1. A Númenorean Death
The land around her was silent and grey.
It was winter in Lórien. A winter that would have no spring. The last winter of Lothlórien. The mallorn trees were fading. The elvish magic that had nurtured Lórien had passed away into the West with those who wielded it. The silver pillars of the mellyrn were mute memorials of a world that was now lost in time.
Where once tall walls had kept safe the city of the Galadhrim, vines and creepers covered crumbled and broken palisades. Lively streets paved with white marble had narrowed to paths, overgrown by moss and grasses. Fountains that had once sung with cold, crystal clear water had run dry. Abandoned telain hung haphazardly from their heights. They looked almost like broken kites, wooden toys tossed up by a giant child and then forgotten after play.
Arwen walked slowly, hesitantly through the streets of Caras Galadhon.
She knew it was time.
She kept walking.
Aimlessly she wandered among the gardens and streets of what once had been the greatest elvish city in Middle-earth.
Was there no trace left here of the past?
Of life and love, of many joyful and fateful encounters, of many centuries?
Her light footfalls echoed in the silence of city and forest. Her gown rustled softly as it swept aside the fallen leaves. The leaves of Lórien were falling. In a slow, silent rain of gold and silver they drifted down from the venerable heights of the trees.
The whole world was falling. It was everywhere, in every thing. She felt this now; she felt it in herself, as she had never felt it before. She was falling, drifting towards the end of all things, and beyond the circles of this world.
It was in everything.
It was in the leaves as they fell.
It flew with the birds as they spread their wings.
Even the stones knew of this incessant crumbling towards eternity.
A falling and fading that flowed in her veins, a faint farewell calling in her cooling blood.
But she kept walking.
Finally she came to a clearing. It was a round meadow. At the centre of the meadow a small grassy hillock rose above the treetops. The hill was crowned with two concentric rings of trees. The first ring consisted of slender white trees which bore no leaves but held tiny green buds tight with the promise of spring. They were only birches, growing almost everywhere in Arda. But the second ring of trees was made of mellyrn. As Arwen looked upon these trees, the greatest of the ancient mellyrn, she realized that she could count the leaves of gold that still clung to their slim silver limbs. She had come to Lórien just in time to witness the golden woods passing from their long fall to their final winter. Arwen released the breath she had been holding in a soft sigh. Another leaf stirred as if on cue and spiralled, sailed, sank down to the ground, a mote of gold against the pale, lightless sky. At the centre of both rings a single, great mallorn tree held only a memory of leaves as it reached its limbs imploringly to the sky. Around its trunk a platform curved, carved in exquisite, flowing lines from the white wood of birches. It gleamed whitely and lonely far above her head.
For a moment she entertained the idea of climbing up to the talan of Amroth. She halted at the foot of the great tree and looked up to its height. She did not now have either the strength or the nimbleness necessary to ascend to these elda heights. She also knew that neither a faded memory of Amroth nor the most magnificent view of the falling beauty of Lórien would answer her question. The first knew nothing of the mystery she would have to endure. The second was beyond answer, caught up as it was in its slow, unstoppable fall.
Instead she settled for sinking down at the foot of Amroth's tree. She slid down on the grass, leaning against the trunk of the silver mallorn. She exhaled deeply. Then she breathed in the quiet air of Lórien filled as it was with the fragrance of trees and grass. The lawn around her was covered with leaves. The high gold of the mellyrn leaves had blanched to ashen browns. But here and there tiny blossoms raised their flowery heads from the blanket of decaying leaves. Yellow – with their petals forming small stars – the golden elanor, and white – teardrops nodding from slender green stems – the silver niphredil. At least Lórien's winter flowers were still in full bloom.
She wondered if they would pass away, too.
She closed her eyes.
The cool light of the grey winter's sky barely filtered through her eyelids. A pale, silent darkness lay beneath her lids, replacing the warm, red pulsing of living blood and a bright sun.
She knew it was time.
Surely two thousand eight hundred and eighty years were enough.
Surely the memories of two thousand eight hundred and eighty years and the memory of a love that had been strong enough to survive war and death and her fall from grace, surely all that would be enough to last for an eternity of darkness, surely all that would be enough to last beyond the circles of this world?
Her thoughts drifted.
The bright sound of laughter broke the silence of her memories. A small elfling with long dark braids was being swung back and forth by the hands of mother and father. Smiling blue eyes and grey eyes sparkling with happiness, looked down at her.
Her first horse… a glimpse of Elladan, as he led her steed round and round the paddock, with her – giggling gleefully – on the beast's back. A glimpse of Elrohir, as he leant casually across the fence, commenting on her prowess.
The tears in her father's eyes at their final farewell.
The many letters she had sent over the years.
The last letter which she had written only weeks ago and never sent. Legolas' dark eyes, as she had simply said farewell, and nothing more.
Memories of many nights.
So many nights filled with shared sweat and sighs, many nights filled with desire: kindled, burning and fulfilled.
Singing with her children. Bright eyes, bright voices, simple songs of men and women, songs of the future and never of the past.
Anger. There had been anger, too. Hard looks, tense jaws. Her hands in fists. Screams in her throat. Aragorn looking at her with cold eyes and saying with grim finality, "There is no other way."
The taste of chocolate in her mouth.
The colours of spring, which had been different in every single one of those two thousand eight hundred and eighty years.
The silky curls of her son's black hair under her fingers, as she softly brushed his dark tresses at night.
Sitting at the dinner table with her friends, sharing her small joys and little woes with Lothíriel and Éowyn on one of their many visits.
The feeling of her boundaries dissolving, as she screamed her release into a fierce kiss of heated lips.
"I will love you for all eternity," a pledge of hearts burning through two ages of this world.
Surely all of this and so much more should be enough?
Perhaps it would be easier if she had aged like the lesser men. She had seen it in her friends. She had seen it in Lothíriel and Éowyn, how they had slowly aged into acceptance of the inevitable.
Lothíriel – how she had grown small, broad and gnarled with age, brown hair turning grey, a face lined with the memories of many years, both good and bad. How she had laughed off bad hearing and rheumatism. How her greenish-brown eyes had remained clear and keen to the end.
Éowyn… who had become thin and brittle, brown from many days of riding and fighting in the sun of Ithilien, with her face like leather, and her hair like liquid silver. She had been proud to her last, her lips pressed together tightly, her chin stuck out stubbornly. Forever the shield-maiden of Rohan. And now no more.
But for her there was no gentle way into Eru's good night.
Though there was silver mingled in her dark tresses, though faint lines fanned out from the corners of her eyes and traced her mouth as well, and though there was that small, straight line of many a worry set at the bridge of her nose, Arwen still looked and moved like a woman of forty or fifty years at the most.
No old age for the last of the Númenoreans.
No easy falling, gentle slipping into the darkness.
For her, as for her husband and her human ancestors, there was the certain knowledge that it was time.
Time to go on.
Time to go into the darkness.
Time to travel beyond the circles of the world.
Hers was the certain knowledge of the mystery ahead of her. A knowledge that was unalleviated by dimming senses and a gentle fading from life, such as she had seen it in Éomer and Faramir. Joking about their waning faculties one day, they had simply not woken one morning, first the one, then the other; finally, blessedly released from their long lives' duties into the hands of Ilúvatar.
No such grace for her.
But she knew it was time.
It was time to leave the circles of this world.
It was time for her to go beyond the tides of time.
It was time for her to discover the mystery that is called the Gift of Men.
She recalled when she herself had called it that and marvelled at the miracle of journeying beyond Arda. She had not known then why mortals called it not a "Gift", but "Doom".
Only now, when it was too late, she knew why.
Now she knew.
It was time.
Time for darkness.
Time for silence.
Time for eternity.
Time for Eru's mystery.
And perhaps no resolution and no new dawn but only an eternity of never-lifting darkness until the end of Eä.
Two thousand eight hundred and eighty years.
Two thousand eight hundred and eighty years – of sunsets and starry nights, of sunrises and glorious mornings.
Two thousand eight hundred and eighty years of small triumphs and long labours, of warm beds and crackling fires, of endless cups of wine and the crumbling taste of bread.
Two thousand eight hundred and eighty years – of laughter and tears, of hunger and dreams, of talking and kissing.
Two thousand eight hundred and eighty years.
It was not enough.
It could never be enough.
It would never be enough for an eternity of darkness.
Arwen looked up into the pale winter sky for a long moment. Then she curled up in the shelter of the silver mallorn tree of Cerin Amroth and closed her eyes.
"…and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea."
A/N: Inspired by Dylan Thomas and Rainer Maria Rilke. The quotes at the beginning and the end are taken from the Appendix A of LOTR.
Many thanks to Fliewatuet - who offered to nitpick grammar and spelling so this story could be perfect.
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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.