Twilight Thunder - Chapter 15
On this morning, however, Arwen was not enjoying the warmth of the house. She was trekking through the soft, fresh snow, following footprints left over an hour before. The distance from the house to the stables was not very great, but she might as well have been walking through mud with the effort she was extending to trudge through the knee-deep snow. She was practically panting by the time she entered the stables and brushed snow off her leggings.
"I wish I had your strength, Faye," she called as she straightened up. "It would make walking through this so much easier."
Arwen heard a laugh, and after allowing her eyes to adjust to the difference in light, scanned the stable. Faye was standing with Endis in front of the gelding's stall, busily grooming him with a stiff brush. Arwen approached them, fighting back a chuckle when she saw the shine in Endis's coat. The horse was totally clean, his mane and tail combed out and his whiskers and bridle-path trimmed. He snorted at her, clearly bored, as she patted his neck.
"What's the occasion?" Arwen asked as Faye stopped brushing and turned to her. "I've never seen a horse so clean in my life."
Faye studied her for a moment, then turned to Endis. She smiled and set down the brush.
"I've never had a horse to brush before now," she said. "I guess I overdid it a bit."
"A bit?" Arwen asked, pretending to study her reflection on the glossy fur of the gelding's shoulder.
Faye laughed, turning and walking to the rack where her saddle rested, searching for something in a small chest underneath. Arwen blinked when she saw that the leather of the saddle was even cleaner than the horse. Touching it, she started to become suspicious when she felt the softness of the normally stiff material.
"Faye, what are you doing?" she asked, watching as Faye pulled a rag out of the chest and dipped a section in a bucket of water. "What is the meaning of all of this?"
Faye, who was wiping off Endis's nose, sighed and glanced at her.
"I've had a lot to think about lately, my child," she admitted. "With winter here, I'm going to have to make a lot of difficult decisions soon."
"What. . .?" Arwen began, but before she could finish, Elladan appeared.
"Naneth wants to see you, Arwen," he said.
Arwen nodded, casting a confused glance at Faye before passing by her brother and heading back out into the snow. She didn't look back, so she never notice the look of pain and deep sadness that crossed Faye's face, or see her guardian grasp the amulet hanging around her neck, hidden by the fabric of her cloak.
* * * * * *
"When are you going to tell her, Faye?" Elladan asked, shaking his head.
Faye sighed, sitting down on a bale of straw and resting her head in her hands.
"I don't know," she replied. "I don't think I can. How can I tell someone I love that I have to leave?"
"You're asking me for advice?" Elladan asked, sounding amused. Faye looked up at him. "You're the one who taught me that a situation can only get worse if you keep it a secret. You also proved to both me and Elrohir that you're tough." He chuckled, sitting next to her. "Not just anyone can hang us from a tree by our bootstraps."
Faye couldn't help but laugh.
"You still remember that?"
"Elrohir and I will never be allowed to live it down, so what makes you think we'll forget it?"
Faye sighed, then removed the amulet and showed it to Elladan.
"Celebrían gave this to me," she said. "I haven't shown it to anyone yet, but I'm going to show it to Arwen today." She paused, running her fingertips along the smooth edge of the stone. "I think I know why Celebrían wants to speak with her."
Faye handed the amulet to Elladan, watching as he examined it with an expression of wonder.
"I remember Naneth showing this to me once when I was younger," he finally said. "I never thought she'd ever let anyone hold it, let alone give it away. This stone came from across the Sea."
"She told me," Faye replied. "This only makes it harder for me to tell them."
"You haven't even told Naneth?"
"How can I, Elladan? She is depending on me to look out for Arwen."
"Elrohir and I can look out for Arwen while you're gone." Elladan returned the amulet and settled a hand comfortingly on her shoulder. "You are not going to be leaving us forever." He stood, glancing at Endis. "How soon will you be leaving?"
"A few days," Faye replied. "I've already delayed too long."
"Then you have to tell Arwen and Naneth today."
Faye studied Elladan's serious expression for a moment, then nodded.
"Today it is."
* * * * * *
"You wanted to see me, Naneth?"
Arwen had found Celebrían sitting on the window seat in her bedchamber, looking down at the snowy gardens below. As she approached, Celebrían greeted her with a soft smile. Arwen sat next to her, noticing the small velvet-lined box in Celebrían's hand.
"I was going to give this to you sooner, my Undomiel. Forgive me for not doing so." Celebrían offered her the box, and Arwen accepted it. "You are the Evenstar of our people, Arwen. Our last shining light. Over many years, your kin from Lórien have forged this for you. It is yours now, to do with what you will."
Very slowly, Arwen opened the box. Gasping, she withdrew a magnificent amulet that started glowing luminously as it rested in the palm of her hand. Completely speechless, she stared in shock at her mother, who smiled and grasped her hands.
"It is the Evenstar, and it shines now with the inner strength of your soul," she said. She slowly raised it by its glittegay silver chain and fastened it around Arwen's neck. "May its light never dim in the face of the world."
Overcome with emotion, and fighting to hold back tears, Arwen joyfully embraced her mother. The moment was made all the more heartwarming when Celebrían returned the embrace.
"I want you to remember something, my Undomiel," Celebrían said, once they had separated. "I don't know what the future is going to bring, and I may not always be here for you."
"But. . ." Arwen protested, fear gripping her heart.
"There may come a time when I will not be here for you," Celebrían interrupted gently. "If that time comes, you need to remember that you will never be alone. Faye will be there for you when I am not."
Tears were trickling down her cheeks, but Arwen nodded. Celebrían smiled again, wiping away a tear of her own, and stood.
"Come with me, now," she said. "I'm sure you would like to speak with Galadriel and Celeborn."
Neither noticed the figure standing by the doorway, but Faye heard every word spoken. Tears fell in a torrent from her eyes, and she had to muffle her mouth with both hands to keep from making noise. Hearing the words tore her heart in two, and she knew immediately that she could not tell them, not now. She knew they were moving towards the door, so she quickly headed off down the corridor, retreating to her small, private chambers. She had been preparing for the quest for a long while, and it would not take long for her to finish. She loved Celebrían and Arwen dearly, and she knew that if she told them now, she would risk never bringing herself to leave.
Realizing that although it would endanger the quest to say goodbye, Faye knew she couldn't just disappear. Her eyes settled on the paper and pen resting on a shelf in her wardrobe. Taking it out, she sat down on the bed and prepared to write.
"My dearest Arwen. . ."
* * * * * *
It was evening by the time Arwen excused herself from the activities in the Hall of Fire. She had long since noticed that Faye was nowhere to be found, and she was starting to grow concerned. Wandering through the corridor, she finally spotted Erestor, and quickly approached him.
"Have you seen Faye?" she asked.
"I saw her carrying some apples down to her chambers a few hours ago," Erestor replied, his attention still partly on the scroll he carried. "She was wearing her riding leathers for some reason."
Arwen nodded her thanks and continued down the corridor, quickening her pace. Fear that had been building up within her all day was starting to overflow, and she was practically running by the time she reached the doorway to Faye's chambers. Fully expecting her to be sitting on her bed or looking out the balcony window, with a very good explanation for her odd behavior, Arwen was shocked at what she found when she entered the room.
Nothing. All of Faye's possessions were gone. True, Faye didn't really own very many things, but the items that were missing were substantial. The left front poster of her bed was bare where once it was wrapped with a scarf that Arwen had made for her years ago. An old stuffed animal that had once belonged to Arwen had always sat on the little table by the balcony doorway, and now that too was gone. Some, but not all, of her clothing was missing from her vanity drawers, and her wardrobe was bare of the travel cloak, boots, and a few old shirts and leggings that had always been resting next to the Elvish dresses and slippers that were still present. Opening the other door of the wardrobe revealed the stuffed animal, as well as a small stack of papers that turned out to be drawings that Arwen had made not long after Faye's arrival, sitting on the highest shelf.
Arwen's hands were trembling as she twisted around and stared at the bed, hoping against hope that there was some explanation. Suddenly, she spotted a folded piece of paper resting on one of the pillows. Picking it up, she quickly unfolded it, and sank back on the bed as she started reading.
My dearest Arwen,
No word in any language can describe how much I love you. You are my daughter, closer to my heart than my own blood children ever were. My heart breaks as I write, for I am about to tell you something I wish I didn't have to. My child, I wish my efforts could have killed the abomination Thuringwethil; if it had been so, then all of this anguish would have been avoided.
I have to leave, Arwen. That day in the forest, the eagle came and spoke to me. He confirmed my darkest fears by telling me Thuringwethil was alive. He said the Valar wanted me to destroy her, for if I did not, she would return and reduce Rivendell to rubble. I have tried to delay my departure, but every day I delay, Thuringwethil grows stronger, and I know now that I cannot wait anymore. I have chosen a foul time of year to leave, for the worst of winter fast approaches, but Endis and I will make it through somehow.
This is not the end, my child. I will come back to you as soon as the creature is dead. Even now, I tremble as I imagine the lonely nights ahead. Be strong for me. I have no doubt this news is breaking you, but I fear worse what will happen when Celebrían learns of my departure. Be there for her. Show her this letter, and tell her that everything I have said here is for her as well as you. I have never known a greater or closer friend than Celebrían.
My heart and soul remains with you, my Arwen, my Evenstar. I depart at sunset, and I will feel no more joy until the moment I return. Pray for me, my child, and know that no matter what, I will always love you.
Arwen turned sharply towards the window. Sunlight was fading fast; it was only moments until sunset. Jumping off the bed, and with the letter crumpled slightly in her hand, she started to run. She never spared a second glance for those she bumped into along the way, ignoring the protests that echoed behind her. Along the way, she struck her shoulder against someone she was almost sure was Glorfindel, but she didn't stop to see. Her heart thundered in her chest, and she prayed with all her heart that she would reach the courtyard in time.
With a final burst of speed, and with the final rays of sunlight finally fading, she reached the main doors. She pushed them open with all her might, completely knocking aside the two guards that stood before them, and stumbled down the steps barefoot into the snow. There was Faye, riding towards the arch dressed in full travel clothing. She was almost out of sight.
"Faye!!" she shrieked. "Faye, don't go!"
Arwen knew she had most likely alerted every inhabitant of Rivendell with her cry, but she didn't care. It had worked. Faye stopped and turned Endis around, staring at her incredulously. Ignoring the cold, Arwen struggled towards Faye, reaching her in the middle of the courtyard, for she had spurred Endis to meet her halfway.
"Arwen, what are you doing?" she asked.
"What do you mean, what am I doing?! I'm not the one about to ride off without telling the ones she loves the most!!" Arwen screamed, her voice echoing in the still evening air. Faye dismounted, and Arwen shoved the letter into her hands. "What is the meaning of that?! Do you care so little for me that you leave without telling me yourself?"
"No!" Faye cried, trembling. "Arwen, you must listen to me. I did not do this to hurt you." She grasped Arwen's shoulders, and as Arwen stared into her watering eyes, her fury slowly started dissipating. "I was afraid that if I tried to tell you myself, I would never leave. Even now, I am almost ready to send Endis back to his stall, fall on my knees, and beg forgiveness." A sob broke free. "I don't want to go. I want to stay here, with you and Celebrían. The pain that I feel now is enough to repay the transgressions of every being in Middle-earth." She paused, trying to compose herself. "But if I don't go, if I don't kill Thuringwethil, she'll come back. She'll come, and nobody will be spared her fury."
Arwen's resolution shattered then, and she fell into Faye's arms, grasping her desperately. Faye returned the embrace, and Arwen felt one of her tears fall on her cheek.
"I will be back," Faye whispered. "And until then, look to Celebrían for comfort." She gently pushed free, and Arwen stared at her. "Celebrían is here for you." She reached under the collar of her cloak, and pulled a blue amulet into view. Arwen gasped. It was the leaf-stone from Aqualondë. "She gave this to me, and I see you now have the Evenstar. I have vowed to protect its bearer, and this is one I will never fail in. Keep it close, and remember me."
Arwen touched the Evenstar, then wrapped Faye in a final hug. Faye returned it, then gently kissed her forehead.
"I will return," she repeated firmly. "And until then, Celebrían will be here for you."
Arwen nodded, and Faye turned away. She pulled herself back into the saddle, glancing back once before urging Endis into a trot. A few moments later, she disappeared through the arch, and Endis's hoofbeats faded into the night. For a moment, the only movement was the gentle glittering of the Evenstar's light. Then, Arwen felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to see Galadriel standing behind her.
"Come inside," she said, beckoning to her gently. There was sadness in her voice. "There is much that needs to be discussed."
Arwen nodded, but could no longer hold back her tears. She burst into sobs, and almost immediately felt Galadriel's arms around her.
"Everything will turn out in the end, Arwen," she said gently. "The pain will not last forever."
Arwen allowed Galadriel to lead her inside, glancing back only once at where Faye had once been. The world had become a silent, dark place. There was no way things could become any worse for her.
"I miss you already, Ananyé," she whispered.
The next morning, Celebrían announced her decision to journey to the Grey Havens.