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Unto the ending of the world: 28. Silence
Mid-year's Day, 3019
Above her, the stars shone white and cold. Will I be able to see them beyond the Circles of the World? She would know soon, and the quiver that ran through her was anticipation rather than apprehension. I have already waited too long.
Before, Arwen had still felt a faint echo of Estel's presence in her mind, telling her that he was yet within Mandos' Halls. Now even that was gone. Had she thought then that she was alone, now he was truly gone from the World and only silence, emptiness remained.
When she had not answered his last, despairing outcry, had he given up hope that she would follow him? An even worse thought struck her. Could she know that her Choice would be allowed by the Valar? What if, coming to the Halls of Mandos she found that she was not Mortal? No. No, she had to trust that her Choice was made.
She shivered at the unbidden memory of Estel's hand brushing away a lock of her hair as he lowered his head to kiss her as they plighted their troth. Had she any hope of reaching Lothlórien, she would have gone to Cerin Amroth. Instead, she would spend this night in the place where she had learned of his death, and in the morning she would go and say her farewells before returning here for the last time. And where better? Was this not also where, many years ago by the count of Men, a callow, yet oh-so-earnest youth called her Tinúviel and placed his heart at her feet? She had dismissed him then, yet he remained on her mind until she saw him again in Lothlórien, arrayed in silver and white, as bright as Eärendil's star.
Their time together had been so short; a week here, half a day there, just enough time for a kiss as he hurried through Rivendell, once several months after he had been brought here to recover from a wound. So little, yet it had been enough to sustain them, and always they had hoped that they would prevail. Estel, I hoped with your hope, as you hoped with mine. Now the Enemy has won, defeated us, and I am bereft of hope.
Then why, when I already knew what I should do, have I lingered so long? There is still something holding me back. But what? Arwen sat down to ponder what it was, but stood up again immediately, too restless to sit. What is it? Fear? No... How could she fear death when she had no reason to live? Yet to die would be never to see her family again.
Arwen wished she could have seen her brothers one last time; at least they could have said farewell. Likely they were still in Lothlórien with their grandparents, and even in the thick of battle, they were as safe there as they would be anywhere in Middle-earth.
Her mother had gone West to find healing, but Arwen would find no healing there or anywhere within the Circles of the World. I would that father could understand that. It tore at her to watch his pain and grief, yet he too might in the end find some measure of peace in the West.
She shook her head at her thoughts, as if love were nothing more than a set of scales to be balanced, with Estel on one side and her kin on the other. Yet they were not what held her back. It was as if there was something she had to do before she could be free to leave. But what? "Your fate need not be Lúthien's," her father had said. But how could it not be?
Lúthien... Lúthien had not been cowed even by Morgoth. In the end, she had chosen the Fate of Men to be with Beren, but she had not bowed her head in defeat; she had defied Thingol, denied Fëanor's sons, braved the dangers of the wild of Beleriand, and at Tol-in-Gaurhoth she had confronted Sauron for her love's sake.
O demon dark, O phantom vile
of foulness wrought, of lies and guile
here shalt thou die...
Arwen gasped, so suddenly did the thought come to her. If she was indeed like Lúthien, she should be so in full. She knew what she had to do.
A love is mine, as great a power
as thine, to shake the gate and tower
of death with challenge weak and frail
that yet endures, and will not fail
nor yield, unvanquished were it hurled
beneath the foundations of the world.
On the day she had first made her Choice, she and Estel had pledged not only to cleave to each other, but also to oppose the Shadow, and see it destroyed. While the latter was beyond her – she could scarcely challenge the Enemy to a needlework duel – the war would require all effort, even if she did no great deeds, but merely her daily duties.
She did not know whether to laugh at her presumption in thinking to pit herself against Sauron, even in so small a manner, or to quail in fear, but then her hand strayed to the Elessar. She had worn it every day since it came back to her. Let the stone that had been a token only of her love also be a sign of her determination, her challenge to the Enemy. I will not submit in defeat, fade in bitter grief. I will not abandon our fight. She would take her grief, take her love, her pain, her anger, and there find the strength to stay and stand against the Dark One. She would see this through to whatever bitter end there would be. Only then could she follow Estel. Soon enough I will be with you again.
But how could he hear her beyond the World? Arwen shuddered as she thought of Estel waiting, perhaps hoping still that she might follow – or would he believe she had abandoned him?
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