This is what happens when I watch Sleeping Beauty for the umpteenth time with the little one, read and become inspired by a fic by Calen Greenleaf, and have insomnia. I had more fun writing this piece than I have in a long while.
She was wandering among the woods that surrounded her home, oblivious to the beauty around her as she drowned in her sorrow. Her mother had finally departed from Middle-earth. The grief that surrounded the household had been too much for her to handle and so she sought refuge in the woods she loved so dearly. Celebrían had loved them, too.
One reason Arwen chose this day to be away from the Last Homely House were the delegations. The Dúnedain, led by their chieftain Arahad, had just arrived to offer their condolences. She did not wish to hear them. How could mortals understand the suffering her mother went through? How could they begin to imagine the sorrow that she and her family had to bear? Their words would not be any different than the empty words she already had received from others, and she did not want to hear them.
To her woe, one of the Dúnedain had wandered away from the group and was now on the same path she trod. Before she could hide, the man spotted her and approached her. While she wished to do nothing more than flee from him, she remembered her place and stood regally before him.
"Greetings Dúnadan," she said, amazed that her voice did not hitch.
"Greetings my lady," responded the man with a short bow. He straightened himself and looked unflinchingly into her eyes. "Your elven-light is gone."
Out of all the things to say, this was one statement that she was not expecting. "I beg your pardon?"
"The light in your eyes," he clarified. "The light that makes you who you are. It is gone."
She found herself speechless. Who was this stranger to speak to her so audaciously? Rather than leave him with a scolding word, she found her sorrow being replaced by curiosity. "Who are you?"
He smiled. "You know me, my lady, or rather you will when the time comes. But I was raised by family to be a gentleman, and so I will answer your question. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, at your service." He bowed again.
Arwen frowned as he gave his name. She knew her history well, and knew that among the Dúnedain the royal prefix was limited to the direct heirs of Elendil. She also knew that Aragorn's father was not Arathorn, and that Aragorn had died many years ago. The elf told him this, all but accusing him of lying. She was in no mood for games.
To her astonishment, the man only smiled once more. "Indeed, Arahad is chieftain now, is he not? And his son Aragost shall take his title within a few years time. You know your history, my lady. But if that name will not suit you, you may call me Estel if you wish."
"Is that your name, then?" No matter how hard she tried, her irritation with the man was disappearing.
"One dear to my heart," he replied.
"Estel then," she said. "Odd name for a Man." Her father would surely have scolded her for such lack of manners with a stranger, but she was too filled with emotion to care. Rather than sorrow completely overflowing her soul, she was now also irritated, curious, and admittedly a little amused by the situation. She was long past thoughts of propriety.
He laughed. "I did not choose the name, but I am content with it. I hope you are as well."
"I suppose," she said. Arwen was finding this talk of names a bit bothersome, and so she moved back to his original comment. "What did you mean by my elven-light?"
"The light in your eyes. The Eldar all have a light that gleams more brightly than any eyes of a mortal, but yours stands out. When I first met you there was great contemplation within your eyes, and yet peace and joy as well. It was unlike any light I had seen before, though admittedly I was young back then."
"You speak nonsense," said the elf with a frown. "We have never met before."
"Of course not," the man agreed. "But when we do, that will be what I see."
Her sorrow now rested in the back of her heart. In the forefront of her mind was great agitation and a very, very annoying trace of curiosity. "I have never heard such impudence in my life," she said coldly.
Estel laughed. "Nay, dear Undómiel, indeed not! At least not by us mortal folk; we simply cannot impude you. Your beauty tongue-ties the best of us, and then leaves the rest dead on their feet. Your wit cannot be matched by the greatest of mortal lore-masters. And your light, your bright elven-light, makes the light of mortal eyes as dark as a moonless night."
For the first time in many long years the daughter of Elrond found herself speechless. She finally managed to say, "Impude is not a word."
"It is not," he said with a nod. "As I said, your wit is unmatchable."
It finally came to Arwen that he was making fun of her. "You are mocking me."
"I certainly did not mean to." That small smile was still upon his face.
"You are knowingly mocking the daughter of Elrond."
"I meant every word I said."
To her amazement, rather than leave him in a cold fury or yell at him in hot anger, she let out a long, clear laugh. The laugh echoed throughout the area, disrupting the sleeping birds and the wallowing trees. It was the first time she had laughed in many, many months.
Once Arwen had finally calmed down, she saw that Estel's small smile was now a large grin. "It is back."
"What is back?"
She could only shake her head at his comment. "You are the most audacious, rudest, and yet the most interesting mortal I have ever met in my long years. Never have I met a Man so bold as you."
He bowed. "I blame my childhood for any rudeness or audacity. I am afraid that being raised by elves quickly erased all my fear of the First-born."
"You were raised by elves?"
"Aye. Thus the name; more like an elf, would you not agree?"
She nodded. "Estel. Much more elvish, but it suits you."
"But tell me, then, if you were raised by elves, what are you doing with the Dúnedain?"
"I am not with the delegation."
She frowned. "If you are not with them, then who are you with? One of the elven parties?"
"I am afraid not, my lady."
"Well, you are certainly not from here, so how did you come to Rivendell?"
Estel smiled. "Originally? With your brothers. Now? Well, I suppose I just wandered here. These are rather wonderful woods to wander through."
The elf was completely baffled by his rambling, but rather than irritation at his vague statements, she found herself amused by the man's antics. "I suppose I will not receive any clear answers from you."
"I am afraid that is merely another clear sign of my elvish upbringing."
"As I said, you are wise." While he still wore that small smile, Arwen saw not disdain in his eyes as she thought she had seen before, but rather complete sincerity.
"I am not often recognized for being wise," she lightly rebutted.
"And those who do not recognize you for such are fools," said Estel.
The elleth smiled. "Will you walk with me, Estel? I find myself wanting to wander some more, but I do not wish to leave you just yet."
"I will, my lady."
And so the two walked together and talked together for many long hours. Arwen found herself laughing many a time, and found the man's bold manner refreshing. His presence brought her more joy than she had felt in many, many years.
She closed her eyes as another laugh escaped her lips, and she could feel Estel coming closer. She did not mind. As the elleth laughed she heard him whisper, "Navaer, i meleth nín." Arwen abruptly ceased laughing and quickly opened her eyes.
She was in bed. The sun was just beginning to light the sky and most of the household still rested. Arahad's delegation had arrived the day before and would stay for a few days before departing the Last Homely House.
Arwen was surprised to find that, rather than waking in sorrow as she was wont to in these days, she was filled with bliss and contentment. She gently touched her lips when she felt a small smile on her face, only putting her hand down when the smile disappeared. She must have had a wondrous dream the night before, but to her bewilderment she could remember almost none of it. The only part of the dream that clearly rang through her head was a single word.
Navaer, i meleth nín is 'farewell, my love'. Navaer is Neo-Sindarin and literally means "be good."
Estel is Sindarin for 'hope', as well as one of Aragorn's many names.
Undómiel is Arwen's second name and is Quenya for Evenstar.