(I apologize for the long wait on this chapter. The summer has been a busy one and I’ve been contending with writer’s block. My muse has been on vacation as well it seems. So if this is lacking or you see a few errors then blame it on that. The 3rd Chapter promises to be much more interesting and far less depressing hopefully. )
A ringing of a great many bells summoned the folk of the house to the hall for a grand feast in honor of Frodo’s recovery and the unusual gathering under Lord Elrond’s roof. Dwarves, Men, and many elves filed into the hall talking amongst themselves as Androthiel was content to watch the others from her seat at Elrond’s grand table.
It was on these occasions that she found herself visiting the past, remembering what she had given up for the cause to free Middle Earth from darkness. Often, she had looked forward to these feasts. Her love, Laurenor, had been such a joy at these gatherings. They always reminded her of him and that he was no longer with her. He left this land long ago. She had so desperately wished to leave with him, but she knew she had a higher calling that came before her own happiness. And so here she sat silent and heavy with sorrow.
Being so wrapped within her sorrow as she was. She did not notice his approach as she had the tall Gondorian earlier that day for the feet of elves had nimble soles and this elf was both a prince and a warrior approaching a fair lady, lost to all but the troubles of her own mind.
“The wise tell me your friends are avoiding you lady.”
Androthiel raised her chin and turned upon the young prince with smiling eyes. For there stood Legolas with a soft, affection smile warming his handsome face.
“Is this so?” He inquired.
She nodded her golden head ever so slightly. “It is. I find it rather rude to be perfectly earnest.”
“Oh come! These friends would not abandon such a close bond. Possibly the man, but never the elf.” He said easing down beside her. Although Legolas was of age there was still a quiet rebellion in the depths of his eyes. She could not forget the days of his youth. He had not lost that sparkle she so loved in all this time.
“It does my heart good to see you Legolas.” She told him smiling gently.
“And I you.” He said beaming.
“And tell me where is this man that has slipped by me so unnoticed?” She wondered.
“I could not tell you for he is as much a ghost to you as he is to me.” Legolas replied with a gleam in his eyes. “Here is the better question. Where is Undomiel? Discover her whereabouts and I think you shall find your Ranger.”
Androthiels’ smile dimmed just so. “Indeed.”
This did not escape notice. “And now I have disturbed you.” He pointed out. “What troubles you so? Once upon a time you were not so sullen.”
“It matters little.”
“I would stand to disagree.”
“I am beginning to grow restless. That is all that it is Legolas. My heart reaches for the unattainable. It torments me.” She admitted.
“And why do you not sail then? More and more of our kind leave these shores all the time.” Now he too sounded sad.
“I have things yet to see done, dear prince. I am not free to leave as I choose for I gave my word long ago and it must not be broken.”
There was no opportunity to respond. The hall was filling quickly and the food would soon be served. Inquisitive minds would have to wait for another time.
A silent white face looked down upon Aragorn with care. Unmoving, she glimmered like ivory and pearl under the moonlight that found them in this sacred place. His callused fingertips picked away moss and gently brushed away leaf and overgrowth from the beautiful monument.
“She was a lovely women.”
Aragorn’s grey eyes never left the only face he could remember as his mothers. Yet he realized this statue had never held her face. For she had passed when he had been so small. The only family he could ever recall were those he was now staying with. Elrond had raised him with the same love and care he had his own children, so many had been there for him as a child. Including the owner of the voice that now spoke to him. The only other he remembered as well as he did the Lord of Rivendell.
She drew closer to his kneeling form, silent as passing starlight. Her hand fell light upon the crown of his dark head and with a fluid bow she drew down and planted a kiss there, her breath warm on his hair. Aragorn closed his eyes against the tender touch.
“I do not remember her.” He admitted in a soft voice laced with heartbreak. He felt her come down gracefully to rest beside him. She was as she always had been, unchanged by the passing years. The grace of Lady Androthiel never waned. If anything it was exalted by each passing season. He loved her as family and she did the same in return.
The elf inhaled the gentle night air; a wistful smile on her face as her emerald eyes studied the statue. “But she remembers you Estel…Aragorn. She remembers you well.”
He could not help himself in bowing his head.
“She is always watching over you. Never will she leave.” She said fondly as she turned to him, noticing the slightest brush of silver at his temples. His face was well lined and weathered from much travel. His life would be a long one yet but it made her heart contract in a mixture of both pain and resignation. Númenor yes, but Aragorn was a mortal man. One day her hope would leave its weary home of flesh and bone. And on that day she would be powerless to stall that passing. She did not want to let this one go, but a voice explained that she would have him long enough and eventually the day would come when she must share him with places beyond physical grasp.
Her fingertips guided his stubbled chin up and in her direction. She smiled when his eyes found hers. “Your eyes…”
“What of them?” He wondered.
“They do not change.”
She shook her head. “Not in you. No. There is a light in you Estel. I pray it shall not be extinguished before its time.”
She wrapped him in an embrace. He seemed hesitant for a moment, but then he wrapped his arms around Androthiel as if he had only now fully remembered whom it was that now held him.
“The lady must be aged indeed. I do not recall you being so soft at heart.” He joked warmly as he rested his head against her shoulder.
She laughed. “You leave for so long child and when you are away my heart misses you. I can only wonder at what happens to you, alone, walking in the shadows of the world like some haunting specter. And then when you return I can not find you until you wish to be revealed.”
“I did not wish to be revealed now.” He replied.
She pulled back gently from him, brushing maternal fingers across his well-creased brow. “Yes. Yes you did.”
He smiled. Something he rarely did anymore. It almost hurt to do so. Androthiel returned a smile and cradled his rough hand within hers. “Have you seen your Lady?” She asked.
“We met. Only briefly after my arrival.”
“You should see her before you depart Aragorn.” Androthiel advised.
Aragorn shook his head slowly. “Her father bade me different.”
“I know what her father told you. That is naught excuse to leave her in the dark. I know her well. She made a choice and none may change her mind now. Not even you. If you leave without a goodbye it may crush her.”
“Why do you say these things to me.?” He asked as if suddenly bothered to be speaking to her.
“To place some sense into your mind child. Her father only wants for her to be safe and spared from harm. It is a wish any loving father would want, especially for his daughter. For what is a daughter but a product of her mother and he would not want to lose the love of his life twice in a lifetime. He would shield her from anything if it kept her free of harm. But safe in this sense is as treacherous as the danger he foresees.”
“My lord is wise, but he does not know the heart of a woman, try as he might. If she sailed it would matter not how `safe’ she was. Arwen would die of grief. I know this. She is bound to you Aragorn. Do not pull away now.”
“I would wish that she left these shores as much as her father. I wish with all my heart for her to sail to the Undying Lands.” He explained. “I do not pull away for the master of the house alone. I do so for my own heart. I could not have her forsake her people only to become mortal and widowed in the same breath.”
“If that is your wish then pray..listen to my words. I would not tell you so if it wasn’t true. Give her but a moment and ease both her heart..and your own.” Androthiel advised.
Aragorn stared into the depths of her green eyes and finally bowed his head. Politely he took his leave of her without reply.
He’d watched her all through the Council; her head perched on her hands, there yet not there, much as she had been the night of the feast. Although once the Ring had been revealed she had snapped into attention, such a serious matter went far beyond anything personally wrong.
So he watched her leave when the council dispersed, the fellowship had been chosen. Things were set and what would be, was, and what was set was set. The ring would go to Mount Doom, it had been a heavy decision to let it go in the hands of another…again, but Lord Elrond understood now as he understood then what would happen if he himself bore the ring. So he had to have faith in the resiliency of hobbits, there was no other way. The fate of Middle Earth was now sealed, for better or worse, and the ring was out of his hands. Now only Mordor lay in his mind, the consequences of the unfulfilled hunt would push the dark lord to move quicker, and the betrayal of Sarumon only reassured him that war was closer then either man or elf would like. But that was all in the future.
He meant to speak to Androthiel now that she was alone for he was curious as to the weight she was placing on herself. That would now have to wait as there was another in his path that needed tending to.
“Ada.” She replied quietly.
It was obvious she had been crying and it was even more obvious why she had been crying. Yet again she had to watch Aragorn leave her and this time there had been no intimate farewell, no goodbye kiss, and no way of knowing if she would ever see him alive again. Negativity had gotten the better of her this time around and she was just sick with the feeling.
“Sell.” Elrond said before drawing his arms around her shoulders in a loving embrace, it seemed that the problems of the world sometimes came second to being a father. After a moment he released her and took up her hand, leading her down the hall. They retired to her room before he attempted to carry on any sort of private conversation. “You had to know it would be like this…” He said, that stern voice that always had a way of coming out as he stood at the window. “He is Isildur’s heir. The ring is in his blood. He is bound to it.”
Her eyes were downcast as he spoke. She knew he was right and that she could do nothing but let him go and see this journey through, but some small part of her had just hoped so badly for something. Something selfish inside of her that had wanted only a few more minutes with him before he had left. “I know, but I did not expect the hurt to be this much. All I wished for was a proper goodbye but he has remained distant ever since your Council.”
Another tear fell.
She was not naive. She knew why he had done it, but it still left her feeling bitter and sad.
Her father was silent for a moment. He could not tell his daughter what he had told Aragorn. That he had told him to let her go that he could only cause her anguish if he did not. That if she would forsake her grace then she would surly die with him…
“He is set on his way. There is no time now. To stray, even but a moment, would end in ruin. In his, in yours, in Arda itself. He uses all of his will, all of his mind is set on resisting the ring, resisting its pull.”
Turning towards her his expression was still solid, strong for his daughter who couldn’t be right now. “The white ships are already leaving. More and more elves set sail every day…”
And it came back to this again, his greatest fear realized and it wasn’t the ring. It was the idea that his daughter would have to endure an even harsher existence then he had for something fleeting, for a human life that would last but a blink in time, she would throw her life away for only a few short years. He couldn’t permit her to do this to herself. He knew the pain of loss and he did not wish it upon her.
She closed her eyes, shutting him out as he tried once more to get her to leave. Her doubt instantly washed away by the old argument. “He will not stray. His strength is beyond anyone’s grasp. I have no doubt of it. Because of that I would not leave with my people.” She opened her eyes and looked back at her father. “He will come back to me and I will wait faithfully for that day.”
“Then you will condemn yourself to death. That is all that awaits you by remaining behind.” He told her with a tone in his voice that suggested desperation.
Arwen smiled sadly at him. “You do not understand.”
He gave her a questioningly look.
“I would rather live but a few brief mortal years and have his love then outlast the world and never know it at all. Please understand.”