The Tale of Amaril Anorwen - Part XIX: Mithlond
A tall male elf with dark straight hair and a gray cloak met them at the entrance. He said nothing, but seemed to be expecting them, for as they rode under the arches he bowed and turned, indicating that they should follow. They rode down a broad avenue that went straight to the quays and the sea, and Amaril's eyes lingered long on the sunset waves that seemed to stretch out into eternity. The air itself smelled of salt and was heavy with mist, and breathing it seemed oddly refreshing to both travelers. Many Elves were about, bearing lanterns to light the evening twilight and singing as one of the great gray ships set sail. The song was bittersweet, for Elves who pass West know they will see their loved ones again. All they have to do is wait awhile. Not for the first time, Aragorn felt a slight pang of envy for the immortality of the Eldar. Few among them knew what it meant to say good-bye, and know that that good-bye meant forever. Yet few Men would ever know what it meant to be weary of the world, or how cruel the bonds of Fate could be. Perhaps there was a fair trade-off there. Their guide led them to a stable where they left their horses, and then brought them through the misty streets to Círdan's house by the harbor.
The Shipwright himself stood at his open arched doorway, waiting at the top of a short flight of steps to greet them. He was tall, and old, the oldest Elf left in Middle Earth. His hair was gray, as was his robe, and he had a long grey beard, the only Elf to bear such a mark. Amaril was already fading - she'd been leaning on Aragorn's arm since they'd left Sadhros behind, but at the sight of the Shipwright she straightened, mustering the last of her strength, and though Aragorn stayed near she mounted the steps without faltering and knelt before Círdan.
"Lord Círdan, I am Amaril, daughter of Hador, Chieftain of the Harachin," she said in a clear voice, still on her knees. "Long ago my people fled the wars of Beleriand, forsaking an alliance with the Elves and a chance to fight evil, and for all the long ages after we have done naught but flee, denying any alliance, for it was the judgement of our leaders that Men should have no part in the wars of the Elves. We finally came to rest in the mountains of Rhûn, and there we have stood, denying both the Light and Shadow. We have long resisted the Rhûnic Army, but our ability to resist is weakening for both our people and hopes are dwindling. We can go no further East; we forsook the West, and yet we have no wish to be consumed by the gathering Darkness. I was sent to find the Western Sea and the grace to return to the lands we gave to war in the centuries past. There is little we can offer in return, but I promise you this: we will fight. Our swords are sharp and arms strong. We will make the alliance we denied in the Elder Days, and join the ranks of the Edain, if the Elves and Dúnedain will have it."
Círdan regarded her for a long moment as she remained, bent on one knee before him. Elladan had helped her comb and braid her hair before setting out that morning, but several golden strands had escaped, casting a sort of halo about her. Her face was bent to the ground, but Aragorn could see from the side that she'd turned a pasty white. She wore the same traveling clothes she'd worn for entire journey, and but now they were baggy on her and showed their wear. She would have been utterly wretched, pitiful even, but for the calm nobility with which she spoke, and the air of firmness she still maintained about her, a strength of will and pride. She sought grace, not pity, for she'd long since accepted her end. Aragorn wondered vaguely if she was planning to stand or was waiting Círdan's bidding. Then he realized that she might not be able to rise at all. No sooner had this occurred to him than the old Elf bent before Amaril and, taking her hands, raised her to her feet. She swayed as she stood and for a moment Aragorn thought she might faint, but she straightened her back and held her head high.
"Word of your arrival in the Westlands and deeds have already reached me, Amaril Anorwen, and indeed I have been expecting you," the Shipwright said. "It was well you and Aragorn sent me word of your coming, for you were overdue, and I was beginning to fear the worst."
"That has yet to come, Lord," she replied softly.
"Indeed, and it will come sooner rather than later I deem. You bear a bitter wound, Child of the Sun, but I think it is not in vain. Come and tell me of your people, and your own journey, for though I have heard much it will be better to hear it from your own lips." Aragorn saw her draw her breath in, and understood.
"Lord, can this not wait?" he intervened, "for the lady is weary."
"Nay, Aragorn, but I thank you," Amaril said. "I will speak with Círdan now, for I may not have a chance to later."
"We will be brief," the Elf promised. "All I have are a few questions really."
He led Amaril to his study, and bid her sit in a soft chair by the fire. Someone brought in a platter of bread and cheese and someone else relieved them both of their damp and dirty cloaks. Aragorn noted with no small amount of concern that there were spots of fresh blood on her shirt sleeve - her wound had reopened, and though she still held herself erect and kept her bearing calm he could see that she was shivering slightly. Círdan also noticed, and pointed to a blanket sitting on a chest. Aragorn did not hesistate to wrap it about her shoulders while she made a sparing snack of the bread and began talking with Círdan.
The Elf's gray eyes were very bright, and being wise he understood much of what she left unsaid, and so she was able to keep her tale brief, and his questions were few. Aragorn did not sit, but stood nearby, with his hands on Amaril's shoulders, bracing her, for he could see that the mighty will that had carried her this far was breaking. Under his hands he could feel her muscles clenching as she fought a wave of the burning pain the poison set on her, yet, somehow, she maintained her outward composure, acknowledging his presence only by taking one of his hands in a grip that tightened as the interview wore on. It was as if she were again drawing an extra measure of strength from him, and he gave it gladly, for this was the end of her quest, and he would not deny her that which she had fought and suffered so much for.
The last question Círdan asked was if she spoke for all her people. Her hand on Aragorn's was already feeling too warm, and her grip had turned crushing. She drew a deep breath before answering honestly, "Nay, for not all were supportive in letting me go, but my father thought the idea worth the effort, and the majority followed him in mind if not heart. Those that do not will not be forced to come, for this is a hard journey and my father is not a cruel man." As she spoke this last her grip relaxed and, with all the terrible suddenness she'd displayed before, she crumpled in on herself. It was only because Aragorn was already there and anticipating such a fall that she did not tumble from the chair. Círdan arched an eyebrow, for while he too had been expecting Amaril to collapse he was still taken a-back by the sudden violence of the venom in her veins.
She hissed in pain as they laid her on the rug-covered floor, for in the throes of fever she could bear no movement. Aragorn felt her forehead, though he already knew what the problem was, and his heart sank. Her temperature had shot up as high as it had ever been in just a few heartbeats, and though they wrapped her in yet another convenient blanket she still shivered, caught in the poison's grip. "That came faster than I thought it would," the Shipwright mumured looking into her face. "I'm not sure that she will survive this."
"She pushed herself too hard. Elrond warned us both that it would be so, but we could not keep her still after the last one," he said, shaking his head and quickly gathered her into his arms. "She needs something for the pain, as well as the fever. Where's your healer?" he asked, standing and moving to the door.
"Lurking somewhere. I've had him on call since word came of your arrival. Follow me."
Círdan led him down another hallway and up several stairs to a guest apartment. Along the way he sent one of the servants for the healer, never breaking his stride. Amaril shivered in Aragorn's arms and cried out again in pain when they laid her down. Tears slid down her face for she knew what was happening. She always knew what was happening. He held her hand and sang softly to her, hoping that maybe she would hear the Sindarin that had always brought her joy. She quieted only slightly, and then the healer came with a pair of assistants and shooed them both away. "Wise though I may be I have not the gift for healing that you or young Damrod has," the Shipwright said as he took Aragorn out into the hall. "Nor do either of you have the gift that Elrond of Rivendell has. It might have been better for her to have stayed in Imladris."
"So she was counseled, but she desired to see the sea more than she desired to live a longer life. Now I fear she shall have neither."
"She may get that wish yet. It is not clear to me whether or not this fever will break, but I will tell you this, Dúnadan. She will never leave Mithlond as a living woman." This Aragorn did not find at all surprising, though it did sadden him. Círdan gripped his arm. "Once you've cleaned yourself up and rested a bit you may go to her. You and she have a deep bond of friendship, and none but you could have got her this far alive." Aragorn needed no second urging.