Title: The Last Message
Type: FPH with a twist of FPS
Author: Hare (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Warning: First person POV, angst, romance, sexual scenes
Disclaimer: Amateur at work here! No profit has been gained and no infringement of copyright is intended.
Beta: Ezimachia and Erviniae (Ervy). How could I go wrong with Double E’s?! With special thanks to Ervy for the last minute beta-help and going the additional mile by checking on my LOTR canon/fanon accuracy. All mistakes are mine.
Timeline: Imladris - Third Age
Notes: Written for the Mereth RhÓw Winter Writing Challenge. My prompts were “up on the rooftop” and “snowballs.”
Summary: Arwen reflects on her lifelong relationship with Erestor.
A charmed life is such a pretty sounding sentiment. If only it truly occurred. Good fortune leads to dread when one who has led such an existence finally faces rejection. And inevitably heartbreak must arrive for no course is perfect.
Mine own started on a cheery path. The first daughter and youngest child, enthusiastically welcomed by my parents, the Lord and Lady of Imladris, with pampered beginnings and elves who catered to me. It all spurred a bit of pomposity and a sense of entitlement on my part.
And where my parents may have, in their generous ways, overly allowed these attitudes there remained one who never permitted me an out of proportion sense of myself. Again and again he found gentle ways to ground me and force me to think about whom I was and who I would be as I aged. From the moment of my birth his presence is there in many memories, both good and bad. That special day when he accepted his role as my mentor, to this day now when I write these thoughts…one special elf, one special guardian, who greatly molded me into my future.
He influenced my every day, and I followed him incessantly as though I craved his gruff ways. I have a vague awareness of crawling after him when I was a mere babe then toddling behind him when I could barely walk. Never did a day end without sitting on his knees as he read me stories or snuggling up to him when it was cold. If I played and he gifted me with his presence, I always looked to see if he watched and if not my antics increased in outrageousness until his eyes once again trained only on me. No trick did I consider off bounds when I meant to assure his attention did not stray again. My Erestor, mine alone.
His most important role as the chief counselor for my ada, kept him amused but not as busy as most suspect. During times of calm and peace I freely ruled his days but when a dispute arose or the dark minions threatened he disappeared.
Erestor’s secondary role, and the only duties I thought mattered, involved my education. In charge of my guidance from birth, he had absolute command over those decisions with my parents’ blessings. Ada and Nana met with him periodically to discuss and agree on my further learning, and then Erestor decided how to carry out the resolutions. I continually longed for him to be more directly involved, but usually I would see him for an hour or so each day, my direct education coming from skilled tutors who monitored me to the letter of Erestor’s instructions.
But if a day should go by without Erestor at least peaking in on me, my temper flared. The first time this occurred, I wailed my spoiled royal voice hoarse until he appeared. I smile now, remembering how he smartly remedied the situation. Gathering me close, he promised his duties would not take him away for long and that I must stand in his stead. Whispering conspiratorially, he had explained exactly what I would be doing while he toiled elsewhere.
The next day his assistant, Melpomaen, and I started our hard labor constructing an exact replica of Erestor’s desk. We worked for a solid month, molding the wood and sweating at the forge crafting knobs and fittings. When Erestor reappeared, my tiny desk stood next to his, and there I sat in my dark robes, dark hair pulled back in an imitation of his elaborate braiding, scribbling away at some important missive. He laughed. A genuine chuckle, straight from the belly and his eyes danced with mirth. I remember beaming with pride as he complimented and swooned over the quality of my work. And how I adored him more when he handed me a scroll and set me to work replicating it.
Ah, but it was then that he became responsible for what happened next, for his handwriting had always fascinated me. He did something special with his “E’s”, a long flared loop at the beginning and end, and since everyone I loved had an “e” in their name I began attempting an imitation of his script. I took any spare note he had written and copied it over and over until I created a perfect match to Erestor’s writing.
Of course, I could not leave well enough alone, the temptation too great and I an innocent elfling. So, I concocted a farce, something clearly doomed to failure though I was too young to realize. Carefully scribbling notes in a perfect forgery of his handwriting, I had live goats delivered to a meeting where my ada hosted a group from Linden. Oh, as absurd as it seems now, no one at the time dared question a directive from Erestor and the goats arrived promptly as instructed. I had heard ada refer to the delegation as stubborn old goats, so one thought flowed easily to the next and an idea was born. And truly I did protest at my punishment, after being easily discovered, for I knew nothing of mating seasons. It took a dozen elves to pull the bucks off the she-goats while shouts and insults poured forth from the gathered elves.
My brothers, present at the meeting, had witnessed the carnage and came to me late that night, as was their wont anytime they approved of one of my stunts but wanted no others to know. They graciously rubbed my sore muscles, garnered from tending to the goats for an entire day, while we giggled into the early morning. I felt completely cleared of all wrongdoing when the kidding season that followed proved to be the best in centuries, and I heard many comment that mayhap introducing a bit of excitement into the goat herd might spur greater reproduction.
After that day, Erestor’s notes were scrutinized more closely, but eventually he forgave my mischief, and I agreed to cease reproducing his handwriting.
Though many commented on my beauty as I grew, never could I influence his mind with my charms. Consistently stern, he would explain quietly his decisions and the matter ended. Once I had decided I would not attend my scheduled lute lesson, for the contingency from Lothlůrien was due at the same time, and I could not possibly miss greeting Haldir. Nana had infected me with stories of the Marchwarden, and I had paced with nervous excitement for days before his arrival. I have never forgotten the horror of being forcibly escorted, by Erestor, from a cozy sitting room where I sat ensconced with Haldir and Nana to my purposefully forgotten lute lesson.
Yet though stern and commanding, he also indulged me in many ways. On his begetting day and for winter solstice I proudly crafted crude gifts for him and he made a point to keep each one. Whether it was some silly paper hat or seed necklace, he would wear it proudly declaring it was made especially for him by Arwen. He even went so far as to have office shelves built to hold all the presents and to this day those gifts remain on display. Many of them so old they are crumbled to nothing but there they dwell, a beacon to me and in my mind, a statement of his feelings for me.
On a cold winter day, while ruminating and plucking at my lute, I realized my awareness of Erestor had changed dramatically. I found myself fascinated by the nuances of his face, the cute way he scrunched his nose anytime Cook served goose, the lovely long lashes that lay dark against his pale cheek when his eyes closed, the breathtaking way he annihilated foes during a debate. Powerful. Beautiful. But a chance enticing glimpse of him wearing nothing but leggings, physically uninhibited as he washed in a tributary of the Bruinen, finally revealed the truth.
My elfling adoration of Erestor had evolved into something more, something frightening and exciting, and I found my breath leaving me at the thought of kissing him while running my hands between his muscular thighs. My mouth dropped open, and I stopped playing in mid-tune. I loved Erestor. And further, he had to know. This year, I determined my gift to Erestor would not be placed on a shelf to decay.
Not long after my revelation, late on Solstice eve, pleasantly relaxed from several cups of warm spiced wine and a lazy evening with family, I made a hasty decision to corner Erestor and speak my heart. He had left our gathering several hours earlier to check on some missives before the Solstice celebration the next day. Casually, I said my goodbyes emphasized with a yawn and strolled toward my rooms. Slyly, I had checked to assure no one followed as my brothers have an innate sense when it comes to my business. And what was about to happen did not concern them in the least.
Once satisfied I had aroused no suspicions, I stealthily crept down the stairs towards Erestor’s office. The time was late and most were bedded for the night, but there were several still working and preparing for the morrow. I thoughtfully nodded to each, but continued unhesitating in my quest.
The candlelight shone as a beacon from his office and a faint whiff of ink greeted me. I entered quietly, closing the door with only a soft *snick* pronouncing my entrance. He looked up at the sound, and I smiled in what I thought was a seductive way, though I had never attempted such a thing before. His own grin drooped a bit and seemed to freeze on his face as I walked forward pushing the shoulders of my dress down until it fell and puddled at my feet. Gracefully, I stepped out of it and continued toward him. He sat rigid when I approached and flinched slightly when I pushed his hair behind his perfect ear and leaned in to whisper.
“I love you, Erestor.”
I could not stop my tongue when it flicked out to trace his ear’s outer shell. He leaped up and away from me. Undaunted, I followed and put my arms around him pulling him close, inhaling his unique scent and resting my cheek on his long silken hair. We stood like that for I know not how long until he sighed deeply, relaxed and turned in my arms so that we faced each other.
I know I swooned when he gently stroked my face and it was then that he reached around and broke the circle of my embrace. He held my hands, and spoke quietly.
“I love another, my lady.”
The perfection of the evening broke suddenly and harshly with those words, and I inhaled a ragged breath. Embarrassment and dread surged through me and immediately I struggled to break his hold. He would not release me, but pulled me close.
I heard the desperation in his voice as he urgently spoke to me. “Nay, do not flee. You had the strength to come here and speak your heart, and I am forever grateful that you have done so even though we are not to be. If I release you now you must promise to stay, redress, and speak to me.”
I nodded my agreement if only so he would unhand me. The ache I felt being so near him and knowing I could never have him overwhelmed me. Quickly I donned my clothing and stood with my back to Erestor convinced I could never again look him in the eye. But he knew me so well. Erestor moved before me, and I felt his fingers beneath my chin tipping my gaze up to meet his. Resolutely, I scrunched my eyes closed, unwilling to show the pain they would reveal. Undaunted, he moved closer and his breath trailed across my overly sensitive skin.
“Come, now. Is it so bad, pen dithen? We have always been able to speak on any topic and this shall be no different. Open you eyes. Please, Arwen.”
Even as a child, I had rarely defied him and his well timed plea spoke to me. His wide brown eyes held mine. His face a red mask of embarrassment? Possibly desire in his gaze? Even now I am unsure in my reflections what he felt on that night. Unmistakably, he did care and through my haze of disappointment I recognized this even though, at the time, I craved a great deal more.
“I do love you, Arwen, but as a daughter or a young sister. There is another who holds my heart.”
The pain of rejection quickly changed to anger! Surely after his incessant tutelage he did not think me so dense.
“Your words are gentle, yet I know what I see, Erestor. You are not adorned with a ring, nor does your hair contain love knots. Why is she not here with you? It is clear why! There is no other, you are alone and have always been alone. So please stop these attempts to placate my ego. It is insulting! Let us be honest with each other. You do not find me appealing.”
If possible Erestor’s face reddened further before he stuttered his response. “I do not deny that you tempt me, for my basest needs have not been met in many years. Your appeal is not lost upon me, Arwen.”
He dropped my hands then and turned his back to me.
“As to why I wear no ring? That is complicated. Suffice it to say my love remained unrequited. For all that I felt, there was none in return, and when the affair ended I was tossed aside as an afterthought like so much rubbish.”
Turning Erestor to face me once more, I pleaded with him.
“There is no need for you to suffer further. I am here and I love you. Let me show you how wonderful it can be. Please, a chance is all I ask.” I knew I begged but I could not cease.
“It would be no hardship to love you, Arwen. But what you ask is impossible.”
All my hopes were slipping from my grasp, yet I could not let go of the idea of having Erestor. In my desperation, I unwittingly switched tactics.
“You have admitted your desire for me. If that is all I can have I will gladly accept it. It is enough and someday mayhap you might even find happiness with me!”
His face softened. “How could I be unhappy or ungrateful for your love? I rejoice in it, but accepting your proposition would be completely unfair to you - always knowing your spouse pined incessantly for the love of another. You might think you can accept this now, but I know your current consent would not last nor can I ever take advantage of you. Nay, the great love of your life has yet to make himself known and you must strive for equal ground. He will come, my beautiful Arwen, but you must wait and watch and feel.”
“But I am safe and comfortable with you. How can I allow another close for I know not their motivations? I fear being taken advantage of because I am an innocent in these matters and there are those with queer ideas about peredhel. My education has always centered on defeating my vulnerabilities. I cannot appear weak, ever. You taught me this, my brothers reinforced this, and Ada insists upon it! You are and have always been my teacher, Erestor. If you cannot give me the love that I seek, please agree to one final mentoring task.”
His answer to my plea came swiftly, briefly and with a curt nod before he walked from the office.
“It is agreed, my lady.”
I sobbed and moped for weeks after Solstice. My nana fretted and questioned, but I refused to answer. This pain and humiliation was mine own to bear. When the horror of my plight, that of unrequited love, dissipated slightly I realized I still had a precious gift. Erestor had grudgingly agreed to tutor me once more in a much more intimate way. He would provide me memories for a lifetime, and when I finally found that one who loved me as I loved him, I would not be a cowering virgin trembling and uncertain of physical desires.
Curiosity pushed away most of my selfishness, and I resolved to find this elf who did not return Erestor’s feelings and question her. I must find a way to bring back his happiness and for several months I pondered on how to make this occur. I watched him, yet garnered no clues as he seemed to socialize with no one save Ada. I covertly asked those who seemed to know him and that got me no further. Only then did I realize more drastic measures were necessary.
Still, I could not bring myself to invade Erestor’s privacy for he held it dear and would certainly resent any intrusion. Never once had I been allowed into his quarters. Each day, when his duties were completed he would disappear, and I never knew how he spent his alone time. I respected this for I knew it important to him.
His office was another matter altogether. There he welcomed me any time any day. He had even made it clear I was allowed to use it when he was absent attending to business elsewhere.
Late at night, I stealthily explored his office for some inkling of Erestor’s lost love. Surely she had left him some tokens of adoration, but I despaired of ever finding clues knowing that Erestor must have them tucked somewhere within his private rooms. However, I retained hope and searched incessantly.
One day to my delight, my persistence finally produced a curious reward. While rummaging through an old warped wooden cabinet filled with musty files, I happened upon a folder labeled “LaurŽ”. Immediately, I knew Erestor had written this word and the “e” flared more flamboyantly than usual. Even more puzzling, in this same folder, I found a carefully wrapped and sealed package. Out of place in the files filled with endless meeting notes, schematics, and ledgers, it appeared to have been placed there intentionally.
I remember running the package through my hands for a few moments, awed that I had actually found something obviously special to Erestor. The material was decorative and expensive and ageless. The ribbon securing the package was stamped with an unfamiliar crest…a stately tree upon a green background. I inspected it thoroughly and could find no signs of aging yet it smelled old. Could it be this easy? Even now, I laugh at my innocence! For of course, this mystery was more complicated than imaginable.
I pieced together what I knew of Erestor’s life, and I truly knew nothing. Our relationship rotated around me, not what he did before Imladris. Honestly, I only discovered that Erestor had not been born in Imladris by spying upon others conversations. His existence before Imladris seemed a complete unknown. I suspect Ada knew, but other than him, Erestor had no close personal friends. So, my inquiry began blind while I continually hoped I would not be forced to open the package
I launched my quest with the first clue.
The word “laurŽ” seemed familiar, but I could not gather my mind around where I had heard it. And what of the strange symbol on the ribbon adorning the package…a tree on a green background? Surely the answers could be found in the library. But that was Erestor’s territory, and he would be overly interested if I suddenly spent too much time there. Further, I had no idea where to start, and the history of elves is long and complicated and fills thousands of books. It could take me years to locate a reference to this emblem, if ever.
Counselor Melpomaen proved an invaluable resource. As underling to Erestor, he is an unlimited font of information for Erestor would accept no less in one who assisted him. Always eager to share, fortune shown on me the night I found him working alone in the library.
“Ah, Melpomaen! It is timely that I find you here. Please say you can help me and save many hours of work!” I rushed toward him smiling, whilst startled he rose shakily, his face flushed red. I noticed he quickly folded his robe over the book he had been reading. Curious behavior, but not my business on that night.
“I heard a word today. The sound of it is pleasing to my ears yet foreign. And now I find I desire the use of this word for mine own, but fear no one knows its meaning.”
My trap lured him in for Melpomaen specialized in languages and my ada regularly turned to him when translations were needed for visiting envoys. I could see the anticipating sparkle in his eyes.
“Absolutely, my lady. Tell me the word, and I shall do my best to assist you.”
“LaurŽ. Is it familiar to you?” I held my breath in hope.
“Aye, it is and a beautiful Quenyan word, however it is pronounced a bit differently.” He carefully spoke it several times until I could imitate his sounds. “Its meaning is layered though, deceptively so for it does not only mean gold but more accurately translates to golden light.”
“Golden light.” I mouthed it silently wondering at the mystery of Erestor’s folder.
Quickly, I thanked Melpomaen and strolled to my rooms. Why would Erestor name a folder golden light and place an important package within it? It seemed learning the meaning of laurŽ brought me no closer to the truth, and I fretted, tossing and turning before finally slipping into slumber that eve.
But sleep brought me no respite for that same night I dreamed vividly….a golden light swirled around me whispering in an odd language, yet understanding taunted me just at the edge of knowledge. A letter wrapped in the same stamped ribbon from the package drifted just out of my reach. Each time I approached, it danced away in a swirl of bright yellow beams, leaving my hands and arms covered in golden sparkles. I chased it, undaunted as it floated through the corridors of the Last Homely House, down the staircase, through the kitchens, and up a chimney. I raced out the door and caught a glimpse of it swirling around in the upper currents heading towards the knobby hill where I had played as a child. It looked so different in my dream. The knoll, no longer rocky but smoothly covered in green, lush plant growth and on the very top stood the same tree from the stamped ribbon. Tall and noble, it twitched frantically, its movements creating a mournful song as its leaves shriveled from the branches and fell to the ground. Swaying to the melancholy of that song was a field of celandine. The yellow flowers trembled with each note, and their petals wilted and dropped. My legs faltered as I sprinted up the hill but I knew the letter contained all my sought after answers, and I could not let it reach the tree. As if sensing my desperate thoughts, the light hurtled forward, the letter gleefully bouncing within. Its path suddenly became destructive, scourging away the life from the green hill and leaving once again the bare crag. Dead leaves and petals swirled in a giant golden whirlwind, the letter on top, and it raced off to the clouds until all fell silent.
I awoke, gasping for breath and fighting the cover, which had wrapped itself around my legs. Sweat rolled down my body, and my sheets were wet from the exertion, yet I shivered suddenly cold. The dream still vivid in my mind, I knew it foretold certain doom - Erestor’s death.
Convinced I had interpreted the dream correctly, I seemed unable to move the next day crushed by the weight of my lethargic depression. Finally, I forced myself to emerge from my rooms only to aimlessly roam the gardens unsure how to process this new unwelcome realization. I saw him then through a window directing his assistants in their tasks. The normalcy of these actions made me question myself. Possibly, in my hysteria, I had overacted and created an issue where none existed. Erestor had always counseled me to investigate before accepting a conclusion, so I would take his advice. I began my new task of watching him.
Daily, I searched him out and dared not let him from my sight. His every move and gesture dominated my vision until it was clear, my dream prophetic. Indeed, I could see the signs of his fading. Erestor died before everyone’s eyes, the cruelest and most lingering death to afflict an elf, and yet no one saw.
They were subtle changes, but glaring once I recognized what I saw. It amazed and angered me that Ada, Erestor’s best friend and closest confidant, could not see that Erestor’s hair no longer shone with the light of the First Born. His normally robust and ruddy skin turned pale and wane, his face showing fine lines of aging. And still I could hardly fathom Erestor, so practical and reasonable, being brought down by something as intangible as the emotion of love. The sight frightened me, and though I ached for his attentions and despaired of never having it, I knew Erestor needed she whom he loved to survive.
During this time of introspection, I spent much of it seated in the solarium, for I desired the heat and light of Anor to keep away the daunting darkness. It was there that Ada came upon me as I dawdled. My hand lazily colored the large tree I had drawn amongst a field of green.
His voice startled me. “This emblem is my favorite of the twelve, a strong healthy tree amongst the flourishing green of life. Such an inspiring and uplifting House crest.”
I looked up blankly not really hearing his words but knowing my previous anger at him had dulled, and I welcomed his calm presence. He sat beside me and picked up the paper.
“My own ada enjoyed recounting stories of Lord Galdor of Gondolin. Elros and I would sit for hours listening and begged him incessantly for more tales.”
I sat straight up in my chair finally understanding that Ada recognized this emblem! He seemed not to notice my sudden interest, but continued on.
“He considered Lord Galdor a most brave hero even before Gondolin fell, and afterward his idolization became more like worship. You see, Lord Galdor led the Gondolin survivors to safety, but more importantly his presence reassured them, and he impressed upon them their worth and reasons to go on and live. Ada remembered him constantly moving amongst the elves whispering words of encouragement, carrying those who could not take another step, foraging for food and water each night. He was relentless in his desire to make sure they all survived. My ada held such warmth for Lord Galdor and his bravery that he had considered that name for me, especially as my ada’s own great-grandfather was also named Galdor.”
He smiled when he spoke of his father. Speechless and enthralled at this rare insight to his past, I merely sat and nodded as my voice had abandoned me. As a further boon, I now had another answer; the unknown emblem belonged to the House of the Tree in Gondolin, Lord Galdor their leader. But my ada had not finished and to my further surprise, he added more.
“It pleases me that Erestor has finally confided his past to someone and it does not surprise me that he chose you, for you two have always been close. I know he misses his brother daily.”
Stunned, I barely recovered my ability to speak before he knew something was amiss.
“I am pleased too, Ada and am constantly fascinated by Erestor’s stories.” Carefully, I omitted exactly what stories Erestor told me for none of them were about Gondolin.
Ada chuckled then. “True, my daughter! Never is Erestor as animated as when he speaks of his eldest sibling, Galdor, and his gaggle of sisters. You must someday ask him about his doll.”
“His doll? Surely you jest!”
“Nay! I promise it is the funniest of stories and you will forever view Erestor differently.”
He stopped suddenly closing his mouth tight. Realization finally registered on his face. Truly, I sat there amazed, gleeful actually, that Ada had revealed so much. It almost seemed he babbled, uncomfortable for some reason.
A red tinge crept up his cheeks, and he harshly cleared his throat.
“Well, Arwen. I know I can trust your discretion in this matter. In the meantime, here I sit blathering on when I was sent by your nana to gather you up. We have not seen you for days and insist that you dine with us this evening.”
He held out his hand then for this was no request but a command and one I willingly obeyed. Ada had unwittingly supplied me with key information to unraveling this mystery and I found a celebration in order.
I left my parent’s quarters, late that night, and even though the food and conversation pleasant, my mind never left Erestor and his unknown lover. The clues to the mysterious package swirled in my thoughts, and yet I knew they were not enough. By the time I reached my rooms, I had firmly decided the package must be opened.
Immediately upon entering, I walked to the bookshelf. Moving aside several large tomes regarding painting styles, I retrieved it. With shaky hands, I carefully unwound the knot of the ribbon and gently removed the material. Enclosed within were dozens and dozens of letters and slips of paper with hastily scribbled messages, too many to count. Most were written on heavy durable paper and had at one time been sealed, but the seal on each letter was now broken.
I gathered a candle close and inspected the seal as best I could. Each was of dual color, partially gold – partially green, perfect halves of a circle. And there were barely discernible characters on each seal. There appeared to be flowers? And a slip of cloth? I studied it diligently, but its meaning was frustratingly unclear.
My neck ached from being hunched forward, and my eyes were strained, and as I laid back on the couch the first letter fell open.
Flowing script sweet and loving poured from the page, and the emotions reached for me. Through watery eyes I could read only snippets…
“Beloved.” “Dreams of you.” “Absolute power over my heart.” “Secrets and understandings.” “Overwhelmingly in your debt.” “My Anor.”
I skimmed each message. Giggling through my tears, embarrassed at my prying into such a personal affair, I gaped at the passages of strong passion and heat. Awed because they were written of Erestor, who I had known my entire life, but who I obviously did not know at all.
“Ache for you.” “Indescribable pleasure.” “Undying passion.” “Fire of longing.”
And as I read further, I realized their ardor spanned centuries. Entranced by these missives of love, haunting in their purity and desire and determination, overwhelmingly beautiful poetry proclaiming undying commitment and intense need, yet no personal signature appeared on any and they all ended, “Yours forever.” I sobbed at the ferocity of their devotion and the knowledge that it had been sundered.
But the most glaring realization came from the knowledge that Erestor had lied to me. Absolute affection had existed between him and this lover. I re-read every note and there was nary a harsh word between them during the long years of their involvement. Indeed, my hands could barely close around the testimonials to their zealous yearnings. His was no unrequited love.
In the midst of all the paper I realized I had not examined one. And where the other messages had shown multiple readings this remained unopened, stiff and apparently untouched. I spun it through my fingers and sat up to move closer to the candle. An unbroken seal graced the back, and now I could clearly see the pattern…a slingshot not being used for harm, but as a catcher for a cascade of golden flowers falling into it. Questions ran swiftly through my mind. Why had it never been opened? Would Erestor’s lover finally be named in this missive?
Quickly I retrieved a sharp opener and with delicate care I managed to pry the seal away from the paper. Unperturbed, the seal seemed a beacon of hope for a broken love once more whole. Cautiously I unfolded the letter.
Gondolin I 510
My Dearest Erestor,
To see you unhappy and know that I am the cause of it breaks me. The rain today seemed a fitting response to the despair I have wrought between us. I walked the grounds for hours alone thinking and the beautiful places that are ours, now haunt me. Our fŽa found each other in this most unlikely hidden haven, and I am loathe to return to a place of solitude. Duty is a harsh mistress and I am overwhelmed by its demand for sacrifice. How can I face this world without your love? The idea of sharing passion with another sickens me, and I cannot imagine the horror of such an act.
I am a fool for even considering a life without you. Since your departure I sit and hear only your voice and think only of you and see only your face before me. My heart beats panicked in my chest as it fights to emerge and be reunited with you.
I have graced this letter with a thousand kisses. Take them. They are yours and if your love is strong, I beg you return them to me another thousand-fold. Please, my love, run to me. If you are beside me, I can weather any storm and together I will have the strength to turn aside those who seek to force my complicity in taking a wife and producing heirs.
Tonight when the light wanes and Helluin first appears in the sky, you will find me at our usual place. I am trembling as I prepare to seal this, beloved, for I fear you will not show. How will I survive? Please I beg you, come.
Humbly and Hopefully,
“Nay!” I wailed out involuntarily.
The pain held within shattering, the despair of knowing Erestor had never read this letter daunting. I know not how long I sat and stared at the wall wondering at the implications of it all. A wife? It repeated again and again in my mind.
Erestor loved another male.
With newly opened eyes, I reread the memories of nights shared together and it was made clear. An unwelcome laugh escaped me for surely I knew nothing about Erestor. My face burned hot with shame now knowing Erestor’s preferences and that I had forced onto him my greedy burden. Surely though, faced with the contents of the last message the truth would be revealed and he would run to his lover. Selfishly, a sad pang shuddered through me. Erestor would never be mine for I would release him from his promise to me.
Even now, I remember with trepidation this discovery. I fretted myself into a frenzy after reading the letters. Emotions rolled through me incessantly…despair, pain, guilt…until I knew I must confess to Erestor. My only desires to have him admit that this male, this suitor, existed and all happiness could be salvaged and grow. Surely the words written by Erestor’s lover showed that his breaking of their relationship came not from him but was seemingly coerced.
Once my mind is turned, I cannot cease until I see it through, so I charged down the hall and up the stairs to Erestor’s quarters. This time he would not deny me entrance and he would, for once, listen! I dared not knock and alert him to my presence but boldly flung open the door and strode in.
He sat, adorned in plain dark robes, but his hair flowed loose and casual down his back. In a flash I took in the surroundings...dull simple furnishings and no decorations…all in stark contrast to the complex vibrant elf who lived here, the same one who now eyed me with mild surprise and a hint of curiosity.
“My lady, Arwen…?”
But I was determined to have my say, and I rushed to interrupt his question.
“I read the letters, Erestor. You did not speak truly when you told me of your love for it is clear that he DID love you but felt an overwhelming sense of duty to provide an heir. You must go to him!” I fell to the ground in front of Erestor and grabbed his hands.
“Please tell Ada of this. Confide to him what you will not to me, and he will surely release you to return to Valinor to find him. Please, Erestor.”
By this time, I sobbed uncontrollably, releasing my grief for this great elf whom I loved. The thought of him losing the passion of his life and the thought of me losing Erestor to Valinor proved too much, and I slumped to the cold, hard floor.
He came to me, gathered me into his arms, and soothed me. Erestor, strong and proud and fading to death, comforted me. Resolutely, I pulled myself together and wiped the tears from my eyes. I knew I must be as forceful if I was to help him.
“Why did you lie about him, Erestor? He loved you then, and I dare say he must still desire you. Why are you not running to him, wherever he is, and binding yourself to him? Did he marry? I saw the dates on the letters, and it seems he had not the time to find a wife.”
Erestor put up a halting hand, and I caught my breath before blurting out more questions.
“I did not lie to you, pen dithen. He never loved me…”
“Nay!” I cried and surged forward to grab his hands again. “I read those letters. You have obviously forgotten!”
He smiled sadly and his tone turned harsh, soliciting no further argument from me. “Will you listen, Arwen? For speaking of this matter tortures me, and I would have it done with quickly and never alluded to hence. Do you understand?”
I nodded. Of course I needed to hear his explanation but wondered how I could never speak on it again.
“Remember this, pen dithen, and guard this knowledge close for when you find that elf for whom your fŽa sings you will know it to be absolute. Love, pure and true, is never turned, never discarded. It will survive anything and you will fight for it until your final breath. But when one is turned from a love by petty concerns such as passing on a lineage….”
Erestor forced his head down then and his hair slid forward creating a dark barrier, as he choked on that last word and a tiny sob echoed forth. Frightened and worried, I reached for him but he held me at arms length shaking his head. Finally, his breathing slowed yet when he faced me his eyes shown brightly with unshed tears.
“Love demands everything and it cannot possibly exist when one willingly discards it for a life others say he must live.”
“But he did not throw it away gladly.” I reached into my bodice and removed the last message, the one he had not read. I waived it in front of his face.
“You never read this one, Erestor. He felt such a sense of overwhelming duty and the pain at doing so broke him. He pleaded with you to come to him and support his stand against those who would run his life…”
“Enough!” Erestor snatched the letter from my hand and shoved me away as he stood abruptly. He stalked over to the candle and in a flash the edge of the letter caught fire.
“Nay!” I screamed. Panicked I rushed for him and the burning message, but he stopped me with an outstretched, stiff arm while the ashes of the letter gently floated to the floor.
“You know nothing of my affair and there will be no further discussion on this subject!”
I clawed at him and continued screeching desperate to save the letter. His salvation contained within. I could not understand then, nor do I know now, what drove him to destroy it without a glance. When it burned to the last corner, he gave me a gentle push and in my shocked state I collapsed in a sorrowful heap. I could not bear to look at him. Instead I wept again, great sobbing sounds that echoed dully in his sparse rooms. Erestor said no more and quietly left.
Much later when I had recovered my senses, I moved to action scooping up the precious ashes and contained them in a folded paper. My mind and my voice also returned and with them a sweeping epiphany. A new and rare insight of my mentor, and I whispered the truth to the air.
“You are wrong, Erestor.”
Chapter End Notes:
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