But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Then she said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone, and the land was silent.
There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.
The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, Appendix A, Lord of the Rings
Chapter 1: The Passing of the Evenstar
Celeborn watched her come through the massive gates alone. The city was nearly silent. He was glad they remained at a distance, for he did not wish to hear the soft weeping of the people as she passed. He remembered well the day he and three with him had ridden to the White City and she had become Queen of this people she had grown to love. Yet none of Men remembered it, for not a mortal man alive then was alive still.
He could see the thousands of eyes glistening with tears as they watched the only Queen they had known ride away with dignity and grace, and a grief so profound it pained all those who had dared to look upon her. Yet they could not help but look.
As he could not help either.
To their eyes, their queen looked barely older now than the portraits that had captured her six score of years earlier. But he could see the difference, especially since Aragorn had died. She was torn in two, and her joy had departed.
He had heard the whispered questions of the people, wondering if she went to rejoin the elves or if she went to die. He knew the answer, as he knew she did too. Her choice had been made and her doom appointed on Cerin Amroth, many years before. He had known then that she would never sail, regardless of circumstance and what fate dealt her. He knew also that she would never join what elves remained yet in Middle-earth.
Celeborn looked with far seeing eyes to the Citadel. There stood his great-grandson, a man he had come to respect as much as he had Aragorn, and to love even more. Eldarion was rigid, his face frozen, as he watched his mother ride away. Yet Celeborn knew Eldarion had not tried to dissuade her and had forbidden all in Gondor to follow her.
But his eyes had beseeched his great-grandfather and uncles, and he had relinquished her to their final care.
Celeborn felt Elrohir stir at his side, and he turned to look upon his grandson. Elrohir was unguarded beside him, his heart easily read, and Celeborn drifted along the waves of the sea that rolled through his mind. Celeborn had been aware of Elrohir's struggle for some years. Elrohir had long been able to suppress his sea longing, but Celeborn had found his control weakening since Aragorn had given up his life.
He laid a calming hand upon Elrohir's arm. "Not yet," he said gently.
Elrohir sighed audibly, but checked his horse. On Celeborn's other side, Elladan remained motionless.
They waited until she had passed beyond the Rammath Echor before they followed. If she knew of their presence, she gave no indication. Even from a distance, Celeborn could see she was withdrawn inside herself.
She ate nearly nothing and slept little, resting only in deference to the horse. They drew closer as the days passed, for she seemed unaware of her surroundings.
Among themselves they spoke little. This day had long been foreseen, but nothing could have prepared those who loved Arwen to see her end as her father had feared. They had said their farewells to Aragorn, and he had given up his life and was gone. He had known Arwen was not prepared to accept the Gift, but he knew that his remaining longer would not bring her closer to acceptance. In that knowledge he had asked a last favor of Glorfindel.
"It will be as Elrond feared," said Aragorn. "Arwen will find the doom of Men bitter, and her grief will not carry her away quickly or easily. Only when she accepts the doom will she pass and find peace. A favor I would ask of one so dear, who has long watched over Elrond and his children: let none delay her with comfort."
Glorfindel had bowed his head at Aragorn's words. What Aragorn requested could not be asked of Celeborn or Elladan and Elrohir. Yet, even in his pain, Celeborn knew Aragorn was right. Celeborn had watched as Glorfindel nodded, and then embraced Aragorn for the last time. "Whatever the fate of Men's souls, may your peace and reward be great, Aragorn son of Arathorn." He paused, then added softly, "Estel son of Elrond."
Aragorn held him close a moment longer, murmuring, "For my adar."
Now they shadowed Arwen's ride north, following her across lands that had changed much since the King had returned. After many days, she crossed the Celebrant and entered the woods of Lothlorien. Celeborn's heart filled with joy at being in his beloved woods again, but sorrow replaced his joy nearly as quickly. None now dwelt there, and the gates to Caras Galadhon were open and in disrepair. Yet the memory of the elves remained strong.
Arwen walked on paths of deep leaf mould, long unattended, wandering among the trees and the remnants of the passages into their heights. Many of the flets had crumbled and the winding staircases to them were missing stairs and balustrades.
Yet summer had not faded and the Niphredil and Elanor still bloomed, and they watched Arwen set her jaw as she had since she was a small child when determined to accomplish some task. She repaired a flet near the stream and gathered wood, and one would have thought she had not spent six score years as queen of the White City, but as a woman keeping her own homestead. Yet despite the steps she took to see to her own well-being, the light in her eyes did not return.
Celeborn allowed Glorfindel to order their camp and watches, for he found he did not trust his own hands to set limits. Glorfindel arranged their time so that one of them always kept watch over her, bearing the long days with the patience born of long life, as she spent her time in thought and song, reading one of the few small tomes she had carried with her, or studying the likeness of Estel that she kept near to her heart. Summer turned to fall, and the Mellyrn leaves turned golden.
At this, Celeborn's heart sang and his memories of Galadriel and their days in these woods became as clear and fresh as if they had lived here only yesterday. He was returning to their camp with the rabbits he had caught for their dinner when his rejoicing left him with the suddenness of a sword stroke. He dropped the coneys and had to sit before he fell. Glorfindel and Elrohir were at his side a moment later.
"In recent years, I have not traveled this way, for the Mellyrn had faded and no longer did their leaves shine golden. The Golden Wood was golden no more," he said
"It is not our presence that has brought about the return of color," said Elrohir softly. "We too have passed through in fall and winter, and not since you left have the leaves showed their pleasure. It is because Arwen again dwells beneath their canopy."
Celeborn drew in a deep breath and nodded. Elrohir stood and walked toward the wood where his twin now kept watch. His form was tense and uneasy, and Glorfindel raised a brow at Celeborn in question. Before they could speak, Elrohir returned to the fire, but he sat for only a moment before grabbing a basket and walking away to the river. He started out walking but soon was running, his dark hair flowing loose behind him.
Glorfindel looked at him, and his brow was creased in worry. "Elrohir . . .," he began.
Celeborn shifted positions, leaning back against the log and stretching his long legs out in front of him. "Elrohir's restlessness grows. The sea longing rages within him."
Glorfindel watched Elrohir fade into the trees. "It is difficult to husband one's emotions when you know not how long . . .." His voice faded, and Celeborn looked at him sharply. There was no easy way to say what they were both thinking.
"The Mellyrn bring him both despair and hope," said Glorfindel finally.
Celeborn sighed and bowed his head. Trepidation had filled him when Arwen had shrugged off the heavy cloak of grief and taken measures to live, for each of them felt as if a clock had been ticking, each beat slower and slower, waiting for its end to come. Now the clock beat steadily, and the burden upon them grew in proportion. Arwen existed, but did not live.
"The fight in her is easily read," said Celeborn after a long silence. "She had not grown weary of this world when Estel left it. In the long days afterward, grief became a heavy burden, but it did not claim her. She knows not how to live without him, but neither is she ready to join him."
"Not ready, or does she not know how to relinquish her hold on life? Or is it fear of what waits beyond?" mused Glorfindel.
"A measure of each, perhaps," replied Celeborn.
Elrohir returned without the basket. He did not speak to either of them, but threw himself to the ground and covered his face with his arm. Celeborn was about to go to him when he felt Glorfindel brush against his mind. Let me.
Glorfindel sat down beside Elrohir, shading his face from the setting sun. Elrohir gradually moved his arm down, and did not pull away when Glorfindel began stroking his head. Celeborn could see his grandson's façade falling away beneath that gentle touch, until he was laid bare before the powerful elf lord.
Despite what Celeborn perceived to be the elf's best efforts, fear appeared in Glorfindel's eyes. He carefully and gently pushed Elrohir into sleep, and then opened his mind to Celeborn.
This is more than sea longing, said Glorfindel finally. He is restless, but there are wounds to his fëa that I can only liken to what I saw in Elrond when Vilya failed.
Celeborn closed his eyes to the pain pounding in his head. I suspected it, but did not know for sure. Anger rose up within him. I wish the Three had never been made!
We may wish that, but we would not be sitting here with Elrohir were that the case, replied Glorfindel sadly. And Elrohir would not wish for us to second guess the choices Elrond made. One night in Imladris we discussed what would happen to all that had been preserved and healed with the Three. Elrohir knew he was top on that list, more so than any other person alive, and he said then he preferred living to spending an age in Mandos's Halls.
For these many years since Elrond and Galadriel sailed, he has persevered and I think been happy. Why now? Is grief reopening old wounds? wondered Celeborn.
I do not know what else it could be, admitted Glorfindel.
Their attention turned as they saw Elladan approach. Celeborn resumed fixing their meal, and when it was ready, they awakened Elrohir and ate together in silence. When Elladan had finished, he rose. "I am going for a walk."
Elrohir also rose, returning to the woods to sit watch over Arwen.
Celeborn and Glorfindel watched them both go.
"What of Elladan?"
"He also grows more restless, but it is of a different type," answered Celeborn. "I cannot entirely read him." He paused, then slowly managed to speak the words he had long feared. "He reminds me of Elros before he made his… choice."
Glorfindel's face froze. "Elrond long feared this."
Celeborn sighed. "You do not comfort me." There was a long pause, then he blurted out, "My mind is racing and my heart in turmoil. I am here waiting for my granddaughter to die, and I find one grandson fading and the other casting his thought beyond this world into what might lie beyond."
He flung his plate against a nearby rock, the clang and thud a discordant noise in the song of the night. His hands shook. How could they end like this? For a century he had lived without his beloved wife, and yet been happy in the restoration of the forest, the happiness of his granddaughter and the new life of great-grandchildren. All of their lives had been irrevocably changed by mortality, and Aragorn's death had started a ticking clock that Arwen must eventually heed, a clock that might claim his grandsons too. Hatred for the land he loved rose within him.
He stood, and Glorfindel caught his hands. He looked into that face and saw sorrow and fear and pity.
"I have never really understood them, and in some ways, Elrond least of all," said Glorfindel sadly. "I do not know how I could face him if I came with neither of his sons, and yet I have always known that this possibility existed, as did he. But tonight our plans must change, Celeborn, for the sake of Elladan and Elrohir, if not ourselves."
"Arwen," said Celeborn hoarsely.
"I will stay with Arwen. You must take the twins away, for a time, at least."
"Elrohir means to intervene," said Celeborn dully.
"I know," sighed Glorfindel, and his shoulders slumped. He straightened after a moment. "I will go to him."
Celeborn watched as Glorfindel entered the woods, and he thanked the Valar that he did not need do this thing. Aragorn had been wise to ask Glorfindel to see to this, for he did not think he could withhold anything from his dear Arwen, nor stop her brothers from helping her.
He walked instead after Elladan, and found him, as he suspected he might, near the high mound from which the river and all the surrounding lands were visible. They stood together in silence for a long while. Elladan spoke first.
"Desire had grown within me, to go with her, so that she would not be afraid." Elladan paused for another long moment, and Celeborn suddenly realized he was holding his breath and his heart was pounding. He forced himself to relax.
Elladan continued, "Yet, I do not think that that is the way of mortal death. That journey must be made alone. I thought at first that she was unwilling to go with Aragorn when he chose his time. Now I see that she might have followed at any moment, within a breath of Estel even, but go alone she must."
"Was your desire to seek beyond the circles of the world for you own sake, or for Arwen's?" Celeborn finally asked.
"I do not know," answered Elladan softly.
He said no more, and Celeborn did not press him. They walked slowly back toward camp, but came first upon Glorfindel and Elrohir. The basket that Elrohir had taken earlier from camp was spilled upon the ground, fall berries spilled from it. Near it lay a spare blanket and a small pile of kindling.
Glorfindel sat upon the ground, strain and worry obvious in his face. Elrohir lay with his head on Glorfindel's leg. Celeborn watched as Glorfindel's long slender hand trembled against Elrohir's head. Elrohir's eyes were closed, but his face was contorted in mental anguish.
Celeborn felt rather than heard the small cry from Elladan as he went to his brother. "She will be cold," Elrohir choked out as Elladan wrapped his arms around him. His heart nearly broke as Elrohir shook; grief, sorrow, frustration and despair radiating from him in waves so intense that Celeborn felt his mind flooded. "She will not have enough to eat soon."
His own tears wet his face as he tried to think of some response to Elrohir's words, but none would come. Aragorn's request resounded in his ears, yet what was comfort that denied release?
Comfort she will have when she is ready, promised Glorfindel. Pray I will know when and how.
The four went back to the grey tent in which they dwelled, and for the first time Arwen slept only under the watch of their thought. Elrohir fell into exhausted sleep beside Celeborn, but Elladan, like Celeborn, did not sleep at all. He simply stared at the fire.
When morning came, Glorfindel spoke. "Go and see if Legolas has built his ship," he said. "See if he persists in his mirth of taking the dwarf with him."
Celeborn gave the twins no chance to protest, despite his own heavy heart. "We will be back before spring," he promised.
They returned to Lothlorien at winter's end. Celeborn had felt the same sense of urgency that Elladan and Elrohir did, and they simply left one night from Ithilien without speaking to anyone of where they were going or why. They had spent the fall and early winter resting in the gardens of the elf-colony that Legolas had left behind, for indeed, both he and Gimli had disappeared. They did not speak to any Men.
Elrohir had grown a little stronger, a little less translucent, and Elladan seemed less restless. Celeborn had tried only once to speak to Elladan about their conversation, but Elladan had shaken his head.
They left their horses at the camp and passed slowly through the woods, seeking Glorfindel. Celeborn saw Arwen's flet, but she was not there, and though he searched the woods for her, she was not within his sight. The trees were singing, a different song than he had before heard. He followed where they led him, and was not far along the path before he knew where she had gone.
With great self-restraint, he kept his grandsons at his side as they came to Cerin Amroth. Before they saw either Arwen or Glorfindel, they heard Glorfindel singing. The lullaby was not elvish, but of her adopted people, and it was calling her across the river to peace.
She stood straight and tall upon the hill where she had plighted her troth and sealed her fate so many years before. Then, on that mound, she sank to her knees and then laid down upon it. There she lay, and finally her pride and stoicism failed, and tears slid down her cheeks.
Celeborn could see her light begin to fade. Then Glorfindel materialized from the trees, and he went to her. Slipping an arm beneath her shoulders, he cradled her in his lap. She looked up at him and they heard her whisper, "It is time."
Glorfindel kissed her brow. "Estel is waiting."
He began to sing again, words of Men, words he did not understand, of promise and peace beyond the circles of the world. Arwen kept her eyes on Glorfindel, and then overcame her fear and doubt.
"Estel," she breathed out.
Her light departed, and Glorfindel's voice broke. He bowed his head over her as he wept.
Celeborn bent beneath his grief for only a moment before he began to sing. He let go of his grandsons and walked forward, and heard their voices join his as they fell in step beside him. They mourned their loss, the trees joining them, but they did not sing of healing in Mandos' Halls or reunion at some future time. When they had finished the song, it was Elladan who began a new song, of the reunions she would find beyond the circles of the world, of freedom and of hope.
They prepared her grave and wrapped her in her cloak, burying her where she had made her choice and appointed her fate.
Then Celeborn looked upon Glorfindel and found him, for the first time in the millennia he had known the elf, at the end of himself. The long winter of waiting was a burden that had nearly broken him and he had finally grown weary of the world. And though he did not feel called West, Celeborn found he no longer wished to stay in Middle-earth. "It is time to go home."
He watched the reaction of his grandsons. Elrohir's grief parted and he looked first west, and then at his twin. Elladan did not look at any of them.
They began the journey south, skirting Ithilien and Minas Tirith, and heading for the havens at Dol Amorth. It was here that they had once spoken of building their ship and departing, as other elves had before them many years before. They found a message for them at the city gate.
The followed the directions in the missive, and made their way to a lonely quay where a single ship was moored, out of sight of the rest of harbor. The note indicated that on board were the items the twins had asked to be held for them – portraits, letters and sketches chronicling the life of Arwen and Aragorn – a gift to their parents. Celeborn read the note and smiled. "My great-grandson is a good and wise man."
"Did you expect less from the son of our sister and brother?" asked Elrohir, and it was the first he had smiled in months. Then he sighed and his smile faded, and he leaned against the rail of the ship.
Celeborn followed Elrohir's gaze. He was watching his twin. Elladan was staring out to sea, lost in thought. Finally, he turned and walked back to them. Celeborn was struck by the intensity of the gaze he subjected Elrohir to, and he felt that something was happening between them. Elrohir did not blink or cow as Elladan's eyes grew dark and piercing, and for a moment it seemed as if Elladan grew in stature, until he was towering over Elrohir.
It was as if Elladan's gaze stripped Elrohir bare. Elrohir's deep grief, his wounded fëa, and the sea longing that was battering him relentlessly were raw and open before them, and Celeborn had to restrain his hand, for he wished to reach out and provide relief. Yet he somehow knew that he and Glorfindel were witnesses to a spectacle playing out before them, as if on a stage, and they had no right to interfere.
Then with a cry, Elladan tore himself away. He turned and walked swiftly up the pier and disappeared into the trees. Celeborn watched him, then spun back around as Glorfindel caught Elrohir as he fell.
They lowered him to the wooden planks. Elrohir took several deep breaths, then accepted the water skin Glorfindel held out to him and drank. He was pale and beads of sweat shone on his forehead. He did not resist when Celeborn wetted his handkerchief and wiped his face.
"What is it, Elrohir?" he asked in growing fear.
Elrohir opened his eyes and to Celeborn's surprise, he had mastered himself. His gaze was unfathomable. "You and Glorfindel should board the ship and see that all is made ready to sail."
Celeborn's hands trembled. "You are not coming?"
Elrohir did not answer. He rose and steadied himself on Glorfindel's arm. "We will be back before nightfall," he finally said. On wooden legs, he walked to the end of the pier and disappeared, though he did not follow his twin.
The sun was dipping into the sea when they returned. Elladan's face was resolute as he stepped aboard the ship. Elrohir followed more slowly, and to Celeborn's eye, he had grown more translucent. Elladan glanced at Elrohir with unguarded heart, and Celeborn read the depth of the love he bore for his twin, but also the depth of some greater sorrow.
When Elrohir reached for the rope to release the ship, Elladan caught his arm and pushed him gently towards Glorfindel. Then he turned back to Celeborn and together they released the mooring lines and raised the sail.
None saw their ship slip from the harbor, and they did not look back.
To be continued……
Thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this story.