For Love of a Lady - Chapter 10 - The curse of mortality

A gentle rain passed over the land, misting the air and sending ripples over the clear waters. The flowers and plants thirsted towards it, drinking the moisture and craning their stems to the sky. When morning came everywhere was frosted with delicate jewels of dew, glittering in the new light. A spider's web hung, encrusted with gem-like beads, between two flowers, its owner stepping lightly across it to avoid the water. Autumn seemed to have come at last and the leaves on the twigs of the tall trees were slowly turning translucent and golden. For the first time in many days the hearts of Imladris were all easy, they that had travelled far were safely back within the fold and all was well at last.

Elrohir felt the need for a feast to celebrate their safe return and almost as soon as he was back he set about in arranging one. It was to be held in the honour of all the elves that had journeyed to save Vanimeldë and Elrohir made sure that everyone in Imladris was invited. It was to be a splendid affair, the celebratory halls were bedecked with garlands and the sumptuous dinner he ordered was sure to please all for the cooks were unrivalled in their skills. He spread the word of the feast around Imladris until everybody had heard of it and it was an event much looked forward to after the recent, saddening events.

Elrohir came himself to the Healing Houses to inform Írissë who was growing quite impatient at being kept there but Elladan insisted she stay two more days at least before she could return to her own house. He left the arranging of the feast to his brother and let the hubbub and commotion about it pass beyond him with little input. Elrohir knew where his brother would invariably found and ruminated as he made his way to meet the two in the light chambers of the House. The journey back from Harlindon had been wearying yet had seemed to speed quickly because of the lack of conflict from any of the foes which had plagued them on their way there. Every creature of malice, every being that had bowed to Gáiala was gone, wandering aimlessly where they would. After his death the power of his will waned and soon dissipated forever. The journey had been companionable enough, Aranwë was a dear friend to Elrohir and the former was most relieved to find his sister unharmed and unviolated as he had feared quietly to himself, eager not to upset his family.

Vanimeldë had been the centre of all attention but she had withdrawn into herself and spoken only to Arciryas and her brother. After all she had been through she had no wish to gratify her friends with tales of her `adventure' and rode quietly at Arciryas' side, gradually letting herself adjust to what remained of normality. There was little doubt she was changed, her countenance was much more serene and watchful whilst her eyes would flick nervously around if there was a sudden noise or quick movement. Soon she would be well, the cuts and bruises would heal but the emotional scarring of her torment would take a little longer to fade wholly from her memory and seem as a distant shadow of pain over her heart. He shook away his thoughts as he entered,
"I hope you will both grace us with your presences tomorrow night?" he asked when he came in to find Elladan and Írissë talking together at the window seat. They looked up and Elrohir smiled.
"The feast?" he said, "To be held partly in your honour. I trust you will be well enough my lady." he bent and kissed Írissë's hand gently. "I must say you look in much better health."
"And so I am." she replied happily, "And I should love to come," she fixed Elladan with an entreating look that she executed so well, "should my dear Elladan release me from the care of the healers."
"I do so gladly," he said resignedly, "I could not have kept you here any longer, you
would have fought me for freedom but promise me you will take care."
"You know I will." she said, "And anyway, you will be there also."
"Then it is done," Elrohir said triumphantly and left the pair to their solitude, sensing his presence was not unwelcome but not required. He paused for a moment to look at his brother whose attention had turned immediately back to Írissë. Elrohir had never seen Elladan behave in such a way, he had seen him fancy himself to be in love many times, Elladan had not been without sweethearts or lovers but never had he seen him so besotted, so anxious to please and so tender. It touched Elrohir's heart to see him this way especially when, in Elrohir's mind, Írissë so warranted his love and affection.

The evening of the feast came upon them. The sky was a rain washed navy where a few high stars were smudged against it. Írissë dressed with more care than usual, cladding herself in robes of the deepest indigo with diamonds at the curve of her throat. Her sister came to her before they went down, her face alight with happiness and Írissë was surprised to see she had dressed more mutely and soberly. She looked very beautiful as she ever did and the soft silvery-grey of her gown was set off by the necklace Írissë had given her. Írissë supposed her torment in the forest had changed her and Vanimeldë was certainly less preoccupied with her many vanities than she once was. It was a change for the better and Írissë only hoped the change would last.
"You look very fair," she said happily,
"Thank you," replied Vanimeldë and swept a searching look over her sister, "I know what you are thinking, Írissë." she said. "I can read your face."
"As you have always been able to do." Írissë replied with a smile.
"After all that has happened to me, after spending days filthy and in rags there is more to life."
"How glad am I to hear you say that," said Írissë. Elladan and Arciryas soon came to the door and by the way Vanimeldë threw herself in his arms convinced Írissë a little that perhaps her usually fleeting emotions were settled somewhat in Arciryas' favour. The way he had risked his life to save her had probably made her see him in a different light. Arciryas had spent a night with the healers in the room next to Írissë as they repaired his arm which had not been right since he was wounded at the hands of the orcs. All such thoughts were banished from his mind, however, when they made their way to the halls together.

The music was lively and merry and the halls were filled with the chatter of three hundred people as they partook of food and wine courtesy of the Houses of Elrond and Baránda. Írissë had tried to talk to Calimmacil but he had been very curt and refused a long audience with her. She had been most disheartened at his coldness and wandered back to her place by Elladan with a heavy heart.
"I can say nothing to please him," she said sadly, "he is most aloof but I can tell how much he hurts. It is hard for him to see us as we are every day."
"Perhaps I should go," Elladan said uncertainly, "he looks most unhappy all the time and hardly ever speaks to me."
"Do not be too harsh with him." said Írissë, "Remember how you felt when you saw myself with him, that is how it must be for him all the time." Elladan recalled with a nasty pang the sorrow which had followed seeing Írissë in Calimmacil's arms, even if he had misinterpreted the situation.
"This is all my fault," Írissë buried her face in her hands, "what harm I have caused you all."
Elladan took her slender hand,
"None of this is your fault." he said gently, "I will speak with Calimmacil. I will make him see sense." Írissë looked at him gratefully and he planted a swift kiss on her lips before leaving the hall to seek Calimmacil. It was not long before he found him, taking some air on the wide terrace that stood a little way from the celebrations. Elladan approached him warily, he had seen Írissë try to do so earlier with little luck and did not fancy his own chances of a reconciliation, yet it had to be done.
"Calimmacil, my friend," he said and walked over to him. Calimmacil was leaning on a wrought iron balcony looking down over the gardens and said nothing as Elladan joined him.
"Will you not even look at me?" again no response and Elladan sighed, "Let this not go on. Do not believe me blind to the reason you treat me with such contempt,"
Elladan went on in a slightly hurt tone, "you love the lady Írissë, as do I and yet you have been unfortunate enough to receive her denial."
"You have come only to remind me of my pain?" Calimmacil's voice was taut and barely controlled.
"That is not so," Elladan was heartened by hearing Calimmacil speak at last, "I come to renew our friendship which has been a little... strained recently."
"Can you blame me?" Calimmacil rounded on Elladan, "Long have I watched Írissë with warm eyes and said nothing but I had vowed to myself to wait until we had returned before I spoke to her of it. You, yourself took the opportunity and stole her from me. Talk not to me of her denial for it was thanks to you it was given." Elladan's eyes widened and he had an urge to retort cuttingly but reminded himself how much pain Calimmacil was in.
"That is spectacularly unjust!" he said, "listen to me, the heart of Írissë was settled some time ago. Aye it is true," he said when Calimmacil shook his head disbelievingly. "There is nothing on earth that will change her mind once she is determined, as you well know, and I have grown to love her too, more that anyone. Become not bitter for once we were great friends and it would grieve me indeed to lose that amity."
"Grieve you?" Calimmacil spat, "When it was you that took from me that which was most precious. Never again will I feel as I do now and it will grieve me to see you and the lady together for I still love her despite her coldness, though what love there was between you and I is waning." something in Elladan snapped and he gave Calimmacil a rough shove,
"How can you be so bitter?" he asked, "There are three lives entwined in this whole mess and yet you can think only of yourself!" Calimmacil returned his shove, though rather harder and Elladan winced as he cracked his head against the wall. Calimmacil was unrepentant,
"Do not begrudge me time to lament over my loss."
"Why do you insist on such selfishness?" Elladan asked, his temper flaring, "Do you truly think you can recommend yourself to Írissë by renouncing our friendship? She would hate you for being so petty!" Calimmacil's dark eyes glittered menacingly, Elladan had never seen him this way before. Elladan could not finish what he was saying before Calimmacil hit him in the ribs and he gasped, the prince supposed it was not wise to talk of Írissë hating him to one so resentful. Calimmacil seemed then to feel a little guilty. Elladan was doubled over in pain,
"I am sorry," said Calimmacil, "I did not mean to.." A furious Elladan struck him hard on the jaw and Calimmacil fell backwards, clutching his chin in pain. Elladan rubbed his knuckles,
"Let not your anger master you," he said through gritted teeth, "you are beyond reason, I will speak to you when you have come to your senses." with that he walked dignifiedly back to the feast, his hand held to his stomach where he had been dealt so hefty a blow as Calimmacil could have mustered. He did not turn but had had done so he would have seen Calimmacil holding his head in his hands and looking very rueful. When his passion had subsided Elladan was moved to pity his friend and still hoped for a reconciliation in the future. He took his seat next to Írissë and her tawny eyes bored into him with almost a feline liquidity.
"What happened?" she asked, noticing the slow way he walked as if he was in some agony. The pain was lessening now,
"He is angry and upset," Elladan said, "and he is behaving most selfishly but it will pass."
"What did he do to you?"
"Such a suspicious mind," he said laughingly then faltered at her raised eyebrows, "he struck me," he said, "and I am sorry to say I responded in kind."
"Oh Elladan." Írissë was torn between exasperation with the menfolk and pity for him.
"You are worth fighting for," he said sweetly and her face softened a little. Calimmacil did not return to the feast and neither Elladan nor Írissë saw him again until the next morning. His behaviour disconcerted them both but they did not allow themselves to think about him and thoroughly enjoyed the feast. Elladan never got tired of taking care of her, if he thought she was looking fatigued he would offer to take her back yet she would ever refuse and for the first time in days there was a flush in her cheeks and a light in her eyes. She was happy again. Elladan was struck by the image of the last feast they had attended together, he had done his best to avoid her and they were not on the best terms with each other. How different everything was now, how different it would yet be.

And at last the time long appointed came. On a starry evening when the last shafts of light still scaled the distant mountains and cast a warm glow into the air. Crimson leaves veined with gold shed themselves from the trees and fluttered gently earthward to rest as a soft carpet amid the wide stone flags of the ceremonial ground. There assembled the elves of Imladris, clad in their finery and awaiting the expected arrival. Vanimeldë stepped down the path lines with flaming torches and there, under the gaze of the moon her hand was set in her lover's and they were united as one to dwell for ever as man and wife. The rites were performed by members of both houses and at that time a sense of great joy filled them all and the first marriage for many hundreds of years took place among the fairest, wisest elves of Middle Earth. Írissë cheered along with the others at its fulfilment and watched her sister in her bliss, cheeks bright with warmth and her eyes sparkling. Írissë was gratified to see she had about her the fullness of emotion that signified her truest sentiments. For all her follies and inconsistencies Vanimeldë loved Arciryas, after a fashion, she deserved to be happy and he would always make her so.

The Great Halls were then filled with high spirits and the elves gathered together to make merry with the help of decanters of purplish blue wine, the finest to be made in Middle Earth. For many hours there tales told and songs sung, the subjects of which seemed as a dream to those that heard the lilting words. Írissë herself sang to the company in her soft, high voice and received hearty commendation which made her blush and smile happily. Elladan was among the most vigorous admirer of her performance and when she moved to the side he caught her hand and begged her to slip away with him. The wine had sent a pink flush to his cheeks but he looked very fair under the cold moonlight.
"Where are you taking me?" Írissë laughed as they wandered away. Elladan said nothing, merely flashed her a grin and put his arm around her waist to lead her away deeper into the night. Aranwë watched them go with a smile, sending silent blessings to his sister on the wind. It was not long before the sounds of the dancing river reached them and Írissë wondered where she was being taken. Finally Elladan stopped at a tiny cove on the bank where it would seem the stars had come to rest in the trees and fragranced flowers grew in abundance, their perfume scenting the breeze.
"Why have you brought me here?" she asked curiously. "What is so important that could not wait for the end of the revelry?" Elladan answered her with a tender, insistent kiss that left her touched with delight.
"I thought perhaps you might care for some air." he said but Írissë could tell from his words that he had other motives yet did not wish to question them. Elladan sank to the floor, pulling her with him, her fingers tangled in his dark hair and their lips met again. Elladan could feel a tingle run the length of his spine and knew without a doubt she was well aware of the desire for her that coursed through him. His hands caressed the pale skin of her arms and she sat by his side looking thoughtfully at the sky. After a moment she caught him looking at her and then he smiled warmly,
"Lissë," he said softly, "how I love you. If it be your will I would have you cleave to me and become my bride." His eyes portrayed a wealth of sincerity and Írissë was deeply moved by his tone. She was slowly suffused with a great bliss as the realisation of what he had said sank in and she grasped his hands in hers.
"It would give me the greatest of pleasure to wed with you." she said, overcome with emotion as they fell into a joyful embrace which neither wished to end. She suddenly swatted him playfully,
"That is why you led me away from everyone!" she cried, tears of happiness in her eyes, "I was somewhat in doubt of your intentions."
"My intentions towards you are honourable as they have ever been." he murmured in her ear before catching her lips lovingly with his. The stars wheeled above, the revelry continued long into the night but elsewhere there was a celebration of a love that would last the ages as Elladan and Írissë plighted their troth together on the night that another's was completed.

The tidings of their betrothal brought great joy to all though not much surprise. All of those present in the forest of Harlindon had guessed and both Elladan and Írissë had given up on secrecy once they had returned. They were wished happiness by all who came upon them and all who saw them were assured that a bright future lay before them. The most moving congratulations came perhaps from Elrohir. Words were not enough to express himself and all he could do was embrace his brother and future sister, as dear to him as any sister ever could be. Their engagement was to be held as was customary for elves of their status. Although it was becoming more common for elves to wed in private ceremonies, using the binding of the flesh as their only vows and endure engagements of but a few months, it was an age-old tradition that they should wait a year and then wed amidst great splendour. A years was deemed long enough to ascertain whether the chosen partners of their fates were suited to them and gave time for a change of heart were it necessary. Elladan and Írissë were in such a state of aching love that both considered the long engagement unneeded but were willing to concede for the sake and wishes of their parents who were desirous of a traditional union.

Both agreed in the end that it would probably be wise to incorporate a measure of normality into what had been a courtship littered with extraordinariness. It was decided then to bide their time for the remaining months they would spend at Imladris and then ally themselves once they had crossed the sea and where they would be among friends and family not seen for many an age. This solution became agreeable for all but a flicker of a haunting sorrow caught in Elladan's throat as he recalled with a pang that his sister would never see his wedding day. From her birth the brethren had scarcely moved from her side, desiring ever to protect and shield her from whatever the world could throw. They loved her better than anybody on the earth and both were steeling themselves from what was going to be the most difficult farewell they could ever say.

Along a life littered with tragedy and the loss of his mortal friends Elladan had become no stranger to pain but he had always supposed that he would have his family around him for the most significant moments of his life. He wanted to see Arwen's face when he broke the news, to know her reaction of their happy tidings. Arwen and Írissë had known each other a little but had never been well acquainted enough for a great friendship to form. Lady Vanimeldë had been closer to her but no lasting friendship had been struck there either. Elladan resolved to send word to Gondor, heralding their arrival there, for he wished above all things for his sister to be able to offer her congratulations and for her to know the woman with whom he was to spend an eternity.
"Lissë my beloved," he said one morning as she dined lightly for breakfast with him, both partaking of sweet rolls and water as they watched the gleaming orange sun climb to lofty heights above the distant peaks, staining them violet with its rays.
"If it would not trouble your health too much then perhaps would you care to venture to the White City of Gondor to be greeted by my sister and the Lord Aragorn?" Írissë raised her eyebrows, "The latter is a great friend of mine," Elladan went on, hoping she would not refuse, "and I would have Arwen know of our troth and be able to speak with us before we leave the Hither Lands." Írissë smiled slightly,
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," she said, "you know that I would never allow my paltry ailments to interfere with anything you should wish to do and I should love to meet with Arwen again, it has been so long." Elladan laid his arm around her slim shoulders and she rest her head against his, his heart filling with gratitude. He had not thought she would refuse but he would hate her to accompany him out of obligation and not out of choice. Írissë knew how devoted he was to Arwen and the weight of pain he bore as they awaited the fateful day when their paths would be forever sundered. She had no desire for him to be hurt as she knew he one day would be but it was inevitable and it was her dearest wish to help him in any way she could. Despite his protests Írissë refused to make Elladan wait on account of her health and insisted that they begin to make their way to Gondor immediately.

Elladan had given her a silver ring encircling a delicate sapphire which she wore on her index finger and she stood fingering it as her horse was brought forth from the stables. Írissë was delighted to find that it was her own Linta, her faithful steed that had endured so much for her. Linta's coat was once again glossy, her matted mane untangled and her health revived to full vigour. She had fled and found her way back to Imladris where she had been nursed back to health by the devotion of the stable hands and Írissë was very glad to find her so. Elladan had begged yet more leave from his father who rolled his eyes to hear that his son was to depart again if only for a short while. He supposed he could not halt the exuberance of, what he deemed, youth and indulged his son and his lover with their intentions with the only warning to take care of Írissë for her strength was rebuilding but slowly and anything to tax her should be avoided. Írissë hearkened not but Elladan, who was more concerned for her health, listened to everything Elrond said attentively. His strong hands lingered around Írissë's waist as he helped her to mount, her long skirts dictating that she should take this ride side-saddle and not in the more comfortable fashion she had grown used to. The journey was short and easy, Autumn was now fully come and the boughs of passing trees were laden with foliage of bright copper and gold intertwined together to create the illusion that the trees erupted with the precious metals of the mines. Elladan and Írissë passed the time pleasantly in conversation and during the time they grew as close to each other as any other couple on earth could boast. The glimmering city of pearl and silver came into view over the hills before many hours had passed after evening.

They were late, very late, Elladan had predicted they would arrive a few days before they actually did. Desire to prolong the solitude with Írissë and worries for her recovery had influenced their speed and he could guess that his sister would have worried herself to folly over them.
"We are here then," said Elladan with a hint of longing, behind the gates of mithril ruled his beloved Arwen and soon he would see her again. Linta nudged closer to Elladan's horse and Írissë laid her hand in his for a moment,
"Come," she said softly and they trotted to the gates, were admitted by the sentries and approached the vast Citadel wherein was their destination. Elrond had sent word to the palace notifying them of the arrival and Elladan knew it was likely that Arwen had gathered all and sundry to greet them. They were not disappointed, no sooner had they dismounted than they were met not only by the royal household but by Legolas, Gimli and word that relatives from Lórien were expected soon for a feast. He gathered Arwen into his arms and kissed her affectionately, all were moved and Elladan suddenly felt as if he were young again and they were still at play together. Aragorn embraced him like a brother,
"Congratulations are in order," he said, "but I would be more disposed to profess them after you have explained to me why you have worried your sister to death by being so late." Aragorn had a wry grin on his face, Arwen had been distracted as she had fretted over his safety. One would think that meeting Aragorn again after such a while would spark bitterness in Elladan's heart for he is was who was stealing Arwen for his own mortality but he did not. When he looked into the laughing brown eyes of the king he saw again the `Estel' he had loved for years as a brother and could not help but succumb to the overwhelming amity he felt.
"Dear sister and brother," said he, "I am sorry for my delay but I would like you to be introduced to my future wife, Lady Írissë." Írissë had hung back for a while, unsure of her reception but Elladan now put his arm around her encouragingly and she was greeted warmly by all present.
"There is a great gathering to be held," Arwen said proudly, "in your honour." both Elladan and Írissë blushed redly,
"I had not expected such kindness," said Írissë sweetly,
"Nor such excitement." said Elladan in an undertone,
"You are brother to the queen," Arwen said contentedly, "you should expect nothing less." Arwen lived up to her role as hostess and had brought together friends and family from afar including the fair Galadriel and Celeborn who were held as the highest guests as they came to meet the woman Elladan had deemed worthy enough for him. Írissë had never met either but heard much and was eager although shy of meeting them.
"My lady," she curtsied low before the beauty and evident wisdom that played across Galadriel's face. Galadriel took her hand and looked long and deeply into her hazel eyes. The piercing blue sapphires seemed to sweep right through her, Írissë almost felt naked, nothing could be hidden but she held the gaze long. After a moment Galadriel flashed a smile,
"Do not worry my dear," she said kindly, having perceived some of Írissë's deepest fears, "you are worthy of his love." Írissë's eyes widened, "You may not think that others see you as such but you know in your own heart that it is so. Elladan loves you and I commend him for having found somebody deserving." she then kissed Írissë affectionately and rose higher in her esteem than any legend spun could have done. The ordered dinner was extravagant, the guests delightful and the minstrels surprisingly skilled. A high good humour descended upon everyone and the chambers were filled with the merry sound of music and laughter. Elladan found himself in the arms of his friends all of whom congratulated him fervently for having secured himself so fair a prize. Indeed, he caught many of the young men gazing, spellbound, at Írissë whose beauty seemed to shine brighter every hour. He noted with a smile that Arwen was going out of her way to make her feel at home and he made a mental reminder to thank her personally later. He himself was seated between Legolas the elf prince of Mirkwood and Gimli the dwarf who was deep in conversation with Aragorn. Legolas' eyes wandered far away and were glazed over as he stared into space.
"Legolas?" Elladan asked and ventured a prod in the rubs when he failed to attract the prince's attention.
"Yes?" he replied in a fluster, "I am sorry Elladan my thoughts were elsewhere."
"And with whom pray tell?" Elladan smiled wryly, knowing the expression Legolas wore as one preoccupied with a matter of his heart. Legolas smiled too,
"Why do you suppose it is with somebody else?" he asked.
"Because I know you, friend and you can hide nothing."
Legolas sighed,
"I should have known this would not be the place to conceal my inner troubles, too many watchful eyes including those of your sister who seems to know my every thought." Elladan laughed merrily, identifying deeply.
"She does indeed," he said catching Arwen's eye and winking, "a remarkable talent. So tell me, who is it who holds your thoughts in their keeping?"
"Not only my thoughts," Legolas said, holding his hand to his breast, "she has my heart as well and I dream only that my hopes come to the fruition that yours have," Elladan was surprised but moved to speak,
"This is your night," Legolas said quickly, a mask covering the pain in his eyes. He bore some plight on his shoulders that Elladan wanted to help him with yet sensed it was better not to ask, "let us speak no more of myself. You have struck well, the lady Írissë is certainly very fair." Elladan smiled,
"She is indeed." he then told Legolas how they had been thrown together on their quest on of the measures he had used to drag her from the brink of death. The prince's eyes glinted in surprise and admiration for his friend and it surprised Elladan himself to hear the tale told for it was the first time it had been related in full to anyone. He marvelled at their own daring during battle and the lengths he had gone to, to save someone so precious to him. Legolas disappeared after the merrymaking, Aragorn following soon after and Elladan hoped that the prince would earn the love of the lady he had chosen. After the hours of songs sung and tales woven the company retired to bed for the evening. Aragorn had still not returned so Elladan followed Arwen and sat with her in her chambers for a while, glad to be with her again.
"Are you happy for me sister?" he asked as he lounged on a sofa, knowing the answer.
"Of course I am!" she said, running a brush through her long hair,
"How do you like her? I know that you have never known her well despite her years at Imladris."
"I found her most congenial and pleasant." said Arwen fondly, "You match her well and I am sure you will be very happy together. Will your engagement run a year?" Elladan nodded, his heart heavy. Arwen sensed his woe and looked long at his reflection in the mirror from where she sat at her dressing table. She came and sat next to him, putting her hand in his.
"And I will never see your wedding," she said resignedly. Elladan nodded again,
"I would not have it this way," he said, "I would wish you to be with me, to wish me joy."
"And so I do, I have wished you joy all your life." she said, "And just because I am not there does not mean I will not be thinking of you. You, Elrohir and father are ever in my mind and even if our paths meet no more under the sun I will always be a part of you, Elladan, you will always be in my heart." Elladan embraced her close, Arwen's eyes were filling with tears.
"Do not cry, sister." Elladan said even though he felt himself to be choked up, "You know I cannot bear that."
"I am sorry," she wiped her tears away.
"Arwen," Elladan began to voice the fears he had harboured, "Estel is a creditable man and it is clear he loves you and that you love him but it rends my heart to know that one day you will die for him and be gone from this world." his eyes were full of pain but hers held only compassion and understanding. "I will miss you dreadfully," he said, "do you remember when mother left? I continued only by knowing that one day we would see her again but once we have left these shores you will be but a beautiful memory." a tear slipped down his cheek.
"I will be a memory that will remain ever untarnished and new in your heart. We have had three thousand years together, years of happiness and love and once I am gone from this life it will not mean that I love you less. I have chosen mortality for Aragorn despite his begging me to follow my people. I love him as passionately as you do your lady."
"But..." Elladan began but Arwen silenced him.
"Tell me," she said kindly, "had you failed in drawing Írissë from the void of death. Had you faced a life without her, would you have followed instead of returning?" Elladan sat deep in thought for some minutes,
"Yes," he said, "I would."
"Then can you not understand?" Arwen said, "I have lived for thousands of years, I have lived all the life I desire, mortals face their short spans cheerfully and I have been blessed with forty times what they may expect. Know that I do not fear death."
"Your loss will pain me greatly." he said softly.
"I know." she lapsed into her own tongue, "Melethen le alluir pelitha. Pêd i chên thenin?" My love for you shall never wane. Do I have your love?
"Allim ennas i galad." she touched his forehead with her index finger, "Sílo Rodyn o heg vi lû baur lín, aen cuiathach a thírad in dýr atholel laeg, a raenath ad eriol nan niviath gwaith lín."
Soon there will be light. May the Valar shine about you in your hour of need, may you live to see the lands return to green, and smiles appear back on the faces of our people.
"Mhôr nivrol," he replied, I am facing darkness.
"Hartho gwannatha allim" I hope it will soon pass by. She rested her head on his shoulder and he wrapped her in his arms, knowing that it could be one of the very last times he did so. Some precious minutes they spent in this manner, occasionally speaking, lapsing into comforting silence until a clock down the corridor chimed three swift strokes.
"I must find that husband of mine," Arwen said, "no doubt he is consoling prince Legolas who looks as if someone trod on his bow." Elladan laughed and they parted. He wandered aimlessly along to his chambers, as rich and sumptuous as he could wish for. Írissë was across the hall, decorum bidding they do not share rooms. Elladan paused between the two doors before abandoning thought of his own and knocking softly on hers. Írissë was not in bed yet but Elladan poured out his heart to her and she offered him solace for his unhappiness.
"As many years as she has walked this earth it seems to soon for her to leave it." he said.
"Her years have brought her all she needs to know the right choice for her ease of heart. The choices she makes are wise and take comfort in knowing that what is meant to be will be. Arwen's destiny is to follow in the footsteps of Luthien the fair, she alone who has left the world." with those words she kissed Elladan tenderly on the lips. He could not resist kissing her back and that night he did not return to his chambers instead he lay in her arms watching her slumber, the cares of the world lifted from his shoulders for a few treasured hours.

The next few days passed happily, Írissë was shown around Gondor, became fast friends with Arwen and was treated with the highest honour in the House of Tel-Contar. Elladan had avowed that he would watch out for Legolas but the prince had vanished with Gimli early in the morning and Elladan hoped he had gone to win the heart of Elwen, she whom he pined over. The morning of their departure came too soon but Elladan had begun to worry about Írissë's health again and knew that the longer they were away from Imladris the more Lord Elrond would desire their return. The farewell between Arwen and her brother was not as sorrowful as it might have been for each was doing their best to disguise their pain.
"Namárië," Arwen whispered, "may one day, when the world is changed, we meet again." There were no words to describe the tumult currently raging through Arwen's mind. She felt keenly the longing to follow her brother, to see the forgotten lands and to spend an eternity with those whom she loved. Her heart ached for it but it was not to be and she had chosen her life in Gondor with the King and she did not now rue it for she knew it to be the future she truly desired, were she to go to Valinor she did not think she could bear the agony of his loss. Elladan did not think he could speak, knowing only that he would leave a substantial part of himself right here, with her. Aragorn looked a little guilty but Elladan did not blame him, he had never done so. He turned as he and Írissë rode away, the royal couple stood together on the steps, one of Arwen's arms was raised in a gesture of blessing and a single tear spilling from her glistening eyes.
"Namárië!" he called to the disappearing shapes. He would not dwell on the past, Arwen would be gone but her spirit remain, so had Luthien come down through the ages to grace the earth once more so the same spirit would perpetuate and live forever in the future queens of Gondor.

He gwannen
Naeg nedh
She is gone
Pain remains

Months of preparation passed after they returned. A flurry of activity spiralled in Rivendell until soon the contents of the vast chambers were contained within chests and the hollow halls left standing as a memory of the fair folk that had once walked joyfully in them. Every tie to Middle Earth that the elves had was being severed. It was with the pain of loss that the elves would soon leave all they had loved and sail away to an unknown future in the land of the hallowed, far away. All wisdom they had gained here would be of little relevance, they were embarking upon a great journey West, to be reunited with their kin they had not know for an age past. For Elladan and Írissë it was yet more exhilarating. They embarked doubly on journeys of their own, they were to be united forever as one for they were of the same searching souls and they had found each other at last. Ensured of eternal devotion in each other's arms. They stood together in the empty chambers as the procession gathered outside.
"Our memory will linger." Írissë said, "We will not be forgotten."
"This day has blighted our folk for many a year," replied Elladan, "since we first felt the bite of the doom of Mandos we have dreaded its arrival yet now it is here we must weather it as best we may."
"You have found your strength." Írissë pressed a slow, soft kiss on him, "And so have I. Everything will be well."
Elladan took her hand and smiled, no pretence, no mask, he was true to himself and allowed his emotions to be known in his sorrow, "So it shall my beloved. So it shall."

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