For a long moment, there was darkness. Arwen blinked as she waited for something to happen. Finally, with a small spark, a tiny point of bright light flared to life. Within moments, the delighted face of Erestor appeared out of the gloom.
“At last,” he said, sighing with relief. “I think we have finally found the right wax mixture.”
Arwen smiled appreciatively as she admired the effect of the candle. Although no larger than a normal candle, it gave off almost twice as much light. She was pleased on Erestor’s behalf, for finding a brighter-burning wax for candles had been somewhat of a thorn in his side since taking on the project several months before, eventually enlisting the aid of Rivendell’s two best candle makers. Though their work had also created a candle that could last twice as long as any other, it only gave a marginal light, and it took three of them to illuminate an area brightly enough to be comfortable to read or write in. And there was no point in mentioning the several other mixes of wax that had done little or nothing at all of any value.
“We shall start making more of these right away, Master Elrond,” Erestor said proudly, turning his attention to Arwen’s father, who stood next to her.
“Thank you, Erestor,” Elrond replied. “These will be of much use.”
“Congratulations,” Arwen added, smiling.
Erestor nodded and bowed, returning the smile before leaving the room. As Elrond started relighting the other candles, Arwen leaned over and blew out the bright one. Soon, normal light had been restored to Elrond’s study.
“Now Erestor can meet the new year with one less concern upon his shoulders,” Elrond commented. “What say you, my dear?”
“I am happy for him,” Arwen replied. “And I know Naneth will be very pleased.”
Elrond chuckled warmly and put an arm around her waist. Arwen accepted her father’s embrace, removing the candle from the wooden stand upon which it had been set and handing it to him.
“I think this will be of good use in the Hall of Fire,” he said, examining the pale cream-colored taper. “Come, my Evenstar. There is still much work to be done.”
Arwen followed Elrond out of his study, but slowed her pace a bit as they headed down the corridor. The High House of Rivendell, and all of its inhabitants, were happily preparing for the grand celebration of Yule, one of her favorite holidays. This joy was apparent in the jovial mood of her normally serious father, and in the faces of those they passed. However, this year her spirit was much dampened. This was supposed to be the best Yule yet, but several events had taken place recently to give her cause to doubt.
This was the Yule of Arwen’s one-thousandth year, meaning she was now old enough to lead the Eve of Yule festivities. This included reciting the prayers of blessing during the Yule feast, overseeing the decorating of the Hall of Fire, leading the Eve of Yule singing—Arwen’s favorite event—and many other duties. Until now, the role had always been filled by her mother Celebrían. For years, Arwen had watched her mother perform, always in awe, and forever eager of the Yule when she could take the honored role. And now, it was finally her year. She had received many compliments on the decorations she had chosen, and had sewn the dinner napkins to be used at the feast herself.
But unhappy events had occurred to dampen her spirits. First had been Faye’s abrupt departure. Faye, her beloved friend and guardian, had shared in Arwen’s anticipation of the coming holiday, lending assistance and calming her excited nerves when needed. But five days previously, Faye had been present when one of the stablehands had accidentally given himself a bad cut on his palm. As a vampire, Faye’s greatest weakness was the smell of fresh blood, and when overcome with bloodlust, she became a vicious and dangerous creature. The many years she had lived in Rivendell had not greatly dampened this violent reaction; it had only refocused it. In response to the accident, Faye had done exactly what she had trained herself to do, and had done several times in the past. She had run off. Arwen was not worried about her well-being; Faye always returned home eventually. However, hope was growing very dim on having her come home in time for Yule. It would be the first time since her arrival so long ago that she would not be present.
The thought of not having Faye there was depressing enough. However, Arwen was faced with another bitter disappointment to add to it. Her brothers Elladan and Elrohir and the family’s trusted friend Glorfindel had gone on an extended hunting trip three days previous, and a sudden snowstorm had come just as they would have been making their way home. With several inches of snow blanketing the Valley and the wilderness beyond, it would most likely be days before they could return. And the Eve of Yule—and the start of the festivities—was tomorrow.
Arwen sighed as she followed Elrond into the Hall of Fire, where many of the Valley’s inhabitants were gathered in jovial conversation. Being faced with having over half of her dearest loved ones missing for Yule was a sorrowful thought, and had stolen away almost all her eagerness for the celebration. She mustered smiles and greetings for those who hailed her as she passed, but when she sat down next to her mother, she allowed a frown to cross her face. Celebrían noticed immediately.
“What is wrong, my Undomiél?” she asked gently.
Arwen turned her gaze to her mother.
“Do you think there is any chance at all that everyone will be home in time for Yule?” she asked quietly.
Celebrían smiled and put a comforting arm around her.
“Yule is a holiday of hopes and miracles, Arwen,” she said. “There is a guiding light shining for all of us. Just believe in the best, and I am sure good things will happen.” She smiled again, tightening her grip slightly. “And if they do not make it home in time, we will save some of the celebration for them. They will not miss out.”
Arwen sighed and leaned into her mother’s embrace. For a long while, both were silent. Though Arwen took her mother’s words to heart, they did little to keep the gloom away from her thoughts. And once again, Celebrían noticed.
“Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” she asked.
Arwen pondered for a moment, unable to think of anything. However, she soon remembered the candle Erestor had shown her and Elrond a short while before. She sat up, beckoning to Celebrían.
“I have an idea,” she said.
Celebrían willingly and unquestioningly followed her as she retrieved the candle from Elrond and carried it back through the house. In silence, the two wandered through the corridors until they reached a covered balcony with a clear view of the whole of Rivendell. It was a place that could be glimpsed from almost anywhere down in the Valley. Arwen placed the candle in a base and set it on the balcony railing.
“What are you planning, my Evenstar?” Celebrían asked with interest.
Arwen retrieved a small flint and carried it over to the candle. With a quick strike, the candle flared to life. The light caused Celebrían to blink, and despite her mood, Arwen smiled in amusement.
“Erestor’s newest creation,” she said in explanation. “And a guiding light.”
“To help bring them home.” Celebrían smiled widely. “I will make sure that it is not disturbed tonight.” She offered Arwen a hug, which she accepted. “Good thinking, my Evenstar.”
Arwen did not reply, and quietly followed her mother away, leaving the candle to burn merrily on its own. There was nothing more she could do for her brothers, or Glorfindel, or Faye. She could only hope, and continue preparing for the festivities, and let the candle burn on.
* * * * * *
High in the mountains guarding the Valley, a predator walked. The winds buffeted her, billowing snow up against her legs as she slowly walked through the otherwise silent forest. The bare branches of the trees swayed, sending down large clumps of ice and slush that she was hard-pressed to avoid. She growled as a chunk of ice struck her shoulder, rending several shallow scratches on the pale bare skin. Shaking the ice away, she continued on, allowing the predatory blackness to continue obscuring her mind and senses. In times like this, it was always best to just keep walking and wandering. Eventually, the blackness would fade, and she would return to her civilized self-awareness.
Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a tiny flare of light far away, deep in the Valley. She stopped, staring at it. It was barely visible, and flickered in and out of sight like the flame of a candle in a steady breeze. Still, it was enough to draw her attention, and something more. As she stood and stared at the light, the darkness started to fade. Her mind, once clouded with thoughts no more complex than what the average animal could think, cleared. All at once, she remembered who she was, and why she was wandering alone so far up in the mountain.
Faye shook her head, brushing a heavy lock of hair from her eyes, then pausing when she saw that her hand and arm were coated in mud. Slowly, she examined herself, chuckling when she realized that she was very much the worse for wear. Her leggings were tattered, and one whole sleeve of her tunic was torn away. Her hair was dirty and littered with twigs and clumps of mud and ice. And her feet and hands were bare.
“What I sight I am,” she said to herself, allowing a small laugh.
Abruptly, Faye remembered what time of year it was. She turned towards the light—which she knew was shining from Rivendell—hoping that she had not missed Yule. She had no way of knowing what day it was, and would not until she made it home.
Gathering herself, Faye headed off down the mountain. In the deep snow and harsh terrain, it would take a long time for her to make it back to Rivendell, even with her strength and speed. She only hoped she would not be too late.
* * * * * *
Night passed, and the day of the Eve of Yule dawned. A soft sunlight filtered down into the Valley through the haze of clouds, causing the snow-covered ground to glitter softly. In the wide, slightly hilly meadow, all was quiet save for a single deer, which stumbled forward through the unbroken snow. A trail of blood stained the ground behind it. For several long moments, it continued struggling onward. Finally, it collapsed, falling still in a flat stretch of snow near the very middle of the meadow.
A few minutes later, the hunters that had brought it down appeared from the trees, sighing in relief at seeing their quarry finally lying dead in the snow. It had been a long and difficult hunting trip for them, and though they had finally shot a suitable buck to take back home, it had been a bad shot, forcing them to chase the animal on foot for several hours.
Glorfindel sighed heavily, shaking his head.
“If anyone asks,” he said, glancing at Elladan and Elrohir, “we shot it dead right away, and took this long getting back because of the weather.”
Elladan and Elrohir nodded in agreement. With the story decided, Glorfindel led the way across the meadow, shouldering his bow. Elrohir, who had taken the shot, grumbled something under his breath that the others could barely hear. Elladan laughed.
“All is well, my brother,” he said. “Rivendell is not too far from here. If we keep at a brisk pace, we will be home before the evening ceremonies.”
Elrohir smiled back, seemingly heartened. They were nearing the deer now, with Glorfindel still leading. Therefore, he was the first to realize what kind of terrain the deer had collapsed upon. Elladan and Elrohir gave starts of surprise as, without warning, Glorfindel slid forward and fell flat on his back. Three inches of snow was concealing a frozen pond.
“Stay there,” Glorfindel called when Elladan started moving towards him. “I will get the deer.”
Glorfindel quickly regained his feet and started walking across the surface of the pond towards the fallen deer. He moved carefully to avoid slipping again. The mood was relatively calm, up until Glorfindel had come within a yard of the deer. Then, everyone tensed when the clear, sharp sound of ice cracking sounded in the quiet morning air.
“Get out of there!” Elrohir called insistently. “Glorfindel, the ice is too thin.”
Glorfindel paused for a long moment, looking at the ground around him. Where he and the deer had not stepped, the ice was still hidden by the snow. It was impossible to tell exactly where it had cracked.
“No,” he said at last, taking another slow step forward. “I think it is still firm. It would not be able to hold the weight of the deer if it was too thin.”
Now highly uneasy, Elladan and Elrohir watched as Glorfindel continued to approach the deer. Finally, he reached it, and knelt down to examine it. No further sound of protest came from the ice. Slowly, the twins started to relax.
“It is a marvelous specimen,” Glorfindel called back. He grasped its hind legs and stood. “If we can get it back to Rivendell, it will be well worth our. . .”
Another loud, ominous snap sounded, and this time the ice visibly sagged underneath Glorfindel’s feet. The Elf stumbled, and the twins let out further cries of warning. Glorfindel shook his head and steadied himself.
“The ice is damaged here,” he called. “This deer must have fallen hard. Elladan, throw me a rope. You two will have to drag the deer out.”
Elladan quickly did as Glorfindel suggested, retrieving a long rope from his pack. He quickly threw one end to Glorfindel, who secured it to the hind legs of the deer.
“Pull slowly,” he called.
As slowly and as carefully as possible, Elladan and Elrohir began dragging the deer towards them. To their relief, the ice held as the deer slid past Glorfindel.
But when Glorfindel shifted around to gain better balance, he accidentally settled his weight on the spot where the deer had fallen. With a sickening crash, his foot broke through the bloodied ice. Involuntarily, he twisted as he fell forward, with the result that it was not only the ice that was broken when he landed. The ice had only split in a small section, but now his left leg was submerged to his knee, and emitting a terrible pain that was only slightly dampened by the bitterly cold water beneath. He gritted his teeth against the pain, frozen for the moment in an attempt to absorb the shock. Elladan and Elrohir were shouting for him, but he was able to raise his hands.
“Do not come out for me,” he called firmly. “I will get myself out.”
“Are you alright, Glorfindel?” Elrohir cried, his eyes wide with worry.
“My leg is broken,” Glorfindel replied.
Glorfindel tried to pull his leg out, but the ice and the pain prevented any such movement. Though loosened, the broken pieces of ice were far too thick and heavy for him to lift and toss aside, and he could not stand up on his own with his leg trapped. He tried to think of a different way to free his leg, but every option he tried only brought more intense pain. The twins continued to call for him, but he did not reply. He did not want to admit it to the sons of Elrond, but he was stuck.
“Elladan,” he finally said, resigned to defeat. “I cannot get out by myself. You and Elrohir are going to have to. . .”
He never got a chance to finish, for without another moment of hesitation Elladan untied the rope from the deer, handed the other end to Elrohir, and started across the ice toward him. Glorfindel rolled his eyes.
“Elladan, the ice could crack further!” he warned fiercely as Elladan approached.
“It held your weight when you fell on it,” Elladan replied. He secured the rope around one of Glorfindel’s arms. “How badly is it broken?”
Glrfindel shook his head, unsure of the exact damage.
“Somewhere below my knee,” he said. “I cannot tell the full damage.”
It took a few tense minutes, but with Elladan’s help, Glorfindel was able to struggle to his feet, letting out a loud grunt of pain as his leg was freed. Though the bone had not broken through skin, he knew the injury was significant. Slowly, he hobbled to the safety of the pond’s edge. Once there, Elrohir immediately slipped under his other arm, and together they assisted him to the far end of the meadow, where he sat down on the exposed root of a large tree.
“It is going to take days to get back to Rivendell at this rate,” he said. “Elladan and Elrohir, you two have to leave me behind. If you travel swift, you should be there by sundown, and then you can send riders to retrieve me.”
Glorfindel purposely made his tone firm and final, offering no room for protest. After several tense moments, the twins grudgingly consented.
“I will be fine here,” Glorfindel offered as a last note of reassurance. “Cold is of no concern, and a broken leg will not kill me.”
Elladan and Elrohir cast him long glances. Then, they moved off, running out of sight as fast as it was possible through the deep snow. Glorfindel watched them leave, then leaned down and gathered some snow in his hands, packing it against his leg in an attempt to stem the swelling. Then, he sat back, and prepared for the long wait.
“What a marvelous thing to happen at Yule,” he sighed softly to himself.
* * * * * *
The day of the Eve of Yule had almost passed. Already, it was nearly evening, and it would only be a few short hours more before the festivities were due to begin. Throughout Rivendell, joyful song and laughter rang through the air. It persisted even as the skies began to darken, and a cold wind forewarned the coming of another snowstorm.
Arwen sighed deeply as she watched the snow start to fall. She was standing on the same balcony as the previous night, the half-spent candle in her hands. But now, as she stood and watched as the distant view faded under the onslaught of snow, she was starting to wonder whether or not it would be of any use.
Arwen turned. Elrond was standing there, his best robes shimmering in the dimming light. He approached and settled a hand on her shoulder.
“It is nearly time, my Evenstar,” he said.
“I know,” Arwen replied quietly.
Elrond studied her for a moment, then tightened his grip.
“Do not be concerned,” he said reassuringly. “Glorfindel, Elladan, and Elrohir will watch over each other, and you know as well as I that Faye can take care of herself.”
“I am not concerned about their safety,” Arwen admitted. “I know they are safe. But it is nearly Yule, and they are not here.” She sighed, bowing her head. “This was supposed to be so special. But how can it be if half of those whom I love are gone?”
“They will be home soon,” Elrond replied. “Whether it is in time for Yule or not, they will not miss out on the celebration.”
“Naneth said that last night,” Arwen said. “But why do I still not feel any better?”
Elrond was quiet for a moment.
“My Undomiél, Yule is an important and beloved holiday,” he said. “It is tradition for our loved ones to be nearby. When they are not there, we miss them.” He smiled gently. “If you wish to wait until next year to take your turn leading the festivities, nobody will think ill of you.”
Arwen bit her lip, thinking. She would much prefer every member of her family being present for her first year leading the festivities, but she had worked so hard to make this Yule her own. She knew the holiday would not be as enjoyable for everyone else if she did not see her vision to the end.
“No,” she said finally. “I will lead the festivities.” She turned her gaze fully to Elrond. “But for next year, can we make sure Elladan, Elrohir, Glorfindel, and Faye are locked up somewhere?”
Elrond laughed heartily.
“Of course,” he said.
Together, they turned to head back inside, but at the last moment Arwen turned around. She placed the candle in the stand and lit it, returning to her father’s side just in time to see the warm smile on his face.
“Just in case,” she said.
However, just as they turned to head down to the festivities, their path was blocked by Erestor.
“Your sons have returned,” he said breathlessly. “Glorfindel has been injured.”
* * * * * *
The snow was falling thick and fast. Glorfindel gazed at his dim surroundings, sighing. He had been sitting here for hours, moving only to pack more snow against his leg. Save for the wind in the branches above, all was silent.
At least, all was silent until, from somewhere behind him, he heard a deep growl. Glorfindel turned, a bolt of shock flowing through him when he saw the massive bear materialize from the swirling snow. It had come from the direction of the pond, and its muzzle was coated in blood. Glorfindel had no doubt that the bear had made a meal of the deer. Slowly, he pulled out his bow.
“Be gone, beast,” he said, fitting an arrow and drawing back the string.
For a long moment, the bear stared at him. To Glorfindel, the animal seemed more curious than angry. However, curiosity from a bear was just as much of a threat as hostility. Slowly, the beast started ambling towards him.
Glorfindel was seconds away from releasing the arrow when something else jumped into its intended path. For a bewildered second, he believed that the riders from Rivendell had reached him at last. But then he noticed the tangled mane of black hair, the bare feet, and the tattered clothing. And then he heard the new arrival snarl, a deep and terrible sound. The bear stopped in its tracks. For a tense moment, the two stared at each other. Then, with a gruff snort, the bear turned and vanished into the snow. The figure slowly turned to face him, and Glorfindel sighed in relief, lowering his bow.
“Faye,” he said in greeting. “You cannot have better timing.”
The vampire smiled as she approached, crouching down by his side. For a moment, she examined him, seemingly perplexed.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Broken leg,” Glorfindel replied. “Elladan and Elrohir headed back to Rivendell to summon aid.”
Faye blinked, tilting her head slightly.
“And you did not accompany them because. . .?”
“Because it would have taken us three times as long to get home if they had been forced to help me walk.”
This time, a true grin split Faye’s face. Glorfindel eyed her warily. He had seen that look before, and it had never boded well.
“There are faster ways,” she offered slyly.
Glorfindel snorted, already guessing what she was suggesting.
“No, Faye,” he said firmly. “It will not be much longer before help arrives. I am willing to stay here and wait.”
Now it was Faye who snorted.
“They will not be able to leave Rivendell to come for you until this storm passes,” she stated. “They will definitely try, but they will not get far. It will be morning, if not later, before they can make true progress.” She raised her head and sniffed the air. “The wind is only going to get worse.”
“That does not bode well for us either, Faye.”
“I am stronger than both Elladan and Elrohir, and swifter than any of the horses, as I daresay you remember. This storm will not pose a challenge for me, even with a stubborn Elf like you upon my back.”
Glorfindel was ready to protest, but he met Faye’s steady gaze, and realized that arguing would be fruitless. With his leg, he was powerless to resist. He sighed deeply, rolling his eyes.
“So be it."
* * * * * *
The festivities should have been in full swing by now. But all that echoed through the halls of Rivendell was the howling of the wind, which had increased thrice-fold since the sudden arrival of Elladan and Elrohir. Arwen sighed and trembled as she watched the group of sodden Elves walk past, each one with a gloomy look on their faces. The weather had simply become too severe to send out a search party for Glorfindel.
“What are we going to do now?” she asked Elrond as he approached. He had been the one leading the rescue attempt, and was as drenched and sullen as everyone else. “We cannot leave Glorfindel out there alone.”
Elrond settled a damp, gloved hand on her shoulder.
“The wind is too strong. We cannot see where we are going,” he said softly. “Glorfindel is not in such a severe danger that he cannot wait until morning.”
Arwen felt a tear slide down her cheek. She bowed her head, and felt Elrond embrace her.
“The instant the storm breaks, we will find him,” he said. Arwen could feel his arms trembling. “All we can do now is hope.”
* * * * * *
“Can you see anything?”
Faye stopped in her tracks, straining to see something in the swirling gloom before her. The storm had picked up greatly in intensity, combined with the fallen darkness, and now it was nearly impossible to see anything around her even with the aid of her vampiric vision.
“No,” Faye replied, for it was Glorfindel who had spoken. She strained her eyes, but could see nothing. She cursed. “I cannot see anything.”
Faye shifted her shoulders, centering Glorfindel’s weight more securely on her back. She knew this position was not comfortable for him, even though she was doing her absolute best to keep his broken leg steady. However, he had uttered no complaint in the hours they had been walking.
Originally, Faye had planned to hold this situation against him as a source of friendly jibes henceforward, but now she had changed her mind. She knew he knew this was becoming more difficult for her with each passing moment, and was doing everything in his power to assist her. And she greatly appreciated his efforts. She could not remember the last time her muscles felt quite so strained. And now she had lost all sight of their path.
“Faye,” she heard Glorfindel say. “I think you should find a place to put me down. You can get back. . .”
“No!” Faye snarled back. “We have made it too far to stop now. I will keep on carrying you until we make it home or we meet a rescue party.”
Glorfindel made no reply. With a grunt, Faye continued forward. For a long while, there was silence between them. Then, she felt him raise his head slightly.
“Faye,” he said.
“No, Glorfindel,” she replied with a growl. “I will not put you down.”
“Not that,” Glorfindel said. “Look!”
Faye looked. Very dimly, she could see a small point of flickering light in the distance. She immediately recognized it as the same one that had attracted her attention before.
“What is that?” Glorfindel asked. “The search party?”
Faye growled in relief, letting a smile form.
“No,” she replied. “I think that is Rivendell.”
* * * * * *
It was very late. Most of the inhabitants of Rivendell had taken to their beds, though few slept on this night. All were worried for Glorfindel, and none were thinking about the celebrations of Yule that should have been occurring.
Arwen, however, was not in bed. She was standing on the balcony next to the flickering candle, peering out into the night. With every other breath, she uttered prayers of hope and love.
“This is the time of miracles,” she muttered to herself. “Valar, please let that be true.”
She heard footsteps behind her, but did not turn around. The new arrival did not speak, but after a minute Arwen felt a warm blanket being settled around her shoulders. She glanced up to see Celebrían standing with her.
“Come, my Evenstar,” she whispered. “Let us go to bed. There is nothing we can do tonight.”
Arwen did not move. Celebrían did not argue, but after a moment she settled next to her. Arwen gazed at her mother, and received a small smile in return.
“If you wish to stay here and watch, then I am staying with you,” she said.
Arwen leaned against Celebrían, grateful for the company. Outside, the snow swirled and billowed, making it nearly impossible to see even the main courtyard below, let alone the rest of the Valley. Arwen knew she was being foolish by exhausting herself standing here, but she could not bring herself to leave.
For several minutes, the two of them stood in silence, the light of the candle still flickering brightly beside them. Then, Arwen spotted movement below. She blinked, focusing down on the courtyard. Sure enough, there was movement down there. A dark form had stumbled through the archway. As she watched, the form stopped, and suddenly one form became two. The second was leaning heavily on the first. Arwen quickly brought her mother’s attention to them.
“By the Valar,” Celebrían breathed, a wide smile appearing on her face.
Arwen did not reply. Turning around, she bolted back down the corridor, running as fast as she could down to the main doors. Celebrían was fast on her heels. She made it to the front foyer just as the new arrivals entered. A wave of excitement issued over her as she saw both Glorfindel and Faye standing there.
“Glorfindel! Faye!” she cried happily.
Arwen removed the blanket from her shoulders and approached, placing it around Glorfindel’s shoulders. Celebrían had retrieved another, and had wrapped it around Faye. In that short time, a small crowd had gathered in the foyer, and it was only another minute more before Elrond arrived. He immediately approached and helped support Glorfindel’s weight.
“How does it feel, my friend?” he asked, relief and joy clear on his face.
“At the moment, not too bad,” Glorfindel replied. “But that will not last once I thaw.”
“Then let us get your leg tended to,” he said.
Elladan and Elrohir appeared from the crowd, beaming in delight as they came forward. Glorfindel put his arms around their shoulders. Elrond gripped his friend’s shoulder, then turned to Faye.
“Are you injured, Faye?” he asked.
“I do not think so, Master Elrond,” Faye replied. “I am just tired.”
“And frozen,” Celebrían added, picking up a corner of the blanket and starting to rub one of her arms. “Faye, your hands and feet are nearly black.”
Arwen was quick to follow her mother’s example, gathering another bit of the blanket and rubbing Faye’s other arm and hand. The skin felt like ice beneath her fingers.
“A hot bath will help with this,” Elrond said. “We will have one drawn for you.”
The atmosphere around Rivendell was already becoming more warm and cheerful. Arwen could sense it. There were bright smiles on the faces of those they passed as she and Celebrían assisted Faye to her bath. At long last, everyone was safe at home, despite a few being a little worse for wear.
“Praise the Valar you found him, Faye,” Celebrían said a few minutes later, once Faye had stripped off what was left of her clothing and sunk down into the steaming bathwater. “What happened?”
“I chased off a bear,” Faye replied. Both Arwen and Celebrían gasped. “It was not going to hurt him. It just needed a little convincing to leave. Then I found out what had happened to him, and helped him back here.”
“Helped him?” Arwen asked, raising an eyebrow. She and her mother were still continuing to rub Faye’s limbs, and the color was already improving.
Faye smiled slightly.
“Carried him,” she clarified. “But I do not think we would have found our way without that light.”
Arwen’s jaw dropped, and Celebrían smiled.
“You saw Arwen’s guiding light, Faye,” she said. “It is a true Yule miracle that you were able to through this snow.”
“Yule?” Faye asked, sounding surprised. “Has that not passed yet?”
“No,” Arwen replied. “You came home just in time. Today is the Eve of Yule.”
“But why was nobody celebrating?”
“We were waiting for you and Glorfindel.” Arwen gently gripped Faye’s hand. “And now that you are safe, we can start.”
“And it will be the best Yule yet,” Celebrían added.
And so it would be, with every voice set to sing in a tone more joyous than anything that had ever been heard in the Valley before. And upon the balcony, the candle’s flame, which had remained steady despite the fierce wind and snow, quietly extinguished under the next soft gust.
Though it would later be retrieved and lit once more, the flame would never again burn quite as brightly as it had done on that long Eve of Yule night.