Twilight Thunder - Chapter 14
Coming to Rivendell with Elrond had also been a time of great joy. Everything was bright and new, and for the first time she shouldered real responsibility. She loved overseeing the domestic side of Rivendell, and even when she became pregnant with Elladan and Elrohir, she did not cease performing her duties until well into her third trimester. Raising the twins presented new and exciting challenges, for not even Galadriel had been able to give her much advice on handling the two energetic Elflings. Watching them grow into little warriors, mastering the sword and bow, riding their ponies through the Valley. . .Celebrían had been proud of them, and had not known if her life could get any better.
Then, Arwen was born, and here Celebrían found her greatest source of joy. Although as energetic and daring as her brothers, she was more willing to sit through her lessons, and often spent hot or rainy afternoons playing quietly with her toys in Elrond's study while he worked. Of course, those were the times Elrond was often distracted from his work, and more than once Celebrían had found him sitting on the floor participating in Arwen's games. It would bring back memories of her father doing the same thing with her.
But Celebrían could admit now that she had not been the primary source of Arwen's upbringing. For the greater part of her daughter's life, Faye had been there to comfort and watch over her. Because of Faye, Arwen was one of the most skilled hunters in Rivendell. Because of Faye, Arwen carried considerably fewer scars than her brothers. Celebrían had often considered her own parents overprotective. However, Galadriel and Celeborn's protectiveness was passing when compared to Faye. The slightest scrape, the smallest hint of distress, the first tear, and Faye was by Arwen's side. Taking such dominance in Arwen's life had made Celebrían upset with Faye on several occasions, but now that Arwen was an adult, Celebrían could see how much of what she became was because of Faye.
All of these happy memories passed through her mind as she rested back on her chair, rocking herself gently with the tip of her left foot. She had rocked all of her children to sleep in this chair, and it was one of her favorites. However, she did not feel at all calm and relaxed like she normally was when rocking. The memories gave her no joy. She still felt weak and tired, and her shoulder was still as sore as the day Elrond first treated it. The flesh was healing, but the pain remained. Shivering slightly, she tightened the blanket closer around her body. It was mid-afternoon, and outside the sun was warm and bright, but she was cold, and standing in the sun did little good.
In appearance, her color was starting to return to normal, and her fever had broken days ago. She was gaining a bit of weight, and the cracks in her lips had healed. Her hair and skin were slowly gaining back their old luster. When she looked in the mirror, she recognized who looked back. However, she felt no better, and she had not slept well since the night of the vision. Despite everything Elrond, Gandalf, and Galadriel tried, the nightmares still came. Thuringwethil would be in different places, but she always swore the same thing. Celebrían would find no peace.
A low din of sound drew her attention. She raised her head, listening. Someone had arrived, but she couldn't bring herself to get up and investigate. If it was someone important, she would eventually find out who had come.
After a few minutes, the din subsided, and Celebrían rested back again, shutting her eyes. Even listening had worn her out.
Are you well, my daughter?
Celebrían jumped in surprise. Her mother sounded so close. She was quick to realize that Galadriel sounded close because she had come to Rivendell. For a moment, she wanted to get up and run out to greet her, like she normally would have done. Her arm muscles were tensed to lift herself out of the chair, but when the pain in her shoulder abruptly intensified, all interest to move disappeared. She slumped back, fighting back tears, and forced herself to calm down.
"I am alive," she finally replied flatly.
There was no response from her mother, and after waiting a moment, Celebrían sighed heavily. She glanced over to the bed, suddenly desperate to lie down. But she felt so weak, she would need help getting there.
Celebrían turned just in time to see Arwen appear. She seemed worn and weary, but the smile on her face was so full of joy and relief that Celebrían returned it genuinely.
"My Undomiel," she whispered.
Arwen crossed the distance in seconds, sinking to her knees at Celebrían's feet and resting her head on her lap. Celebrían sighed quietly in relief. Arwen's presence soothed the painful void in her heart, but she knew she would have been unable to muster the strength to return a full embrace. Instead, she freed her arms from the blanket and rested her hands on her daughter's shoulders, running her fingers softly through her travel-dusty hair. She could feel Arwen trembling, and knew she was crying. Celebrían gently hushed her.
"I'm here, my Evenstar," she said. "I'm alive."
Arwen looked up at her, and Celebrían cupped her chin gently, offering her as comforting a smile as she could muster.
"Naneth," Arwen said, wiping a tear from her eye. "I felt everything, and I feared for you. Praise the Valar that you are safe."
"Your father has used the greatest of his skills to tend to the wounds," Celebrían replied. "The pain has lessened, but I fear it will be a long time before it fades completely."
Before Arwen could reply, there was movement in the corridor, and both looked up to see Faye standing at the doorway. Celebrían knew immediately that Faye was not well. She walked in a limp, and there were scars marring her face. Celebrían had dim memories of seeing Faye standing over her in the cave, trying to help her, but suddenly retreating as if in fear of her.
As if reading her thoughts, Faye bowed her head.
"I apologize, Lady Celebrían," she said. "I failed you."
"You never failed me, Faye," Celebrían replied. "You did exactly what I asked of you. Arwen is safe and well, is she not?"
"She suffered two broken legs and a broken arm from a fall down the mountain," Faye said, shaking her head. "And Thuringwethil. . ."
"Is dead," Celebrían said firmly, though there was no conviction in her words. She quickly glanced over Arwen, and was relieved when she found no evidence of the aforementioned injuries.
Both Arwen and Faye winced. Celebrían needed nothing further to confirm her fears.
"She is alive," she whispered, releasing Arwen. "By the Valar, they have not been dreams. She still tortures me."
Arwen gasped, rising to her feet. Faye approached and rested her hand on Celebrían's uninjured shoulder. Celebrían lifted her hand and grasped Faye's arm for support.
"Help me to the bed," she said. "Please."
Arwen moved to help her rise to her feet, but suddenly Faye leaned down and lifted her from the chair. For a moment, Celebrían marveled at Faye's strength. She lifted and carried her with ease, gently setting her on the bed after Arwen pulled back the quilts. Celebrían settled back, feeling Arwen sit next to her.
"Sleep now, Naneth," Arwen said gently. "Faye and I will be here to stop the dreams."
Celebrían slowly surrendered herself to sleep, hoping that, where everything else failed, Arwen and Faye would prevent Thuringwethil from invading her dreams.
* * * * * *
Time passed. The green of late summer turned to vivid browns, oranges, and golds, and leaves filled the air with each gust of wind. The days became cooler, the nights colder, and finally one morning Rivendell awoke to a layer of frost on the windowpanes. Arwen slowly traced the icy patterns with her finger, drawing her cloak closer about her shoulders. It was comfortably warm inside the house, but Arwen had been living the past weeks in a world of cold silence. It had not taken long at all for her to realize that a great change had overcome Celebrían. Where once her mother could make a flower bloom in a blizzard, now she just made everything freeze faster.
It wasn't a change in attitude, not by any means. Celebrían was still very kind and gentle. However, she was also uncomfortably quiet, and seemed to find pleasure in distressingly few things. Often, she simply wandered the corridors like a ghost, avoiding everyone and only speaking when spoken to. With time, her body had returned to its full state of health, and even though it had taken twice as long, even the wound in her shoulder was starting to heal. But nothing soothed the storm that raged within her, and when they came, nothing could stop the nightmares. Arwen had lost count of how often she had flung herself out of bed after hearing her mother's heartbreaking shriek in the middle of the night.
Due to the onset of winter, Celeborn and Galadriel had decided to stay in Rivendell until spring. However, not even their presence seemed to offer much comfort. She was as silent with them as she was with the servants of the household. The only people she freely spoke with these days were Arwen, her brothers, Elrond, and Faye.
"Are you well, my child?" Faye asked, suddenly appearing in the doorway. "You're late for breakfast."
"I don't feel like eating this morning," Arwen replied softly.
Faye approached, gently settling an arm around her waist. Arwen accepted the embrace, sighing.
"Lady Celebrían just needs time," Faye began. "She's been through something deeply traumatic. The soul cannot heal as quickly or as fully as the body."
"I do not think she is healing at all," Arwen said, gritting her teeth. "Nothing has changed. She is still so distant." She hesitated, blinking back tears. "When she looks at me, I think she is looking into another realm."
Faye appeared to be trying to think up a reply, but before she could, the soft sound of a throat being cleared echoed from the corridor. Arwen turned, gasping when she saw Celebrían standing at the doorway.
"Naneth!" she cried, fearful that her mother had heard what she said. "Naneth, I. . ."
"Do not be troubled, Arwen," Celebrían replied softly, raising a hand. "I know my actions hold no comfort for my loved ones." She approached, and Arwen reached out to grasp her hands. "I will speak with you soon, my Undomiel. But now, I wish to speak with Faye."
Arwen nodded, glancing at Faye. Faye gave her a gentle reassuring smile before allowing Celebrían to grasp her arm for support and walk out of the room. For a few minutes, Arwen tried to distract herself again with the frost patterns on the window, but then her curiosity overcame her, and she slipped out into the corridor. She found the two of them in Elrond's study, sitting near the fireplace. Leaning against the doorframe, Arwen relaxed. They hadn't started speaking yet, and Arwen was relieved she didn't miss anything.
The two of them sat silent for several minutes. Just as Arwen was starting to lose interest, though, Celebrían turned and looked at Faye.
"What is it like to die?"
Arwen snapped upright, and Faye almost fell out of her chair. Arwen was shocked that Celebrían would ask such a question, and in the flickering firelight, she saw Faye's skin turn pale.
"What do you mean?" Faye stammered.
"I mean exactly what I said," Celebrían replied. "What is it like to die?"
Faye was completely frozen, one hand clutching the armrest of the chair so firmly the wood was starting to mold to her grip. Celebrían continued to stare at her, clearly expecting an answer. Arwen bit her lip. What could Faye possibly say in answer to such a question?
"Death is different for everyone," Faye finally said, after several moments of hesitation. "But for the most part it involves a soul passing from this world to whatever waits beyond. When I died, my soul did not leave my body. It became anchored to it. Death condemned me to eternal. . ." She hesitated, as if unsure of what word to use. ". . .purgatory."
"Will that happen to me?" Celebrían asked, her face strangely emotionless. She rubbed her neck. "Thuringwethil bit me."
"You were never turned, Milady," Faye replied firmly. "Your soul is still free to roam." She paused, as if realizing exactly what she was saying. "But most Elves don't die, right? They sail to Valinor."
Arwen squinted, trying to read Celebrían's expression through the crack she was peeking through. Before she could hear any reply, though, a strong hand settled on her shoulder, and she turned to look into the firm face of her father.
"What are you doing, Arwen?" he asked, his tone serious.
Arwen quickly retreated out of earshot of Celebrían and Faye, then turned to face her father.
"I was. . .I. . ." Arwen trailed off. She had no excuse to explain what she had been doing.
"Were you invited to listen to that conversation?" Elrond asked, the tone in his voice clearly showing that there was nothing that could be said but the truth.
"No, Ada," Arwen admitted. "But the things they said. . ."
"What was said between Celebrian and Faye were not for you to hear," Elrond interrupted sternly. "If it was meant for you, they would have asked you to join them."
Arwen bowed her head, biting her lip to keep back the tears. What had been spoken between her mother and Faye had frightened her beyond words. Why would Celebrían be asking about death?
Elrond seemed to notice her sudden distress, for his expression softened, and after a moment he embraced her.
"I know you're afraid, my Evenstar," he said. "I am, as well. But we must give Celebrían time."
"Faye said that, too," Arwen said, grasping her father tightly. "She said all Naneth needs is time. But how much time?"
"Only Celebrían knows that," Elrond replied. "Now come, my Evenstar. Breakfast still waits."
Arwen followed her father down to the dining hall, trying desperately not to think of what she had heard, but failed miserably. A hundred reasons for Celebrían's interest passed through her mind in seconds.
And none of them offered any comfort.
* * * * * *
Faye was still reeling from the conversation that had just passed between her and Celebrían. It had been several minutes since she had mentioned Valinor, and Celebrían had not responded, instead returning her attention to the fire. She was trying to puzzle out Celebrían's intentions, and was getting nowhere. For the life of her, she couldn't figure out why Celebrían had a sudden interest in death.
Suddenly, Celebrían rose, walking over to Elrond's desk and pulling out a drawer. Faye turned in her chair to watch her, and after a moment Celebrían seemed to find what she was looking for. She removed two small velvet-lined boxes from the drawer, returning to her chair. Faye stared at the tiny boxes, growing even more confused. Celebrían held them fondly for a moment, then offered one to her.
"I want you to have this, Faye," she said. "I've possessed it since I was a child."
Her hands trembling, Faye accepted the box and opened the lid. Resting inside was an amulet made of a milky blue stone fashioned into the shape of the leaf of Lórien and decorated by thin silver bands. The chain was made of rings of a metal that glistened brilliantly in the firelight, thin and delicate but also massively strong. Although the stone was just that, a stone, Faye immediately knew that what she held was sacred.
"The chain is made of mithril," Celebrían explained. "The stone was taken from the shores of Aqualondë before the Elves crossed the Sea."
"I cannot accept this," Faye said immediately, her voice shaky. "It is sacred."
"I want you to have it," Celebrían said firmly, refusing to take it back. "Accept it, for it will be the symbol of your vow."
"My vow?" Faye asked, bewildered.
Celebrían opened the other box, removing a second amulet. This one was woven of silver, mithril, and gems into the shape of a star. It glowed gently with an inner white light, the beauty of it immediately taking Faye's breath away. Never before had she seen anything more beautiful.
"This will soon belong to Arwen," Celebrían said. "Naneth brought it over the mountains with her. It is the Evenstar, the symbol of the light of our people. It was fashioned over many years, and blessed with the light of Eärendil. As Arwen's guardian, you are the protector of the Evenstar."
Setting the Evenstar on her lap, Celebrían reached over and picked up the amulet in Faye's hand, fastening the chain around her neck. Having never worn jewelry before, the weight on her neck was unfamiliar, yet strangely comforting. Once the necklace was secure, Celebrían brought forward the Evenstar, guiding Faye's left hand over it.
"I want you to promise me something," she said. "Promise me that you will always protect the bearer of this necklace. Arwen is precious to me, and I need to know that if anything should ever happen to me. . ."
"Nothing will happen to you," Faye said sharply. "I will never allow anything to hurt you again."
"Faye, listen to me," Celebrían insisted. "This is something I need to know. I need you to promise me that you will always watch over Arwen."
"I will defend her for eternity," Faye vowed, tightening her grip slightly. "I will give my life for her if it comes to that."
Celebrían smiled, but did not release Faye's hand. There were tears falling from her eyes.
"I don't know what will happen in the future," she said hesitantly. "I don't know if I'm going to be here at the end." She bowed her head. "Faye, promise me that when the time comes to take the final journey over the Sea, you will guide Arwen to Valinor. Promise that you will make sure she comes to the Undying Lands."
Faye was stricken silent. Celebrían's eyes shined with desperation, one of the first emotions she had shown in weeks. Although still confused by the meaning of her words, Faye did not hesitate.
"You have my word. When the time comes, I will guide Arwen to the Undying Lands."