Author's note: Big kiss and hug for Fili, my beta. Thank you, my friend.
The elf's face was set in concentration. Just one last touch, and finally, everything was in its place, down to the tiniest jewel and finest mithril decoration. Arwen slowly let out a long-held breath and moved a step back to observe her work. The banner was spread out in front of her. The fabric was soft black velvet, so deeply black that under the sun it had a dark blue reflection. Like a clear summer night, she thought. The White Tree of Gondor was stitched in fine mithril thread, and above it were seven stars, made of small jewels; and above them was embroidered a golden crown.
Clouds covering the sun dissipated in that moment. Sun-rays filled Arwen's room and lit the banner outstretched on the table. Mithril and jewels then glittered and shone with a new light. For it was not just a mere flag with ordinary decorations; Arwen put in it all her power, devotion, emotions and skill. In every thread, in every jewel, there were entwined the light of the sun, the moon and the stars, and also hope and love.
In that moment, as she stood in her Rivendell, far in the North, far from Gondor and the man she loved more than anything, she didn't know when or how the banner would be unfolded, she couldn't see that. But she knew it would be unfolded in the right moment, neither too soon nor too late, and that when all would seem hopeless, these stars, tree and crown would shine and rekindle many frightened and discouraged hearts. A smile appeared on her face, reflecting the joy she felt in her heart. No, she was not wholly at peace, her anxiety could not vanish. Her beloved was far away, in danger, and part of her was always with Aragorn and worrying about him, although she knew how skillful he was. We always worry for the ones we love. But now, staring at the completed banner, she felt her own hope begin to grow.
A little later that day, there was a knock at the door. Arwen knew who was coming and why. She opened the door and smiled to a tall dark-haired ranger, and he returned the greeting. He was ready for leaving, dressed in his worn travelling boots, warm tunic and fur-lined cloak.
She loved and respected Halbarad. He was an honourable, honest and brave man. She knew she could trust him with this precious thing. With the same confidence, she would lay her own life into his hands. She stepped back and let him enter, and followed him to the table with the banner. He long observed it without a single word, and the expression of respect, admiration and above all – hope – in his grey eyes clearly told her that she had succeeded in her task. This was her contribution to the efforts of the Fellowship.
After one last, long look at the banner, impressing in her memory even the smallest details, she carefully folded and wrapped it. She gave the bundle to Halbarad and then they moved towards the door. The house was still and quiet; many of the elves who occasionally used to visit were now scouting or fighting orcs in the mountains, others had already gone into the West. Her brothers were already outside, waiting with more Dunedain whom Halbarad would lead southward; her father was probably in the courtyard too, to see them off. Their foosteps were silent, the only sound filling the halls was the whispering rustle of her dress. The silence and emptiness of the house brought sorrow to her for a moment, as the wind brings the scent of a flower. But just as the scent dissipates in the wind the very next moment, so also vanished her sorrow as she looked at the package in Halbarad's hands again. Maybe the time of her people was over, and Rivendell would never be filled with song, voices and colours again, but it was not the end. Middle-Earth would go on, different than before, yes, but losing none of its splendour; her hope and optimism were too great for her to give in to melancholy and sorrow. She lifted her head high, gazing toward a new life, and she didn't look back.
They came out into the sun-bathed courtyard. The Grey Company were already in their saddles, waiting for their leader. As she had supposed, her father was there too, together with several elves. She greeted Elladan and Elrohir. Holding them tight, she tried to repress the fear she felt whenever they went into battle. Then she approached Halbarad. He was still standing beside his horse, waiting for her.
"My lady," he said in a low voice and nodded farewell.
"Take care of yourself," she replied. "And tell him that we'll meet in Minas Tirith, in a free Middle-earth."
Nothing else needed to be said. Halbarad nodded one more time, turned and mounted.
"I will," he answered with a soft smile, and then gave the sign to leave. The Company rode out of the courtyard of Elrond's house, and then, following the lane among other houses and trees, proceeded toward the bridge over Bruinen. As her gaze followed them into the distance, Arwen's thoughts strayed to Gondor and the man who was everything to her. And she smiled.