The Undying Lands - (chapter 84)


As the sun rose and the light beamed into the wedded couple's room, Harma awoke and rolled onto his side. He looked down at his beautiful wife and thanked the Valar. He stroked her cheek gently and put a piece of hair behind her dainty, pointed ear.
`Oh, Ariengil,' he murmured lovingly. She didn't stir, so he leant and kissed her lips. Her eyelids fluttered a little and she sleepily opened her eyes. With a smile, she pulled him towards her and kissed him back. `Come,' whispered Harma, `we must be up. We are leaving soon.'
`Oh no,' cried Ariengil. `But now I don't seem to want to go at all. Still, I suppose we must.'
Harma took Ariengil's hand as he stood, and pulled her towards him. He held her to his chest, and she rested her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her. They were warm, calm and happy.
A few hours later, the couple went down to the food hall. As they walked in, a cheer rose from their friends. They beamed at one another and went to sit down at a large table, covered in different objects and with their friends seated at it.
Elen stood and went to hug Harma. She smiled sweetly as she looked at her new brother-in-law, then she hugged him happily. Everyone followed suit and went to hug their friends. They then dragged Harma and Ariengil to the centre seats at the table and sat them down.
`I'm so happy for you,' cried Dînhith. `We all are. And we made you some presents to congratulate you, and also for your trip to Middle Earth.' She didn't seem to upset about Ariengil leaving, to her friend's surprise, but she seemed as though she was hiding something. Ariengil had no time to wonder what it was, because her friend's were eager for her to look at the presents.
`This one is from me, Ariengil,' said Dînhith as she handed over something in her hand. Ariengil took a bracelet from her best friend's hand. It was made from silver, and was a chain with two hearts on it. On one heart, a tiny red crystal in it, and the other heart had a tiny blue crystal in it.
`Oh,' cried Ariengil, blinking back tears, `it's beautiful, Dîndîn. Thank you so much.' She stood up and leant across the table, grabbing her friend in a hug. She sat down again and slipped it on. It fitted perfectly and looked divine on her slender and pale wrist.
`The blue and red symbolise us again,' replied Dînhith.
`Yes, the dress argument,' laughed Ariengil. `It's so perfect Dînhith, thank you.'
Elen gave her present next. `These necklaces are from us- Elrohir and myself- for both of you. The two necklaces match, more or less.' She handed both Ariengil and Harma a necklace each. Ariengil beamed when she looked at hers- it was another heart, but it looked like a dark piece of glass or crystal. Yet, at the same time, it was obvious that it was not crystal.
`Elen, what is it made from? It's beautiful, yet mysterious,' queried Ariengil.
It was Harma who replied. `This is incredible. To me, though I must be mistaken, it looks like what the seeing stones were made from.'
`No, Harma, you are correct,' replied Elrohir. `I obtained some, because the lost stones were found again-'
`Impossible,' interrupted Harma.
`Improbable, yes. But not impossible. King Aragorn used his powers with the seeing stone that he had, and found them. I have no idea how, but he managed.'
`So why have you got part of them?' asked Thaliondil, who was staring at Ariengil's necklace in awe.
`One of the stones was broken in half, and I managed to get some. I believe it was the one that was lost at Barad-dur, when Sauron was destroyed. Someone found it, though it was almost destroyed. I have carried it around with me for half a century, and now I finally managed to use it.'
`You gave us these incredible pieces of ancient stone? How can I accept it, Elrohir? It's too special!' cried Ariengil.
`I want you to have them- they still have a little power in them. You cannot communicate properly with them, but you can a little. You can sense the other person and how far they are from you, and if you concentrate hard enough, you may be able to communicate- just about,' replied Elrohir, shrugging off the fact that he had given them his most precious belonging.
`Elrohir, I don't know what to say, other than thank you so much,' declared Harma. He grabbed Elrohir into a hug and shook his hand. He turned to Elen and gave her a hug and a kiss too.
`I have to admit that I kept a little bit for Elen and myself. I put them on our rings,' he held up his ring, with the engraved heart. A tiny piece of crystal was set on it, in the middle of the heart; Elen held up her ring, with the green glaze on it. On top of the green glaze, which was a melted emerald, was a similar piece of dark crystal.
`Even this tiny piece helps us to feel when the other is near or close,' said Elen. She looked at the necklaces, which Harma and Ariengil now wore. `Your necklaces have larger pieces of stone, so hopefully they will work better. Either way, I hope they are useful.'
`They are amazing, thank you,' replied Ariengil.
`My present seems rubbish now,' murmured Mereth. He handed Ariengil a book, with a dark red cover. The pages inside were old, but not likely to fall out. Ariengil leafed through the book gently. On the first few pages were some drawings of her, then on the other pages were amazing pictures of each of her friends- portraits of their faces, and then portraits of their whole person. There were also pictures of everyone as a group, and each picture looked so realistic. They were all down in black and white, but the shading and everything looked incredible.
`Wow Mereth,' gasped Ariengil. `It's wonderful! It must have taken you ages. Thank you so much.' She hugged Mereth tightly and tears came to her eyes, wish she brushed away quickly. These presents meant so much to her- she would be able to remember all her friends so perfectly. And she could even possibly tell if Elen and Elrohir were all right, as they had part of the seeing stones too.
`Thank you all for such brilliant presents,' said Harma.
`That's not all of them,' cried Nieninque. She laughed and handed over her present. It was a little bottle, filled with what looked like water. Ariengil looked at it with puzzlement in her eyes. Nieninque giggled again. `You know when my tears had powers?' she blushed at this, as though it were something to be embarrassed about. `Well, I collected some of the tears in a bottle. These are the ones that are left. I hope you won't need them, but in case you do, I wanted you to have them.'
`Thank you,' Ariengil replied in shock. `That's brilliant. Thank you so much!' She and Harma hugged Nieninque too, and again began to thank everyone for the presents.
`There are more!' cried Nárfin. `Falquan and Elladan, you go first.'
The two men stepped forward, and took something from the seats beside them. Falquan knelt before Ariengil, smiling and laughing, and presented a sword to her. Ariengil took it in wonder and drew it from its scabbard.
`This is what we have been planning for a week or two- every little meeting that we've had, and every drawing that we've stuffed away as you approached, had something to do with this!' said Elladan. `It's for your journey in Middle Earth. You may need it! But we hope you don't, of course.'
Falquan took it from Ariengil's hands and flipped it around, making her jump backwards out of the way. `If you see here, it's perfectly balanced; and the handle is weighted slightly so that it's easier to hold; the blade is sharpened on both sides too. What do you think?'
`It's... it's great, thank you,' exclaimed Ariengil happily. She examined the sword, which was perfect for her. It had a thin blade, and down the middle was her name, engraved finely. The whole sword was brilliant.
`It's the best sword I've ever made, actually,' said Falquan, blushing a little.
`I'm honoured, Falquan, thank you both.'
Falquan leapt up and took out two small daggers next. He handed one to Harma, and one to Ariengil. Harma unsheathed his, while Ariengil watched. Harma's dagger was wavy all the way up, so that it curved one way and then the next, a few times. It was very light but also very strong.
`Thank you, my friends. I did not expect anything. It is brilliant,' he whispered, awed by the skill that went into it.
`You're welcome,' replied Falquan, `it was Elladan's idea to curve it in that way. And I have to say that it's an ingenious idea!'
`Ariengil, look at yours,' suggested Elladan. Ariengil nodded and unsheathed her dagger. It looked very strange, but also very dangerous. It had a jagged each, in such a way that if you stabbed someone then it would slide in very easily, but when you pulled it back out, it would rip the skin at every serration. She shuddered at the thought, but believed it would come in handy. She was sure her friends meant well by it, so she smiled then hugged and thanked them.
Nárfin stepped forward then, to give the final present. She presented Harma and Ariengil with a scroll, which they began to untie. `Thaliondil and I wrote you a poem, though it is really from all of us. It isn't much at all, compared to all of these precious things, but we hope you like it.' Ariengil read it aloud:
`Not long ago, we were apart,
With eleven different, empty hearts.
Now we are together, as just one
And this love cannot be undone.
When we lose a friend so dear
Our love and joy will turn to fear.
For this reason and others too,
We wish to go to Middle Earth with you.
You might object, you might complain
But we will go, just the same.
Ariengil and Harma, our dear, dear friends,
We will go with you right to the end.'
Ariengil could barely read the last few lines, as tears formed in her eyes again. She finished reading and burst into tears. `You can't come, much though I want you too,' she sobbed. Drawing in ragged gasps, she continued, `I wish so very much that I could stay with you all- whether here or there, but it is not possible for you to come.'
`Of course it's possible,' cried Elen, obviously disappointed.
`But it's not, Elen. It's barely possible for us to return,' Ariengil wept.
`Do you really think that's going to stop us?' laughed Thaliondil.
Ariengil stood up straighter and fiercely wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked up boldly, at each of her friends. `Yes, if you love me,' she declared.
Thaliondil half laughed in disbelief. `How does staying behind show that we love you?'
`I don't want to put you in danger, because I love you, and if you respect my- our decisions, then you will not come too,' she replied defiantly, yet sadly too.
`But we don't want you to be in danger, so if we come then we'll be protecting you,' cried Mereth exasperatedly. Ariengil looked at Mereth disbelievingly, as he was never normally so outspoken; but she had made her decision and didn't want her friends to suffer. There was nothing she wanted more in the world than for her friends to come too, but it was impossible.
`I'm sorry,' she whispered hoarsely, as tears trickled down her cheeks like the beginnings of a mighty river. She turned to Harma and buried herself in his chest, feeling safer with his arms around her. Her friend's looked at her unhappily, and almost scornfully, then looked away and sat at their table again.
`Ariengil, Harma,' called Círdan from not too far away. `It is time.' He walked back to the boat that would take them to Middle Earth again. Harma gently stepped back from Ariengil, and took her hand. She looked back at her friend's mournfully, whose faces were ashen and depressed. As tears came to her eyes again, she hurried off to the boat, taking her new sword and dagger with her. The scroll was tucked inside her tunic, as she loved it even though it was sad to read.
She busied herself with putting her bags in the boat, and didn't notice her friends approach. Thaliondil came up to her and put his hand on her shoulder, startling her. He smiled weakly and turned her to face her group of friends. They all smiled reassuringly, but the smiles were just masks.
Ariengil found her nose tingling, as it always did just before she cried, and she furrowed her eyebrows to try and stop the tears from breaking the flood barriers of her eyelids. Nárfin ran forward and hugged her like a baby hugging her mother, as Ariengil stroked her friend's fiery red hair. They drew apart and Ariengil looked at her friend lovingly and the dam broke- her tears flooded down her cheeks again, warming the cold, pale skin.
`Ariengil, thank you so much for everything. Without you, I'd be with my family still and would not have friends such as you. I owe you everything and wish beyond all reason that you would let me follow you.' She paused, but Ariengil just shook her head. `I shall miss you so much, Ariengil. May the love of the Valar go with you.' She kissed Ariengil on the cheek, and hugged her once more, then went to say farewell to Harma.
Elrohir hugged Ariengil and blessed her, but could not say anything else, as he knew not how to express it in words. Therefore, he kissed her and let someone else say goodbye. Beleg kissed Ariengil's hand and gave her a few loving words, and also thanked her for bringing him Dînhith.
Ariengil's tears flowed freely as each person said their last words to her, and if her tears had had the healing powers that Nieninque's had once, then she could have healed every being in the Undying Lands and in Middle Earth. Nieninque cautiously approached Ariengil, but then threw herself on her friend, hugging her for dear life.
`Thank you, Ariengil, for so much. I can't put how much I appreciate you into words, but you have been the best friend to me. Thank you,' she cried.
Ariengil laughed through her tears. `It is I who should thank you, for you saved my life! Without you, I wouldn't be here now. Thank you, Nieninque. I shall dearly miss you too. Oh Mereth,' she cried as he came forward. `What can I say? Just thank you and I'll miss you so terribly.' Mereth opened his mouth to say something, but found himself crying instead, so he just hugged her tightly.
`I don't mean to hurry you, ma'am,' called Círdan, `but there's a wind coming, so we should leave soon.' Ariengil nodded sadly and turned to Thaliondil. He gazed at her as Elure had once.
`You are like a sister to me,' whispered Thaliondil, his voice sounded stretched, as though it pained him to speak. `Come back, please.' Ariengil nodded and burst into tears again. Her eyes were very red now, and she felt terrible. She had never guessed that it would be this difficult to say goodbye- she had imagined all of the things that each person would say, and she had imagined the pain in her heart. But this pain was amplified by at least ten times what she had expected.
Elladan looked up at his best friend, with bloodshot eyes and tears staining his cheeks. `You can't leave me,' he sobbed. Ariengil shook her head and bit her lip so that she didn't cry out loud. `I need you,' cried the grown elf. `You said that you would never leave me just because you're getting married,' he said childishly, `but it doesn't look like that to me!'
`Elladan,' cried Ariengil, holding his hands tightly, `you have to understand that I'm not leaving because I got married; I am leaving because of Tarma. I will return. I will see you again, I promise.'
`You can't be sure of that,' sulked Elladan. `Can't I come, please?' Ariengil shook her head sadly. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his forehead.
`I shall miss you, but I swear on my life that I will see you again,' she murmured.
`Don't swear on your life, please. Swear on your marriage.'
Ariengil laughed gently, like a dove singing to the sun. `I swear on my marriage- there is no way I shall break this oath!'
She turned now to Dînhith, and a cry issued from her mouth. There seemed no way to possibly leave her dearest friend. It would have been easier to have cast the ring of Sauron into Mount Doom than to say farewell to her best friend; it would have been easier to touch the stars than to leave Dînhith; it would have been easier to- she blocked out all such thoughts and grabbed her friend into the strongest and most loving hug that she had ever given or received. When they stepped apart, their shoulders were damp from the tears of their best friend.
`You are going somewhere without me,' cried Dînhith, almost laughing. `We haven't done that since we were only a century old, and you wanted to go to Gondor, but I was in a bad mood and chose to go to Rohan.'
`Yes,' sobbed Ariengil. `I wish you could come. I wish you all could come, but I cannot let you. I will return to you, Dîndîn, just you wait and see. I cannot tell you how much I'm going to miss you, and how much I love you, because it is impossible to put into words. Wait for me before you go on any more adventures, won't you?'
Dînhith nodded sadly, but with a slight smile on her face. They hugged each other once more and stepped apart. Everyone but Elen had said goodbye; they now moved off to one side to give the sisters some privacy.
`Don't go,' cried Elen. She sounded so weak and vulnerable, and Ariengil felt guilty for it. `Don't leave me behind.'
`Elen, my darling little sister,' Ariengil murmured. `I have to go, and I can't let you come too.'
`I've only just found you again though,' she whined. `I've lost mum, dad and Elure. I can't lose you too!'
`I won't be gone forever,' whispered Ariengil. `You won't lose me. Elen, please don't make this more difficult for me than it already is. You know that I'll miss you, but you also know that I'll return to you. Please Elen, let me go. I cannot go without your blessing.'
`Don't make me, please,' begged Elen in a barely audible voice. Her soft voice was now hoarse and sceptical as she looked at her older sister.
`I can't make you. But I ask you to.'
`I have no choice,' sobbed Elen. She deliberately did not look Ariengil in the eyes. `May the Valar bless you.'
`Thank you, Elen. I love you so much. I cannot and will not lose you again. Not after last time. Think of me every day, for I will think of you. Maybe our thoughts will reach each other sometimes. I shall miss you, but I need to do this.'
`I understand,' Elen whispered, in a voice that seemed to mean the opposite of what she said. They hugged each other tightly, and Ariengil had to leave. Everyone ran forward to get another hug or kiss, for everyone wanted to be the last one to hug her or Harma. However, she reserved the last hug for Elen, and stepped onto the boat with her heart heavy in her chest.
Círdan pushed the boat away from the shore and they headed towards the misty waters. The last thing that Ariengil saw, before the fog engulfed them, was her group of friends sobbing into each other's chests; all except Elladan, who had no partner to hug. Elen looked up at the last second and whispered `I love you'. Ariengil blew her a kiss, and the Undying Lands vanished, never to be seen by her again
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