Eowyn was in a state of panic completely foreign to her. Never, not even when she had faced the Witch-king, had terror gripped her heart so painfully. Arwen was in trouble, blood slowly pooling on the ground beneath her as she lay on her side, screaming in agony, her knuckles white as she clutched her swollen belly. Eowyn had shouted for help, but for one moment, she had feared the echoing hoofbeats were not headed in their direction.
Then, two riders had appeared, one on a bony mule and the other riding the pony Arwen had called Bill. A very familiar brown eagle circled the treetops above them. Eowyn stared at the new arrivals, watching as fear and concern formed on their faces. Before Eowyn could move to intervene, the woman riding Bill approached, walking with great difficulty. She fell to the ground at Arwen’s side, tears flowing down her face as she lifted Arwen into her arms. Eowyn did not have to guess twice now to know who had finally arrived.
“Faye,” she began, but the woman was not listening, sobbing as she whispered frantically into Arwen’s ear.
The other woman had also approached, kneeling by Eowyn’s side and running her hands over Arwen’s distended belly.
“I am Ancalima,” she said before Eowyn could ask. “How long has she been bleeding?”
“Only a few minutes,” Eowyn replied, hoping that Ancalima possessed some healing skills. She herself had very little. “She started bleeding right before she fell from her horse.” She gestured to Atego.
“She was riding in this condition?” Ancalima asked, sounding shocked. “No wonder she is bleeding out.”
A fresh wave of terror filled Eowyn, but before she could respond, Lord Celeborn had appeared, flanked by Maida, Enarion, and several others.
“Go back for the healers!” Lord Celeborn immediately boomed out, and several turned their horses and rode back the way they had come.
“Faye, wake her up!” Ancalima snapped, and Eowyn turned to see that Arwen had fallen unconscious.
Maida and Lord Celeborn kneeled on either side of Faye, both clearly trying to hide their amazement. Maida in particular appeared to be resisting the temptation to throw her arms around Faye’s neck. Lord Celeborn grasped Arwen’s limp hand, beckoning the others closer.
“We have to get her back to the camp,” he said, unable to conceal the fear in his voice.
“No!” Ancalima declared, effectively stopping the others in their tracks. “She’s bleeding out, my Lord. If we move her, we will only cause more damage.” She looked around. “We can take her as far as that tree over there. It should be enough to protect us from the rain.”
By now, Faye had succeeded in partially arousing Arwen, though Eowyn could see that she had no perception of surroundings. Quickly, but carefully, she was moved to the tree Ancalima had pointed out. Eowyn removed her cloak and rolled it up, placing it behind Arwen’s head, her hands shaking as she did so. She had never seen Arwen so pale before.
“This is happening too fast,” she whispered hoarsely, glancing at Ancalima.
“I am no expert in childbirth,” the woman replied. “But one of my goats did this on me last season. I barely managed to save the kid.”
Eowyn stared at her, a sudden realization dawning. However, it was Faye who voiced it.
“We are not sacrificing Arwen!” she snarled, needle-sharp fangs bared. It was a horrible sight, and Eowyn winced despite herself.
“We have to try and save the baby!” Ancalima retorted just as fiercely.
“I will not let her die!!” Faye shouted back, her voice so harsh that everyone jumped. Her golden eyes were wide with fury and anguish. “I will not. . .I cannot.”
It was then that Lord Celeborn’s healers arrived, and the grim looks that instantly formed on their faces only increased Eowyn’s dread. An almost audible hum of worry filled the air. The healers quickly prepared themselves and Arwen for the imminent birth, most of the scouts moving to stand with the horses. Enarion was the only one that remained, gripping his mother’s shoulders and supporting her while she helped to hold Arwen. Faye was issuing a soft, continuous growl, her eyes wide with fear and apprehension.
Suddenly, Arwen’s eyes grew wide, and she let out a horrible scream. The muscles along her torso and legs tightened, and another wave of blood issued onto the already soaked soil. Eowyn reached out and grasped one of Arwen’s flailing hands, immediately feeling pain as her fingers were crushed into Arwen’s contraction-strengthened grip. She ignored it, focusing on Lord Celeborn, who appeared almost ill with worry. Arwen screamed again, and her grip tightened even more.
“This cannot be!” Eowyn declared aloud, amazed that the contractions were coming so close together considering it had barely been an hour since labor began. “This is happening too fast!”
“Who cares how fast this is happening?” Ancalima replied sharply, having taken over bracing Arwen’s right leg. “The point is that it is happening! Queen Arwen is going to birth this baby any minute.”
“Lady Arwen will die if she births too fast,” the healer bracing Arwen’s left leg said.
“The baby is crowning!” another healer shouted suddenly. “Push, Lady Arwen, push!”
Arwen appeared completely unaware that she was giving birth. Her eyes were clouded and unfocused, her pallor a mottled mix of gray-white and red. Sweat was coating her skin, and her breathing was little more than sharp gasps. Eowyn tightened her grip, whispering encouragement to her. She could see and feel Maida and Faye do the same.
Finally, with a strangled cry from Arwen, the newborn babe dropped into the waiting hands of the healers. Elation filled Eowyn as she gazed at the baby, laughing in relief as it coughed and began to cry. Blankets were produced, and the baby tended, dried and wrapped in the warm cloth.
“A little girl,” Ancalima informed, a bright smile on her face.
Maida abruptly let out a cry of delight, to which everyone laughed. For the moment, all attention appeared to be on the baby. However, Eowyn was quick to notice that Faye had not reacted at all to the infant’s birth. In fact, she seemed to be growing more distressed.
“The bleeding has not stopped!!” she snarled suddenly, her fangs bared. “Arwen is dying!!”
All happiness drained from the gathered instantly. True to Faye’s word, the blood was flowing continuously, Arwen’s skin paling as her body fell limp, eyes clouded completely. Ancalima hurriedly began massaging Arwen’s pelvis, but nothing happened.
“Is there no way to stop the bleeding?” Maida cried out desperately.
Eowyn needed no response from Ancalima to read the expression on her paled face. The woman had already determined Arwen’s fate.
If some miracle did not intervene in the next few minutes, Arwen was going to bleed to death.
* * * * * *
No pain that Faye had felt in her years of captivity amounted to what she was feeling now. She stared down at Arwen, her very being burning with heartache and the desperate desire to absorb the agony that flooded her beloved into her own body. None of the others gathered around her mattered. Faye did not see them. She only saw Arwen.
“This is happening too fast,” a fair-haired woman whispered to Ancalima, Faye barely hearing the words.
“I am no expert in childbirth,” Ancalima replied. “But one of my goats did this on me last season. I barely managed to save the kid.”
Rage filled Faye as she recognized the tone of Ancalima’s voice. She turned to her, fangs bared, eyes flashing.
“We are not sacrificing Arwen!” she roared.
“We have to try and save the baby!” Ancalima replied, just as angrily.
“I will not let her die!!” Faye screamed, clutching Arwen and bowing her head. She would have added that she cared nothing for the baby, but she did not voice those words. Her shoulders began to shake. “I will not. . .I cannot.”
Faye stared down at her beloved, blinking back tears as she gazed at the agony in Arwen’s eyes, a continuous low growl issuing from her throat. Arwen did not know she was there. Arwen did not know that Faye had kept her promise. Questions were flooding into Faye’s mind. Why was Arwen here? Where was her husband? Who was her husband? Where was Elrond, and Celebrían, and Galadriel? Why was only Celeborn in attendance? Would not the others have wanted to be a part of Arwen’s first child?
No. . .not her first. Faye remembered that day at the plantation. She remembered seeing Legolas–why had she not recognized him?–and hearing him shout at her. The boy she had struck. . .the Evenstar! Silently, Faye cursed herself for her ignorance. She should have been able to recognize the Evenstar. She had sworn her vow upon it. Why had she not? Why had she attacked that poor boy? Arwen’s son. . .
Faye gasped as Arwen suddenly unleashed a horrible scream. She grasped Arwen’s shoulders, dimly seeing the fair-haired woman and Maida take Arwen’s hands. Maida. . .Faye spared a glance in her direction. Maida was different from what Faye remembered. Her long hair was lighter now, the snow-white locks even more pronounced. Her eyes were wide and filled with fear, and after a moment she returned Faye’s gaze. Faye reached out and placed a hand over the entwined grip of her children, and Maida gasped and began to cry, tears sliding down her cheeks. She rested her other hand over that of Faye, and Faye forced a small, reassuring smile to form. Maida was as much a part of her as Arwen was, and she didn’t want the woman to cry any more than she wanted to see Arwen in pain.
Dull shouts echoed in Faye’s ears, informing her that the baby was crowning. She whispered desperately into Arwen’s ear, her words echoed by Maida. Celeborn was hovering nearby, but Faye did not turn to him.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Arwen gave a great sigh, and the sound of choked cries filled the air. The baby had been born at last. Faye felt Maida release her grip, cheering when it was announced the babe was a girl. However, she did not acknowledge the child. The smell of blood was filling the air, Arwen’s body shuddering underneath her hands. The bleeding had not stopped. The birth had done some sort of damage, and now Arwen’s life was draining from her. Faye cried out, furious at the others for daring to ignore Arwen’s plight.
“The bleeding has not stopped!!” she shrieked, fangs extended. “Arwen is dying!!”
Faye would never know why the copious amount of blood spilling onto the ground did not spark her hunger. Such things were no longer in her mind. She felt no hunger, nor predatory fury. She only felt fear. Arwen suddenly fell limp, her head lolling back, eyes dim and unfocused. Faye screamed again, gathering her beloved into her arms. She did not hear the others speak, did not acknowledge the hopeless tone of their voices.
“Arwen, no!” she cried. “I cannot let you die!”
Immediately, Faye lifted her hand to her mouth and tore open her palm. Her blood would heal the damage, and restore Arwen’s strength. . .
A great cry echoed through the air, and the eagle swooped down upon her, talons extended. Instinctively, Faye held up her bleeding hand to shield her face. She felt the bird’s talons sink into the flesh of her wrist and hand, tearing it open even further. The others were shouting in surprise, but before they could react, the eagle had flown up to the safety of a high tree. Faye stared at the new gashes, saw the blood trickling from them and dripping onto the soil. The tiny bits of moss and plant that grew there shriveled almost immediately. A few minutes later, the gashes sealed, but the damage to the ground was still there.
A deep overwhelming sense of loss filled her. In the excitement of the reunion with her loved ones, Faye had forgotten about the poison of Thuringwethil’s blade. It ran in the very essence of her blood, making it deathly toxic. It killed whatever it soaked into.
There was no hope. Faye could not perform the miracle anymore. Whatever help she could have offered Arwen had been stolen from her long ago.
Maida, who appeared to have comprehended what Faye had tried to do, was crying again. Faye had no words of comfort for her. Arwen’s body was shaking in her hands, her skin cold. Somewhere behind them, the newborn wailed. Desperate for an idea, Faye turned back to the patch of dead plant and soil. Surely, there was something she could do. . .there must be a way for her to save Arwen.
Frustration and panic peaked as Faye continued to stare at the patch of soil the blood had killed. She felt a weak jolt, and gasped as flame kindled in the blackened husks. Horrified whispers sounded as she swiped the fire out with her hand. To her surprise, she found that the soil underneath was clean. The fire had boiled away the poison.
Faye hesitated. Could fire purge the poison that flowed in her blood? She had the ability to set objects aflame, but her own blood? She looked around at the frightened faces of the others, then up at the eagle, which still stared down at her. She saw it give a tiny nod, as if it knew what she was thinking, and was confirming it.
“Faye. . .?” someone said, fearfully.
There was little time to spare. With a deep growl, Faye closed her eyes, concentrating on the beat of her heart. She willed the blood flowing inside her to grow hotter, to become liquid flame. Pain seared through every inch of her, but she did not stop. She forced her heart to pump the burning blood through her. Her vision was going white, the very air around her almost unbearably hot. It felt as if she had been thrown into a river of lava.
And then, the heat was gone. Faye opened her eyes, seeing the pink-tinged sweat that coated her skin. Quickly, she bit down upon her palm, squeezing blood out and watching it fall to the ground, letting it touch the leaves of a tiny vine of ivy.
Faye ripped deeper into her bleeding hand, using her other arm to lift Arwen from the ground. There were sounds around her, but she ignored them, shifting her arm so she could hold her beloved’s mouth open with her free hand. Someone grabbed her shoulder, but out of the corner of her eye she saw Maida shove the offender away, tears of renewed hope in her eyes. Faye raised her bleeding palm, clenching her fist to allow a small dribble of blood to flow into Arwen’s mouth. Arwen’s skin was pale white, the heartbeat against Faye’s fingers almost extinguished. Faye clung to her, hoping. . .
For a long moment, nothing changed. Then, to Faye’s deep relief and overwhelming joy, Arwen took a slow, deep breath. The blood stopped flowing, color and warmth slowly returning to her pale, clammy skin. A murmur of amazement echoed from the gathered, and Faye could see Ancalima and the fair-haired woman staring at her in open-mouthed shock. Maida was sobbing silently, her face radiant with joy. Celeborn was also smiling, the newborn infant resting quietly in his arms. Above her, the eagle crooned happily.
“Faye. . .?”
Faye turned. Arwen had opened her eyes, and she was gazing wearily up at her. Faye smiled, gently running her fingers over Arwen’s cheek.
“It is over, my child,” she whispered. “You have a daughter.”
Celeborn approached slowly, kneeling by Faye’s side and showing Arwen the baby. Faye gazed at it, suddenly thinking that she had never seen a more beautiful infant in her life. Of course the baby was beautiful! She was the child of the Evenstar. Faye supported Arwen as she sat up, and Celeborn gave her the infant. Tears trickled down Arwen’s face as she looked at her daughter.
“She is beautiful,” Arwen whispered.
“And healthy,” one of the healers said quietly. “You both will be just fine.”
Very slowly, Faye reached out and touched one of the baby’s tiny hands. Instantly, the baby’s soft grip closed around her finger. Arwen gasped quietly, and Faye looked up to see tears in her eyes.
“Faye,” she said again, her voice trembling. “What happened to you?”
Faye knew Arwen had spotted the fact that her thumbs were missing, and could now see her beloved’s eyes traveling across her body, seeing the scars on her face and throat, her immobile right leg, her partially missing left foot. She didn’t know how she could ever explain everything. But she knew she had to try. Arwen deserved that right.
“I killed Thuringwethil,” Faye said. “But beings far worse made sure I was not to return.” She sighed. “I have spent the last centuries enslaved by the Dark Lord and his servants.”
Faye raised her hand, gently silencing Arwen’s reply, wiping away the fresh tears that formed in her eyes.
“I have returned to you, my child,” she said. “I will not leave you again.”
A hand touched her shoulder, and she turned to see Celeborn smiling at her.
“Welcome back, Faye,” he said. “Welcome back.”