A/N: Well, years and years later, here we are. The mood struck me and I ran with it. Here is the epilogue, it is what it is. I wont tantalize you with the idea of a sequel, though I dont deny that the thought has crossed my mind. If it happens, then so be it (and if it does I can promise a somewhat decent writing style this time around).
Before I let you off to enjoy the end of this massive fic, I'd like to thank those of you who stuck it out and read till the end. I know I havent been the best at updating, especially towards the end, but your continuing support means a lot to me. Truly, it does. I dont know that I would have had the confidence to continue without any of the kind reviews and encouraging words. I hope the epilogue does not disappoint :-)
And so, without further ado...
Epilogue: Vanwa, nan lá hecilë
It was strange to think that so many years had passed, and still Haldir could not sleep soundly through the night. His brothers would fondly accuse him of staying up just to finish a project he had started, but he knew their jests were an attempt to make light of the fact that Haldir put off sleep to avoid the terrible dreams that plagued him when he finally gave in. He knew that he was not alone in this; there were others like himself who could not help but spent their nights reliving the final battle where so many had given their lives. Only once had he spoken of his difficulty sleeping with another, and even then the conversation was short-lived. They both knew there was nothing that could be said to repair what had already been damaged.
Haldir never knew what became of middle Earth following his time at the Black Gate. In fact he could scarcely recall anything until he came to the Grey Havens to board the ship to Valinor. The tangy scent of the ocean before him had pulled him from what felt like a great murky abyss.
"We are at the Grey Havens," he observed with a frown. His brothers, who he later learned had not left his side until that moment, jumped at the sound of his voice.
"Yes, we are going to Valinor," Rumil replied cautiously. Haldir looked down at the smooth pale wood of the rail beneath his fingers, and then over his shoulder at the enormous boat he had somehow gotten on without noticing. There were a few others with them; Galadriel, who was engaged in conversation with another elleth whose name he no longer remembered, Valaina and Elenya, and a few members of the Lothlorien guard. He presumed others were with them, but were in the cabins below the main deck. He looked back at Galadriel, who was now watching him keenly. She offered him a small smile, and Haldir felt the familiar feather-light brush of her mind against his.
Good of you to return, Marchwarden, she said. Haldir quickly looked away, casting his gaze on the horizon where the sun was beginning to set and stain the blue sky pink and orange. The boat suddenly lurched beneath his feet and began slicing through the glassy water. Haldir glanced once behind him at the retreating shoreline, but only felt emptiness where regret or sorrow should have lingered instead. There was nothing he was leaving behind that he would sorely miss. The sails snapped in the wind, drawing Haldir's gaze towards them. They gleamed proudly in the sun and strained against their ties. The pale cream color of the sails was meant to signify the purity of the place they were journeying to, but from his vantage point, Haldir thought it resembled a white flag of defeat.
Frequently, Galadriel visited the warriors who had returned from the Black Gate in one piece. It distressed her to know that while corporeally, many of her elves had returned, few still possessed awareness enough to care for themselves. Haldir, for some time, had been one such elf. He showed no signs of recognizing Lothlorien when they returned, and instead stared blankly at the velvety green leaves of the Malorn trees extending far above him. He did not remember where he lived within the trees and seldom spoke. It was not long before he said nothing at all.
Galadriel made numerous attempts to speak with him telepathically, as any other form was not granted a response. Periodically, she would peer into his mind to try to better understand how to help her warden. Each time, Galadriel was instantly repelled by the sheer force of pain and confusion that gripped Haldir's mind so ferociously. She then understood that it was not a lack of awareness that prevented Haldir from communicating, but that he was too occupied with protecting himself from complete mental destruction to even acknowledge anything else. Galadriel nonetheless sat with him in her garden for an hour each day. On a basic level, all elves were connected to nature in a way that extended beyond simply existing beside it. It explained why they chose places of extreme beauty and tranquility for their dwellings, for it was there that they felt the greatest connection to the earth. It was her hope that her garden would have some positive effect on Haldir, even if it was only a small one.
When Galadriel felt the undeniable pull of the sea and decided to leave middle Earth, it did not surprise her to know that many wished to go with her. It also did not surprise her that her husband, Celeborn, was not ready to make such a journey. Her heart ached at the thought of being separated from him after being together for so long, but she knew that in time, he would join her, along with any elves who remained in middle Earth.
Most of Haldir's family had traveled with him, as well as Marks, Adrian and Andy. As guardians, the comforts of Valinor had been extended to them, and the three seemed more than willing to accept the offer. They too were affected by Fara's passing, but expressed their grief very differently from Haldir. Marks and Adrian spent much of their time being angry, while Andy's guilt nearly consumed him. All of them made a point of steering clear of Haldir however, for fear of triggering something darker within him. They knew of what happened to elves who lost their lovers, and Haldir appeared to be teetering so precariously between fatal bereavement and recovery that they dared not risk setting him off with their mere presence. When Haldir began to speak again, and then slowly show signs indicating he might one day be whole, they relaxed somewhat. It did not slip anyone's notice, however, that whenever Haldir came to dinner, the three former guardians managed to busy themselves with something else, and slip away for the evening.
Haldir refused the home that was offered to him upon his arrival in Valinor. Instead, he elected to build his own dwelling. His brothers joked light-heartedly that Haldir did not trust another to build a home to his own standards. There was truth in this, for he would have changed many things, structural and otherwise, had he accepted it. What motivated his choice, however, was a need to keep busy. Haldir soon found that if he worked, or spent free time busying his mind, then just for a moment he could forget the gaping wound that left his heart in pieces.
When his house was completed, he did not feel relieved. He immediately offered to join a small group of carpenters who built homes for the numerous elves that came to Valinor each day. This job busied him for many years, but when the last ship came with the elves who had lingered in middle Earth for as long as they dared, Haldir knew he would need to find a new way to fill the myriad empty hours that lay ahead of him. Considering his recently developed skill-set, Haldir began carving. His projects grew from the large, grandiose furnishings needed to complete a home, to small and intricate decorations used to personalize it. The smaller in scale his projects grew, the more detail he added, and so the longer it took him to complete them. Rumil thought to encourage him to pursue other activities as well, and to leave his home more than he did, but it was Orophin that forestalled him. It was these small carvings that busied Haldir and kept him from breaking.
And so the days turned into months, which quickly became years, then decades. Haldir no longer marked the date or the hour, and spent more of his time exploring the farther reaches of Valinor than he spent in the company of others. Often he would find an isolated area, and if he was particularly taken by its beauty, he would stay there for the remainder of the day, and even well into the night. It was this way that she found him, among the tress in a secluded garden, far from any place where elves were likely gather. He idly examined a small carving of a fawn, which she found humorous given the size of his powerful hands and the fragility of the small carving. If he heard her approach, which she was certain he had, he gave no indication of it. Instead, he gazed calmly upon the trees and flowers that surrounded him as though he was oblivious to all else.
"You have been following me for some time," he said at last. She closed her eyes and savored the rich sound of his voice. Now that she heard it, she could scarcely believe it was possible she had ever forgotten. It seemed as though this memory had always been a part of her, but merely needed a trigger to be brought to the surface. She smiled.
"You did not make it easy for me, Warden. I was almost certain I would not find you today."
Haldir did not reply. He tucked the carving into the pack he carried with him. Haldir stood and leaned against the tree beside him, but did not turn his head to look at her.
"What business do have with me, little one?" He smiled when he heard her slight huff of indignation, and could tell by the rustle of her dress that she had crossed her arms angrily in front of her chest. "I have never seen you here before," he continued, "and I am sure that I came to Valinor long before you even graced this world with your presence."
She paused with lips parted, the answer stuck in her throat. She had waited for a very long time for this moment to come, or, at least, it had seemed to be a long time for her. Now that it was here, she did not know what to say to him. Something had compelled her to seek out Haldir. The urge had nearly overwhelmed her when she and her parents first arrived in Valinor. At first, she had assumed it was merely excitement, for Valinor was unlike anything she could have imagined. When the anxiety did not subside, and when she noticed how eagerly she peered at the faces of those around her, she knew there was someone she must find. Her parents remained largely unhelpful and informed her that it was her puzzle to solve. She knew by the glance they exchanged that there was an important detail they had neglected to tell her.
When at last she had found him, or rather glimpsed him from the other end of garden she visited often, she felt immediately compelled to learn more about him. When she pressed her parents for knowledge about Haldir, they sighed, almost regretfully, and at last told her the one thing she had suspected since her coming of age.
"Well?" he pressed. She was started from her thoughts and frowned, trying to compose herself and answer in a way that would satisfy them both.
"You knew me once," she said quietly. Haldir tensed; a slight familiarity pricked in the back of his mind. Her way of speaking perhaps? At last he turned to look upon her. She gazed calmly back at him, and Haldir felt the world begin to melt away. There was a tightening sensation in his chest that accompanied the quickening of his heart. She waited uncertainly for his reply, and he noticed the way she anxiously toyed with the end of one of her soft brown ringlets that hung at her waist. At first she did not hear the name he whispered, but time allowed her to make sense of what he had said. A single word.
She had never heard such a name, at yet, at the same time…
"Yes," she replied, almost startled by her own response. "I was called that. By you and by many others I think. I am called Vanwa now."
"This cannot be possible," he said, bewildered by the young elleth that stood before him. Her likeness to Fara was almost overwhelming. Her features were more refined, more graceful, distinctly elven one might say. Her hair, though longer, was still the same texture and color. Her eyes, though uncertain now, still held that distinct playfulness, and though she was most certainly an elf, she appeared stockier, or perhaps more compact, as Fara was. It was as though Fara's human qualities had been smoothed away, leaving a more polished being behind.
"Why have you come here?" he asked angrily. "Do you think to mock me? To reopen wounds, or perhaps to heighten my suffering?" Vanwa frowned and crossed her arms in almost a childish pout. She was hurt by his words, though contained herself enough to bite back a cold retort. She ignored his anger and then saw the fear in his eyes.
"Well," she said at last, "there is certainly no need to act as though you are the victim. I did not ask to start remembering events I was never alive for, and I certainly see no reason why you were worth the trouble I went through to find you!"
Haldir abruptly turned from her, leaning his arm against the tree beside him, and resting his forehead against it. This was too much for him. Her voice was the same, her pertness and frank way of speaking, even her dismissive attitude and the facial expressions she used were all the same. He could not stand to look at her.
"Leave me," he said hoarsely. Vanwa took a step back, confused by the hurt she felt and angry that she could not remember why it should matter. She turned to leave, but he was at her side in an instant and grabbed her arm to stop her. Vanwa turned to face him, ready to make a facetious remark about his manners. She looked up at him, and from the anguish, confusion and, of all things, love that shone in his eyes, she knew nothing more needed to be said.
It was Orophin who found them this way, standing alone in the garden, Haldir holding her arm with a strange mix of tenderness and ferocity and the young, strangely familiar elleth torn between throwing herself at him and running as far away as her legs would take her. The gaze they exchanged seemed to him to be more powerful than any spoken word, and yet more intimate and private than any act between lovers. Orophin averted his eyes, feeling almost embarrassed, or as though he had intruded upon something so unspeakably profound that it could not possibly be meant for his eyes.
Haldir looked sharply in his direction, having heard Orophin's approach. Haldir and Vanwa immediately sprung apart, as though they had been caught doing something they shouldn't.
"Are you Vanwa?" Orophin asked.
"Yes," she said quietly, puzzled that he should know her.
"Your mother was worried when you did not return home this afternoon. She asked my brother and me to look for you."
Vanwa frowned, clearly agitated and embarrassed. She could almost feel Haldir laughing at her, though his expression showed no signs of it.
"I am not a child," she muttered. Orophin smiled kindly.
"She worried less for your safety and more that my imp of a brother had done something wrong," he said. Vanwa seemed somewhat mollified by this. "Will you be coming back soon?" he asked delicately. Vanwa frowned, not understanding what precisely he was implying, if anything at all.
"We-" Haldir paused. "I," he corrected "had not intended on staying." Vanwa frowned at the somewhat reproachful look Haldir gave his brother. Orophin merely shrugged and raised his hands in the air, as though to defend himself.
"You are unpredictable, brother," he replied. Haldir snorted.
"Of late I have been anything but." He then turned to Vanwa. "Perhaps it is best that I have dinner with you and your parents tonight," he said calmly. "There is… much that should be discussed." Vanwa felt her heart leap in her chest, though she tried to mask how elated she was by the idea.
"Very well," she replied calmly, trying to keep her voice even. "We should leave now then." Without another word, Vanwa left the garden, unconsciously assuming Haldir would follow her, if not to her home than to the ends of the earth if she so asked. He did, and he would.
Vanwa, nan lá hecilë- lost, but not forsaken