Storm Front - Chapter 14
The city of Minas Tirith was just as magnificent as Faye had always heard. It stood in glory, its many spires and towers reaching to the heavens. The people were prosperous and happy. From dawn to dusk, the sounds and smells of life filled the air with a monotone mix that could be sensed for miles around.
Faye did not like it.
She sat now upon a stone ledge underneath the flowering boughs of the white tree of Gondor. A warm breeze was shifting the branches, creating a low whisper that was drowned in the noise of the city thundering in Faye's ears. It was early afternoon, and she knew it would be several hours yet before the sounds ceased. The stone walls of the Citadel offered little relief.
Faye was not in anything resembling a joyful mood. She had been sitting for over two hours, her mind racing with grim thoughts and realizations that she had gained in her time here. Today, everything she had been taught about the past 500 years was coming full circle. Now, she slowly tried to make sense of her feelings before attempting to voice them to the others.
When she had been adjusting to life in Rivendell--a place so different from the warm, wet shadows of the jungle--she had ways of seeking comfort, both in Arwen and in the natural beauty of the Valley. Though Arwen had done everything in her power to make Faye happy here in Minas Tirith, a deep-set unease continued to flourish. The monuments of stone and marble were lifeless in Faye's eyes. There were no trees fit to climb, no streams for swimming, no grass upon which she could sit to ease the soreness in her legs. Everything was too bright and too loud. It made Faye feel very alone, and very uncomfortable. The only stone walls she knew of before now had been her dungeon cell in the accursed place of her captivity.
The people of the city, though nice enough in their own ways, did little to change Faye's opinion. Certainly, none of the castle servants had ever refused a request, and most of the guards and common folk had smiles on their faces when she saw them, but those same servants bowed their heads and skirted her in the corridors, and she could feel the eyes of the guards watching her even now, an unwavering presence that had been with her since her arrival. The common folk gawked at her when they thought she could not see them, whispering rumors. On one occasion, Faye had overheard a mother telling her two rambunctious boys to behave themselves, or "the blood-drinker will come and take you away."
In Rivendell, Faye had been a member of the community, welcome and beloved. Here in Gondor, she was a source of interest and fear, the subject of rowdy debate by drunken men in taverns, a child's monster under the bed. She loved children, but the only ones that did not seem to be absolutely terrified of her were Eldarion and Tinúviel. Understandably, it had taken Eldarion a good deal of time to learn to trust her. Eomala on the other hand, who had returned to Ithilien with her parents several weeks ago, had hidden behind her mother's skirts every time Faye tried to draw near. Eowyn had done her best to convince the young girl that Faye was safe, but Eomala would not be deterred from her fright. In the end, Faye had spared the child further misery, and had kept well out of Eomala's way.
Faye would probably have been able to overlook the fearful children of the court had she been able to spend the kind of time with Arwen as she wanted. But that was impossible. As the Queen of Gondor, Arwen was very busy, and though Faye knew she was welcome to remain by her side during sessions of the court, she found it nearly impossible to tolerate. Too much time spent in one place indoors often caused her to grow very agitated, and once, while she was in this state, she had accidentally turned an innocent sneeze into a snarl. This sound had echoed loudly in the vast throne room, causing more than one unsuspecting noble lady to faint from shock. Faye had avoided attending ever since, though both Arwen and Aragorn would later admit that the situation had been rather funny.
So, Faye spent much of these days alone, sitting upon a ledge or roof and looking out over the Pelennor when not wandering the city streets. At these times, she would think about the recent past, and wish that Ancalima had agreed to accompany her here. That would have, at least, provided her with some company in these lonely hours.
Faye had returned to Gondor with Arwen about six months ago. On the day of their departure from Mirkwood, she had asked the old forest woman to come with her. But Ancalima had flatly refused.
"A rough-born forest woman like me has no place in the White City," she had said with a sad smile. "I am sad to see you leave, Faye, but you have found the people you love, and that is most important."
Ancalima had also refused to take back the blue stone amulet. Faye had been reluctant to offer it, and had secretly been relieved when the forest woman had not accepted it.
"It belongs to you," Ancalima had said. "I am proud to have kept it safe for you."
The playful argument with Eowyn had also been settled by then, Faye remembered, though not to Ancalima's victory. Faye herself had suggested the deciding factor with only one word. The two women had been debating the qualities of the different animals, and were stuck on loyalty by the time Faye grew interested enough to approach them.
"My old mule saved my life," Ancalima had said firmly, patting Jent's bony neck. "Name one horse that has done better than that."
Eowyn, her hand entwined in Bregan's mane, had tried to think of a response, but Faye had beaten her to it.
Ancalima had given her a furious glare, but Eowyn had been all smiles.
"Exactly," she had said. "Does your mule have the kind of bravery Bill possesses? Would your mule have followed you here from Gondor under its own will?"
Ancalima had been unable to answer that question, so Eowyn had been the victor. Enarion, in particular, had seemed relieved that the debate was finally over.
"They had been driving the rest of us to near madness," Faye had heard him comment to Maida after Ancalima's departure.
Ancalima's leaving had not been the only thing that had affected Faye in Mirkwood. Lord Celeborn had taken her aside while she had been saddling Bill.
"I have not yet properly thanked you for your sacrifices, Faye," he had said. "You have done far more in Celebrían's honor than I could have ever expected." He had approached her, resting a hand on her shoulder. "Your story will be sung by our people for the remaining Ages of our world."
Faye had been unsure of how to respond to Celeborn's words. Silence had settled for several long moments before she finally spoke. What she had said to him, and his reply, still haunted her.
"Where is Galadriel?" she had asked quietly. "Why is she not with you? And Elrond? Why did he not come to see the birth of his granddaughter?"
Celeborn had stared at her, clearly stunned.
"Arwen did not tell you?" he had asked, then paused. Faye had gazed at him, her spirits sinking at the look on his face. "They are gone, Faye. Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel sailed to Valinor a few years after the war."
Arwen had told her of many things since they were reunited, but never had she mentioned the departure of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth. Faye had met this news with shock and deep sadness, as well as the blossoming of a dark realization. This she had brooded over a long time, and finally, at long last, she was gaining some understanding of what had to be done.
To help herself along this path, Faye had submitted to long hours in the library of Minas Tirith with little complaint, studying writings of recent events and listening to the epic tales of great battles and history-changing quests. Gimli himself had helped tell the tale of the Fellowship, with Legolas keeping a soft running commentary alongside. Through all that, she had learned everything she thought of now.
Faye sighed, brushing stray locks of hair behind her ears. She was starting to become sore sitting on the hard ledge. Reaching down and gathering the walking stick that was so vital to her mobility these days, she stood and slowly began trudging back inside. In the cool sunlit corridors of the Citadel, the sound of her stick against the polished marble floors echoed noticeably. She could hear the murmur of conversation from the throne room, but did not bother to head that way, instead turning and moving towards the main parlor.
The soft pattering of tiny feet caused Faye to pause, and she glanced back to see Eldarion coming towards her. He grinned shyly at her.
"It is not hard to hear you coming, Lady Faye," he said, approaching. "You have been here a long time. Why can you still not walk right?"
Faye smiled at the young boy. Had Arwen been here, she would have reprimanded Eldarion for his abrupt question. She, however, did not mind in the least. She was grateful that the boy no longer feared her.
"My injuries will never fully heal, young Prince," she said. "I was already in a bad situation without that spider's assistance." Her grin faltered, and she lowered her eyes. "I think I will be this way for the rest of my life."
Eldarion followed her to the parlor, approaching one of the bookshelves while Faye lowered herself onto an armchair and lifted her legs onto a softly cushioned footstool. The boy returned quickly, handing her the book he had chosen. It was a story Aragorn had been reading to him in the evenings, and it was almost finished. She knew what Eldarion wanted of her.
"Do you not think it would be better for your father to finish this with you?" she asked, gripping the book clumsily. "You two have almost completed it."
"Ada can still read it to me tonight," Eldarion pleaded. "But I want to know the end!"
"I remember your mother doing this same thing to me when she was around your age," she said. "She wanted me to finish a story her Ada was reading to her." She sat up slightly, setting the book aside and welcoming Eldarion onto her lap. "But I told her the same thing I told you, and she did not want her Ada to be sad. Do you want your father to be sad?"
Eldarion thought for a moment. Faye smiled at him, and after a moment the boy raised his shining eyes up at her.
"No," he admitted. "I guess I can wait." He gripped her wrist. "Do you know any other stories, Lady Faye?"
Faye chuckled again, patting Eldarion's back.
"That I do, young Prince," she said, winking.
A quarter-hour later, Arwen entered the parlor, and Faye caught her wide smile when she saw Eldarion napping in her arms. Faye returned the smile, carefully repositioning the sleeping boy so she could stand without disturbing him.
"What happened?" Arwen asked, approaching and offering her an arm for support.
"I told him a story," Faye replied, winking. "I guess it was of little interest to him."
Arwen laughed softly, but then the smile faded from her face, replaced by a look of concern. Faye gazed at her, confused.
"Faye, I have noticed your growing unhappiness," Arwen began, gripping her shoulder. "What is wrong? Is it something I have done?"
"No, my child," Faye replied quickly. She looked into her beloved's crystalline eyes, and sighed. "I have been thinking a lot since I arrived here. I fully realize now how much has changed since I left Rivendell. Your people. . .our people. . .are departing these lands."
Arwen nodded slightly, averting her gaze to one of the many open windows.
"I know," she said softly.
Arwen released Faye and approached the window, slowly pushing the panes open to allow the warm afternoon air inside. Faye remained where she was, removing the amulet that hung from her neck and holding it in her hands. In the sunlight, it glistened with all the beauty of Elf-kind, and Faye could almost see the waves of the sea in the smooth, polished stone. It was a sacred object, the symbol of the vow she had made long ago.
And Faye knew it was time for her to fulfill that vow. That had been her great realization. She had seen how the world was changing. Changing. . .and leaving the race of Elves behind. Arwen did not belong in this world any longer.
"Arwen," she began, gripping the amulet and taking a few clumsy steps forward. "I think it is time."
Arwen glanced back at her.
"Time?" she asked, her tone confused.
"Time to take the final journey," Faye clarified. "Listen. . .I know you have made yourself a home here." She gestured to Eldarion, who was still peacefully asleep. "And I am well aware of your love for King Elessar." Faye approached her, glancing out at the city beyond. "But you do not belong here, in the kingdom of Men, and neither do I."
Arwen stared at her, eyes growing very wide. Faye blinked, unsure of the meaning of her reaction.
"But. . .why. . .I thought. . ." Arwen shook her head, her eyes still wide. "Faye, I thought you. . ."
Faye held up a hand to silence her, smiling gently. Settling the other on Arwen's shoulder, she drew her into an embrace.
"I know this is a shock to you," she whispered, feeling Arwen tense underneath her touch. "But I have thought about this a long time. We do not have to depart immediately. I will help you explain things to your husband. If he is the wise, caring man I believe him to be, he will understand in the end."
"Faye, I do not. . ." Arwen began again, her tone a bit stronger than before, but again Faye gently silenced her.
"I made a promise to Celebrían," Faye said firmly, stepping back slightly and fastening the amulet around her neck again. She had slowly begun to relearn how to do such simple tasks without the aid of her thumbs. "I promised her that I would bring you to Valinor. I will not break that vow." She glanced back into the parlor. Maida and one of Arwen's handmaids had entered while Faye had been speaking, but they had approached Eldarion's chair, and appeared to be respectfully ignoring them. "I can see your eyes, Arwen. A light has departed since I left you. You grow weary of this world, even if you do not yet know it yourself."
It was true. Faye had noticed the absence of the light that could be seen in any Elf's eyes. It was something she remembered so well from Arwen's childhood. It was what had drawn her out of the shadows in that distant past. Faye wanted so much for it to return, and she knew there was only one way that was going to happen. Long had she attributed its loss to the present times.
"This is the only way," Faye concluded with a sad smile. "It will be hard at first, but we will be reunited with Celebrían soon, and then everything will be well again."
Arwen stepped away from the window, a look of immense shock on her face. Faye shifted her gaze around, not expecting this sort of reaction. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Maida staring at them.
"I thought. . ." Arwen began, her tone soft, but tensed. "I thought you knew."
"Knew what?" Faye asked.
Maida gasped. Faye looked at her again, narrowing her eyes. She did not understand what was going on.
"Faye, I cannot." Arwen was also looking at Maida, but her expression was clearly asking the she-Elf to remain quiet. "I don't know how to say this any other way. . ." She started pacing, Faye following her every move with wary eyes. "By the Valar. . .I thought you knew. I thought you understood."
"What was I supposed to understand?" Faye asked, her voice far more sharp than she had ever intended. "Arwen, what is wrong?"
Arwen stopped pacing and turned to her, her face set in determination.
"I turned from that path a long time ago," she said firmly. "My choice was that of Luthíen. The journey to the Havens. . .is one I can no longer take. I chose to remain in Arda. . .and this is where I will stay."
Faye stared at Arwen, her heart momentarily becoming still in its shock and horror. Quite suddenly, everything was silent. Nothing but Arwen's words echoed in her ears. The choice of Luthíen. . .the path of mortality. . .that was the road her beloved had chosen? A fire was kindling deep within Faye's heart. Before she had quite realized it, her body was shaking, her whole being filling with a deep, dark rage.
"Why?" she hissed, her fists clenching from the effort to keep from grasping Arwen's shoulders and shaking her. "Why did you make such a foolish choice?"
Arwen's expression immediately twisted in anger. Her gaze had instantly become cold and hard, but Faye did not flinch.
"Foolish?" she snapped. "I followed my heart. I did what I thought. . ." She paused, shaking her head slightly. "No, what I knew was right." She drew herself up, becoming every inch a noble queen. Faye would have been in awe had fury not been consuming her. "I would not change anything that I have done for any reason. I love Aragorn. I will stay with him, and nothing you will ever do or say can make me think otherwise."
Faye was momentarily speechless, unable to think of a reply. She took a slow, unsteady step backwards, bowing her head in an effort to keep her rage in check.
"How many times did I try to make you see the treasure that was your immortality?" she finally gasped, straining to keep a growl from her tone. "All the times I tried to tell you. . ."
"What comes will come," Arwen snapped sharply, causing Faye to look up again. She had crossed her arms, and the look on her face was nothing short of fierce. "I am not afraid of death."
With those words, any amount of control Faye had over her temper dissolved. She let out a bone-rattling shriek, rushing forward and clamping Arwen's shoulders in a vice-like grip. She felt something bend unnaturally underneath her right hand, but did not register Arwen's cry of pain for what it was. Faye growled deeply, fangs fully drawn, as she glared into the now wide, watering eyes of her beloved.
"You know NOTHING of death!!" Faye screamed, shaking Arwen so viciously her head snapped back.
For a moment, she felt a horrible urge to break, to hurt the woman hanging so limply in her grasp. But an instant later Faye realized what she was doing. She could feel hands on her arm, and glanced to see Maida gripping her, pulling with all the strength she had.
"Faye, let her go!" Maida was screaming. "You're hurting her!!"
On the other side of the room, Eldarion was fighting to escape the arms of the handmaiden, who was yelling for help. The boy was also shouting for her to release Arwen. She quickly pulled her hands away, and Arwen crumpled to the ground, gripping her right shoulder and gasping in pain. Faye stared at her, horrified at what she had done. What had she been thinking? She tried to approach, but Maida abruptly shoved her, and Faye stumbled backwards, sprawling over a low table.
"What is wrong with you?!" Maida shouted. "Look at what you have done!"
Pounding footsteps were echoing out in the corridor, and a few moments later Aragorn burst into the room, followed by Gimli and Legolas. Faye remained where she had fallen, her mind clouded with shredded remains of her anger and the horrible nausea of realizing she had injured Arwen. Aragorn seemed to know what had happened--perhaps he had heard Maida and the handmaiden screaming--for he turned to her with a rage in his eyes that matched what hers had been.
"I should have known," he said furiously. "I should have realized you would betray us. For Arwen's sake, I tolerated your presence. Now you have turned against us, and I will not allow such a threat to continue existing among my family! Guards, arrest her!"
A small group of guards was standing at the doorway, and they immediately began coming towards her, weapons drawn. Faye, however, was not paying attention to them. Her eyes remained fixed on Aragorn. In the haze of her confusion, she had come to a grim conclusion about the entire situation. She had decided Arwen was not to blame for her choices.
All of the fault was upon the shoulders of King Elessar.
"You did this," she growled at him, continuing to ignore the soldiers that surrounded her. A few were attempting to bind her hands behind her back. "You turned Arwen down this path. You have led her to death! My vow is broken because of you!!" Faye wrenched her arms free, causing two of the guards to fall backwards. She was quick to regain her feet. "You did this!" She arched the fingers of her deformed hands, striking at another guard and feeling the bones of his lower arm crack underneath the blow. "I will end this madness. I will rip you to shreds!!"
Faye lunged at Aragorn, catching him in the chest and sending him tumbling to the floor. She knew she had caught everyone by surprise, and so for a few seconds, her furious ripping of cloth and skin was unchallenged. However, Aragorn was quick to fight back, bringing his knees up and catching her in the midsection. Faye shrieked as she was thrown backwards, now struggling against four armed guards, Gimli, and Legolas in her attempt to reach Aragorn again. His chest was bloody, his tunic in tatters, but he appeared unmoved by his injuries. The ease at which he regained his feet only intensified her anger.
Everything was going blurry now. Faye neither worried nor cared that she was breaking bone in her attempts to struggle free of her captors. She did not notice when she kicked Gimli and sent him flying into Maida. The blood flowing from the cuts on Legolas' face where she had slashed him did not deter her. All she saw was Aragorn, coming towards her with a sword in hand. Faye drove her elbows into the bodies of the two guards holding her most firmly, pulled herself free of the others, and charged him.
Something suddenly struck Faye on the back of the head, the blow so hard and sudden that for a moment, she saw stars in the air before her. Losing her balance, she fell to the floor at Aragorn's feet. She tried to raise herself up, but a second, harder blow came, and it was all she could do to keep herself from falling unconscious. Sprawled upon the floor, blood flowing from the back of her head, she turned her eyes to see what had attacked her.
Arwen was standing above her, an iron fire poker clutched in her hands. Tears were trickling down her cheeks, but her teeth were clenched, and her eyes blazed. In all her years, Faye had never seen a more terrible gaze, and she fought the urge to recoil. As it had done before in Arwen's presence, her predatory fury was ebbing away.
"How dare you?" Arwen snarled, her voice strained. "How dare you try and hurt the ones I love?" She swung the poker around, but instead of striking her, she rested the point at the base of Faye's throat. Faye growled tonelessly, eyes growing wide. The look on Arwen's face showed that she would drive it through if she tried to move. "I thought you were doing so well. I thought things would finally return to normal between us, that you would accept the choices I've made." The poker pressed against her skin as Arwen's arms began to shake. "Clearly I was wrong."
For a moment, Arwen did not move. Finally, she let the poker fall to the floor. Faye rolled over and heaved herself into a sitting position, but did not try to stand. She knew what Arwen was thinking, but had regained enough sense not to speak on it.
"I love you," Arwen whispered, gesturing sharply to keep the guards from approaching. "That will never change. But I will not allow you to remain here if you cannot accept the way things are." She paused, and Faye raised her head to meet her beloved's gaze. "This is the choice I've made. I will not turn away from Aragorn. . .not even for you." Arwen's gaze became as cold as ice once more. "If you cannot accept that, then you are no longer welcome here."
Faye slowly staggered to her feet, leaning heavily on a chair to keep her balance. A cold indifference was rising in her heart, one that was not going to allow her to seek forgiveness. She had suffered for five centuries, surviving only for the woman that stood before her, and the vow she had made so long ago. Even in her time of madness, some of this had existed, whispering comfort to her from beyond her awareness. But now, she could see that all of it had been in vain. Time had not only seen the passing of Elf-kind. It had seen Arwen depart down her own path. . .
. . .and leaving Faye behind.
"You have gone beyond my reach, Arwen," she said. "You say you wanted things to return to normal between us. . .but any chance of that died with your immortality." Faye slowly glanced around, finally spotting the blue stone amulet lying forgotten on the floor. She picked it up, letting it dangle in her hand. "I wonder how Celebrían reacted. . .after hearing you would not be coming back? Surely it was a moment more torturous than anything I ever suffered."
These words had made an impact. Faye could see it in Arwen's eyes. But she had gone beyond caring.
"If you do not want me around, then I will not force my presence upon you," she continued, raising the amulet. "But I hope that you remember what you left behind for every remaining minute of your wretched life. . ." Faye felt hot tears starting to slide down her face, and did not attempt to wipe them away. ". . .and that it tears you apart as much as it will me."
And with that, Faye flung the amulet to the floor, watching it come to a halt at Arwen's feet. A few pieces of the silver banding had broken on impact. Faye turned, glancing at Aragorn.
"Congratulations, King Elessar," she growled. "You've killed her."
Without another word, Faye departed. For a few moments, all evidence of debilitation left, for she managed to stride out of the Citadel and down through the city without effort. Never once did she look back.
Arwen, on the other hand, did watch as, after several minutes, the small figure that was Faye on horseback thundered off across the Pelennor, vanishing into the sun-hazed distance. One of the guards had asked Aragorn if he should assemble a pursuit, but he had given the order to allow Faye to leave unimpeded. Now, Arwen felt him settle an arm around her, and she fought back a sob as she turned to look at him.
"I am sorry, Estel," she whispered.
"It was not your fault," Aragorn replied gently. "You tried to help her. There was nothing more you could have done." He paused. "Do you. . .regret. . .?"
"No!" Arwen said fiercely, clinging to him. "I would never regret anything." She glanced around, noticing that Maida was still sitting where she had fallen, sobbing silently. Gimli had a hesitant arm around her shoulders. For a moment, their eyes met, then Maida turned away and threw her arms around the Dwarf, crying into his shoulder and thoroughly startling him. Arwen also turned away, tightening her grip on Aragorn.