She says she has chosen.
How can this be?
She tells me with perfect dignity, quietly, biding no argument.
But her eyes belie her seeming composure. They plead with me to accept, to understand her decision. And brim with hot tears as I turn away.
She is your sister, a silent voice snaps. You cannot disown her so.
Elladan would have reacted better – perhaps did react better, if she has told him already. After all, he has always been the one more attuned to our human heritage – it is inherent even in his name.
But we are Elves. This is the path our father chose, and the path we have been brought up to. And she would cast it away, and ask me to embrace her choice.
And of all Men for her to set her heart on – the lad, small nameless heir of the Dúnedain, who was raised in our own house, who called me and Elladan 'brother', who rejoiced in any chance he had to follow us on a scouting or raiding party.
He always wanted to be an Elf.
And now she wants to be a human.
I had not known that fate has a sense of irony.
I suppose I should no longer call him a 'lad'. He is grown, as Men reckon such things, and for decades now he has forayed on his own in the wild, not tagging along at my brother's and my heels. But still, compared to myself – or my sister – he is yet a sapling, a bud that will scarcely flower before it is withered by time.
Such is the destiny that Arwen would bind herself to?
I do not understand it. I cannot accept it.
Please, sister, cries a part of my heart, the part that knows that arguing aloud is useless. We are the Three, remember? The immortal trio, the ageless adventurers. What of the oath of vengeance that we swore against the Orcs? How will you fulfill that if you are to suffer the Doom of Men?
I know not what she hopes I will say. "Of course, Arwen, do what you feel is right. I will never see you again, but I hope you are happy. Until the end, at any rate. I…well, I will remember you in Valinor. Fare thee well, sister."
I will not hurt her with words such as these, but I cannot think of an easier way to phrase them. So I am silent, and I stare at the wall, where hangs a small tapestry. It is inexpertly made: it is the first that Arwen created when she learned to weave, centuries ago, and she was so proud when I hung it in my room. With a terrible, bitter pang, I realise, seeing it anew, that it depicts the meeting of Lúthien and Beren. Did Arwen know, even as a child, that this would be her doom, or does fate just seek another way to torment me?
A hand is laid tentatively on my arm. I look down, my heart twisting as I notice the lovely silver ring adorning the index finger, but I do not turn, and the words that I would say seem to be lost somewhere between my mind and my mouth. Sweet Elbereth, there has never been such a barrier between us before. Help me say something…but nothing comes to mind, and the hand is removed. I hear a long, shuddering sigh, and then the soft sound of my door being pulled shut. Too late, I find my voice – "Arwen!" – hoping that she will hear, and return, and forgive me my silence; or, better yet, that she will laugh and tell me that all was a jest. But the only reply is a crackle and hiss as the logs on the hearth settle, falling with a shower of sparks into glowing embers. Outside my window, a lark chirps a few dubious notes to the gathering dusk.
Nay, little one, you are mistaken: it is the twilight, not the dawn. Darkness is not lifting, it is falling…
I fling myself on my bed. "Curse you, Estel," I whisper fiercely, and the cruel words that I cannot truly make sincere set free the tears that have been stinging behind my eyelids.
Estel, Estel, I would trust you with my life. The Valar know that you have saved it countless times. But this – this is too great a gift that you would have from me! Ask any other treasure, and I swear I would not begrudge it…
A tear creeps into the corner of my mouth, and I turn my head to spit it out. I have heard that the tears of Men are salty, wellnigh sweet, but Elven tears are bitter – perhaps because they bear the sadness of ages, rather than a mere three or fourscore years, as it is with the Younger Children.
My thoughts turn to my twin, as they do unerringly when I feel pain or sorrow. Elladan, I would you were here…I need your wisdom, brother. Does he weep these same tears? Or is he yet unaware of the wedge that has sundered Elrond's children? The wedge – I smile humourlessly – that once himself named Elrond 'father.'
Dear my sister…we are at an impasse…
We cannot both be happy…
I remember the two-year-old who arrived in Imladris one stormy night, clutched in the arms of his mother Gilraen. My brother and I had been with his father, Arathorn, when he was slain only days before on an Orc raid. Now his toddler of a son had come to live in my own home, and was accepted as my own brother. I remember, too, how my sister was sent soon after to live with our grandmother in Lórien. Father, did I ever question your reasons? What a fool I was…
I loved the little Man-child, of course: he was so bright, so eager to learn, so desperate to prove his worth among my people. And he was the only youngling in Rivendell, so naturally he was cosseted and spoiled thoroughly. But the attention never swelled his head – which is why his request regarding Arwen is doubly stunning. It might be called arrogant, if Estel had an arrogant fibre in his body. And yet – Estel, you say you love us. How could you presume to part us so? I love my sister – possibly more than I love you. She is my flesh and my blood, after all.
Still, you are my little brother, once my wriggling tadpole of a Manling. It is impossible not to love you. But – I knew from the beginning that you are mortal, and I knew that the day would come when I would have to bid you farewell when you passed beyond the circles of this world. I knew that, and I accepted it. But you ask to take my beloved sister with you? This I cannot accept.
Arwen…Opposing forces battle within my head. On the one hand, I would fly from my rooms, find my sister, capitulate and beg forgiveness for my asininity. On the other, I would struggle with her, demand that she change her mind, laden her with guilt and remorse until her resolve cracks.
I can do neither, so I remain on my bed, and weep, and curse impotently.
Dear brother; dear, dear sister; why do you endeavour to tear me in two?
The birds are bold here in Rivendell. The lark who had been singing before now alights on my windowsill, cocking his head at me curiously. He seems familiar, and recalls to me a happier, simpler time, when Estel was still very young, perhaps eleven or twelve.
"See, Elrohir?" Standing on a great precipice of rock on the lip of the valley of Imladris, he spread his arms westward and proclaimed his childish boasts. "I am on the highest point, so I am king of all this land."
"If you are to be king, Your Majesty, you must be more specific," I replied, humouring him. "What are the lands, exactly, that you rule?"
"Everything I can see. Everythingyou can see." He was ever jealous of my keener eyesight. Then his tone changed, grew more serious. "No. Everything that a bird can see." He turned to me, his expression sober. "Have you ever seen an eagle, brother?"
I raised an eyebrow, wondering where this conversation would lead. "Yes, Estel, I have."
"I have not seen one in a long time. Where do they go when they are not near Rivendell?" Before I could answer, he plunged on, "Do they ever go to Lothlórien?"
Dangerous ground to tread. "Perhaps. What is so special in Lothlórien?"
He was quiet for long minutes, his face turned to the south, the wind ruffling his dark hair. "I do not know," he said at last, his voice small and uncertain as only a child's can be. "There is something…Who lives in Lothlórien, Elrohir?"
I forced a dismissive laugh. "The Elves of Lothlórien, who else?"
He smiled hesitantly, then shook himself – like a puppy, I thought – and truly smiled. "No one else. I just thought…I don't know. Never mind."
And the moment had passed.
Why did I not heed the warning?
A light knock on my door startles the bird away.
"Come in, Arwen," I call. "And forgive me. I was thinking only of myself. You are my sister, and I wish you happiness, no matter where you may find it."
There is silence. Then I hear her muffled sob, and footsteps moving away. And I realise that I did not speak aloud.
And my tears start afresh, drops of a Morgul cordial, and now I do not reject their bitterness.
A/N:This chapter was made into a stand-alone piece for the purposes of nominations for the Mithril Awards; the rest of the story is located under the FF.net profile Aerlinnel. Please review there, since this story will only exist for a limited time. Thank you!