The Life of a Ranger.
Estel awoke with a violent coughing fit and Arwen was at his side immediately with a glass of water, which she pressed into his hands. When she saw he was shaking too much to hold the glass without spilling the contents everywhere, she placed her smaller, steady hands over his and together they lifted the glass to his mouth.
When he had had enough he leaned back, breathlessly, into the many feather pillows arranged comfortingly behind him.
"Are you sure you do not want me to send for the healers? It tears at my heart to see you in such pain," Arwen said softly.
"There is nothing they can do for me melamin. I can feel my life fading away and can only wait for Ilúvatar to take me."
Arwen lovingly stroked his fevered brow with her slim, cool hand while trying to hide the tears that were welling up in her eyes, but he saw them anyway.
He took her hand in his and pressed a gentle kiss to it before saying, "We both knew this day would come."
"That does not make it any easier to bare," Arwen whispered, one solitary tear slipping down her cheek and splashing onto their clasped hands. She took a deep, shaky breath and then spoke again, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Could you ask Celebrian to come over here please?"
Arwen nodded and walked over to their youngest daughter who was curled up in a chair, asleep, in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. "Ada wants to talk you," she said once she was awake.
Arwen sat down with a sigh in the chair her daughter had just vacated and her mind wandered back over the long years she had spent with Aragorn, both before and after their marriage. She was so engrossed in these memories that she did not notice when Celebrian left the room in tears, nor did she notice when her other two daughters left in the same state. It was only when Eldarion, who had been sitting on the chair next to her, stood up that she stirred from her reverie.
She looked out the window and saw that dawn was fast approaching, and when she looked at her husband talking softly to their son in the pale light that was filtering in through the window she knew with a sudden feeling of foreboding that he would not be alive to see the sun set that night.
She fought down the tears that welled up inside her at this thought and turned her attention back to Estel and Eldarion.
"These belong to you now," Estel said, handing Eldarion the winged crown of Gondor and the sceptre or Arnor.
Eldarion shook his head. "I'm not ready Ada."
"I have faith in you," Estel replied with a gentle smile.
Eldarion carefully put the valuable items down on the bed and threw his arms around Estel in a way he had not down since he was a young boy. After a few minutes he pulled away, tears glittering in his dark eyes.
"You look tired. Go get some rest nin ion."
Eldarion tried to say something but could not get any words around the lump that had formed in his throat so he gave his Ada one final hug and left the room. He did not realise where his feet were taking him until he arrived outside Elrohir's door. He knocked on the door and after a short wait heard Elrohir moving around in his room, and then the door opened.
Elrohir took in the shaking, dishevelled form of his nephew and the items he was holding and said quietly, "Your Majesty?" dreading the reply he expected.
Eldarion's eyes widened in surprise and he shook his head violently. "I think you should go and see Ada, all three of you," he pointed towards the rooms Elladan and Legolas were sleeping in. "He's…he's dying," he chocked out.
Elrohir took a deep breath and gave Eldarion's shoulder a small squeeze and said, "Why don't you go and wake Legolas up and I'll get Elladan."
A few minutes later the three elves and Eldarion were outside Estel and Arwen's bedroom.
"Are you coming in with us?" Legolas asked Eldarion.
"No I've said goodbye."
The elves nodded, knocked and entered the room.
"So, sending your son to prank us while we are asleep now are you?" Elladan said jokingly, although he was shocked at how frail his little brother looked.
Arwen gave Estel a kiss and then stood up. "I'm going to go and get some fresh air. If you need me just call, I will not go far."
She shut the door tiredly behind herself and jumped when she saw her son in front of her. "I thought you were going to get some rest."
"I would not be able to sleep tonight."
"I understand. Come, some fresh air will do us both good."
They walked in silence onto a balcony that looked over the whole city. Arwen leant on the edge while Eldarion stayed slightly behind, giving her the space he knew she needed but still close enough to be of comfort.
After a while his eyes drifted over to the figure of his mother and he saw that her shoulders were shaken with silent tears.
"Yes," Arwen replied, trying to keep her voice steady.
Eldarion quickly closed the gap between them and put his arms round her and for a few minutes the only noises to be heard was Arwen weeping.
"Never be ashamed of your emotions. Isn't that what you and Ada have always said?"
Arwen smiled fondly at her son. "What would I do without you tithen min?"
"You will never have to find out. You have always been there for me and I will always be there for you," Eldarion replied, before looking down at the floor in embarrassment. He wasn't normally one for such emotional declarations.
"I'm going to go back in, are you coming?" asked Arwen.
"I'll be in shortly."
As Arwen slowly walked back to her room she thought about the conversation Estel was going to want to have with her. He had broached the subject of her leaving Middle Earth a few months ago but Arwen had become so indignant that he had dropped the subject but she knew he would bring it up one last time.
As she walked up to her bedroom door Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas came out looking very upset and shaken. Elladan looked up as she approached and for a moment it seemed as if he wanted to say something to her but then his eyes fell back to the floor.
Arwen silently entered the room and studied her husband as he lay, looking so fragile, eyes pressed shut and face set in a grimace of pain and she gave a soft sigh.
He heard the noise and his eyes popped open. A small smile graced his face as his eyes took in the sight of his beloved wife, still as young, ageless and beautiful as when he first met her in the woods of Rivendell.
"How are you feeling?" Arwen asked as she sat down next to him.
"I've felt better," he paused, unsure how to continue. "There's something I must ask you, before it's too late."
Estel looked at Arwen expecting her to say something but she remained silent so he carried on. "Last time I spoke to you about you leaving Middle Earth you said you would not, but I must ask you to reconsider. I am going to die. I have always known that is my fate and I accepted it a long time ago, but it need not be your fate, no, it should not be your fate. Sail into the west, keep our love alive in the Undying Lands, be with your family."
"And what about my family here? Do you really think I could sail away from them in the knowledge that they will all grow old and die while I will not? I could not do that."
Estel could see that she was not going to change her mind and they fell into silence. Suddenly, he gasped as a wave of pain hit him.
"Do not despair, we will be together again. Farewell My Lady," he said, pressing a kiss to her hand and falling into a deep sleep, never to awake from.
"Estel, Estel no," Arwen cried. "Please don't leave me."
Eldarion had not long rejoined Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas when the suffocating silence that surrounded them was broken by a cry from inside Arwen and Estel's bedroom.
"Estel, Estel no. Please don't leave me."
Elrohir sunk to the floor, his face buried in his hands, as his legs gave way beneath him. Elladan tried to move but he seemed to have lost the use of his legs. All thoughts of trying to comfort his family were pushed out of his mind by the realisation that Estel, his little brother, was dead. He wondered how they were going to cope without Estel, the man who had become such an important part of their lives when a movement from behind Elrohir caught his attention. Eldarion reached out a hand out to brace himself against the wall and it hit Elladan with a shock that how he was feeling must be nothing compared to what Eldarion was going through. He had just lost his father and Elladan could remember all to well the pain he went through when his own mother had left Middle Earth.
Finally, after regaining control of his legs, Elladan slowly and unsteadily made his way over to his nephew. "Eldarion?"
Eldarion's eyes flickered up to Elladan's face briefly in acknowledgment before returning to the floor but it was long enough for Elladan to see the look of utter grief and anguish on his face. Not knowing what to say he simply wrapped his arms around the young man and pulled him close.
The silence in the hallway was again broken by a noise from inside the bedroom. This time it was a weeping noise that could only be coming from Arwen. Looking around Elladan did not think anyone else had noticed it and he dearly wanted to go to his sister but he couldn't leave Eldarion.
Eldarion, however, had also heard Arwen, and seeing the look on Elladan's face knew what he was thinking. "Go to her," he said softly. "She needs someone and I…I can't go in there. Not yet."
Elladan nodded and quietly made his way into her bedroom. The sight that greeted him brought the tears that he had kept at bay for so long, to his eyes, and it was not long before they were streaming down his face. Estel lay so still and lifeless on the bed and next to him, her head on his chest, lay Arwen sobbing.
She was unaware of Elladan's presence until he took one of her hands in his and called her name softly at which point she sat up and fell into his arms. They lost track of how long they sat together, just mourning their brother and husband.
Arwen quickly made her way to the stables, clinging to the shadows as much as she could, the hood of her riding cloak pulled low over her face so as not to be recognised by anyone up and about this early. It was a few hours before dawn, just over a week after Estel had died and Arwen had made the decision that she could not stay in Minas Tirith any longer. She had said her goodbyes with her children but could not face saying goodbye to her brothers, so she planned to slip away.
As she saddled up her horse she heard the slight creak as the stable door was opened. She guessed who had just entered and was proved right when Elladan spoke.
"Were you not even going to say goodbye?"
Arwen slowly turned round to face her brothers and although she did not say anything they knew what her answer was.
"Are you sure leaving here is the right thing to do?" Elladan asked.
"No, I am not. However I do know that I cannot stay. Without him there is nothing to keep me here."
"What about your children?"
"They don't need me anymore. They all have their own families to look after."
"Where will you go?" Elrohir asked.
"I do not know yet. Please do not try and follow me." And with that she gave them both a kiss and mounted her horse.
Elrohir opened the stable doors for her, and with tears in her eyes she whispered, "Namarie," kicked her horse into a gallop and left Minas Tirith, never to return again.
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed my story and for being patient with me, I know it took me ages to finish! I hope you all enjoyed it, I know I enjoyed writing it.