The final days of a forgotten realm. The final moments of a Queen.
So many times she had walked this route, worn quite smooth with the feet of centuries. Her black shoes, embroidered with silver trees, made crunching sounds over the dry bracken, which sounded strange in the silence. Always, the earth had been moist, the air fresh, the forest alive. Always.
Around her, the boughs of Laurelindorenan were all shedding their crowns. In a sad way it was beautiful, a golden snowfall in autumn. For the first time since its creation, Lothlorien was finally meeting winter.
There was still birdsong, yet it sounded distilled and far away. A breeze stirred through the trees, and Arwen pulled her cloak further around herself.
She did not know why she wore black. They had said she was in mourning, and of course, she had been. Hadn't they all? It had seemed for years the people of Minas Tirith wore no other colour. The dye merchants of Khand and Rhun had been quite frantic with the demand for black.
Yet life had carried on, this time in the form of Eldarion, and one by one, all moved on.
Only Arwen still shrouded herself in black. No one begrudged her, they recognised her right, as a widowed queen. Some thought her strange, that she should not marry again, and remain alone and sorrowful for the rest of her years; but no one criticised her for it. Yet no one had asked why.
For her, there was no mourning left. There was no sadness because there was no emotion left. No joy, no life, no colour. Only darkness. When he had gone, all the pleasure in the world had evaporated in a single instant. There was nothing left for her, nothing in this Middle Earth, save- here.
She was walking in a dream, the thick mist between sleep and waking, light and sounds blurring until it seemed they were becoming one another. A bird called and she thought she saw violet flickers in front of her eyes – or was it that perhaps her Elven sight was finally failing her? She could not remember when she had last eaten. It seemed that her wanderings had lasted for weeks, but she knew that it had only been a day since she dismounted her horse and sent it back south, to face this wood alone.
She had been swallowed up in trees. To a mortal perhaps, this would have induced fear, but Arwen had been reared under these beings, and to watch them die was to watch the death of brothers, sisters. Each tree, cove and branch held a memory for her. Here, she had played as a child; there, she had been scolded by Celeborn for losing her shoes, and ahead...
She stopped for a while, leaning her tired back against a comforting trunk. In the past year, it seemed she had all at once realised all the ails of old age. She had seen a few of them in Aragorn, but had never had to cope with them herself. From her side, she drank from a waterskin, having filled it up from the river Nimrodel. Once, the Fellowship had to cross that river with only rope to make their bridge. Now, the flow had been so reduced that she was able to step across it lightly. But the water was still fresh, still cool, still nourishing.
Arwen quenched her thirst, and walked on. The leaves fell around her, touching her softly, as if a kiss welcome back from the forest. Sometimes, she imagined there were still elves here. No, they couldn't all have moved away. Surely, one or two must return, perhaps even pass by, lingering here like her to dwell in the emptiness of memories.
Maglor. By rights, he should be her foster-grandfather. He must still reside in Middle Earth. How had he coped, to watch all his family pass away, leaving him, only him, alone, watching the path that others tread: the watery road he longed for but could not travel?
Her mind was wandering. It was the silence. Always, until now, there had been singing here. The Horse Lords had heard it from their green hills, and thought it sinister, but she knew otherwise.
Elbereth, the silence was deafening. Why was this place so dark? Long had the almost surreal light of the sun filtered through this now withered canopy, and now for the first time, Arwen felt cold under the boughs of the mellyrn.
Now, as her feet approached the once-grand gates of Caras Galadhon, she trembled. With a shaking hand she reached out to confirm it was real, she was really here. Alone. Hundreds of miles from Gondor, from her children, from her home.
No, that was not quite right. Surely, this had always been her true home. Rivendell could not create what this was, this natural beauty – Rivendell was but a shelter made from the power of an Elven ring.
But then, was not Lothlorien the same, maintained only with a Ring of Power? When Galadriel's Nenya had failed her, she could no longer seek solace in her handmade paradise, and she had left it, abandoned it to its own demise. Even so, Arwen missed her grandmother, the proud Noldo queen that symbolised a past age. She, who had created so much, and destroyed so much, who had been so much: Kinslayer, protégé of Melian the Maia, Lady of the Golden Wood. She had helped Gandalf, she had saved Frodo, but she had destroyed Boromir. It was she who had given Aragorn – or Estel as he was then called – the tabard, the ring... it was she who let them meet:
Here. The willowy trees parted as the ground before her rose smoothly as a dome. The weathered green of the grass was speckled, and Arwen felt a sudden spark of joy at the tiny stars of gold and white in her path. Elanor and Niphredil: even still they bloomed, though it was clear that their time for blossom too, was coming to an end.
Suddenly, the fresh verdant scent of Cerin Amroth woke her nostrils. Memories washed over in a great tide, causing her to close her eyes for a moment, just to steady herself. She inhaled greedily, not daring to gasp in case she could not control her noise, or her emotion. An age that she had not breathed this air, or even seen this place.
The ground was well-trodden, even with the fleetness of the feet that had walked it, but grass covered it all so lushly it seemed like a wilderness. Arwen climbed the hill slowly – at her age the steepness could be exhausting – letting herself slide into the feelings she associated with this place. Comfort, security, love, life.
Here, she had plighted her troth. Here...
Oh, she was gasping now, the reality of her mortal being attacking her in the painful way that she could not catch her breath. But it was worth every step to be up here. Alone? She was never alone. Always, even after Eowyn and Lothiriel and Faramir had gone, there had been Aragorn; and then, her children, and Legolas and Gimli still, through the last few months... even here, she knew she was not alone. She was sure there was one who watched over her still, though her father was gone. Because her father was gone. There was one who cared enough for the children of the Peredhel. Her father would talk about him on rare occasions, the solemn Elf and the inexpressibly beautiful music that he created.
She smiled, and closed her eyes, sensing the stillness in the air. The ground was green but not wet, and she sat, breathing gently.
With her eyes still closed she saw her surroundings, the wood that was Golden. She saw him, her love, beside her, and let herself bask in this love. She saw his face, his memory, the ache of her soul knowing she could not feel the arm he had around her, lying by him though she could not share his warmth. His love. His mortal fate was severed from hers. For now.
Night was falling, and shadows filling the spaces between the trees, but in Arwen's mind the light was blinding. Even sat on the hill, she still emanated a little of her radiance that once symbolised Elvenkind; making a soft, frail glow like an dying ember in the forest.
At sometime in the night, her weariness overtook her, and she decided to lay down on the grassy mound, her dreams still in her mind as the star-scattered heaven circled above her. She fell asleep and woke more than once, but did not feel the energy or need to move. She was here, it was pleasant, and she was happy.
And sometimes, in between the grey mists of her slumber, she thought she felt a presence: her guardian – it must have been him. She knew, because she heard him sing to her when he thought she was asleep. It was a song of Luthien and Beren, one that her father had sung to her once as a lullaby, of how Beren had died, but Luthien herself passed into the Nether Halls to join him in death that they could be together. And having heard his song she knew she never wanted to wake again.
And so Arwen Undomiel slept on Cerin Amroth.
Daeron left in time, his cloak left softly upon her shoulders as she slept.
The rain fell, but she was warm and dry.
The days and nights melted away, and slowly all the leaves of the Golden wood were shed. A bitter wind blew from the north, and shook away the last, leaving the silver branches clean and bare.
Snow fell on the hill in the Lothlorien, and no more flowers grew thereafter, and the mound was not named Haudh-en-Arwen, the Lady's Mound, for none of man knew she dwelled there.
When the snow finally thawed, there was no more to speak of. The bard came once again, for the last time in his existence, to that place that was once the Golden Wood, but of her he found nought, the heir of Luthien's blood and fate, the image of her whom he had once given his love in song.
Undomiel, Evenstar, Queen... now only Arwen, a Dreamflower, faded with the winter snows.
To the dead wood he sang a last eulegy, but the failing trees no longer listened, and the magic of Nenya was gone from the earth.
And in the heavens above, Earendil continued his course, while the world below him changed: one bright flower sailing constant across the blue wheel of the sky.