Now this tale has truly reached its end. Actually, the idea how to finish it had come to me a long time ago – right after Part 7. But it has been a long way to reach this point. Thank you all who have followed the path with me.
PART 14 – EPILOGUE
“But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light in 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 was gone, and the land was silent.
There at least 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 Return of the King, Appendix A – The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, p. 425-426.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The message of Legolas came from Ithilien by the way of friendly birds, that King Elessar had finally passed away, and that Legolas himself had decided to build a ship and sail to the West.
“He asks us to go with him,” added Thranduil, looking at his second-born son in askance.
Enadar was still painfully thin – a hundred and twenty years, not even a full yén, were too little time to heal the millennia of damage he had suffered in the darkness of Dol Guldur – but had gained a sort of wiry strength that was comforting to see. His cheeks were still sunken, but less so than they had been, and traces of his erstwhile beauty could be already found on his face. He remained quiet and withdrawn, showed little interest for the big events of the recent Age, but seemed content enough with simply being with his father and their extended family. He had even visited Legolas in Ithilien once, but became homesick very quickly, and thus there had been no further visits.
“Do you wish to sail?” he now asked his father, his voice still rougher than it could be expected from an Elf. He was still re-learning how to use his vocal cords properly. Three thousand years in mute and deaf silence had not gone away without a trace.
“Nay, I do not,” admitted Thranduil softly. “If I could choose, I would remain under these trees ‘til the end of Arda. But Legolas had suffered from the Longing since the end of the war, and Celebwen has left already, and mayhap your siblings, too, have been released from Mandos’ care. As much as I loathe to leave these shores, I wish our family to be together again. And that is something we can only have in the Blessed Realm.”
“Do you believe Naneth will follow us?” asked Enadar carefully.
Thranduil spread his hands in a helpless gesture. “I know not how Lálisin has made her agreement with Mandos, but I do know that she has done so that she could watch over us. I hope she can follow us there, but that is something between her and the Lord of the Halls. Something we cannot fathom, I fear.”
“We cannot be certain that she can come with us, though,” said Enadar warily, and Thranduil shook his head in regret.
“Nay, we cannot.”
“’Tis a bitter choice you are asking me to make, Ada,” Enadar’s eyes darkened in sorrow. “To part either with you and my siblings, or with Naneth, Amme and the others.”
“Tis a choice we all have to make one day,” said Thranduil gently, “but if you wish to stay, I shall stay with you. I would never abandon you, ion nîn, not after I have found you again, against all hope.”
“I do not wish to leave the Greenwood,” whispered Enadar. “I had missed my home for so long, and I have re-found it but a short time ago. Yet I wish to see Dorothil and Orchal again, and Grandsire… and all the others who perished in that battle with them. And I wish very much to meet Aiwë, your little bird whom you love so much. My heart is divided, Ada, and I know not what to do.”
“You must think over your choices carefully,” his father said. “Take your time. Take all the time you need. There is no rush. We can sail later, if you are not ready right now.”
“But we cannot tell whether I shall be more ready, ever,” pointed out Enadar, “and the Olórë Mallë may not remain open for our people forever. We may never be able to leave Middle-earth if we tarry too for long.”
“Then we shall stay here, with the rest of the Faithful,” said Thranduil simply. “There are worse fates on Arda.”
“Mayhap,” said Enadar evasively. “Yet ere I make my choice, I need to undertake one last journey in Middle-earth.”
That surprised the King greatly, for Enadar had never voiced the wish to go any further than the Long Lake before – save that one visit in Legolas’ young realm – and even there, he only visited the empty shores. He did not like being crowded.
“Where do you wish to go?” asked Thranduil.
His son gave him one of those sad little smiles. “I want to see the Golden Wood again. I know it has not been the same since the Lady left, but I want to see it one more time nonetheless.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It had been a long way from his father’s realm across the southern woods where Celeborn had ruled for a short time, ere growing tired of it and going to live with his grandsons in Imladris, to the Golden Wood. Had it been up to his father, he would have travelled by boat down the Great River, but Enadar wanted to see the changes in the south of the Greenwood, wanted to see how the forest was recovering from the millennia of evil and darkness forced upon it by Dol Guldur and its dark captain. Thus Thranduil had chosen the second safest way, appointing Alagos as his son’s travelling companion.
They had travelled along the western outskirts of the Greenwood, on foot, as it was the custom of the Faithful, crossing the woods by the Old Forest Road and making their first rest in Rhosgobel, or Brownhay, as the Woodmen called it. Radagast the Brown had returned to his home of old after the war, and Enadar had finally made his acquaintance. It was a strange thing to meet someone who had been a friend of his family for the first time, but Master Aiwendil, as the Elves called him, proved to be a being of Enadar’s own taste: a solitary one, not fond of being crowded, more at ease in the company of trees and birds and other good beasts.
After a few days, they continued their journey in the company of a Beorning who travelled in the shape of a huge bear, which Enadar found equally disturbing and fascinating. Thus they finally reached the naked hill of Amon Lanc, upon which the dark tower of Dol Guldur had once stood. Enadar was not too eager to see the place of his suffering again, but Alagos insisted, saying that he would never be free unless he faced his fears and memories, and he proved right. Seeing the tower gone and its deepest pits filled up with soil, and the mound, under which the tortured and murdered prisoners were resting, covered with fresh grass and symbelminë, was liberating. And when one of the withered old trees stirred and walked away from them, Enadar’s heart fluttered, and he understood that the trees were indeed going to heal, for the Onodrim had returned to the Greenwood.
The Ent showed no intention to talk to them, and they parted ways with the Beorning and crossed the Great River, just over the place where the Celebrant joined it. The small harbour, once the mooring place of Lórien’s famous grey boats and swan-shaped barges, was abandoned, the Boot-Elves gone. When they came to Egladil at length, the heart of the Golden Wood, they saw that while the great earthen wall of Caras Galadhon was still in place, it was already crumbling down here and there, and the Tree City was abandoned, little more than an empty shell. Only a few of its former inhabitants lingered there still, and there was no longer light or song in Caras Galadhon.
“What now?” asked Alagos, looking around with saddened eyes. “Where do you want to go from here?”
“Cerin Amroth,” replied Enadar. “I want to see Cerin Amroth one last time – as long as it is still there.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And so they crossed the Golden Wood on the old path that led from the Tree City to Cerin Amroth, and found, to their joyous surprise, the heart of the ancient realm as it had been long ago. The great mound was still standing there, tall and proud, crowned with the double ring of trees, the outer ones white, the inner ones gold.
As they reached the foot of the hill, something stirred among the trees, and forth came a tall, ash-blond Elf, in the usual shadowy grey garb of the Galadhrim. They were both stunned as they recognized Haldir.
“I thought you have left years ago,” said Alagos, after they had clasped forearms in the warrior fashion.
The former Marchwarden of Lórien shook his head.
“This is our home… not Caras Galadhon, but Amroth’s house, where we once lived. Besides, Fíriel and I have no place in the West – not until the Valar have learned to have mercy with us, lesser beings. I shall not return to a spouse I have barely known, and neither does Fíriel want to lose what we have had for a whole Age for someone whom she has lost six millennia ago. We are content here, and so are our children and my brothers.”
“But Lórien has become a lonely and fading place,” said Alagos. “Why not move to the Greenwood, which is as youthful and strong as it has always been?”
“The ancient realm was not under the power of Galadriel’s Ring, thus it is not fading,” replied Haldir. “And there live some of the Faithful on the other side of the Nimrodel still. We are not alone… and someone must take care of the Lady Arwen.”
Enadar’s head snapped up with an almost painful quickness. “Lady Arwen is here?”
“She came after Elessar’s passing,” said Haldir quietly, “fort his was the place where they have pledged their love to each other. She walks under the trees alone, rarely speaks to anyone, and becomes more distant with every passing day. I believe not that it will take long ere she…” he drifted off sorrowfully, but he others understood his hint all too well.
“Can mortals die from broken heart?” asked Alagos with a frown. Haldir shrugged.
“That I cannot say. Yet I do know that – mortal though she might have become – her heart is still that of an Elf. She is fading already, and fading fast. I think not that she would survive the coming of rhîv.”
“I would like to speak to her again,” said Enadar softly.
“You can try,” replied Haldir with a shrug. “She walked down the path that leads to the bridge of the Nimrodel, some time ago.”
Enadar nodded his thanks and went down the path Haldir had pointed out to him, swiftly and noiselessly as a shadow. He had always been good at woodcraft, but since he had become so quiet and thin, he could move like a ghost. The trees whispered greetings to him, greetings and directions, and this he could find the Lady Arwen easily enough.
She was sitting on the bank of the Nimrodel, clad in the soft grey raiment of Lórien, her once sable tresses turned pure silver and braided artfully in the custom of Noldorin royalty: countless braids woven together into an intricate coronet, and the end of the thick braid left down her back. Otherwise, she had not changed much. Her face was still smooth and eerily beautiful, her eyes grown large and dry and empty. Like crystals charred in fire, their transparency gone, their light broken.
She was barely there any more, and Enadar felt his heart contort in pain. He understood loneliness more than anyone else.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
She felt his presence as soon as he stepped out from under the trees onto the riverbank but ignored him. She could not quite put a face to that presence, but that was nothing new. Haldir sometimes sent Elves to look after her, Elves whom she barely knew. She always ignored them, and they eventually left.
Not this one, apparently. The voice was unfamiliar and strangely rough. In a hundred and twenty years among Men, she had got used to the harshness of their voices – what other choice would she have? – but this was an Elven voice… how strange.
She turned around slowly, almost hesitantly, and saw an Elf in the rough green and brown garb worn by the Silvan Folk – and by Legolas’ people in Ithilien – while on a journey. He was a fragile-looking person, with snow white hair that barely reached his shoulders – too short for an Elf, or even for a Man, for that matter. The thin face was very pale, and the wide eyes seemed enormous. He did have a wraith-like air about him, but she recognized him nonetheless. The white hair was a dead give-away.
“Enadar Thranduilion,” she said, in a way of greeting. “What has brought you here, so far from your home?”
He shrugged, his face wistful. “Legolas has finally succumbed to the Longing and wants to sail to the West, soon. I am trying to decide whether to go with him or not. A journey to the place of my rebirth seemed… appropriate. I have not hoped to see you ever again, though.”
“You could have come to visit me,” she said, but he shook his head.
“Nay, my Lady. It would have done no good disturbing your happiness by reminding you…” he trailed off, uncertain whether he should name his long-nurtured feelings for her.
“That you loved me?” she finished for him, with a weak smile full of understanding. He nodded thoughtfully.
“It was improper to have feelings for someone who was bonded already, I know,” he said. “But those feelings have warmed my heart in lonely nights, and in a way even made me happy. ‘Twas a strange balance between the inability of my body to know love and the fullness of my heart of the same, I believe.”
She looked at him intently. “Do you still have those feelings for me?”
“I do, my Lady. And should I choose to sail to Elvenhome with my brother or to remain under the trees of the Greenwood ‘til I fade away with the rest of my mother’s people, I shall always keep the memory of you in my heart, and no-one else will ever dwell there.”
At that, she turned her eyes away. “I am sorry.”
“There is no need for that, my Lady,” he replied, “for it will make me as happy in the future as it has made me in the recent past, and I do not believe that anyone else could make my life fuller. And I hope it will give you at least some sort of peace. The Men whose Queen you have been may forget you, but the trees will remember, and with them we, the Tree Children. We are called the Faithful for a reason.”
She nodded slowly. His presence already gave her great comfort, and she was grateful that he had chosen to seek her out.
“Will you stay here with me… ‘til the end?” she asked. “The Valar, in their endless wisdom, seem to have decided that it was not mine to die until I have lost all that I had gained – I accept that. But this is a fate unknown to Elves, and the thought of facing it alone fills my heart with terror. Of all people, I believe, you are the only one who might understand.”
“I do indeed,” he replied gently, “and I shall stay with you ‘til you are ready to leave.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And thus they spent the remaining days of the fading season on Cerin Amroth, walking side by side under the trees in silence, or sitting on the bank of the Nimrodel. They spoke very little, and they never sang; for all song and music was gone from Arwen’s heart, and Enadar could still not use his voice properly, not as one would expect from an Elf. Thus they existed, outside of time once again, and while Arwen withered away in sorrow, the love to her in Enadar’s heart grow steadily, and he saw their time together as blessed, despite the circumstances.
And when rhîv came and the leaves of the mellyrn had all turned pale gold, Arwen Undómiel turned to Enadar Thranduilion and said gravely.
“’Tis time. I am now ready to leave for whatever shores mortal Men go to when they die. Thank you, friend, for staying here with me. Should I keep any memories from this life, or indeed have a live beyond the Rim, I shall always remember you. May the stars of Elbereth always shine over your paths.”
And she kissed him on the brow, and this was their farewell, for she lay down under the royal mallorn and closed her eyes and never opened them again.
Haldir and his family helped to bury her under the great tree that once had been supposed to become her home, but there was no gravestone nor any other sign, for here she was not the Queen of Gondor or the Lady of Imladris, just a lonely woman who had finally found peace.
“And now that your work here is done, what are you going to do?” asked Haldir.
“Once again, my life has come to full circle,” replied Enadar. “This was where I met the Lady Evenstar for the first time, and this is where we had to part, forever. She was never meant to be mine, and yet I feel as if I had been released from an obligation. I am free to go now – to go home to the Greenwood, and then to the West, if that is what my father wants.”
“You do not seem too unhappy,” said Haldir, a little surprised.
“I am not unhappy,” answered Enadar. “She who was like a bright star beyond my reach for me, has now gone where I cannot go, no matter what. We might never meet again, not even after the end of Arda. But in a way, she will always remain with me, and that is enough. As long as I remember her, I shall never be alone. Happiness can be found in unexpected places. We just have to keep our eyes open.”
“Very true,” said Haldir and clasped his forearm. “Have a safe path home, my friend.”
“I will,” Enadar smiled, “I am travelling with Alagos, after all. Farewell, my friend.”
Addendum: This part was mostly born from the wish to give poor Arwen a somewhat more… human parting from this world, although human probably is not the right word. Of all the fates Tolkien gave his characters, for me the one he gave Arwen is the most cruel one. This is the only thing I will never forgive the Professor – that he discarded Arwen without a second thought after Aragorn’s death. As if she had no right to live on her own, now that Aragorn had no longer need for her. That she had to die alone and forgotten by everyone, especially by the Men whose Queen she had been for a hundred and twenty years. So I decided to change it, just a little bit, just as much as canon would allow it.