33. In the End - Part I
It was morning, and though the bright sun and blue sky hinted at a cool and gorgeous day, it seemed to Legolas that this day, more than any other, would he have to accept the truth of things.
He sat upon his bed. The velvet curtains were wide open and secured as such, letting all the light of the new day spill into the chamber and shove back the shadows. However, it seemed to him that its warmth never made it past the window. He was tired today, as he had been yesterday and the day before. He sagged and closed his eyes, wondering if he had the strength to do what was required of him.
Water dripped down his nose. He had just taken a bath, hoping the warmth would do much to ease his tense muscles and weary form. He had sat in it for much longer than he should have, and time was now fleeting. He was rather disgusted at his own lethargy. He should be taking the brush he had set beside him and using it to do something with the mess of his hair. He should be quickly dressing. He should be taking a meal, for though he did not like to admit it, this mortal body craved sustenance almost constantly, and irritatingly he was often forced to oblige it. He should be meeting Aragorn and Gimli in the stables. Yet there he sat, soaked, letting water seep into the expensive bedding without much regard, staring blearily out the window. He smiled ruefully. His father would be quite unappreciative of his sluggish nature this morning.
Legolas had begun to realize how very slow time passed when one was sick. It was a strange thing, really. For an Elf, time was never an enemy, and it traveled as it chose without much of his concern, whether quickly or leisurely. However, it had adopted a new meaning to him now. It was constantly on his mind. Suddenly hours seemed slow, time wearily trudging through each day in its endless march. At sunset, he would look back upon the empty day and curse it, wondering where the hours had gone and why they had forsaken him. He had become accustomed to the grotesque and disturbing feeling of mortality, of knowing that his body was dying all around him and that he was unfortunately helpless to prevent it. His grin returned to his face. How he had grown to respect Aragorn and the others. He had never before known mortality to be such a trying venture. Elves did not require sleep. Elves did not need to eat often. Elves did not make an enemy of the ageless and wise time. Mortality by nature did not afford its captives such luxury. He was only beginning to become acclimated.
Get moving now, his mind barked to his body. Today is far too important for you to tarry! It was true. Today he would return to Mirkwood. Today he would again see his family. His father. Legolas shuddered, though the air was warm and he was snugly wrapped in a robe. His heart was riddled with anxiety, and for all his strength he could not calm its frantic rush. No matter how he twisted the problem or struggled to rationalize, he could not escape the fact that he must face his father and tell him the truth. The grin slipped from his face. He wondered not for the first time that day how he could do this. Surely the sight of him turned mortal would be enough to strike hate and rage into Thranduil's heart! Could he possibly bear to add to his father's distress by revealing to him the monster Astaldogald had become? By speaking the truth about all that had happened? A few days prior, he had finally managed to persuade Aragorn to explain to him what had occurred in Gondor after he had been wounded. It had surprised him to learn of Aratadarion's deception. Aragorn still appeared greatly vexed by the entire situation, and Legolas sympathized with him, for the consequences of Aratadarion's lies would undoubtedly now prove dire. He doubted his father knew that Aragorn had killed Astaldogald. If he had, Legolas was certain Thranduil would have sent every soldier available to drag the newfound king of Gondor back to Mirkwood where he would be summarily punished, likely by death. He shook his head. Surely his father did not know!
The silence from Mirkwood disturbed him greatly. Not a single messenger had come to Rivendell seeking news of its prince's well being. This at once angered and saddened Legolas. Had they already rejected him? He did not want to think it, but the worry nagged at him relentlessly. He sighed and looked down to the floor where his bare feet rested. You are quite the hypocrite, he thought sadly. Why had he bothered to expect otherwise? Many hundreds of years had passed in Mirkwood since the last member of the royal family had passed into the Halls, and he expected Astaldogald's sudden death to be a consuming event for the entire kingdom. They would not spend thought or lament upon the youngest son of Thranduil, the child that had forsaken his family, the one that had brought upon them such shame and peril. Legolas shuddered. Nay, he should not anticipate their interest in him, and he chastised himself for hoping as much.
Still, it was hardly consoling to think this. He longed for some sort of signal from his family, even if it were to be unpleasant. It would be vastly preferable to this silence. He narrowed his eyes in thought. Today he would know for certain whether his family had rejected him. He would return home and tell his father the truth about Astaldogald, and reveal the truth about himself. And he would part with them forever.
There came a knock at his door. At first he remained in his daze, for the thought of company at that moment was not alluring, and he did not even raise his head. But his visitor was persistent. Another knock followed, this time accompanied by a muffled voice. "Legolas? Legolas, are you well?" It was Arwen. Even through the thick door he could detect her concern. "Legolas?" The door creaked open slightly. "May I come in?"
She did not give him time to answer, but stepped nimbly inside, closing the door behind her with a soft thud. He turned to her momentarily. In the sunlight she glowed, her skin seemingly very white and pale when compared to the deep lilac of her simple gown. Her abundant hair was swept up and pinned in an elegant style that left most of the locks cascading down her back. She was quite beautiful, and Legolas could not help but smile. Aragorn had been extremely lucky to catch her fancy.
Her blue eyes were wide with question and concern. Surely the sight of him was somewhat alarming. It was so unlike him to be sloppy and sluggish. Legolas knew he had no reason to be embarrassed before her, for she had seen worst of his nightmares, had treated him in his darkest, dirtiest hour. Yet his cheeks suddenly flushed red with shame, and he pulled the robe tighter to conceal himself as she stepped closer.
She came to sit beside him carefully, and the bed shifted with her added weight. "You will miss breakfast if you do not hurry," she said. The worry in her voice betrayed her scolding tone. "The cooks have been waiting nearly a half an hour."
He finally gained the courage to look up. "I am sorry," he said softly. "I am just weary this morning."
They were silent. Legolas felt her trepidation and uncertainty in the long, empty moment. It was on her quiet breath, this nervousness, and he knew what she would ask before she gathered courage sufficient to voice her request. "Why not wait a bit longer? You do not have to do this, Legolas "
"Nay, my Lady," he responded quietly. He closed his eyes against his headache. Days ago had he announced his intention to ride to Mirkwood. It had been met with some resistance. Aragorn had insisted that he come as well. The thought had not overly pleased Legolas, for he did not know the danger his dear friend might face in his home. Gimli as well had volunteered himself as the archer's guardian despite his dislike for Mirkwood and its inhabitants. Though it hurt Legolas' pride to know that his friends thought he needed protection, he was inwardly glad for their company. He knew the trip would be trying and difficult for him. Arwen had said nothing of the matter at first, but he could detect her reservation and doubt in her noticeable silence. She knew it was not her place to question Legolas' judgment before his friends. She would not deal such a damaging blow to his ego. Now, though, in private she obviously intended to voice what she had previously left unsaid. "I must. They will not come for me, and so I must go to them. I know my father. If I am to do this, I must do it on his terms."
"That is not fair, Legolas," she declared, shaking her head in disgust and disdain. Though she said this with only his best interests in mind, he found the comment scathing. "You were hurt as well."
He shook his head. "I It is not so simple, Arwen. You know as well as I. You have been to my father's realm. The Elves of Mirkwood base much on pride and tradition. There they do not dissociate between being an Elf and being a prince. I cannot go back to them as I am now. I will not put such a pain upon my father." Legolas released a slow breath. "I will not make him choose."
Her hand fell upon his shoulder. Her smile was sad. "Then you are stronger than I, my Lord, for I would not have the resolution to deny myself my own birthright for the sake of my people." The statement was meant to hearten and encourage him, but the words were somehow painful. Legolas only looked away, hoping to hide his hurt from her. She had already done far too much for him; she did not need to know how much her simple thought pained him.
They were silent again then. It was an awkward emptiness, a void deep with question and regret. His reasons for returning to Mirkwood had done more to upset them both than add any sort of completion to the moment. He sank deeper into his weariness. Yes, I will return to renounce my place as prince. As my father's son. The thought brought tears to his eyes, tears that he quickly blinked away. He was surprised he had any strength left to combat this sadness. He knew deep within himself that he had to do this, even though his heart cried out in grief and anger. He would never be able to accept the truth of what he had become unless he forgot what he once was.
He felt a tugging at his hair. Arwen had taken the idle brush from beside him and was now pulling it through his sodden locks. He was startled a moment, and then castigated himself harshly. His weakened senses still at times left him rather vulnerable to surprise. She stopped, obviously sensing his alarm. "Shall I leave you?" she asked quietly.
Legolas could only slowly shake his head. After another hesitant moment, she resumed brushing and straightening his hair, gently removing the tangles from the bath. Legolas closed his eyes, content in her presence to rest, the lethargy returning quite easily to grasp his body and mind. As she brushed, she spoke. "Where will you go now?"
It was not something he had really considered. All he had known in his life was Mirkwood. He was not skilled in much aside from war and diplomacy. He had been a prince, but not the crown prince, and thus not learned in the ways of ruling a kingdom. What was he to do now? He saw the rest of his life stretch before him, empty and lined with uncertainty. Yet, there was something about that uncertainty that was perhaps a bit exciting. For the first time, he was completely free, unfettered by responsibility to a kingdom. He was not sure if he found this liberation pleasurable or disturbing. "I do not know," he admitted in a meek tone.
Arwen collected his long hair in her hand, running her fingers gently between the now smooth strands. She hesitated once more, but ultimately found it within herself to speak. "Perhaps you would like to join Aragorn in Minas Tirith." He lifted his head and turned to look at her. She smiled, her eyes firm in her offering.
A little bit of that uncertainty and unease faded as she held his gaze. A small grin pulled at his lips, and he turned away again. Her trite invitation had alleviated a bit of his confusion and trepidation. "Perhaps," he responded. It was a noncommittal answer, but his tone held much relief.
The matter was then dropped. There was much time, after all, to decide such things. Arwen set down the brush. "Would you like me to braid your hair, Legolas?"
Icy water rolled over him and he stiffened. Flashes of memories stampeded through his head. The Uruk-hai ripping at his hair, pulling free the braids of his heritage. Saruman's smug smile at the sight. "Neither Elf nor prince, dear Legolas!" "No," he whispered harshly, narrowing his eyes in hate. The memory was slow to fade, vivid and terrifying, and it left him trembling in anger. "I would rather you cut it. I cannot go back." His eyes filled with furious and stinging tears. How could there be any left to cry? "If I am to live as a mortal, I might as well look as one."
There was no answer at first. So dark and deep were his thoughts that he did not listen overly intently, else he might have heard Arwen's small laugh. She had retrieved the cord from the bed stand. Gently she fastened it about Legolas' hair, securing it at the nape of his neck and away from his face. "I could never bring myself to do that, dear Legolas. If you want your hair shorn, you shall have to do it yourself!" She smiled and leaned over his shoulder to look into his eyes. Hers were alive in friendly mirth. "Now come and have your breakfast. If you insist upon taking this journey, I will see you and Estel properly fed before you depart."
It was not the reaction he had expected. Exasperated, he watched her stand. She seemed to float to the door, elegant and graceful in every simple movement. "Arwen!" he called.
She stopped at the portal, her hand grasping the knob, and turned to face him. Upon her face was a question, and she regarded him with expectant and inquisitive eyes.
He sighed slowly. "How " He nearly faltered, unsure of how to ask such a thing of her. Surely it was a private matter, and he did not want to press upon her a fact that might be distressing. Yet he could not still the question. It was too important. "How do you contend with the emptiness?"
She regarded him blankly for a moment, as if she had not understood his question. His eyes were intent upon her, imploring her for some sort peace. Then pain flashed across her face, sympathy shining in her bright blue eyes. "For me it is not emptiness, but completion." He had not wanted such an answer, and he felt the depression well up within him. He was afraid he would never grow accustomed to this terrible silence within him. "I know it can be the same for you, Legolas. Give yourself time."
It was somehow enough. He did not know how or why, but he felt inexplicably better. Stronger. He breathed deeply. "Thank you," he murmured, "for everything."
She smiled affectionately. "Come. It is a beautiful day!"
The door opened and shut quickly, and she was gone. He was alone once more. In the time he had sat there, he had dried a great deal. The sunbeams streamed through the window, but they no longer pained his eyes. In stead, they warmed his skin, his mind, and his heart. He shrugged aside his lethargy. Although his doubt and anxiety remained, he believed now that if he took this journey but one step at a time, he would somehow find the strength to do what he thought necessary.
Slowly he stood.
It was time.
She only remained in the dining hall long enough to see Legolas arrive. All except Aragorn had waited for him to appear before beginning to eat despite the prince's obvious chagrin. The others had grown worried at Legolas' delay and were much relieved and delighted to see him this morning, although their own meals had become quite cold. A moment after he was seated, the conversation resumed and they all began eating in earnest. She observed long enough to be certain that Legolas was indeed eating; he had developed an ugly habit of picking idly at his food without ever consuming much of it. She shook her head at him, surprised that he thought he could fool her healer's eye. This morning, at least, he seemed hungry enough to eat in earnest. Satisfied with that, she turned and set out to find Aragorn.
Arwen entered the stables. Quickly her eyes scanned her surroundings, but she saw neither Aragorn nor his great horse, Hasufel. The stable hand approached her and bowed quite lowly. "My Lady," he said in greeting.
She smiled and curtsied. "Has my Lord been here this morning?"
"That he has, my Lady. He took two horses and led them outside a few minutes past."
She nodded her thanks and stepped outside into the sun. Beyond the stables was a wide courtyard made of smooth stone and blanketed by leaves. Ahead to the left was the winding road that led its travelers up the ravine and to the forests surrounding Rivendell. The well-traveled path rose and wound its way along the rock. The sound of the falls was muffled here. This courtyard was the first view many had of Rivendell, and it was quite enchanting.
She found the ranger standing by one of the yard's lavish fountains. He held the reins to a great white horse. The animal was terribly skittish, and Aragorn was having a difficult time keeping him controlled. She approached quickly and offered her love a gentle smile. Then she laid calming hands upon the massive white horse, willing into him a peace. She whispered soft words to him, stroking his face tenderly. It was enough to appease the riled beast, and he stilled his struggles, submitting to her tender ministrations.
Aragorn afforded her a grateful smile. He pulled Hasufel closer then, and the massive brown stallion begrudgingly followed, eyeing his white companion with a wary glare. "Do they come?" asked Aragorn.
"Momentarily. He is eating now, my Lord."
He nodded. In the daylight, he was bright despite his ranger's garb. His lightly bearded face was lax, though, and his deep eyes were distant with troubling thoughts. She regarded him intently, watching his pained expression, and she herself grew distressed. Her heart ached for all he had endured these last weeks. Though the scathing comments Legolas had made were borne in a fit of depression and delirium, she knew that they still had served to wound Aragorn deeply because they had fed upon guilt already present. Discovering that Legolas' fate was sealed beyond their help had made that guilt only stronger. Now she knew the truth of all that had happened since the Fellowship broke at Amon Hen. A few nights prior she had finally convinced Aragorn to lay bare the source of his anguish, and her lover had done so with much resignation. The tale was a heart-wrenching, gruesome one, littered with shame, duty, and betrayal. She understood his reservation in traveling to Mirkwood; he was worried at what wrath he might face for killing one son of the king and leaving another stricken. The matter was complicated, and though she comprehended enough of it now to empathize with him, to say she knew how to aid him would be a painful and misleading lie. Still, Aragorn was not about to let his dearest friend undertake this journey alone, no matter what danger it might hold for him. Though Legolas had vastly improved since their arrival in Rivendell, this voyage would prove difficult and strenuous for him. He of course denied his need of their support, but Arwen knew he would be glad for it all the same. Aragorn would always protect him. He had silently renewed his vow with greater fervor than ever before.
The pained looked upon his handsome face grew too distressing, and she stepped forward to take his hand. "Do not fret," she said softly. "King Thranduil is not so much the monster as to punish you for matters beyond your control."
The comment was not made in jest, but Aragorn smiled all the same, as if realizing his anxieties were silly. "I do not fear his penance, but rather his hatred. What happened is not so simple that he could just lay his blame upon me. I believe him to be a stronger creature than that, and though Legolas considers him ignorant of the ways of other races at times, I do not think he could attain such stature if cursed with a narrow mind." His grin became rueful. "It is strange. For most of my life have I been Legolas' closest friend and he mine. Yet I know so little of his father, aside from his rumored wrathful nature." His distant eyes became focused upon her. "I worry more for Legolas than I do for myself. This will be no easy task for him."
She thought back to her conversation with Legolas in his room. "He will overcome because he must. Have you ever known Legolas to falter?"
Aragorn smiled again. "Never," he conceded. "You are right, of course. As you always are, my love."
She blossomed with the compliment. His thumbs gently traced the rise of her knuckles, and she drew close to him, hoping to steal a silent moment before he would again leave her. His other hand came to rest at the small of her back, leaving her tingling in unusual mixture of comfort and anxious desire, as she rested her head against his shoulder. He smelled vaguely of musty woods and pipe smoke. His heart was beating against her cheek. "Ai, Arwen," he whispered, his voice tickling her ear. His other hand stroked her thick hair. "You have always been my strength. Even from afar you shone upon me, Evenstar, and brought light and hope to my heart at its darkest hours." He lifted her chin so that their gazes met, and in his gray eyes she saw the deepest devotion. Its power shook her heart, and she struggled simply to breathe, wondering idly how she could still be so surprised at his love and so taken with him. "Oft I wonder what I have done to deserve the gifts you have given me. Your love, your life Why did you choose me?"
She smiled slowly, laying her hand against the necklace she had given him, pressing it gently to his chest. Earlier she had noticed he had kept it with him throughout his journey, and that had pleased her immensely. "It was never a matter of choice, Estel," answered Arwen. "My heart beats only for you. Should you leave me, it would cease its strain in my breast, and I would fade. You are the force behind my existence. Continuing without your love is more of a torture to me than death." She pressed her hand to his cheek. "When death comes for me, I will not be afraid. It is a small price to pay for a lifetime of your splendor."
He smiled then, reaffirmed in her love for him, and sealed her lips in a warm kiss. They lingered in the moment, both content simply to bask in the heat of their passion and devotion. Finally they parted and Aragorn embraced her tightly. "Upon my return," he said breathlessly into her hair, "will you join me in traveling to Minas Tirith?"
She had no time to answer, for there came a great collection of voices in the courtyard. Ever concerned with decorum, they parted, though Aragorn scarcely hid his frustration. Down the wide stone steps came their friends. Elladan responded to a question posed loudly by Merry as they entered the area. Elrohir said nothing as he escorted Pippin, but he appraised his sister with a knowing smile. Behind them walked Legolas and Gimli. Their silence was laden with trust and anxiety.
"Well, if this isn't a proper send-off!" declared Pippin, gazing about the assembled group. Arwen reluctantly released Aragorn's hand as the ranger pulled forth their horses.
Legolas shook his head. "This need not be such an event," he said solemnly. His eyes betrayed his discomfort at their concern over him. In some fashion, Arwen sympathized with him. As long as she had known him, he had always been a creature of great dignity, guarding well his weaknesses. It had surely been difficult and embarrassing for him to have so many people fretting over him.
Elladan grinned mischievously. "You flatter yourself, Legolas," responded the tall, brunette Elf. "We are merely glad to see you go! Have you forgotten that normally my brother and I celebrated at your departure and peace that came to Father's House with your removal?"
Arwen shook her head at her brother; he was always ready to tease. His jest sparked laughter in the party, and it was a welcome relief to the unspoken tensions in the air. Even Legolas smiled and dipped his gaze. Merry and Pippin watched the twins of Elrond expectantly, clearly waiting for them to regale some vastly entertaining and hilarious tale. Elladan chuckled at their confused looks. "Oh, surely you do not think that the prince of Mirkwood was always so dignified as he is now! He and his compatriot here-" He gestured at Aragorn, who was grinning quite foolishly despite himself. "-were quite the trouble-makers. Many a trick was played upon us, though they would never now admit to them. The little brats thought themselves so smart since Father never learned of any of their exploits."
"And now you flatter yourself, Elladan," Aragorn announced. "None of our exploits, as you call them, would have ever succeeded had you not been so oblivious."
Elrohir laughed as his twin turned red in embarrassment. "Peace, you two," he said, ever the arbitrator of their squabbles. He turned to Aragorn, seriousness piercing his gaze. "You best be on your way, Estel. The morning has already worn."
And so they went about their preparations. Bags filled with supplies for their short journey were attached to the horses' saddles. The white stallion seemed less than pleased that Gimli had returned to him. It was quite the humorous sight, spurring more laughter from those present, as the stubborn beast snorted and shied away from the Dwarf. Gimli cursed him, claiming he was daft and foul. The massive steed had given no protest, though, as Legolas had gingerly mounted him. In fact, he seemed almost relieved as the archer neared, nuzzling Legolas affectionately. This had only served to infuriate Gimli more, causing greater guffawing among the spectators. The Dwarf angrily proclaimed that it was so like this wretched horse to be instantly affable towards Legolas when through their long journey the beast had never once been so to him. Though the laughter was at the stout and indignant warrior's expense, he seemed more relieved to see Legolas' smile than angry at the joking.
How far they had all come to stand joyously at this moment!
Finally Gimli was settled upon the white horse, seated behind Legolas. Aragorn mounted Hasufel easily, his movements swift and powerful. He reined the great brown steed in, and the horse jumped a bit, obviously anxious to be underway. She approached them both. First, she smiled at Legolas. He appeared a bit hesitant, but resolution glowed in his eyes, and it was enough to ease her. She knew she did not have to worry. Then she turned to Aragorn. Her love lifted her hand and placed a chaste kiss upon it.
"Until our return, my Lady," spoke Gimli in a rumble. He lowered his head respectfully to her. She nodded, casting upon him a grateful look. Elladan and Elrohir came to stand beside her, silently offering her their support as she bid her friends farewell. She was faring quite a bit better than she thought she might, really. There was nothing to fear. They knew their way.
Legolas was the first to turn at the shouted demand. Down the steps bounded Frodo. Behind him, still a bit hobbled by his leg, limped Sam. The Hobbits breathed heavily, their faces somewhat flushed. The group grew quiet, surprised by their sudden appearance. Merry came to help Sam silently, for the stout Gamgee was impeded by his crutch.
Frodo approached Legolas and Gimli, looking up at them from the ground. "I meant to return this before, but it slipped my mind," he admitted somewhat sheepishly. He reached up and offered Legolas a long, glowing knife. Arwen watched the exchange, confusion etched into her eyes. Legolas regarded the weapon a moment in obvious stupefaction. As the sun caught the beautiful blade, Arwen received a glimpse of an Elvish inscription. She recognized the skillful metal work. It was a weapon from Mirkwood.
Frodo's face was open as he looked to Legolas, waiting for the archer to accept what he offered. "I found it, you see, when I returned to Amon Hen. I thought you might like it back." The words were trivial compared to the emotion in the Hobbit's voice. Something lined the words, and though Arwen considered herself rather perceptive, she could not unravel the message. There was a note of gratitude, she thought, but clearly more as well. Sadness? Repentance?
Legolas understood, though, and a slow smile spread across his fair features. "You keep it, Frodo Baggins. It eases me to know it served you well."
For a moment, it was still. Then Frodo retracted his offering hand, looking at the knife in awe. He returned his gaze to Legolas and nodded, breaking from his stupor. The Halfling smiled then. After all they had been through, it seemed a healing moment for them both. "Have a safe journey, Prince Legolas."
The sound of the title caused pain to flash across Legolas' eyes. Yet he did not falter, but nodded and thanked Frodo for his concern. The Hobbit then returned to his companions, grinning, and Merry draped a friendly arm over his shoulder.
With that, they were off. Pippin shouted after them, "Might you bring me a knife back too?" Merry elbowed him in the ribs for his foolery, and he immediately reacted with indignant befuddlement. "What? They are quite pretty, and I would like one! Think of the look on our friends' faces if I came back with such a thing!" Frodo rolled his eyes and shook his head, amused by his friend's silliness.
She and the others watched until they were far away upon the road from Rivendell. As they grew distant and indiscernible, Arwen felt a bit of her heart go with the two she loved. This was the last step of Legolas' journey. She did not doubt he would take it.
The rest of the day wore on quite slowly. She found much of it elapsed without her notice, as her mind was muddled with many thoughts. Rivendell had come free of its depression with Legolas' departure. Though unspoken, the relief was clear over his renewed spirit. She spent the day busy with the celebration plans. It would be a rather large feast, with many in attendance and music and food enough to last well into the night. Her interest was elsewhere, though. She thought of Aragorn and what he had asked of her. She had not been overly surprised at his request to follow him to Minas Tirith, but it still seemed sudden, and she did not know how to approach her father about the matter. She thought of Legolas and hoped he would find his place again. She was excited and restless, slipping easily into girlish flights of fancy only to emerge and chastise herself before again falling to their charms. It was silly, really. It would likely be a week before they returned to Rivendell. Mirkwood was two days' hard ride to the east, and they would most likely be slowed by Legolas' weakness. She should not be so anxious. Directing her thoughts elsewhere, though, was a task easier said than done.
Night came. Arwen sat in her room. She was rather tired this evening, and it somewhat confused her, for she had done little that day besides ponder and dream. The weariness had permeated her as she sat upon her bed. It seemed cold and lonely this night. You are quite pathetic! It has only been a day and you are already sick with solitude!
She glanced about her room. It was filled with warm memories of laughter and sadness, of family and love. Her mother had sung to her many melodies of old in this room, filling it with her sweet and soft voice. In here she had played with Elladan and Elrohir. Her father had held her in her grief after her mother had passed into the Grey Havens. This was her life, her place. And though it saddened her, she looked forward to the life she might build for herself in Gondor with enthusiasm and hope.
She heard a firm knocking, and she rose to her feet. "Come in."
The door opened, revealing her father. He afforded her a questioning look, asking politely if his appearance intruded upon her. "Father," she said, stepping forward. Elrond entered her room, closing the door softly behind him. The flickering light of the candles made his firm face glow.
"Daughter," he began. He stood there a moment, tall and powerful. The herald of Gil-galad. The Lord of Rivendell. Though at times he was cold and impassive, she knew his love ran deeper than any would ever see.
However, at present the mighty Elf Lord seemed rather distraught. He wore an uncomfortable expression Arwen had rarely seen him don. Ever composed, he did not often let apprehension reach his face. Yet he stood there, regarding her with eyes that implored her to somehow know his reason for calling upon her without him actually speaking of it. Amused and confused, she asked, "What is it?"
Finally he regained his poise enough to speak. "I wish to say something to you," he admitted. She watched him intently, trying to piece together the answer to this enigma. Abruptly she felt the little child again, struggling to decipher whether her parent was angry with her or not. "It is something I should have told you long ago, but until now I did not have the fortitude." He stared into her eyes. His tone was flat. "I approve."
Confusion caused furrows in her smooth brow. "Father?"
"I approve of him and your decision, my daughter," spoke the master healer. He raised an eyebrow at the obvious joy flooding across her face. "Elladan explained to me Estel's intent. At first I was apprehensive. Still, he has proven himself worthy of you, and I give you my blessing." He stepped forward, grasping her shoulders. His eyes were deep, filled with ageless wisdom and fathomless love. "It will pain me much to see you leave, but I know you will be happy with him."
They embraced tightly then, and she felt so very warm in his arms. Tears came to her eyes, but she squeezed them shut. She felt so overjoyed, euphoric, secure, and safe. The last of her questions was answered, her final worries appeased. She was content to remain in her father's arms, and in this long, silent moment she felt that nothing would ever again trouble her. She was the child again, finding safety in her father's powerful embrace.
Finally they parted. "Sleep well, Daughter."
She was too moved to speak, so she merely nodded, a lump in her throat nearly painful in its tightness. With a swish of his robes, the powerful Elf turned and quit her room.
It was a dream. She stood a moment, tingling, unsure of the reality in what had just transpired. Then an astonished and foolishly wide smile crept to her face. Sleep? Her heart pounded in excitement and ecstasy. How could she sleep?
She thought to sing. Her voice was shaking in sheer emotion as she began the first melody that came to her muddled mind. A cool breeze swept through the open window, bringing the smell of flowers and falling water, and she yearned to fly. Aragorn, we are free! Free! She imagined his laughing eyes, his arms around her. She danced with the ghost of his form.
Arwen fumbled in her song and laughed. The future lay before her, bright and promising. Wherever that path took her, she knew Aragorn would be at her side. Together, they would live and die.
Nothing could be more beautiful.
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.