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“We’re leaving in half a Turn of the Stars.” Olwë’s tone is solemn as he announces his final decision to his people. “The Valar have agreed to move the Island of Eressëa for us, like they did for our kin before. I will lead those who still desire to go, to see the Blessed Realm and to walk again with our dear friends who are already there. I understand that many of you wish to stay, and I deeply appreciate your loyalty to my brother - may you find him one day.”

 

It is a cold presentation of facts rather than the passionate speech the missing Elwë would have given. The reaction from the audience is appropriate; the members of his Council are unsurprised, since they had been involved in the thorough debates on the matter, and he hears some murmuring from the rest of the crowd. Most of them must have known what to expect too, Olwë thinks, our people really are a bunch of gossips.

There are a few protesting cries, though, as some people had not wanted to believe what they had heard before. He and his closest advisors answer more questions, and some of them actually manage to provide encouragement and reassurance with their words. The crowd disperses soon after, and Olwë is left alone with his thoughts.

 

 

Mere weeks later, he remembers those thoughts, the uncertainty about Elwë's fate that had not allowed for relief nor true grief, and thinks: ‘I can’t believe I missed you, feared for you, and you were just “wandering longer than usual”, you...

What he says is: “You came back. You came back, brother, we had almost given up hope for that.”

Elwë, who is standing right there, surrounded by the guards who had met him first and a growing crowd of onlookers, a mysterious companion beside him, smiles. His relief at this reception is palpable.

“I’m very happy to be back, Olwë, and believe me - I’m so sorry I left you alone for so long.” He looks around and adds: “All of you.”

 

Their people cheer, and Olwë has time to observe his brother and his companion. Elwë looks well. Physically, he hasn’t changed at all since the last time they had seen him, but there is some other quality to him now, something Olwë doesn’t know how to define yet. The only thing he could say for sure is that his brother is different in some unseen way.

The woman standing next to him is clearly not one of the Quendi, though her appearance is more normal than Oromë’s had been when they had first encountered the Vala. There are, however, just enough blink-and-you-will-miss-it differences, so the effect is not as reassuring as she had probably intended. At least to Olwë; he is sure his idiot brother doesn’t mind. Then again, Elwë likely wouldn’t have minded her having a bird head and claws or something like that, either. He had decided that he liked the Ainur, and that seemed to mean he would not let any of their peculiarities bother him.

So, perhaps Olwë had been right to worry so much, after all.

 

His train of thought is interrupted by Elwë throwing himself at him, to give him the tightest hug imaginable. Olwë hugs him back just as fiercely. But after a few minutes, he blinks away his tears of relief and disentangles himself, though he keeps his arms on Elwë’s biceps.

“I am very glad to see you well, brother.” He speaks loudly enough for those around them to hear everything. “Perhaps now is the time for you to introduce this wondrous lady who came with you?”

Elwë’s smile grows brighter immediately, and he turns around to beckon her towards them. “This is Melian, a Maia who has fought with the Valar for our safety and freedom. We met in the woods some time ago, and, well, there was some enchantment which inadvertently made it hard to perceive the passage of time...”

Olwë keeps his face polite. “I mean no offense - but that means she was responsible for you going missing for thirty Valian Years, right?”

“It wasn’t deliberate!”

The Maia, who had been letting his brother take center stage until now, says: “I am very sorry for making you fear for Elwë. But what he said is correct. I had been practising my arts in solitude, and I was indeed not aware of the passage of time as you are. As a result, neither was Elwë once he found me, until I realized that he might have to return to you and undid my enchantments.”

Olwë sighs. “If my brother does not blame you, then neither will I. Welcome in our camp, Lady Melian.”

 

That is the only thing he can say, of course. Ossë and the other Maiar of Ulmo, whom he already knows and trusts, are going to arrive soon, and if there is something wrong with this Melian, they will be able to help. But if that is the case and especially if she still has some sort of enchantment on Elwë, it is best not to warn her now.

That is also why he does not mention how soon they are leaving for Valinor. He quickly cuts off the first person who seems about to do it, telling Galathil to find a suitable place for them to rest.

 

‘Elwë will complain because he wasn’t told instantly, of course, but I’ve been in charge of security for a long time now. And evidently, his return doesn’t mean I get to hand that particular duty back.’