1. Prologue: The Final Parting
"Lady Undomiel," he begged. "You do not have to remain here. Please, my friend, come with us to the Havens."
"No, Legolas," she replied, her eyes glittering with unshed tears. "Do you not understand? I have made my choice, and now I must pay the price for the Gift of Men."
The blond elf sighed, unwilling to watch another friend wither and die. Merry and Pippin had left him many years ago, and just last night, his closest friend, Aragorn Elessar, had died. "Mortality is no gift," he said bitterly. "It is a curse. Arwen," he leaned forward in his chair, placing his hand over hers. "He would not want you to die. Do you remember when he tried to return the Evenstar?"
She nodded, her pallid face, still free of the scars of age, glowing in the light of the fire. "He tried to be gentle, but it still broke my heart."
"Aragorn believed that by breaking your heart then, it would have spared you this grief," Legolas told her. "It broke his heart too, although he was too stubborn to admit it. I offered to take second watch on the first night of our journey to Mordor," the elf said thoughtfully, his eyes clouding as the memories filled him. "All I can remember about that night was hearing Aragorn murmur your name in his sleep."
"As I cried his," Arwen answered, lifting a pristine handkerchief to her sapphire eyes. "Legolas, you must understand something. This grief will slowly kill me, even if I take the ship to Valinor." A quivering breath escaped her lips as she fingered the ring of Barahir on its golden chain around her slim neck. "I once told Aragorn that I would rather share one lifetime by his side, than face all eternity alone and unloved."
The room fell silent, save the crackling of flames, as the two friends met each other's eyes, a thousand unspoken words passing between them in that simple gaze. Words of parting and acceptance of fate; words of a shared grief that pierced their hearts more fully than the sharpest dagger, tearing their very souls asunder.
A dry cough from their companion shattered the silence. Both elves turned to their companion, an elderly dwarf with pronounced wrinkles and thick white hair. "Lass, let me speak from experience," he said. "I know the pain you're experiencing. I loved my Dectra dearly, and I would've moved the Lonely Mountain to stop her dying. When we married all those years ago, I never considered that I might outlive her."
"Gimli, I bound myself to Aragorn on the promise that, when his time on Middle Earth was over, my soul would follow his beyond the Circles of the World," Arwen's voice was barely a whisper, as a lone tear trickled down her cheek. "While he was unhappy that I would willingly inflict the pains of mortality upon myself, Estel loved me enough to realise that remaining on Middle Earth with him would make me happy. He never could deny me anything." The faintest trace of a smile lingered on her lips for but a second, before the knife of grief was plunged into her heart again. Sobs wracked her body, though she tired to contain them.
Legolas stood and draped a comforting arm around his childhood friend. How he longed to return to the days of their adolescence when the only grief he helped to console was the death of a pet. If only her present heartache was so easily remedied - as a child, she could easily be given a new cat or mare, but what of a husband, the father of her children?
Her sobs gradually quietened, but Legolas knew that his was not a reflection of her grief. Estel had been her life, and would soon be her death. "Legolas, mellon nin," she whispered. "My friend, I have one last favour to ask of you."
"Lady Undomiel, you are closer than a sister to me," he replied, "You need not even ask. What is it that you require?"
She stood slowly, crossing the floor to a small mahogany desk in the corner. Bending, she reached into one of the drawers, her fingers trembling as she unveiled several envelopes, each bound with a ribbon of silver that gleamed in the firelight. Fighting back more tears, Arwen dropped them into Legolas' lap.
"Through death," she said quietly, her voice barely more than a whisper, "I will gain respite from this agony that tears at my very soul. One day, Estel and I will be reunited in a place free from the ills of this mortal existence." She sank into the high-backed chair, resting her head in her hands. "But my family will know this pain that floods my veins like a poison." Sapphire eyes, glistening with tears, met those of the elf and dwarf. "A long time ago," Arwen explained, "I wrote these letters - one for each of my family. Legolas, Gimli, I ask that when you sail to Valinor, you take these letters with you."
"Mere words will not ease your family's loss, Evenstar," Legolas said softly, still unable to believe that this might be the last time he and Arwen would ever meet. His heart had suffered too many injuries and grief's in such a short time. How could he allow one of his closest friends to willingly give up her life? This pain was more than his immortal heart could endure.
"A fact I am painfully aware of, but I must do something." Her voice began to quiver. "I never said goodbye to my mother - not properly. At least this way, she will know of my happiness. I do not regret my choice."
Gimli and Legolas met each other's eyes, knowing that Arwen was lying. At this moment, she longed for nothing more than a release from her grief, journey to a place where all ills could be healed until her heart would cry out, not in torment, but sheer, unrivalled joy. Yet it was not to be. No ship would bear her to the Undying Lands - her path led to only one destination: the arms of her husband, beyond the Circles of the World.
"Well, lass, the hour grows late," the dwarf said, feeling that the silence hanging over the three was becoming strained. He rose, and marched stiffly over to the elven princess, sliding his calloused hand into her silken grasp, and bestowing a reverent kiss on her hand. "It breaks my heart to know that this is the end," he told her, emotion breaking into his voice.
Still firmly clasping her letters in his sweating palm, Legolas bent down beside her chair. "I wish there was something I could say to convince you to come with us to Valinor, but deep within my heart, I know that any argument I may offer is futile. Namarie, Undomiel." He pressed the gentlest kiss to her brow. "Farewell, Evenstar."
A shuddering breath escaped her lips. "Namarie, Legolas. Aa' lasser en lle coia orn n' omenta gurtha," she whispered, her composed mask slowly slipping to reveal the heartbreak and anguish underneath. "May the leaves of your life tree never turn brown." Eyes locked with his, she raised a hand to caress his cheek gently as he savoured her dark beauty, painfully aware that memories would soon be the only remnants of their lifelong friendship.
Sighing, he stepped away, turning abruptly so no-one would see the tears that trickled unhindered down his cheeks. 'The Eldar should not know such pain,' he thought bitterly. The Evenstar does not deserve to die. Her light should never wane.
Following his dwarven friend to the doorway, Legolas cast one last glance at Arwen, trying to memorise her essence, before offering her a final nod. Swallowing, she responded in kind.
As they carefully closed the door, both stiffened at the sound of her unrestrained sobs echoing against the walls. With elven speed, Legolas grabbed the door handle, but Gimli stilled him.
"Let her cry now," he said, "You won't always be there to comfort her, Legolas. She needs to cry alone, because she's too proud to do it in front of us."
Sighing, the blond elf nodded solemnly. Elves were known as master's of their emotions, feeling sorrow and happiness as powerfully as their mortal counterparts, but much more skilled at hiding it. Indeed, the race were considered ambivalent, even indifferent by many, but the Eldar cared not. Arwen had tried to maintain a semblance of composure in front of her friends, but she deserved some time alone with her grief. Legolas understood Arwen's need to purge herself of the agony in her heart all too well - he too had wept many tears after the deaths of his mortal friends - but that did not quell his instinctive need to break down the door, dive to her side and enfold her in his comforting arms.
"I just cannot believe that she will…" he trailed off, afraid to give voice to what his heart already knew.
"Arwen will do whatever it takes to soothe the pain," Gimli explained. "If death is the only way she can be happy again, then we must respect her wishes. Come on laddie. Leave her be."
With a sharp, reluctant nod, the elf followed his companion down the serpentine staircase of the White Tower, praying silently to Elbereth for Arwen's save delivery into Aragorn's arms. He had promised the Man, on his deathbed, that he would do all in his power to convince Arwen to rejoin her kin across the Sea. But Gimli was right - it was her choice to make, and not even Eru himself had any right to rebuke her for following her heart.
But how would Legolas ever explain that to Elrond?
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.