Because It Is Bitter|
Summary: In the year 121 of the Fourth Age, the dowager-queen of the Reunited Kingdom lives in a world of her own, a world devised only to hasten the footbeats of death.
“Seasons pass, and time marches ever on to the cruel beat of its Master’s drum. Thus it has been through the ages, since before either you or I were ever thought of in our parents’ hearts, and thus it will continue, when our names are nothing but a distant memory. The days go on whether I will them or no, and at times it is hard, dear brother, to continue on in the way things once were. Now, more than any other moment in my life, I feel the pressing of those who have gone before me, and though I know I should pay it no heed, I find I cannot. And yet—”
Arwen, the Dowager Queen of the Reunited Kingdom, set down her quill and frowned. “And yet,” shemurmured, closing her eyes with a shudder. “And yet I find in my heart that I cannot go on without
him.” The soft words echoed in the empty chamber, and the queen pushed her unfinished letter away.
She was weary; weary in her bones and in her soul. The terrible grief of her loss weighed heavily upon her aging shoulders, not at all lessened by the months that had gone by since the terrible day. A year, thought Arwen. It has been a year, and still my sorrow is as heavy as the day he died.
A tremulous sob rippled through the queen’s frame, and rather than resist, she gave in. For the past
weeks, she had denied herself all outward signs of mourning, choosing instead to keep her pain trapped inside her breast. But now she could no longer be strong, and in spite of herself, the queen began to weep. She wept for her husband, whose memory plagued her even in dreams.
Somewhere in the next room, one of the servants laughed aloud, interrupting the queen’s sobs. The
sound seemed frivolous and common, but it pulled Arwen out of her gratuitous wailing.
Sniffling, she straightened her shoulders and smoothed the fine silk of her black mourning gown. Arwen sighed to herself as she dabbed at her swollen eyes. Before her on the desk, the letter she had been composing to Elrohir was splotched with tears, and it would need to be rewritten before she could send it.
But on this day, the queen’s mind was not on her brother. There were things more important, things
that claimed her attention whether she willed them or no. She was of an age where control over her
faculties was limited, and now that grief had taken such a place in her life, it seemed that she had been made senile before her time. It was distressing.
For the first time in many weeks, the sun broke through the thick layer of clouds, pressing its cool light
into the queen’s chamber. On her black-gloved hand, her marriage ring sparkled, and Arwen studied
it for a moment. All at once, her mind was flooded with memories of her dead husband, and the tears
once again threatened to consume her mind.
It seemed impossible to live while Elessar did not. It seemed cruel, unfeeling on her part, and on his.
They had endured so much together, side by side; without him, Arwen could not bear to live, not in the
way she used to.
Lately she had felt as if she were a ghost. Most days she spent in the quiet solitude of her vacant
chambers, and when she did venture out, it was always in the late evening. Her children no longer
visited her; the queen’s dreary presence had proven to be unendurable for them. Now Arwen only had her letters to comfort her, but conversation between Minas Tirith and her brothers and grandfather in Imladris was difficult and slow, and she was left with ample time to reflect upon her gloomy situation.
I wonder, she thought briefly, if the servants of the palace yet remember who I am.
Of course, her constant state of mourning was only to be expected; even Eldarion had expressed his
support of her voluntary seclusion, if hesitantly. But Eldarion was king, and had not been allowed the
luxury of a long period of grief. The kingdom depended on him, as did his younger sisters. Now it was
only Arwen who daily remembered the great king Elessar; the pain she felt now, a year after his death, was just as strong as it had ever been.
These unconquerable emotions that had invaded her sleep and stolen her daily routine would not be
quenched; she knew that now. Decades ago, the queen had given her heart away to a Man, and the
price of that choice was irrevocable. The only thing that could ease her mind was death.
“Tomorrow,” whispered the queen. “I’ll leave tomorrow.”
A cool, swift breeze hovered over the grey courtyard, whipping at the queen’s dark garments. With one of her hands, she straightened the black veils over her face, and with the other she grasped the reins of her horse, who waited patiently.
The time for departure had come. It was a painful thing, she realized, to bid farewell to all that she had come to know and love over the course of her long tenure in Gondor. She wished that it had never cometo this.
King Eldarion, regal in bearing just as his father before him, looked piteously at his parent. “Mother,” he said, “I would wish that you could stay for just a little while longer.”
A peal of thunder broke overhead, and glancing up, Arwen saw that the bluish-grey rainclouds were
about to break. By necessity, this would not be a long or drawn-out goodbye, and for that she was
“No, my son,” answered the queen. “My place is no longer at Minas Tirith. It is your city now, and just as your wife’s place is with you, so is my place with my husband. Do not seek to dissuade me from my choice, for it was made long before you were born.”
The king nodded, but his grave gesture did not hide his distress. Standing there, in the overcast light, he looked much like the little boy he had once been, and Arwen could not help remembering days past. But that time was gone, and she could revisit it only in memory.
“You are wise beyond your years, Eldarion,” she said. “Your name will be remembered.”
He nodded, but was too consumed in his grief to speak again.
Impulsively, Arwen reached for her child and enfolded his broad form into her bosom. Eldarion’s
arms pressed tight around her, and he burrowed his face into her neck, as he had done when he was
small. “Mama,” he sobbed. “You mustn’t; I can’t bear it!”
“Shh,” soothed the queen, stroking her son’s dark hair. “I must go, and you must bear it. You will bear it, Eldarion!”
The queen disentangled herself from the king’s frantic grasp. Gently, she lifted her veil and pressed a
single kiss onto his cheek before mounting her waiting horse. Eldarion watched her, his eyes red and
puffed from emotion.
“Farewell, Mother,” he whispered roughly.
Arwen nodded solemnly, producing yellowed parchment from the fold of her black robes. “See that
this letter is delivered to my brother at Imladris,” she said. “I could not find a courier to send it with this morning.”
Lightning pulsed in the gloomy sky, reflecting Arwen’s distress. Wheeling her horse around, she
disappeared through the Citadel gates just as the rain began to fall. She did not look back upon her son, and she did not falter in her course. But underneath her black veil, silent tears coursed down her pale cheeks, only to be swept away with the rain.
It seems impossible that you and I shall never look upon one another, yet this is how it must be. My choice has been made, and so has yours. Our paths do not twine in the way they once did, and for that my heart aches. You have always been a comfort to me, dearest brother, and I have done my best to be that for you whenever possible.
Tomorrow early, I shall depart to Lórien, and I know in my spirit that I once I cross the borders of that land, I shall never depart. It pains me to say this, but I know it is for the best. Today marks the anniversary of his death, and still the pain is as sharp as it was a year ago. I do not think time has the power to mend this wound, no matter how long I wait.
Seasons pass, and time marches ever on to the cruel beat of its Master’s drum. Thus it has been through the ages, since before either you or I were ever thought of in our parents’ hearts, and thus it will continue, when our names are nothing but a distant memory. The days go on whether I will them or no, and at times it is hard, dear brother, to continue on in the way things once were. Now, more than any other moment in my life, I feel the pressing of those who have gone before me, and though I know I should pay it no heed, I find I cannot. And yet I know, with a sureness I have never before experienced, that some good will come of this. I know not what it may be, but I have faith in the ways of those beyond our understanding.
It is with a full and heavy mind that I pen these words to you, Elrohir. I cannot begin to imagine your reaction, even if I wanted. The thought of causing you pain is more than I can bear to think on. Both of us, through a cruel twist of fate, have been subjected to much suffering, and I would not want to add to the matters that no doubt burden your mind.
And so I close with encouragement and love, and I hope that the sun will shine upon your paths, whatever you encounter.
The once-fair wood had faded. The light and song of enchantment were no more, leaving the forest to
itself. Those who chose to remain here were quiet and solemn; this was now a place for solitude and
Lying upon the mount where she had first sealed her fate, Arwen shivered. The chill air of midwinter
plumed against her face, creating little tendrils of ice across her nose and mouth. Her short, labored
breaths came in quick bursts, and her grey skin trembled. The light that her eyes had once possessed
had faded to darkness, and her smile had been absent for many moons.
“Elessar,” she wheezed faintly, “my love.”
And quietly, just as she wished, Arwen Undómiel passed from this world.