The Trees Remember
The caravan of wood-elves moved slowly along the jagged coastline of New England. They had been traveling for five days, covering the distance from Washington, D.C. to the northernmost tip of Maine. The procession wound through the countryside at an almost leisurely pace, but not one of the sixty-three Elves were joyful.
Oil lanterns and their own ethereal glow lit the way on the last moonless night of their journey. They were quickly approaching the harbor where King Thranduil had commissioned a fleet of Elven boats be constructed. By dawn, there would be no more Elves in Arda. As King Thranduil had commanded, every last Silvan Elf still dwelling in Arda had come to Eryn Lasgalen for the last departure of the Eldar from Middle-earth.
Two harmonious laments complemented one another. One song, a prayer to Yavanna, was for the exodus and the fate of Arda without Elves to care for the earth. The other song was sorrowful and resonating. It was a farewell to the two Elves who were not in the procession.
The royal Elves and last two faithful Istari rode behind the caravan on majestic horses borrowed from a farmer seven months past. Two of their number, Elladan and Elrohir, wore black capes and sang the sorrowful lament for their fallen comrades. Two others, the Istari, Mithrandir the White and Radagast the Gray, sat silently atop their horses neither sad nor fearful, for they knew the mysteries of Elven death and did not worry for their lost friends. Legolas mouthed the words to the song, but his voice seemed perpetually caught in his throat, for he had not uttered a sound since the departure from Eryn Lasgalen. The last two royals, the King and Queen of Eryn Lasgalen, rode close together, tears staining their perfect immortal faces.
Thranduil and his wife Adonniel had lost two sons in battle, been separated from another for over five thousands years, and lost a daughter in a brutal attack against ellyth and elflings. For six weeks they had waited at Eryn Lasgalen in hopes that Elaneth would return safely. But as summer turned to autumn, hope faded. There was no sign of Elaneth or Haldir. Radagast had searched Europe from Poland to England, Andre Walker had exhausted every option available to an Admiral, and Thranduil had called in every favor he'd ever earned from politicians around the globe. After six weeks, they were forced to admit that Haldir and Elaneth had gone to the Halls of Waiting.
The procession began the long descent down the steep cliffs not far from the place where Legolas, Haldir, and the sons of Elrond had moored in early March. Ten ships bobbed between the natural rock formations, loaded with enough supplies to carry the Elves across the Sundering Sea. They were not the graceful vessels of the Teleri, but they were sea-worthy and would not sink in the choppy northern waters. Thranduil glanced at his son, once again amazed at how much Legolas's realm in South Ithilien had aided the survival of the wood-elves. The Elves who had so diligently made these ships in six weeks time had once lived in Ithilien and had learned the skill from the shipwrights of Dol Amroth.
The royal Elves and Istari dismounted and instructed the horses to find their former master. The steeds trotted away, whinnying and turning occasionally to look at the Elves who had been their masters for such a short time, but following the command nonetheless.
An approaching automobile drew the Elves' attention away from the horses. They had avoided human contact for five days, weaving around cities and disappearing into the trees near busy motorways to keep out of sight. Thranduil insisted, and Mithrandir agreed, that humans should not see the last departure of the Elves. It would be cruel to reveal their presence only as they were leaving. It would be a disservice to let humans know there was still magic in the world and then leave without showing them how to harness it. Some men like Jeremiah, the farmer who had given the horses, and Ricky, the chauffer provided by the Transportation Office, would always remember the magic of the Elves, and the House of Elessar would never forget them. A memory of the Elves was all that Arda needed.
The black Hudson Commodore stopped some hundred feet in front of the Elves who continued descending the cliffs without a backwards glance at the car. Thranduil and Adonniel, however, had all but forgotten the boats and the journey across the Sea.
The passenger side door swung open and a tall, blond Elf climbed out of the small sports car. He surveyed wood-elves singing a lament for himself and his wife and breathed a sigh of relief that all three of his companions were safe. An elleth appeared from the driver's seat and joined her husband in front of the car. Despite the miraculous return of Haldir and Elaneth, there was no joyful welcome.
Elladan and Elrohir grabbed onto one another's arms, each struggling to support his twin while his own legs ceased to function properly. Although none of the other Elves would know for certain why Elaneth's fëa was dull and fading, the sons of Elrond did. Long ago, they had rescued their mother from a den of Orcs, and her fëa had been similarly torn. There was only one wound that could damage an elleth so badly.
Thranduil and Adonniel stared at their granddaughter helplessly. Elaneth had always been so full of life. Even the pain of her parents' deaths and tragedy at Eryn Ellvalan had fueled the fire of her soul. The elleth standing before them now bore no resemblance to that young, passionate elleth. She had aged in a matter of weeks, never to return to childhood fervor.
Haldir glared definitely at the Istari and royal Elves, as if daring them to comment on Elaneth's weakness. When they did not, he walked past them and began the descent down the cliffs behind the other wood-elves. As she had the entire journey home, Elaneth leaned heavily on his shoulders, her eyes permanently fixed on the ground.
As the boats filled, the sails were unfurled and a long line of gray Elven ships departed from the coastline of Maine. As the first fingers of dawn stretched over the eastern waters, the last ship bearing the royalty of Eryn Lasgalen and Imladris began the voyage. Haldir had taken Elaneth below and had not returned, but no one could find the heart to seek him out and question him.
Throughout the journey, Haldir appeared only briefly to fetch plates of food and cups of water. Every time he came up to the deck, it was with equally full plates. Once, Legolas almost commented on his concern for Elaneth's health, but he shut his mouth before the words left his throat. He did not know what had bruised his niece's soul, but from the darkness lurking in Haldir's eyes every time Elaneth's name was mentioned, he did not think he wanted to know.
On the last day before their arrival in Valinor, Haldir sat down to dinner with Thranduil and Adonniel, Legolas, the Istari, and the sons of Elrond. He told them a vague story about their escape from Alatar's personal prison. He explained how he had overpowered the three men making him watch Elaneth's torture; how he had ripped the cell door off in a fit of fury; how he had carried Elaneth to safety and nursed her back to health; and how she had instructed him to telephone a man called Winston Churchill (who spoke fluent Sindarin) and ask for his assistance (which he gave immediately and without question). There were gaping holes in his story, such as how they had walked out of the Fuehrer's Bunker after killing three guards, but Haldir refused to answer those questions. He said only, "There was a promise made, and it was fulfilled."
Haldir disappeared below deck for the rest of the night, leaving the others to consider his story in hushed voices. Around midnight, when Elladan and Elrohir flatly refused to give their opinion on what had happened in Germany, the discussion ended abruptly while Queen Adonniel openly sobbed into her husband's shoulder.
Hours later, in the cabin below, Haldir perched on the edge of Elaneth's bed, gently smoothing back the errant tresses of inky hair from her forehead. She blinked slowly, the only sign that she was awake.
"There is something you need to see," he said softly.
"I can't get up."
"Yes, you can."
"I don't want to."
The march warden's brow furrowed as he tried desperately not to give into the grief that had threatened to consume him since the Nazis had forced him to watch the violation of his wife. She needed his strength, not his tears.
"You've lasted this long. You can walk to the deck."
Elaneth nodded lazily and allowed Haldir to help her out of bed. He wrapped a warm cloak around her shoulders and led her up the stairs to the deck. The North Atlantic had been replaced by tranquil crystal clear water painted pink by the rising sun. Elaneth audibly gasped at the sight before her eyes.
She had read Peregrin Took's account of Mithrandir's words during the siege of Minas Tirith: 'The gray rain curtain of this world shall pass and all turns to silver glass. And beyond, a far green country with a swift sunrise.' She had memorized the words and clung to the hope that she would one day see Aman.
Before her eyes, the world changed, and she suddenly realized how dull the summer leaves and cerulean sky had looked before. Everything sparkled with an ethereal light. It was as if the sky was not really the sky but a blanket of sapphires, and the water not really wet, but a million pearls glistening in the sun. In the distance, a rolling green coastline, more lush than the fullest tree canopy, welcomed the Silvan Elves to Eldamar.
As the ships pulled into port, the Teleri emerged from their white homes built on the cliffs and by the water's edge, singing a song of greeting in their native tongue. Elaneth's hand was covering her mouth as she observed the world around her. She did not doubt that she would find healing in Valinor, for already she had forgotten the weight of her wounds.
The Teleri made way for a large group of Elves walking towards the dock. Elaneth nearly stumbled and fell into the water as she scanned their faces. Haldir caught her just in time, but she barely knew what had happened. She felt as if she had walked into a history textbook.
Leading the group was Lady Galadriel and her husband Celeborn the Wise. Just behind them walked Círdan the Shipwright with his long silver beard. There was Glorfindel the Balrog-slayer, Finarfin, Gildor Inglorion, and Elrond Peredhel.
Elaneth's eyes fixed upon the final Elf, an elleth with shining silver hair. There was not a great deal in the history books about this particular elleth. She was usually a footnote to her powerful mother and wise husband, but at that moment, there was no more important Elf in Valinor than Celebrían.
For the first time in weeks, Elaneth's eyes lifted and she gazed directly into Celebrían's serene face. The other elleth paused, as if struck by the same sorrowful recognition as Elaneth had been only a moment before. From the corner of her eye, Elaneth saw Lord Elrond pause as well and then bow his head solemnly as Elladan and Elrohir had done in Maine.
Lady Celebrían moved forward more quickly than the others. She did not greet her sons as Elaneth had expected her to, but walked directly up to Elaneth and enveloped her in a tight embrace. For a moment, she thought about pulling away, but the connection forged between the fëar of the ellyth was too strong. They were perhaps the only ellyth to ever survive such an ordeal, and Elaneth could not pull away from genuine understanding.
"Come with me," Lady Celebrían said. "I shall show you to the Gardens of Lórien where you can find rest and healing. Sárëawë arrived yesterday, and he has spoken with Estë and Irmo. They are waiting for you."
Elaneth glanced at Haldir, who nodded silently. He tried to smile, but it did not reach his eyes. He released her hand as Celebrían led her down the path and past the crowd of Elves waiting to welcome home their Silvan kindred.
"I am called Lady Celebrían, daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel."
"I know. I am a perpetual student. Your sons often teased me for it."
Celebrían smiled broadly at the mention of her sons. "I imagine they did. When you wake, I'll show you my husband's library. He hasn't had a young Elf to teach in a great many years. I think he would enjoy his library being put to good use again."
There was a long pause before Celebrían spoke again.
"May I ask your name, child?"
Elaneth did not answer immediately. She had forgotten that Elves addressed themselves with their father's name as an epitaph. Over the years, she had chosen many names for herself for the sake of assimilating into the world of men. She had almost forgotten the most important part of her name: her parents' names.
"Elaneth," she said, and then paused before adding the epitaph.
It was as if a great wave of understanding had suddenly washed over. She was not the daughter of Celebdil and Aerlinn, not really. The name simply did not suit everything she had seen and done in her life. Like the Elves of old who had passed through darkness and despair, she had emerged triumphant. Like Glorfindel and Elrond and Celeborn, she had seen more and knew more than her parents. She was beyond a parental epitaph. Mithrandir, the wisest of the Maiar, had foreseen this at the time of her birth and given her a fitting title to use as a second name.
"I am Elaneth Idhriniel."
That time has come when the story must end. You've been a wonderful audience and your reviews have meant so much to me. I put you through a lot: delayed updates, cliffhangers, a romance that isn't resolved until Chapter 30 …. I hope it was worth it.
I've been asked quite a few times about a sequel. I won't give a definite answer right now. Some bunnies are bouncing around in my head, but a lot of my plots come to nothing. If the story types itself without giving me grief, you will see a sequel here sometime in the future. If not, well … at least there's no cliffhanger, right?
And lastly, I want to thank all of my Beta-readers from start to finish. I exhausted a lot of you, I think. This is my public apology. Annie103: Prologue-Chapter 5; Silvae: Chapter 5-15; SilverMoonLady: Prologue-Chapter 4; Elandriel: Chapter 10-21; LucyTia: Chapter 21-30.
I thank you again.