Night had indeed fallen, confirming the Keeper’s decision to light the lamps. With slow, heavy steps she crossed the arch of granite that connected the land of the dead with the land of the living.
And Minas Tirith was very much alive. Sounds of celebration and rejoicing were created by voice, flute and lyre. The melody started softly, pianissimo, in the First Circle and began to crescendo with each Circle until a double forte had been reached by the Seventh. The sound was almost deafening. The joy was almost too much to bear. At least the stout oak door of her private chamber muted it somewhat.
A single candle was all the light she needed for her task. A few minutes to gather the little she required and she would be ready. Her hand trembled a bit as she fastened the clasp of the coarse woolen cloak. An item she had purchased from a nondescript shopkeeper in the Third Circle. The poor man, she could see the question in his eyes. What on earth did his Queen want with a garment that was obviously ill suited to her station? A gracious smile was the answer to his guess that it was for handmaiden or perhaps a scullery maid who could not afford a new one for the winter.
Arwen knelt and pulled from beneath the bed a small wooden chest. Had only a few days past since she had placed it there? Or had a lifetime come and gone since she closed the lid? And did it really matter? She supposed not since time no longer held any meaning for her. There was only one truth that ruled her life now. Estel was dead . . . and she was not.
As she became aware of an insistent knocking at the door, Arwen wondered if the person on the other side had been there long.
A frown creased her brow and a grimace twisted her lips at the effort required to stand, especially since the original kneeling had been much easier. Another question of time. How long had she been in this position? Long enough for the chill of the stone floor to seep into her legs, making them awkward and stiff. A sound somewhere between a crack and a pop startled her until she realized the source, her knees.
Truly she had entered the winter phase of her life. Like stones riven and cracked by the freezing night, she, too, was beginning to show the effects of the season. In her ice encased heart and the body that was failing her.
It had begun. First her Estel, and now this. Would the decaying of her physical self be swift or slow?
Her name, spoken as a question, caught Arwen’s attention once more. Her youngest daughter stood, hesitant, in the doorway with an odd, worried expression on her face.
“Mother, please say something.”
The daughter’s hands caught her own up. The heat of the living flesh scorched Arwen’s and she glanced down. Surely this would only accelerate the decomposition of skin and sinew until nothing but bone was left. It did not. Instead it threatened to melt her frozen heart and deter Arwen from her purpose. She could not allow it for it was far too late to go back.
Gently Arwen freed herself from her daughter’s embrace and returned to the chest. A waterskin and a cloth sack full of lumpy objects appeared and Arwen held them close to her. A shield to protect her from life and the living.
“The time I spoke of has come and I leave tonight.” Arwen’s voice sounded cold and lifeless in her ears.
Tears welled up in the luminous blue eyes. So much like her own only more so. They had done well to name her Luthien Undomiel for this child possessed the beauty of both her namesakes combined and multiplied. Would Luthien pass this beauty to her own children? Arwen doubted it. This Undomiel would be the last: the final Evenstar of a new people in a new age; the last of mortal blood to be blessed with the light of the Elves.
“Will you at least tell us good-bye?”
Arwen dipped her chin once. “The small parlor… you know which; gather them there but quickly.”
Arwen watched Luthien vanish from sight. A shiver caught her by surprise and shook her body from head to toe. She slung the strap of the water skin over one shoulder and used the now free hand to draw the cloak tightly around. Somehow she doubted she would ever be warm again.
Taking a deep breath she left the familiar chamber. A final look was not needed. Its rooms were etched into her memory though she would never again see them as a living woman . . . like her children.
Somewhere a stone split asunder from the water frozen in its center, its heart.
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.