Hope and Memory
by Elvellon Ringsbane
Dusk fell swiftly, the grey light of early evening receding into a deep
twilight as one by one small white fires sprang up in the darkening
sky. Above the Valley of Rivendell the stars seemed brighter than
anywhere else in mortal lands, as if they hung nearer to the earth,
wishing to reach down and touch the last haven of the Elves east of the
In the birch woods of Imladris Arwen walked alone, her grey mantle
glimmering in the dusk. The night wind was in her hair, and about her
echoed the murmur of the falls borne up softly on the breeze. It was
spring, and the grass was long and green beneath her unshod feet, and
all the trees were in flower, the fragrance of their blossoms filling
the night air with a rich perfume.
Arwen reached out a hand, white and slender in the light of the stars,
and brushed the laden boughs of a cherry tree, and a rain of blossoms
fell about her like a fragrant snow. How often had she walked thus! How
many were the memories that dwelt here…
In the spring of her youth she had run beneath the birches with her
brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, their laughter rising like larks to meet
the sun as they chased each other amid the trees. Elrond followed at a
more stately pace, a smile on his face and Celebrían their
mother like a fair young mallorn at his side, clad in silver and
crowned with gold.
In summer when the groves were cloaked in a rich green, she had paced
the winding paths alone while her brothers rode off on errantry with
the Dúnedain. Then when they returned she would sit upon the
greensward, a wreath of flowers in her hair, and listen as they
recounted their adventures and told of lands wide and wild far beyond
the borders of Imladris.
Autumn came, and in the days when the leaves were gold before they fell
she would climb to the edges of the valley where the wind came stiff
and fresh from the sea far away. Looking down she could see all the
vale spread out below her in a mist of crimson and gold, the river
running through it as a bright ribbon laced with foam as the sun sank
with fire into the west.
When the breath of winter put the autumn stars to flight, and the snow
lay upon tree and stone like a mantle of white lace, then in the Hall
of Fire lights flared up in sconces of silver and bronze and the
harpers sang of Lúthien before the feet of Arwen Undómiel…
Spring came again, and like a bird released from bonds Arwen left
behind the halls of her father and beneath the blossoming trees she
danced upon the deep grass while flowers like stars sprang beneath her
passing feet. Then the woods were filled with her song, even as with
Lúthien’s of old, and all the valley was filled with gladness.
And even so had she met Estel…
As a reflection in a crystal pool was the memory of his tall figure
walking amid the trees as he sang of Lúthien, and the sudden
wonder that touched his noble face, and the echo of his voice crying,
Arwen stood still, wrapped in memory like a cloak, as slowly the moon
rose above the edge of valley and illuminated the clearing where she
waited. Her silver mantle shone pale in the darkness as if she were
clad in moonlight, and her long hair was as a river of twilight crowned
A quiet voice broke the stillness, and Arwen stirred and turned. ‘Ada!’
Elrond smiled. ‘Your thoughts are far away.’
‘Nay,’ said Arwen, returning the smile. ‘They are here, within this
very glade. I was thinking of other springs, of you and Naneth, and
Elladan and Elrohir…and Estel.’
Elrond’s face grew grave, and there was a light of sorrow in his eyes.
His long robes whispered over the grass as he came to stand beside her.
‘Will you forsake all past memories for a future of fleeting joy soon
to turn to sorrow? Naneth awaits you. What shall I tell her, if you do
‘Would she not wish me joy? The loss is hard, but the love is eternal. She will understand.’
Elrond sighed, and turned his face toward the West where Eärendil
shone above the horizon, bright and clear. ‘Love remembered does not
lessen present pain. It is not of your mother, nor even of myself that
I think now, but of you, Arwen.’ He turned again towards her, and in
the starlight his face was cold and hard, as a statue carven of stone.
‘Beyond all hope Sauron has been defeated, and Aragorn made king. But
though all you yet desire comes to pass, still you will have to taste
the bitterness of mortality. For whether by the sword or by the slow
decay of time, Aragorn will die, and there will be no comfort for you,
no comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death, an
image of the splendor of the kings of old in glory undimmed before the
breaking of the world.
‘But you, daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt, as
nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Alone shall you dwell,
bound to your grief under the fading trees, until all the long years of
your life are utterly spent, and you have lost all that you gained.’
A sigh broke the stillness, and looking upon Arwen he saw that she was
pale, and tears shone in her eyes like stars. Grief smote him to see
the pain mirrored there, and he laid a hand upon her arm, and said
gently, ‘Do I not also have your love?’
She smiled tremulously through her tears, and pressed his hand to her cheek. ‘Of course you have my love, Ada!’
Arwen buried her face against his chest as he drew her into an embrace,
breathing in the familiar scent that always lingered about his robes.
From the time she was a child it had brought her comfort, and his quiet
strength had never failed to dispel her doubt and fear. And now she
wept at the thought of leaving him forever, for as great as was her
love for Aragorn, no man can replace a father’s love.
Elrond held his daughter close, stroking her dark hair. The thought of
losing her was a sorrow almost too great to bear, but he desired above
all else her happiness, whatever the cost to himself. And how could she
find it here, in a land of tears and war, where there was no lasting
joy or peace? ‘Your joy means more to me than all of Arda,’ he pleaded.
‘Take the ship into the west and bear away your love for him where it
will be ever green! There is nothing for you here, only death…’
Arwen drew back gently from her father’s embrace. ‘Ever green, but
never more than a memory!’ Tears were on her cheeks, but her voice did
not falter. ‘No, Ada. I have made my choice.’
Elrond looked on his daughter, and there was no anger in his grey eyes,
only an immeasurable sorrow and the pain that foreknowledge brings.
‘Then the Eldar shall be a second time bereaved, and the image of
Lúthien pass forever from the world. For we are the firstborn,
the Children of the Stars, but Men are the Children of the Sun, forever
destined to rule the world. The time of the Elves is over, and as a
star before the dawn you will fade and fail.’
‘Such is the fate of all our race,’ answered Arwen, and her voice was
sad. But in her eyes there was a light that did not die. ‘But if the
stars fade not, dawn cannot come. Sauron indeed has been defeated and
the One unmade, and Aragorn sits now upon the throne of his fathers,
but the hope that has been borne anew among Men will soon wither unless
our union come to pass. For Aragorn will die, even as you say, and who
then will guide the people of Arda?’ She looked searchingly at the Lord
of Rivendell. ‘Would you condemn Men to the darkness even now?’
‘No, but neither would I condemn my daughter to death!’
‘Not to death, Ada!’ said Arwen, and she raised her hand and laid it
gently on his cheek, an unfathomable love in her grey eyes. ‘Not to
death, but to a new and different life! For even as the choice of
Lúthien gave new hope to a world in darkness, so too shall it be
with my choice. Then the White Tree shall flower again in the courts of
the King, and the Children of Hope will play in its shade, and sunlight
and starlight be mingled forever. And through the sons and daughters of
Elfstone and Evenstar the memory of the Eldar in their days of glory
will endure beyond this age of the world.’
Elrond did not answer, but stood with his face toward the west, his
eyes fixed on the distant fire of his father’s star. A silence fell
upon the glade, and in the stillness the rushing of the waterfalls
filled the cool air as overhead the stars began to pale towards dawn.
One by one the fires of heaven vanished into the lightening sky, and
last of all Eärendil dipped slowly behind the rim of the world.
Then at last Elrond stirred, and turned to the silent figure beside him.
Arwen remained motionless, like a statue out of forgotten years, her
silver mantle glimmering like gossamer in the shadow of the trees. Her
long sable tresses stirred in the wind, and her face was pale as she
waited, hands clasped tightly before her. Elrond raised his head, and
their eyes met. Tears marked his cheeks, but there was a smile upon his
ageless face and a new light in his eyes; and Arwen knew that he had
accepted her choice at last.
For a moment they stood thus without speaking, then suddenly Arwen
laughed, a clear, joyful laughter that rose like a lark to meet the
dawn. She sprang forward, flinging her arms about her father, and
Elrond caught her and embraced her tightly. Then they parted, and as if
by some sudden instinct or command, turned together to face the east.
The light had grown steadily, and now streaks of rose and amber were
spreading like shafts of fire beyond the lifting night. Then suddenly
darkness fled and the sun leapt into the sky, kindling the distant
mountain tops to a golden fire.
Arwen stood beside her father, her hands clasped in his as the first
warm rays of light slipped through the trees to bathe their upturned
faces. ‘Lo!’ she exclaimed. ‘Arien has passed the Gates of Morn.’
‘Yes,’ answered Elrond quietly, and his eyes twinkled at her like the
last stars ere the coming of day. ‘A new age has dawned for Men.’
*Ada = father
*Naneth = mother