Prologue

When you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking.

There is a little dent in the universe like there are many others. This one where a clumsy, unlovely, graceless affair was wrapt up with little love and too much preoccupation with others things. It never bloomed, then it died and faded away.

It was in a land of stone where sunset came like jellyfish and astonished honey to be the sweetest thing you could find in a day; love and a lamp would flow into each other at this time, and be just a tiny spark—like a tear in your hand. Can the children here me—can they hear fishwives crying: fresh trout! Fresh trout!—can they hear the milkmaid as the wind goes singing through her white flounced knees—or the mermaid—nor the growing of grass?

That is Gondor, once restored.

The citadel rises like a stern ghost out my memory; it was still and tall then. There is the sound of marching and murmuring always, always.

In the libraries there was the sound of fresh paper and old books humming to each other.

There was the queen who was so tremendously mortal that she did die after all.

This too is Gondor, once restored.

- -

Arwen was as ardent as wine and fleshly flowers when she was alive and even in death she was gracious. There was no crying from her; she understood life and death.

They had a funeral and all, I'm not so sure I remember, but I do know how it felt. It was a cold day, a little bitter as winter counted her pennies with her thin frugal fingers and decided she could no longer afford to keep the land warm. Farmers reaped nothing but snow. People sat huddled around stoves and fireplaces. The snow fell, upon all the living and all the dead.

She was still very beautiful, so beautiful that it casts a shadow over my memory and me even. The life left her body, the king clutched her hand but even he could not make her stay, so he became a lonely king. On that day snow began to fall, he wore snowflakes like a crown of thorns; they have meaning I cannot read with my eternal eyes.

There is something about love unreturned, that it cannot be sullied—that is its beauty. It is also painful—just like a crown of thorns worn—it hurt me because I could never tell him, I merely waited by his side, until the sea would take me away.


Perhaps it was not unrequited love but the possibility of love: I remember those slim, infatuated white hands—like my mother's hands, elf-hands—I remember those cool hands on my forehead when I had a fever and that voice like woodwinds and still pools; I remember my father's sternness, his moodiness and voice like snow.

I remember them together on drizzling evenings, other days golden like mellow honey and the flying arrow-shafts gleaming through the summer sun; Legolas never failed but perhaps his senses led him to a quiet secret spot that told him he must be silent.

Eldarion suspected that perhaps, perhaps one could have more than one true love in a lifetime though the fairytales claimed that was false.

They never did make the confessions, but Eldarion kept track of them.

He was a perceptive boy, that was one of the sparkling qualities that made him a good king.

Love fades, but it can never truly die.


He held his hand, the man was dying and deaf and blind, the windows were shut. It was deep in winter, the wind felt like an assault, he had said.

The elf contemplated.

-You will always have my love.

He slipped out, an apparition in black and silver. He would continue to love; after all, he had pledged his loyalty.