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When he at last lay him down to throw off his mortal coil, his wife cried, “"Estel, Estel!" And with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then the light of her eyes was finally quenched and she was like one already dead, though her body knew it not. She stayed for her lord’s funeral and the crowning of her son as the new King of Gondor. Then she bid farewell to her son and daughters and left the city she had ruled with her husband for one hundred and twenty years.
Escorting her was her grandfather, Celeborn and her brothers, Elladan and Elrohir and it was a somber procession as they made their way up the King’s Road before they came to the place they were seeking. For Arwen wished to go to that spot where she and Aragorn had Pledged their Troth to one another and had become Betrothed.
So it was to Cerin Amroth that they finally set themselves to await their kinswoman’s passing. It took a year for her to fade and die and it was there her kinsman buried her before they set off to the Havens. There they took the final ship to Aman, along with that remnant of Círdan’s Falathrim. Long had they bided their time until they could leave Middle Earth forever, though their final voyage was full of sadness and not the jubilation they had hoped for.
When they landed upon the shores of Aman they were met by Galadriel, Elrond and Celebrian. And while there was still joy in their reunion, there was the cloud hovering over them that Arwen was not there.
“Welcome child. I know your heart is broken and I bid you stay until your Fëa is healed and you can be returned to your family.”
“I don’t understand, Lord Mandos. I have always understood that my choice of joining myself to a mortal would make me mortal myself. Should I not now travel beyond the Circles of the World so that I may join my husband?”
And there appeared pity in the face of Mandos. She looked so much like the other one. Her foremother. “Nay child. You are of the eldar. The choice was given to the half elven many years ago. The ancestor of your husband chose mortality and so his descendants are all mortal. Your sire chose the life of the eldar and so all his descendants shall be of the eldar. That means your fate is sundered from that of your husband.”
“But what of the Second Music? Tis said that men will have a part in that Song.”
“Indeed they will! For they go to Ilúvatar when they die. But for the eldar nothing has been revealed to us and therefore we know not their ultimate fate.” And then it was that Arwen, understanding that her choice had been in vain, swooned, though she was but spirit, and Mandos took pity on her and had his maiar tend to her.
~Tea with Olórin~
Olórin, he who had been the Wizard, Gandalf in Endor, had come to visit those who he’d had many dealings with during his sojourn on Middle Earth and who he considered friends. He was lately come from Tol Eressëa, which had turned into a bit of a tourist site as it featured three Hobbits, a Dwarf and a Woodland Prince. Olórin had visited with his old friends for what seemed to him a very long time.
Though, his first stop had, of course, been to Ilmarin on Taniquetil so he could be debriefed by Manwë on his travels and actions there. That settled, he’d been sent back to Lórien for some rest and rehabilitation. Endor had been rough on him and he welcomed the vacation. Soon restless, he then went visiting before returning to his former lord.
Alas, as he had been on one quest or another all his time in Middle Earth and he became bored very quickly. Lord Irmo had then sent him on another quest - just to keep him busy. Since he was a maia who had served Irmo in the past, he welcomed anything to keep himself occupied. When he learned what Irmo wished from him he actually became excited. This was a good quest! A worthwhile and urgent mission!
So he made his way first to Andúnië Bay and the city of Váyamarilla - Finarfin’s Realm. For he had to speak to him on certain matters. Matters that mattered once again!
~Váyamarilla - The Pearl of the Sea~
“So that’s the long and short of it.” Olórin concluded to a stunned Finarfin.
“Anything! Anything at all you need I am at your service!” the former king emphatically said.
Smirking, Olórin asked, “You haven’t, by any chance, been to visit the Ring-Bearers on Tol Eressëa, have you?”
“I haven’t, but they all came for a lengthy stay shortly after they came here. With all the Feasts and Celebrations in their honor they wanted some peace and quiet, I think.” he smiled, adding, “And perhaps to sightsee a bit.”
“Ah! It’s too bad you couldn’t convince them to stay. I’ve always said that life is much better with a Hobbit or two about the place.”
“I did try.” Finarfin said dryly, and then, “And I agree they are a delightful people. Polite with very nice manners and surprisingly large appetites!”
Olórin laughed heartily, which actually shocked Finarfin, as the only Ainu who’d he’d ever seen laugh was Tulkas - and he was a bit of an outlier as far as the Valar went. “They do, indeed! But they are also loyal, steadfast and have the uncanny ability to end up unharmed and unscathed even when the situation should assure their demise. And I have found them quite handy to have around.”
“Well, to get back to what you were talking about, I suspect you already know there was...help. But I think you should talk to my brother, Fingolfin for the run down inside the Halls. Apparently a boon given him by Mandos allowed him extra perks, as he calls them. I assume you know where his realm of Arcoa Maril is located?”
“Crystal Palace? What sort of name is that?”
“Actually, he prefers the alternative meaning - Glass House. And if you knew my brother you would understand that it fits him like a favorite boot.”
“Ah! I see he has a sense of humor, then. That is well. For what I propose is mad.”
“Crazy and my brother are very well acquainted.” Finarfin said with a smirk and had to endure another bark of laughter from the maia.
Arwen had been in the Halls for what felt like a very long time. She wasn’t restricted to a cell and forced to watch dreary tapestries throwing her mistakes in her face like those from the Years of the Trees and the first couple of Ages had been forced to endure. No - in fact she was given free reign to wander where she would.
She hadn’t run into too many people there, for Mandos had learned a lesson or two from some of his former inmates during the second age. Since that time he’d done his best to install his version of a revolving door so he could re-embody the houseless elves as soon as they were ready. And by ready, that meant ready to withstand the shock of corporality without ending up back in his Halls.
This, of course, meant his brother, Irmo was especially busy. But better to receive counsel and comfort than to sit around stewing on what brought you there in the first place. Now he just had to figure out a way to get rid of a couple of recalcitrant elves who simply refused to leave. And then a thought came to him. Why not throw them together and see what happened?
And so it was that Arwen found herself herded like a mouse in a maze. It was the first time such had happened and she thought perhaps she’d found a part of the Halls she hadn’t explored before. So she followed it just to have something to do, for she was bored. Mandos didn’t even have a library she could peruse. What did he expect people to do to pass the time?
And then she saw him. A lone ellon who looked to be just as lost as she was.
“Hello?” she said uncertainly.
He looked up with a start and smiled, “Hello. Who might you be?”
“I am Arwen Elrondiel. And you are?”
“I am Aegnor Finarfinion. And I’m pleased to meet you.” he said bowing.
“Finarfinion? You must be one of my grandmother’s brothers.”
“Your grandmother? Well, I do have one sister - Artanis is her name.”
Arwen beamed, and said, “That’s her! Though she’s gone by the name of Galadriel for many a year now.”
“Well then. That makes you my kin. My great niece. I’m not sure I should be glad to see you here. Why are you here, little one?”
“I was wed to a mortal and he passed beyond the Circles of the World. I faded from a broken heart and yet Mandos says that I might not follow him. That our fates are sundered forever.”
“He told me the same. I loved a maid called Andreth. We were at war and could not wed. She aged and passed beyond the circles shortly before I was killed in battle. I learned from others that they called that battle Dagor Bragollach.”
“That’s terrible! I’m so sorry. I learned of those battles from Lord Erestor during my lessons.”
“Really? Erestor lives? That’s marvelous! I knew him a very long time ago. He is Ecthelion’s brother and uncle to Glorfindel. Did you ever see him? I remember when they released him. It upset his father. He had his heart set on them being released together.”
“Erestor is Glorfindel’s uncle?” and then thinking about the two odd elves - odd in their dealings with one another, that is - and she began to giggle. “You know, that explains everything about them. They were forever bickering. One would have an idea and the other would shoot it down, before proposing the very same idea themselves with the other shooting down their very own idea. It was quite amusing.”
“Tis their way, I expect. The same could be said of many and odd though it may sound, it was always so with those kin who were fond of one another. I’m glad they are together.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that now! They all sailed after my wedding. My brothers and grandfather were the last and they spent my last with me. I expect they sailed...after.”
The two continued to chat and found they were fond and comfortable in one another’s company and quite enjoyed their conversations. They had no idea how long they spent talking. Talking to each other. Talking about themselves and their lives. Talking about those they pined for. And talking about what they would do if it were true they really would never see their beloveds again.
And then Arwen mentioned something she’d been told by her grandmother that had never made sense to her. “Do you know that my foremother was Lúthien and it was said that when Melian looked into the mortal eyes of her returned daughter she read the doom that was written there. And she turned away for she knew that a parting beyond the end of the world had come between them and no grief of loss had ever been heavier than the grief of Melian the Maia in that hour.” she paused and met Aegnor’s eyes, saying, “A creature of spirit knew she would never see her daughter again. Not even after the end of Arda. Do you think that Mandos was telling the truth? That their fate and ours is sundered forever?”
“With you here, I think I am beginning to be convinced. But tell me, if you would. Why did you wed him knowing you’d be sundered forever from your family?”
“I heard their story when I was a child and I thought it romantic. She chose to give up everything for the man she loved. And I’d always been told I was half-elven. Peredhel like my father. My father was given the choice of choosing which race he would belong to and he chose the eldar. His twin brother chose the edain. I thought I could make the same choice, but according to Mandos my father made it for me. For me and my brothers. And really, I always thought there would come a day when my father could be with his brother again. That eldar and edain would be together again after the remaking of the world. But now I’m not so sure and it breaks my heart. For my father and for myself.”
“I see now what drove you and I can’t even say I had that advantage to begin with. The ability to choose - or at least the belief I had the choice. And I thought as you did. That one day mankind and elvenkind would be reunited someday. But I will admit to being disturbed by what you said about your foremother and her mother - a maia. If she thinks she will never see her daughter again, then what hope do we have?”
And they sat silent, both lost in their own thoughts and wondering what would become of them if they had no hope.
“What do you mean, she is here? Of course she is not here. She passed beyond the Circles of the World to be with her husband.” Elrond said angrily, not understanding why his old friend would stoop to tormenting him.
Olórin was looking around the table at the stunned - and angry - faces of Elrond and his family. They were all there. The twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, their mother, Celebrian and her parents, Galadriel and Celeborn. And it was only the twins who had the look of hope on their faces. The others - the wise - all looked angry to have been informed that their Arwen was even now languishing within the Halls of Mandos.
He had come to Tirion after having visited both Fingolfin and the not-so-infamous Fëanor, who was happily creating new and improved inventions surrounded by his sons. The only thing he’d gleaned was that Fingolfin had been given the boon of being housed with his son and this had somehow morphed into a loophole granting him the ability to go where he willed and taking ownership or as he put it - collecting - everyone he met along the way.
Olórin recalled it culminating in the largest mass release of the eldar that had ever happened. He knew help had also been provided. And he even knew what that help had been. But it wouldn’t help in this situation and even Irmo knew a different approach needed to be taken this time around. For Mandos had learned not to keep people and liked to release them after a fairly short stay within his Halls. All except two who refused to leave.
All those involved in the original jail-break had offered logistical assistance and Olórin knew the best bet to get the last two out was sitting right here. So he sighed and tried to do his best to explain some things to them.
“She is eldar and therefore can’t choose to give up her birthright. That was an option given a very long time ago. It was given to Lúthien after she had already died. But her son was not born a mortal. You know this. He is here with his wife and children. The only other people given this choice was Tuor who chose to be eldar to be with his wife. Also to Eärendil and Elwing.
“And the choice was given to you, Elrond and to your brother, Elros. That was the last time this choice was offered and your choices became the reality of your offspring. Yours and Elros’. Which is why the children of Elros weren’t given the choice to be of the eldar even when they regretted their forefather’s choice. Ask your sons, Elrond, if they had to make such a choice or if they simply sailed here and were welcomed by family like every other elf.”
“So you’re saying that whole terrible year we were with her, as the life slowly left her, just put her in the Halls of Mandos and she wasn’t reunited with Estel? That seems horribly cruel.” Celeborn said, bitterly.
“Perhaps, but I’ll take cruel if we can get her back.” Elrohir said, his brother agreeing.
“Suppose what you say is correct and she is in the Halls of Mandos. How does it change anything?” Galadriel asked, bending her piercing gaze upon him.
“Very good, my lady, for that is at the heart of the matter. How do we go about tempting her out of her self-imposed isolation?” he paused and then added, “Both her and your brother, Aegnor.”
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