They rode down into Mithlond, to the Grey Havens on the Firth of Lune in the golden evening light of early October: Elrond with those of the Elves of Imladris who had chosen to go with him, the wandering company of Gildor Inglorion, and the one that Gildor and his people had awaited through all these years in Middle-earth; Galadriel of the House of Finarfin, released at last from the Ban of the Valar imposed upon her for her rebellion, and free at last to go home into the West. And with them, riding in high honour, the Ringbearers: Bilbo, Frodo and Sam.
It felt strange indeed to Elrond, to be returning at last to the stone walls and tall towers of Mithlond. But now Gil-galad was gone, the bright king that Elrond had served with all his heart. His cousin Celebrimbor the Ringmaker was gone, too, both of them fallen to the Enemy.
There would have been a time, coming back home to Mithlond, when first he would have looked for Gil-galad, and then for Celebrimbor. But it had been a very long time since Mithlond had been home. And now they were only passing through, on their way to a strange land beyond the Sea that Elrond had never seen.
There was no-one here now save Círdan and his faithful Falathrim. Círdan’s eyes were tired now, and his beard was long and grey. He said nothing to Elrond but “All is now ready,” and he led them on down through the long streets.
Elrond remembered those streets busy with Elves of the Falas dressed gaily in blue and green, going to and from the boats, with Sindar coming down from the hills with flocks of sheep for shearing, or with baskets of fruit, and with Noldor with gems in their hair, their looms and potteries and smithies busy and bright. Now the streets of Mithlond were quiet and empty. No curtains at the windows, no song echoing from the towers or the windows, only the sighing of the distant Sea.
But beyond the Sea, there might still be long-lost friends waiting. Celebrían, too — though thinking of Celebrían meant telling Celebrian of Arwen’s choice, and that he had left Elladan and Elrohir behind in Rivendell... One thing at a time.
Mithrandir had arrived before them. He was waiting with Shadowfax upon the quayside, much to the delight of Frodo and Bilbo.
Elrond left them talking, and turned to speak with Círdan. “Is there anyone left in Forlond or Harlond?” he asked, once they had exchanged their news. Círdan shook his head. “Nobody in Harlond,” he said. “A few fisher-elves in Forlond, still.”
“Could you let me have a boat to take to the North-shore?” Elrond asked. “I have a fancy to ride down to Forlond one last time, before I leave it all behind at last.”
Círdan’s eyebrows went up for a moment, and then his tired eyes creased at the corners for a moment in amusement. “Do you?” he said. “You’ll be wanting the old horse-ferry, then. And I would guess that you will be taking two horses?”
“You have been speaking with Ulmo,” Elrond guessed.
“Not about your visit to Forlond, no,” Círdan said smiling. “But nor am I blind, nor foolish. I have known you a very long time, Elrond...Give me a little while, and I will have them bring up the ferry. I will tell the crew to await you on the North-shore, while your people take refreshment here and make ready to depart.”
“Where are we going?” Erestor enquired, coming up behind Elrond on foot, a tall white horse by his side.
“You are not coming this time,” Elrond told him. “This last time I shall go alone.”
“Is that wise?” Erestor asked, his brow furrowed with concern. “Surely it would be safer to take a few people with you? I will happily ride with you.”
Elrond shook his head and cut him off. “I was riding these lands when they were called Ossiriand, not Lindon, Erestor, long before you were born! I shall be in no danger, and I will not be long. Perhaps a few days.”
“A few days ? But why?” Erestor said, taken aback, but Círdan’s people were bringing up the ferry already.
“It’s nothing important. Stay here and look after Bilbo for me. Oh, and I’ll borrow your horse,” Elrond told him firmly, and turned to the boat.
The North-shore of Mithlond was deserted, the great quays where once the fleets of Númenor had tied up in long rows were empty and silent, save for a few seabirds crying overhead. Elrond thanked Círdan’s ferry-people, mounted and rode up out of northern Mithlond along the long paved road that once had led to the city of Forlond, a road that carried many memories.
...The elves of Gondolin who had made that road, each stone so closely placed that not a seed would grow between them...
...The trees that Oropher and his people had planted to shelter the road from sudden storms. The first trees had been beeches, and had grown small and crooked in the sea-winds: they had planted oaks, later and the oaks had grown tall and strong. The oaks still growing here and there along the edge of the hills might be the children of those first oaks, or their great-grandchildren more likely. They might still remember, if Elrond stopped to ask them.
Remember riding home to Mithlond, laughing with Gil-galad and Gildor in the teeth of a storm from the Sea? Remember Celebrimbor, so proud to show off his new sea-gate in Forlond to his cousin...?
...Remember Amandil riding down that road, on his last visit to Middle-earth before he had gone back to Númenor? Elrond had been in Lindon often in those days. The road from Rivendell had not seemed so long, then. Amandil had sailed West, after that, to plead with the Valar for aid for Númenor against Númenor’s usurper king, and had been lost. Elendil had never known what had happened to his father, and the Valar, in the end, had no mercy to offer Númenor, when the armies of Númenor had sailed in their pride to conquer Aman. They had resigned their guardianship, and Númenor and all Elrond's family there had been whelmed into the Sea.
Elrond had never asked the Valar about Amandil. He had never even spoken to Mithrandir about him. He was afraid the answer might speak of tears unnumbered, or of little pity.
He rode west along the shore of the Gulf of Lune as the sun fell golden into the west, and the Sea called to him, singing of green waves on white shores he had never seen.
Erestor’s horse following willingly behind his own, and as Elrond rode, he reached out with his mind and called. He did not expect an answer for some time, if he got one at all.
When the sun had set in golden splendour in the sea and the glow of the after-light on the empty land had almost gone, he suggested to the horses where they should forage and let them wander.
He wrapped his long cloak around him and tried to sleep, but the land seemed cold now the sun was gone, and a small cold mist was creeping up from the Gulf of Lune. His feet were cold, and getting colder. After a while, he got up, stamped about and gathered a few pieces of driftwood by starlight to make a small fire. He put his feet by it and rested for a while, looking out across the dark waters of the Gulf of Lune back towards the few distant remaining lights of the Grey Havens of Mithlond.
When the stars of Remmirath had swung high into the Eastern sky, he started and blinked fully awake. A dark figure was standing there, beside the embers of his fire looking down at him.
“I thought you would be further North,” Elrond said to it. “I didn’t expect you tonight!”
“I moved South a few years ago,” Maglor said and shrugged. “It is warmer in the winter here. There are very few Elves left now in Lindon, and so it seemed unlikely I would trouble them.” He sat down by the fire, pulling firewood from the rough deerskin bag slung across his shoulder, and poked the fire into a blaze.
Elrond propped himself up on an elbow. “Sauron fell,” he said.
“So I heard,” Maglor said. “The rumour of it ran through all Middle-earth. Even the seabirds spoke of it. How?”
Elrond opened his mouth and then closed it again. “It’s a long tale,” he said, instead. “Two of the Hobbits of the Shire destroyed his Ring, that is the heart of it. But there were a good many people who had a hand in it, in the end.”
“Celebrimbor’s Ring?” Maglor said, glancing sideways at him in the firelight and then looking away.
“Made with all the art of Celebrimbor of the House of Fëanor,” Maglor said with an uncomfortable twist to the edge of his mouth.
“It gave us the advantage, in the end. And without the Rings that Celebrimbor left us, we never could have held so long against the Enemy. There is no need to feel guilt for Celebrimbor.”
Maglor bowed his head and did not reply.
“I am going across the Sea,” Elrond said, his eyes on Maglor’s downturned face, almost invisible in the shadows of night. “Now that the Ring is gone, the last of Celebrimbor’s art is fading.” He held out his hand and showed him the great blue stone of Vilya on his finger, the firelight sparking a faint answer deep in the heart of the dark gem. “I have spent thousands of years fighting the darkness, building my own art and strength on Celebrimbor’s. But now it’s over. I can’t stay here without it.”
That got Maglor to meet his eyes, at least briefly. “Are you unwell?” he asked, those strangely bright eyes suddenly concerned.
“I am very tired,” Elrond admitted, as he had not admitted to Gildor, or to Erestor, or even to Círdan.
Telling Arwen had been hard enough, even though Arwen had so much to look forward to now, and did not need her father any more.
There was no need to say it to Galadriel, of course. Galadriel had built her defences upon her Ring too. Her art and power had flowed through it against the Enemy as much as Elrond’s had. She had stood closer to Mordor than he, and looked into their Enemy’s mind. She was even more exhausted than he was.
“You should not have come here alone, if you are not well,” Maglor said reprovingly.
Elrond gave a tired laugh. “That’s rich, from you! If I had brought anyone with me, you wouldn’t have come near me. You never do.”
“I do not go among the Elves any more,” Maglor said. Then the corner of his mouth curled up a little, just visible in the shadow cast by the fire. “I don’t count you. I knew you when you were not an Elf.”
“Nor am I yet, not entirely... It’s been such a long time since I was free to take the roads west to the Sea. I wanted to see you.”
“It gives me joy that you will go to peace and rest in Aman,” Maglor said. “No-one could have done more to earn it. My thanks for coming to say farewell.”
“That isn’t why I came,” Elrond said. “Come with me.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Maglor said, almost absently, looking away at the fire.
“You can. I have spoken with Ulmo. Galadriel is coming too.”
“Galadriel is hardly in the same situation as I am, Elrond.”
“Galadriel was under the Ban of the Valar, just as you were. The Ban has been lifted. The last of the Noldor are going home, all but Glorfindel, and he will follow soon. Mithrandir and I have asked after you in particular, and both of us were told that we might bring you with us. I fought the Enemy with all I had, down through all these long years. I have earned the right to ask a favour. I asked for you.”
Maglor lifted his head and met Elrond’s eyes.
“Are you formally asking for my surrender now, on behalf of the Valar?” he said. A strange echo out of very long ago, the words that Maedhros had said to Elrond under the shadow of broken Thangorodrim.
Elrond smiled, and gave the answer that he had given then. “I haven’t been asked to. It’s not for me to speak for the Valar.”
“Never mind,” Maglor said. “You’ll do. I surrender. If there is a chance that I can go home, even in chains, I surrender. I would rather live a prisoner in Valimar than stay here alone until I fade into the seawind upon the shores of Lindon.” His mouth twisted in amusement. “You could come and visit your most disreputable cousin, now and again, and give them all something to gossip about.”
“Will your Oath trouble you, if you go into the West?” Elrond asked. “Think about it. Don’t lie to me again, please, Maglor. I must have an honest answer this time.”
Maglor thought about it for a long long time, while around them a small dark wind blew cold from the sea, and before them the fire made a faint small crackling, and sparks flew up against the stars. “I think not,” he said at last. “It is long and long since my Oath has troubled me. I think it has gone. I threw the Silmaril I took into the Sea.”
He raised no defense as Elrond looked into his mind, and there was no lie in his eyes when he turned to look at Elrond’s face. Whether it was true or not, he believed it himself, and that was all that anyone could ask.
And if it was not... Well, then the might of Valinor could withstand one elf who was no servant of the Enemy, for all that he was the last of Fëanor’s sons and among the mighty of the Elder Days. And Elrond was not going without him.
“No need for chains,” Elrond said. “Ulmo has said he will hold you pardoned if I ask it. Come with me on the ship to Tol Eressëa. You can choose later where you want to go from there.”
Maglor stared at him, eyes wide with shock. “I could go home to Tirion?”
“I think so. I imagine you might need to talk to Finarfin the King about it. No doubt there will be some people who will not be entirely happy to see you.”
“You can say that again,” Maglor said and let out his breath in a sudden explosive burst. “Elrond, are you sure? You are going across the Sea for peace and rest, but it comes to me now that if I go with you, that will be neither peaceful nor restful. I can stay here. It would not be so terrible, truly.”
Elrond pulled himself into a sitting position with something of an effort, so that he could see Maglor’s face in the firelight more easily. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I am sure. I have had enough of partings! Arwen is staying in Middle-earth. She has married my foster-son Aragorn, who is one of the Dúnedain, and she has chosen to follow Lúthien, and take the path that Elros took. Elladan and Elrohir are staying, too. They may follow one day, but they might not... and I can’t stay and... I have had enough...” he ran out of words.
“I did not know,” Maglor said. “Yes, I will come. Shall we go on to Mithlond now, or would you rather wait until the morning?”
Elrond lay back again on the dry grass, a little awkwardly, and sighed. “In the morning. I’m too tired to ride again tonight, and I ache. It’s so cold. My feet feel like ice.”
Maglor stood up to pile more wood on the fire, then sat down next to where he lay and looked carefully at his face. “You look tired,” he said.
“So do you,” Elrond told him.
“I’m not aching though, and this autumn is a mild one. Is it your ring that makes you cold?”
“I suppose so, in a sense. Vilya is no longer holding together all the things that I used it to hold, these last few thousand years. I can feel all I made with it slowly unravelling. It hurts. I am so glad you were close by. I was not looking forward to the ride up the coast tomorrow.”
Maglor reached out and took Elrond’s right hand, the one that was wearing Vilya. “Hush Elrond,” he said. “Lie quiet now, and I’ll sing you sleep and warmer feet.”
“Sing the one about the little dog of Tirion and the marvellous prizes,” Elrond said, folding his hand around Maglor’s. He could just feel the faint shape of the scar the Silmaril had made, but it was smooth and dry. Maglor’s hand was comfortingly warm.
Maglor looked down thoughtfully at him in the firelight, and smiled. “Very well,” he said.
“And in the morning, we’ll go home,” Elrond said, and closed his eyes.
“Yes,” Maglor said. “In the morning, we’ll go home.”
Elrond woke late, and found the sun already well up in the sky. Maglor had built up the fire again, and was a little way away, picking burrs from the mane of Erestor’s horse.
“She seems to have found half the burdocks in Lindon,” Maglor said. “I wish I had a better comb. I made this one for me, not for untangling manes!”
“Leave it for Erestor,” Elrond told him. “It will give him something to do once we are on the ship.”
“You’re taking the horses, too?”
“You brought them from Valinor. Their ancestors, anyway.”
“So we did,” Maglor said, still automatically teasing burrs from coarse grey hair. The horse leant sideways and nosed in a friendly manner against his shoulder. “I fear I have no carrots,” he told it gravely. “You have been eating the last of the sweet autumn grass ever since sunrise. You cannot be hungry.”
“It seems right for them to come with us,” Elrond said. His own horse came over to greet him, and he pulled himself up, leaning on its strong warm neck. “I left most of the horses of Rivendell with Elladan and Elrohir and the Dúnedain, but we will bring all those that we rode here onto the ship. I confess, I would miss Tyelemnamba if I left her behind.”
“The silver hammer?” Maglor asked, looking amused.
“Elrohir named her. She trod on his foot,” Elrond told him, and smiled too, partly because of the name, but mostly because although he was very tired, in the end, they had won, and not quite everything had been lost after all. “Círdan has no use for more horses than he already has in Mithlond, and Mithrandir is adamant that he must take his Shadowfax.”
“Mithrandir,” Maglor said uneasily. “That is the envoy of the Valar you spoke of last time you were here.”
“He is a great admirer of your father. He spoke for you to the Valar.”
“Good grief,” Maglor said and shook his head in obvious astonishment. “Are you feeling any better?”
“I’ll live,” Elrond said, reaching for his pack. “Breakfast?”
“I can only offer hazelnuts. I haven’t hunted for a couple of days.” Maglor said. He brought over a small bag that was probably made of rabbit-skin and sat down.
Elrond looked at the nuts and smiled. “It’s been a long long road, from the forests of Beleriand.” He took a handful of nuts and offered a generous wedge of bread and cheese in return.
“It has,” Maglor said. “And see, I have even remembered to crack the nuts for you this time.” He looked appreciatively at the bread and cheese and began to eat slowly and very carefully, savoring each bite.
Elrond sat back and looked at him: dressed in deerskins, with his dark hair tied back with a leather thong. The only metal about him was the sword and dagger on his belt. “You could be one of the Avari,” he observed.
“I feel like one. I haven’t tasted cheese in... how long? Five hundred years? Too long, anyway.”
Elrond raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t spoken to anyone since I was last here?”
“I must have, surely... yes, I traded some furs to the dwarves, up in the Blue Hills, a while ago. I bought some needles and a new kettle. But no cheese.”
“Have some more,” Elrond said, and pushed it towards him. “You could have gone to Círdan for supplies. He seems to know you are here. He wasn’t surprised when I asked him for the ferry.
“Círdan. I haven’t seen Círdan since before the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.” There was a note of uncertainty in Maglor’s voice.
“Don’t fret about Círdan,” Elrond said. “Or Mithrandir either. You’ve survived worse. So have I.”
“True. Still, I feel like the ghost of your unfortunate childhood come back to haunt you.”
“You eat cheese far too enthusiastically to be a ghost. And I have so much to tell you...” He took the star of Imladris from his pack, arranged it carefully on his forehead, then shook out his long grey cloak, pulled himself up straight, and took a deep breath. “Come on then,” he said. “Let us go and face Galadriel.”
When Elrond led his horse back up onto the Southbank of Mithlond, he found that Merry and Pippin had arrived, come to say a last farewell to Frodo, and to provide company for Sam on his long ride back to the Shire. The hobbits were talking on the quayside and had little attention to spare for anyone else. It was no bad thing that they were occupied well out of the way, Elrond thought, as Galadriel stepped forward, tall and strong and golden, staring at her cousin Maglor.
I thought he was dead long ago.
Around Elrond, the quiet quays of Mithlond shimmered and became another quay remembered out of very distant memory, smudged with ash and smeared with blood. There was a sudden smell of smoke, and someone far away was weeping. The Havens, ruined and burned by Maglor and his brothers. Strange how familiar that particular smoke felt, catching in Elrond's throat, even though he had been only six years old.
That was all over long ages past. Elrond said, and with some effort, dismissed the thought.
A vision of a tall man with a bright joyful face and a shining light upon his breast, and beside him a woman with white hair, standing in the caves of long-lost Menegroth. Dior and Nimloth, slain by Maglor's brothers six thousand years ago and more, stood clear and bright in Galadriel's thought as if they had died yesterday. Next to Elrond, Maglor was standing very still.
Elrond stepped in front of him. Not forgotten. How could I forget? But you must admit, the story goes on for a very long while after that.
Galadriel looked at him for a very long moment, bright eyes unreadable. Then her shoulders relaxed and she bowed her head gravely. It does.
The Eldar of Middle-earth are sailing into the West. All of the Eldar. The Valar have pardoned him at my request. And at Mithrandir’s.
A smile began to flower in Galadriel’s eyes, and spread joyously across her face. Elrond found an answering smile on his own lips.
Who am I to complain that Elrond is steadfast and loyal beyond wisdom to those he loves? But it is perilous. An echo of blood and weeping crept into her thought again, faint and menacing as the smoke of war on a distant horizon.
I believe there is no great danger. If either you or I were over-cautious, we would not be here.
True. So be it. I will greet my cousin.
She stepped forward, tall and queenly, though the only crown she wore was her golden hair, and looked into Maglor’s eyes.
Elrond felt the impact of that greeting, though it was not aimed at him. Most of the Elves upon the quay felt it too, and it rocked them back. Erestor, who had been supervising the loading of the ship, whirled around and stared, and Mithrandir, at the other end of the quay beside the obliviously chatting hobbits, extended a brief, alarmed enquiry.
Thank you, but we require no assistance. A family matter. Elrond told him silently.
Galadriel was looking into Maglor’s mind as she had once looked into the mind of the Enemy, leaving him very little choice about it. For all that her Ring could do little to aid her, for all that she must be as tired and worn as Elrond was himself, her strength was the strength of a great river in spate. She was forcing the image of Dior’s Silmaril into Maglor’s mind. Maglor recoiled, and Elrond tensed in case he should strike back. But he did not. He stood like a rock against the flood and let it run over him.
After a moment that felt very, very long, Galadriel let him go and turned back to Elrond. “I still say it is perilous. But I agree he is not under the hand of the Enemy.”
“I am glad to hear it,” Maglor said wrily. “And my greetings to you too, Artanis.”
“I am called Galadriel now,” she said, “That was less than you deserved for Doriath, let alone the Havens. But I have learned a thing or two by now, about dealing out death in judgement... Elrond’s word counts for a great deal with me. Even if, as it seems, he has kept secrets from even his closest allies.”
Elrond looked at her and smiled. “There are a few small matters for which there seemed no need to trouble the White Council,” he said. “Even Mithrandir carries a grey cloud about him to hide his ways as he travels.”
She shook her golden head and laughed. “True. We all have secrets too dear to share. But the last of the sons of Fëanor, dressed in skins like one of the Avari and hidden away beyond the Ered Luin as if he were a treasure out of the Elder Days was not one I had thought of. And I never guessed! Elrond must be very fond of you, Maglor.”
Maglor shrugged. “I don’t claim to deserve it. But he asked me to come, and so here I am. I offer you my heartfelt regret for both Doriath and the Havens, Galadriel. I don’t expect you to believe that I am glad that you survived. But I am sorry. ” There was a barely visible tension to the way he stood, like someone who was pretending very convincingly to be entirely relaxed. You could see it if you knew him well.
“And for the sake of Elrond, I accept your apology, Maglor son of Fëanor,” Galadriel said. The way she said the words was formal and archaic, as if reaching back to a time before even Elrond’s memory.
Maglor bowed deeply and Galadriel inclined her head. “It has been a very long time since anyone has thought to call me Artanis,” she said, thoughtfully “A long time, since I greeted a cousin who remembers the light before the Sun or Moon... I wish you joy, Elrond.”
“Ah, there you are at last, Elrond!” Mithrandir said, striding cheerfully along the quay towards them. “And this must be Maglor. I must say, I am delighted to meet you at long last.”
Maglor bowed without speaking: polite, but more than a little cautious.
Mithrandir was not discomposed. He turned to Galadriel. “Are we ready to set off, my lady? Erestor tells me they are ready to bring up the horses.”
“I am entirely ready,” Galadriel said. She held out her hand regally to Mithrandir, and smiled as he took it. The contrast between her and Maglor was very noticeable. Maglor was now looking at Elrond’s old friend rather as though he had just seen a snake about to bite.
“I am not quite ready yet, I am afraid,” Elrond said. “I am sure the hobbits will forgive us a short delay, if it gives them a chance to have a second breakfast. I spent last night sleeping on the cold ground, and I would like a warm bath and a change of clothes here in Mithlond before we set sail. Perhaps you would too, Maglor? I can vouch for the hot water in Mithlond. It is not built quite on the scale of the fountains of Tirion, but the system was well made. I designed it myself. I have meant to tell you for a long time: you were right, that we would need to build cities again, once the war was over.”
Maglor looked at him and managed to match his smile with a rueful grin. “Well, that’s one less thing to worry about. At least I shall not, after all, have to explain to Turgon why his great-grandson cannot understand a water supply system. A bath would be very welcome. Thank you, Elrond.”