Title: The Token
Theme: POV challenge--I chose Arwen. I have written her a time or two, but never from her own POV.
Elements: red, circle, nine
Author's Notes: The third section of this story takes place immediately following my drabble “Heart’s Desire”:
at Stories of Arda--
at The Last Ship--
in which Arwen has her first conversation with Frodo after the wedding.
Summary: Arwen deals with losses.
Word Count: 1,465
It is not a day I will ever forget, Anor in the West, staining the horizon red; the sound of waves and the wind in the rigging of the tall grey ship; the smell of salt in the air, and the taste of salt as my tears ran down my face. She had already embraced my brothers, and now she came to me.
Within the circle of my arms, she felt so frail and weightless. I noticed, not for the first time, the hint of transparency about her. I knew she had to do this, I knew she had to go--she was surely fading, and if she remained we would lose her anyway.
She pulled back and looked into my eyes. "My daughter," she whispered, "my Undómiel, do not grieve." Then she pressed something small into my hand, and closed my fingers upon it, before I could see what it was.
I opened my hand, and there in my palm it lay, white and gleaming, its mithril chain coiled coolly against my skin. "Mother!" For I had never seen her without this gem about her throat, the gift of her own mother, filled with the light of Eärendil. As I closed my fingers around it and gazed at her, stricken, light from it escaped through my fingers. "Mother--" my voice choked.
She gave me a smile, wan and weak, "My child, I will see it again, will I not?"
I knew what she meant, and I nodded. I was so certain that one day I would choose also to accept the life of the Eldar, and join her in Elvenhome--I would have gone then, had I not known what it would mean to them to leave my father and brothers bereft of both of us.
Of course I would bring it back to her. She drew me once more into her embrace, and placed a kiss upon my brow, before turning to say her farewells to my father.
Ten had ridden to the Havens, nine of us would ride home.
The roses of my bower were red and fragrant, yet neither I nor my companion could appreciate their beauty. He leaned into the circle of my embrace, weeping bitterly. I knew not how to comfort him, for only a few moments before, my father had told Bilbo that he would not be allowed to accompany us on our journey.
"Your health will not stand it, my old friend. I am very sorry, but as your healer, I will not countenance it. Would you have us arrive in Gondor to see Frodo and the others, only to tell them that we had left you buried along the way?"
My father's face had been both stern and gentle, and pained as well, for he knew the disappointment he was causing. He glanced to me in entreaty ere he left us, hoping I would be able to comfort poor Bilbo.
I knew not how to console the old hobbit's grief. For long months we had been comrades in adversity, united by our fears and our hopes for the loved ones we had watched go off into mortal peril. And now, after all the long waiting, he was not to go and be reunited with them, but must wait instead for them to come to him. And I was disappointed as well, for I had looked forward to his stout and cheerful presence at our side when Aragorn and I finally realised our long-awaited dream.
But it could not be; my father was right--these months of anxious waiting--nine months if I considered the turmoil and fear that had accompanied Frodo's dangerous journey to Imladris, and the days and nights of anguish after his wounding, as well as our mutual worries when they left once more--had all taken their toll on my small friend. He was already ancient by the reckoning of his kind, and the destruction of the One had released the hold it had on him, leaving him prey to all the years it had held at bay. As much as he wished it, he would not survive a journey to Gondor in his perilous state of health.
His weeping exhausted him, and soon his weary body succumbed to sleep. As I felt his hitched sobs slowly even out into soft gentle snores, I eased him into my arms. He was frail, and weighed no more than a very young child. I arose carefully, and carried him through the wide door that led from my bower-garden to my chambers, and laid him upon the soft cushions of a small bench by my window. He curled up, and slept on without further stirring. I cast a fond glance at him, and laid a kiss upon the papery-thin translucent skin of his brow, as I drew a thin coverlet of my weaving over him. Sleep softened his great age, and I marvelled again at the changes time makes upon a mortal. Until Aragorn, I had met few mortals and loved none. Since I came to love Aragorn, I found that there were other mortals making inroads upon my heart--this small one not the least among them. My own heart contracted as I realised that I would probably never see him again after we departed on the morrow.
What would I not give to ease his sacrifices and those of the ones he loved most?
Tears stung my eyes as I went to resume the task that my father's news had interrupted. Most of my packing was done, but some few items remained. I took forth a small casket of dark polished wood, and opened it. I touched my mother's gem. I had not worn it since I had pledged my troth to Aragorn, and I had planned to ask my father to bear it back to my mother in Elvenhome, that my word to her not be broken. I had meant to leave it here.
And yet, something stirred in my heart, a foreboding of I knew not what, and I felt that I should take it with me after all.
Doubtless it would be made clear to me when the time was right.
I almost wish I had not spoken to him. All unthinkingly, I have distressed him, whom I would never wish to distress. Yet I owe him so much! How could I leave that debt unacknowledged?
I walk away from him reluctantly, leaving him to his pensive wonderings beneath the White Tree. I could not miss the spots of red against his pale cheeks, when I had thanked him, nor missed the flair of pain within his fëa. He is still filled with distress over the way his quest had ended. And his constant and forced association with evil for many months has left him feeling soiled and diminished.
I had longed to take him into the circle of my embrace and lay a kiss of blessing upon his brow. Yet I had sensed that he would not welcome it, but consider it an undeserved comfort as well as an affront to his dignity. So I left him to his thoughts.
I turn to look at him once more. He is rubbing his right hand with his left, as though he is wishing to rub away the evidence of his missing finger. "Frodo of the Nine Fingers", the minstrels call him, thinking to honour him as though he were "Beren One-Hand". Yet it seems clear to me that he sees his wounding not as a badge of honour, but as a sign of failure. In the depths of his blue eyes, behind the pain, there is a self-loathing. And about the blaze of brightness that is his spirit, a scar of darkness remains, and there is about him a frailness and a hint of transparency that I have seen before. He is fading.
He does not realise it yet; the cloud does not envelope him, and for much of the time, he tries to recapture his old habits of being. He is a hobbit after all, and they are hard to quell. I know that my beloved believes that once Frodo is home amid his old familiar surroundings in his gentle Shire, the natural bent of his race to living cheerfully in the moment will overcome the remaining darkness. But I fear he is wrong.
After all, my father once hoped that home and family would overcome the darkness in my mother's heart.
Perhaps I am wrong. I am too new to the ways of mortals to feel any kind of certainty, and perhaps they have more strength to resist fading than the Eldar.
But my heart tells me that I know who will bear my mother's token to her.
And I think she will understand.