Dedication: Written for Nemis, who I gratefully thank for letting me borrow one (or two) of her characters. I hope Celebrían and her harp arrive back in your hands intact! :)
Author's Note: Regarding the last scene, in my little version of things, Arwen has a son, Eldarion, and three daughters, of whom Elenna is the youngest.
Before anyone spoke, Arwen could see that something was wrong. She recognised one of her father's messengers, looking pale and worn.
Galadriel remained seated, one hand pressed to her mouth. Though by all accounts the Lady of the Galadhrim was calm enough, she was as distraught as Arwen had ever seen her.
Until now she had only been anticipating meeting her mother in Lórien, thinking of the season they would spend together. When she'd heard of the messenger's arrival, she had thought it was to say Celebrían had come early.
But now she could see it was news of a different kind, something much more dire.
"What has happened?"
How wrong it all was, how terribly wrong.
There was nothing to do but return to Imladris, all the while thinking the worst. Even if it meant travelling with the entire host of Lórien for protection, Arwen would not have waited. Her grandparents' company was strength enough, even with the large escort that accompanied them.
As they descended into the valley, Imladris came into view. Arwen let her horse ride swiftly over well-trodden paths, and the last few miles vanished behind them.
Before she had even entered the house, Elrond came out on the terrace. She rushed straight to him, and clutched at his sleeves as he extended an embrace.
"Please, tell me..."
Arwen wondered when her father had last slept. He seemed pale, his eyes a clouded grey.
"I think the worst is over, but we still wait for her to heal," he said quietly, attempting to sound reassuring, but not entirely succeeding. "I have done what I can, but I think your presence will help."
"I will go to her at once."
Nothing now could keep her away.
That night it was clear, every star visible in the dark velvet sky.
Celebrían knew she should be taking much needed sleep while she could, but still she found herself awake in the early hours of the morning, thinking on the new infant girl who now lay in the cradle just across the room.
She turned to see Elrond asleep beside her. He had been so attentive, insisting that she take rest, that she knew he had neglected his own fatigue. Smiling, she placed a light kiss on his forehead, careful not to wake him.
Wrapping her robe tightly around her, she eased herself out of bed, and crept gingerly over to the bassinet at the side of the room, where a chair had been thoughtfully placed. She felt her body ache, but it was her least concern. For now her only thoughts were of the sleeping girl.
To have already been granted two children at once had been one of the greatest joys of her life, but now to have a daughter as well... for so long Celebrían had only dreamed it.
"My little girl," she whispered with a smile, almost disbelieving.
She reached into the cradle, gently drawing back the blanket. The baby's hands were drawn up to her chest, her body almost crouched as she lay on her back. Celebrían ran long fingers over the small fists, curiously touching a soft, rosy cheek.
Her daughter had the dark hair of her father, and even now similar features between them could be distinguished. But there were other similarities that went deeper than appearance, things Celebrían knewshe had given to Arwen, connections that could only be had between a mother and daughter.
Placing one hand carefully underneath the small head, she lifted Arwen out of the cradle, to rest snugly in her own arms. The baby stirred only lightly, and did not awake.
She began to hum softly, not truly knowing what the tune was, an unanticipated melody.
Who will you be? she thought, Where will you go, how will you live? Who will you love?
Those questions were left to chance, the possibilities left open, unknown.
Celebrían smiled down at her tiny girl, filled with giddy expectation of the years yet to come.
Although she had taken no notice of the change in seasons, the leaves had seemed to fall eagerly, inviting the cool weather of winter.
Celebrían could not remember the last time when she had been surrounded by so much of her family. At another time, she would have been able to find more delight in their company, but now it was only solace they could hope to offer.
But despite the presence of her parents, and her husband and children, she had withdrawn from much of the activity at Imladris recently. Elrond had not questioned it, although he made gentle attempts to draw her out.
Celebrían sat on the edge of their newly made bed, staring out beyond the windows, her hands curving lightly around the edge of mattress. Her silver hair was loose and free, hanging down behind her back and over her shoulders.
The curtains of the bedroom were pulled back to allow in the muted daylight of early winter. In this moment it comforted her, to feel the calmness of the season, to feel solitude in the quiet of the room.
On the dressing table lay a unique deep green stone, its silver chain pooled into a small pile. There it had stayed in waiting, since it had been removed from her neck when she had been brought back to Imladris, months ago now.
She saw it from where she sat, and simply looked at it for many moments before she could bring herself to hold it. Stretching out her slim hands she carefully scooped it up, and lowered herself back down to perch once more on the end of the bed.
But even as she regarded the stone in her hands, Celebrían realised with disappointment that it did not shine forth anew the light it captured. The chain still sparkled, but the emerald remained dim.
No. It is not to be.
As she stood again, to set it back on the table, quiet footsteps on the threshold of the chamber made her turn.
"You will not wear it?"
Elrond's voice was even and light, despite the melancholy in his expression. It was less a question, more an acknowledgement.
Celebrían fastened her fingers tightly around the jewel in her hand. As she tried to find words to answer him, she could only shake her head.
"Even though it may offer you strength?"
"The life it once held is gone, for me. It is no longer as it was."
With unexpected resignation she set it down again, letting her flattened palm linger over it, for just a moment.
Without looking up, she slowly stepped back over to the bed. Standing just in front of it, she raised a hand to rub her hairline. Her voice was a whisper when she spoke again.
"I am no longer as I was." Elrond met her glance from across the room. Approaching her, he reached for her free hand, and instinctively she took his, lacing their fingers together. "You must feel it too, meleth-nîn, you cannot tell me you do not."
Celebrían tried to remain calm as she looked up at him, but her cheeks pinched as she fought to keep the inner turmoil from surfacing. He saw the clear blue of her eyes and wished that they would shine again, shine with light and not tears.
"Somehow I did not want to give in to it, wishing that you would return to yourself."
She stepped forward, to be as close to him as she could. Elrond raised his fingertips to tuck a piece of silver hair behind her ear, then gently laid his hand to the side of her face, the delicate skin he so cherished.
Celebrían briefly closed her eyes as she tilted her cheek into his palm. She had to draw in a breath to keep her voice steady, but even still it was weak when she spoke.
"I know it pains you, but we must speak of it, begin to admit what must happen."
Without hesitation he drew his arms around her, clutching her shoulders, and she buried herself against his robes, as they sank together to sit on the bed.
"Admit that there is truly nothing here that can help you? That even I could not fully heal your pain?"
Celebrían heard his voice falter.
"You know how I have hoped you could take it away, how dearly I have hoped..."
Only then did he feel her shoulders begin to shake with release.
"I want only for you to be healed, but how can I do this, and let go of you?"
"Would you have me remain here, only to become a stranger to the ones who love me?" She turned her face up to him, and saw her husband's cheeks were now as wet as her own. "A stranger to you?"
Elrond swallowed, reaching out once more to brush away with his thumb the streaks of tears that marked her face. As they regarded each other for a moment, in silence, neither wanted to speak, in fear of acknowledging the truth that they could no longer hide.
"Why does it feel so wrong, to give in to this?"
"It will not be forever, only until you follow me," she whispered.
"I know," he nodded. "But let me at least have you a little longer, leave me this next while, to keep you in my memory?"
Through her melancholy, Celebrían smiled, letting through a glimmer of hope past the marring that he knew lingered.
"I will forever hold you in my heart, beyond any distance of the sea. I love you, herven, always."
Offering her a weak smile, Elrond took her face in both his hands.
"I know it."
She brought her hands up, and wrapping her arms around his neck, pressed her lips to his. He caught her once again in his arms, tightening the embrace, wishing for nothing but to capture the moment in his memory.
Celebrían watched a dark-haired Elf-child play happily, dancing across the floor in harmony with the music being played on the harp. It was a tune she had returned to often for Arwen. Celebrían had never put it down on paper, but every time she played it she could recall it, just as the last.
The little girl held a thin shawl at her fingertips, twirling it around her as she skipped slowly across the marble floor. Her mother heard her singing to herself, lost in her own world of dreams.
"Who are you dancing with?" Celebrían called out.
"With the music, of course," replied her daughter, as if it was the only possible answer to the question.
Arwen continued to step across the floor, turning and turning, until Celebrían thought she would surely grow dizzy.
Sure enough, after a moment the Elf-child paused in her step, wearing a dazed half-smile. Recovering quickly, she hopped over to where her mother sat, watching her playing the harp. She was barely as tall as the instrument itself.
"Will you show me how?"
Her mother could not help but smile.
"Are you sure you will remember it, if I do?" The girl nodded eagerly. "Alright, then."
Celebrían let go her fingers from the strings, lingering vibrations whispering through the air as she released them.
"To begin, will you help me with two notes? Just here, and then here" - she plucked a string toward the middle of the harp, and another one step above it.
Arwen tried for herself, and the notes sounded clearly, one after the other. She smiled, pleased with her effort.
"Now, when I say, play your part with me. Ready?"
She nodded to her mother.
With one hand, Celebrían began to play on one side of the harp, and when she indicated, Arwen played her two notes on the other. After a while the two lines came together, as the sounds of two performers blended into one.
Winter settled gently over Imladris in that last year, and Celebrían found herself more taken up in it than she had ever been. When before the cold of the season had often deterred her from going out in the snow, she now walked calmly on the path back to the terrace, as the white flakes drifted softly down.
Holding Elrond's arm as they walked, she turned her face upward, smiling as one snowflake tickled her eyelid, another on her lips. She opened her mouth to welcome another, and another, tasting the fresh coolness as they melted on her tongue.
Her husband only smiled in return as he observed her. They spoke little these days, saying more with small gestures and touches of mind than they could with words. They had accepted it now.
Re-entering the house, Celebrían chuckled as she shook white snow from her silver hair. As her husband helped her with her cloak, she could hear music coming from down the hall.
She paused and listened, and with a squeeze of Elrond's hand, she left him to seek the source of the sound.
As she approached the end of the hall, Celebrían heard a familiar tune being played on a harp. Before she even entered the room she knew it was her daughter playing, but the tempo was wrong. There was a halting quality to each note as it was plucked.
She entered and saw Arwen sitting before the harp, her fingers trembling over the strings. After a moment she paused and let go of the instrument. Celebrían watched her bring a hand up to softly wipe tears from her eyes.
"Why have you stopped?"
Arwen looked up in surprise.
"I find myself fighting the melody, it will not come."
"But you know it well, you learned it as a girl."
"That is just it," Arwen replied, her voice suddenly choked. "I fear that if I do not play, it will fade from my memory."
"Nallach an i laer...?"Celebrían asked gently, sitting down next to her daughter, "...or for something else?"
Arwen held her cheeks in her hands, unable to keep her mother from seeing her tears.
"How shall it be, without you here? Without you to teach me?"
Celebrían reached out to push a piece of dark hair behind Arwen's shoulder.
"You and I both know that you surpassed long ago the point when I could teach you anew."
Arwen shook her head. "I did not mean the harp."
"Neither did I."
Arwen looked back to the instrument in front of her. There was nothing in her long years that she could draw on, to prepare her for such feelings.
"Close your eyes," said Celebrían softly. Arwen turned to her questioningly. "You know this melody from your heart, sell-nîn, let it come."
The younger Elf-lady nodded, and with a little hesitation, drew her hands up beside the instrument. She let her eyelids close, and briefly let her fingers hover just beside the strings, as she took in a slow breath.
Her face showed concentration as she began to play. Slowly the tune emerged, careful fingertips finding the right chords.
Soft music drifted through the air.
Arwen's hands floated over the strings, and a smile emerged on her lips as she found the tune that was woven so carefully into her heart and memory, the tune she knew now would not be forgotten.
While the afternoon sun was beginning to descend from its highest point in the sky over Lórien, two Elf-ladies walked over the grass, among the white and golden blossoms.
The younger Lady paused in her step, to turn back to the older one.
"Naneth, you are falling behind again," Arwen laughed, taking her mother's hand, to pull her along.
"I did not know it was a race," Celebrían smiled back, but happily let her daughter lead her up the hill.
They reached the small plateau of the hilltop, and stood chuckling as they caught their breath.
"It is because you are daydreaming, I know it."
"It is that obvious?" Celebrían answered lightly. "I was only thinking of your father, and the anniversary that waits for when I return."
"But must you leave so soon? You could stay here with me instead, feel the wonderful sunshine here." Arwen pleaded, but only in jest. She knew that although her mother would devote the spring to Lórien, the summer would always be for her father, and Imladris. "It is not as though your anniversary will not come again next year, and the next."
She set herself down on the lush grass, wonderfully cool even in the heat of the day.
"Oh, you will know well the delightful folly of devotion, when you have a love to call your own." Celebrían added, poking her daughter's side teasingly as she took a seat of her own.
"No, I do not think I shall ever fall in love," Arwen demured, blinking her dark lashes as she turned her eyes down.
This surprised Celebrían. "Why should you be so certain of that?"
"To marry, and make such a vow? To bond myself to another for eternity?" Arwen let out a soft breath. "I could never imagine such a choice."
"Neither could I imagine it," her mother confided. "But that was before I met your father."
Arwen blushed as she smiled.
"I have met no Elf-lord, who makesme feel so."
"Oh, there is no telling what will come with time, who might sweep you off your feet, bring you fine gifts." The Lady's blue eyes gleamed with mischief.
Arwen sank back and laid down, looking up at the sky through the treetops. Stretching one hand out from her side, she fingered one of the yellow blooms growing in the grass about them.
"If I were to meet such a Lord, I would expect from him nothing finer than flowers. For I would love him for himself, and not for treasures."
"I imagine you will love him, simply for who he is," Celebrían replied softly.
Arwen's cheek's flushed once again. Not knowing at first what to say, she could only give a sheepish smile.
"Well, until then I shall remain here, and dream. With the beauty of the river, and the hills, and the blossoms, I shall need nothing else."
She looked aside to her mother, who had also lain back, her light hair spilling out freely in contrast with the green grass. Celebrían had plucked one of the same golden flowers, twirling the stem between her fingers.
"What did ada give to you, when you married him?"
"He gave me a ring, and he gave me himself." Celebrían sighed happily, and smiled back at her daughter. "And more joy than I could have ever expected."
When the day of departure arrived, and all preparations had been made, the House of Elrond made ready to bid farewell to its Lady.
Celebrían had asked her husband to wait for her with Elladan and Elrohir, so she could take a last moment with her daughter.
Arwen could only look at the floor, not wanting to reveal to her mother the sadness she could not conceal. How long would this separation be?
"I cannot tell what is yet to pass for you and I, what things I shall miss when I am gone from here, but know that I leave you with hope." Celebrían took Arwen's hand, and pressed into her palm the emerald stone that she herself had worn for so many years. "In hope you may find strength."
Arwen took the gem tightly in her fist, her eyes moistening with tears.
"I know that even though you will be far away, it is the better place for you. But why do I now feel so afraid?"
"I cannot say, only that I feel it too."
Celebrían wished to give her daughter comfort, but now, as she faced her last moments with her, words failed her. She squeezed her hands around Arwen's fist, around the jewel that connected them.
"I can leave you now with this, and the only advice that I know is true. In whatever times may come, whatever you may face, trust yourself, and no decision you make will ever be in vain."
Celebrían drew in a short breath, bringing her hands up to hold her daughter's face. She had not wanted to part in tears, but now she could not fight them.
"Trust your heart, sell-nîn, and there will be nothing to fear. Promise me, that you will live by your heart."
Arwen could barely find her voice, through sobs, but spoke with sincerity. "I promise."
Now, as she wrapped her arms around her mother's shoulders, Celebrían squeezed back tightly, without hesitation.
"Im mil le, nana."
"Im mil le, goll, bain sell nîn,"Celebrían whispered, holding her daughter in her arms one final time. "There is no stretch of sea that could prevent that."
Many years later, the Queen of Gondor sat in her study, quietly reading. Spring had arrived in Minas Tirith, and the balcony doors of the study were open, allowing a warm breeze to flow into the room.
She twisted a lock of hair between her fingers, absentmindedly humming to herself. After a moment she was distracted, as a curtain drifted up on the wind.
Realising she had not been concentrating on her book for many minutes, she set it on the table beside her chair and, shaking herself out of repose, stood and stretched. Looking from the floating curtains to the rest of the room, her gaze settled on a harp in one corner.
How long has it been?It had been many months indeed, since she had last played.
But the tune that had made its presence known in her mind would not leave. Still humming, Arwen crossed slowly to the other side of the room, stretching out one hand as she reached the instrument.
She ran her fingers gently over the wooden frame, the line of it as familiar as ever. She sat down on the small bench and faced the harp.
Closing her eyes, she did not have to reach far into memory to find the rest of the melody. Her fingers hovered just above the strings, moving back and forth, but still the only music came from her as she continued to hum.
"Naneth?" Arwen looked up to see her youngest daughter enter the room, a light smile playing on her lips. "What are you doing?"
"I am playing, of course," she replied, with a quick wink.
The young lady left the book she had brought on a table, and came to sit next to her mother.
Much like Arwen herself resembled her own father, Elenna favoured Aragorn, having the same dark brown hair and light eyes. The only one of their daughters still living at home, she was now a lady in her own right, grown tall and slim.
"But you are not even touching the strings," the young princess smiled again, nearly laughing.
"I can hear the melody in my memory, just as well as on the harp."
"Well, may I hear it then on the harp, since I cannot see into your memory?" Elenna continued to tease.
Arwen gave a nod, and calmly drew her hands up again to the harp, taking in a soft breath as she began to play. It came naturally and easily. She had not played it in so long, thinking it would make her heart feel heavy, but now she felt light, so wonderfully light.
"May I try?" her daughter asked.
"Of course." Arwen released the strings.
"No please, you may continue as well," Elenna encouraged. "I only want to see if we might play together."
The Queen's face brightened at the unexpected offer. "I would like that."
She began to play again, finding on one side of the harp the core of the tune. Elenna joined in on the other side, at first blending her notes to her mother's, but after a few moments, ventured into a different harmony, building unexpectedly on the original melody.
The two women continued to play, point and counterpoint, the additional theme only strengthening the original. After many minutes, they slowed the tempo, and found a way to bring the music slowly to a natural conclusion.
Arwen released the last note, letting her fingertips hover for a moment, before drifting down to her lap. She exhaled a slow breath, still smiling warmly.
"That sounded lovely, did it not?" said Elenna brightly.
"It did indeed," answered her mother.
"But I wonder if we shall ever remember it, to repeat it again?"
"Oh, you would be surprised, sell-nîn," said Arwen softly, drawing an arm over her daughter's shoulders, "of what, over time, is kept safe in the heart."
meleth-nîn= my love
herven = husband
naneth = mother
nallach an i laer...? = Do you cry for the song...?
sell-nîn = my daughter
im mil le, goll, bain sell nîn = I love you, my wise, beautiful daughter