Arwen rode south. Away from the road West, away from Rivendell, away from all the long years of her life.

Asfaloth, immortal horse of Valinor, raced lightly over the lanes and fields of the Angle. Here and there a farmwife glancing out a window or an idling laborer caught a glimpse of a white horse flying across their prosaic countryside with a dark cloaked rider on his back. But Arwen knew nothing of them, she was crying so hard she couldn't see the road in front of her, much less the the occasional farmhouse or stray laborer.

'Father, Father forgive me! I can't leave him - it would tear the soul from my body and I wouldn't be Arwen anymore, just an empty shell. And you'd blame yourself for it - only it wouldn't be your fault it'd be mine for not following my heart.

'Please don't hate me, Father, for my unspoken lie, for letting you believe I'd chosen the Ship. But I could no longer face your pain. Oh why couldn't you accept my choice as you did my brothers'? Why did you have to make it so hard for all of us? Father - Papa - I may never see you again! I will never see my mother again. Oh Mama, will you forgive me? will you understand?

'Do you think I want to break your heart, Papa? I don't, I don't. If only I could take the ship with you, if only I could see my mother, feel her arms around me one more time...But I can't, I can't.'

Suddenly she collapsed forward onto her horse's neck, sobbing bitterly into his mane. Asfaloth whickered his concern, trying to roll an eye back to get a look at her. "No," she choked, "I'm all right. Run swiftly, Asfaloth. We must catch up with my brothers and the Rangers." She straightened, struggled to calm herself. Soon they would pass into dangerous lands; Hollin and beyond that the Enedwaith. She had to be alert, on herguard. No more time for tears - or regrets.

'I can't leave him, Father. I can't leave our world, our people. He needs me. They need me. Nobody in Aman does - not even you and Mother. You want me, but you don't need me. Not as long as you have each other. You know it's true, Father, you love Mother as I love Aragorn. Oh why couldn't you accept our love and let me go?'

She wiped her eyes with her sleeve and stared determinedly ahead. No more tears, no more weakness. Isengard was on the move and Mordor too. And Aragorn was somewhere in that maelstrom, he and what was left of the Fellowship. Needing her even if he wouldn't admit it, her and what she carried. His hour had come. It was time to make the prophecies come true.

By dusk she'd reached the Swanfleet and the half drowned ruins of Ost-in-Edhil. The Rangers had a rest house there, three restored rooms on the second floor of a semi-submerged palace. Her grandparents' palace. Celeborn and Galadriel had lived here long ago. Before she was born, before her parents had even met, before the Rings were forged. The rooms the Rangers used had once been part of their private apartments;

Exquisite low reliefs, still delicately tinted, adorned the walls of the former presence chamber with scenes of Elven Tirion in the days of its Bliss, but the Dunedain had replaced the original tesselated floor with one of wood, and furnished it with table, chairs and storage chests. The withdrawing room behind it had once had wide windows looking northward over the orchards and pleasances of Hollin. Now they were closed against the elements by stout wooden shutters and the wall opposite them lined with cots. The final room, the privy closet, had long ago been hung with tapestries wrought by Melian and her maidens for the walls of Menegroth. Galadriel still had them - they hung in her chamber in Lorien. As a child Arwen had made her grandmother put a name to every one of Elves figured those tapestries over and over again until she could remember them all. A few faces had been familiar - those of Elves still in her father's service, or her grandfather's. But many more belonged to those slain in the sacks of Doriath. Faces that would never again be seen in Middle Earth.

Now the walls were bare and the room starkly furnished for a captain of Rangers with a cot, a table, a chair, and a locked box of maps. Arwen opened the window shutters a crack for air, and composed herself upon the cot. Not to sleep as Men know it, but to wander the paths of memory and dream in the manner of Elvenkind. She was not yet weary enough to need sleep.

In her dreams she returned to Lorien to relive her last visit there. While her father and grandparents argued she had looked into Galadriel's mirror, seeking news of Aragorn. She saw the near disaster in the snows of Caradhras, followed by Gandalf's fall in Moria and the Company's brief respite in Lorien. She saw Frodo fronting her grandmother in that very grove - and Galadriel's final victory over the pride and ambition that had driven her all her long life. Arwen saw the breaking of the Fellowship and Frodo's flight across the river with Sam; Boromir's brief fall and quick repentance, and his death in defense of the young Hobbits who, despite all he could do, were carried off as prisoners by the Uruk Hai of Saruman. And finally she saw Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli tracking them across the rocky hills of Rohan.

After that the visions had fragmented into possibilities. She watched Aragorn die under Orcish swords, in torment in the dungeons of Barad-dur or stabbed to the heart by a treacherous Steward, without blenching. These things would not happen.

She saw a joyless victory. A solitary King ruling for long lonely years before passing his throne to an heir of his blood, but not his body. And a tear fell into the water, sending ripples across the vision. For that could happen. That was the future her father - and Aragorn's own misguided nobility - would call into being.

'And what of me?' she'd asked the mirror. 'Would the Blessed Land heal my grief as my Father claims?'

The mirror showed her the silver domes of Valimar of the Bells, Taniquetil shining in the sun, Elven Tirion, and a house on Eressea where her father dwelt with her mother and a gentle, smiling, empty eyed shell that could no longer be called Arwen Undomiel whose company was agony, not joy, to those who had loved her.

That too could happen, if she let it.

She would not.

Arwen had returned obediently to Rivendell with her father. But that very night she had put on the shadow cloak Luthien Tinuviel had woven of night colored silks and her own black hair and embued with spells of sleep and concealment, to walk unseen into Elrond's library and up the steps to the gallery where the statue of Elemmire cradled the shards of Elendil's sword. And she took them.

She brought them not to a Rivendell smith, owing allegiance to her father, but to a guest; Fingol Goldenhand of the House of Feanor, and his companion.

'Narsil.' he had said softly. 'Forged by Telchar of Belegost under the light of the young sun and moon. If it is not to loose its virtue it must be reforged by their light as well.* and he'd smiled at her. 'I know an old forge in a hidden dell. We will do it there.'

She'd stood, cloaked in night, watching as the fragments of metal were heated and hammered and reshaped into a single blade under a full moon; the ensign of Isildur. But Fingol had waited till sunrise for the final forging and as he raised the remade blade in salute to the Bright Maiden sun and moonlight mingled ran down the blade like water and Arwen had felt tears on her cheeks.

'It is beautiful. Thank you.'

'It will need scabbard and belt.' Fingol had said as he laid it across her waiting hands."

'I have those.' She'd answered. Long made and waiting in a chest in her chamber.

Arwen opened her eyes to a room completely dark save for a faint glimmer of starlight from the window. She got up, pushed the shutters all the way open and looked southward over the Wilds of Enedwaith.

"Do I risk travelling by night?" she asked herself, fingering the soft stuff of her cloak. "The King needs his sword. Do I dare a night ride to bring it to him?"