1. Dancing Within Walls
Before he knows it, she has her way, as she always has. The floor of the immense hall clears and the musicians stand ready.
She puts her hand in his, a smile on her face that he has not seen for many years. Flushed pink, she is the very portrait of a bride in love, a vision so exquisite that everyone watches her with astonished disbelief, for the race of Men has not chanced upon one so fair for many, many years. Never has she been more beautiful, never has the song of Eru blessed her as it does now, and it plays ever on in her heart, hymn upon hymn, divine song. He can hear it.
A few steps behind, some forward, with lingering grace that no mortal can ever possess. He recognizes it. A night long gone surfaces, and he remembers. A flash of silver hair illuminated in the rays of the moon, the shimmer of blue eyes as they watched him, laughing in wry amusement, and a tender embrace upon the ramparts of the valley. He knows who taught his daughter these steps, and his heart clenches with sudden longing, a wish to see her again, gladness that it may not be very long before he does.
She, wise Undòmiel, listens to his heart, and he makes an attempt to shield her from his melancholy, but she will not allow him his distance. He catches glimpses of her own thoughts, and like the artist that surveys his own work with a biased love, he sees her happiness, her anticipation, her desire for the man she has bound herself to, and an exquisite sorrow that she feels every time her father is near.
She moves to the right, and he to the left, then again, she to the left and he to the right. Somewhere in the middle, they meet, and it starts over. Her hair flows behind her, artfully scattered with gems that twinkle like the dust of the moon. A laugh escapes her as he twirls her into the safety of his arms; a sudden, unexpected dip backwards, and she giggles in surprised delight.
He cannot help but return her infectious smile, and his face is transformed for that brief moment; a sparkle of mirth in his eyes that shines like a ray of light on a deep pool. Suddenly, the weight of the world does not rest on his shoulders, the creases at the corner of his eyes are not quite so sharp, and he revels in both, movement and moment.
The eyes of everyone are drawn towards them, and one in particular, who is now her lord. The stern-eyed, handsome Man stands in one corner, watching quietly. He calls him his son, child of his brother’s blood, his own and yet not, and he wonders if he makes a mistake in still thinking so. Estel is not Elessar, and Elessar is not Estel; they belong to one person, but other names lie between them.
But she loves her husband, and is loved in return. He knows that that realization has somehow saved him.
His daughter tilts her head upwards to look at him, mindful of his sombre thoughts. He meets her gaze, and as it has always been, since the moment he first held her in the warm cradle of his arms, since he first heard her song and caught the sparkling glimmer in her eyes; he is lost. He sees himself in her, now more than ever, a certain seriousness to the smile, a throw of the head… He knows that the heart breathes, loves and chooses in one moment, a single, eternal moment, and the storm is not heavy in the sky and the dawn seems just a little brighter.
A bow, a turn, a twist. A flick of the wrist here, a turn of the shoulder there. His robes sweep the floor in majestic control as he completes the movement. He almost laughs aloud at the seeming easiness with which he has done it, for it has been a long time since he danced.
Her eyes darken. He feels that she waits for him to say something, anything, that will give reality to this moment that both fear will simply remain a dream. The dance is not everything, and she wordlessly asks him to give a little more; he understands her grief that all that will remain is akin to a tendril of smoke that they will know is there, will be able to see, but will not be able to catch.
But his normal ease with conversation and insight has forsaken him, and he is content with simply watching, remembering, drifting in the haze that separates the past and the present.
Little arms flung around his neck in childish glee…a high voice calling him to her side …dark hair spread out on the bed next to his…carefree limbs strewn in content sleep, yet so graceful…
Her hand tightens in his, and he knows that she remembers as well, that she treasures the moments almost as much as he does. And he wishes now, more than ever, that it would not be all he was left with.
She pivots, and he catches her slender waist. The dance has slowed for them, so the music follows, movements tainted with regret, and they lag.
The world has changed, and he along with it, swept by the high tide of time – a watchful captive. But it is no trap, no prison, no net to ensnare him in, however much others may think so, for his choices are his own, and he is wise enough to know that. But it is a mortal world, and he is not mortal.
The dawn will light the waters of the Anduin with lilting gold, a loving caress. The cloud will embrace soaring Mindolluin, and the wind will blow with inflamed ardour among Fangorn’s great trees, but he will not see it much longer, and she will, for as much time as she is destined to.
In her eyes, he sees his life reflected back at him, and the many roles that he was destined to play rise to haunt him with quiet vengeance. It is an insult to both of them to wish that it had not come to this. Many times he has wondered what could have happened if it had been different, if his wife had stayed, if he had no choice to make.
Her hand clutches his shoulder, and his eyes close briefly. When they open, they stare into hers with painful frankness, allowing her to see the wounds that do not heal, the raw scars that he will take with him into eternity.
They continue the dance, a touch of desperation in the fluid motion. The grace has been lost; they have both realized that they have little time left.
The archways are open to reveal the dark night, and he watches the shadowed heavens as he moves.
A lone star sails the waves of the sky, fugitive and alone, blessed in its hopeful brilliance. He tries -- every time he tries to recall some memory of the mariner’s face, his speech, his love; yet he cannot, for those images were lost to him in a destroyed age. It angers him. Suddenly white-hot flashes dance across his eye, signs of a ruthless temper, and he rages at Fate, that allowed him to forget the face of his father, but will not allow him to forget the face of his daughter.
The music soothes him. It is a familiar tune, and she sings softly along with it. In a moment, his fury is dissipated, but sorrow lingers.
He is tired, but not from the dance. No, for he would gladly continue that for the rest of eternity, if only to have her by his side for just a little while longer. His hand holds hers, and the cold sapphire of the ring catches the light; blue, then indigo, then blue again, a diminished whirlwind that he can neither forsake nor join. He ages in that moment, and weariness envelops him with a powerful rush that can only be comforted in another expanse of blue.
The sea calls him home, and he longs to go.
But there will be regret in the departure, and while the misted shore awaits him with a swift sunrise, while the lomelindi sing prayers of safe arrival; he will leave the land which he first walked upon, where he first learned to appreciate glory in the rush of the foaming river, where he first experienced the murmur of lore and script. He will die a little when he leaves, and he cannot regain what he has lost on newer shores.
The dance continues, renewed in its speed, because neither is willing to stop. First he, then she, then both together, an age-old rhythm that they have unearthed in the timelessness of their hearts.
The room blurs, hazy images merging into each other; and he realizes his tears. Sudden, perhaps, and undesirable, but certainly not unexpected.
It is distance he desires now, to be anywhere, anywhere where she is not – because he discovers his utter inability to watch her remain while he leaves. The other stars are clearly visible through the great stone archways, alight in presence of their greatest earthly companion, but he does not view them with the same intensity that he reserves for the other nights of his ageless life. His star is here, with him, in his arms, and like the battlefield of the dawn, where setting moon meets rising sun, he will fight for her, and then flee.
She watches him still, and he knows she watches him weep.
His hand rests on her back, gently guiding. She has long abandoned the lead of the dance to him, for there will be no more, and he will be what he always was - father, guide, teacher, protector.
He smiles, for her alone. It is impossibly hard for him to retain some semblance of peace in his movement, but still it is so. Fathomless eyes rest upon him, so like his, so terribly like his – for words cannot bridge the deep chasm that grows between them.
They come to a gradual, bittersweet halt, but neither moves. He watches her with tears cradled on his dark lashes
The music fades, long notes melting into the velvet night. It cannot go on, and he is not certain that he wants to. A lock of hair, dark as shadow, falls across her face, and he brushes it back tenderly.
“Live well, sel nîn.”
It is over, and in that moment, all is forgotten, all is absolved and all begins.
Adar – Father (Sindarin)
sel nîn – my daughter (Sindarin)
Notes: - In case the timeline is not clear, it is set right after Arwen's wedding.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.