The Undying Lands - (chapter 61)

The departure of the elven friends was delayed due Beleg's return, as they had to stay until Beleg was better and could ride well. His condition improved rapidly- his cuts healed soon, and the arrow wound closed up and only hurt when it was touched. Beleg's leg was in a very bad state, but with help from Eldarion and the medics, it improved well. Eldarion had learnt how to heal from his father, and helped when needed.
Beleg and Dînhith were seen walking slowly around the gardens, Beleg hobbling and leaning on his love, and they talked for hours and hours. Ariengil felt excluded and offended that Dînhith had been so intent on taking Ariengil with them to the Undying Lands, and yet now she was ignoring Ariengil and only taking notice in Beleg.
However, soon Beleg was well enough to ride, so the elves started packing their bags and preparing to leave. Ariengil spent more and more time in the company of Eldarion, but they knew that they would have to part soon.
Two weeks after Nimtheryn's funeral, they decided on a day to leave. `We leave in two days,' Ariengil told Eldarion.
`But that is so soon,' he cried. `I'm going to miss you so much Ariengil. I want you to take this with you,' he took her hand and put inside it a ring of gold. On the band of gold, there was a fiery-green crystal set delicately.
`Oh, Eldarion,' murmured Ariengil, `it is beautiful.'
`It does not match your beauty though,' replied Eldarion as he drew close to her. `The crystal is of the same as my ring- the Ring of Barahir. Whenever we touch these crystals, we may think of each other dearly and happily- wherever we are. I know I will do so.'
`Eldarion, I really do not know what to say, other than thank you very much. I will wear this with love and pride. I now feel really stupid for I was about to give you this,' she reached up to her neck and took off her necklace, `but it seems nothing now.' She felt embarrassed, for she had not really meant to give him a present and felt guilty that she hadn't. She now offered her necklace with a little reluctance, yet felt it was the correct thing to do.
`It is surely not nothing,' replied Eldarion. He gently took the necklace from Ariengil's hand and tied the string around his neck. A leaf, made of silver, hung from it in the style of a Mallorn leaf- green on top and silver underneath.
`It is shaped as a leaf from the golden trees of Lothlórien, where I used to live. I hope you will accept it, although it is so-' Ariengil stopped talking, in embarrassment, and looked up at Eldarion.
`It is so beautiful and special to me,' he continued. `Thank you very much, my dear.' They drew close and kissed gently, treasuring the moment dearly. Ariengil, for some reason unknown to her, felt suddenly embarrassed and claustrophobic, as though she was caught in something she could not escape from. She left soon, but did not mention her feelings to anyone.
The next day passed very quickly in everyone's eyes. They wandered Minas Tirith, breathing in every aroma, devouring everything with their eyes, and trying to remember every detail.
In the evening there was a feast in honour of the group of elves. Beleg, Dînhith, Ariengil, Nieninque, Mereth, Nárfin and Thaliondil sat at the grand table with the King, and the feast commenced. Other tables were situated around the edge of the room, and the grand table was at the head of the room- so there was room to dance in the middle of the room.
The food was wonderful, as always in Minas Tirith, and the variety seemed unending. However, as the last meal that Ariengil would have in Minas Tirith, she could not taste any of the food, and the drink did not wet her dry mouth. Every mouthful of food that she swallowed, Ariengil felt a lump stuck in her throat- she knew she was about to cry.
Excusing herself, she quickly left the feast and didn't return until later. She returned with slightly red eyes, but only Eldarion noticed, and he held her hand tightly. `Would you like to dance?' he asked her. She shook her head numbly, to his disappointment, and she turned back to her food.
`Perhaps later,' she whispered. A smile returned to Eldarion's face and he continued a conversation with Thaliondil, who was sitting next to him. Nieninque, who was sitting next to Ariengil, went to dance with Mereth, and Ariengil was left to her own thoughts.
`Arri, are you all right?' asked Nárfin, who had come to sit next to Ariengil. She hugged Ariengil as her friend shook her head sadly. `You'll be fine after a while, and I'm here for you.'
`Thank you Nárfin, I really appreciate you. Shall we take our partners and dance?' she asked, not wanting to have an in-depth conversation about her life. Her friend nodded in an understanding way and they stood. Eldarion and Thaliondil looked around and they both stood, taking their partner's arm. The couples walked to the dance floor, watched by many. The men took the elven maiden's right hand and held it in their left, placing his right hand on her waist as they danced around the room.
As Ariengil and Eldarion danced, the King was oblivious to everyone and everything else around them. He held her closely, and occasionally murmured something to his maiden- something that no one else was supposed to hear.
Eldarion held Ariengil's right hand close to her shoulder and he ran her hair through his fingers as he held her hand. The maiden sighed sadly into Eldarion's shoulder, and rested her head on his shoulder, not looking in his eyes. They danced closely all evening with their hearts pounding against their chests, so close to one another that their heartbeats seemed as one.
It was with wet eyes and a ragged voice that Ariengil and Eldarion bid each other goodnight. Eldarion stroked Ariengil's jaw gently and tenderly, but she turned her head away, casting her eyes on the floor. Eldarion reached forward and gently tucked Ariengil's long, blonde hair behind her pointed ear.
`We must not be sad, my love,' he whispered, drawing her close to him. She leant towards him and rested gently against him, holding him tightly and not wanting to let go.
`No,' she murmured- her voice slightly muted against his chest. `No, but we will be anyway.'
`We will, but I have my necklace to remember you by.'
`And I have my ring,' replied Ariengil.
`This necklace will not help me remember you perfectly- I wish to remember your smell, your cheeks, your hair, you, and your love. Those memories will not come from this necklace, but from here.' He placed his hand over her heart and looked into Ariengil's eyes. `This is the strongest and safest place for memories. Goodnight and goodbye.'
Eldarion cried as they kissed, realising that that would be the last time their lips locked and it would be the last time they had to hold one another; their tears merged as two streams flowing into a river. Ariengil knew not why she was crying, for she felt guilt, not love, and she did not see Eldarion but Harma when she opened her eyes.
The next day, Ariengil rose with a heavy heart and she looked around her room. There was so much she had to leave behind, such as most of her dresses- she couldn't take all of them with her away from Minas Tirith. There were also many presents that Eldarion had given her, which she could not pack. It was almost unbearable to leave all of them behind; but it was harder to leave Minas Tirith, and the man she loved. But as she thought this, she wondered whether she did love him or whether she was just confused.
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