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11
Seeking the Presence

Seeking the Presence


Olórin was not present when they came to the beginning of the Way. Arwen stood with a circlet of niphredil and elanor in her hair, her beauty an equal to the light of Varda’s stars; and she looked deeply into the eyes of he who had been her husband and smiled. "I am sorry if I kept you waiting, my beloved, as I did what I had to do."

He laughed. "It was very little compared to my last wait for you. Last time it was I who labored, and this time you did so. We are even, I think."

They turned to look at the Way. "What say you, Lady?" he asked. "Shall we go through the Halls, or through the Garden?"

She sighed. "The Halls first, my Lord," she said at last, then laughed. "They will remember me little in the mortal lands, but here they will be reminded." And they laughed together as they approached the doorway.

There they paused as Aragorn looked to their escort. "Will you enter with us this time?"

"Gladly, Strider," Pippin answered. The doors to the Hall of the Dúnedain opened to admit them.

*******


The King Elessar sat upon his High Seat and watched as the doors swung open, admitting a shining light such as had not entered the Halls of Mandos since the days of Lúthien and Beren, Tuor and Idril. He stood in joy and delight, and descended from his place, and all gave way before him as he approached his Queen Evenstar.

She came to him as she’d come before, erect and shining with Joy, approaching with delight and anticipation as the call was made by the Stewards Ecthelion, Faramir, and Elboron, "Behold the Queen!" Flanked by two proud Halflings, one in the armor of Gondor and the other in the mail of Rohan, she stepped forward to greet him. They met in the center of the Hall, and he took her in his arms and kissed her deeply, then turned her in a full circle to show her to all.

"Behold my Queen, the daughter of Lord Elrond and the Lady Celebrían, the granddaughter of the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel, the rulers of the Golden Wood. She is the Lady Arwen Undómiel, Evenstar of her people within Middle Earth, and the like of her will come to Middle Earth not again save in the heritage of our children. Rejoice with me at our reunion."

And all rejoiced, and once more the Lady Arwen was reunited with many she had known over the long centuries of the fostering of the heirs of Valandil in the vale of Imladris. A joyful lady came forward to embrace the love of her son’s life, giving thanks for her care for the son she’d left at her own fading. A proud father bowed before her, glad to call her, who had been as a sister to him at one time, daughter.

Behind her came still another, the Lord Steward Denethor son of Ecthelion, who bowed before the man he should have served had madness not taken him, and he begged pardon humbly for not fulfilling his duty, and before all he was forgiven and embraced. "I rejoice only," the King said, "that you have been healed at last and are restored to me, you whom I always thought of as my brother."

*******

"Enough of this," Aragorn whispered into his wife’s ear. "Shall we leave them to it?" Laughing, they slipped away toward the inner door, Pippin and Merry behind them.

"Is it always so formal and full of solemn declarations in there?" asked Pippin.

Aragorn laughed richly. "Alas, I fear it is. Too solemn by half, which is why, I suspect, you have enjoyed your time so well among the Edain where the feasting and laughter are more in keeping with your own mortal heritage."

"Can we peek into some of the other halls?" asked Merry.

"Peek?" snorted Pippin. "I have the right to enter several of them. My trip to Harad has earned me my place in a few, you know."

And quickly they looked to see which doors would open to them, entered in, established themselves, and left.

Last they came to the Halls of the Edain, and there Arwen entered in with her Lord, then found herself approaching him as he rose from his bench and came to greet her. Théoden came down from his high seat to embrace her, accompanied by his small esquire; Éomer and Lothiriel rose from their places; Éowyn came running from down the Hall to bear her the cup of greeting; Queen Morwen came near and bowed down in honor; and others she’d known raised a shout of joyful greeting. And Barahir came near, his eyes full of memory and honor.

"My daughter," he murmured, "I greet you, who so resemble the one who delighted my son. Welcome indeed, and surprised I am that you did not choose to bypass this place."

She embraced him gladly. "My father you are as you are to my beloved Estel. How could I not give honor to those with whom you are identified, you who are as much Adar as he who loves my mother?" And the joy of that meeting filled the hearts of all.

*******


Finally she looked into her love’s eyes. "It is time," she said, and the two of them turned to the doorway. Their hearts were full, and a part of them would always thrill to the solemnity of the Hall of the Dúnedain, the pleasures of the Hall of the Edain, the surprised and surprising honor shown to them in the Hall of Umbar, and the other chambers they’d entered, singly or together. But they did not wish to linger in the Halls, they who had the right and desire to go further. They had with them a fuller escort as they made their way out the great Door and turned to the Garden and beyond, for several were ready to follow that deeper Way now. Together they wandered through the great Garden, extending the anticipation, rejoicing the closer and closer they came to the Bridge. Wherever the Queen stepped niphredil and elanor sprang up in her wake, and wherever the Lord walked athelas grew in the margins.

There, waiting for them at last, was Olórin, who stepped forward and embraced the Lady Arwen, receiving from her a grateful kiss, which seemed to gratify him deeply. Many there were who bowed to him or greeted him by one of his many names, and all he knew and honored in their turn.

"Bear my greetings," he said.

"We shall," Lord and Lady assured him. Then Aragorn turned to Pippin, saying, "I almost forgot--your son wished me to tell you he will come soon, and loves you dearly."

Pippin laughed. "Actually, although you may not have been aware of it, that message was made known to me on your first arrival. We all tend to be a bit overwhelmed when we first get here, you know, so the messages we bear seem to get delivered automatically."

With a last embrace between Maia and the Lord he’d once mentored, Lord and Lady turned to the silver span, and crossed over it.

*******


Guardian and Mother stood up from the midst of the Children, and the shining Light of the Nurturer turned as the further Lights drew nearer. The one who had been once Frodo Baggins and Iorhael quivered with delight as branches parted and a troop of shining souls approached its own Light. The Nurturer bowed down before Lord and Lady, was embraced and kissed by both, was honored by all present, was embraced by those who had been its cousins. Lord and Lady knelt among the children, greeted the child who one day would become Estel, looked around. Aragorn looked into his Friend’s shining visage. "Celebrían has gone on her way, then?"

"Yes, and those who will be her parents are ready to hold her in their arms as they hold her already in their hearts, and Valandil is thrilled to know he will be allowed to share in the nurturing of his sister."

"Do you wish to remain here with the Children?"

"Oh, I am always here. But we have waited long to accompany you."

"My Lady Rose, it is with Joy we greet you this day. And, Sam, your grandson does honor to the gardens of Minas Anor."

The Guardian smiled with delight. "Am glad he gives satisfaction."

The Lord laughed. "Satisfaction? Delight, rather. Always he has found joy in the ways of the Creator, and always he has shared it with me and with those with heart to understand his own delight."

"Good enough, then. Glad to see the blood runs true." His face shone with Humor and Joy.

Together they turned, Aragorn and the one he’d long considered his Brother, their arms around one another, and began on the Way to the Presence.

"The Way is so very beautiful, Aragorn."

"Then you will teach me to see it, as you have done before."

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