Epilogue: The Starless Night of the Children of Númenor

Synopsis: Anária is a Ranger who has survived Helm's Deep, but now she must continue south, to Gondor and war against Mordor. Sequel to "Daughter of Númenor", set during TTT, ROTK. Haldir/OC

A/N:Well this is the end. So forgive me if I take a moment here to talk about the story. This has taken two years and is 80,000 words long. I am hugely proud of most of what I have written and I am enormously grateful to everyone who has read this story. In time I will be cleaning up this story, tweaking it and fixing mistakes of spelling and grammar.

I want to thank all of you for reading this story, it has been a wonderful process - although a lengthy one. I would like to thank everyone who has left me a review, and I am very very glad that so many people have enjoyed it.

I would also like to ask a favour - to all of those who have put a story alert or a favorite on this story and have not reviewed, I would love to hear from you as well.

Disclaimer: JRR and New Line own all rights, and I am just grateful they created and interpreted this wonderful piece of literature.

There were many sons and daughters of Númenor whose names were writ large in the annals of the time of the war of the Ring, and there were many who served and died whose names and deeds were known only to their kin. The Daughter of Númenor known as the Queen of the Stars to the Rohirrim, and the Lady of the North to folk singers was later called by other names, Lady of Osgilliath and Princess of Gondor and Arnor, and it was she and her Elven Lord who rebuilt the ruined city of starlight, Osgilliath, with its great domes and wide streets littered with parks and fountains rather than rubble. They led the city to its golden age, and restored it to its place as the finest city of Gondor filled with learning and art, poetry and song on every corner and the Justice of the King was held to be truer in the Princess' court than in any others; even Lord Faramir of Ithillien could not command the deep reverence of his people that the Princess held.

When the King had passed from this world the Princess, her fine hair untouched by gray and her face unmarred by the ravages of age, set forth with her elven Lord, her intention never to return, they bid farewell to their children and friends and their city and went into the west, where they went and what they did ever after has never been known. Some say she lay down in a bower woven of flowers in the Elven kingdom of her husband, as eternal companion of her Queen, and that her Lord still guards o'er her and the Queen. Others say that all three departed these lands for another far away.

But that which I know best, and that which I believe is this:

"The Lady of Light, Galadriel herself, laid an enchantment upon the Golden Woods in which they met, and there each year of the outside world was as like to a century to them. And each year, as summer began their children would journey to them, and spend magical years in a land which time forgot. And when their children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were grown they told their children that no more would they be given entry to the deep places of the forest, and having thus bidden their beloved family goodbye they went west, to the sea, and there took one of the last ships to ever leave Middle Earth for the magical land of Valinor, where they might heal and rest from their journeys here in this Middle Earth..."

The man finished his story softly, hopeful that his daughter might finally have drifted to sleep, although he knew it was unlikely, Haladriel was as like to fall asleep listening to the tales her father told her as she was to stop asking for them. He looked down and found a pair of serious grey eyes looking up at him. They were the colour of a doves feather, and set beneath of a wealth of silver-white curls. She blinked sleepily, but seemed determined to stay awake.

"And that is the end of the story?" she asked, as always.

"And that is the end of the story." He replied. Gently he lifted her up and set her down upon her bed, his sweet, seven year old daughter immediately began squirming into her sheets, yawning as she went.

"That is my favourite story Papa... Do you think I might ever be able to see the Golden Woods?" his eyes widened. She had never asked that before, usually she seemed content to not ask questions about the stories he told her, or even to expect that the people and places in them were real.

"Why do you ask that?" he asked gently. She was blinking sleepily, her eyelids drooping shut.

"Because it's almost summer Papa, maybe we could go there... Maybe we could see Elves. I would so like to see Elves Papa..." she said sleepily, a little smile on her face, her eyes shut. If they had been open she would have seen the stricken expression of grief on her father's face.

As it was though she did not her eyes already closed ready to see dreams come to life. He left the room, a heavy burden in his heart. It had been just eleven years since his father, a man still in his prime had left his son his lands and gone west, a heartbroken man still grieving the loss of his beloved wife, whose brief span of years could never compare to his own long life. And only a few years before that, when he himself had been just leaving childhood that the dowager Lord and Lady of Isgilliath, Lord Galadhon and Lady Simariel, his grandparents had gone west, seeking after the resting place of his great grandmother in the Golden wood.

Prince Anáthon, Lord of Osgilliath, Prince of Arnor and Gondor, his dark hair cut short and gently curling around his face with its wide blue eyes and even features, remembered the last farewell before that, as always his family had ridden out for their brief summer holiday in wood to the west he barely remembered from those idyllic childhood days. But the things he remembered most of all were the broad shoulders of the blonde haired lord who met them on their arrival each year with welcoming arms, and who had thrown him up onto his shoulders and strode through the wood, talking in his deep, warm voice, about all the sights to be seen from his great shoulders. And then there was her, with her dark hair and gray eyes, both serious in her sorrow and truly joyous in the unstinting love she showed for all her 'dear children' as she called them. That last summer had been filled with tears and lamentations: no more would the children run amongst the Niphredil and Elanor, no more would they gather sweet flowers for their mothers, or be taught to use bows made by elven craftsmen who had long since passed out of the earth.

Prince Anáthon's sad footsteps took him up the stairs to the very highest spire of his palace, and there under stars hidden by grey clouds he looked out at the city of Osgilliath. His beautiful city. The city his ancestors had left to him. Ancestors who he had known, who had walked with him beneath golden leaves that sighed their mourning to the world as they slowly drifted down like a shower of gold upon them. Since that year, almost thirty years ago, none of his family had gone to the Golden Wood in late spring, instead, one by one his grandparents, their brothers and sisters, his father, his father's brothers and sisters, were drifting away. Their eyes, ancient with a knowledge as yet hidden from him would turn away, towards the West, and either by the passage of the years or by tumultuous grief each was pulled away towards the West, seeking after those two figures who until just a bare thirty summers before, had gone West themselves.

And now his precious child, with her fair hair and silver eyes, and ears with tips that pointed just so had cast her eyes to the west, to a Golden Wood where he at her age had felt his great-grandmothers warmth envelop him in a hug for the last time, as her gentle lips kissed his cheek, her tears wetting his hair. He turned away from the stars that burned to the star that was behind him. For there, on the wall was one of his families most precious items, a round shield, black enamel set with a silver star of mithril above a red wave, in a wreath of golden leaves. The star of the west, seven pointed symbol of his house, set in the wreath of leaves that had been the only heraldry Haldir of Lórien ever wanted or needed.

For the first time, in his heart, Anáthon understood his great-grandmother's final words. "I will not see you again, for your steps will not follow after ours to the place where sorrow departs. Oh my sweet one, my mortal child... Not for you, but for your own, your blood, which will ever pass west of you into the twilight while you remain." she had turned away from him then, her grey eyes filled with tears.

Now he knew. He understood what he had not understood before. He had thought that he, the son of a half-elven son of two half-elves, would be the first of the mortal line of Osgilliath, the first to lie in a tomb of stone, rather than a glade of the Golden Wood, or to live on in the light of the Blessed Realm of Valinor. Now he knew better. Only one child so far had his sweet wife, herself a woman of human blood, borne him, and she, his blood, his kin, was more of that which had been before. One day, perhaps sooner than he would have ever dreamt, those grey eyes would become melancholy, and wistful, and would turn ever west, towards the wide and thundering sea.

And there, far above his city the Prince buried his face in his hands and wept bitter tears, cursing for the first time in his life, the love and choices of his kin who had left him here to dwell in this Middle Earth without their light and love. It would be him, and those who followed in his mortal footsteps who would be doomed to walk amongst and love those who saw what they could not, they would not see the lights of Valinor, nor truly know the song of the stars in the night sky.

They would never dream, as his sweet child dreamt, of a light filled land where the sun turned the western sea red beneath the silver light of the evening star.

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