To Your Mark

Chapter 37

Sinking. That was what if felt like.

It felt as though she were endlessly drifting in a sort of empty void, simply hanging in the space around her. After what felt like an eternity passed by, a strange weightlessness had settled into the seemingly hollowed out cavity of her chest. While she lay there, drifting through the barren space, she felt as though she were submerged in a deep pool of water. And she was perpetually drifting downwards as if she were going to soon rest upon the sand floor of a still lake.

And yet, there seemed to be no bottom. There was only endless water.

At one point, she had somehow managed to eased her eyes open, despite the fact that she couldn't move the rest of her body. She found that the liquid she was floating in was nearly as black as ink, or rather, maybe night had fallen.

Despite that she was completely submerged within the water, she found it odd that she was not drowning. It was almost as if she had no need for air or even breathing for that matter.

And she no longer felt pain. Her worries were a thing of the past, for they were lost upon her mind given that there was nothing she could do to make it back. She felt nothing really, almost as if she was only an empty and unmoving shell.

Her long life slowly played before her eyes.

She watched as she ran among the grand trees in Lothlorien with her sister, received her first knife, and shot her first bow. The day she first road a horse played through her mind, as did when she first encountered Gandalf and all the wonderful times they shared together. She remembered the terrible day when her sister was married and the day her nephews were born. But then she watched as Celebrian was kidnapped and beaten by Azog. She saw how she was also captured and nearly raped by the pale orc.

And then happier memories presented themselves to her, most of them coming from the time she spent with the Company. Especially Thorin.

Their time together would have made her smile, should she have been capable of doing so.

They had hated each other so much in the beginning. They were always butting heads and struggling over who was to lead the group onward. And then there were some sweet moments between them like when he gave her his coat after she had saved his nephews. The kiss they almost shared on Beorn's lands after she tended to his wounds. The two of them sleeping curled into the other in Mirkwood. Dancing with each other in Laketown. The intense emotions that had played across his face just before he kissed her, in that moment claiming her heart as his.

And all the other times they had shared with each other.

This is not so horrible. She thought to herself as she continued to gradually lower further into the inky water, the fabric of the clothes she still bore floating around her as she watched her life over and over as if it were on repeat. If this is death, then this is not wholly unpleasant.

However, just as she thought those things to herself, a bright, nearly blinding light shown above her through the murky depths of the water above.

She allowed her eyes to narrow slightly, for they suddenly burned due to the change in light and even then, Ren found that she could not look away from the glow above the surface. There was something about it that made her almost warm inside. There was something about it that began to make her feel again.

Just as she had been sinking, she stopped drifting downward suddenly and began to be pulled back upwards.

As she drew closer to the surface, she found that she once again needed air. Once again, she needed to breathe and out of instinct of survival and self preservation, her body suddenly thrashed about as she tried to claw for oxygen.

Propelling her once numb body upwards, she found that her lungs burned painfully in her chest and strangely enough, she was relieved to find that her body had begun to feel and need things again. As she drew nearer to the surface, she noticed that the water began to grow lighter around her, the light filtering into the liquid around her.

Just when she thought that she no longer could hold her breath, her finger tips broke through the once glassy surface.

She came up out of the dark water gasping and desperately gulping for air. It took her a moment to regain her bearings and she sunk back into the water for a moment before she began to kick her legs to keep herself afloat.

Blinking the suddenly burning and rather salty water from her eyes, she continued to gasp for breath.

Bobbing up and down in the water, it took her a moment but she then realized that she saw something lying off in the distance. Taking a moment to still her floating body, she narrowed her eyes slightly and decided that it was some sort of island that, much to her relief, was only a short swim away.

With all her other options gone, she urged her body to move forward and so she began to paddle towards shore.

Arriving a few minutes later, the she-elf coughed and sputtered as she washed up on the sandy beach. However, as she tried to stand up, she found that she was suddenly knocked over by the strong waves behind her that almost insisted that they pushed her over.

Quietly cursing them, they continued to beat on her until she was forced further up onto the shore, the white sand warm and wet beneath her palms. Once she had gotten out of their reach, she simply sunk down onto the ground for a moment, her limbs burning from the long, nonstop swim that she had just completed.

After a few long moments of quiet bliss, she suddenly felt the familiar prickle feeling of eyes upon her. Pushing her stringy hair from her eyes, she weakly raised her hand, only to find a stout being watching her. A dwarf to be exact.

He only gazed at her with shock written upon his strong facial features. His mouth had fallen open slightly and the pipe in his hand was now forgotten.

She raised herself up onto her hands and knees, her eyes trained upon the dwarf the entire time. The two of them only looked at each other for a long moment before she sat back on her heels, brushing more hair from her eyes before she turned her head to look down the beach and then allowing her eyes to return to the male's form, finding that he was the only person that she could see.

"Hello." Ren quietly greeted him as she eased herself up onto her feet, adjusting her still dripping clothes. Fisting her hands into the fabric, she twisted the clothing and tried to wring the water out of it.

"Greetings, lass." He replied after a moment of taking the time to find his words, his eyes watching her with glow of curiosity. "Can I help you with something?" He asked her and she began to slosh towards him where he was seated on a piece of driftwood, her boots still unfortunately filled with sea water. "You look a little lost." He then patted the seat beside him and she slowly sat down on the piece of wood, her eyes holding a distant look in them.

"I feel a little... lost." She replied, raising her hand up to shade her eyes from the sun so that she could see more easily. As far as the eye could see, the beach that they were standing on seemed to stretch on for eternity. "One moment I'm here but before that, I was..." The she-elf trailed off, her mind suddenly clouding with confusion.

"You were... what?" The dwarf asked, leaning forward slightly, raising one of his dark eyebrows.

"I don't know." She murmured as an afterthought, wondering suddenly where all her memories went. What had happened to her? How had she gotten here? Where was here?

"Eh, don't worry about it, lass." He told her, crossing his thick arms over his chest before taking a long puff on his pipe. "A lot of you new ones feel the same." His words caused the she-elf to frown softly but the dwarf only grew quiet, his gray eyes upon her. Feeling slightly uncomfortably, she turned her eyes away from him and looked down the beach. He continued to look intently at her, his eyes focused on her face despite the fact that she was turned away from him. "You know what?" He began, causing her to look back at him. She raised a questioning eyebrow at him. "You look like someone I know..."

He rose from his spot without warning, biting down on his pipe before he straightened out his tunic and wiped the sand off his trousers. Then, without another word, he turned and began to walk further inland and Ren couldn't help but fell her lips twitch up in humor when she realized he wore no shoes.

However, when he discovered that she was not following him, he turned and back to look at her, his dark brows furrowed softly. "Come come." He waved his large hand in her direction, gesturing for her to follow. With a little reluctance, she did so.

Following him up the beach, her boots sank into the softer sand and she continued to wipe the salt water from her eyes as she trudged after him, not entirely sure who this dwarf was and where they were going. The two of them walked for a few moments and it wasn't long before the sandy beach began to transform into grass-covered prairie.

Without warning, there was a thundering of hooves and the she-elf turned her head and felt her heart seize in her chest when a group of horse suddenly raced around her. A number of them let out loud, amused whinnies as they pranced about, enjoying how they had startled the unsuspecting woman. The children upon their backs also laughed loudly as they looked back at her, all their eyes shinning with mirth. They thought it had been just as funny as the horses thought.

Ren could only stare in slight awe at them though and she would have scolded them for scaring her but she could not. She was too busy watching them. The youngsters upon the horses were not only children of men, or dwarves, or elves.

Instead, they were all three.

It was an undeniably beautiful sight for her to see, one that she never thought she would ever bare witness to. To see dwarvish, elvish, and human children playing and riding together. It was utterly heartwarming and she felt a spark of hope light in her chest.

The older dwarf at her side suddenly barked something rough in Khuzdul, pointing the tip of his pipe at them in a threatening matter as he continued to growl at them. Ren herself would have thrown a few obscenities at them as well but refrained, for she still did not know where she was and she didn't know who this dwarf was.

The children immediately let out squeals of fear before turning their ponies and running in the opposite direction.

The stout being at her side simply huffed in triumph before sticking his pipe back into his mouth and proceeding forward, evidently proud with how he had handled the situation.

She only watched the kids race off into the distance, their steeds kicking up dust in their wake. Ren still found it hard to believe what she had just bared witness to.

However, she turned and watched the retreating form of the dwarf before she once again trotted after him.

"Where are we going?" She asked him after awhile of the two of them walking. He failed to answer and instead continued onward. "Where are you taking me?"

"I am taking you to see her."

"Her?" The elf inquired, raising an eyebrow at the dwarf's back. "Who is... her?"

"You will see in due time." He rumbled in response and finding that she did not want to anger the only person she knew on the island, she fell silent. "She will know how to help you."

They had only walked for a few minutes more before they suddenly began to walk up a steep incline. The dwarf of course cursed slightly as they ascended up the hill and Ren couldn't help but snicker quietly back at him, her nose wrinkling in humor. Being an elf did have some advantages so it seemed.

However, when they reached the crest of the hill, the woman couldn't help but let her jaw slacken in awe, all amusement in her system now gone.

Down below lay a wide and seemingly endless valley. Luscious grass grew in abundance below, covering the valley in a soft green carpet that was no doubt wonderful to lounge in. A few trees also dotted the open plains before they eventually grew into larger groves and even forests. Houses and barns sprung up here and there as well. People were abundant as they went about their day, some working in fields, some playing the wide open plains, and some of them simply sleeping beneath the trees.

In the far off distance, huge mountains towered over the land, surrounding the valley below in a crescent shape. A singular yet rather large peak lay off in the distance, one that seemed to reach up into the clouds and out of sight. Looking upward and into the sky, Ren realized for the first time that there was not one sun in the sky... but two.

"Where am I?" She breathed in disbelief before she let her gaze drop back down to the valley below.

"You are in paradise, khathuzhinh." He told her, evidently hearing her despite that she herself had hardly heard the words come from her lips. She only turned to look at him for a long moment before she looked back to the vast lands before her.

"I am dreaming." She whispered again, her eyes still roaming over the beautiful landscape laid before her.

"Not quite." The dark haired dwarf murmured, taking another long drag on his pipe. He had been doing that all afternoon and she had failed to see him refill the bloody thing once. How he was smoking was still a complete mystery to her. "But, it does feel that way from time to time."

Ren now turned to look at him. "Then if I'm not dreaming then-"

"I am not the best one to explain." He interrupted her and the blonde couldn't help but let her brow twitch slightly in annoyance. She had been walking behind this stranger all day and he had yet to explain where they were going, let alone even give her his name. "The Lady has helped many before and she will help you."

And with that, he turned and left her at the top of the hill. He began to follow down a well-worn path that zigzagged down the steep incline. Raising her eyes up, her sapphire irises followed the road and found that it would eventually disappear off into the distance but not before it passed by a beautiful and grand house that sat upon the edge of a cliff and had a waterfall pouring out of the side.

How had I missed that before? Ren mused to herself, her eyebrows furrowing softly.

"Master Dwarf!" She called after him, realizing that he had once again left her behind. Grabbing a hold of her hair, she held it in her hand so that she could properly see and then ran after him, deciding instead to skip over the road and instead go crashing through the tall grass to reach him again.

With this strategy, she easily caught up with the dwarf who only watched her approaching form as she crashed through the brush, an amused smile upon his face. Coming to stand before him, the she-elf then let her hair go, allowing it to toss in the warm breeze passing through the valley as she caught her breath.

Only letting out an amused huff, he shook his head and continued on the path, the pipe still in his mouth.

"What's so humorous?" She asked him as she stepped down onto the path so that she could walk beside him. For the first time since she arrived, she felt a small smile pull at her lips.

The dwarf just laughed and despite the sound being gruff, it still had a merry ring to it. "You." He told her, his eyes shinning with mirth. At hearing his words, the she-elf furrowed her brow and scowled at him, only causing the dark haired being to laugh louder. "You are not like the rest the elvish folk."

"Yeah?" She asked him, the smile returning to her lips. He only bobbed his head in confirmation and the female wondered where he was going with the conversation for a moment. "Why do you say that?"

"You are not quiet." He told her earnestly, a grin pulling up one corner of his mouth.

"I have hardly said a word all day..." She tried to defend herself but the dwarf only shook his head, the smile growing upon his face. His great, braided beard waved about slightly as he did this and Ren suddenly had to wonder how long it took him to grow it.

"I mean who you are." He told her and she once again frowned softly. "Unlike the other elves, you have a loud nature." He explained further and the she-elf felt her face begin to relax. "Within you, there seems to burn this foreign fire, one that is uncommon to the elvish folk. A fire that sets you apart from the others." He grew quiet for a moment and she looked away from him and down to her now dry boots as they plodded along on the dusty road. "You were no doubt a handful in your youth, I imagine?"

The woman was quiet for a moment before she let out a soft laugh. "You could say that I suppose."

"I find it refreshing." He told her then, a warm smile upon his face and she raised her head to look at him, a question in her irises. However, she instead found that he was looking to the mountains in the distance. "A woman who has a mind of her own. A woman whose will does not so easily break." The dwarf explained and the woman had to smile slightly at the compliment. "You possesses some very admirable qualities."

Something in the back of her mind flashed then, breaking through the black cloud in her mind.

For not many men like such a sharp tongue and an independent personality like your own even if you do have a pretty face. A deep voice rumbled in the back of her mind, the owner of the voice was blackened out so she could not see him in the memory. However, she had this strange feeling that it was a dwarf, given by the gruffness of his voice. They like to take quiet maidens as wives.

"I find that most men beg to differ." She retorted but humor still shown in her eyes despite the strange occurrence in her head.

"Indeed?"

"I've been told I'm...undesirable...before." Ren told him then, a hint of sadness clouding her eyes. "By a dwarf ironically enough."

"An elf maiden like you traveling with a a dwarf?" He inquired and she nodded her head in answer to his question. "Has the feud between our people been resolved already?"

"Absolutely not." She told him and the dwarf was very confused for a moment. He just looked at her delicate features again for a moment, his eyes narrowing on her form before he sighed quietly through his nose.

"You are a curious being." He informed her then, a light twinkle in his eye as he turned away from her to look back at the road. "And no doubt you have many intriguing tales to tell…?"

"Indeed." She told him with a small smile and a nod of her head. The two lapsed into silence for another few seconds before the shorter creature decided to speak up once again. For he felt that he was the reason that she had a damper on her mood.

"That dwarf who called you undesirable?" She looked to her companion then who only set her with a serious look. "He must be very dim."

At hearing this, a loud laugh escaped her throat and the dark haired dwarf smiled widely upon hearing the merry sound. "I used to think that, too." She replied offhandedly as she watched another stout figure approaching them in the distance. Again, she did not know where this information was coming from.

She could remember nothing from before she surfaced in the ocean.

"Father." The brunet dwarf bowed his head in greeting towards the dwarf at her side and the she-elf furrowed her brow softly but didn't say a word. Her dwarf companion hardly looked old enough to have a child the age of the newly arrived male.

"Greetings, my son." The other dwarf replied as he clasped arms with his young one.

"How do you fare?" For a moment, the brunet dwarf's eyes flickered to her and the woman held his gaze for a long moment.

"I fare well enough I suppose." The older male replied, putting his pipe back into his mouth and taking a long drag. "Did you just come from the Lady's dwelling?" Using his pipe, he gestured to the home in the distance. The dwarf nodded in response. "Is the Lady home?"

"I just spoke to her." He replied. "She just informed me that something has happened back across the sea. There has been some sort of upset in Middle Earth."

"What do you mean, Thrain?" The evidently older dwarf asked, his brow furrowing deeply with concern.

Thrain? Ren mused to herself, her eyebrows nearly shooting up into her hairline. She looked at the other dwarf before her for a moment, her mouth opening slightly in shock as the gears in her head turned. She knew that name. It sparked some new information inside her... The line of Durin. And if he's Thrain, then that must mean that my companion is…

"The Valar told her that someone has died." He went onto explain.

"People die everyday-"

"Aye but this is different, Adad." Feeling eyes upon him, Thrain turned and looked at the female who had evidently just fallen into some sort of shocked state. "Who is she?" He momentarily changed the subject.

"A new one. Hasn't given me her name yet." The black haired dwarf replied, putting his pipe back into his mouth. "Just arrived. Came sputtering out of the sea, this one did."

"Really?" The younger dwarf inquired, his eyebrows raising with interest. He looked back to the woman. "How interesting. Not many arrive that way."

"I know. That's why I'm taking her to see the Lady, in hopes that she will shed some light on the situation."

"Then I'll come with you." Thrain replied, taking a small step off to the side so that the two others could pass.

"That's not necessary-"

"I'm just curious. I want to hear what she has to say."

The older dwarf looked at his son for a moment before sighing heavily and beginning to walk down the road once again. Ren, however, still stood in shock as she watched him go, her mouth still agape and her eyes wide with disbelief.

"Come along… erm… What was yer name again, lass?" Thrain had also walked forward but had stopped to turn back to look at her with his greenish blue eyes. After a moment that she still remained in place, the dwarf looked back to his father. "Is she deaf?"

"She wasn't before…"

"Galaren." She was amazed that she had been able to find her voice. Both dwarves turned to look at her. "My name is Galaren but those who know me well enough call me Ren."

"Well, Lady Ren…" The younger of the two motioned her forward to join them. "Come along then!"

The three of them walked in line with each other for a few moments. The she-elf found that it was hard for her to look away from the brunet dwarf on her right. The more she looked at him, the more that she could see another's face and it terrified her to no end.

She had remained quiet for the most part and had only walked between the two dwarves as they conversed about everyday, mundane things. However, she found that she still had many questions that needed answering.

"Who is this… Lady that you speak of?" The woman asked them, the gears in her head beginning to turn.

"She is an elf like you." The older dwarf told her, still puffing away on his pipe. "She has not been here as long as some have but she has a very kind heart and is well respected here."

"And you said that she helps people…?" He bobbed his head. "In… what way does she help people?"

"She helps you new ones settle in suppose. Helps you get their memories back." The dark haired dwarf explained to her. "Helps you to finally accept the truth."

"What truth is that?" Ren asked him then, her delicate eyebrow arching softly.

As he turned to look at her, she was able to see the conflict in his eyes. He momentarily glanced at his son before he shook his head slightly. "I am not the best one to tell you." He said quietly, guilt clouding his irises. "That is why I am taking you to her."

The she-elf only looked at him for a long moment before she allowed her face to tilt downward slightly but she nonetheless nodded.

It wasn't long before the three of them came to stand before the front doors of the grand home. They were swung wide open, given that the suns were still high in the sky and the night was still hours away.

It was quiet in the halls from what the woman could tell and she cautiously stepped into the long corridor, the only light in the hall was the sunlight streaming in through the numerous windows and other corridors that led to the immaculate gardens and terraces that surrounded the home.

Most every surface seemed to be made of white wood or stone and as Ren stepped up into the hall, she couldn't help but feel a sense of familiarity wash over her. Letting her hand rest upon the door frame, she only looked inside for a moment before stepping further into the home with the dwarves a few steps behind her.

"I know these halls…" She breathed as she continued to let her fingers graze the white wood and the ivory stone columns.

White, sheer curtains also hung from various doorways and gently floated about as the warm breeze blew through the valley once more.

"Imladris." She breathed in disbelief, part of her suddenly forgotten memory coming back to her.

This place, where ever she was, startlingly enough reminded her of her brother's halls. Though, it was smaller in size and far less grand, it still radiated the soft and comforting feeling that seemed to emanate from Rivendell.

Her booted feet carried her further into the house and she couldn't help but continued to stare around what looked like the Last Homely House.

Galaren soon found her way to what she guessed was the center of the home.

Sunlight streamed into the circular courtyard, bathing part of it in gold but the other was left in the shade. A small fountain with a beautiful woman in the center stood in the middle of the room, providing the silent courtyard with background noise. A small garden was planted around the babbling fountain. A few benches sat upon the outskirts of the courtyard.

And one of them was occupied.

A long figure sat upon the bench before her, their back towards them. Judging upon the length of the golden hair upon their head, Ren had to guess that it was a woman. The soft tresses fell in perfect waves that reached down to just below her rear.

"My Lady…?" The older dwarf called out to the she-elf who was seated upon the bench.

"Yes?" At hearing the voice, Ren felt her heart nearly stall in her chest. "What is it?"

It wasn't possible.

With those few short words, that voice had been able to break through the black void that seemed to have consumed her memory.

No. The she-elf thought to herself and she had to tell herself to breathe right then. She hadn't realized that she had stopped in the first place.

"We brought you a new one." The older dwarf continued to explain. "Doesn't have any memories. She doesn't know how she got here." It was quiet in the courtyard for a long moment. "Came crawling out of the sea when I found her."

The woman before her raised her head up from where it had been bowed. Ren guessed that she must have been reading a book or something of that sort. But as she watched as the woman stood up, Galaren felt her heart begin to seize up once again in her chest. Just the way she moved caused familiarity to tug at the back of her mind.

Don't turn around. Please.

Her breath caught in her throat again as the elf turned and her sapphire irises slowly rose to meet with a shimmering emerald pair.

The two she-elves only looked at each other for a long moment, simply letting the reality of the situation sink in.

"Galaren?" The elleth breathed, her green eyes wide with disbelief.

"Cel?" Ren whispered back but she knew that the blonde woman had heard her. The book that had once been grasped tightly in her hands slipped from her palms and onto the stone flooring beneath foot.

The rustling of the pages seemed to be the only sound in the room for a long moment.

"I am surely dreaming now." The blue-eyed female breathed again in shock, her irises never straying from the woman across from her.

"What are you doing here?" Her sister asked then, her voice holding something akin to horror in it.

"I-I don't know." Ren replied, finally blinking as she diverted her eyes to her boots before they quickly moved back to Celebrian. "I don't remember."

"Wait…" Came the accented voice from beside her. The blonde she-elf turned to look at her newest companion at her side. "You two… know each other?"

"She's my sister." Celebrian managed to choke out, her eyes beginning to water slightly with unshed tears.

"Sister?!" Thrain's brows almost shot up into his hairline. "You never told us you had a sister."

"It wasn't important at the time." The Lady replied, her hand raising to cover her quivering lips, her bright green eyes still trained upon her younger sibling.

"So, you mean to say that your sister-"

"Thror." Galaren spoke then, effectively cutting the dark haired dwarf off mid sentence. He went quiet as she scrutinized his features and looked into his gray eyes.

"Do… I know you?" He asked her, his brow inclining slightly.

"No." She replied immediately, blinking a few times to try and distract herself for a moment. "None of this is real." The she-elf breathed, raking a hand through her hair, her eyes wide with shock.

"Ren…" Her sister began, holding a hand out towards her before she walked around the bench and began to approach her. "You need to breathe-"

"None of you are real." The blonde warrior tried to convince herself as she took a step back from her sister, her eyes briefly flickering to the two dwarves who stood quietly. "It is not possible that you are here!" She shouted suddenly at all three of them, her demeanor suddenly turning angry.

But she was not angry at them, she was angry at herself. She was aggravated with herself because it was her own mind that had come up with this tortuous dream.

"A sailed, elven princess and two deceased royals of the line of Durin in one room!?" A crazed laugh suddenly escaped from her lips, her blue irises filling with hysteria as she began to pace around the room, reminding the two dwarves of a caged animal. "It cannot be!"

"Galaren." Celebrian's tone was sharp and caused the younger elf to quiet. Her eyes that had once flitted about the room returned to the form of her, supposedly dead, sister. "You are in Valinor."

Those four little words caused Ren to stall again. Her brow furrowed softly but she kept her eyes trained upon her sister.

"You mean to say that I'm…" The she-elf swallowed thickly then and turned her head away. "…I'm dead?"

"Essentially yes." Thrain said from his place, his tone matter of face but he hardly got the words out before Thror smacked him in the back of his head for his bluntness.

Galaren shifted her gaze from her boots to her sister again. "Then why don't I remember dying?"

"When you come to Valinor and pass through the veil, only a select few remember how they died." Celebrian explained. "Most don't remember anything about their recent past life, only strong memories from their distant past."

"Why?"

"The Valar don't want you to remember the pain when you arrive…" She told her quietly and the warm breeze blew softly through the valley once again, causing their hair to flutter softly about their persons.

Galaren stood there for a long moment, her sapphire eyes suddenly softening. The once crazed look in her eyes slowly dissipated until the normally calm woman returned to her body.

Letting her eyes drop back to her boots, the she-elf frowned softly as the reality around her began to set in.

"Can I speak to you in private?" She asked quietly, her voice so soft the dwarves barely heard her.

She didn't bothering looking up as she listened to their heavy boots stomp off down a random corridor to her right.

Once again, the quiet was heavy between the two elves for a long moment before Ren finally glanced up at her sister.

"I missed you so much, Cel." The blonde woman only proceeded forward, her head still hung low until she bumped against her sister's shoulder.

Thin yet strong arms immediately wrapped around her and pulled her to the princess's chest. Ren's own arms circled her sister and held her close, never wanting to let go just in case everything actually was a dream.

This was the best, if not slightly sad, dream she had ever dreamed.

"I missed you too, laito seler'." The older elleth replied, one hand softly stroking her sibling's hair as she cradled her shaking form to her.

The two of them simply stood out on a balcony, looking out over the garden and courtyards below as the sun bathed Valinor in orange light.

A number of children raced by, all of them giggling loudly as they ran beneath the ledge they were standing on. Their laughter soon disappeared into the many halls of the seemingly endless home.

Celebrian couldn't help but risk a glance to her sister who was leaning upon the stone railing, her eyes gazing out across the sunbathed valley that still stretched out below them.

She had been eerily quiet since she had arrived but it was what she had expected, given that it was not everyday someone realized that they had died.

Watching her with her emerald eyes, her sister could almost be mistaken for a statue, given how still she had been since arriving upon the balcony. Again, it was what was to be expected. For Ren no doubt had a lot on her mind.

"Why don't the Valar want us to remember?" Her soft voice broke the silence between them and the older sibling blinked as she came back to the present.

"Everyone remembers eventually..." She began slowly, knowing just how to approach Galaren. She needed to have things explained slowly and with great care. "Everyone eventually settles into this new existence and accepts death."

The younger elf simply looked at her for a long moment before turning her head away. "What if I don't want to accept it?" She asked quietly. "What if someone doesn't ever accept it?"

"You can never go back, Ren." Celebrian told her softly, crossing her arms over her chest. "And even those who do are great exceptions to the rules..."

"But people have gone back before?" Turning to look at her baby sister, the older elf couldn't help but let her brows furrow softly when she saw the hopeful glint in her sapphire eyes.

She did not answer for a long moment and instead attempted to change the subject. "Why would anyone want to go back?" The blonde turned to look out at the nearly glowing valley that lay before them. "This is paradise." She gestured outward to the land. "There is nothing but peace and goodness in this world." Her eyes flickered downward for a moment, a sad look entering her eyes. "Your loved ones are here."

Seeing the remorseful look in her older sister's eyes, Ren pushed off the balcony and walked over to her, carefully placing her hand upon her arm.

"My loved ones are back in Middle Earth. Our family and my friends are across the void. You are here." Ren told her, her tone coming out harsher than she meant it. Her eyes softened when she saw the deflated look on her face. "But do not think that I am not ecstatic to see you, seler'..." She began, her own brow furrowing softly. "It is just..." She desperately searched through the dark cloud that seemed to have swallowed up her memories as she struggled to find the right words. "I just have this feeling that...there is still something-something that I must do."

"Many of you new ones feel the same." Celebrian explained softly, turning so that her lower back rested upon the balcony. "That you have unfinished business back on Middle Earth." She continued, a soft sigh escaping through her nose. "And you will only remember what that business is when you accept that you cannot return and begin your knew existence here in Valinor with me."

It was nearly silent between the two of them once more but the quiet was interrupted by the sound of laughter in the air once more.

Just as they had before, the same group of children raced back out from the house and into the courtyard below, coming from a different corridor this time. They sprinted between the flowers and jumped from stone to stone that stretched across the small pool.

Their little group consisted of two young elves, a boy and a girl with the same red hair and facial features. They were no doubt twins from what Ren deduced. Next, there were three little dwarflings, two boys and a tiny little girl. There was even a young blond little hobbit boy in their ranks. Lastly, there were two human girls and a young boy. The two ladies watched with interest as they all giggled together, tangled in what appeared to be a perpetual game of tag.

"Children?" Ren asked after a moment of gazing down at them, her eyes full of sorrow.

"I care for them and guide them as best I can." Celebrian explained as she too felt a wave of sadness pass through her chest. "For they are without their parents and need someone to help them along."

"How old are they?" The younger elf inquired, her eyes still trained upon the rowdy group.

"The twins are 273 years old."

"What!?" Ren breathed in disbelief, her eyes flashing quickly to her sibling. She then looked back to the children. They certainly did not look to be 273 years old. They were still children! "That is not possible..."

"They simply did not wish to grow up." The elleth explained. "Children here choose when they grow. Everyone has their own paradise and therefore, they are allowed to live out eternity as they please, whether it be old and rugged or young and fair." Celebrian smiled slightly at her then, reaching out to softly tug at her hair. "Take yourself for instance..."

Ren furrowed her brow at her sister for a moment before looking down, only to realize that her hair was shorter again, returning to the length of where it rested in the center of her chest.

The she-elf simply fought a grin and swatted her sister away, leaning back onto the railing of the balcony in the process. "You know I always liked my hair shorter."

After that, the two women lapsed into a comfortable silence but when the older elf risked a glance at her baby sister, she found that she was frowning softly again as she watched the children continue to play below.

"Come now." She broke the silence between them, turning to face her. "I sense that you could do with a walk."

"Everyone who dies comes here then?"

"Not everyone, just the pure souls. Not the orcs or goblins or other evils in the world."

"Where do they go?"

"I know not. The Valar do not tell me those things."

"The Valar? Why do they speak to only you?"

"Again... I do not know the answer to that question. But I am not the only one. A handful of others are gifted as well. I only have ever heard their voices inside my head and they whisper things about the world that we left behind."

The two she-elves only walked together in the tall grass. Ren had held her hands out and was letting her fingertips brush against the tops of the tall grass. Her feet were now bare, her boots having been discarded back in the house. They had been walking for only a few minutes then and the younger sister found that she had a number of questions swimming about inside her head.

"Well... what do you do about food...? And sleeping...?"

"In Valinor, none of those things are required of you. You cannot die from malnutrition if you are already dead." Celebrian explained and Galaren felt a deflated look cross her face then.

Excellent job being comforting, Cel.

"But there are those of us who find that eating and sleeping are habits that are hard to be rid of." The two walked again in silence for a few seconds before the older of the two had a thought come to mind, one that made her smirk. "Hey, Ren?"

She only hummed in response and turned to look at her sister.

SMACK!

The she-elf stumbled back from the force behind the blow, her hand immediately raising to her cheek where she had just been hit. She openly gawked at Celebrian, her sapphire eyes suddenly burning with raw anger.

"What was that for?"

"And just as we do not need to eat, sleep, or drink, we do not feel pain." Now that she mentioned it, the plain of her cheek was not throbbing like it normally would have been if she had been back in Middle Earth.

"So, are you saying that if I had a knife and I stabbed you, it wouldn't hurt... but would you bleed?"

"No." Ren felt her lips twitch slightly in mild astonishment.

"That's... unnatural."

"That's Aman for you." Her sister told her, a smirk upon her face. "Nothing here seems normal but at the same time, everything feels natural."

Still frowning, she rubbed her cheek with her hand and began to walk after her sister who had left her behind. It was quiet between the two of them for a moment, the only sounds were their clothes dragging against the grass and the soft summer wind around them.

"How are they?" Celebrian asked suddenly then, filling the once quiet void with her soft voice.

"Who?"

"Our family."

Ren looked at her sister for a long moment, her memories of her nephews and niece suddenly being pulled from the fog in her mind. She suddenly remembered their smiles, their laughter, their youthful faces. And then she remembered her wife's husband and the time that she had last visited him. She was in Imladris but... she couldn't remember the reason why.

"They are doing well."

"And you kept the promise that you made to me?"

The younger elleth slowly nodded her head, an empty feeling settling into her chest at the thought of all that she had done for her sister and her family. And what had she gotten in return? Nothing, save for the supposed reward of the love the little family was supposed to give her.

"I took good care of them. They are safe and healthy. All of them."

"Thank you." Reaching over, Celebrian took her sister's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. When she looked up into her face, Ren saw the genuine appreciation in her sister's green eyes.

The two walked on but they never released the other's hand.

Coming up over a ridge, the golden sunlight shone down upon them once again and it took a moment for their eyes to adjust but when they did, Ren couldn't help but stop and smile.

This place truly was paradise.

"I must go." The older sister's voice broke the lull between them. "I am needed elsewhere." Celebrian said as she stared off into the setting sun, her eyes holding a distant look in them. "Would you like to accompany me?"

"No." Galaren told her, sapphire eyes still trained upon the stretching landscape before her. "I'd like to stay here for a moment longer here if that is alright?"

Wordlessly, the older sister nodded before releasing Ren's hand and turning to leave. The she-elf only watched her go but then turned back to the rest of Valinor.

With a quiet sigh, she began to walk down the hill and further into the Undying Lands, her hands clasped behind her back. The elf wasn't sure how long she walked but she had passed by a number of people and creatures.

Families of all sorts were gathered together, talking quietly and eating beneath the trees that dotted the plains. Candles were burning inside of the homes. Others were gathered around campfires.

All sorts of animals roamed the earth. Dogs, horses, and deer were very abundant. At points, she even stopped to pet the creatures if they came across her path and she was more than happy too.

Small creatures like rabbits, squirrels, and foxes also scampered around her feet at times.

Eventually, she stepped onto a well worn path and continued on it. However, as she came around a bend in the road, she faltered in step when she took note of two figures standing in the distance. There was just something about them that seemed familiar.

Cautiously taking a few steps forward, she narrowed her eyes on their forms. Sapphire irises scanning across their blond and dark heads of hair, she felt her breathing stall in her chest when the memories began to flash behind her eyes.

She was now close enough that she could see the weaves in their hair and the stitching upon their tunics and memories slowly started to trickle into her mind.

"Fili...Kili?" She breathed.

At hearing someone speak, the two stout beings turned back to face her and she didn't know whether to feel relieved or saddened.

"Excuse me?" The fair haired one spoke, his mustache swinging slightly as he turned. He gazed back at her with deep brown eyes, ones that also seemed startlingly familiar to her.

"Did you just say Fili and Kili?" The dark haired one finally turned to look at her and something inside Ren seemed to snap back into place.

She did not respond to his question but her sapphire eyes trained themselves upon his face. There was something about him, something that set something off inside her.

"Miss, we asked you a question...?" The blond dwarf said, his tone cautious as he watched the elf stare at his comrade. And yet, it still appeared as though she did not even hear him.

The strange woman took a step toward the black haired dwarf. "Bregor, why is she staring at me like that?" Said dwarf murmured quietly, concern washing over his face.

"I don't know."

Ren now stood just before him and her head tilted to the side ever so slightly. There was something so agonizingly familiar about him. "I know your face." She breathed in disbelief and she raised her hands up, slowly and cautiously as to not scare the young dwarf off.

She knew him but at the same time, something about him was different.

"No. You don't." The dwarf protested but as he reached to grab her wrists, it seemed as though he was not fast enough.

Her soft hands carefully cupped his cheeks and this simple action rendered the dwarf momentarily speechless, something that hardly ever occurred. With her thumbs, she carefully stroked the dark scruff upon his face, all the while letting her eyes flicker over his features and up directly into his greenish-blue irises.

"What's she doing?" The dwarf asked, frozen in place by her touch and her intent sapphire pools.

Without warning, she removed her hand from his face and instead covered her mouth with her palm, effectively silencing him.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew that it was his face but she also subconsciously knew that that was not the voice that was supposed to belong to the body.

Slowly, the fog began to recede slightly and in her head, she saw his handsome smile, heard his smooth voice, and felt his chest rumble when he laughed. She felt his arms wrap around her and the warmth he emanated when they had sleep beside the other in the dark forest.

"Thorin." She breathed as she stroked his dark beard once again, a strange, perplexed feeling taking hold of her very person. Yet at the same time, there was a sense of liberation in her as well.

"She just said Thorin..." Someone breathed behind the dark haired dwarf and there was a shuffling of boots when suddenly, another dwarf stood up where they had evidently been seated upon the grassy ground. And still, Ren paid them little mind.

A sense of awe washed over the young dwarf and he carefully reached up and grasped her wrists in his thick hands.

"You know Thorin?" He asked her quietly and carefully, pulling her palms away from his bearded cheeks. Something shone in his bright eyes for a moment, a sense of hope perhaps.

However, after a moment, the once happy glimmer in her own irises faded and she slowly blinked. It was easy to see the disappointment on her face.

"You are not him..." She said quietly, trying to pull her arms from his grasp. Yet, he would not let her go.

"Please, my lady." He began to plead with her, his voice coming out as slightly desperate and it was now his turn to be the one to cling to her. "How do you know that name?"

"He is..." Ren began but had to pause, not knowing exactly the words to use. More of her memories slowly came bleeding back into her skull and she felt the warmth of his lips upon her own and the way his large hands gently cradled her face. She heard him tell her how beautiful she was and she felt a pleasant churn in her stomach at the mere thought of him. Should she tell them what she truly meant to say? "He is... a close friend of mine."

He is the man I love.

Deciding that it was best to keep that bit of information to herself, she only smiled kindly at the male before her. The young dwarf only looked at her for a long moment before he smiled widely as well, now tearing his eyes away from hers so that he may look at the rest of her face.

"And I know them all..." She told him, her eyes finally flickering back to the other dwarves, only to find that a very beautiful dwarf woman had also been standing there, watching the scene unfold. "Thorin... Fili... Kili-"

"You know them as well?" It was now the blond dwarf from before who spoke, his tone now urgent as he heard he speak. "You know my boys?"

Ren felt her eyes begin to water then and a tear slipped from the corner of her eye at the realization that washed over her. Her lips quivering, she nodded her head in confirmation. It was startling how much Fili looked like him.

"Bregor." She murmured, recalling his name from when Thorin had told her of his demise and just then in their conversation. He looked like his eldest son but Kili had his eyes. Nodding his head, the dwarf smiled widely at her, his own eyes shimmering with happy tears. "Your wife's brother and your dwarflings always spoke so highly of you."

At hearing this information, he tried smiling at the woman but he failed in doing so, for his lips were quivering too much."How do they fare?"

"They have grown into fine young dwarves under Thorin's protection and your wife's care. The both of them are well, at least they were last I recall." Ren told him quietly.

The fair haired dwarf only looked at her for a long moment, digesting her words as his eyes continued to brim with moisture. It felt like nearly an eternity had passed before he spoke.

"You have no idea how long I've waited to hear that."

And with those words, he stepped forward and suddenly embraced the female, holding her thin form tightly to him. For she was the only thing that he had left of his sons and he thanked Mahal for bringing her to Valinor, though he knew that the thought was selfish on his part.

Eventually, he let go and the lady took a step back, taking note of the large smile still in place upon Bregor's face.

"So..." Turning her head, she found that it was the younger, dark haired dwarf to speak. He crossed his arms over his chest and smirked slightly at her. "Thorin is a dear friend of your's, hmm?" The she-elf gave him a slow nod, her sapphire irises narrowing on his form, wondering where exactly he was taking this conversation. "And where exactly did an, um, elf maiden such as yourself meet my brother?"

Brother. Ren immediately looked up at him, her eyes shinning with surprise.

"You must be Frerin." The name effortlessly slipped from her lips and she ignored his previous question. She watched his face for the surprise she knew was to come but was disappointed when he didn't seem impressed with her knowledge of him.

"The one and only." He smirked then, crossing his arms over his chest. For a moment, he simply stood there and gazed at the she-elf across from him, admiring her charming features. Ever so slowly, he reached for her again and took her hand into his own. "And by what name does thy lovely lady go by?" Bending over her hand, he held it gently in his own.

"Galaren." She replied quietly, letting him hold her hand though she wanted to immediately pull it away. It had been a long day and what she really wanted was a warm bath and a nap, despite the fact that she didn't need one.

"Galaren..." He tried her own name out and he seemed to enjoy how it rolled off his tongue. "A beautiful name for an equally beautiful woman." The dwarf prince then lowered his lips to the skin on the back of her hand. He then smirked flirtatiously up at her, his eyes shinning with a certain playfulness about them.

For a moment, Ren could only stare. It still caused unease to build inside of her when she looked at him. It was eerie how similar Frerin's smirk was to Thorin's.

"Thank you." The elf quipped back, not even batting an eye despite the annoyance she was currently feeling. "It was given to me as a gift on my birthday."

The air around the group was filled with silence for a long moment before there was a quiet snort off to the side, for it was Bregor who was fighting to contain his laughter at hearing her humorous remark. The dwarf before her was rendered speechless, not having been prepared for her suddenly sharp tongue and quick wit.

However, when the elleth tried pulling her hand away, she found that he would not let go. Feeling her brow twitch slightly, she had to resist the urge to roll her eyes.

"Frerin, leave the poor girl alone." A feminine called out. The dwarven prince tensed for a moment before releasing her hand and taking a step off to the side so that Ren could see who had spoken.

She was beautiful, the girl could not deny that. She had long, thick hair that was the color of the darkest nights. It was currently woven back into a set of immaculate braids. A dark beard also lined her jaw but it was very groomed and well-kept. She was clothed in a simple dress that was deep purple in hue, matching the amethyst jewels attached to the pins in her hair.

But it was her eyes that startled her the most. For they were a steely blue that Galaren had so often seen and even dreamed about.

The stouter woman stepped up, brushing passed the dwarven prince who shrank back as she approached. It was only a moment later that she stood directly in front of the taller elleth before she crossed her arms over her chest. The two only watched the other with careful eyes.

Normally when meeting the family of your loved one, one can be very nervous and on edge. However, with Galaren, that was not the case.

She simply stood before the dwarf woman, her sapphire eyes shinning with their normal glimmer of quiet confidence. Yet, just underneath the surface of those irises lay a fire in wait and the shorter woman could see it and she could only imagine what it was like to have that fury released full force upon someone. The trio had only bared witness to only a lick when Frerin had overstepped a boundary.

Evidently liking what she was seeing, the dwarf gave the blonde a small smile. "You'll have to excuse my son. He can be a bit of a tease at times."

Ren could only offer a smile back to her, the tenseness in the air having since dissipated into nothingness and had been replaced with a warm, comforting feeling.

The elf waved her off, her eyes sparkling with humor. "Oh, don't worry about me. I've dealt with boys like him before."

"Hey, who are you calling a boy!?" Frerin spoke up from behind his mother, clearly not pleased with the insult. However, he quickly grew quiet when the dwarf lady threw a sharp look at him over her shoulder.

There was suddenly the sound of boots approaching and all four people turned and watched as three other dwarves suddenly approached from down the road, one form of which, was very recognizable.

"Oh! Hello, lassie!" Thrain called to her as the newly arrived trio stopped beside them. He then approached the dwarf woman and placed his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into his side before kissing her on the cheek. "I see you've met the rest of my family."

"Um..." Her eyes briefly flickered back to Frerin, who was smirking at her, before they moved back to the deceased dwarf. "I have indeed, my lord."

"Oh my!" The dark haired woman suddenly cried, placing her hand over her chest as if she were startled. "Where are my my manners?!" She beamed at the she-elf "I am Zamra, Thorin's mother." She then took the fabric of her dress into her hands and curtsied.

Ren only pulled a face for a moment before she took the hem of her long tunic and tried curtsying as well, except it was not as graceful and dare she say it, clumsy. It seemed as though she was a bit out of practice.

"It's lovely to meet you, Zamra." She told her, smiling all the while.

One of the dwarves behind her suddenly cleared his throat, effectively catching the rest of the groups attention. Thrain only looked at them for a moment before his eyebrows rose and he sprang into action.

"My lady..." He approached the two new comers and placed his hand upon the shoulder of the shorter two dwarves. "I would like you to meet-"

"Thrain?" The she-elf interrupted, her eyes widening in complete and utter shock. The brunet dwarf held a look similar to her own upon his face. His hazel eyes only stared back at her, his mouth slightly agape in astonishment.

"Galaren?!" He asked and the elf could only nod, her own mouth falling open. Without another word then, the two of them suddenly embraced strongly, both of them stepping towards the other at the same time.

The two old friends held each other for a long moment before they drew back. However, the dwarf still kept his strong hands wrapped firmly around her upper arms while her own cupped his elbows.

"What are you doing here?" He asked her suddenly, a wide smile upon his face. The happy grin that had been on Ren's face slowly began to fade and the dwarf lord realized the mistake that he had made. "Oh, that was an foolish question... Ren, I am sorry-"

"It is alright, mellon." She told him softly, her lips quirking ever so slightly upward once again. "It was an easy mistake to make."

A silence fell between them and feeling a sort of looming presence near her, she looked away from the first King of Erebor to find the rather tall dwarf who stood just behind him. She caught his eye for a moment and the dwarf simply stood with his hands clasped behind his back, patiently waiting for his turn to be introduced.

He was tall for dwarvish standards, taller than herself even. He still had a wide and thick set of shoulders that were no doubt immensely strong. His hair was the darkest black that she had ever seen and he had a neatly trimmed beard that was surprisingly short. And his eyes were a strange, muted amber.

Upon seeing that his elf companion was elsewhere preoccupied, Thrain turned back around to find that the other dwarf was still waiting.

"Galaren, I would like for you to meet one of the greatest warriors to have ever lived in all of Middle Earth..." He trailed off then and the blonde woman let her eyes briefly flicker to the deceased king before they returned to the large being. "Durin the Deathless."

The air was immediately sucked from her lungs as she gazed at the mighty dwarf, not believing what she was seeing. Sure enough, she had already had the shock of her life upon finding out that she was dead and now here she was, meeting Durin himself.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Galaren." His deep voice rumbled and the corners of his mouth curled upward slightly as he reached out and took hold of her hand. Her fingers looked so small when wrapped in his large digits and for a moment, she thought he was going to kiss her hand as Frerin did but instead, he only bowed over it. "Lady Celebrian has told me much about her younger sister."

"Sister?" Frerin squeaked from behind his parents.

Brogar only looked between the blonde elf and his wife's brother, his eyes narrowed but then it dawned on him. "Do you mean to say that she is a-"

"Princess." Durin finished for the fair haired dwarf, his large hand still holding her own. "The Princess of the Lothlorien to be exact."

All the dwarves around them felt their mouths fall open in shock, save for Thrain I who was completely aware of her situation given his strange past with Ren.

"The Valar have been whispering of your arrival as of late, dear girl. Something has gone amiss." He told the she-elf at his side, his amber eyes seeming to glow as he gazed down at her. "Come." He pulled on her hand gently, wanting to lead her back up the road. "We have much to discuss."

Hey, guys.

Told you I'd be back.

Sorry it's been so long since I've last posted. I've just been really as of late what with finishing stuff up with my final few senior year things. I've also started to get ready to go to college so that's been a bit hectic as well.

Oh, yeah. I'm also vacationing to Florida in a few days so wish me luck. Hopefully the plane doesn't crash cause that would suck (cause it's my first plane ride).

We're going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I'm SO EXCITED. OMG YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW I'M FEELING RIGHT NOW! I'VE BEEN LIKE PACKED FOR THREE MONTHS.

Anyway, got the next chapter out. Wanting to know your opinion on things.

Also, for the people who were speculating. Ren is dead. Her heart stopped beating. She traveled through the void. She made it to Valinor and has been meeting Thorin's dead family which gave me immense feels.

Don't worry, there will be even more Durin family/Ren moments later. Also, there will be other people who make special appearances.

Next chapter, I'm thinking we'll get to see a glimpse of what is happening on the other side of the void, if things go well anyway. Dish out some more feels for you guys.

Alright, now down to the finer details. Before people start yelling at me and telling me that Valinor is only reserved for those who are immortal, I know. I do my research.

But, this is my sort of AU in the story and I believe that everyone shares a paradise. Cause honestly, where does everyone else go after they die? Does their spirits just float off into the sky? Maybe but not in this fanfic.

So, yeah. That was my little twist on things.

Plus, holy crap. I got a whole CRAPTON of reviews last chapter. I mean, it really wasn't a surprise but it still blew me away.

And a few of you have been right in your assumptions about Ren and her death. But for others, well, you'll just have to wait and see what happens.

So, I better get going. It's late here in America and I have to build fence tomorrow. Yay.

Anyway,

YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO, READ AND REVIEW!

Love,

Blue

P.S. I've been rewriting the first few chapter if you wanted to go back abad reread them. More stuff had been added. There is more conflict between Thorin and Ren and the entire thing is a lot more interesting. We also get to see their attraction towards the other earlier on so go check it out!

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