Annúnlanthir chuckled and laid down the pen. "Well, I did volunteer, after all," he said.
"If I were among the living," the Spirit said with mock solemnity, "I would tell you, never volunteer for anything!"
The sculptor laughed out loud. The laughter came from deep inside and issued like a gust of sea-breeze.
"The Other Side must surely be a brighter place for your presence, Elf-friend," he said, "and I fear Middle-Earth is a darker one for your absence."
The Spirit sat up, its light glowing with almost the brilliance of mid-day. "I'm so glad I didn't make you miss your boat. You are greatly looking forward to your journey?"
"Very much so. And I am at peace. Although I will miss everyone I leave behind sorely." Annúnlanthir straightened up the manuscript and tucked it carefully away in the drawer of his writing-desk and locked it. The Fragrance filling the room was like to that of a wheatfield after a summer rain, mingled with the cidery scent of trees that whisper to each other of the coming of autumn.
The horses were ready. The goodbyes had been said already, but just as Annúnlanthir started to mount his steed, he heard quick footsteps on the paving-stones. He turned and saw Mikala running toward the party with a large basket, from which a most pleasant and familiar scent issued.
"Here is something else for your journey," she said breathlessly. "I know these won't keep as well as lembas bread," she said with a little smile, despite the redness of her eyes, "but my mother and I wanted you to have some little extra, um, sustenance along the way. There are five dozen of her famous tarts in there. Enough for everyone to have an equal portion."
Merry and Pippin had to get down from their ponies and embrace her for the dozenth time that day. She had become such a great favorite with them that they'd had an elven cloak like their own made for her.
Gandalf said, "I've a feeling they won't last long enough to worry about whether or not they'll keep. And when it comes to equal portions, I have very serious doubts about that." He grinned fondly and sadly in the direction of the hobbits.
Orolindë hugged her grandfather once more. He was not yet worthy to go, he had said. Someday he would carve the monument of the King himself. Then, and only then, would he rejoin his son and granddaughters.
He and Gandalf had become quite good friends in the space of the month.
Annúnlanthir kissed Mikala's forehead for the last time, then looked toward the Queen. And he felt only the respect and liking he would for any beautiful and admirable woman who was his friend or sister. He did gaze long at her at the last, as though memorizing the essence of her being, as she stood with the King, who held Annúnlanthir's manuscript in one arm, the other encircling her waist. The sculptor became aware of a pale-gold radiance enveloping the two of them in a shimmering bond that sealed their fate while bestowing untold blessing.
And his heart cracked a little as he saw the back of Lord Elrond's head as he looked at his daughter one last time before mounting his horse. It was as the stillness that comes immediately after a great storm.
"What have you there?" Arwen asked her husband long after everyone else had gone. She nodded toward the sheaf of parchment.
"I suppose we shall soon find out," Aragorn said with a wistful smile, clutching the bundle protectively against a sudden gust of cold wind. "After supper, that is. This should be most interesting."
He was surprised to feel a sudden urge to cradle the manuscript to him as though it were a newborn child.
And they turned back toward the Hall of Kings, which had a rose-gold glow in the late autumn sunlight, and the two shining figures atop the marble pedestal out front of the White Tree smiled with mysterious delight as the royal couple walked arm in arm up the palace steps.
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.