<< "When the feast was over, those who were to go took leave of King Éomer. Aragorn and his knights, and the people of Lórien and of Rivendell, made ready to ride; but Faramir and Imrahil remained at Edoras; and Arwen Evenstar remained also, and she said farewell to her brethren. None saw her last meeting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world..." >>
- The Return of the King, Chapter VI, `Many Partings', pg 955/956.
The company that had made their way to Edoras for the burial of Théoden King walked out of the dining-hall, where the Feast had been held in small groups, splitting up when they reached the main room of the King's - now Éomer - House. Some went straight to the chambers prepared for them to get what rest they could before they resumed with their journeys back home, whereas others preferred to delight themselves with staying outdoors and visiting the renowned stables.
Celeborn, Lord of Lóthlorien, walked outside with his fair wife, choosing not to visit the stables; partly due a small wave of depression that spread through his heart, and partly due to the fact that the stables were crowded anyway. Once they were a safe distance from their companions, they stopped, reveling in each other's companionship, and the view they received from the small mound of raised ground they were standing on.
"You are troubled..." said Galadriél, speaking first. She did not need to look at her husband to see this. Celeborn said nothing for a moment or two, as the depression continued to spread.
"Aye," he said, at last, "For I dread what is to take place after we leave Edoras." He felt Galadriél's arm on his, and managed a small smile. "But that is just an old Elf's sentimentality kicking in. Please, feel free to ignore me."
Galadriél managed a faint smile in return. "Just an old Elf?" she echoed, "'My Lord, you are ancient." The silver-haired Elf chuckled at his wife's teasing. He had known that he could always rely on her to bring him out of his black-moods. The smile on his face disappeared as a thought struck him; she would not be around to do that for long. "Celeborn, you knew what would come to pass, and you cannot deny that," said Galadriél, gently. Nenya, the ring of Mithril, was not functioning any longer, but she did not need it to read her husband's mind. "Even though I thought of Middle-earth as my home, `tis not true; I long for the Blessed Realm...and for my family there..."
Celeborn nodded, although he took some time. "I know..." he whispered, feeling a pang of sadness. "But...my days here will be empty..." He felt her squeeze his hand.
"As will be mine, in Valinor," said Galadriél, softly. The two stared out at the people scurrying around below them; they were residents of Edoras bearing food supplies for those of the guests who would be leaving. As they watched them, two figures suddenly caught their keen Elven eyes, as they made their way out of the King's House. They immediately recognized the two dark-haired Elves...alike in many ways, and so unlike each other in others.
"The bitterness will over-power him some day..." commented Celeborn, as he watched the two figures make their way down a road to the left of the King's House - a road that led to the green hills that seemingly surrounded the outskirts of Edoras.
Galadriél simply watched the two figures leave, sadness etched onto her fair Elven face. "Aye..." she said. "For he has suffered more; `tis hard to lose your own daughter to the same choice that you lost your brother..."
"But did we not foresee this event taking place?" asked Celeborn. Galadriél nodded.
"But that does not make it any easier for him, or for her," she said. "For she loves her father dearly...just as much as he loves her."
* * * * * * * *
The two Elves stood, facing each other, for a long moment, neither of them saying a word. The brightness of the day, as seen earlier in the morning, seemed to have vanished, giving the late afternoon an atmosphere of gloom with grey skies and dark clouds. A gust of wind blew around the clearing, and the shortest of the pair shivered slightly, being forced to wrap her arms around herself despite the long-sleeved dress that she was wearing. Yet, her companion did nothing. He simply stood before her, averting his gaze to the landscape around them.
She tried to quell the anxious feeling that was making itself known in her heart once more. She had done her best to quell the feeling before, busying herself with things that needed to be done in Minas Tirith, and with preparations for the Hobbits, and the feeling had been subdued, but now...it was coming back in full force. Wrapping her arms tighter around her, she crossed over to one of the three fallen trees that were in a particularly gloomy corner of the clearing, and after a brief inspection, sat down on it, bringing her knees to her chest.
"...We will all be leaving Edoras in a short while..." She looked up at the Elf as he spoke; surprised to find that she couldn't quite read what she saw in his grey eyes. She bit down on her lower lip, unwilling to let that realization shock her to the core of her heart.
"Not Faramir or Imrahil..." was her soft comment. "It is with them that I shall...return to Minas Tirith..." This time, the silence was not given a chance to surround them as she continued speaking. "I may remain here in Edoras for a while...if King Éomer and Lady Éowyn would not mind my stay." Her companion looked at her, his gaze unreadable. "For the White City will be lonely...at least, for me."
A few brisk yet graceful strides later, and the dark-haired Elf was standing before her. "It shall not be for long," he said, automatically injecting a comforting note into his voice - although the note was softer than it usually would have been. "Your husband shall return to Minas Tirith, and you will be able to start, that is to really start, the life the two of you have longed for."
"'Tis strange..." started the female, "For it is only afterwards...after all the...choices are made, that you begin to fully understand your decision and the consequences it will bring..."
"You say this now, but I do not think that you have fully understood the consequences of your choice," said the taller Elf. "Nay, you will not realize this until your loved one passes away, as all mortals are bound to, and when you are left to wander across this dying land until the day of your passing comes..." He saw the way his companion's face paled, and admonished himself for being harsh. "I told you of this, Undómiel, when I heard of your choice. Do not be surprised now."
When she looked up at him, his breath caught as he took in the sorrow that shone dully in her grey eyes. "Ada, please, do not hold a grudge against Estel...for I made the choice, not at his bidding but out of my own will. I beg of you, do not harbor any ill feeling towards him." Elrond stared at his daughter for a moment or two before shaking his head.
His tone was reproachful as he spoke. "I raised Estel, Undómiel; he is as good as my son as Elladan and Elrohir are. I myself knew that these events would take place in the future...so if I were to harbor any hatred towards him, would I have continued to protect him?" He shook his head again. "He is the descendent of Isildur, Undómiel, and thus of the line of Elros my brother. He is dearer to me in that aspect, than you know."
Arwen, openly shivering in the cold now, bowed her head. "Forgive me Ada...I should not have doubted your affection for him," she said. A frown marred the fair face of the grandson of Díor Elúchil as he observed his daughter for a brief moment before unclasping the cloak that he wore on his shoulders. In one fluid motion, he wrapped the dark, earthy coloured cloak around her. Arwen sent him a grateful look.
"...Your Elven hardiness to the elements has already fled from your body..." commented Elrond, quietly. Arwen looked down at her cold hands.
"Most things Elven in me seem to be fleeing," she said, after a while. "My eyesight is not as keen as it used to be...and my senses seem to have become weaker..."
Elrond nodded, feeling a pang in his heart as he listened to her. "You are losing everything that mortals do not have...for you are one of them now..." Silence managed to surround them once more, although it was not as uncomfortable as it was before, as father and daughter were lost in their own thoughts.
"You will not be alone in the Blessed Realm, Ada," said Arwen, softly, "Naneth will be there to greet you and be by your side..." Elrond said nothing as he thought of his wife, Celebrian, who had sailed to the West millennia ago, after being tortured by Orcs. He did not wish to mention his fears about seeing her again; what if she was not the same person he had known before? What if the time they had spent apart had...changed her?
"She will miss your presence," he said, curtly, trying to brush aside his doubts. "She would have liked to see her little girl once more..." Arwen smiled.
"And I would have liked to see her," she said. "But she will be pleased enough to see Elladan and Elrohir..." Her father's silent answer and the shadow that passed swiftly across his face worried her. "...Ada?"
Elrond, rather uncharacteristically, let out a heavy sigh. "She will not be seeing your brothers, Undómiel," he said. "They will not set sail when I do; they wish to remain here, in Middle-Earth, for some time."
Arwen's grey eyes widened as she stood up hurriedly. No-one had told her about that. "They...they are staying? You are...sure?" Elrond nodded. "But...where will they - they will reign over Imladris?"
"Aye, and the remnant of the people who will remain with them," said Elrond, "Until they decide to set sail." The first thought that entered the head of the Queen of Gondor was a happy one; her brothers were not sailing, well, not yet anyway. That meant that she would still have some of her family with her. But the second thought that hit her was sad for this new piece of information meant that her father's departure to the West would be even more bitter, as he would be leaving without any of his children with him.
"I...did not know of this..." she said, at last.
"It was a sudden decision," replied her father. No-one said anything for some time, although when the silence was broken, it was done by Elrond. "It seems that there is no reason for me to remain any longer in Middle-Earth," he said, his voice low. "For I have, bitterly, lost everything in this land; my parents, my brother, my wife...and now, my three - nay, four - children..."
Arwen heard the tremor in her father's usually strong voice and her heart went out to him as her resolve to stay strong broke. "You have not lost them all, Ada. You see your father in the night skies, for that is where Eärendil resides; you have had your brother by your side all this time, for Estel is of his line; your wife awaits you in Valinor...and your children will always be in your heart..."
"But I will never again set my eyes upon them..." Elrond whispered, allowing his sorrow to spread across his face. "Elladan and Elrohir I will see some day or the other...if not in the next few Ages, then when Ëa is remade. But...but my daughter I shall never see again, for only Ilúvatar knows what will happen to the Second-born once they pass away and once the world is remade..."
She stood where she was tears finally falling from her grey eyes that were so much like her father's. A moment later she was in her father's arms, burying her face in his warm chest. Elrond held her to him tightly, as though fearing that if he were to let go...the moment would be over...and their goodbyes would be final. As he rested his chin on top of her head, he allowed his tears to run down his face; he had kept them checked for too long...and it had been killing him.
The two stayed that way for a long while, although they did not notice the sky darkening, or the chilly breeze that seemed to be intent on bothering them. In her father's arms, Arwen felt safe...although she could not hide the reality from herself any longer; she would never see him again. She would never see him again. Alas, Ilúvatar's Gift to Men was harsh indeed.
After what seemed like ages, Elrond pulled away from the embrace, ducking his head in an attempt to hide his tears - which was unsuccessful. He shivered inwardly as he felt the icy hand gently brush the trail of tears away. It pained him to no end, not only to leave his daughter, but to know that she would suffer so much. What made it worse was that there was nothing he could do about it. He, Lord of Rivendell, mighty Healer and Lore-master...and bearer of Vilya mightiest of the three Elven rings...was powerless against the grief he foresaw in his daughter's distant future.
"Lúthien Tinúviel made the same choice, Ada," reminded Arwen, "And it grieved her parents greatly, but gave her the happiness she would not have had otherwise..."
"Yea, but it was not in her lot to suffer, once the long mortal life she and Beren Erchamion were granted ended," replied Elrond. "You, though you have forsaken your kind, still posses some Elven grace...which will ensure that your life-span is longer than that of Estel's." He sounded pained. "And you will suffer in the years after you lose Estel...something that Lúthien did not need to do."
Arwen was quiet, but when she did answer, her voice was determined. "Then that is something I will have to deal with, Ada," she said, looking him directly in the eye, "For at least I would have managed to spend the most part of my life in happiness, by his side." The silence that surrounded them for the last time, although sorrowful, was comforting to the father and daughter.
Glancing up at the skies and ignoring his heavy heart, Elrond looked hard at Arwen, as though trying to memorize her image. "We should return..." he said, softly. "For we will be leaving shortly." There was a lump in Arwen's throat that disallowed her from saying anything in reply. She merely nodded. Turning their back to the clearing, Elrond Peredhil and Arwen Undómiel strolled to the capitol together, side by side, for the last time in their lifetimes.
A short while later:
The White Lady of Rohan stood close behind her newly-made friend, the Queen of Gondor, as they stood facing the mounted company who were now ready to leave Edoras. For some of them, it was a small journey, but for the others, it was for good. Aragorn leaned down from his horse and clasped Arwen's hand in his own, giving it a comforting squeeze. Even though she did her best to hide it from him, he could see the sadness in her eyes.
"I trust you will look after her, my dear Lady?" he said, as he turned to Éowyn.
"You need not have asked, my liege-lord and Healer," was the reply he got from the soon to be wife of Faramir, Steward of Gondor. He nodded and urged his horse forward, to allow the Elves to say their farewells.
"We will be seeing you shortly, dear sister," said Elrohir, smiling down at her.
"We shall pray for your safe journey back to Minas Tirith," added Elladan. Arwen nodded, managing to smile at them before they moved past her. She stared up at the elderly yet kind face of her grandfather, Lord Celeborn.
"We shall meet soon..." said the silver-haired Elf, gently, for he knew the pain she would be going through. "But Galadriél refuses to reveal more of the future to me."
"And that is wise," managed Arwen, as he too moved to join the rest. Her grey eyes and Galadriél's light-blue locked together for a long while. Aragorn did not worry at their silence, knowing from experience, that Galadriél would have preferred to communicate mentally with her granddaughter.
"Be happy, my child," said Galadriél, fondly, before riding forward. She had also raised Arwen as her own daughter, after Celebrian had sailed, and it hurt her to know that she would never see her again...yet she knew she would be happy, and that was all she needed to know.
Both parties; those who were remaining and those who were leaving turned quiet as Elrond stopped his horse beside his daughter. No words were exchanged for a while - they had done that all earlier - as both feared what they would say if they spoke. Blinking back the warm tears that stubbornly refused to stay dormant, Arwen took a deep breath.
"Nai tiruvantel ar varyavantel í Valar," she whispered. (May the Valar protect you) Elrond nodded his face solemn although his eyes were, once more, difficult to read.
"Namárië..." In a silent procession, resembling one that was grieving for a heavy loss, the Elves of two of the three last Elven Kingdoms in Middle-Earth, the King of Gondor and the rest of his Mortal escort, made their way out of Edoras, their hearts heavy.