The Tale of Amaril Anorwen - Part XX: Grace
Aragorn left at a run, and the Shipwright himself followed. None could tell them where she had gone for none had seen her, but Aragorn knew what she intended to do. "What is the most obvious way to the beaches?" he asked the Shipwright as they raced out the front door.
"The steps down the quays," he replied without a moment's pause, and with a burst of energy that seemed amazing for one so old he raced past the Man, and Aragorn followed, dodging confused shipward workers and Elves boarding the gray, outward bound ships. They pelted down the steps and saw the prints in the sand - she was crawling. Not far up the strand he spotted someone with long yellow hair and a white robe lying at the tideline. The evening tide was coming in, and it broke up with white foam up against the limp form in the sand. Aragorn guessed it was Amaril, and entertained a brief irrational fear that she might be washed out to sea. He began to sprint, outpacing Círdan and dropping to the white one's side. It was indeed a woman, and she was soaked with sea water. He threw his cloak over her and then pulled her into his arms, turning her over as he did so. As he had suspected it was Amaril. The light of the setting sun glinted bright off her golden hair, and her blue eyes shined with the fires consuming her from the inside. She curled up in his arms, all bones and clenched muscles, as if tension could ease the burning in her blood.
"The end is come, Aragorn my friend," she whispered hoarsely, for she'd barely strength left to speak. "I have now seen and touched the Western Sea, as I swore. Now I ask thee, is grace given, or did I make this quest in vain?" Círdan caught up to them as she said this last and he dropped to her side.
Taking her hand, he gently said, "The Elves give grace, Lady Anorwen."
"And Men?" She turned her fevered eyes on Aragorn.
"Amaril of the Harachin, I Aragorn, Heir of Isildur and Captain of the Rangers of the North give thee and those of thy people that are willing to bear arms the grace to come west, and ally with the other Free Peoples of Middle Earth."
She smiled wanly, and in a voice barely more than a breath asked, "Then I shall set with the Sun, having fulfilled my vow only in half. How shall I inform my people of our grace?"
"Do not trouble yourself with that," the Shipwright said. "When the time comes, they will know."
"That is good, for my time is come. I thank thee, Aragorn, for all thou hast done for me, and you, Lord Shipwright, for the grace you have bestowed on me and mine." She drew a sharper breath then, for her agony was increasing by the moment. Aragorn took her hand and kissed it lightly, and he was rewarded with another flicker of a smile that turned to a pained grimace. Her passage was going to be a hard one, and Aragorn was briefly tempted to end it for her.
But out of the West a warm and gentle breeze blew. It smelled not of the sea but of flowers and spring grasses, and on it wafted a strain of music. Amaril's face and body relaxed as the warm and blessed breeze touched her wasted and pale cheeks, and her breathing eased. "The Lords of the West also give their grace," the Shipwright murmured in awe, but Amaril spoke no more. She turned her face to the west and smiled, brightly and gracefully, as one relieved of a great burden, for with that breeze her pain was taken, and though none could withhold death from her she would now at least go beyond the circles of the world without suffering. Aragorn continued to hold her in his arms, watching the sunset with her, and then as the sun dipped below the horizon she sighed contentedly and closed her eyes. Thus passed Amaril Anorwen, the Sun-child of the Harachin, on the shores of the Western Sea.
They made a mound for her on the beach, and on top of that mound Aragorn laid her sword, for he knew that should her brother survive the journey and war he would wish to claim it in memory of his lost twin. Then, after allowing himself a few days to rest and mourn he went on a journey into the North, and then in the late summer/early autumn of that year returned to watch the roads, and meet up with the young Hobbit who bore the One Ring. He accompanied this Hobbit and his companions to Rivendell where Elrond was holding council, and it was then, in the autumn of the year, that the Elves of Imladris learned of Amaril's passage and final grace. Arwen shed tears, as did Ormal and Saeros, for though all had known that Amaril would pass too early it was still a blow to know that her light was gone from the world. It is said that Elrond bowed his head at the news, for the bitter doom of Men had never set easily with him who, though he'd the life of an Eldar, would never see his brother or any other mortal friends again. Sadhros the horse was also returned at this time, and to the Elves it seemd that he mourned his mortal rider. After the Council and the hunt for the Nazgûl, Aragorn joined the Nine Walkers, or Fellowship of the Ring as some called it, and became a Captain in the War of the Ring and later reclaimed his throne but the deeds and details of that war are recorded elsewhere, and woven into many songs and tales.
The western breeze that witnessed Amaril's passing blew on, gathering speed and chill as it went. It blew across the desolate Northern wastes and over the Misty Mountains, through dark Mirkwood, over wild Rhovanion and into the forbidding moutains of Rhûn. There it passed between the shutters of the house of Hador, Chieftain of the Harachin, and in the dead of the night tickled the ear of Amlach, Hador's only son and heir. When the young man awoke the next morning he knew that the grace Amaril had pledged to obtain was granted but Amaril herself would never return to the vales she'd grown up in. He went to his father, and told him it was so, and Hador, knowing the close bonds his remaining children shared, believed him. But the hidden valley of the Harachin was surrounded by a Rhûnic regiment, and they could not escape without great loss, so for much of that summer and autumn they continued their desperate resistance, and Amlach was ever haunted by dreams of his sister, begging him to follow the Sun.
Then, suddenly, the forces of Rhûn moved out, going south to the Dark Lands where the Dark Lord was massing his troops, and the Harachin had their chance to flee. With great peril and loss they made it across Rhovanion and into King Thranduil's realm. The King had already received word from Elrond that grace was granted, and anticipating their arrival had sent scouts looking for Men bearing the emblem of the Sun. So it was that Chieftain Hador and Amlach his son came before the Elven-King. In his caves they learned that the grace Amlach's dreams had promised them was truly granted, but only if their people were willing to fight. To this Hador agreed without condition, and thus the Men of the Harachin were allied with the Elves of Greenwood the Great and also the Wood-men who'd long lived among those mighty trees. And when the forces of Sauron attacked, and battle and fire came to the dark and heavy forest, the Harchin fought ferociously and though many died beside their new allies each Harachin that was killed took many more orcs with him. Under the eaves of Mirkwood Chieftain Hador gave single combat to a Rhûnic Captain, and they killed each other in the shadows of the trees, and Amlach himself nearly laid his own life down to protect the Elven King.
After Sauron was finally defeated and the towers of Barad Dur and Dol Guldur thrown down, Thranduil showed his gratitude by naming the young new Chieftain an Elf-friend, and gifted him with treasure and land for those of his people who wished to remain in Mirkwood. Then, knowing that Amlach wished to continue west, he provided some Elves as escorts to Gondor, for he knew that there would be marauding orcs on the roads, and suspicious guards in Minas Tirith. The Harachin had taken grievous losses in that battle, and many of their commanders were slain, and though he would have had it otherwise Imlach, Amlach's dear companion, was named Chief while Amlach made his journey to Gondor.
Amlach and the Harchin were so wild in appearance their devices so foreign to the Men of Gondor that it was only because of the Elven company he kept that Amlach was permitted to enter the gates of Minas Tirith, though his men were forced to wait outside. Amlach was loath to permit this, and almost turned back, but Legolas, Thranduil's son, recognized him as Amaril's brother, declaring dark young man the Moon to her Sun, and brought him before King Elessar Telcontar of the Reunited Kingdom. Fearful of betrayal and humiliation Amlach came before the King, and quickly found that his fears were groundless, for even from the heights of his throne Elessar recognized the brother of Amaril Anorwen, and before Legolas could open his mouth to make the introduction he greeted Amlach by name and granted him a private audience.
In the King's study the young Chieftain and the new-crowned King met, and with the aid of maps the King told the astonished young man the tale of his friendship with Amaril, showing him the route of their journey, and what she'd told him had befallen her on the road. "It should have been me that went," Amlach said when the tale was done. "Our people would have followed her. She did not deserve that anguish."
"Men have ever followed the Sun," the King replied. "Do not torment yourself with what might have been, Amlach son of Hador. Your spirit does not have the same fire Anorwen's had; you or anyone else would have failed where she succeeded, and both Mirkwood and the Harachin would have been the poorer for it."
Then he showed him the lands he would grant Amlach's people to guard as Rangers, for the Dúnedain of Arnor were scattered and scarce and he needed men to hold the reaches of his realm. Amlach did not hesitate to agree, and then, out of sympathy for his loss, the King showed him where he might find the Sun-child's grave.
Before winter had set in Amlach, with Imlach back at his side, had led those of his people that wished to go further over the Misty Mountains and into Arnor, where they joined with the Rangers to guard the marches of that realm. Having established their people, Amlach and Imlach both went to the Havens, and this time it Círdan himself who greeted the mortal riders at his gates, and led them straight to the beach where Amaril had died. Both Men shed sad and bitter tears, and as was their custom cast flowers on the grave. "Harsh indeed is the Gift of Men," Círdan said as they stood over the mound, "for though your race never wearies of the world it always seems to us that you leave it too soon."
"The longest life of a Man probably seems little more than an eyeblink to an immortal Elf," Imlach replied, looking out to the West, "though for most of us it is enough."
"And the shortest?"
It was Amlach who answered this time, and though his face had seen but 19 years he seemed as old and grave as Círdan when he turned to the Shipwright and spoke. "Those are the times when the Gift of Men is as harsh as you think it is. I can not imagine how quick my sister's life seemed to you or others of your kind, but I will tell you this: even by the count of our years, Amaril died too young." Then Amlach took up his sister's sword, and when the time came he gave it to his own daughter, whom he named Amaril. She, like her namesake, had sun-bright hair, and would later become one of the Queen's waiting maids, though King Elessar often thought she'd've been better off in his calvary, or perhaps the service of Rohan.
But Imlach was too filled with sorrow and anger at the loss of his love to find any peace or pleasure in the lands she'd died to open for him, and so it was that in the years before Young Amaril was born and ready to take up arms Amlach gave him loan of the Sun-sword, and Imlach went east, seeking to enter the service of Prince Faramir of Ithilien. Faramir would have said no, for he knew that the comfort Imlach looked for would not be found on the marches of Mordor or anywhere else in the living world, but his wife, Lady Éowyn, Shield-Maiden of Rohan, saw the same fatalism in the suffering young man's eyes that she herself had felt not so long ago, and knowing that he could not hope to find the redemption in love that she had found in Faramir, bid her husband to let him go.
As a Ranger of the South Imlach found danger and battle aplenty, and the scattered remains of Sauron's army's learned to fear both his bow and blade. Then, after a few years, he too took a poisoned wound, and, though some say they delay was deliberate on his part, he did not reach a healer in time. No art of Elves or Man could hope to save him; he would die as Amaril had, and thought to join her at her resting place. So he again went before Faramir to take his leave, and because he'd been a mighty warrior the Prince gave him honor, and provided him an escort. Thus he returned to Arnor, where he returned Anorwen's sword to Amlach and together the two friends went on to Mithlond. The Havens were all but empty now that the Ringbearers had passed and the Fourth Age begun, and none marked the presence of the two Men; one strong and vigourous, the other pale and weak, as they made their way to the beaches. There, with only Amlach at his side, Imlach cast himself onto Amaril Anorwen's grave, and let the fever take him as it had taken her. His mound now lies next to hers, sacred and inviolate, facing the Western Sea.