Vampiric Dawn - Final Chapter
When Elrond had told her what he had to do to bring Arwen home, Celebrían had almost cried. And when Arwen had woken up, she had steeled herself for hysterics. However, Arwen had not gone into hysterics upon awakening. She had simply looked at her, eyes brimming with tears of disbelief, then retreated to the window, where she remained.
It was this heartbroken silence that struck Celebrían the hardest. Arwen was a sprightly Elfling, full of life and love and pure innocence. But now. . .now the innocence was gone. She had stared down the maw of a creature the strongest warrior in Rivendell would have quailed before. She had been a witness to bloodshed and death. She was pale, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears. She had not spoken a word since returning, and the bowl of soup left for her on her bedside table a few hours ago was cold and untouched.
Celebrían looked down at her arm, clawed open in the heat of the vampire Faye's madness. Elrond had expertly stitched up the deepest of the wounds, and the limb itself was bound into a sling. It no longer hurt, and within a week the wounds would be sealed. After a long moment, she entered her daughter's room, approaching and sitting next to her.
"Speak to me, my Undomiél," Celebrían whispered. "Tell me what's wrong."
Arwen looked at her, pain in her gaze. She stared at Celebrían's bandaged arm for a few moments, then abruptly burst into tears.
"It's so unfair, Ammë," she sobbed, burying her face in her arms. "It was an accident, just an accident, and Ada still means to kill her." She sniffled, a sudden surge of anger temporarily drying her tears. "Doesn't the fact that Faye saved my life mean anything to him? Do I mean anything to him?"
"No, no, Arwen, please don't say things like that," Celebrían pleaded, embracing the sobbing Elfling with her uninjured arm. "Your Ada loves you. He would give his life for you."
Arwen abruptly pulled herself out of Celebrían's embrace, standing and staring at her.
"Faye did," she said, biting her lip. "Faye gave her life for me. The werewolf tried to kill me, but Faye drove it over the cliff. She had nothing left in her, but she still. . ." Arwen suddenly froze.
"What is it, Arwen?" Celebrían urged.
"I prayed, Ammë," Arwen replied softly. "I prayed to the Valar to protect me, and they did. They made Faye wake up and save me. They gave Faye the strength to burn the werewolf."
Celebrían was in shock. The Valar had answered a prayer from her daughter? Slowly she stood and approached, sinking to her knees and taking her child in a protective embrace once again. Arwen collapsed against her, grasping her desperately. Celebrían tried to comfort her daughter as best she could, whispering gently and rocking her like she had done when Arwen was a baby. All the while she thought over what Arwen had told her. She did not remember the last time someone claimed a prayer to the Valar had been answered. They were great and powerful beings, but also relatively silent.
Suddenly, a horn sounded. Celebrían sat up. She did not have to look to know that Glorfindel had returned. Arwen tensed, looking up at her. Celebrían returned her gaze to her daughter.
"Go watch over Maida, Arwen," she said. "Give Thranduil a chance to rest."
Another moment of pain washed over her as she watched Arwen nod and walk off. Elrond had worked for several hours on the young Elfling, using all the knowledge that he possessed to purge her body of the werewolf's poison. Despite everything Elrond did and continued to do, it was still uncertain whether or not she was going to survive. Thranduil and his wife had kept vigil over their niece, with Legolas joining them every now and then. When not with his parents, Legolas was with the twins. Elladan and Elrohir were doing their best to cheer him up, but so far, Rivendell remained a cheerless place, devoid of the laughter and song that normally rang out into the hills.
By the time Celebrían found Elrond, he had just finished speaking with Glorfindel and was standing alone in the central courtyard. He turned when she approached.
"What did Glorfindel say?" she asked.
"They found the rest of the wolves slaughtered, but Faye was gone," Elrond replied, distracted by his thoughts. "She could be anywhere by now."
Celebrían frowned, turning away. Her silence immediately attracted Elrond's attention, and he turned to look at her.
"What is it?" he asked, his tone gentle. He could sense her inner turmoil.
"I spoke to Arwen," Celebrían replied. "She told me that she prayed to the Valar for protection, and they answered her prayers through Faye."
If Elrond had been thinking about anything else at the moment, his concentration was immediately broken, and his eyes widened in surprise.
"Arwen never told me that," he admitted.
"She also told me that she thinks you do not care for her." Now tears were starting to form at the corners of her eyes, and Celebrían blinked to get rid of them.
"How can she think that?" Elrond asked, grasping her shoulders. There was worry in his eyes. "I have to speak with her."
"Elrond, wait." Celebrían grasped his arm to keep him from heading off. "What are you going to do about Faye?"
"Tomorrow I will send out more scouts to search the mountains," Elrond replied firmly, gently freeing himself. "She will be found."
Elrond turned and started heading back inside. For a moment, Celebrían watched him, confusion running through her mind. Then, a sudden realization hit her, and she blurted it out.
"But was Faye the true threat to our Valley, Elrond?"
Elrond froze in mid-stride, turning and staring at her. Celebrían held his gaze, unsure of where the confidence of her equally strange thought was coming from, but trusting it anyway. Suddenly, everything made sense to her.
"Was Faye the true threat?" she asked again. "Remember, she told us the water brought her here. Maybe. . ." She hesitated, but calmed slightly when she saw she had her husband's unwavering attention. "Did you know about the werewolf? Did anybody know?"
"No," Elrond replied, his voice soft.
"Maybe the Valar sent Faye to us," Celebrían continued. "They sent her here because she is the only creature that stands even the slightest chance of killing a werewolf." She paused. "Maybe Arwen was right. Maybe this. . ." She looked at her arm. "This was an accident, but a necessary one. It put Faye where she needed to be to face the werewolf. And the children. . ."
"Faye wouldn't have fought the werewolf if she didn't have something to protect," Elrond concluded abruptly.
Suddenly, Thranduil made his presence known, startling Celebrían slightly. She knew immediately that he had heard everything. He nodded slightly, showing that he agreed with Celebrían's thoughts.
"It is believed among the old that only children can see the good in every creature," he said. "Arwen saw more than goodness in Faye. She saw a friend, and a powerful guardian. Perhaps if we had allowed Faye to explain herself, we would have seen it too." He suddenly smiled. "I suggest we send out trackers, not to kill her, but to find her and bring her back. It is only proper to show goodwill to the woman who nearly sacrificed her life to save our children."
Elrond moved his gaze from Thranduil to Celebrían, then smiled.
"Come," he said. "We have to go explain the change in plans to Glorfindel."
* * * * *
That night, Arwen had a strange dream. She was desperately clawing her way up a steep, rocky slope, her body somehow filled with strength beyond anything she had ever felt before. Her heated skin burned in the icy wind, and almost every part of her body was radiating pain. She had bite wounds, burns, and cuts all over her, and her fingers were bleeding with the effort from climbing. Finally, she reached the crest of the slope, and flung herself onto the soil beyond. Arwen was quick to realize she wasn't the one struggling so. She was seeing--and feeling it--through another's eyes.
Through Faye's eyes.
For a long while, Faye lay unmoving, gasping softly as she fought back a wave of sheer exhaustion. Arwen whimpered softly, wanting to comfort the suffering woman, but she couldn't. She wasn't really there.
Suddenly, a low squawk echoed, and Faye looked up. A large eagle had settled nearby, its eyes sparkling as it gazed at her inquisitively. It was a beautiful bird, brown with golden wingtips and a golden spot on its chest. It squawked again, rustling its feathers. Faye raised herself to her knees, and Arwen felt her desperation as she looked at the bird.
"Friend eagle," Faye said, her tongue completely unfamiliar, yet somehow Arwen understood every word. "I need your help. Forego your hunt and come to my aid."
The eagle squawked a third time, spreading its wings slightly. Never once did it turn away.
"I am lost," Faye continued. "Please, friend eagle. Show me the way." She paused. "Guide me home."
The eagle was still for a long moment. Suddenly, it took flight, soaring into the air and circling above her. Faye struggled to her feet, not bothering to block her eyes from the sun, and started following the bird. Arwen reached out towards the eagle, for it was slowly flying out of sight.
"No! No!" she cried. "No, come back! Faye needs you!"
Suddenly, the dream faded, and Arwen bolted upright. She was in her room, safe underneath the warm quilts of her bed. It was night, and a gentle midnight breeze blew in from the open bay window, fluttering the light curtains. For a moment, she was heavily disoriented. The last thing she remembered was resting her head on the edge of Maida's bed, her hand firmly grasping that of her unconscious friend. Now she was in her room, alone.
Slowly, Arwen slid out of bed, moving to the window to close it. As she stood there, looking out over the moonlit Valley, she paused when she saw the silhouette of a large bird crowning a nearby tree. She watched it, and after a moment it let out a cry and flew away. Arwen blinked, biting her lip nervously. The cry had been that of an eagle. She suddenly remembered her dream, and after a moment she returned to her bed, leaving the window open.
How had the window been opened? Her parents never left the window open at night.
A small rustle of fabric made Arwen turn sharply, startled. There was someone standing there, near the window, completely cloaked in shadow. It moved again, and Arwen quailed when the moonlight caught its eyes, making them glow like the eyes of a cat in firelight. For a moment, she considered screaming, and she opened her mouth to yell for her parents.
"Arwen. . ."
Arwen froze. The shadow had spoken, and the tone was soft and gentle. Slowly, she closed her mouth, wondering if she was still dreaming. It couldn't be. . .no. . .wait. . .
"Faye!!" Arwen cried, leaping out of bed and rushing to her, flinging herself into the woman's arms. "Faye, you're alive!"
Faye sank to her knees, grasping her gently and shaking in silent sobs. Arwen was crying, too, but they were tears of joy. Faye was very dirty, her hair and tattered dress matted with blood and dust, and her hands and arms were only partially healed from the burns received after driving the flaming werewolf off the ridge. Arwen didn't care. Faye was alive, and that was all that mattered.
Suddenly, the door to the corridor swung open, and Elrond and Celebrían rushed in. Fear flooded Arwen, and she quickly released herself from Faye's grip, standing and facing her parents with the fiercest scowl she could muster.
"No!" she snapped. "You're not going to hurt her this time. I won't let you!"
Her parents were frozen in shock, and for a moment they did not move. Finally, to Arwen's amazement, both relaxed and began to smile.
"Arwen, Faye is wounded," Celebrían said softly, glancing at Elrond. "Let us see what we can do for her."
Arwen blinked. Her parents weren't mad at Faye anymore? What in Arda made them change their minds? Slowly, she stepped aside, letting Elrond approach Faye while Celebrían lit some candles to illuminate the room. Faye appeared to be too exhausted to fight back, and did not move when Elrond gently took hold of her arm to examine the burns.
"Your wounds are well on their way to being healed, but they still need care," Elrond said after a moment. "Come to my study. I can bandage your wounds there."
He stood and helped Faye to her feet, but she did not move to follow. She stared at him, then at Celebrían.
"Why?" she whispered, her voice hoarse.
"You saved our daughter's life, Faye," Celebrían replied calmly. "Arwen told us how you fought the werewolf. By killing it, you protected our home and our people."
Faye still appeared confused, as was Arwen. Suddenly, there was a slight rustling sound at the window, and Arwen turned to see that the eagle had returned, and was perching on the windowsill, looking in at them inquisitively. Arwen gasped.
"It's the eagle!" she said. "Ada, Ammë, I had a dream that an eagle came and led Faye back to us. Faye, is that the eagle?"
"Yes," Faye replied softly, suddenly relaxing. "I asked eagle to guide me home. It guided me here."
"And eagles are messengers of Manwë," Elrond said. "We believe now that the Valar sent you to us to kill the werewolf before it found its way here."
The eagle squawked, giving an unmistakable nod of its head, confirming Elrond's words. Arwen wrapped her arms around Faye's waist.
"You do belong here," she said happily. "You are home."
With a soft rush of wings, the eagle was gone, and joy filled Arwen's heart when she saw her father smile in agreement.
"We will have to make arrangements to give you a safe route of escape in case you confront blood again," he said, addressing Faye. "But I respect and trust the judgment of the Valar. You are welcome to stay in Rivendell."
Faye smiled, and Arwen was ready to dance with glee. Celebrían offered Faye her uninjured hand.
"Come, Elf-friend," she said kindly. "Let's get you cleaned up."
* * * * *
By dawn, it was known by every Elf in Rivendell that the vampire Faye had returned, guided back by a messenger of Manwë. Most of those who had once seen her as an enemy now called her friend, so deep was the trust in the judgment of the Valar. Even Glorfindel, who had objected to her presence the most, had been forced to eat his words. To his credit, he had also been the first in Elrond's household to welcome her back.
Faye stood now with Arwen outside Maida's room. Most of her wounds were healed since they had been cleaned and cared for. Even the wounds on her throat left by the werewolf's poisoned teeth were healed, though they'd remain as dark scars and points of dull complaint to the end of her days. Her clean hair hung loose down her back, the tattered dress replaced by a new one.
Despite the joys of finally finding acceptance, Faye's heart was still troubled. Maida's life hung by a thread, and even Elrond was starting to lose hope that she would ever wake up again. Faye wanted to help her, but she didn't know what she could possibly do. Her own wounds had been rapidly healed by the power that came with being a vampire, but there was no way she was going to force such a horrific fate upon an innocent child.
Arwen slowly entered the room, approaching the bed while Faye remained at the doorway. Maida's caretakers had stepped out to speak with Elrond, leaving them alone for the moment. Arwen grasped Maida's hand, blinking back tears as she turned to look back at her.
"What's wrong with her, Faye?" she asked. "Why isn't she waking up?"
"Poison draining all strength," Faye replied. "Spirit cannot reside in broken body."
"She can't be dying." Arwen closed her eyes, sniffling softly. "Faye, how did you overcome the werewolf's poison?"
"Vampiric blood heals me." Faye approached and gently placed her hand on Arwen's shoulder. "Blood fuels and carries power."
"So your blood is like medicine?" Arwen suddenly asked, looking up at her.
Faye blinked. She suddenly remembered a long-forgotten memory, a memory of the Mother cutting her finger and allowing the blood to drip down the throat of a young jaguar dying from snake venom. She had done so to teach Faye that when only sick and dying animals were available for food, the blood running in their veins had the power to cure the sickness and make the animals suitable for eating. It was a lesson Faye had never needed to remember, for healthy animals were always available if she looked hard enough.
But curing a jaguar and curing a child were two different things. How much was too much? And Maida was in such a delicate state already. Too much would kill her.
"Faye?" Arwen asked tentatively. "You can save her, right?"
Faye shifted her gaze from Arwen to Maida, and when she saw the unconscious suffering on the child's pale face, Faye's heart melted. It was a dangerous task--it would be too easy to give her too much--but Faye knew she had to try. Doing it could mean death.
Not doing it would guarantee death.
Slowly, Faye sat down on the edge of the bed and gathered Maida into her arms. Bringing the index finger of her right hand to her mouth, Faye ran the tip over the edge, immediately drawing a large welt of blood. She gently parted Maida's lips, using her thumb to force a few drops of blood to fall into Maida's mouth. The cut sealed almost immediately afterwards, but Faye did not try to reopen it. She grasped one of Maida's hands, squeezing gently and praying for a response.
Faye didn't know what was going to happen, so it startled her when, very slowly, she felt pressure grow on her hand. Maida was returning the squeeze. Encouraged, she pierced her finger again and gave Maida one more drop of blood.
"Wake, my child," she whispered. "Come back to those who love you."
Slowly, the paleness abated from Maida's face, and her breathing steadied. Arwen, who was hovering close by, gasped softly as she witnessed the visible healing taking place. Faye smiled, gently setting Maida back down on the bed. Maida let out a soft moan, her eyes fluttering as Faye's blood purged the werewolf's poison. Finally, she steadied her gaze on Faye.
"Faye?" she whispered, shifting her gaze to Arwen. "Arwen? Where am I?"
"You're safe, Maida," Arwen replied. "Faye saved us. She killed the werewolf."
"But. . ." Maida seemed to have realized that she was back in Rivendell. "Faye's in danger here."
"Not anymore," Arwen said, smiling brightly. "Ada and Ammë said Faye can stay with us."
Faye stepped back, watching the children as Arwen explained everything that had happened. She breathed deeply, her spirit now more at peace than ever before. She could hear the others returning, and knew that this day, one that had begun with sadness and worry, was to end with joy and celebration.
She didn't know who the Valar were, or why they would find such favor in her, but she quietly sent them a prayer of thanks anyway. Faye now had a second chance to do what was taken away from her. She now had the chance to protect and care for a child, to live her life normally, to have a family. . .
. . .yes, to have a family. That was probably the most blessed gift of all.