Title: Across the Sea
Fandom: Lord of the Rings (book)
Summary: Arwen watches the last of the ships to leave, and is not reconciled to her fate.
Her feet were bare, small and white, and they rested lightly on sand. The rough grittiness of it, on her toes was anathema to her and yet she could not move so much as a step. It was though an immovable force locked her to the ground. The wind whipped her raiment and hair around her. Glorious raven locks, streamed in the wind, a banner, striking at her face with lash of steel, all the more fierce for being untamed. The woman who stood on the beach that day, must have been strikingly beautiful in her youth. Even now, the remnants of that beauty attracted attention, though she was well past the age of marriage, even that of childbirth. Her hair retained its natural colour, distinguished only by a lock of pure white that ran through it from start to finish. Her clothing was a blue gown, and a blue veil, that she had removed and cast aside. Her gown billowed around her, showing ankles that were still dainty. The years had been kind, wrinkles showed, but in the dim light they vanished almost, and the sagging skin at her throat was hidden by a dainty lace collar. She stood there, fiercely erect, yet alone, eyes fixed upon the shoreline.
A figure stared back. In the very prime of youth, he was a dashing sight indeed. Clad in grey, to match the sea, his beauty was delicate and distinguishing, remarkable because it held no hint of fragility. Dark hair was held back from a face that could have been carved in stone, for all the emotion it held on its countenance. A large boat rested alongside him, and he stood with one hand on it, a little possessively. There could have been no-one else in the world besides them, the aging woman, and the youth forever caught in the age of health and beauty. Turning away, he began to supervise something. From where the woman stood, she could neither hear what he said or guess, but still she watched her soul within her very gaze. She did not need to know.
He could not know what she felt. A soul was dying slowly in her breast, a soul that sought to flutter free and wild, an untrammeled bird tossed hither and thither on the stormy winds that blew above the sea, eternally screaming its freedom. A soul she had caged and barred in this body, in this flesh. She had bound it to the ground, to the sand in which her bare toes rested. Grounded it in the passionate embrace of the essence of earth. Had been possessed by earth, borne earth, become earth. But she doubted that even if he did know, whether he would care. The young have no compassion, no tolerance, merely extremes. Not that the man in front of her was young in any real sense of the word, but he possessed so much of what she lacked. Time, and freedom.
She takes two steps forward, slowly, faltering. Sharper stones cut into her feet, but draw no blood, and she thinks bitterly that she has no blood to give. None left, within her shrivelled body. She wants vitality, and life, and all she has is this prison of useless awkward ugly flesh. She is aware vaguely that she is being selfish, but can't bring herself to care. Can't they see? Care?
The boat shimmers before a haze in her vision, and she realises, startled that she is crying. She opens her cracked lips, and tastes the bitter salt, feels the curious wetness on her cheek. Do my eyes look like the sea? She thinks with no emotion. She has been told they rivalled the Sea in colour and beauty. She knows now that they lied. The man is doing a final check to the boat, two shorter figures are bustling to get in. It is now or never, she thinks, and flees to the shore.
The stones truly cut her feet this time, and a little bit of blood emerges, a brilliant red. She does not notice, does not care. She dashes down to the shore, her woe forgotten, once again the most celebrated beauty of her time, rejoicing in her quickness, strength and lithe body. All illusions are scattered by the eyes of the elf at whom she stares. They are like ice and stone, cold, hard grey, an impermeable rock that turns the beauty of his face to mere icing, as though someone had gilded a rock. She does not care. Her head is thrown back, and she does not plead. "Allow me entry." She stands tall, and the years fall away.
The words are simple, and harsh. "No."
Now her voice begins to crack and fail. "I beg you please. Take pity upon me. I wouldst look upon the face of my kin. It is possible for those who are mortal to pass the Sea, to traverse the wastes."
"That path is not yours to walk, Arwen Undomniel. You gave it up, when you gave up your immortality for the man you loved. When you became human, and dismissed the wealth of heritage, and the right to pass the Sea, for the sake of a mortal man's embrace, and a mortal man's child. Now I bid thee, stand back."
The preparations for casting off commence. The water shimmers, an unending barren expanse to even her eyes. A wrench more keen than any yet, runs through the course of her blood. She does not care if this shames her, this pleading, if it shames her family, that she now attempts this. She regrets nothing. Those years spent with Aragorn were the most precious possible, the most fragile and fleeting, but she wants more. The pain will not kill her. She could not hope for that small mercy. Instead she would live on tormented, until her mortal body failed.
This is the last ship that will set sail from Middle-earth. The last ship, containing upon it the last of the heroes, and the final touch of beauty, that marked the twilight of the setting of the elves. Legolas, son of Thranduil, Gimli son of Gloin, and a very old hobbit named Samwise, would set sail past every marker, until they were west. Through the grace and intercession of the lady, this favour had been won.
The ship was floating free now, and moving away. All the words of farewell had been said, all loose ends tied. Remote and inviolable the country of the west now seemed to her, which had once seemed so free and joyous. With a heart-broken cry, she stumbled forward into the salty water, walking grimly on, though her robe tugged her down. She would drown in trying. But strong arms secured her, a pair on each side. Her son and daughter, her mortal son and daughter, each held an arm, themselves in the youth of life. She struggled, then collapsed in the small waves, letting them wet her gown with no heed.
Then as though a beacon had called, she stood and shook her arms lose. Standing straight and tall, she raised one hand in farewell, her face stained with tears, but her eyes free and clear and brilliant as stars. Standing there as she did, she recalled the beauty of her youth. Arwen Undomniel, the most beautiful of all the elves, bade eternity farwell, with the wind whipping at her hair, the sea bathing her feet and the fire of her soul, gleaming through its mortal container.
I wrote that about six years ago, and recently discovered it. Reviews very welcome!