Elrond muses the Night before his Council

by Vison

When Spring comes to Imladris, the Mayflies appear everywhere, all on one warm day They live their Entire lives in the space of one Sun's passage across the Sky. All that they know of Middle Earth they must learn and wonder at in the space of a few of my Heart's beats, then they fall lifeless to the Earth and give up their substance to the Green things. Thus is their Existence ordered.

Such, too, are the lives of Men to me and my Kind. They are born and live their quick hot lives and it is as if I view some image of Life much speeded, their limbs moving in a blur, their faces darkening with their easy Emotions, lips moving, voices like the sound of the Mayfly's sheer wings, until they bend with their short years and fall. 

As long as I have lived here on Middle Earth, thus long have I watched them as they move past my Sight, running, running, always running, devouring their Time, fearful, hastening to some End I cannot see. Their Kingdoms rise and fade, great Empires that to me are as a child's Castle of sand before the oncoming Tide. 

Some have I loved. Yes, loved, though I felt the pain of Loss with the first turning of my Heart to them. I let my Heart warm to one, here and there, and the bitter end shadows our time together like a Cloud. Bilbo, for one, who is already Old as his kind measure it, already bent and wrinkled and becoming vague of thought. Beloved friend, great of heart, gifted with Song, brave and noble and fine -- falling into ghastly ruin. The Gift of the One to Men! How very strange it is, and how unknowable the Thought that made it so.

Great events loom. The End of Days as we have lived them draws nigh. Here in my House Bilbo's heir rests, back in Life after a bitter struggle, bearing the awful burden of the Enemy's Ring. Like Bilbo he is, but not in all ways. He is Bilbo refined, forged in a crucible of Pain, orphaned, wounded, clear of sight, pure of Heart. Long have I sat by Frodo's bed, even after Death and the Shadow were vanquished. He sleeps peacefully, the air of Imladris refreshes and heals him, his strength returns, he will rise tomorrow, and he will turn to me -- for guidance. He and the others gathered here, they have come seeking the Wisdom of Master Elrond. 

The Wisdom of Master Elrond! Bitter, bitter as Ashes in my mouth, choking me. For all my Wisdom, I cannot banish the agony of my own Heart. For as I sit and muse upon these things, my daughter walks out in the Moonlight with her lover, the thief who has stolen her from me, the thief I let into my House, the thief to whom I myself gave the Key to my treasure. The thief that I love, Aragorn, Estel my foster son.

In him I see again my brother Elros. Longfather of centuries, his beauty lives in Aragorn. Not his face and form only, but his Nature, high and noble, stern and firm of purpose. Such as Aragorn is, I have shaped him, at least in part. How could I not love him? His care was my trust and my duty, but love ruled there, and another son he became to me. There is nothing in him to make him unfit for Arwen, except that he is a Man. That is it. That alone. And I myself, in my great Wisdom, I myself mixed the cup that now poisons me, I myself nursed the Viper that has turned upon me! She cannot know what it is she asks of me, nor can he. I would give Everything else I have, gladly with open hands and a smiling face, if I did not have to give this.

But, it is done. Some Wisdom I have, and that is to know that there is no calling back Yesterday. No unsaying the words, no undoing the deeds, no unloving the loved. Arwen will now never stand with me upon the shores of Elvenhome, never again see Celebrian her mother who waits even now for the grey ship. She is lost to us, to our People. Even should Aragorn fail, even should the Enemy at last conquer all of Middle Earth, Arwen will not come with me. She has given her Heart to this Man, and will stand or fall with him, despite my forewarning that she must be Queen to his King. It is not mine to bestow my daughter like a Thing, I cannot give her away and no more can I keep her. She has her Life and it is hers to spend as she wishes.

In the Golden Wood Galadriel, too, is preparing for the oncoming Battle. Counsel we have had together, but never once have I cast up to her that it was she who saw first where Arwen's heart turned. Galadriel it was who made Aragorn's path smooth. Oh, she is wise, is Galadriel! Can it be that she saw more than I? That to some end it is necessary for me to endure this Pain? And this must now be put aside, my Heart must close itself upon this agony, so that I may turn my thoughts to the Ring.

Tomorrow we will sit in Council. Here are gathered Men, and Elves and Dwarves and now Hobbits, all come here to Imladris to discover what next to do. Boromir, son of Denethor, come all the way from Minas Tirith with riddles and dreams to Solve. Aragorn will lay before him the Sword that was broken, and so answer part of what Boromir asks. Legolas Greenleaf son of Thranduil comes heavy with news. Gloin and the others with news of their own, and wanting to take advice, and eager to give it. Here is Mithrandir, like me one of the Wise, anxious and heavy of heart, wounded like Frodo, not by knife, but by treachery. Frodo, who both is and bears the other part of Boromir's riddle, and his companions. They think they are done, that their journey is over, that they have found safety and rest. They are hardened somewhat by their days in the Wild, but they are not hardened enough perhaps, for what is to come.

For there is no turning back now, no returning home to the Hearth that waits with a fire ready laid, no opening the round Door of Bag End, hanging a cloak on the hook, sighing with gladness to be Safe. Frodo is come here to Imladris bearing his future and the future of all, and it is for me to set the wheels in motion that may carry it forward. It is for me and for the others of the Wise to take matters into our hands. We shall turn things about and over and up and down, looking this way and that, striving to see what might come, what might forestall the Storm.

As for me, and my Kin, we have always the Straight Road. We can, if we wish, put down our burdens and leave Middle Earth, we can go Home to our own place and leave these Men and Dwarves and Hobbits to face the Enemy. I confess that it has come to me, deep in the night, that I could do thus. I could say: this War is not my War -- I did my part, long ago. Yet I chose to stay then. I did not go, then, when I could have gone with Honour. Staying, I undertook to take on this burden, and so now I must bear it, and I will do so. My reward for my labour is to lose what I love most, and to have to leave this place after all, one way or the other!

The East lightens with the coming Dawn. Soon the snows above will blush with the first Sun. We will sit in Council, we who gather here. Wisdom we will seek, and so we will plan our next move in this Game. The Wise! Always there comes something that we Wise have not foreseen, for we cannot know all ends. Always comes the unexpected-- the treachery not suspected; or the greatness unseen, hidden like Mithril deep in the Earth, shining forth to startle and enlighten us, perhaps, a gift more welcome because unlooked for. It may be that tomorrow will bring such a gift. It may be that tomorrow we will be amazed and heartened. Well, I will go there and open my purse of Wisdom and pour out such coinage as it contains. It will be counted over and perhaps added to, piled up, then spent. What will it purchase?