windemere: (Elrond)
[personal profile] windemere
Summary: When Arwen rode out to rescue Frodo, she made a decision that both saved his life and endangered her own. This is the bigger story. Movie-based.

Disclaimer: The rights owned, in this case, by New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson, etc., though original ideas all attributed to Tolkien. I didn’t make any money off of this, nor did I have a particularly enjoyable time writing it.

The twins found her there; kneeling over Frodo’s still body, the tear tracks now dry on her cheeks. They had brought a guard of three other warriors with them to check the ford, but their eyes were only for their sister.

‘Does he yet live?’ Elladan asked, crouching at her side.

She turned her eyes towards him and shook her head.

Elrohir, holding the two horses the twins had ridden out on, cried out ‘Oh, Valar no!’

‘Nay,’ Arwen whispered, voice hoarse for no reason she could place. ‘Nay, he lives. You must take him!’ she cried suddenly, struggling to lift the small form towards Elladan. ‘You must take him to father!’

The eldest of the twins seemed to pause for a moment that lasted too many heartbeats for Arwen’s peace of mind, before he grasped the Halfling in his arms and rose hurriedly towards his horse. Ramos was already kneeling in expectation of his rider’s needs at a gentle nudge by Elrohir, who held his reins. Elladan mounted easily, cradling Frodo in gentle arms.

‘Can you follow sister?’ he asked. ‘Can you ride?’

Arwen rose awkwardly. Suddenly it felt as if all her years on Arda weighed upon her shoulders. It was ungraceful and uncomfortable. She had given Frodo what gift had been given her. Had it left her so soon? If so, it was a price she was willing to pay. ‘I will follow. Go! Hurry!’ she urged, and the twins’ mounts jumped at the command, wheeling around to return up the path.

The three guard were prowling along the bank of the ford. The waters were still high, but no longer rapid. Arwen spared no further thought to the Nine. Whether they lived or no, they could not cross the river and their horses, at least, were swept away. The guard would ensure that no return was likely.

‘Estel is two day’s walk. You must ride out to meet him,’ she told their leader, Tawarthion.

‘I have orders only to determine the fate of the riders and then return to my patrol, lady. However, no doubt Lord Elrond will send others after his son.’

Arwen felt torn. She wished to return over the river: to find Estel and escort him home. He had looked wearier than she had ever seen him, even when he had returned in the spring after the long hunt for the Gollum creature. He had said that Frodo had been attacked at Amon Sûl, which was many day’s walk from where she had found the group. With none to protect them save Aragorn’s skill, he would not have chanced sleeping, not with the Nine abroad and hunting Frodo. Even a Dúnedan could not go so long without sleep and suffer no consequences.

But she had left without her father’s permission in the first place. If she left again she would cause him further worry when his focus should be on Frodo.

‘Very well, I will return to the house.’

‘Your father wished it so,’ Tawarthion said and she read between the lines he spoke.

Arwen collected Asfaloth and mounted, turning the white steed towards the familiar path. She gave him the lead, knowing he would not put her astray. It was a good hour on horse from the ford to the valley proper, and longer still down to the house. She was in no hurry, weary almost beyond measure. Still, her heart eased as she stepped out from the forest onto the path down into the dell, with the house below.

Lindír was waiting by the stables when finally she arrived. A groom rushed out to take the horse as Lindír helped her dismount. She stumbled as her feet touched the ground, and the seneschal raised an eyebrow in question. Arwen shook her head, too tired to explain.

‘You must send an escort out to meet Estel. He is two day’s, or very nearly, walk away and has not slept in more than a week. You must send aid,’ she begged of the elf.

‘I will see to it if you will rest. Your brothers have already expressed interest in riding out themselves, but they are with your father and Mithrandir.’

‘He has come?’ Arwen exclaimed, surprised in spite of herself. She had ridden out three days’ past and there was no sign yet of the wizard.

‘In the night he came on a swift horse. He has had much hardship in his travels it seems. He was with your father all morning,’ Lindír explained, ignoring her attempts to walk unaided as he led her into the house and towards her rooms.

‘That is well. Together, perhaps, there is hope.’

Lindír smiled, ‘there is always hope Lady Arwen, as you know.’

She could only nod at that. Her hope was once again parted from her, wandering alone and unprotected in the wild, still in danger. As he always was.

‘Will you tell my father I have returned? Do not disturb their work, if you can. I will be in my rooms, if he has need of me,’ she said, finally shaking off Lindír’s arm as she neared her rooms. This time, he let her, though she noticed he stood and watched until she had closed the door behind her.

She had much need of a bath, but little energy for it. If Elrond saw her like this he would know something was terribly wrong, and she had already caused him enough worry. Instead, she settled first for a change of clothing and spent the last of her failing strength on detangling her hair that had become knotted in the flight to the ford. The cut to her cheek had long since clotted and once cleaned seemed already to have healed somewhat. For that she was thankful. Hopefully it would be gone by the morrow, but the worry that perhaps it would not be, that perhaps already her choice would effect that part of her, nearly seized her heart.

She lay down on her daybed to rest, focusing on not falling into deepest slumber, despite the urge. At least she would hear anyone who entered. Arwen had no idea when her father would be free to seek her out, or whether Frodo would demand his full attention for many hours, but she was at least alone for the present time. Enough time to allow her rest.

She woke later, knowing by the lack of light that it was evening. There was no sense the room had been disturbed. That was a concern, for Frodo must be grave indeed and still in need of constant care. But it also meant he still breathed and for that she was once more grateful. Her strength was also somewhat returned, though she was still weary. Strong enough, however, to think of a bath and food.

She all but ran into Lindír exiting her room. He bowed to her in greeting, offering the plate of food he held with silent words.

‘My thanks to you, for that is just what I was thinking of.’

Lindír smiled, satisfied. ‘And well you should, my lady. Have you rested well?’

Arwen took the plate from him and stepped back through her open door to her sitting room, gesturing Lindír in after her. She abandoned all pretense at politeness, and concentrated on eating, pausing only long enough to answer him. ‘Yes, though a good deal more I will need I think, before the nightmare of the last few days is behind me. What of Frodo? Have you had word?’

Lindír nodded, seeming more satisfied with her admission. ‘Indeed. I have been told he was very weak when he arrived, but has rallied somewhat. However, your father has no plans to continue his treatment until the morrow. He feels the body must rest first and Frodo must take food, as much as he is able, in order to strengthen himself for what is to come.’

‘What is to come?’ she questioned. Estel had told her only his suppositions of what had so caused Frodo’s illness, but she had not had them confirmed. Still, if his fears were true, waiting could certainly not improve the situation.

‘Mithrandir has explained to me that a shard of the sword that wounded the Periannath still lies in the wound and is the cause of the continued illness that plagues him. It must be removed.’

Arwen stopped eating. ‘But he was so weak! I feared he was dead on the riverbank after I called the flood to sweep away the riders. Surely he could not survive such a procedure?’

Lindír gestured to her half empty plate, an encouraging smile she remembered from her youth on his face. ‘Even so, it must be removed, at whatever cost.’

Arwen closed her eyes at that. They might still lose him, after all that had been done to save him, the Halfling might still perish. She knew and understood what that would mean.

‘Of course,’ she nodded at last, aware there was nothing else to be said. ‘Does my father still attend on him?’

‘Lord Elrond is in the healing rooms, yes. I told him you had returned and were well, but weary, and gone to your rest. He will look to you this evening.’

She renewed her eating with vigor. ‘Then I had best eat and bathe, in order to present myself to him probably, lest he worry more.’

Lindír sighed. ‘Lady Arwen, he worries enough as is, I do not think you can add to that. You look better now then when you rode through the gate, and for that the rest is likely responsible. More will be needed, I think you’ll agree. But you do not look so poor as to cause him further concern. He is simply grateful you have returned unharmed.’ His eyes flickered to the scratch on her cheek briefly, before glancing away. She had checked in the mirror when she awoke, and was relieved to see it had healed further; all that remained was a shallow red line that would be gone by morning.

Her other suffering, she felt, would not pass so easily. She had made her choice, and it would be remiss of her not to tell her father. But to worry him further would be a mistake as well. And there was still no knowing of what the future might bring.

‘I thank you for your kindness and care of myself and my family, as always, my lord. I will bathe, as you suggest, and await my father.’ She rose and bowed her head to him and he followed her from the room, taking the empty tray.

The bath house was communal, for the elves did not put much stock in the issue of mixed bathing. They were tapped by hot springs underneath the mountain that rose near the surface at the back of the house. In evening they were unlikely to be terribly busy and Arwen found it so. None were likely to disturb the current Lady of Rivendell besides. The hot water did wonders for her muscles, tense from too much worry, and soaked away the last of the dirt that three days on the road had caused. It had been some time since she had been so long without a wash, with no time to stop in her race to find Estel and the hobbits.

Arwen allowed herself to linger longer than she otherwise might, but finally rose to dry herself and don her nightdress. She returned to her room to brush out her long hair and braid it carefully for sleep. It was dark outside now, the sun having set. Her father should be here to greet her soon.

She woke sometime later with the knowledge she was not alone. The room was dark; the new moon not enough to cast any light inside, and if not for elven eyes she would have been all but blind.

Her father was sitting in the chair by her desk, gazing at her, though his eyes suggested he did not truly see her.


Elrond sighed, his eyes focusing on his daughter. ‘I am glad to see you returned and unharmed,’ he said, his voice low. Too low. Arwen was familiar with that tone from her childhood, though more often it had been directed at her brothers when they had been particularly foolhardy.

‘I am sorry to have worried you so, father, but I had to go. I could wait here no longer, wondering what was happening and if Estel –’ He did not allow her to finish her sentence, standing in one quick motion to stride to her side and embrace her. Arwen allowed herself to be held as he had rarely done in many years.

‘Do not ever do such a thing again, am I heard?’

‘Yes, father,’ she said, willing to agree with ease. She had no plans for any further solo adventures in the wild.

‘Glad I am to hear that. Your brothers are enough trouble and Estel is even worse. Alone in the wild with four Halflings in his care and the Nine hunting his ever step. How does he get into these situations?’

Arwen laughed, surprising herself, but Elrond smiled his success. ‘Ah, there, that is better. Worry does not suit your fair face, my daughter.’

‘He is still out there; I will not stop my worry until he is returned to us.’

Elrond sighed and settled on the edge of her bed as she shifted back to make room for him. ‘Nor I. But the worst of the threat is, I think, passed. Mithrandir agrees. They have been defeated, at least for a time. Time enough for Estel and the hobbits to make their way here, I think. And your brothers have gone to retrieve them. They will be well.’

She nodded slowly. He was right, of course, but though logic told her one thing, her heart forebode another.

‘But I worry as well, as I always do when one of my children is outside of this house.’

She picked up the double meaning in his words, if not from the look he sent her.

‘Now, you have rested and eaten, and bathed as well, judging by the state of your hair. But I deem you in need of further rest and will leave you to it. I will need your help on the morrow, for your brothers will not yet be returned I think and we cannot delay any longer.’ He was rising already, settling his robes about him.


‘Yes Arwen?’ he said, turning back to her. In the dim light from the torches outside his face was all but black in the shadows, but the light in his grey eyes shown through.

‘Will he live?’

‘I know not, though I still hope for such an outcome. We will know tomorrow, until then there is no use worrying. I must return to check on Frodo now, for Mithrandir sits with him.’

‘I will come in the morning, after I see that rooms are prepared for our guests. They should arrive by tomorrow night I think.’

Elrond nodded. ‘Yes. And many others besides. Gildor and several of his kin will arrive in a day or so, and Thranduil you know sent word of Legolas’ journey. He also I expect soon. Make certain there is room for them all. I am warned there are several dwarves and men from Erebor and Dale that passed through Mirkwood on the way here also, though I do not doubt they are journeying behind Legolas and his guard.’

Arwen smiled at that. ‘That would be a sight indeed. Very well, I will see to it. And to the kitchens, and the stables, and aught else as is my duty. And then I will attend on you in the healing rooms.’

‘As always you are ever the grace of this household. I do not know how we manage when you are with your grandparents.’

‘Lindír manages just fine, father, as you know,’ she sighed.

‘But I prefer your presence,’ he answered, returning to her side to kiss her goodnight. ‘Sleep well, my daughter; let your cares fall away for tonight. You will see your beloved again on the morrow, and your brothers also.’

‘Thank you, father. May you pass a good night as well. And my thoughts go with you to Frodo. To have come so far and to not survive would be the greatest tragedy,’ Arwen whispered.

She saw her father nod in the dim light, but his reply was all but swept away with his robes as he left her room.

‘That tragedy, I fear, is still to come.’


She wasted far more time than she desired seeing to the issues of the household in the morning. Lindír was only too glad to assist in whatever way he could, but it was her duty since her mother’s sailing to manage the running of the place and, especially, to see to guests. At least the care that might be taken to see to the elves on their way to Rivendell did not take up much of her time. There were guests’ rooms enough in these later days, after so many of their people had departed. Rivendell was but sparsely inhabited compared to what it had been in the later Second Age. Legolas had a room regularly assigned to him when he visited and it took but little time to ensure the rooms would be aired and necessities laid by. Likely those visiting would have been to the house before and know the ways of it, but Arwen ensured there would be one or two elven maids nearby at all times to see to the needs of the guests if they called for it.

The dwarves were more difficult. She had no idea how many might be on their way, but hoped it would not be a large company with the men that accompanied them also. The outermost guest house, once inhabited by the warriors that had dwelt in Rivendell to guard its borders in the years before the Last Alliance, would have to suit. It was where Thorin and his company had stayed in their journeys more than seventy years before, she knew from the tales the twins had recounted to her when she had returned from across the mountains. The dwarves would not need the luxuries the elven travellers might prefer, and it would be best to distance them from the rest of the company anyways, just in case. Though relations between Mirkwood and Erebor had improved after the incident with the dragon, there was still no love lost between the two races. Especially if one asked Legolas. As for the men, they were of Dale and that was an unknown; as far as she knew no men of Dale or Esgaroth had ever visited Rivendell. They might be most comfortable with their dwarven travelling companions, but perhaps were on better terms with Mirkwood. It was hard to guess at the politics of a land half a world away. She would put them with the dwarves and hope it would not be considered a slight.

Next, she stopped in the kitchens to speak to the cooks and prepare them for the arriving companies. They had already been made aware that many guests were soon to arrive and had, at least, already begun to increase their hunting trips and to prepare, earlier than normal, the winter larder. That was all for the better, since a company of dwarves and five hobbits would eat them out of house soon enough, if provision was not made.

Lastly, she explored the rooms near Bilbo’s, hoping to find ones that might suit. There were but two acceptable ones in this part of the house, an area not often for guests, until their resident hobbit had come to stay. Arwen knew enough about hobbits to know that they would not mind sharing, and might be more comfortable for it. Two rooms would serve four hobbits, but there was things to take care of before they might move in. She called for two small stools to be made so the beds might be more easily reached, as Bilbo had in his room. She also had a load of wood brought in to each room and made certain there would be staff available to keep the fires lit. Though the elves had no need yet of such warmth, the hobbits would.

Just before midday Arwen made one final stop at the room their resident seamstress inhabited, to ask if some nightclothes, at least, might be made for four hobbits. They had been in the wild for a month or more, likely, and would not have clean clothing. Nightclothes would allow enough time for laundry to be done. The seamstress promised that such might be made for that evening, if Bilbo was generous with his own things, and promised to see to it, leaving Arwen free at last to attend her father.

Bilbo was sitting in the alcove across the hall when she arrived, propped up on cushions and with a plate of barely touched food at his side.

‘How fare you this morning Bilbo?’ she asked, already knowing the answer.

He was tired, that much was obvious, and it would not surprise her to learn he had not slept a wink that night.

‘Well enough, lady, for the circumstances. I must give you my most sincere thanks for fetching my nephew. Elrond tells me he would not have lived if for your intervention.’ He made a motion to struggle down from the seat to the floor, but Arwen stopped him.

‘Your thanks are taken with gratitude, of course, but I am simply gladded I found them when I did and was able to bring Frodo safely here. I hope it was not too late, however,’ she said, worry returning to her voice despite her care otherwise.

Bilbo shook his head. ‘If it is late that is through no fault of yours. Nor of Aragorn’s. It is as it is, but Elrond has given me cause to hope this morning and I will look to that as long as I may,’ he said, his voice certain.

She could not help the smile on her face. ‘Then that is all I would ask of you, Bilbo. For the good thoughts of those who care are just as important as the strength of the patient, as you know. Now, I must leave you to attend my father. I will bring word when I may. Are you comfortable enough here?’ she asked, knowing he would not move for anything even if he was not.

‘Quite enough, my lady. Please, turn your worry to Frodo and not myself.’

She bowed to him, ‘as you wish.’ Arwen allowed herself a deep breath before she opened the door to the healing rooms. Inside it was quiet, but the low murmur of voices led her to the back and to one of the private treatment rooms. These were her father’s creation in the days Rivendell had been built. Set around the back of the house there were no true windows or exterior doors, but a panel of glass in the ceiling of each room allowed light to shine down. It was for this reason Elrond had waited for mid-day, when the sun was highest and would cast the most light, even this late in the year. Burnished metal could be used to move the light about the rooms to illuminate it, even on duller days. Today, however, the sun was shinning and the room was awash in light.

‘Father,’ she said, stepping inside. ‘Mithrandir, it is good to have you returned to us.’

The grey wizard smiled, though she detected another emotion behind his eyes. Worry, perhaps, or simple weariness. ‘I thank you, Lady Arwen. It is good to have returned. And to see you safe as well. I must thank you for retrieving Frodo.’

‘I did only what was needed, and glad I am that I did.’

Elrond made no comment at that, but Arwen could almost tell what her father was thinking. She looked down at the table. Frodo did, indeed, look better than he had the day before. Washed and covered in a crisp white blanket, he was paler than ever, but less grey and wasted than when she had delivered him into Elladan’s arms.

‘Father, the house has been seen to and all made ready. I am at your disposal for the rest of the day.’

‘Very good,’ Elrond said. ‘I will have need of you to keep Frodo still and calm. He is so weak I dare not give him anything for the pain. I have sent him into a healing sleep since yesterday, but great pain may wake him.’

She was familiar enough with healing to know the truth of these words. Arwen had seen men treated in her father’s healing rooms, so weak from blood loss or poison that any herbs to dull the pain or send them to sleep would simply stop their heart. They only way to treat them was to attempt to keep their minds sleeping, even as their bodies felt the pain. She was adept enough at this to help.

‘Yes, father. I will see no pain reaches him.’

‘We have the light, for now, so we must begin. Mithrandir?’ Elrond asked, and the wizard rose to stand at the table side, laying a hand on Frodo’s arm. Out of the corner of her eye, Arwen saw the flash of red, more proof she did not need of where that particular power lay. The answering flash of blue was even less unexpected. Arwen wrapped her hands around Frodo’s soft curls and closed her eyes. He was already in sleep and therefore it took her a moment to find his spirit, adrift as it was. When she did she was glad to see he was far enough asleep to be unaware of what was happening to him. She need only keep him there.

Arwen quickly lost track of time. Several times Frodo seemed to become more aware, his spirit struggling towards his body, but she pushed him back, using her presence to calm him. His mind was lost in dark places, though the light of her own spirit chased the shadows away for a time.

It was only her father’s hand on her arm and his determined calls that pulled her back at last. She paused to ensure Frodo was still in sleep, a sleep now that he might wake from of his own accord, before she withdrew. The sunlight had slanted lower and the room was dimmer now, passed mid-afternoon. The wound that had appeared grey and pale before was now covered in bandages, with just a hint of red staining their pristine surface.

‘Is it found?’ she asked, fearing the answer. Frodo still lived, but for how much longer if the shard was not removed?

Elrond sighed deeply, wearied it seemed nearly beyond words. Mithrandir looked stricken. ‘Not yet,’ Elrond spoke softly. ‘It is deeper than I had hoped and ever so small. Frodo must rest again and regain his strength. Tomorrow at midday we will try again.’

‘He cannot survive much longer, father,’ Arwen said, rather needlessly.

Elrond nodded. ‘No, he cannot.’

They did not need to speak any further of it. Tomorrow they would try again and if they failed then, there would be no more time that much was clear. Arwen bit back the tears that threatened once again to slip from her eyes. To have come so close only to fail…

‘Arwen,’ her father said. ‘Go and take food, you have need of it. The party nears the ford, I believe and they will be here at nightfall. I surmise Estel will have need of you tonight.’

The flash of pain that always accompanied any mention of his foster son sparked through the half-elven’s eyes. Arwen wished it was not there, and also that she was not the cause of it. Since Elrond had made his wishes clear nearly seventy years before, Arwen had done nothing to gainsay it, except her betrothal. Elrond had taken it better than she had worried he might, when she had returned to Rivendell afterwards. But he had been all too clear to Aragorn of how the situation would fall out. Arwen, at least, trusted in his own foresight; she knew Aragorn would reclaim the throne and therefore be free to marry her one day. She also knew her father hoped also for this, though it would mean his loss of her. He was not trying to be cruel, only practical, but sometimes that look in his eyes hurt, for she wished only to be free to love Estel without causing others pain. At times such as these, she missed her mother most of all.

‘Of course, thank you. I will see to the hobbits when they arrive and Estel. He will have great need of rest. I will attend you again on the morrow, and this time we will succeed. We cannot let Frodo fall into evil.’ Mithrandir closed his eyes in something Arwen attributed to grief at these words. No, they could not fail, this small being deserved better from those that named themselves the Wise. It would be too great a victory for Sauron if they lost this battle. Perhaps, Arwen worried in a flash she knew and feared was foresight; it would be first of many other losses until the last battle of all.

Arwen swept a sweat-soaked curl from Frodo’s forehead before she took her leave, praying to the Valar he would survive another day.

Outside Bilbo had fallen asleep, but Arwen roused him gently.

‘Frodo?’ he asked, a little dazed.

‘He lives yet, but I am afraid to tell you we have not yet cured him of the darkness that dwells now in his body. Tomorrow, we will try again and we will succeed Bilbo, I have hope yet.’ It pained her to tell the old hobbit such news. They had become good friends in the years since she had returned to Rivendell. Arwen was ever an avid audience for Bilbo’s stories and had helped him on more than one occasion to compose a song or two for the Hall of Fire. It would grieve her to lose Frodo to this, but grieve her also to see Bilbo’s loss.

‘Thank you, lady, for telling me. Still, if you have hope I will also hope, for in that will be our strength.’

‘Indeed, little master, you are wise beyond even my years,’ she smiled at the old joke they shared.

Bilbo returned it, though his smile did not reach his eyes. ‘You have duties to attend to, I must not keep you.’

‘Nothing that cannot wait for a time. Would you let me escort you back to your room?’

Bilbo shook his head. ‘No, no, I’m quite fine here. Only if I stay Elrond may let me see the boy, and I should like to see him,’ he said, the last a mere whisper in a voice already grieving.

‘Then stay you should. My father will not be long with him, and perhaps you will be able to speak with Mithrandir as well, as I know you enjoy. But do not stay here too long Bilbo, you have need of your own rest, and Frodo will need you strong in order to best recover himself.’ She put much effort into making her voice sound certain.

And Bilbo was clearly grateful for it. ‘Thank you, lady, as always. Now, about your duties Lady of Rivendell and I shall be about my waiting. Give my greetings to the Dúnedan when he returns, and send the hobbits to my door when they have eaten and washed. But do not ruin the surprise, I pray you,’ the old hobbit said, a spark of his usual vigor and humour touching his eyes.

‘As you wish,’ Arwen said, bowing low to him with a laugh. ‘They shall not hear it from me!’

She left him to his waiting, returning to make her rounds of the kitchens and the rooms. All instructions she had left in the morning seemed to have been taken care of, and at last she paid a visit to Gwedhiel and stayed long enough to sew a nightshirt for one of the hobbits. It felt good to put her hands to work accomplishing something that would be of use to another.

Only when the sun lowered below the trees in the hills above did she rise and take her leave, collecting the clothes they had made to lay them in the hobbits’ rooms. Arwen checked to ensure the kitchens would send food to lay in wait for their arrival, so that the weary travelers would have no need to wait to fill their empty bellies. She bid them send food to Estel’s room too, and went herself to ensure all was in order for his return. The place had been closed since his departure in the spring, but opening the doors to the family balcony, and lighting a fire were easy enough work, even for her unskilled hands. She lay out clean clothes for him, determined this time to get rid of the leathers she had last seen him in and find him some proper clothing before he journeyed out again. She knew, as always, she would lose. Estel was as attached to that clothing as he was to his beard, determined to make her understand that both were benefits in the wild, rather than detriments.

She lit several candles as well, to make it feel more welcoming and provide enough light that he might feel more comfortable, but she knew she did it more for her own comfort, to chase away the shadows.

The dress she had donned that morning had been fit only for working in, and she took the time to return to her room down the hall to change. The hobbits would not care, and Estel would not notice, but it behooved her to be more properly clothed to greet their new guests, and there was no telling whether Legolas or Gildor’s party would arrive this evening as well. They, at least, would expect her to be properly garbed as the Lady of the house.

Arwen was not overly conscious of clothing and fashions and other things the young maids in Lorien typically concerned themselves with. She had been raised in a different sort of household than the Goldenwood, and cared more for other things; such as the skill with a sword she could thank Glorfindel for, and her healing knowledge, for which she could only thank her father. Still, Estel had been in the north now for six months, and if there was any reason to concern herself with her clothing choice, it was his return, whether he would care or not. It brought her some measure of enjoyment to think of dressing for her betrothed. Tonight, she chose one of her more formal dresses, though not the most formal; picking blue and silver over her typical purples.

Satisfied that at least she would be presentable as Lady of Rivendell if their guests should also arrive, Arwen left her rooms and took to pacing in the corridors.

‘You are, I think, finally picking up the bad graces for which your father is known,’ Glorfindel’s voice all but startled her in her focus some time later. It was deep night outside, as it came too early at this time of year.

‘I do not consider this an act of bad grace, for if it has served my father well in his lifetime, so it shall serve myself also,’ she answered, finding a small joy in the endless baiting she and the Lord of Gondolin had enjoyed since she came of age.

The fair-haired elf raised only an eyebrow at that. ‘Perhaps you are wiser than I, little butterfly. But I am wiser in one way, for I know that those you await have crossed the ford and will be with you soon.’

Arwen’s eyes lit at this announcement, all thought of Glorfindel’s teasing left aside. ‘Truly? I must wait in the courtyard then,’ she decided, already striding that way.

Glorfindel laughed after her and soon matched her pace with ease. ‘You should certainly be the first thing he lays eyes on upon his return, Arwen. He would wish it to be so.’ There was a long pause, until finally she glanced sideways at him, aware there was more he wished to say.

His keen eyes sought hers and she arrested her movements to face him fully. ‘Arwen, you were aware I had ridden out after Estel and the Periannath. I was perhaps less than half a day’s ride from their company when you found them yourself. Did you not trust that I would find them?’

She sighed heavily. ‘It is not a matter of trust, my lord. I trust you with the lives of all my family, and I know you would have recovered Frodo, and likely in time as well. But I could not sit idly any longer, if there was ought I felt I could do. No doubt it was your presence that ensured the Nazgûl did not find me as quickly as they did, for they did not catch up with Asfaloth until we were but three leagues west of the ford on our return.’

‘Be that as it may, and no doubt you are correct, I still do not wish you to endanger your life so, for your own sake, your family’s, and for Estel’s. What think you he would do if he lost you now?’

That was the crux of it, and she had seen that knowledge in his eyes when they had parted in the forest. He had made the only choice he could, but he had also lived in constant fear for her until the twins had met up with them, but a day past perhaps. She would only have added to the fear and exhaustion he was suffering. It was no way to treat one she called beloved.

‘You are wise, as I am still learning to be. I am sorry also for borrowing Asfaloth,’ she admitted, knowing he was waiting for such an apology too. It was not the first time she had ridden his horse, but Arwen was aware Glorfindel had left his mount behind for a reason, for Asfaloth was unlike even other elven horses and he had been left in the stables as a last resort if needed, for her father if he should need to ride out in a last defense. She had risked the safety of the Valley in taking the white steed.

‘Still, I am grateful in part that you did, for it was only in Asfaloth’s speed that you were saved from attack or capture and returned in time with the Halfling. But Arwen, for the love you bear me, do not ever think to do such again.’

‘I assure you I will not,’ she agreed, bowing her head to allow the golden-haired lord to his her brow.

‘Very well then. I have interrupted your mission and if my ears do not mistake I have kept you long enough.’ He smiled down at her fondly. ‘Go to him,’ he urged, and already she was moving swiftly down the hall, running with the wings of a nightingale.

They had just arrived in the courtyard when she left the shelter of the house, checking her flight in time to appear once more the dutiful hostess. Her eyes sought Estel’s immediately. The twins had obviously ridden out prepared, and had taken an extra horse with them. Each of them held a hobbit in front of them, and Estel did also. He was even now sliding to the ground to settle the small being on the flagstones, and she could see the exhaustion in each line of his body. Arwen waited impatiently until her brothers had dismounted and set the other two hobbits to the ground also. Grooms came to retrieve the horses.

‘Welcome to Rivendell, small masters. You are weary and heartsick from your journey, but here you will find rest and healing. No doubt your first concern is for your companion. Frodo still lives and is under my father’s close care, you need fear for him no longer tonight,’ she said, noting that none of the hobbits seemed to be listening all that carefully. ‘I have had rooms made ready for you, and food also. You will eat and rest and in the morning you may visit Frodo.’

‘I’ll see him tonight, miss, if it’s all the same,’ one of them spoke. The sandy haired one that had been less than welcoming of her spiriting Frodo away in the night. He was attempting to stand up straight, despite the trembling of exhaustion in his legs.

Arwen went to him and knelt to his level. ‘You care for Frodo greatly, I see that, but you are weary on your feet, master, and need your rest. Frodo is being cared for by the best healer in Middle-earth and you can do no more for him tonight. Rest first, and recover, and then you may lend your strength to his care in the morning. Will you take my advice in this?’

He seemed about ready to protest, and Arwen once again marveled at the strength of these small folk. The other two had perked up their ears at this conversation, but seemed unwilling to voice their own opinions. Finally, he nodded. ‘I will do as you say, miss, but I want to see my master right quick tomorrow!’ With this last outburst his strength seemed to leave him and Elrohir stepped forward to offer a hand.

Together, the twins began to shepherd the three Halflings into the house. Arwen took advantage of the brief moment this left her and all but flung herself into Estel’s arms. He seemed on the verge of collapse, or perhaps of weeping in relief and she held him tightly, afraid suddenly to let go.

‘I worried for you,’ he whispered in her ear.

‘And I for you, but both have passed now. Come, I have food and a bed, and you are much in need of both.’

He was shaking his head against her shoulder. ‘See to the hobbits first, I can care for myself.’

‘But I wish to care for you. Do not argue with me beloved, not after this,’ she begged, stepping back.

He nodded, too weary to argue once again. She took his arm and led him after the others. The hobbits’ rooms were closest, thankfully, and she and her brothers soon saw them installed in one of them, on their insistence, and the twins promised to stay and attend on them.

‘He is weary at heart,’ Elladan whispered to him. ‘He was not wounded as Frodo was, but still he fought off the attack of five of them. Care for him gently sister.’

She nodded, grateful for the knowledge. She had thought to have athelas ready in his rooms and thanked that foresight. ‘Come Estel,’ she whispered, leading him from the room and down the halls to the family quarters. ‘It is not much further now in the great journey you have walked. Come and rest.’

He allowed her to lead him, the last of his strength having finally succumb to too long without sleep and the relief of reaching home. Inside his room Arwen carefully removed each layer of mud splattered clothing, carelessly leaving them upon the floor where it fell. Finally he was clothed only in a cloth, and she pushed him down to sit by the fire, adding another log for warmth. She had set water near to warm, for bathing, but now she used it to crush a small handful of athelas to cast into the steaming liquid. The smell instantly lifted her own heart, and she felt Estel relax against her. He made no argument though as she carefully used the water to bathe away the dirt and, in some cases, dried blood from small wounds that had yet to heal. There were bruises aplenty on his arms and legs, but nothing that time would not see to.

Only when she had finished and the water had grown cool did she help him to dress in the leggings and long tunic she had laid out for him. While he ate she brushed his hair, working through the tangles gently so as not to cause him pain. They did not speak; there was no need. Just the comfort of the presence of each other was enough for now.

When he had eaten the bread and cheese and drunk the little wine she had left for him, Arwen led him to his bed, pulling off the outer layer of blue velvet that she wore, and lay down with him.

‘Arwen,’ he whispered, eyes already closed.

‘I am here. Rest, beloved. Rest.’

He was asleep in moments, though she lay awake for some hours watching him breathe, thankful that he was here with her at last. Before dawn, she too fell into deep slumber, her worry finally passed.


She woke in the second hour after dawn, later than she could recall ever having slept. Aragorn was still lying sprawled on his side, in a manner she had discovered was typical of mortals. The bed was, at least, large enough for them both. Cautiously rising so as not to disturb him, Arwen stole to the door and glanced out. No sound came from the surrounding rooms; either the others had chosen not to disturb them or the fact that they yet slumbered had not been noted. Her father would frown upon her having spent the entire night, and the twins with grin coyly at her. She cared little for either reaction, but it would not do to raise glances of the staff who had known her her entire life.

From the bed Estel stirred, rolling over to turn bleary eyes to her. ‘Arwen?’ he asked, voice hoarse from sleep.

She glided back to his side and settled on the bed. ‘How fare you this morning, my love?’

Groaning he raised himself onto his elbows to stare at her. ‘I am not certain.’

‘I do not understand. Are you weary, pained, relieved, hungry?’ she asked, grasping for a word that might suit.

‘Relieved, certainly. Gladdened by your presence. Weary, yes, and pained only from so long a journey. And hungry. Most very certainly I am hungry. But I thought for something else, rather. I am…happy.’

Smiling in joy to flung her arms around him, laughing.

Elrohir pocked his head around the door. ‘Laughter is a welcome sound in this house. How fare you this morning, brother?’ Without further invitation he came inside, followed by Elladan bearing a laden tray.

‘Food, how thoughtful brothers,’ Estel said, sitting up. ‘I was just saying I was –’

‘Hungry?’ Elrohir asked. ‘However did we guess?’

Ignoring the comment, Estel took the proffered tray and without further waiting dug into the sweat buns stacked high. Arwen grabbed one before they were demolished by a starving mortal, laughing as Estel attempted to gain it back.

‘How fares Frodo this morning?’ she asked, suddenly serious again. Aragorn stopped in the middle of a bun to look enquiringly at his brothers also.

‘No worse, but no better either. I stopped into the healing rooms on my way here. The shard must be removed today, father has deemed.’

Estel sighed. ‘To have come so far with that thing inside him. A man would have been undone before now, and even an elf…’ he trailed off. There was really no more to say on that topic; many an elf had been wounded in such ways in the first ages of the world, and succumbed.

‘Hobbits are stronger than we knew,’ Elladan agreed. ‘I hope it can be found and removed and that Frodo will recover. He deserves the chance to resume his life, when the matter of the Ring has been decided.’

‘We also came to tell you, Estel, since you’ve missed some of the events of the last months, out in the wild as you’ve been.’ The mortal look expectantly at them, but resumed devouring the sweet sticky bun, a specialty of the Rivendell bakers. ‘Father has called a council of the races, to decide on the fate of the Ring. Legolas arrived this morning. Worry not, sister, we have seen to his party.’ He held up a hand to forestall whatever Arwen had been about to say, so instead she nodded her thanks. Legolas, at least, would forgive her for not being there to greet him. ‘There is a party of dwarves and men but a day behind him, and we expect Gildor and several elves sent by Círdan later today.’

‘When will the council be held?’ Estel asked, picking apart a third bun.

‘The day after next, if Frodo is well enough recovered after today.’

‘You expect him to be present? Elladan, he is at death’s door; even if the shard is removed today, you can hardly expect him to sit in council with the Wise in but two days.’

‘Father expects it, and who are we to gainsay that? If the shard is removed, Frodo should recover quickly. The wound is but small and much of his sickness is from the evil contained in the spells woven into the metal. When they are gone, he will recover quickly. You forget, brother, we have seen such wounds before.’

Of course they had, though Estel was not unfamiliar with Morgul poison or the illness that came from such evil that dwelt in Middle-earth. He was by no means an expert, even in his years of travel.

‘As you say. I will not gainsay father either. If the council must be held, so it will be. I hope Frodo will be there to see it, and to speak. He has carried the ring for many years, though less than Bilbo. He should have a say.’

‘Father hopes so. But for now, you must rest today, father demands it.’

‘Demands?’ Estel asked.

‘Demands,’ Elrohir repeated. ‘Arwen is called to the healing rooms at midday, and we will take her place to ensure you remain in these rooms. You also must be well for the council. And we will see to Gildor as well, sister, worry not. You have prepared for our guests well; we are more than able to greet them. Gildor will understand if you are not there.’

He would, Arwen silently agreed, grateful for her brothers’ consideration.

‘Until midday, however, we leave you to the care of our sister, for she excels at it,’ Elladan grinned, ignoring her attempts to tug his hair. ‘Play nicely!’ he cried, pulling away from her reach. Instead he leaned in to steal the last bun.

‘Elladan!’ Estel cried, lunging forward to make a grab for his breakfast. The half-elf danced out of reach, laughing.

‘Mine now. Enjoy your morning!’ he cried, rushing out of the room with Elrohir in quick pursuit to fight his brother for the last sweet roll.

Arwen lay back against the cushions. ‘They are children sometimes, are they not?’

‘They are always children, beloved, have you not realized?’

Arwen leaned down to kiss him, tasting the sweet honey that coated the buns.

‘Which would make us the elder and wiser.’

‘Wiser, certainly,’ he agreed, returning the kiss with vigor. ‘What shall we do with our free morning?’

‘Rest again, I think. You are yet weary, do not deny it.’ As am I, she thought as well.

‘I won’t argue, ‘tis true. It was a long journey.’ He joined her on the pillows, forgoing the rest of breakfast. The sweet buns were the best part anyways.

Estel soon returned to his slumber, months of weariness lying too heavily to ignore. For a time Arwen thought to join him, but they had so little time left together. Soon enough he would leave on another journey, and her heart forebode that the greatest was yet to come. She had so little time to enjoy his presence that to sleep through it seemed a tragedy. Instead, she ate the grapes the twins had also brought and watched her beloved sleep, until they returned to take over her watch.

Elrohir knocked this time, at least. Estel had woken again and was in the process of trimming the worst of the beard off, for which she was thankful.

‘Father waits you in the healing rooms,’ he said by way of greeting. ‘Gildor’s company arrived and Elladan is seeing to them. We expect the party from Erebor and Dale by nightfall, if they made good time from the pass.’ He set the tray of food he carried on the table this time.

‘I am not certain how to read this sudden generosity with food, brother,’ Estel said, concentrating on his reflection.

‘You may read whatever you will into it, Estel. You had a long and dangerous journey and we are gladdened you returned safely. You have eaten little and rested less, and we would have you well again as soon as possible, that is all,’ Elrohir said, forgoing his usual teasing tones.

Estel paused in his work to gaze at his brother. ‘Than I thank you for it. It was a long journey and I am wearied. And hungry,’ he said, setting down the small shears to focus on the lunch the half-elf has brought.

‘I should go to father,’ Arwen said, rising from her seat on the bed to done the robes she had worn yesterday. The velvet had not wrinkled, despite her carelessness with the garment, and it hardly matter with her destination. She could bathe and change afterwards, for there would be a dinner to attend tonight, with all the guests. She stopped to kiss Estel’s newly trimmed cheek, wishing he would shave the beard completely, but knowing it would not happen. Clean shaven was hardly a practical way for a mortal man to be in the wild. ‘Rest well. And Elrohir?’ she added, turning at the door. ‘Please see that he does, indeed, rest.’

‘I have no idea what the implication of that was,’ Elrohir muttered as his sister left the room. Estel’s ringing laugh followed her out.

She encountered Elladan on the way to the healing rooms. ‘Gildor’s party has been seen to?’

He nodded. ‘I have explained the situation. Gildor wishes that all goes well today and understands your absence. The dwarves will not be here until nightfall, and they I will happily give into your keeping sister.’

‘My thanks, ‘Dan,’ she muttered. ‘How very generous of you brother.’

He smiled. ‘My thoughts go with you Arwen. With you and father. Bring word when you can; Estel will wish to know.’

She nodded solemnly. ‘May the Valar’s thoughts go with us as well. We shall need them.’

Her own thoughts turned to the task to come. Today would not be easy, but there was only one recourse; they had to succeed in this venture. Frodo had to survive. She had felt it in the night before dawn, a feeling creeping over her that she remembered as foresight. Arwen’s gift was not that of her father’s, but when those feelings came she had learned to listen to them. This foretold her that the hobbit must live, his fate was now bound to that of the Ring and his death would spell their doom. It was not a comforting thought.

Mithrandir and her father were already waiting for her. Frodo was as still as the day before, though his skin was paler, almost translucent.

‘Arwen,’ Elrond greeted her. ‘How fares Estel?’

In other circumstances Arwen would have thought it beyond comprehension that their father had not been to check on his youngest son, but Frodo needed the healer far more, and Estel knew that.

‘He recovers, though is still weary. The twins have promised to watch over his rest this day.’

Elrond nodded. ‘I will go to him tonight, when this danger has passed,’ he gazed down at Frodo. ‘Today we must succeed in finding and removing the shard. Arwen?’

‘Yes father.’ She positioned herself once more at Frodo’s head, stroking his soft curls. He slumbered more deeply now, a sleep that felt unnatural. His spirit was moving into another realm, nearly lost to the world of the living. She called him back as far as she dared, without waking him.

As always in such a trance she had no notion of the passing of time. It was only later, with her father’s insistent call that she drew herself away, aware only then that Frodo’s spirit was calmer than she had yet felt it, and no longer slipping away. ‘It is found?’ she whispered.

‘It is found,’ her father answered. ‘He will live.’

‘Though it has changed him,’ the grey wizard sighed. ‘Changed him in ways I do not yet understand. This will leave it’s mark.’

Elrond nodded. ‘I fear so, but for now we must concentrate on ensuring he regains his strength. His kind heal quickly, and so we must hope in this. The council is tomorrow and I dare not delay it longer. Those that have come cannot linger long.’

‘We are in agreement on this,’ Mithrandir said. He looked older and more weary than Arwen had ever seen him. She remembered him from his early arrival to Middle-earth. He had not aged at all in that time, and yet he had grown older still, as the Eldar did. She had never asked her father of what kind he was, though she could guess. The Maiar blood ran also in her veins, diluted though it was.

Elrond was bathing the blood from Frodo’s shoulder, Arwen noticed. The day before the cutting had caused no blood to flow, for the shoulder appeared dead. It was such no longer, which gave her hope. She stroked a finger along the cold arm and found it warming. The muscles twitched against her hand. He would have use of it, at least, though it might always remain weaker than the other. ‘This is not the end of his quest,’ she whispered.

The room stilled around her.

‘Arwen?’ her father asked, looking at her.

‘Last night,’ she said, gazing up at him. ‘Last night I felt…Frodo’s quest has only just begun. His journey now lies bound to the Ring, to whatever end.’

‘I feared as much,’ Mithrandir said with a deep sigh. ‘I have brought this upon him and upon Bilbo. I should have been more cautious when first we returned from Erebor. Perhaps we might have spared them both these years of…’ he trailed off.

‘And perhaps you would not have, Mithrandir. What has passed cannot be undone. We have all made mistakes in this. No longer,’ the Lord of Rivendell said, bending now to stitch closed the wound.

‘No longer,’ the wizard echoed. ‘I will leave you to this. I think Bilbo will wish word of his nephew, and the other hobbits. No, Lady Arwen,’ he gestured her to silence when she tried to speak. ‘I will care for them. You have many other guests I understand and soon to be more,’ he smiled. ‘The hobbits shall be my responsibility for the next while, until Frodo is well again.’

‘Thank you. I think they would welcome your attention at this time.’

‘Until this evening,’ he said, nodding his farewell.

The room was left in silence. Arwen sighed and took the corner seat that Mithrandir had otherwise occupied. She sank gratefully into it, tired from her ordeal. The light told her it was late afternoon, and had been many hours since they had begun the healing. She was not used to such.

‘Arwen?’ her father asked.

‘I am well, only weary. The last several days have been trying.’

‘To say the least,’ he agreed, moving now to bandage the wound. He motioned her away when she rose to help, easily lifting the small body to wind the cloth around the shoulder. ‘Is ought else the matter?’

She shook her head firmly, mustering the strength to sit straight. ‘Of course not father. Only the worry and…and I fear the events to come.’

For a time he did not answer, gazing down at Frodo instead. Already the hobbit’s skin was pinking, the poison now gone from it. He was no longer slipping away from them. Arwen had left him in a light sleep, one he would wake from in his own time.

‘Many things will change, of that I fear,’ her father spoke at last, nearly startling her. ‘We come now to the end I think. Our time is ending and I cannot see what may pass.’ He sounded frustrated. It was not often Elrond’s foresight failed him.

‘Father,’ she said, rising to take his arm. ‘Whatever may come, we will face it together.’


A soft knock on the door interrupted them. A blond haired elf, Miríel, one of the healers, slid inside. ‘You have been in here long today my lord, my lady. Mithrandir tells me you are finished and that the Halfling will live. Glad news that is indeed. I will watch him now, if you will. You must both take some rest. The last days have been difficult for you, I know.’

‘My thanks to you, Miríel. Frodo sleeps now, though I do not think he will wake until morning. He should be moved to a more comfortable room for the night, but for now I would wish him watched only.’

‘As you say, my lord,’ she bowed, drawing the chair up to the side of the table to take her watch.

Elrond offered his daughter his arm and together they left the room. Outside the sound of birdsong and other people was noticeable. It felt like walking into another world.

‘Let us check on your brothers,’ Elrond decided, leading her towards the family rooms.

Estel was certainly not resting when they arrived, judging by the noise coming from his room. Arwen gave a long suffering sigh and threw the door open. The laughter stopped instantly.

‘Father!’ the Dúnedan cried.

The room was the usual mess the three of them would leave it, when given the slightest provocation. The bed pillows were on the floor, and most of the covers as well. And several items of clothing. Estel was still in his night clothing, but the twins had both forgone the formal over robes they had been wearing, which was no doubt the clothing on the floor.

‘Sometimes I wonder at what age you really are,’ Elrond muttered dryly. ‘All three of you.’

The twins had always had a remarkable ability to look innocent, no matter their age. Estel was less adept at this lately, but in this moment Arwen was certain that Elrond would have forgiven his foster-son anything.

She realized suddenly that she was happy. Despite the days of worry and the coming days of uncertainty, in this very moment she had her family here, together, at peace for even a moment. Estel stood to receive his father’s embrace and Arwen laughed, the sound ringing around the room. Her betrothed grinned and for the first time there was no flash of pain in Elrond’s eyes. Peace indeed.

‘Frodo?’ Estel asked suddenly, breaking the moment.

‘He lives and will heal,’ his father assured him.

‘That gladdens my heart. I feared otherwise,’ he admitted.

‘And I feared for you, out in the wild alone against the Nine.’

Estel shrugged. ‘There was no one else to protect them, and they would never have reached here alone. The Nine were not after me.’

‘But they could have been,’ Elrond said. ‘You are lucky to be uninjured, and the other hobbits as well.’

‘I did only what was needed, father, as ever.’

That obviously pained the elf lord. ‘Aye. As, it seems, do all of my children. You will make me old, the four of you,’ he added, and a glimmer of humour returned to the room. ‘Now, I must change and rest before the dinner tonight. We have many guests in residence. You may remain here Estel, if you are still tired.’

‘I have slept enough, for now. It will be good to see Legolas and Gildor and sit in the Hall of Fire. I will come.’

‘As you wish. My children,’ Elrond nodded to each of them.

When he was gone Arwen decided that doing similar might also be a good idea. She had worn the same dress since the day before and she could hardly go to dinner wearing it. ‘I will leave you as well, though I might recommend as dinner nears that you all bathe and change. Estel,’ she emphasized, turning her eyes on him.

‘Very well,’ he agreed. He had not bathed in the hot springs at all since he had returned. ‘I will bathe and I will brush my hair and I will even put on robes you might consider appropriate. And then I will hide in the shadows and see what nuisance the woodland prince and I might get up to.’

‘How very normal that sounds,’ Arwen said. ‘I will hardly stop you. You must entertain yourself somehow if I am to look after all our guests. But perhaps you might deign to join me in the Hall after?’ she asked, looking at her betrothed expectantly.

‘I suppose…’ the mortal sighed. ‘Or, you could join us.’

Arwen rolled her eyes when her brothers helpfully agreed to this. ‘Kindly remember we have guests, and though Legolas and Gildor may be used to your antics, the dwarves, men and hobbits hardly will be.’ She had had this conversation rather too many times before, at least with the twins. They could never be relied upon to act respectfully when guests were visiting.

‘May I leave you?’ she inquired.

‘We will behave. The coming days are important, sister, and we understand that. But you must let us have some fun. It has been too long since all of us were together, and the prince as well.’

‘I am afraid of exactly that combination,’ she sighed. ‘Until later, my love. Brothers,’ she nodded at each in turn.

For a moment she contemplated having a bath brought to her. The springs would be busy with a dinner coming. But it would mean work for the staff, and there was no reason she should not using the bathing chambers, as the others did. Returning to her room she removed the heavy velvet dress and changed into a simple gown. The baths were less busy than she might have thought, but as if sensing her mood, no one approached her to speak. She recognized two of the Mirkwood elves and another she did not know, who might be from Gildor’s company. She settled into the hot water, determined to relax. The worst of the worry was passed. Tonight they would feast, and tomorrow they would decide many things. For now she needed to remember that the danger was no longer in the Valley, her family was safe. She would attend the banquet, as was her duty, and sit with Estel in the Hall as late as he could manage to stay awake.

She rose from the springs before the sun had set and returned to her rooms to dress in a robe of silver. She called one of the maids to help her with her hair, brushing and braiding and finally drawing the dark locks back into a net of mithril and jewels her mother had left for her when she had sailed West. Properly attired she could greet the party from the east, who were no doubt imminently about to arrive; unless they had delayed themselves between the east patrol and the house. Since a guide would have been sent to lead them she hardly thought so. The house would be busy tonight, as it had not been in long years. They were all in need of a reason to celebrate.

The cut to her cheek had healed, she was grateful to see. It meant many things, but not least was that a wound in a mortal would not heal so quickly. What grace she had passed to Frodo had saved his life, perhaps, but had not taken her immortality quite yet. But that day would come, in the choice she had made. She knew it would cause her family pain, but she could not regret it. She would have Estel and a life of love and that had ever been the most important to her after so many years bereft of such a feeling.

Arwen rose from her desk and made her way to the main areas of the house. There were many elves around, shining in the light of the torches that cast enough light on nights the moon was new. It felt like the house she remembered from her youth.

In the distance her ears could detect the sound of boisterous dwarven voices in number, matched in equal measure by the harsh sound of eastern men. The company would arrive momentarily. With a sigh of regret to leave the quiet of the elven household, Arwen set out for the courtyard to greet the last of their visitors. What worries the morrow would bring would come in their own time and need not concern her now. Frodo would wake in the morning; she had saved him. It had been worth the risk, she knew.

The End
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