a tree talk, their first bow, their first hunt. He also heard of those firsts unique to his family: when they discovered their human heritage and when they were told of the choice they would one day need to make.
More elven than their father at that age, they had only passed their majority when their sister, called the Evening Star, was born.
Young Arwen reminded Eärendil of Elwing in many ways. It was her choice above all else that swayed him to choose his Elven heritage; the knowledge that someday he would hold her in his arms again…her and Elrond and Idril and all the others he loved…it was what made his nightly flights over their heads bearable.
He did not regret his quasi-exile however, he knew it served an important role; giving hope to those below. The light of the silmaril on his brow was as restorative to his kin as it was painful to the orcs.
As the shadows once more started to stretch over Arda he did his best to shine that light wherever he could reach. He watched as the Istari arrived, the Dúnedain dwindled and as the Greatwood darkened.
And late one night, beneath clouds so dark his light could not reach, he heard the screams of Celebrían and her guards. He could only light the path weakly as his grandsons raced to her side and shine down upon his son waiting in Imladris for her broken body to be brought home.
Elrond did not cry that night. Not then, not when she was laid into his arms and not when he made the heart wrenching decision to send her to Valinor because he could do no more. Eärendil witnessed it all from his cold vantage point above. His light shining down into her room did soothe his daughter, but not enough. The Mariner's own tears fell freely as they bundled her up and Glorfindel raced with her to the ship at the Grey Havens.
The young twins, young no more, left that night as well. First to assure the path their mother and Glorfindel took was safe, then on to wreak havoc and kill as many orcs as they could. Their grief was deep, too deep for Eärendil's light to reach.
Back in Imladris, watching his beloved wife being carried away, Elrond did finally cry.
Over the next few centuries Eärendil watched with a heavy heart as his grandsons embraced their human heritage, serving as mentors to generations of Dúnedain and constantly risking their lives to kill as many orcs as they could.
Arwen often took refuge in Galadriel and Celeborn's forest, but he felt a dark foreboding as she, like her uncle Elros before her, never spoke to him at night.
It was a bright moonlit night four, almost five, centuries after her mother's passage to the West that Eärendil saw her make her choice. Young Aragorn, the orphaned chieftain of the Dúnedain, descendant of Elros and raised by Elrond, stood holding her hands. Her smile as Arwen looked into his eyes…it was the same look Eärendil had seen in Elwing's the night he had proposed. His tears fell once again as he shined his light down brightly on their love.
"Ada?" Elrond asked raising his tear-stained face to the night sky. "I have lost my daughter. She will not sail, her fate is now tied to Aragorn's and the Edain."
Eärendil could only nod helplessly, making the light he cast wobble slightly. Arwen had told her father that she would follow in his brother's footsteps.
"I have lost them all, have I not? Arwen, Elros, Celebrían, my sons…" Elrond collapsed, crying once again.
Their communication only one way, Eärendil could not tell him of the nights in Valinor, on the balcony of the house she built for him and with Elwing by her side, his wife would stand and whisper words of love into the wind. She was not lost, she but waited for his time on Arda to end and for him to sail.
The darkness continued to grow, the Ring was found and plans were made…and in the gloom of Mordor the light of the silmaril once again shone, in the hands of a selfless hobbit whose only desire was to save his friend and whose greatest dream was to go home again.
It was by the hands of these two small beings, beset on all sides by fear and foes, and by the teeth of one miserable creature, that the fate of Arda was forged anew. The Ring was destroyed and with it Sauron. Thus ended the Third Age.
As it was held during the daylight hours, Eärendil missed his descendant Aragorn's coronation and his and Arwen's wedding, but he made sure there was light aplenty for the long party following.
Two years later, Elrond sailed. "Keep an eye on them, Ada. Keep an eye on them all."
Eärendil lit the path of the sailing ship that carried Elrond, Galadriel, Erestor and Glorfindel to Valinor. He made sure they arrived at dusk, selfish perhaps, but he wanted to see his son's reunion with Celebrían and with Elwing. It was as joyous as he could have hoped for, though tempered with sadness over Arwen's choice and the uncertain fate of Elladan and Elrohir, who had simply said when their father left, "We need to be here for Arwen."
Elrohir and Elladan dismounted and looked over the wide blue ocean toward the West.
"Legolas had waited longer perhaps than he should have, it is good that he sailed finally," Elladan said.
"I am grateful that grandada Celeborn and Thranduil King sailed with him," Elrohir said.
"Grandnana will be so happy to see him again. It is good that Arwen convinced him to finally leave."
They watched as the gulls flew about overhead and down into the waves below for fish. The sun began to set as they stood there.
"So now?" Elladan finally asked.
Elrohir shook his head, as lost as his twin. "I have no…oh, look! The light of grandada Eärendil's ship."
The two looked at one another, then out to sea. "Rising in the West?"
The message the Valar had sent simply said, "The dock at sunrise."
Hearts in mouths, hands clasped tightly, Elrond and Celebrían, surrounded by friends and family, waited at the dock for the sun to rise. Hope was palpable in the air.
It was Legolas who first noticed. "Lord Elrond…your father's ship, it is missing from the sky."
But then, there it was, low on the horizon as if heralding the sun.
As the sun rose, however, the ship sank…no it was on the water, drawing nearer. Elrond felt his heart swell as if to burst. Was he finally to meet his father face to face after all these millennia? Was this why the Valar had called him here?
The Vingilot slid into dock for the first time in three ages. The stardusted ship glittered in the rosy morning light, stark, beautiful and cold.
Movement on board drew their attention. Three dark haired figures appeared at the side, two jumping immediately to land on the dock.
Elladan. Elrohir. They paused but a moment before throwing themselves into their mother's arms. "Nana!"
Elrond watched their reunion through tears of joy. Many were the murmurs on both sides asking for and granting forgiveness, mother and sons both apologizing for not being there when the other needed them.
He stepped forward and swept the lot into his own arms and hugged them hard. "When you did not arrive on Legolas's ship, we were all certain you had made your choice to be mortal."
"Forgive us, Ada?" Elladan asked. "We waited too long, tarrying at Eldarion's side, and missed the sailing."
"We never intended to stay," Elrohir told him. "Though our path seemed contrary, we long ago chose to be Eldar, to be immortals and follow you here."
"How is it possible that you are here then?" Celebrían asked them.
The third figure leapt from the ship to land near them. He glittered in the sunlight, his hair dark and his skin pale beneath the layer of diamond dust. The jewel on his brow glowed independent of the sun; a silmaril.
"Eärendil," a deep voice said. Manwe appeared before the Mariner and took the gem from him and held it up on his palm. "You have done well, our son." The silmaril floated up and away from them, further and higher, until it was a pinpoint in the sky. "We release you now from your duties. The silmaril will remain in your place to bring hope to the world until the Unmaking of All Things."
The peredhel bowed, his diamond coat falling away from him as he straightened. With a wink the Vala was gone as fast as he had appeared. "Go now and be with your family."
"Thank you, my lord," Eärendil called out, his voice hoarse from disuse. He turned in time to catch his son in his arms.