A Tapestry of Three Worlds
High on a mountainside, he sits shrouded in the cool shade of dark firs. Keen grey eyes gaze down upon the train of elven carts and horses, tiny in the distance, as they depart the valley forever. Their fair voices lift in song as they make their way towards the mountain pass.
He watches as they turn oft to look back on a place that is home no longer, yet deeply beloved still, and abandoned with regret.
He watches as the last rider lingers, hair gleaming rich gold, and bestows on the valley a parting gift of song. In the valley, mortals pause in chores, or gather to listen spellbound, as this final song of farewell falls like fresh spring rain upon their hearts. Then, at last, even as the last haunting note of beauty from his lips echoes in the hills, the golden rider turns his white horse and vanishes through the mountain pass, shining in the morning sun.
The wanderer waits till the last notes of the others’ song fade beyond the hearing of his elven ears. He then descends the hill like a wraith. He knows not how oft he will venture here again in years to come. The children of his soul-son are gone. And his blood-cousins’ children, and all of his kind. And his fëa is heavy, heavy beyond even the power of his wondrous voice to express. He is silent and hollow-hearted as he walks, but the trees sigh and mourn in the breeze as he passes them by.
He heads without hurry towards the pass. He has nothing if not time.
He travels along the trail left by elven cartwheels and light elfhorse hooves, and sees in his mind the roads they will take west to Lindon. Sees the sea stretching to infinity that he has long ages wandered by. He knows each cove and cliff and shore and rock of the coastline with the intimacy of a lover, who has seen land shaped over long millennia of weathering by Manwë’s winds and Ossë’s waves, as he walked the long leagues and added his song to theirs.
But his road will not take him back there. Not yet.
He leaves the valley heavier in hröa as well than when he came. On his back is a pack of supple, oiled leather, dyed a slate-grey. It had been left upon the stone where a kinslayer and a traitor had sat and spoken. He had stared long from a hidden vantage point at the gift, and left it there, resolved to deny himself whatever comforts it held.
But at last, in the black of the night, he had returned, slipped out of hiding like a shadow, and taken it.
In it, a cloak, a pair of boots, a knife, a short sword, a flask of miruvor, a dozen leaves of elven waybread. And a note in Quenya scrawled in the loose, flowing hand of a certain tall elflord.
Still we beseech you, kinsman—come, come with us. Yet wheresoever your road leads may you find peace and blessing. The Valar in their mercy and grace keep you well.
The wanderer feels the bite of cold in the air. Whispers of winter. As the tracks of the Imladrim disappear westward, his feet turn south.
The sun smiles warm and bright upon the bright, sparkling waves of the harbour, and white terns hover on the playful winds above in a clear sky of deepest cerulean blue.
He is sitting on the wharf, laughing and singing with some Telerin fishermen as he helps them mend their nets, when he hears the shout.
He turns his golden head sharply at that name.
The stranger who had been running toward him along the wharf comes to an abrupt stop, and stammers an apology.
“I—I beg your pardon—” shouts the pale-haired, blue-eyed elf in Sindarin over the distance between them. “I thought you one whom I know.”
Rising to his feet, the shining elflord leaves the fishing nets and closes the distance between them, his bright mane streaming unbraided in the strong sea breeze. As he approaches, lithe and swift and dressed simply like the other fishermen in an open-necked linen tunic and breeches, he yet looks princely… and the newcomer to Aman is thinking that he had not believed anyone could have a gaze like that except Lady Galadriel—and how does a gaze that penetrating feel… kind?
Lady Galadriel… by Araw Tauron, this one could be she in male form, her very twin…
“Glorfindel,” the stranger of Aman says eagerly, his smile warm and luminous. “You know him, then? Have you just arrived from Ennor, mellon?" His exilic Sindarin is fluent and melodious.
“Yes, our ship has just docked,” replies the Sinda, still staring and transfixed by the grey eyes that seem to gaze into the depths of his fëa. “Glorfindel is the dearest of friends to me, and I thought you were he, when I espied your hair... but I should have known he could not have arrived—not yet—not when his ship was set to sail a month after mine—”
The Sinda had not thought it possible for that brilliant gaze to intensify, but it does. The fair face of the elflord lights with an incandescence to rival any smile of Glofindel’s.
“He has sailed?”
The Halls of Mandos are quieter now. Fewer of the fëar of the Firstborn now remain.
Mandos floats down from his shining dome, past tiers of chambers. His eyes linger over those who, undergoing cleansing and healing still, are confined to chambers and tended by his maiar.
Then there are the others. Those who have chosen to stay. Who have declined to return to the land of the living. Mandos pauses at the chamber of one such.
"No,” says the white, fiery fëa within, before the Vala can even speak a word. ”Not unless you bring her back to me from beyond the circles of Arda.” At the heart of its whiteness swirls a deep gash of crimson. The wound of a love that will not be released or be healed.
“It cannot be done,” replies the Lord of the Dead. ”Not until Arda is unmade. In this, the will of Eru is immutable.”
“Then till that day I shall remain.”
Gwîr has appeared at the side of her lord as the Noldo speaks. The pair of Valar regard the lovelorn fëa gravely.
“Yet I may give him what comfort I may,” says the Weaver. Scenes appear on the walls of the chamber. Twilight at a northern lake surrounded by mountains. A pair of lovers, fair and dark. There are other scenes the Valie will not paint… the parting, quiet and dignified, that had been followed by a storm of private grief… an ellon stealthily spying in the woods along a favourite pathway, watching the passage of the years take their toll upon the face and frame so beloved.
The Weaver leaves them in their eternal spring in the hills of Dorthonion. And the Judge looks dour as they depart the chamber. ”I mislike this,” he grumbles to his lady. ”So do you cocoon his wounded heart in soft forgetfulness of pain, in sweet dreams and memory. You deny him the pain of his healing, for it is meet that he should gird himself like a warrior, and take up his flame, and live again.”
“A time for judgment, and a time for mercy,” replies the Weaver. ”It is meet that we relieve what pain and sorrow we may, since he will not release his wound.”
“It is the mystery of these Children… that they would cherish their wounds so dearly rather than relinquish them and be whole.”
“No mystery but the mystery of love,” says the grave Weaver softly. “And know you not what that is, my lord?”
And she ghosts a kiss across his pale lips before gliding away lower.
They descend, then, to the middle reaches where lie the vast halls of history, where the story of Eä plays eternally on the high walls of each wide corridor.
Many of the Firstborn, souls shining white, choose to spend a season in these halls once their cleansing is complete. Here, they discover what awaits them in the land of the living, learn what has happened since their demise, search for beloved faces…
Days and months and years fly past easily here, as the grand march of history unfolds events great and small, and the tapestries of time draw one in, so that one journeys mesmerized from one flow of images to the next, captivated by things both dark and beautiful, lofty and humble, grievous and glorious.
There are maiar who hover in these halls to tend these souls. For all too easily can the scenes of history inflict fresh hurts that need to be salved, or bring knowledge they must grapple to come to terms with. A few will need to spend time in the Gardens of Lórien once released, as they transition to the world of the living.
Mandos and Gwîr have now come to the aid of a maia, who has summoned them, uncertain how to answer a question posed by one such fëa.
This fëa has floated restlessly through the halls, exploring the vast heights and depths and width of the realm of Mandos, and searched down these long passages telling the history of Arda from the first music to the present.
Now, she faces the Lord of the Dead and his Lady as they appear, and demands of them:
“Where is my son?”
The old dwarf is stirred to consciousness by the well-known voice in his ear. ”Mellon-nín… here are two visitors to see you.”
He grunts, resenting disturbance, as he feels still the detestable rise and fall of the ship. He slowly opens his eyes to see the face of his best friend close to his own.
Legolas gives Gimli a wan smile, his fair face full of concern. Two blurry figures stand on the other side of the narrow bed, their heads haloes of warm, bright gold. The dwarf’s eyes are dim, and he cannot make them out clearly. The one closer to him bends a face closer to his.
A smile slowly creases the old dwarf’s face. “Why… it is she,” he says in a weak, quavering voice. “I had forgotten… how surpassing fair the Lady of the Woods is.”
“I welcome you to the blessed realm beyond the west, Gimli son of Glóin,” she says with a radiant smile.
“Three shining hairs you gave me, Lady. They remain in Middle Earth as a treasure of my people. Now I have laid eyes once more… on that which is most fair and bright… I depart to the Halls of Waiting in peace.”
“Do not say that yet, Gimli,” says Legolas sadly. “We had plans…”
“Nay, Gimli son of Glóin, hasten not yet thither. Linger awhile, and find refreshment for both spirit and body here.” A cool hand is laid on his wrinkled brow.
“And for yet a while,” says a new voice, as melodious as the lady’s but lower, and strangest of all, it speaks fluently in ancient Khuzdul. “For yet a while, son of Durin the Deathless, thou mayst even visit the Halls of Mahal thy Maker and speak with him if thou wish...”
A third face stoops over him, so like the Lady’s, and also so like another he knows.
“Glorfindel?” he murmurs. For the first time it strikes him how similar the elflord of Imladris and the Lady are in appearance, now he sees them side by side.
“Nay, worthy Khuzd,” smiles the elflord, speaking still in Khuzdul. “Not Glorfindel. In days of yore thine fathers named me Felak-gundu.”
“Felak-gundu!” marvels the dwarf. “Hewer of caves, ancient friend of the Khazâd of Harn Baland!”
His voice has been growing stronger as he speaks, and Legolas heaves a sigh of relief. For a moment, he had thought he was losing his friend. The aged dwarf had been so fragile that Legolas had been afraid to even move him after the ship had docked.
Both the golden lord and lady lay gentle hands on the dwarf – the lady on his brow, the lord on the thick white beard over his heart – and warmth and strength begin to flow back into the old limbs and the heart to beat more strongly. Legolas watches as colour returns to his friend’s face. The elf smiles.
The dwarf looks at the three elves bending over him and blinks, seeing them clearly now.
“How are you feeling now, mellon-nîn?” asks Legolas with a grin.
“Bloody awful,” groans the dwarf, feeling the ship gently bob up and down in the harbour. “Get me off this accursed ship!”
The wanderer moves like a shadow beneath golden-leaved boughs of mellyrn. His feet have walked the length and breadth of Ennor, but never in the days of Nenya’s power did he enter these woods. Only in the last few decades, long after it has lain abandoned by the galadhrim, has he wintered here. The trees of gold awaken memories of Tirion, and though such thoughts of the distant past bring both pain and pleasure, his feet have been drawn here yet again. Each winter he comes, he sees evidence of the fading… the leaves more sparse, the gold less bright… but beautiful and enchanted still.
He approaches a great mound at the heart of the woods, with its two circles of trees, white and gold. Even from afar he senses that he is not alone… senses sorrow and despair and the faint light of a life slowly ebbing away.
She is as a shadow herself, as she lies at the foot of the greatest mallorn at the center of the mound, arrayed in her black veil and dress of mourning. Her raven tresses lie spread around her, streaked through now with silver. She is pale as death, and lines of mortality and grief have in the past few months etched themselves upon the face that once was fairest. But still, he knows her.
He approaches silently. Kneels near her. Recalls a child running at her father’s side, a maiden singing on the hillslopes. He had let his own song fall silent to listen with pleasure to this nightingale.
He has sung naught but grief and lamentation for millennia. But now, ever so softly, from his lips lilts that tune of a maiden in the springtime of her life. And her grey eyes slowly open. They are dim, unfocused, and search awhile before they find him.
“You,” she whispers in Sindarin, her voice barely audible. “I know you.”
“Arwen,” he says, softly.
“Is… Ada here?”
She closes her eyes. “He sang us… songs you sang him…” she breathes.
Her voice cracks with dryness, her lips are parched. He takes out a flask and makes to drip miruvor into her mouth, but she turns aside from it with a frown, wishing nothing to delay her dying.
He sets down the flask. He is intimate with such despair and loneliness. Such sorrow. “Daughter, how may I help you?” he asks gently.
“…will you… sing…?”
He takes her hand as it lies on the still-green grass. It is cold, so cold, thin and frail, the bones like a bird’s beneath flesh grown loose.
He begins to sing the Lay of Leithian.
Her fingers tighten ever so slightly on his. Tears shine in her eyes, but the ghost of a smile touches her lips.
He awakens in the middle of the night, and finds her side of the bed empty. With a stretch, he rises and drapes a silver robe over his shoulders, then heads out of the room. He feels where she is.
He finds her sitting at the center of the small room off his study, curled up on a small couch, looking up at the portraits on the wall. The glowing lamps hovering in the air shimmer bright on the pale gold hair that tumbles over her shoulders… hair that is just that shade between gold and silver found in a rare few of both the Teleri and the Vanyar.
She turns her head and smiles luminously as he comes up to her with his golden hair flowing down his back. It has always been their joke that it is he who looks more the Vanya, and she more like the half-Teler. She wears a loose blue silk night-robe embroidered with white lilies. It brings out the colour of her eyes, eyes bright with the light of the two Trees. She shifts to make space for him on the couch. He seats himself and pulls her into his arms.
“What happened, arimelda?” he asks.
“Oh, I had a dream.” She is calm, almost serene, as she puts her arms around his neck.
Images of the golden-haired balrog slayer shine on the wall before them.
“Oh…” The prince is concerned. After five thousand years, the other woman is not an awkward topic between them. But for his princess to come here, in the middle of the night, careful not to wake him… “Will you not tell me of your dream?”
She hesitates, and his concern deepens. Then she says, in a level voice, “I dreamed I was slapping her and calling her a miserable slut.”
Of all the things he might have expected, that would probably have been the last. He gapes at his sweet lady, who after so many millennia is still able to surprise him. “I did not even think you knew that word, beloved,” he finally says. The word had not even existed, before the Exile. The things that had been brought back to these shores from the mortal lands…
“I did not either. I must have heard it somewhere,” she says matter-of-factly. “I did not know either, how angry I still was, with her. And I thought myself so forgiving.” She looks rueful but there is a wry smile touching her lips.
And he remembers that day, five millennia past, when she had come running out to meet him at Avallonë, feeling the restless, conflicting surges of excitement and anguish within him.
“What is it?” she had asked, anxiously. “Why do you shut me from your thoughts?”
Wordlessly, he had taken her away from the villa of his Telerin cousin, whom they had been visiting, to a quiet and secluded cove along the shoreline where they could speak in secret.
“Please,” she had said, as he paced about the rock pools. “Tell me what has happened.”
“I do not know how to… I scarcely understand it myself…” He stopped his pacing and took her into his arms. “I love you so much. You do trust me?”
“Of course,” she had said simply.
"Arimelda… I have a son. I have just seen him today. I have a son! And I know not how he could have come to be. There has never been anyone but you…”
Her mouth was slack with shock, her large eyes dazed, uncomprehending. “A… a son?” she faltered, and pulled away from him. “Not… Gildor?”
“No… my own flesh and blood. I knew, the moment I saw him. I… recognized him in my fëa. Laurefindel of Ondolindë, slayer of the valarauco.”
She knew the name. All Eldamar did. “How…?” she whispered, “…how can this be?”
“I have an idea when it happened. Laurefindel…” He remembered again the tall, lithe figure waving from the white ship, the radiant smile, the golden hair blowing in the sea winds, and his mind shared the images with hers. “Laurefindel was about a month out of the womb when he came to Nevrast in the fifty-first year of the sun. Itarillë celebrated his begetting day on the forty-second day of Yavië.” He paused. “I was in Doriath, then...” There had been many Iathrin admirers, numerous fair ones vying for his attention. “By what enchantments and trickery this came to be, I know not… but I would assay a guess that my sister does. Who else would have brought the child to Turno in Nevrast?”
He remembered the dream of his beloved he had in Menegroth—that he had treasured so deeply and that had comforted his loneliness for four centuries. It wrenched him to realize now that this dream was no gift of Irmo, as he had esteemed it, but witchery.
Amárië too, was recalling the dream. Her face and voice were bleak. “So that was no dream. It was real… and… it means it was another, not I, to whom you were wed.”
His grey eyes flashed and he held her tightly to him. “No! A wedding is an act of love and free will, and if I was indeed bewitched, it was no wedding. And if wed to any, it was you I dreamed that night, you that I loved and wed. To me, he is our son. He even has your eyes. The exact shade of blue...”
And suddenly, he saw Rílel’s azure eyes.
“Celeborn’s niece,” he said flatly.
And then had followed years of seeking and enquiry. Piecing together details of the life of the son he never knew. Quietly seeking news of Rílel, but finding always that she was still in Mandos. Finally, meeting with Turgon again, once he returned among the living, but learning little more than he had already guessed of Galadriel’s part in it.
Through it all, Amárië had been magnificent.
“I feel sad for her,” she had said to her beloved. “She loved and gambled and lost all. You and the child. And at last, her life.”
It had been Amárië who had quietly approached Idril some years after, and had the first painting of Glorfindel commissioned as a gift for Finrod’s begetting day. Over five thousand years, she had added to the collection of paintings, even as Finrod’s research slowly yielded an extensive number of maps and notes. Finally, she had suggested moving it all into that small room off the study.
“I may share no blood with him,” she would say. “But I love him because he is yours. And whatever I learn of him only makes me love him all the more.
But the news that Glorfindel was finally on his way back to Aman unsettled her. And now, this dream. They gaze at the portraits of his son. One, where he is seated on a beautiful white horse, smiles down at them with Rílel’s mouth.
“I woke up,” Amárië is saying, “just as I was about to pull her hair.”
Finrod chuckles and kisses her. “So, my dove is a hawk at heart.”
“A wildcat, more like. And the worst thing? I enjoyed my dream.” She sighs and leans her silvery-gold head on her hand. “Not very Vanyarin at all. Truth be told, I was relieved to hear she does not wish to leave Námo’s halls. I almost danced with joy.” She looks at her love. “Perhaps I need some time in Estë’s care. Am I not a horrible, hypocritical nís?"
“No. You are the kindest and most generous of nissi, but only human withal. And I love you for it.”
“Well… we are all packed for Avallonë. Why not leave now? The stars are so beautiful tonight.”
“Certainly. I shall let Edrahil know.”
And, hand in hand, they leave the little room.
As the white ship cleaves swiftly through the waters, Arman effortlessly climbs the central mast and sits on the small platform at the top by the side of his twin. They gaze out at the endless stretch of sea before them.
“Another fortnight to where we leave the Bent World, Círdan guesses,” Arman says. “I feel… excited and terrified and impatient all at once.” For all of them, and all the mariners aboard, it is a great leap into the unknown.
“Me too,” Aryo says softly, after a while.
Arman glances at his twin, but keeps silent.
“I am all right,” says Aryo tetchily.
“Did I say anything?”
“I am so done with love.”
“I said nothing!”
“And it is just as well. Who would marry the sons of a traitor?”
“I could not marry anyone, and keep such a secret from her.”
Arman cuffs his twin sharply. “That is Ammë you are talking about, toad! So are you ashamed of her? Is she this dirty secret you have to hide?”
“I love Ammë. I am just stating the hard truth. Her past is a secret all of us will have to hide. And if either of us marries, the secret risks being exposed.”
“Well, I would like to think anyone I love enough to marry would be trustworthy enough to keep my secrets!”
“Arman! What nís would be able to accept that our Ammë was once a nér who lusted for his cousin, betrayed his own kind to Moringotto, destroyed a whole city, and basically caused our Atto’s death? And is regarded by the Quendi as the most evil person in their history? Far worse than even Fëanáro and his sons—?”
“Shut up, you louse!” Arman clouts his twin hard.
"Owwhh! Look, are you saying that it has been easy for you to accept?”
“She is just Ammë, all right? The rest—is—is history. That happened to a different person. In a different life. It should not matter anymore.”
“But it does, Arman! None of us will ever be able to run away from who she was.”
“Yes, was! She is the best Ammë in Arda, and you and I adore her and the rest is all muk that happened six thousand years ago. There is no use talking about it, so—just—don’t!”
“Fine. What do you want to talk about then?”
“Plans. There is so much for us to do in Aman.” Arman speaks in a rush. “Vast lands to explore, so much to see… Ammë and Atto have given us leave to make our own way, but I was thinking we should head south with them. Then, after the baby is born, we could seek Oromë, and ride with him as Atto once did.”
“Oh…” says Aryo. “Well… you know that I always planned to seek apprenticeship somewhere. If not with Aulë, then with Mahtan. And you could hone your talent with jewels.”
“But it can wait, surely. Just a hundred years. Let us roam awhile first and see all the wondrous lands Atto described. We could always do crafts even a millennium from now—”
"Amil says one ought to start young. She did—”
“Why? We are immortal, are we not?”
“We should develop our powers and creativity now, in our youth, the optimum time for an Elda to learn and grow in his craft. Think of it. By our age, Fëanáro had developed Tengwar and made the palantiri—”
“Oh, Eru! You are not going to even begin to compare us to Fëanáro!” Arman rolls his blue eyes skyward.
“Telperinquar and Amil began smithing from the time they could walk—”
“Their fathers were obsessive, despotic maniacs, that is why—”
“Curufinwë was not! He was a brilliant craftsman, only he never escaped his father’s shadow—”
“And so he messed up his son. And you, orc face, just leaped to the defence of a kinslayer instead of our maternal grandfather—”
“That kinslayer is our great-uncle on both sides, troll breath.”
"Half-great-uncle who betrayed our noble paternal grandfather,” Arman shoots back. “Don’t forget that!”
They gaze out at the endless ocean and feel the roll of the ship.
“It feels strange, does it not? From having no kin save Amil and Atar, to suddenly having hundreds,” says Arman.
“And some extremely complicated and scary kin at that.”
"Ná. Just look at Amil’s Atar.”
“I can understand why Amil found it hard to tell us anything.”
Arman sighs. “I always thought that if there was a new Gondolin in Eldamar, I would want to live there, you know? Go into the service of Turukáno. Meet Ecthelion and the other lords… and I dreamed that Atar might even head the House of the Golden Flower again.”
“I know, pitya. I loved Atar’s stories of Gondolin as much as you.”
"Atar may never speak to any of them again.”
“He might, if he keeps Amil a secret.”
“Is Amil going to have to hide forever? And we keep her a secret till the Second Music?”
Aryo sighs. “I do not know. But I am glad we are finally talking about it.”
“What is the point? I hate talks that end in no solutions.” Arman sinks his chin onto his hand. “Now I feel like muk. That is all the good talking about things does.”
They feel the wind on their faces, and watch the sun shine dazzling on the waves.
“A compromise,” says Aryo. “Five years of craft apprenticeship, then five years of travel or in Oromë’s forest. Then we can decide what we each want to do. We can take separate roads if need be, and meet on feast days.”
Arman smiles. Ever since Ithilien, they had been as inseparable as they had been as children. Arman had feared to leave Aryo alone for more than a day, for he tended to sink into black moods. Aryo in turn had seemed to cling to his brother like a lifeline. “Done,” says the younger brother.
The twins give each other a hug, which quickly turns into a contest to see who is first to put a chokehold on the other.
Then, laughing like elflings, they slide down the mast in search of lunch.
Mandos had brought her there, once, but that was a long while ago. It is hard for her to find his chamber again amongst the innumerable ones spiralling skyward in the Halls of Awaiting.
She finds it at last, and floats in. Her fëa shines white in the gloom. His is still an angry swirl of darkness more than light.
This chamber itself is dimmed and shadowy from the images that restlessly flit over the walls. The visitor watches the familiar faces and places as they appear fleetingly and are gone.
"You again. Why are you still here?” comes the thought from the fëa of this chamber. “Go.”
“I have not been here for an age,” says the visitor. ”Have you no better welcome for me?”
“You wanted your freedom from me badly enough, once upon a time. You have it now. So. Leave.”
“You do not mean that,” comes the reply, half teasing, half tender.
On one of the walls, a small boy with eyes of obsidian black, a welt dark on his left cheekbone, face twisted in a scowl of hate. Too proud to cower before the raised fist, too proud to even shed a tear at the pain. The eyes, murderous, flicker with golden fire as they look up through a thick curtain of black hair at the one towering tall before him. The small hands are clenched into fists.
“It is true I hated you for that,” says she quietly. “I could have killed you for it.”
“You had many chances to. Yet you did not.”
“My love was greater than my hate.”
“Love…” He is bitter, mocking. “Was that what we had?”
“Part of it was. A dozen times at least I thought of leaving, of taking him far beyond your reach…”
“I never chained you or locked you up. You chose to stay.”
“Yes. You know why. One look, one touch, made me yours again. I loathed you. I needed you. You were not always the brute. You had… moments.”
The boy, slightly older and taller, stands upon a raised block, fashioning a blade upon an anvil with a skill beyond his years, his shoulders already showing strength. He turns his head and gazes at them with sullen, proud eyes, his pale face schooled into expressionlessness.
“I taught him discipline. Strength. To be a man. He learned fast,” says the dark one. Then, very quietly, “He hates me.”
“Hated. He has forgiven you.”
“Is he gone?”
She is silent, wondering how much to tell.
“Yes.” Almost two yéni ago, she had found out.
She decides not to tell.
“You should be gone as well. Go find him. You hate being here.”
“I am going. I have come to say goodbye.” The white fëa draws very close to the darker. “Come find us, when you leave.”
Another scene. A throne room. A javelin flying through the air. Death by a slow poison stealing through the veins.
“I forgave you for that long ago,” says the white fëa. ”I would have returned to you, had you not pursued." She hovers, poised to go. “I shall be looking for you. You shall find me, if you seek me, riding free with the Lord of the Hunt.”
And then she is gone.
The images shift. A cell in a dungeon. Despair in black eyes of one desiring naught but his own end. He waits for the news he knows will come, of a death. She might have been saved, had he spoken. Had they known of the poison ere it crept into her heart.
But he had kept his silence, knowing himself already dead. And claiming her as his own even in death.
Six and a half millennia were not long enough to atone for such sin.
“It was not love,” growls the murderer quietly to the empty air.
Emptier and darker than before feels the chamber, now he knows her truly gone.
The discussion on deck is conducted in all seriousness.
“To be an elleth is surely disguise enough?” says Lindir to the others.
“Yet I knew her from the first,” says Glorfindel, looking fondly at her. “The eyes. It was her eyes.”
“I certainly cannot change my eyes."
“Hmm… it is most certainly the eyes. It is that piercing stare,” says Elladan, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Could you not soften your gaze a little, mellon?”
“Ay, be a gentle lady, now. Not such a gimlet-eyed termagant,” says Elrohir with a grin.
“Bestow upon us a gaze soft as spring blossoms… come, try it…” coaxes Lindir.
“Ay, sweetness, you should refrain from staring at people as though they are insects or lackwits… there it is! You are doing it! You are doing it right now!" cries Elrohir, shrivelling with great drama under her malevolent glare. ”Ai, if looks could kill!”
Glorfindel bursts out laughing, and reaches out to stroke her raven hair. ”Melda, you played the part of the demure maiden so well when you first came to Imladris. Surely you can do so again?”
“Though I despised it then and I abhor it now, I can do it. But I will not do it right now, not when commanded to like a performing dog.”
“We are only trying to help,” says Lindir meekly.
“I know, mellyn. I am grateful. Forgive my ill humour.” She is almost as uncomfortable aboard a ship as a dwarf, and growing heavier with child and sleeping rarely has not helped.
“We shall meet few people along our way, if all goes well,” says Glorfindel to the others. “We plan to keep away from the cities and towns, and travel straight through the Calacirya and south to the great forests.”
“You will need to take ship from Tol Eressëa to the mainland,” says Erestor.
“A small fishing vessel manned by Teleri who have never been to Ennor? That should be easy enough to find and will pose no difficulty. It is travelling on the roads past Tirion that may be trickier.”
As Círdan approaches, they change the subject.
“Anyone for a game of cards or chess?” says Elrohir brightly.
“As long as it is not with Celeborn. He never loses,” grumbles Erestor.
Then, they all pause, and gaze at the horizon ahead. Or where the horizon had been, a moment past. Swirls of rainbow light dance before the ship, and a sound like a rushing wind begins to rise, and swells till they can barely hear themselves think.
All the elves on board stare mesmerized at the glow that beckons to them. And as the ship flies towards the portal of light, they each murmur a fervent prayer.
The king stands at the window watching the winds ruffle the treetops of the red-gold woods. He stirs himself out of his reverie, realizing he must have been lost in thought for hours.
He turns back to look at the table. On it, letters and a pouch from Imladris. A letter of farewell and counsel from his uncle, who has decided at last to journey west. In the pouch, a dozen white jewels of surpassing beauty, shimmering with rainbow light, crafted by a young ellon as his farewell gift to the king he once served.
Next to these, a long leather cylinder brought north by elves who have returned to live once again in the Forest of Greenleaves.
Thranduil opens it, and pulls out the large scrolls of ivory-hued parchment that are rolled up within. Sea charts. Blueprints for shipbuilding. He gazes at them thoughtfully. Then rolls them up and returns them to the leather cylinder.
It is time for the autumn feasts in the woods. He lays the scrolls in their leather case before his son’s portrait.
He takes up his crown of russet leaves and red autumn berries, sets it upon his head, and leaves his chamber to join his people.
He stays by her side throughout the winter, through sun and rain, and for her he lays aside songs of woe.
From his lips come all the songs of childhood he once sang to a young pair of twins. He hears the clash of swords in the Havens, remembers the nightmares that woke them—and him—in the nights. He remembers the feel of small bodies pressed against his as he awakens to find they have crawled yet again into his bed, fearful of monsters in their own room. How innocent they had been of the true monster that he was, fair of face but black of soul. How touchingly they had gripped his hand for comfort, that had shed the blood of their kindred.
As he sings the old, familiar songs he remembers yet other children. His younger brothers as he sang to them. Himself, as his mother sang to him. He would have wept for the loss and doom of all those children, but he has no tears left to shed. No more than she… he sees her own memories flit across her face, sometimes a smile, then a frown. Her lips move in silent conversations with people unseen. Sometimes, she seems to shake with weeping, but her eyes now remain as dry as his own.
As the nights grow cold, he takes a cloak from the oiled-leather pack, that one of the peredhel twins had contributed to it.
The wanderer now lays the new dark-grey cloak over Arwen. As weeks pass, her breaths grow shallower. He gently strokes the once-raven hair as he sits by her, and he softly sings, weaving a spell of such beauty and comfort with his music that her face is serene, even as each breath becomes a struggle.
She speaks only once more, as the first buds appear on the mellyrn, and leaves of gold begin to fall. He barely makes out the words.
Her face in death is young and radiant, all lines of grief smoothed away.
He buries her where she lies, her brother’s cloak her shroud. He raises a shallow mound of earth over her, and scatters early-blooming niphredil over the grave. He then finds a grey stone, and with Maeglin’s blade he takes his time to chisel letters upon it. As he does so, he remembers his mother’s hands on his as she had taught him, his hands almost too small then to hold the tools.
Golden leaves fall in the empty woods as spring comes. They flutter onto the mound and upon the stone he has left to mark the grave.
She was neither Queen nor Evenstar of her people to him, so on the grey stone the wanderer has chiselled, in the ancient classical mode of Tengwar:
Arimelda (Q) – dearest
Eca (Q) – sod off (or even ruder than that)
Tolen (S) – I come