Scent of Memory, The
1. The Scent of Memory
On her right Ithil’s white light streams in through the stone casements, illuminating all with a chill gleam. The paintings to her left, half shadowed, half lit, stare down at her as she passes. Some are scenes from long ago times, times when she did not yet walk the earth, scenes of battles and meetings and…leavetakings. Some are portraits of heroes and heroines of this and past ages. She names them all in a soundless whisper as she passes beneath them, and she knows the precise moment when her mother’s likeness looks down upon her. She imagines she can feel the Silver Queen’s eyes caress the top of her head, linger on her back.
Nana, Arwen whispers as she leaves her behind.
Nearer, ever nearer looms the desired doorway, the longed-for portal to her heart’s comfort. He will be there, as he always is, seated in his chair before the windows. He will be gazing out at the night sky, reading the clouds, searching the velvet blackness for familiar stars and naming them to himself one by one. Perhaps he will name them for her again, as he did when she was young, for old time’s sake, before he returns to the Path of Dreams….
Breath catching in her throat from eagerness, in nervous anticipation, she peeks around the edge of the doorway. And releases her tension with a sigh.
Moonlight spills over him, setting the crown of his head ablaze with white light. His raven hair is unbound upon his shoulders, intermittently visible through the carven back of the chair. Motionless, soundless, he sits in penumbra, for there is no other light in the room; he has gathered it all to him. The fire in the wall behind has burned down to winking red embers whose dim pulsation extends no farther than the inner edge of the hearth.
In a heartbeat she is behind him, resting her hands on the smooth roll of the chair back. Does he know she is there? She aches to touch his hair, to stroke the silken strands that carelessly embroider their own intricate pattern against the pale grey of his garment. Will he let her touch him this time? Will he be angry, tell her to leave him in peace? She bends down close, and the powerful scent of crushed rosemary rises to her nostrils. With a sigh Arwen inhales deeply of the familiar odor, and an equally familiar knot begins to tie itself in her throat. The next breath she draws will be a sob. This compelling aroma, the scent of memory, is beloved, but the thing she wants the most, needs the most, she can no longer have….
She speaks his name, but the voice of the moonlight drowns her feeble utterance. She could swear it carries the Music of the Ainur in its bright flood. She draws breath to speak again, this time a bit louder.
He stirs in his chair and sighs. Arwen, melda nîn.
He addresses her in Old Sindarin, which their people ceased to speak before she was born. What distant paths does he wander this night? The wise say that the ancient ones seek ever and only the memories of their youth and that their dearest companions on the Path of Dreams are always those who no longer tread the middle lands. Perhaps even now he walks the gardens of Lórien with Nana. Emboldened by the endearment, she lowers her hand to his shoulder, lets it slide down to rest just past his collarbone. Solidly reassuring, the bony protrusion juts into the heel of her hand.
Ada, please help me.
He reaches up to cover her hand with his own, and its warmth engulfs her, traveling quickly up her arm to enfold her heart in its gentle fingers.
What do you wish of me, child?
She blinks her eyes, and a haze of tears slides across them. Her father’s voice is patient, caressing. It is the voice of her childhood, and so she answers as a child would.
Heal my spirit, Ada.
He draws in a deep breath, then on a sudden exhales it in an audible sigh.
Can you heal me?
The question, though pointed, is, by now, rhetorical. Gone is the voice of her childhood, replaced by the bitter logic of adulthood. They both know the answer. The tears stream freely down her face.
Please forgive me, Ada.
Surprise blossoms within her. She is taken aback at her own tearful plea. Things have taken a different turn this time. In the past she has always been defiant, and he has always been quietly bitter. This time the new words left her mouth before she could consider them. Forgiveness -- did she want it at last? Yes. Was it possible?
I wonder that you even ask it of me, Arwen.
She half turns, ready to flee out of the room and back down the corridor, as always, blinded by tears, but this time he forestalls her, gripping her hand tightly. His fingers are solid, strong, and firm. He wants her to stay.
Come sit with me, melda nîn. I would hold you awhile.
This has never happened before. Drawn but not forced, heart pounding, she moves around to the side of the chair. She has not seen his face yet, has not dared to look. She looks instead out of the great glazed window before them, and the full face of Ithil stares back at her, his white disk pocked with grey. He is marred forever from his contests with Anor. Like Arwen, he cannot stay away from the flame that burns him. She can feel the blood moving through her veins, pulsing in her ears. She can feel her father’s eyes on her, assessing, challenging. Waiting. Dare she look at him? Slowly, cautiously, she turns her head.
He is beautiful, as he has always been, as he will always be, even unto the Change of the World; white as marble, sharp as a sword, kind as the rain on the fields. His eyes are the deep grey of summer stormclouds, and they gaze on her not with anger, but with love. She leans forward, reaches out for him, and he draws her onto his lap and into his embrace.
There is no more defiance. There is no more bitterness. There is only the bliss of being in his arms, enfolded in his warmth, his strength. Once again she feels his heart beating beneath the cage of his ribs, feels the heavy rasp of his silk tunic against her skin. She lays her cheek against his, bone against bone, flesh against flesh. She is a child again, and he is her beloved father.
He asks her once more, What would you have of me, child?
Name the stars for me, Ada.
She feels the deep rumble of his laughter, and joy explodes inside her.
I want to hear them again. Please, Ada….
Very well, but you must start me off. I have grown quite old, you see, and am beginning to forget.
A smile hovers on her lips. Old, indeed, but forgetful? Never.
All right, Ada. First is Anor, the fiery golden….
And on it continues. They are in no hurry. They do not limit themselves only to the stars; they name planets and constellations and celestial phenomena of all kinds. They know where they are going. It is always the same.
Next is Helluin, the ice-blue…
She is barely listening to his words now; she has ears only for the sound of his voice, low and melodious. At times when she was young he would strike a particular note that made her ear tingle and she would shake her head, rubbing at her ear like a puppy. He would chuckle then and plant a kiss on her cheek, as he does now, and the touch of his lips on her skin was the greatest joy of all.
Then, of course, there is Menelvagor, the Hunter….
She does not care about the Hunter; she is listening for just one name, and he knows it. But he is taking his time, for once it is named, the lesson will end.
Over there is the Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar, and over there…
There is only one more heavenly body, which he always saves for the very last. Arwen holds her breath.
…is bright Eärendil, the Mariner.
He looks straight at her then, eyes bright with unshed tears.
Who is Eärendil, little one?
It is about to be over, so she takes her time about answering. The knot rises in her throat again.
He is my grandfather, your father….
He is called the Blessed….
He is also called the Morning Star….
She gulps in air, intending to reply, but the knot has grown so large she can no longer trust herself to speak. He puts his hands alongside her face and kisses her forehead. Lips pressed against her skin, he begins to sing very softly a song she can barely remember and, sliding his arms around her again, begins to rock her gently.
Who are you, my love?
She is openly weeping now, in the high, keening tones of those in deepest grief, a grief from which there is no surcease and no return.
I am your Evenstar….
He holds her to him very tightly then, and his arms are like bands of steel, his kisses possessive and tinged with desperation.
That is even so, melda nîn, my dearest love. You are my Evenstar, my Undomiel. Never forget.
Never forget me.
She awakens abruptly, with the word in her mouth, with the taste of salt on her lips. Never forget you. Then she hears the birds singing, feels the warmth of the night air of Minas Tirith on her cheek, feels her husband stir beside her and sigh gustily in his sleep, and knows that, once again, it has been only a dream. Always, always the same dream….
All at once she feels a feather-light touch on her forearm. Her eyes flutter open to find themselves staring into those of her small son. Eldarion has crept into their room sometime during the night and lies curled between them in their bed like a lapdog. It is his touch that has aroused her, broken the spell. He is fully awake and alert, as she is now, and he is stroking her arm with a miniature forefinger, playing with the delicate hairs, raising goose-flesh all along her skin. His gaze is deep, pensive, and he makes no sound, does not speak her name or demand breakfast. He seems content merely to be near her. As she is, she realizes suddenly, to be near him.
I love you, Eldarion Elessarion, she whispers. Scion of Elrond Peredhel, of Eärendil the Blessed. Her voice is barely audible in the deep silence of the hour before dawn, when the only sound is the faint rumor of birdsong among the trees along the Anduin, but he hears and listens.
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.