“Close every door to me,
Hide all the world from me,
Bar all the windows and shut out the light,
Do what you want with me,
Hate me and laugh at me,
Darken my daytime and torture my night.”
It was only a few hours after sunset, but Araviel decided to stop early. The night was dark, and the trees around him rattled ominously in the slight breeze. He couldn’t help shuddering as he watched the branches which, stripped of their leaves, looked eerily like skeletons. After checking his horse, he sat down on the hard ground stiffly and pulled out his skin of water. It was empty. He scowled and reached for his pack.
He pulled out his tattered bedroll and curled his legs up under the thin blanket. Trying to concentrate on something besides his aching body, he craned his neck and looked up. But water was obscuring his vision; the trees above him were blurry, as was the black sky. He squinted his eyes and felt the tears fall back inside. With that quick motion, he pushed his sadness further down in his heart where it could not be seen, but where it would not be forgotten.
It had been a hard day.
He rolled on his side, sniffed and rubbed his eyes, roughly shoving aside the last of his gentle tears. Warm shame boiled within him; he shouldn’t have broken down like that.
Araviel’s pride was the only thing the world hadn’t taken from him, but it was trying its best. He had been an outcast in man’s society and a child in the elven world. For awhile he had found solace in the life of a wanderer, but even the wilds grow tiresome when there is no one to share them with. His life had been hard; he had spent a lot of it in fights and minor battles with the Rangers. His body was strong, hale and tried by the sword, spear and axe.
Often he was wounded, exhausted and bruised, but it was no physical pain that ailed him; it was deeper than his skin. His very heart ached with every breath. Yet very seldom did he let himself dwell on it; it was his stalwart belief that by pretending to forget the past, he could overcome it. Hardened as he was, he viewed grief as weakness and silent acceptance as strength.
His stomach grumbled. He groaned and stood up, looking around as if food would just suddenly appear. But there was nothing, nothing but him, his weapons and his horse; the floor was hard dirt, his roof; dying trees. He clenched his teeth in anger at his predicament and walked over to a stump nearby. The aggression buried within him broke and he cried out loudly, breaking the still night as he kicked the dead stump over and over again.
There was no other sound as he finished, stopped, and fell to his knees. He sighed and felt strength returning to him. Beating out his anger always helped him much more than tears. He closed his eyes and listened to the wind, hearing it hiss gently in his ears. He breathed in the cool night air, felt it soothing his dry lungs…and smiled quietly. Once again, he had won; no one had taken his pride.
As was his wont before going to sleep, Araviel went over the events of the day in his head, trying to find the source of his anger. He had ridden into Bree to gather news from the Rangers, but none were there. The men of Bree were used to seeing him; the only elf within miles of their tiny town, but they never tired of jeering at him in their drunken stupor.
Araviel would always take their jokes and insults silently and without retaliation, but it was getting harder and harder to do so. When they spoke of his inability to drink, he had finally cracked and drank, in one long swallow, an entire mug of beer. It was not because he liked it; no indeed, he detested the feeling of that golden brown liquid burning in his throat. It reminded him of another much less hearty drink…
He shook his head. He had promised himself he would never think of that incident again. He sank back into his thoughts.
Although he was an elf, men were mistaken in thinking he was delicate. He could easily handle the mug of beer, although it left his insides churning. He left soon after, deciding to head towards Weathertop, where he might find some of the Rangers and hear any news, but he had first gone to a nearby creek to get a drink of fresh water. There he met a group of small, round, furry footed hobbits who fled at the sight of the “Vagrant Elf” (as they called him). He had scorned their gentle fears as weakness.
He was now en route to Weathertop, but had decided to stop early, because of his aching head. Only a few days before, a large group of orcs had managed to roam its way near the Shire (a place heavily guarded by the Rangers) and the fight that ensued was not an easy one. Araviel’s head had been grazed by a misguided sword and that wound, on top of too much beer, was making him dizzy. He closed his eyes, willing himself to drift off to sleep.
At around midnight the wind picked up, blowing icy cold from the North. Araviel, still wide awake, pulled his cloak out from his pack, but even the thick, sturdy green fabric didn’t keep out the chill. He stood and walked around, trying to get warm. It was early winter, but he hadn’t expected such a sudden drop in the temperature yet.
His horse, Liera, whinnied softly and Araviel went to pet her. She was a medium sized, swift, light brown horse raised by his elven kin. Lord Elrond had given her to him as a gift on his last visit to Rivendell. They had, since then become very good friends and she was as loyal and sturdy a horse as there ever could be. He ran his slim hand down her back, stroking the soft coat and she thanked him with a long look from her gentle brown eyes.
“You know what Liera?” he said quietly as he petted her wet nose. She looked interestedly at him, quite as if she understood.
“I should go to the Grey Havens.” She gave him a piercing stare.
“I could find eternal rest, maybe even some friends. A bro-,” he scowled. “A real brother.” As he spoke, a pale light long doused glowed in his green eyes.
“But they are all as old as the hills over there,” he said, his face falling. Liera whinnied softly and he leaned against her strong side.
“But it can’t be worse than what’s here. I love this land, but there is no one to share it with. Perhaps I should go,” he said thoughtfully.
Going to the Grey Havens and sailing to the peaceful lands that lay beyond was not a new thought in Araviel’s mind. He had often toyed with the idea but, while his heart had said yes, follow your desire to a place where you are welcome and loved, his soul had cried out for the free and wild lands of Middle Earth. In the past, his one love: the love of the wilderness, had kept his heart at bay. But on that night, with the cold wind biting his shoulder and the memory of those little hobbits fleeing at the sight of him, his entire being yearned for a warm place to come home to, and someone waiting there who loved him.
“I will go to the Grey Havens,” he said finally. “There is nothing left for me; this is a barren place and my life here is a sad tale.” As if she understood, Liera nuzzled up against his slim shoulder, comforting him.
Finally, in the deep of that cold, windy night, Araviel let loose the flood of tears he had for so long held back. He fell to his knees, his thin body quivering, his whole form shuddering with the depth and desperation of the pain and loneliness in his aching body, his sore heart and his tormented soul