Twilight Thunder - Final Chapter
Celebrían's last request had been that she and her brothers remain in Rivendell. Their final parting had been almost too much for Arwen to bear. Watching her mother mount her horse, glance back one final time, and ride off into the distance had broken her. With Faye's departure, she had nobody to turn to for comfort.
Now, it was over. Celebrían was on her way to the Undying Lands, where she would find the healing and comfort she could not find before. This reassurance only made Arwen feel worse. Her home, family, and life had not been enough to make Celebrían happy.
As fast as she could, Arwen retreated to her bedchamber, throwing herself on the bed and burying her head in the pillows. She had reclaimed her old stuffed animal from Faye's wardrobe, and desperately she focused on it, her body shaking in silent, uncontrolled sobs. A cool breeze fluttered the curtains, and for a moment, the sliver of the crescent moon was visible. Arwen turned away from the windows, hearing the stuffed animal fall softly to the floor.
Against her will, another memory arose in her mind, one of her and Faye on a night similar to this. It had been a warm day, and Arwen, just past her five hundredth year, was standing with Faye on the balcony outside her bedchamber, looking out at the waterfall. Both had been wearing sleeveless dresses, and the cool night breeze was soothing. Arwen had looked up at the sky and seen the moon shining half-full.
Faye turned, casting a questioning glance. Arwen beckoned up towards the moon.
"Why does the moon wax and wane?" she asked.
Faye raised an eyebrow, clearly not expecting such a question. Arwen smiled at her.
"You promised me that when I was old enough, you'd tell me," she said teasingly. "So, am I old enough now?"
Faye laughed, resting forward on the balcony railing. Arwen gazed at her expectantly.
"I did not think you would remember," Faye finally said, her smile slowly fading. "That tale is not as pleasant as the first one."
Arwen frowned, but was still very curious. Faye took a deep breath, looking up at the moon.
"The time between the half-moon and the new-moon was dreaded by my people," she began. "The waning moon was symbolic. As it fades, it forms a crescent, which in the old traditions was the symbol of death." She paused. "Naret-aluan did not always wax and wane. At one time her light was constant, and my people praised her, and all lived in harmony."
"Like paradise?" Arwen asked.
"Yes," Faye replied. "But there came a time when the chieftain of my people tried to ensnare Naret-aluan, to harness her power for his own. He journeyed to the heavens on the back of a serpent, and tried to capture Naret-aluan while she slept. But Father Sun, ever protective of his beloved child, discovered the chieftain and his serpent mount. He spoke to the serpent first.
`For your crime, you and all of your descendents will suffer eternal fire in your skin,' Father Sun declared. `You will spend your lives slithering in the dark, and will find no peace from the pain.'
Naret-aluan heard Father Sun's declaration, and she took pity on the serpent, for it had not committed so great a crime to receive such punishment.
`I cannot help you,' she said. `But your children will be shown mercy. When their skins start to burn, they will shed them, and will be spared most of the pain.'"
"So that is why the snake sheds its skin?" Arwen asked, smiling. She remembered Elrond telling her a similar story in her childhood.
"My people had a story to explain everything," Faye replied. "But this tale is not finished, for the chieftain was not shown mercy.
`You disgrace me,' Naret-aluan said. `I gave my life so Father Sun could create you and your people. To repay me in this way is to forsake the gift I have given you.'
`Naret-aluan has spoken,' Father Sun declared. `For your crime, I take away the gift of life. Death will follow you and your people for all time to come.'
`And I shall make sure you never forget what has been said here,' Naret-aluan vowed.
The chieftain was sent back to Earth, and the next night, Naret-aluan began to wane. To the horror of the people, she formed the shape of the crescent, and her light slowly vanished from the sky. That night, death came for the first time, and the people mourned.
The cries that rose to the heavens softened Naret-aluan's heart, for neither she nor her brothers and sisters could sleep. She realized that death could not reign completely. If it did, the people would disappear from the Earth.
`There must be a cycle with death, as there is with day and night,' she said. `With death, there must be life.'
So Naret-aluan began to return to full form again, and when she was fully shining in the sky, the first babes were born. And so the cycle of birth and death was established on the Earth, and when the crescent appears in the night sky, my people remember the sins of the chieftain."
Arwen glanced back at the crescent moon. Although Celebrían was not truly dead, Arwen's heart wept as if her mother's soul walked in the Halls of Mandos. Thinking of the irony of the moon's cycle on this particular night, as well as the pain of remembering Faye, struck her heart like a hunter's arrow. Her body trembled with the strain, and she started sobbing. The pillows barely muffled her cries, and she could not see how she could ever be able to stop.
"Arwen?" a gentle voice asked softly. "My Evenstar, you must calm down."
If it had been anyone else, Arwen would have ignored them. But she could not ignore the almost pleading tone in her grandmother's voice. She slowly turned towards Galadriel, seeing her standing at the edge of the bed, looking down at her sadly.
"How will I ever calm down?" Arwen asked, trying to stifle her sobs but failing miserably. "There's nobody left for me."
"You have your father and brothers," Galadriel suggested, sitting down and settling a hand on her shoulder. "And you have Celeborn and me."
Arwen stared at Galadriel. There were tears shining in her eyes, and she was beckoning gently. Arwen was so unused to seeing Galadriel like this that for a moment, she did not respond. Finally, her desperate need for a source of comfort overcame her uncertainty, and she sat up and sank into her grandmother's waiting embrace. As she cried, she could feel Galadriel rocking her softly.
"I love you, Arwen," Galadriel finally whispered. "I am so proud of how strong you've become. So different from the little Elfling I first met."
Arwen's sobs were slowly starting to subside, Galadriel's words relaxing her.
"I know how painful this is for you," Galadriel continued. "You've lost the two people that meant the most to you." She paused, sighing. "I'll never be able to replace Celebrían and Faye, but I think your pain will be lessened if you were not here."
"What do you mean?" Arwen asked, pulling away.
"I want you to come back to Lórien with me," Galadriel replied, grasping her hands. "Perhaps you can teach me not to be so. . .frustrating."
Arwen coughed, laughing despite her tears and pain.
"You knew about that?" she gasped, wiping her eyes.
For the first time, tears began to fall freely from Galadriel's eyes. Arwen bowed her head, gritting her teeth.
"What does Ada say?" she asked finally.
"He suggested it," Galadriel replied. "It is your decision, Arwen. I am leaving in a few days, and it will soothe my heart if you ride with me. But I will not force you."
Arwen stood and walked over to the window, looking out over the Valley. Rivendell had been her home all her life, and it was filled with memories. She didn't want to leave, but as she looked, she was reminded of the day Celebrían had given her the Evenstar, sitting at this window. The pain was starting to return, and she was quick to realize that if she did stay, the memories would destroy her.
"I'll go with you," Arwen said softly, glancing back at Galadriel. "But what if Faye returns while I dwell in Lórien?"
"I have no doubt she'll come to you," Galadriel replied, joining her at the window. "She will find you no matter where you dwell."
Arwen nodded, closing her eyes as tears once again began to trickle down her cheeks. Galadriel embraced her again, her quiet presence offering the source of comfort now lacking in Arwen's life. Although it would take time, Arwen knew then that she would grow to view her grandmother with the same love she had for Celebrían and Faye.
Faye. . .
Arwen looked out the window again, resting her hand on the cool glass. In her mind she imagined Faye riding through the night, Endis tossing his head wildly as they flew over plain and mountain in pursuit of their prey. She sent a quiet prayer to the Valar, sighing deeply.
"Come back," she whispered. "Come back soon."
* * * * * *
To my readers, I give you something extra. What was going to be the original ending has now been extended by five hundred years or so. I just figured this would be a better transition. Enjoy the bonus!
* * * * * *
Arwen walked through the gardens of her old home, watching the birch trees as they swayed gently in the breeze. She had not been back to the Valley in almost five hundred years, and although she was expecting the old pain to return, she was slightly surprised that time had lessened the impact of old memories. Years of expectant waiting and constant disappointment had hardened her, and for the moment, she was grateful for that.
She did not know at what point she had given up waiting for Faye to return. She had settled into her new life in Lórien fairly easily, assisted by Galadriel's attempts to warm the atmosphere between them. It had been a rare occasion for her grandmother to greet her with anything less than a warm smile. Over the first few years, Arwen had adjusted to turning to Galadriel for advice and comfort, and with it had come a bond of trust and love.
As the years passed, Arwen had started to grow anxious for news concerning Faye's whereabouts. The messengers from Rivendell had started to expect Arwen to be the first one to greet them, but save for a stray rumor, none ever had anything to say. Years, decades, a century, two centuries passed, and still Faye did not return. Arwen had started to despair.
Then, Gandalf had passed through, and he had brought the news that Arwen had been longing for: strong rumors from the darkness rising in the east were whispering that Thuringwethil was dead. Gandalf could not say how long the rumors had been alive, but Arwen's hope had been restored. She had begun watching the roads, waiting expectantly for her guardian to return to her.
It had taken a long time for all hope to fade. Expectancy had faded to puzzlement, puzzlement to sadness, sadness to hopelessness. Arwen had stopped waiting, stopped pestering the messengers, stopped watching the roads. Finally, she had been forced to admit to herself that Faye was never going to return, and she had turned her back on her past.
Now, she had returned to Rivendell for a time, and with the pain significantly less than she had first believed it would be, she was starting to relax. She breathed in the sweet smells she knew so well. Arwen chuckled as she passed the clearing where Faye had long ago attempted to learn to ride horses, and had grown to know the ground intimately.
A stray breeze rippled through her hair, and she breathed deep. In the sea of her memories, she was widely adrift, and was starting to feel lonely for companionship. She had given up on Faye, but that didn't stop her from thinking about. . .
Arwen stopped. Someone was calling to her, but giving her the name of Luthien. Surprise ended her reverie, and she turned and smiled at the young man who appeared from the trees and approached.
"Who are you?" she asked. "And why do you call me by that name?"
"Because I believed you to be Luthien Tinúviel, of whom I was singing," he replied. "But if you are not she, then you walk in her likeness."
Arwen studied the young man. He was not an Elf, but he had a gentle gaze. She was surprised to find herself quite comfortable in his presence.
"So many have said," she said. "Yet her name is not mine. But who are you?"
Arwen smiled at the young man as he approached, admiring his ruggedly handsome features. He was clearly strong, confident now that he realized that Arwen was not going to leave. He bowed slightly.
"Estel I was called," he replied. "But I am Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Isildur's heir, Lord of the Dúnedain. . ."
As they spoke, Arwen's sense of comfort and ease rose. As she talked with Aragorn, troubled memories faded, and pain vanished from her heart. And for the first time in many years, the memory of Faye and her mother faded from Arwen's thoughts.
She knew then that she would love this man forever.