Since the first elves awakened at Cuiviénen, it was believed that the couples were soul mates. The following years did nothing to dispel that belief, nor did the Valar when they led the Elves to Valinor.
Of course, Finwë and Míriel managed to disprove this and thus were reluctantly granted the only exemption ever recorded. But the Valar decided that certain laws and customs needed to be formalized, which would eventually lead to problems later on.
It was a red day when Fëanor’s sons attacked the settlement at Sirion. They were denied the Silmaril they sought, but came away with a prize nonetheless, the twins Elrond and Elros.
Maedhros had been the first to find Elwing's twin sons. He'd never forgotten the lost twins of Doriath, but the loss of his youngest brother in this battle had driven him nearly mad with grief and rage. It was bad luck when he burst in the room where they were hidden. They mistook him for some kind of fell creature that intended to devour them. Only the timely arrival of Maglor had saved the situation from complete disaster.
Maglor talked Maedhros into taking the boys in to foster, in penance for their mother’s loss of her brothers in their previous bid for the starlit gems of Fëanor. Maedhros didn’t want the reminder of his earlier crime, but Maglor was taken with the twins and convinced his brother that the loss of the Ambarussa meant they were destined to raise these ill-fated twins.
Things were understandably rocky at first, but as time went on, and in the absence of their real parents, the twins grew and thrived in their exile. Despite the circumstances of their foster, facts neither Maedhros nor Maglor ever hid from them, Elrond came to look upon Maglor as his true father and Maedhros as an uncle.
As he came of age, Elrond’s feelings for Maglor began to evolve. When he was younger he had thought of Maglor as a father figure, but as he grew he found himself fantasizing about what it might be like to love Maglor in a more… intimate way. Yet he feared these feelings. His reading led him to discover the concept of a soul bond between Elves. This bond began with the act of physical love and bound the couple together forever. Soul mates.
He wished he had someone he could discuss his feelings with, but Elros did not take to their foster fathers in the same way. He was often resentful and difficult, even when the demands made upon him were light. He shirked his lessons and grew sullen when asked to complete tasks he despised. Yet he loved the outdoors and became proficient in woodcraft and horsemanship. Elros seemed impervious to the concept of love or affection and preferred to spend time alone than together as a family.
"I don't know why you trust them, brother," Elros whispered one time before they fell asleep. "They are nothing but kin-slayers, thrice over. And that doesn't bother you?"
"I'm not having this discussion again," Elrond sighed. "I understand your feelings, brother, but they haven't harmed us. They have treated us well, like family."
"More like dogs," Elros snapped, refusing to let go of the argument.
"Good night, Elros." Elrond pulled the blanket over his head and pretended to snore. Elros finally gave up and fell asleep himself.
For Maglor’s part, he could sense the change in Elrond and, though flattering, it made him uncomfortable.
"You are too fond of the boy, Maglor." Maedhros said one night as he sipped at his wine. It sometimes helped him to relax but not too often. Maglor hoped tonight would be different, but he doubted it.
"Which one do you mean?" Maglor wanted to ignore his feelings but Maedhros was seldom that kind.
"Elrond, of course. I don't think either of us are very fond of Elros. I know I'm not," Maedhros finally replied. "I suppose it doesn't matter; they are of age."
"Yes. I think Elrond is ready to wife," Maglor said as he refilled Maedhros' wineglass.
“I suppose it is time for both of them to move on,” Maedhros said. The relief in his voice saddened Maglor.
When Elrond and Elros made their choice, and Elrond cast his lot with the Elves, the brothers separated forever. Elrond grieved briefly at the loss, but he and Elros had grown apart long ago. The choice made Elrond wonder if he would be bound by the Laws and Customs to pair his soul with another for life. Again, there was no one he could turn to for answers.
After Elrond entered his cousin Gil-galad's court, he met many who were clearly interested in a relationship with him. And while Elrond liked many of them, he didn't feel drawn toward anyone.
"I thought with so many maidens interested in me I would have found someone by now, yet none have taken my fancy," he commented to Gil and Erestor one winter evening.
"It is seldom easy," Erestor had replied, biting back a smile. He sensed that Elrond had grown up too fast but he was far more tolerant of his foibles than some were. Gil had his own set of problems dealing with matchmaking parents and had little time to spare for Elrond.
"I just want to find someone," Elrond replied. “I feel so alone."
This was something both Erestor and Gil could understand, but they had no ready advice to share.
So when Elrond met Celebrían, he believed he had at last found his soul mate. Neither actually had, however, Elrond realized that soon enough. But it was a good match and they were happy. The arrival of their children made everything seem almost perfect.
Maglor continued to keep tabs on Elrond from a distance. After throwing the hated Silmaril into the sea, he refused to call of his Elven blood to sail. For many years he roamed the shores of Middle-earth singing songs of lamentation. The few privileged to hear them came away with a feeling of unutterable melancholy. They felt the pain of lost love but assumed it was for the Silmarils. No one would have guessed the real reason for Maglor’s sorrow.
Yet Maglor tortured himself by keeping tabs on Elrond through Círdan, who was ever a good friend to him. He was happy for Elrond when he married Celebrían and started his family but he could not lie to himself, or his friend.
"He misses you," Círdan told Maglor privately. “I think his feelings run deeper than you know.”
"He has a family of his own now," Maglor said. "I am moving on and I shan't be back for a long time."
"There is a shadow on that relationship," Círdan shook his head. "I cannot see it, but do not give up hope. Take care, Maglor."
In the early morning mist, Maglor vanished once more.
Círdan sipped his morning tea and turned his attention back to his ships. A sharp wind blew in from the east. An ill omen perhaps. The future was shrouded in fog.
Celebrían's capture, long illness and unexpected sailing from Middle-earth was a harsh blow to all of the Firstborn. It proved especially devastating to Elrond, who now believed that the blood of Tuor was intrinsically flawed. Not only were his children to be given the same decision he and Elros once faced (something that many believed was unfair) but it convinced him that he was unworthy of finding a soul mate.
Elrond watched wearily as his sons now followed their own obsession, the eradication of Orcs, while his daughter fled to stay with her grandmother. He didn't have the heart to criticize them when he was so lacking in himself.
"This is not like you, Elrond." Círdan told him in one of his frequent letters. "You are needed by many; your day is not over." But Círdan could not spare any time from the Havens and his correspondence held little comfort.
Erestor and Glorfindel both fretted over him, trying to help him in any way they could. But they didn't seem able to comfort him either.
Oddly enough, it was Thranduil who was able to break through the worst of it in a brusque letter to him.
Cousin, he wrote. While I cannot fully understand your grief, since my people follow other laws, I know what it is to lose your spouse. As hard as it is, put away your grief. The Enemy searches for any sign of weakness to exploit; you must not give it that chance or all we lost in that battle is for naught. It was signed Your kinsman, Thranduil Oropherion
Life in Imladris continued. Elrond kept busy and seemed to return to his happier self. Only those closest to him knew how weary and defeated he felt. The arrival of Gilraen, widow of Arathorn, and her son Aragorn, who he renamed Estel, brought a bittersweet joy. The boy's arrival stirred Elrond's memories of Maglor, and he often wished the son of Fëanor was nearby for his wise counsel.
But it also seemed to Elrond that time itself had changed. Instead of long placid days, there was a sudden rush to everything. It was most unnerving. Elrond knew the time of the Elves was fading and that Men were destined to carry the torch forward. Yet not all Elves sailed. Thranduil certainly wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, and Maglor… Elrond’s heart lightened at the thought. He had not sailed, Círdan had told him so. Though he didn’t know where Maglor might be, just knowing he remained in Arda gave him hope.
Of all he had lived and seen for two Ages, the Ring War was the most dreadful to his heart. This time the lives of his daughter and foster son were bound inextricably together with the fates of all the free peoples. Though he had opposed the match at first, Elrond came to understand that Arwen had found what he himself had always sought. He blessed their union, intending it to he his last act on the shores of Middle-earth.
He had left for Círdan’s realm with every intention of sailing. However, once he saw the vast ocean spread out before him, once his feet touched the glimmering sands, the sea longing felt by all true Elves drained from him like a pool at low tide.
There was still a pull for him in Middle-earth and finally, through many trials and much pain, he at last admitted it to himself. It was not Maglor’s wisdom he desired.
With the Havens a virtual ghost city, he took up residence in an abandoned cottage on the lonely shore. He spent his days wandering the past the dunes up into the hills and cliffs using the vantage points to search for Maglor. His ears were always attuned to the sound of the wind and waves, straining to hear the notes of a lute or the melody of Maglor’s golden tenor voice.
Eventually, even Círdan sailed. He and Elrond said their goodbyes.
“Are you sure you want to stay, Elrond?” he asked. “Your wife awaits you in Aman.”
Elrond gave him a wistful smile. “I love her, I truly do. More than I thought possible. But we never shared the bond we both thought was the destiny of Elves. Our separation has been longer than our marriage. I hope she has found happiness and healing with another.”
“I have not heard from Maglor in many a long year. Even I do not know if he has sailed.”
“He has not,” Elrond said. The declaration surprised them both.
Círdan clapped him on the shoulder then pulled him into a bear hug. “Then may you two find each other quickly, my friend. Good bye.”
Elrond watched his last true friend leave for a place promised to be without sorrow or pain. He would not have traded places with him for all the treasures of the Dwarves.
One evening, Elrond was reading by the fire when a faint sound close by caught his attention. He froze. With the Havens empty at last, perhaps marauders had grown bold enough to rifle through the empty buildings and cottages.
He looked up, dropping his book to see Maglor standing just inside the doorway. Elrond ran to him, catching him up in a fierce, joyous embrace.
"I have searched for you. All along these shores. I hoped if I remained here that eventually you would return. It’s been so long, so very long." His voice was torn with emotion.
“Many times I wanted to return but I stayed away, hoping you would have sailed.”
Elrond broke the hug, devastated by his words. “You wanted me to leave? Then why did you make yourself known to me?”
Maglor’s look was equally distraught. “Please listen to me, Elrond. Yes, I wanted you to leave, I prayed you would. You have a family waiting for you in Aman. There is nothing there for me but shame and bitterness. I have known since you came of age that my feelings for you were more than fatherly. It would not have been right for me to act upon them.
I was drawn to come to the Havens one last time before setting off into the East and I saw the light on in this cottage. When I saw it was you, I hesitated. If you had not looked up I probably would have lost my courage and slunk away like a whipped dog.”
Elrond stared at him with both longing and pity. “All my life I have searched for my soul mate. Even before I knew such a bond existed. Always inside of me there was a void waiting to be filled. I wanted it to be you but I thought it impossible. Celebrían should have been that for me, but she wasn’t. I could not have sailed even if I had desired it. I would have left a piece of myself upon these shores if I had left you.”
“You knew I didn’t sail, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I felt it.”
“I do not have that gift, yet something told me to come back here. I didn’t know why. I almost didn’t come. Can we truly be soul mates then?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Elrond replied, pulling him into a deep, searching kiss.
They undressed and made love in front of the fire, fulfilling the desire of many mortal lifetimes. And as they lost themselves in their physical bond, their souls created an unbreakable spiritual bond. The bond of the spirit Elrond had read about in the Laws and Customs so many years ago was real after all.
Afterward they lay in each other’s arms perfectly sated and happy in a way neither ever thought to be.
A thought struck Elrond and he rose up on one elbow to look into Maglor’s beautiful grey eyes.
“You said you planned to go into the East but…” The words caught in his throat. “I hope your plans have changed. What I mean is… Oh, stay with me, Maglor. Please?”
"Oh my dearest one," Maglor replied, drawing Elrond into a loving embrace. "Until the breaking of the world."