4. Twilight Forsaken
2510 of the Third Age
I do not know on which cliff I stand. Nor do I remember how or when I arrived here. All I know is that my world has ended, for all it was worth, and I care not to begin another.
Celebrian has gone, and after her, our children. Arwen to seek solitude and distraction with her grandparents in Lothlorien. Elrohir and Elladan to extract amends and cleave some peace into these once again troubled lands. I cannot blame them for leaving, any of them. But I can blame myself. I could not heal her. I know well that no healer this side of the Sea could have done more or better than I... but that does not matter. For all my power and wisdom, I was not enough. Celebrian is gone, and with her went the best part of me. Celebrian is gone, and after her went our children, with every last bit of me.
All of my stars, gone from under my roof, gone from my House and my sight. Earendil's star does not shine despite the clouds this eve, and I do not blame him either. I was not enough. I was never enough. I believe I understand how Elwing felt, my dear mother. Curse me, I think I know now how they all felt; Feanor and his seven sorry sons, Turgon and his fateful pride, the Kinslayers and their desperate flight. Curse me! But I want something! Some 'thing', for the love of life! I want some thing that is only mine, some thing that cannot leave or be taken, some thing that exists solely for me, because I created it or because I captured it or because I earned it. It can be any thing, it simply must not feel or need or want of its own volition. It must be some thing of mine, that I may dote on and toil over and gloat about, and it will do nothing but be splendid or present or fair – whatever I contrived it to be!
And then I would have something forever, with me always, by my side, in my hand, before my eyes, close to heart. And I would never lose everything, not again, not ever, because I would always have my brilliant Silmaril or my hidden city or my hard-won independence, and I would be content.
Ai... but no. I want nothing of that kind. Not truly. Perhaps I want nothing at all, for a change. Seems no matter how I strove, I was happiest when surrounded by 'things' of a sort; people, prosperity, peace. It may be that we were not created to be satisfied with nothing. But then, one cannot suffer for deprivation if they surrender all of what they have, and their ability to acquire more. No Imladris, no Heirs of Isildur, no White Council, no Nameless Fear... could I make that change? Am I ready to be ended?
By the stinging wind on my face I am reminded of Vilya, who belongs to no one save itself. Nay, I would not covet Vilya, I would not dare. The Three are not possessed, but kept. I am Vilya's keeper, not its master, and it would not miss me in the presence of whom I have arranged it bestowed to in the case of my... absence.
I step further out on the cliff, reaching the sheer edge, and hear the waterfall thundering from not far off. So close, to the edge, to the end. Is this what I want as my last desire? Nothing? It is not like me to be rash; it would be like me to ponder a while, then ignore. But as I make to back away from the ledge, a sharp pain steals my breath away.
Ai... aye, I remember now, why I came and where I am. 'Tis no mere cliff on which I stand, but the highest in Imladris; and I arrived on no mindless whim, but a mission of mercy. It is the pain and the silence, following in my footsteps, everywhere I go – everywhere that Celebrian has been. I think I can still smell her sometimes, in the hallways or in our bed, akin to lavender and honey, and not if Rivendell burned to the ground would my head be clear of that familiar scent.
I now have a choice before me. Either I am taken to death by my grief, during some dark and comfortless night, or I leave willingly for the West, and hope to survive the journey... or, I just walk forward. Nay, I will not be taken, I refuse. But even so, I might not last to the Havens. So I walk? Or do I run? One way is swift and certain, the other is a long road of explanations and farewells. I have never chosen the easy way, for the sake of simplicity. I know not if I can; but I take that final step to find out.
For a second I am falling without fear. Then I am grasped by arms trembling with it, the terror I am too numbed by heartache to notice. Backwards I am reeled, faster than my fall pulled me down, and I find my eyes had been closed the entire time. I open them to starlight, visible through an impossibly opportune breach in the clouds, and I sit upon the ground, half cradled by someone unexpected.
He searches for a way to excuse his trespass; in his eyes it is plain he watched me for long. "You fell, my Lord," he lies, knowing it as well as I do.
"You caught me," is the reply I hear myself make. "Why?"
As he thinks, his familiar face twists with a worry I have never seen manifested there before. "I could not bear to see you fall, uncertain if you had considered the landing," he answers tightly, pinned somewhere between duty and inequity.
Every means has an end, aye, I know that. But mayhap he is right in that I did not consider... all consequences. My one moment of selfish reflection, and Glorfindel caught me. I look upon his face, creased in distress with the injustice of it all; doubtless my appearance is little different.
"All of my stars are gone." Could one so bright as he understand? He looks skyward, in vain at the again hidden hope, then back down, perhaps wondering how he might bring out the heavens for me.
"They are gone," Glorfindel agrees, "but only for a time." Into his arms I am guided, and there I hear, "Would you not settle a while, for one golden flower instead?" His voice is laced with gentle irony, and it comforts me – a reminder of better days.
And his meaning spreads through my mind and heart like a warm tonic. A golden flower, that had been there all along. Nay, that is not settling. It is realizing what you have lost, and knowing what you still have. It is choosing life over death. I made that choice already, long ago. Tonight, Glorfindel reminded me.
"I want to help you," is his sincere answer, "to protect you. I always have." Tears flow with his words, just as softly, but for a reason unknown to me. Perhaps I will learn later what I cannot fathom now. Perhaps I cry as well, and merely do not feel it. There is little I feel this minute, save the stillness of an empty night, and the warmth of his arms, hands, and fingers, as they steal wetness from my cheeks, bringing feeling to my skin there also.
"Nothing else have I ever wanted more," Glorfindel says, holding me with his eyes, then again to his bosom, close to heart.
I have never conceived of my worth to Glorfindel; if I had, I might have been even more shocked than I am now. This is wrong! Backwards and inside out and upside down. He has assumed my lot – I care for others, keep them safe and protected and well. I give, I toil, I sacrifice and suffer, so others will not have to. It is what I do and who I am and how I have defined myself for as long as I can remember. But Glorfindel... he—
Glorfindel could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone... Yet he is here, holding me, in this, my moment of most dire need. He has always been here... Suddenly I am held even closer. He will always be here, with me, for me, because of me; and naught else.
I have never been touched like this. But I will be touched like this, whenever Glorfindel knows it is what I lack. The twilight I forsake, for one golden flower under the sun. To see another day, one must accept the dark along with the light. There will always be light after the dark, and sometimes, this time, within.
AN Special thanks to Lyllyn for beta-reading.