Until We Meet Again
Summary: Celebrían bids farewell to her family before sailing across the Sea to the Undying Lands. This story was inspired by the song "Into the West," written by Howard Shore, Fran Walsh, and Annie Lennox, and performed by Annie Lennox.
Please Note: The lines of the song that are used are not in any particular order. Also, Elvish words will be translated at the end.
Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all related characters, settings, plots, etc. belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his associates. "Into the West" belongs to Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, and Annie Lennox. The author makes no money from this venture.
A small company of grey-cloaked figures slowly approached the ship that waited quietly in the still waters of the great sea. The horses they rode walked heavily as if they felt the weight of the sadness that lay upon the company like a blanket. A light mist fell from the clouds that blotted out the setting of the sun, dampening spirits further.
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping
From her place in front of her husband aboard a tall grey stallion, Celebrían stirred, waking from the peaceful rest she had enjoyed through most of the journey. Elrond held the reins in one hand, putting the other on her frail shoulder.
"We are here, my love," he whispered.
"Do you feel it, Elrond? Do you feel the call of the Sea?" Celebrían asked softly, clutching the hand that held the reins with surprising strength.
Elrond said nothing in reply, for he did not feel the Sea calling to him. All he could feel was an emptiness filling him as every rhythmic clop of his horse's hooves took him closer and closer to the ship that would carry his wife away from him for what could be forever. He slipped his arm around her slender waist, holding her to him for these last few moments. He tried not to think that these could be the last moments he ever shared with his wife.
Through the mist ahead of the procession, another figure appeared. When the hood of the cloak dropped away, Elrond saw that it was Cirdan the Shipwright coming to greet them.
Cirdan helped Celebrían dismount, then waited while Elrond easily slipped off the back of the horse and landed lightly on his feet. He handed the reins to one of the Elves that had traveled with him, then took his wife into his arms. She leaned against him, her body weary from the journey, yet within her he felt a new stirring of excitement, a sign of life that he had not seen in her for far too long.
"Everything has been prepared, Lord Elrond. She will have a safe and comfortable journey," Cirdan assured Elrond. The Elf-Lord nodded.
"Thank you, Cirdan. You have been a great help to us," Elrond said, inclining his head in a gesture of gratitude.
"Yes, thank you, Cirdan," Celebrían agreed. Her voice, which had once provided beautiful songs to lull their children to sleep or calm a frightened animal, now sounded soft and weak, as if Celebrían was now herself a vulnerable, frightened animal.
Three other Elves approached Elrond and Celebrían. They removed their hoods, ignoring the depressing drizzle that fell from above. Celebrían smiled, looking upon her children for a long time as though to imprint their images upon her memory forever. Finally she moved forward, out of Elrond's hold, and drew all three into her embrace.
"Nana, must you leave?" Arwen, the youngest of the three, asked, though she already knew the answer. Her eyes filled with tears as her mother looked at her with eyes full of sadness.
"I am sorry, iell nín. But I cannot stay in this world any longer. Please understand, Arwen. I love you so much. It is not easy for me to leave you. I hope that someday, you might forgive me…" Celebrían trailed off, biting her lip to still the sobs that threatened to spill forth. Arwen seized her in a tight hug.
"There is nothing to forgive, Nana. I love you," Arwen cried. The two stood for many long moments in the embrace. Celebrían, through some subconscious foresight, seemed to sense that her daughter would not be joining her in Valinor, and thus their parting was the hardest for the mother to bear. Arwen's tears mingled with the light rain and soaked into Celebrían's cloak as they silently bid farewell to one another.
Celebrían took one small step backward so she could gaze upon her daughter's pale face. She brushed away the falling tears with her thumbs before placing a kiss on either cheek. She then turned to her sons, the twins Elladan and Elrohir. Elrond stepped forward, putting his arm around his daughter. They said nothing as they watched Celebrían say goodbye to her sons.
"I will miss you so much, Nana," Elladan said in a low voice. Celebrían hugged him, not trusting her voice to speak. When Celebrían released her eldest son, she turned to his mirror image, Elrohir, who was bravely trying to conceal his tears. She smiled, somewhat sadly, as she took him into her arms.
"Navaer, Nana," Elrohir said, regretting that all he could manage to say to her was such a simple farewell. His eyes conveyed everything he left unsaid. Celebrían cupped his cheek, smiling wanly before kissing his cheeks. Elrohir held her, surprised at the thinness of her body.
Yet he wondered why he should feel surprised. In the year following Celebrían's captivity in the foul caves of Orcs, her strong, resilient spirit had diminished rapidly. Although her physical wounds had healed through Elrond's tireless efforts, her soul remained scarred by the horrors she had endured. She ate little and spent most of her time resting in the gardens she so loved. Although they grieved at her parting, Celebrían's family understood that staying in Middle-earth would only worsen her condition. She needed to be with the rest of her people, beyond the sea, away from the suffering this world had brought her.
Finally, Celebrían turned to Elrond, her husband, the one who had spent so many anxious nights watching over her as she healed. Since her decision to sail to Valinor, Elrond had spent many hours agonizing over what more he could have done or what could have been done better. She knew he thought himself to be inadequate. She knew he blamed himself for her departure. He could not see that no matter how well her wounds healed, the emotional damage had been done, and was irreversible.
Celebrían took Elrond's face in her cold, white hands. She lifted her thin face towards his. The tears she had been holding in finally spilled over and a cry caught in her throat.
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
"Forgive me, my love," Elrond pleaded, nearly choking on a sob that rose from his heart up his throat. He did not notice the tears on his face until Celebrían wiped them away.
"My dear Elrond, my husband, my partner in life and beyond. You have nothing to blame yourself for. I love you, Elrond, and I shall wait for you across the sea until the day you step onto the shore. You have saved my physical self, and by letting me go, you are saving my spirit." Celebrían broke off then, unable to continue. Elrond guided her head to his shoulder, where he felt her warm tears seeping through his cloak. Gently, he stroked her long soft hair and let his own tears fall down his face.
Elrond held her in his arms for what seemed to be an eternity, yet as soon as he let her go it felt as though it had been only an instant. They shared one last kiss, one final goodbye that said all that their words could not. Above them, the clouds were parting to reveal the darkening sky. The rain stopped as Elrond lifted Celebrían easily in his arms and carried her into the small ship that would take her to Valinor.
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
There was a small bed prepared for Celebrían to ensure her comfort as she set sail across the wide Sea. Elrond hugged her and placed a kiss upon her forehead before laying her on the bed. Her damaged spirit caused her to tire easily, and the emotional overhaul of bidding farewell to her beloved family was almost too much for her to handle. She smiled at Elrond and held his hand loosely, but her eyes drifted shut.
"I can see it, Elrond. I can see the white shores of Valinor. They are there, ready to welcome me. I will be safe there, meleth nín. I will he happier," Celebrían whispered.
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end
Elrond kneeled beside the bed, brushing a lock of dark hair from his wife's face. Her eyes opened once more and her hand rose to cup his cheek. She smiled, this time a true smile as she imagined her new life in the beautiful, peaceful lands of the Valar.
"Do not weep for me, Elrond. We will see each other again. You will come to me, someday, and we shall live together under the light of the Trees of the Valar," Celebrían said with absolute certainty. Elrond smiled too at this prospect, but his heart lurched in his chest as the desire to sail with her filled him.
Celebrían sensed his desire, seeing something in his eyes that told her what he was thinking. She stroked his furrowed brow with her thumb and said, "You cannot leave now, Elrond. Our children, grown they may be, still need you. Your people in Imladris need you. Someday, my beloved, but today is not that day."
"You are right. As always, you show more wisdom than I. I only wish…" Elrond trailed off when Celebrían put a finger to his lips.
"I know," she said softly.
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home
Cirdan stepped aboard the ship, standing just behind Elrond. He cleared his throat politely, attracting Elrond's attention.
"My lord, I think it is time for her to go. The night grows late," he said.
Elrond gazed across the Sea. The sun had disappeared beyond the horizon, and Celebrían would soon follow it. The moon, large and luminous, was beginning her journey through the sky, following Celebrían from the Eastern shores to the distant West. A handful of stars twinkled in the velvety black sky, torches to guide the ship safely home.
"Yes, Cirdan. You are right. It is time for my wife to go home," Elrond whispered. He placed one final kiss on her lips before he rose, taking a few steps backward. Soon he was too far away to continue holding her hand, so he dropped it, but their eye contact never broke. Cirdan made ready the sails, lit an oil lantern to provide Celebrían some light, and said farewell to Celebrían before joining the other Elves on the shore. Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen stood a few feet in front of the others, closer to the ship.
And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass
The ship was pushed off and it slowly cut through the dark waters into the West. The oil lantern marked the ship's progress even as the details were swallowed by darkness. Celebrían, her silhouette evident in front of the light, sat up and lifted one arm to wave at those she was leaving behind. The moonlight glinted off the tears on her face and those on the faces of her family.
The bright moon, full and large and glorious, shed her light across the quiet Sea, making it shine like a mirror. Suddenly, the wind that had been softly blowing stopped dead, and the Sea was still. Celebrían's ship was reflected in the glassy surface of the water. Although there was no detectable wind, the sails of the ship remained full and Celebrían continued her journey West. Elrond stood with his children at the water's edge, dreaming of the day that his soul would join hers in the beautiful land across the Sea and dreading the long years that would pass before they met again.
Elvish words used:
Iell nín- "My daughter"
Meleth nín- "My love"