“She looks better,” Aragorn commented when Amaril had at last fallen asleep. He stood by the door, arms folded across his chest as he regarded the girl. Her hair was longer now, and her complexion had more color.
“Looks are deceiving,” Elrond replied, sitting in a chair by the bed, not looking at his foster son. “She’s very strong, but she is still in pain, and it will be a long road before she walks with ease under the sun, if she ever does.” He sighed. “Would that I could’ve gotten to her sooner.”
“What do you mean?” Aragorn demanded, not liking the Elf’s tone.
“The medicine my father made for her is meant to wash the poison from her, but he gives it too late,” Arwen explained slowly and Aragorn knew from her tone, and the careful way she placed her words, that the news was bad. “It is helping her yes, but the evil in the arrow has done its deed. We will do all we can, but even so Amaril’s chances are grim.”
“She will feel anniversary pain, you mean?” His question was more hopeful than anything else. In his heart he knew what Arwen meant, and from the slump in the Half-Elf’s shoulders he could see that Elrond thought the same.
“She might not last even that long.” Elrond shook his head and turned to face his daughter and the Man beside her. “No, this is very similar to the poison that was on the arrow that struck Celebrian. The best hope is to draw the poison out, as Amaril herself tried to do in Rhovanion, but she was either too late to start the bleeding or too early to stop it, for the venom remains. Now she has borne it for so long that even if we were to bleed her dry she would still feel its effects. ‘Tis a bitter dart that struck her, for even if she had come to us in time, she would still have suffered much ere the end. Celebrian was brought back to me in time for me to heal her in body if not spirit, and she was finally able to find comfort in the Undying Lands, but that way is not open to Amaril.”
“Nay,” Aragorn replied, “but for mortals there is another choice, though she has too much courage to accept it.”
“That choice is no longer hers to make. Death will come for her before her time. Already the pain of this venom burns her insides. If she stays here and rests, and troubles herself not, then she might have a year. If she continues her quest she will have a few months, but no matter what she chooses she will not return to her home, and she will have repeats of these fevers, and recover weaker each time, until finally she is so weak that the pain will be beyond her endurance and she will withdraw completely, and no power in this world will call her back. Too early does the night come for the Sun-maiden.”
“Is she aware of this…fate?” Aragorn was horrified at the cruel bind his young friend was in.
“I will tell her when the time comes,” Elrond said just as Arwen spoke the affirmative.
“She knows. She hasn’t said it in so many words, but she knows her time draws short. She told me so when we walked today.”
“The plan was to take her to you and then to Lord Círdan, and see what he makes of all this,” Aragorn said thoughtfully, “but if she is to grow progressively weaker that seems an ill course to take. Have you any other counsel?”
“I would have her stay her with me, and meet her end in peace, but the choice, in the end, is Amaril’s. It is for her to decide what she is capable of, and I will honor her decision, for the outcome is no different either way. But it is not my wish that she go alone.”
“I have always intended to go with her. The Wild is dangerous to wander unguided, even for those that are hale and whole.”
“Good. I was hoping you would decide thus. I warn you though, Aragorn, as I will warn her, to lay no hope in Círdan’s power. The Shipwright is the eldest and wisest of our kind in this Middle Earth, but even he will have no cure for her. It will be a long and arduous journey for naught, if life is what she thinks the West will bring her. However, if she understands that she will die no matter what we do and chooses to continue you may take her there. Though I think that in the end, Círdan will give you both the same counsel that I do.”
“And what counsel do you give Lord?”
“Both the kindreds of Men and Elves were wronged in the decisions of the Harachin. Mithrandir has given me word of Thranduil’s mind, and the King of Greenwood also sent word of Amaril’s arrival to Lórien. The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood have made their opinions known – the arrival of their messenger preceded your coming by a mere two days. I was surprised they bothered, for our time here is ending and Lothlórien gives little thought or care to the Wide World. For his part, Círdan has ever been a friend to the Edain, so I believe I can speak for all the Elves when I say that if the Harachin are ready to take their place in the world, and stand against the Dark as their kin and forefathers have done for three Ages, then so be it. They may come West, and join us in arms. But we are but the faded half of that old Alliance, and so it is the task of Men to decide the true fate of the Harachin. Since West is where the Harachin wish to go and it is the Rangers that guard the West, I leave it to their Captain to decide whether or not to pass grace on to those that fled.” He met Aragorn’s eyes, and the Ranger did not reply.
The next day Elrond told Amaril her fate, and, to his astonishment, found that she already knew. “When did you find out?” he asked, giving her a penetrating yet gentle stare.
She returned his gaze calmly. “From the beginning. I felt the arrow burn in me, and I knew. `Tis the same poison that killed my brother, and my uncle. I took it out, tried to bleed the wound, but I guess I was too slow, or didn’t bleed enough, because a day or so later, I had my first fever, and that was when I knew it was too late. I was getting over another fever when I came to Dol Guldur, and it had returned for a third time when Aragorn found me. It is by the healing virtues of your people that I have lived so long, and gone so long between the third and fourth fever.”
“Why did you tell no one? It would have been easier for you, I deem, had you at least told Indis. She could have cured you, had she known, for even then there was still time.” Amaril shook her head.
“No, for me there is no cure. I know this in my heart, just as I knew that if I told Indis, Gandalf, or Aragorn I would not have been permitted to leave King Thranduil’s halls. Now that you’ve figured it out, I suppose I am to remain here as well.”
“That choice is yours to make. You have three options open to you, Anorwen: you may indeed stay here, as a guest in my House, until your end is come, you may try to return to Rhûn, or you may go on West to the Grey Havens, with Aragorn. But be aware that should you choose to return to your home I can spare none to escort you, and Aragorn is needed here for a while.”
“I would not survive the journey,” she shook her head. “I have sworn an oath not to turn back, and even if I were to be somehow released from it, it is a long ways under the shadows and I have not the strength to face such evil again.” She sounded lost, forlorn, and Elrond placed an arm about her.
“You are welcome to stay here, for as long as you wish. You may last out the year, if you do not seek any trouble.”
“I thank you, Lord, but I swore an oath to seek grace, and see the Western Sea.”
“All the Elf Lords save Círdan the Shipwright have received word of your arrival. Perhaps even he knows, though few who seek his Havens ever return. They are all willing to suffer the return of the Harachin if they are willing to join against the Dark Lord, and I feel likewise. This means that your people must fight.”
“Then you need not travel further. If you will not make it home there is no reason for you to make the long trek acrfoss this country to see what is left of Beleriand. I have messengers that can go before Círdan and plead your case.”
“But what of Men? Men live here, and Aragorn has told me that your people fade.”
“Aragorn is right in this, Amaril. The Elves, though we were wronged by your people, are no longer the masters of the West. Your grace is only given in a small part, for our power fades, and it is in the hands of Men that the world shall rest.”
“Then who among men must I stand before? Aragorn has told me of the countries of Dale, Rohan, and Gondor. Do I go before the Kings of Dale and Rohan or the Steward of Gondor? Or will you send your heralds? Must I find the Lost King?”
“The Lost King you have already found,” Elrond said with a slight smile, “and it is he who holds the marches of this country.” It took her a moment to understand his meaning, and her mouth dropped open. How could she have been so dense? Would not the Lost King carry the Sword that was Broken? How much more did Elrond and his daughter have to spell things out for her? “There are many powers that work in this world, Amaril. A mighty doom is on you, just as a mighty doom is on Aragorn. He has not spoken his mind, but he is impressed enough with you that I think he too will grant your people grace.”
“Then if I stay I shall succeed only in part. That might be well enough, but I swore an oath, and I am honor-bound to fulfill it.” She thought for a moment. “If I am to die here how will I get word back to my people?” she finally asked the question that had been on her mind for a long while.
“Permission to return is not yet fully granted. When it is, then you may worry about the message home. Be assured that willing Harachin soldiers will not be left without a taste of battle.”
“Then my decision is made. I care little for how long I live, so long as my purpose is accomplished. Since the grace I seek is not fully given, I shall fulfill my oath by going West with Lord Aragorn, and meet the Shipwright Círdan, and see the sun set on Western waters. And then, if it is the pleasure of the Lords Círdan and Aragorn, I shall receive their judgement, and find some way for my people to be informed. I have but one question more.”
“And what is that?”
“When will I be judged fit to travel?”
“If I followed my own heart I would say `never’,” Elrond said, “but I can see that you are set on this course, however much shorter your life becomes, and so the answer I will give is `whenever you feel ready’.”
One week later, Aragorn and Amaril set out from Rivendell. They went mounted this time; Aragorn rode his brown Roheryn and Amaril the dun Sadhros. Amaril was a good enough rider, for though her people kept few horses she, as the Chieftain’s daughter, had been allowed the privilege of learning to travel and fight from the back of an animal. However, like the Arwen’s dresses, it was a gift too valuable for her to accept easily. Elrond’s beast master seemed to understand immediately and as he passed over the reins told her not to think of it as a gift, but as a loan.
“This is a worthy horse,” he said, “and a favorite of Lord Erestor, Master Elrond’s Chief Councillor. We will be wanting him back when your task is done.”
“She’ll take good care of him,” Aragorn assured them, grabbing the reins and shoving them into Amaril’s reluctant hands. “Mount up, Amaril. The road is longer than the maps would have you think.” Still reluctant she obeyed. Elrond and Arwen met them at the gates.
“Namarie, Amaril Anorwen,” Master Elrond said as she prepared to ride away. “I do not expect to see you again until the breaking of the world.”
“Farewell, Lord Elrond,” she replied, “and for your grace and healing I am in your debt. Lady Arwen Undomiel, I thank you for your friendship. Please also tell Saeros and Ormal I will never forget them. However word comes to them, my people will remember you all in kindness.”