Only a Game
7. Where to?
"Perhaps", I asked, "if you have some maps to show me where you think he might have gone? Just to give me a sense of direction, where we head first."
Elrohir nodded and rose from his couch. "In my study."
He pointed to the door between the bookshelves. The study was a comparatively small room with an arched window looking towards the west, across the waterfall. The walls were lined with shelves, and in the middle of the room two desks were set face to face. From the ceiling a chandelier was suspended bearing many white candles to light the room after nightfall. On a small table in front of the window was a small wooden chest with star shaped golden designs gleaming in the sun light streaming through the window.
Elrohir, following my gaze, explained what it was. "This is a gléinelellion, a star chest. It belongs to the ship, which is waiting for us at Dol Amroth. It contains the charts necessary to sail across the seas and pass the mists of time to reach Aman." I looked at the precious chest and felt somehow choked. I walked over to the chest and traced my fingers across the smooth, sun warmed wood. "It is very beautiful", I said. But I felt like crying. Why had anyone programmed a game with this sad story? No real LOTR-fan would ever want to experience this – all elves leaving Middle-earth.
"You said something about maps", I said, resolutely turning my back on the gléinelellion.
"Indeed I did." Elrohir had pulled a stack of documents and rolls of parchment out of a drawer. He chose one of the rolls and opened it up on one of the desks, using beautiful paper weights made of glass to weigh down the corners of the parchment.
"We are here – Imladris – Rivendell –" He pointed. I nodded. The map was larger than my own, but the two maps seemed to correspond. "Elladan like hiking. I believe he followed the Misty Mountains to the north; at least for a time. Then he might have turned to the east, heading into Mirkwood. Although even the Silvan Elves have sailed for Aman by now, the land still retains traces of our… spirit. It calls to us. Where he might have gone from there, I have no idea. Perhaps he is still there."
I bent across the map. There were many lands on this map stretching to the east of Dale, which I had never noticed on the maps in the books. "And if he has gone on? Where might he have gone from there?"
Elrohir sighed. "Perhaps to Dale. The men and the dwarves there used to be friendly with us of Elven kind after the end of the third age. Or perhaps further still, into the Eastern lands, to the Sea of Rhûn, or –" He halted, his slender fingers stopping at the inland sea marked as the Sea of Rhûn. "Or?" I prompted, noticing the shadow of a memory in his eyes.
Elrohir looked up, and his eyes were very dark again, a colour I came to recognize as an indication of anxiety and worry. "He – he – always wanted to cross Middle-earth to its Eastern shores. He wanted to see what lay beyond. He spoke of the lands of the morning sun, where neither the Valar nor the Shadow had ever walked."
I raised my eyebrows, following the line he was tracing across the expanse of the map. East of the Sea of Rhûn the map was pretty much white, indicating wild and unexplored lands, ending at an indication of an Eastern shore line sketched only in a broken line, showing that the accuracy of the map was not confirmed for this area.
I whistled softly. "This looks like an enormous distance."
"Almost two thousand miles."
I looked up at Elrohir and frowned. "When did he leave?"
Elrohir sighed, his fingers tracing and retracing the Eastern shore line. "Five months ago", he finally said.
"Then there won't be any traces left of where he went. Not even your sharp Elvish eyes will be able to detect where he walked." I made it a statement, secretly hoping for a convincing contradiction.
"You are right. I can only guess where he went." Seeing the darkness in his eyes I bit on my lip and did not ask why in hell he had waited so long to go after his brother.
I sighed, looking again at the map and the vastness of the lands displayed there. Talk about searching a needle in a haystack.
"He could be anywhere. How will you be able to know if you head into the right direction?"
"My heart will tell me", Elrohir whispered. "I hope."
We decided to take the High Pass across the Misty Mountains, and then follow them to the north, hoping against all odds to find traces of Elladan's camps. Then we would turn into Mirkwood and head to the East, going to the Lonely Mountain and Dale, again, hoping against all odds, that someone had seen the lone Elf travelling his lonely road into the East. We would continue on to Rhûn.
And then… Elrohir had fallen silent, but I knew he would go the farthest shores of Middle-earth in the hope of finding a trace of his lost brother. If he did indeed go all the way across Arda, there would remain barely enough time to go back again across the wide expanse of the continent to be in time to sail for Aman.
A journey worth of Ulysses himself, I thought. At least Elrohir's quest had a reasonable chance of a happy ending… not many orcs or other foul creatures remained in this day and age, and the mortal realms were at the moment relatively peaceful. Elladan had probably really only done, what he had wanted to do for a long time – acting out his Elvish mid-life crisis he had walked off the soles of his boots several times over and gone to see the Eastern Seas. The real risk was probably that the brothers would fail to meet somewhere in the middle of their travels.
Elrohir would leave a note in Rivendell telling his brother to take the gléinelellion straight to Dol Amroth and wait there for him. He did not want to return to Rivendell again.
I frowned at him, when he explained his intentions. But his eyes had darkened again to an almost black colour, and I did not need to ask why he would not return for the gléinelellion. If his brother did not sail for Aman, Elrohir would not, either.
I was not sure if he was choosing the right path with this decision, chaining his destiny to the fate of his brother – but who was I to argue with one of the last two Elves in Middle-earth? I was neither an Elf, nor did I know the close bond shared by identical twins, having only the one younger brother.
And anyway, nothing of this set-up was real anyway, I told myself forcefully.
"But what is real, then?" Elrohir's voice broke into my thoughts.
"Did I say that out loud?" I asked, feeling an icy shiver of fear creeping up my spine.
"No", he said, his voice calm and comforting. "But you were thinking so very loudly I could not but hear your thoughts."
And how in hell could an Elf, who did not really exist, read my mind? I thought, as privately as I could manage.
"I often doubt what is real and what is only a figment of imagination, too." Elrohir went on. "Especially since I have been alone here in Rivendell. The stones of the buildings, the trees, the earth itself contain traces of Elvish magic. Sometimes I can see visions of who walked here, long ago. Faces and songs, smiles and tears lost in time."
His gaze was trained on some invisible object in the distance… a distance of time as well as of space. How would it feel to be all alone? Not only lonely and misunderstood, feelings I knew so very well, but really the last person of your people remaining in a changing world. The only white person in an Africa belonging solely to its native peoples… or the only European in Japan… But it had to be even harder than that. He was not even mortal, after all. And we humans – black, white or Asian – shared our one precious and mortal life, after all.
"I am sorry", I said. And "sorry" felt woefully inadequate to express the sympathy I was feeling.
But Elrohir smiled and all of a sudden he looked very young, not any older than I was.
"Thank you, my lady. Jarro. It is good to travel in the company of a ranger again."
I smiled back at him, and thought, very silently and deep down in my mind: if only you knew the truth; realizing at the same time the absurdity of this notion.
Now that I had the adventure I had missed on my way to Rivendell, I discovered the risk of this venture. It was becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to the fact that this was only a game, and not real at all.
I had not many supplies left, but Rivendell's storerooms were still well stocked.
Elrohir spent the next morning accumulating different kinds of provisions. The most important item was a stack of thin loaves wrapped in large leaves and additionally tied in white linen bags. He offered me a piece of one of the thin cakes. I chewed it enthusiastically, and from an enticingly crunchy-crispy feeling it changed into a melting of different, spicy aromas on my tongue. And even the small bite seemed to fill my stomach just as much as a huge bowl of stew might have another day.
I grinned at Elrohir, suddenly realizing what this stuff had to be. "That's lembas, isn't it? Elvish waybread."
He looked at me surprised, but nodded his agreement. "It is. With this supply we can walk to the shores of the Eastern Seas and back without starving."
That was a reassuring thought, although I felt sudden sympathy with the hobbits' feelings in the "Lord of the Rings"… going for weeks and weeks with nothing but lembas would probably make even sushi appealing. I sincerely hoped we would take some of the more usual provision with us and perhaps take the time to hunt or fish on our way. After all, even though we could not dawdle with this mid-winter deadline put out by the Valar, we would not be pursued by black riders. There should be enough time for the occasional rainbow trout or rabbit. I hoped. But I did not voice my doubts about six months of lembas to Elrohir.
I was rewarded for keeping my silence shortly afterwards, when Elrohir added hard cheese, flour and cereals, dried fruit, a powder to make soup with and other more human food stuffs to the lembas.
"Do you eat no meat at all?" I asked, when I noticed the absence of ham or sausages.
That would certainly fit in with the ethereal image of Elves some fans portrayed in their stories I had read on the internet.
"No. The meat we will take is in another larder. You don't want to mix the aroma of meat and cheese in a storeroom." Elrohir explained, not even raising an eyebrow at yet another strange question.
Finally the food we would take was divided between the two of us and packed in our respective backpacks. Elrohir had had a look over my stuff and pronounced it fit for travelling all over Middle-earth. The only addition he had to make was the gift of a long grey cloak, which fastened under my chin with a brooch shaped like a golden and green leaf.
"This is a travelling cloak made by my mother's people, the Galadhrim, the Elves, who used to live in Lothlorien. Wearing that cloak you will almost invisible to anyone not of Elvish blood."
Full of awe I stroked the soft, warm cloth, feeling its dense weaving and admiring the way it blended into the growing shadows of the evening.
"Thank you, that is a high honour indeed." I said, my voice trembling slightly.
Elrohir shrugged. "There is a chest full of them left here. And no one left to wear them. Better a friend should wear one, than that all of them be eaten by vermin in the centuries to come."
There was a definite tinge of bitterness in his voice.
We left Rivendell before sunrise on the next day.
We climbed a path, which led us above the buildings of the Last Homely House. The Bruinen was only a rivulet in a bed of smooth white tiles up here, easily crossed without even wetting our feet. The path wound its way further up the mountain, until it reached the entrance of a narrow ravine. I stopped and looked back at the valley. It looked very beautiful and peaceful in the first golden rays of the summer sun. Almost as if it was asleep. I wondered whether this Imladris would ever be woken again to a life of singing and dancing. I sighed softly and blinked away tears, regretting that I had never seen Imladris full of life and probably never would.
But Elrohir did not look back and walked ahead of me into the ravine, his footsteps soft and sure.
He never returned to the place where he was born again.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.