I can see the light
Fall from your eyes
As we get lost in
The tears of this goodbye
She is gone.
A night and a morning have passed since I sent Arwen away to the Grey Havens, and already it seems a lifetime. The days will be long until I too can sail into the West and join her.
I stare out over the Valley, lost in thought. I cannot help wondering if I have done the right thing. Without Arwen, Estel will have little desire for the crown that is his birthright, and the line of Isildur will die out…and without her beloved, my Undómiel will spend her days until the Great End clinging to a faded memory and longing for him.
Ai, Eru, why do I let these thoughts torment me? In Valinor, Arwen will see her mother again. She will meet her forebears, Eärendil and Elwing, and so many others. Surely she will be happy. And Estel–Aragorn now, rather–he may find another woman to love. He may take the throne of Gondor even without the one for whom he waits…
And truly, what else could I have done but send her away?
You could have trusted me.
I flinch, though the Voice is gentle–it does not accuse but simply states, and still I feel the weight of guilt. Trust indeed. I have lived nearly an age of Middle-earth and seen many lives of Men, and yet… I have learned to trust the One with my own life time and again; I gave up to Him those I loved when my parents were taken from me, when my beloved wife Celebrían departed into the West; I even let go of my helpless fear for Middle-earth itself as I watched the Shadow grow.
And yet, I cannot trust Him with my daughter.
Forgive me, Lord, I pray, but all I feel is relief. By now Arwen may well have reached the Havens and begun her last journey. She is beyond my recall; if I have indeed made the wrong decision, I can do nothing now to change it.
Can you not?
Unbidden, a vivid image rises to my mind, and I realize immediately that Eru is sending me a vision, as He has so often done before…but somehow this one is different, and at first I cannot grasp why.
Imladris fades from my sight as the vision asserts itself. I see a room–a courtyard, perhaps–with the railing of a balcony at one end, and a man stands there. He faces away from me, his hands behind his back, gazing into an unknown distance, but I see the nobility and easy authority in his bearing. He is plainly a king, and somehow I know him, but I have no chance to wonder at this.
A young boy dashes in front of me, and the king turns in welcome, and with a start I recognize him. This man is Estel–aged, yes, and the man I know has none of this king’s confidence, yet I know him still.
Estel–Aragorn–swings the boy into his arms, laughing, and a second jolt of realization strikes me as I see the jewel hanging around the boy’s neck.
This boy is Arwen’s child.
The image begins to blur in my vision. The last I see of it is the boy’s eyes, deep and knowing like my daughter’s, gazing into mine with mute reproach, and then I am returned to the Valley. I realize I am shaking, fists clenched, and my own eyes are–inexplicably–heavy with unshed tears.
I sink into a nearby chair, my mind wrestling with what I have seen. I understand the difference now: I did not see the past, or the present, but a picture of what might have been.
Eru has never before given me sight of a future that is lost.
Why have you shown me this?
Have I made a terrible mistake?
That first thought, accompanied by a wave of guilt so powerful it nearly overwhelms me, is swiftly followed by a second. I remember the words that Galadriel, my wife’s mother, spoke to me once–I know not how many years have passed since that night. I had blamed myself, then, for Isildur’s failure to destroy the Ring; and Galadriel said in a gently chiding tone she might have used with her daughter: “Do you think yourself so important, Elrond Peredhel, that you could single-handedly destroy the One’s designs for Arda?”
I cannot think past this, and I stare unseeing down at my hands. Somehow I can sense myself caught–perfectly balanced–between two points: I cannot release the desperate need to protect my daughter…just as I cannot now forget the thought, no less desperate, that I have ruined something beyond recall; and it is this that centers on one simple point: I want to see my grandson, to hold him, to look again into his eyes.
Did you wish only to show me what I have taken from Arwen?
The silence has no answer.
I stand, shoving the chair away, and begin to pace. I cannot seem to stop myself; my inner turmoil must manifest itself physically or I will go mad.
I want my daughter across the Sea, safe, sheltered from harm.
I want her here in Imladris, her presence bringing life to these ancient halls, her love helping Estel to be the king he must become.
I want…I do not know what I want. Perhaps I do not even want to know.
Esteliathach nin, iónnen? the Voice asks. Will you trust me, my son?
The heaviness of these walls begins to oppress me. I stride through an archway into the open air, but the sensation of entrapment does not abate. If anything it only increases.
I see a small table nearby; on it rests a sheaf of papers and a quill. I cannot remember having put them there, but this does not surprise me. In fact I do not care; any distraction is a blessing. I sit, spreading the papers across the table, staring down at my own handwriting. Today I barely recognize it, and it is only with difficulty that I understand the words. These are records of some kind, it seems, or–no, a letter to Celeborn, a request for tidings of the war. I turn to the last page, half-filled, and pick up the quill. No words will come. With a supreme effort of concentration I write two lines, but I cannot focus.
Then I hear hoofbeats.
My body understands before my mind does, and I feel myself stiffen. The hoofbeats pound against the road like the steps of some approaching doom, growing louder and more distinct and then ceasing altogether. Quick footsteps rustle through the carpet of dying leaves below, a dark figure hurries up the stairs toward me, and I know.
“Tell me what you have seen!” she demands, even before she reaches me.
“Arwen,” I whisper, rising to meet her, wondering that I am able to speak at all, for the storm within me has intensified a thousandfold at the mere sight of her. A single thought pierces the chaos in my mind: No, you cannot be here, you cannot have come back…
“You have the gift of foresight–what did you see?”
“I looked into your future and I saw death,” I say harshly, struggling still to dissuade her, to evade the question that will come, for I understand something else, too: I was not the only one to whom Eru sent a vision today.
“There is also life.” She walks closer, her eyes–so deep and piercing–snaring mine, and I cannot look away, even though I know her next words before she speaks them. “You saw there was a child. You saw my son!”
Something inside me aches at the accusation in her tone. I turn away, bracing my arms on the railing. “That future is almost gone.”
“But it is not lost!” she insists, and my own thought returns to me.
A future that is lost…
Ai, Eru, what are you doing?
My thoughts are fragments, and I do not attempt to gather them. Instead I sink back into my chair without looking at her and speak the one truth I know. “Nothing is certain.”
Estelio nin, iónnen. Trust me…
“Some things are certain,” she whispers, kneeling beside my chair, and then her hand cups my cheek, drawing my gaze to hers. “If I leave him now, if I run away, I will regret it forever.”
Her hand drops, covering mine where it lies open on the table, but I cannot move to respond. Her eyes plead with me to understand, yet I sense–almost feel–her determination and conviction.
“It is time,” she says, and her next words confirm what I know, as she murmurs the old riddle of Strider: “From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring…”
I follow along in my thoughts, but I do not speak.
“Renewed shall be blade that was broken…the crownless again shall be king.”
I think of the Shards of Narsil that lie in state, displayed with honor in our halls, waiting for the kiss of fire that will bring them back to life…waiting for Elendil’s heir to wield Elendil’s sword in battle.
“Ada,” Arwen says softly, her hand gripping mine, and I want to cling to her and weep. Where did she find this strength and courage that suddenly I lack? “Reforge the Sword…”
I have no answer for her. Acquiescence and refusal would both come as easily to my lips, and I cannot choose between them.
Is it you who must make the choice, iónnen?
Still I cannot respond. I close my eyes, turning away, and after a moment she withdraws. Her footsteps fade into silence, and I am alone again.
The wind sighs through Imladris, whispering words in a tongue I can almost–but not quite–understand. With a heavy sigh I open my eyes. Dry, fallen leaves skitter across the stone floor; one, caught in an eddy of wind, drifts onto the table. Long dead, it is a small and shriveled thing, its short life spent so quickly in nothing more than the passing of a season–
Abruptly I stand, brushing the leaf away, and search out my daughter. I find her in an airy room close by: she stands at a long bed, holding an open book, and as I watch unobserved she sinks onto the bed, suddenly hunched and panting. The book slips to the floor, and she stares at it as if wondering how it came to be there.
I cross the room to her side, bending to pick up the book–history of the Dúnedain, perhaps, but I barely notice it–and then tossing it aside as I take her hands in mine. For another long moment I cannot speak, and then I say it, and my own words ring in my ears like a pronouncement of doom: “Your hands are cold…the life of the Eldar is leaving you.”
She looks up at me, and our eyes meet. “This was my choice,” she whispers, and her voice weakens even as I listen. “Ada, whether by your will or not, there is no ship now that can bear me hence.”
I feel the tears burning in my eyes, but I refuse to let them fall. The burden of the fate she has chosen settles over me, suffocating, drawing the strength from me. Oh, my Undómiel, how can this be your decision? This was not her choice alone, iónnen.
This was not her choice alone, iónnen.
Her eyelids droop, her hands falling limp in mine, and she slumps forward. I catch her and lower her to the bed. She is sleeping, only sleeping–she still breathes, and I would know it if her spirit took flight from the Circles of the World–but she is so pale…
She endures this for a mortal. For a mortal who does not desire his own crown.
Unhappy men, children of little lords and brief kings, shall such as these lay hands on you, and yet live?
No, these words of my forebear Thingol cannot be mine, for I share in that heritage of mortal blood as well…but my daughter is no less precious to me than his Tinúviel was to him–
And mine will share Lúthien’s fate.
A wave of grief overwhelms me, and I sink to my knees on the cold marble floor, unable at last to restrain my tears. Yes, perhaps she will live long, as the Dúnedain do, but in the end she will fade, and then she will be lost to me forever.
I can imagine nothing worse than this.
Estelio, iónnen. Estelio nin…
I clench my hands and press my fists against my eyes, trying to regain control, but there is nothing left to fill my emptiness. The Evenstar has fallen from the sky, leaving a starless night in its wake and no light to lift the darkness.
Can you give me even this, iónnen? Can you give me even her?
I reach up blindly, groping for her hand, then straighten to gaze down at her. Still kneeling, I touch her cheek, run my fingers through her dark hair.
Oh, my Lord, how can I give this up?
If only I knew all would come right in the end…if only I had some assurance…if only Eru would tell me that, somehow, she will not die, will not be taken away from me.
I never said this life would be easy, iónnen. I only said you would never walk alone.
I press my lips to her forehead. Outside, the wind sighs through the trees, and night begins to descend on Imladris. In the quiet it is not this promise I find, only this surrender.
I know what I must do.
I watch from the balcony as two elvensmiths reforge the sword. The metal glows, as if some fëa of the old Narsil has emerged from the ages to rekindle the blade’s fire, and the Elf slides the two shards together with an audible boom. He raises a hammer–there is a pause–and brings it down once, twice, again. I flinch at each stroke.
My thoughts escape my control and flee to Arwen–pale and cold, life slipping from her grasp…and then to the one who is already taking her from me. Would that I had forbidden their union when I had the chance…
No. Again I wrest my thoughts away, and I try to imagine Estel a king of Men, bearing the reforged sword of his ancestors in battle, raising it in victory against the Shadow. Estel, not Aragorn, as close to me as the sons of my own blood, even though the years he spent with me were few–
The smith’s hammer resounds against the sword, fracturing my concentration. I struggle to bring those images back, knowing I must cling to them in days to come, but the pictures wither like mellyrn in a sudden winter. All I see is my Undómiel–Evenstar of her people and child of my soul–lying grey and still under the fading trees and the darkening sky, her song forever silent. And I feel each stroke of the hammer as a death-blow to my heart.
Obligatory Disclaimer: I am writing this; therefore I am not dead; therefore I am not Tolkien; therefore I do not own Middle-earth or its inhabitants. I am also female and beardless; therefore I am not Peter Jackson; therefore I do not own this particular interpretation of Tolkien’s works. Clear? *smile* Okay, we’re clear.
Other random notes:
1. The line “I never said this life would be easy, iónnen. I only said you would never walk alone” is not quite original–I paraphrased it from the song “If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens. Lyrics, for those interested, can be found here.
2. This is my first real fanfic. Reviews are greatly appreciated…but I’m sure you knew that already.
3. Banui, my lovely friend and beta-reader, thinks I’ll be horribly cruel to poor Elrond if I don’t continue this to Dunharrow and Minas Tirith. I might if I get inspired enough. Would anyone be interested in a follow-up to this story?