Letters from Afar|
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: Elrond and family’s view of the event following Arathorn’s death, told through four letters delivered to Celebrían in Valinor.
Celebrían stood at the edge of the quay side, feeling the salty sea wind through her long hair, and the warmth of an eager crowd pressing behind her. Not far away, an elven ship was sailing towards them, its elegant prow slicing through the sunlit water, bearing on its wide deck the family and friends of the elves around her.
As always, Celebrían had been one of the first at the quay side, arriving before dawn to watch for the coming ship against the golden sunrise. But she waited not for long separated friends, not today, at least. Today she hoped only for news, news and perhaps a letter or two. These were the only threads connecting her with her family, who remained in Middle Earth to fight against the Shadow.
The sail was reefed and the ship eased into its berth. A coil of rope was tossed down, and a dockhand deftly secured it to the post. The plank was lowered, and the elves on board filed through. Celebrían scanned their faces for someone she recognized. Ah, there, an elf from Elrond’s household. She pushed towards him.
The elf saw her too, and bowed low. “Lady Celebrían? It is a pleasure to see you, after so many years! My lord Elrond bade me give these to you.” He retrieved a small bundle wrapped in blue cloth, and placed it in her hands. She barely remembered to thank him before retreating into the privacy of her dwelling, clutching the small bundle that contained the only communication she had with her family far away across the Sundering Sea.
Her hands trembled as she unwrapped the small package. Four letters fell onto her desk, but her eyes immediately sought out the familiar handwriting of her husband.
My beloved lady,
Our kindreds are sailing to West in increasing numbers, and even in blessed Valinor you must have heard of the darkening days in Middle Earth. Let me assure you that myself and our children are all in good health. Yet with the stormclouds gathering on the horizon, sometimes I find my vision of the future obscured, and sorely do I wish to have you by my side, with your loving spirit and gentle wisdom.
I am sending Arwen to Lothlórien, with ample guard. War is approaching, a great doom draws near, and I wish her to be free from the death and mortality that we see all too often in Imladris, while she can. I will miss you all the more with Arwen gone. But know that I begrudge you not for sailing to Valinor. Well do I know the need that drove you to leave us; well do I know you, and how you must think of us as much as we think of you.
It is my most sincere wish that you shall be free of care and sorrow in the West, yet I know that you would wish for news uncensored. Lately we have been occupied with the ill plight of the Dúnedain. Three short years ago, if you will recall, the line of Isildur seemed as unbreakable as always: Arador was hale with an heir grown and proven. Yet he died all too early, and not since Araglas’ times had a man as young as Arathorn taken the role of chieftain. Even then we were hopeful, for Arathorn was a good leader and already wed. Elladan and Elrohir had been close with him since his tutelage in Imladris, and often they rode together against the servants of the dark.
Alas, Arathorn died early this spring, ambushed by orcs while on patrol, leaving a young widow and a babe but two summers old. The Dúnedain are quite alarmed. Not since the times of Aragorn father of Araglas had a chieftain’s rein been as short as Arador’s and Arathorn’s, and never had they been left with a child as their chieftain. Some held the child’s name, Aragorn II, as a sign that he too, will die an untimely death, and this time without an heir. Others fear that Sauron has renewed his effort to end the line of his ancient enemies.
The wise agree with the latter view. Mithrandir again urged for an attack on Dol Guldur, but Saruman is adamant that it will be to little purpose, and argued the merits of waiting and watching. But one thing met no dissent, that the line of Elendil must not die out.
And that is why the child and his mother had been taken to the safety of Imladris, and word has been spread that the line of Isildur is ended. Some of the Dúnedain elders needed some convincing, as they did not think a child so young should be removed from his people, but in the end all agreed that it is best for the child to be sheltered somewhere safe, and have his identity hidden even from himself.
They arrived but a week ago, and had been given a room in a quiet quarter of the house, well away from travellers. We have been kept busy, seeing to their living arrangement, planning out a course of training for when the child gets older. We need a tale to explain why two young mortals – for Gilraen is still quite young, even by the reckoning of her own people – have suddenly came to live here, and perhaps even a new name for the child, though Gilraen will take some convincing, I imagine.
But I believe that Gilraen will see the necessity. She is a good lady – young but wise, sharp of mind and foresighted. I feared that in her despair she would lose her will to live, for she seemed to me but a child widowed far too early, and forced away from all she’s known. But though she grieves deeply for Arathorn, the need of her child drives her, and she is determined that he would need for naught. It is my hope that in time she will accept the peace and healing of Imladris for herself, and not only for her child.
Young Aragorn, on the other hand, has already made himself quite at home. He has been exploring the house as well as further afield, in the gardens and the pastures. He managed to gained the favor of the cook in a surprisingly short time, and has made friends with many of the other elves, myself and Arwen not the least of all. The twins have thus far tried, though not always successfully, to steer away from him, Elladan especially. I think they feel Arathorn’s death bitterly, as they had been riding with him during the ambush, but that is easing, and they should soon return to their old selves.
Young Aragorn’s lively presence, his laughter and babbling speech filling the house, are as rays of golden sunlight piercing the murky fog. Wherever he goes, gloom recedes, and dark thoughts are chased away. Just last morning, he burst into my study, announced only by his shrieking laughter, and closely followed by Gilraen and Elrohir. He paused in the doorway, and you could see it dawn upon him that his mother would not approve of his actions. He stood there a moment, as if pondering whether to run, and hope for the best, or to look contrite. It was then that I was struck by a flash of foresight.
I saw him as a man grown, proud and stern of face. Wisdom was in his eyes, and the Star of Elendil sat on his brow. He stood at the head of a great army, but they were surrounded by the forces of Darkness. I feared for the child then, and the great trials he must endure. Yet even as the vision faded, and I gazed upon his youthful face, I could not help but rejoice. For I feel that, good or ill, the ending of this age may depend in part on his deeds. Doom is approaching, my time in Middle Earth will soon be over, and our family will be reunited.
Soon, my lady, I will see you again.
Celebrían carefully folded the letter and set it aside. Our family will be reunited. Soon, I will see you again. She could almost hear Elrond’s words meandering through her head, feel the warmth of his hands lapping against her own. She smiled and opened the next letter.
This is it. Arathorn is gone. His brave deeds and noble spirit are now no more than songs sung around the campfire, and never more will I see his oft grim face lit by a sudden smile.
O! How many friends have I lost in the war against the Enemy? How many more must I lose before the Enemy is defeated?
But here I am again, thinking only of myself. Arathorn talked to me, but two years ago, before his child was born. He made me promise to take care of his wife and child, should anything happen to him. But I am afraid to befriend the child, only to lose him all too soon.
Am I a coward? I think not. Am I selfish? I hope not. Part of me demand that I honor my words to a dear friend, but another part shies away from it. I know not what to do. I want to talk to someone, seek their advice, but I can not burden Father or Elrohir – they have their own worries. So I write to you instead, and hope that it will not affect you too deeply, across the Sea.
I miss you,
Oh Elladan, how can your anguish not affect me deeply? Even the Sundering Sea is not so wide as to sunder a mother’s love! But no matter. She is willing to bear her child’s pain for him. Elrohir’s letters are always more hopeful, though. With eager hands, she opened the third letter.
How are you today? We are all well, if not as cheery as we would like to be.
Arathorn died last month. It was a hard and unexpected blow that left many of us reeling. But the Dúnedain continued their duties with barely a pause, despite their grief, their loss, their confusion. It leaves me wondering at the resiliency of the Second Born.
I have wrote of Gilraen before, of her devotion to her family and to her people. When we decided that she and her son were to leave for Imladris, and cease all contact with their kinsfolk, I feared that she would lose her will to live. And indeed she appeared despondent for the first few days of the journey.
But soon she collected herself, and kept busy turning our simple rations into wonderful meals, and teaching her young son the names of the plants and animals we saw, and that of the constellations in the night sky. Now that we are back home, she has taken an active role in the councils held over her son’s future, and spends her evenings in Father’s library studying books of lore and weaving them into stories that her son can understand and learn from.
She has proven herself to be a lady worthy of admiration. Courageous, resourceful, and determined. I wish you could have met her, Mother. You would have liked her, I believe, and she you.
I had a dream a few nights ago, that I was standing at the prow of a ship, with Elladan at my side. We got off the ship, and you were there to greet us. I know not if this was foresight or simply a dream, but I hope that soon I will be able to hear your gentle voice and feel your loving embrace again.
As always, Mother, take care of yourself, whatever you do.
Celebrían smiled. Just like Elrohir, to be caring about everyone’s welfare, be they Elves or Men, horses or hounds. She glanced out of the window as she picked up the last letter. Arien is hovering just above the horizon, gilding the silver peaks of the Pelóri a brilliant gold. In the distance, the sound of merry-making can be heard, though the feast to welcome the newly arrived elves will not commence until sunset. Good, there is still time to read the last letter.
I apologize for the hasty penning of this letter. I depart for Lothlórien later today, and with all the preparations, I fear there is little time to write, if I were to finish this before I leave. I will write a longer letter when I can, and send it along from Lórien, but I know you’d rather receive a short one in the meantime than none at all.
No doubt you have already learned from Father of the ill plight of the Dúnedain. The last heir of Isildur, a young lad of two, was given refuge in Imladris. Quite a delightful child, he is, lively and inquisitive, not so much different from a young elfling.
Seeing a human child every day, and hearing him even when he’s not within sight, had left me pondering about our destinies of late, such as I have not done for many a yén. But fear not, Mother, these are but passing fancies. There is not much of a choice ahead of me, with you in the undying lands, and Father set to follow you.
And now they are calling for me. Know that I miss your daily, Mother, and will write again soon.
The sun has set by the time Celebrían finished the last letter. She sat in her chair with furrowed brows. It had been so long since she last thought of the choice given to her husband and children – to choose between the fates of Elves and Men.
Presently she stood up and shook her head. None of her family had ever given her reason to think that they may choose to accept the Gift of the Second Born, least of all Arwen. It was but a passing fancy, as Arwen said herself. It had to be.
She put on a cloak and walked outside. A full Moon has leapt over the sea to the east, and the Stars shone undimmed in the west. She shook off her feeling of foreboding, and walked towards the sound of harps playing and old friends chatting.
Soon, soon. The long wait is almost over. She will see her family again.