1. For Earth Too Dear
-The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,
Appendix A—The North Kingdom and the Dúnedain
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows.
-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
She sits on her mount, tall and proud, her fair face veiled by the hood of her elven cloak, strands of golden hair peeking out. I try to lead the escort at as slow a pace as possible, wanting to prolong the moments before she and I are parted. But I know that it is inevitable, the same way our paths merged, they now diverge. She will follow her own road, wherever it takes her, and I must do the same. Ai! All to soon we approach the coastline, the Grey Havens. I dismount and turn to help Celebrían, but already she has slid off her horse, and drawing back the hood of her cloak, walks gracefully across the beach toward the edge of the sea, the wind weaving through her hair, gently teasing her fair locks. Her flowing white dress whips behind her, fluttering solemnly like a banner, so I think.
I follow her slowly, and we stand there, staring beyond the vast Sea, listening to the steady, quiet sound of water lapping onto the sand. We are immersed in our own thoughts, she and I, but I can stand the silence no longer, and turn to her.
“Lady, would you depart from our midst so soon? Will you not linger a while?” I ask, so reluctant am I to be separated from her.
A soft sigh escapes her lips and she turns to face me; Ah! She is beautiful, so wondrously fair of face in mine eyes, that the radiance of the Morning and the Evening, much as I cherish them, pales in comparison to that of this Elven lady. But the depths of her eyes shimmer with unspoken sadness and pain, with fatigue and weariness, as her lips stretch into a thin smile that does not reach the clear blue of her eyes. Celebrían’s beauty has not diminished, no, instead it has transformed, beauty clings to her in a melancholic, bittersweet way.
“Nay, Elrond Peredhil, nay,” she says softly. “for the lure of what lies beyond the Sea is too great a temptation for me to resist, especially now, when I can dwell in this land no longer.”
All this I know, and it pains my heart even more to think of it. I can remember it so clearly, the steely determination in the eyes of my sons as they thundered off on their steeds in search of their Mother, the hint of a fierce desperation and recklessness about them. The face of Arwen was pale, and she trembled at the very thought of what misdeeds could have been done to Celebrían. I remember cradling the willowy, limp frame of the lady, covered in numerous lacerations, the color faded from her lips and cheeks, she was frail, frail as a flower in the dewy morning as it unfurls its fragile, crumpled petals, so very delicate, I was afraid I might smolder her as I lay her on the bed, praying that I had the means to heal her. But even so, I have only cured her in body, her mind is still troubled and plagued by what happened on that fateful day at the Redhorn Pass, she would not speak of what torment she had endured, not to anybody.
Still I hesitate, and, never speaking a word, Celebrían reaches for my hands and clutches them in her slender ones, signifying the unspoken bond between us; her gaze is earnest, begging me to understand her plight.
It is then that I find the courage to let her go. It is strange that I, who have lived many years and seen much joy, much sorrow; I who has survived through so many millennia cannot bear to be parted from my wife for a few hundred years! Truly, Celebrían deserves much more than what little I can offer her in this land plagued with conflict and trouble, hers is beauty for rich to use, for earth too dear. She belongs to a place where peace and happiness reign, where chaos and evil have no hold, where she can find healing. Middle-earth cannot give her any of these things. Sorrow envelops me; this is too much for one heart.
There is naught I can do to dissuade Celebrían, even if I could, I would not; there is no other way to relieve her of her misery. No, I will not be so selfish as to deny my own wife comfort and peace of mind.
“Well then, dearest Celebrían,” I speak, “to the Uttermost West you must go. Your ship awaits you, lady.”
She reaches up and kisses my brow, a sweet, sad, smile upon her face, bitter is her sorrow. This parting is harder on her than it is on me, long has she grappled with this decision, and she has made her choice. I cannot begin to imagine the pain she must feel, having to be separated from all her kin. Ai, Celebrían, I grieve for you, for eve if you chose otherwise, your decision will result in unhappiness and woe for us all.
“Look to the Sea, dear Elrond, and remember me, for I will always be there, waiting for you. We will meet again, and our reunion will be abound with much joy, for never again will I be separated from you, or Elladan, or Elrohir, or Arwen. Namarië!”
No, I find myself thinking. Nevermore will the Undómiel set foot in Valinor.
Ai, Elbereth, what are these unwelcome thoughts? Is foresight upon me once again? Whether this gift is a blessing or a curse, I do not know. But this is not the time to be pondering upon such matters, lo! Celebrían’s ship is ready to depart. I scarcely notice Círdan, Keeper of the Grey Havens, who was been standing but a little ways from us, waiting patiently. Celebrían releases my hands from her grasp, and slowly turns away, the chilly wind of the Seas buffeting against our bodies. I wish I knew what she is thinking, that I might find some means to soothe the bitter pain. But no, she is an enigma; she has always been a mystery to those around her, like the light of the stars, beautiful, radiant, yet distant. A star that is dying, the flickering light fading, falling from brightness. And this is the only way to revive the star, that it might once again dazzle the earth as it sparkles against the black of night, shining brightly, though it will now be more remote than ever. That is the price to pay, and we must pay it.
“Namarië, muin Celebrían,” I whisper to her. “namarië.”
My eyes are upon her even as she smiles and glides up the gangplank, sorrow writ in her eyes, and with it, a shimmer of hope. And even as her ship sails away, her gaze is upon me, and I stand there, simply stand, on the shores of the Gulf of Lhûn, watching, till her ship disappears beyond the horizon.