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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

11: Endings

Stars began to stud the sky as the steel of twilight surrendered to the navy velvet of night.  Food had been eaten, there in the cool evening, and the Prince’s family continued to sit around Mithrellas, whose pale skin now gleamed faintly in the light of the bright constellations.

‘Will you stay longer?’ Imrahil asked reluctantly, for fear that the question would drive her to depart.

She shook her head slightly, but smiled regretfully.  ‘I think not,’ she said.  ‘I do not wish to become attached to you.’  Her hand stretched out to smooth Lothiriel’s hair.  ‘I will be journeying north to Lothlorien to join the Lady and bid my farewells to the Wood before we leave for the Grey Havens.’

‘Will you be travelling alone?’ Elphir objected.  ‘It seems unwise.’

‘I am not alone,’ Mithrellas told him.  ‘Lady Galadriel knew that I needed to make my farewells to Dol Amroth and visit the offspring of my husband’s family.  She provided me with a party large enough to keep me safe.’  She smiled.  ‘You have not seen them, but they are waiting to escort me back to the Golden Wood.’

Imrahil raised his eyebrows.  ‘I hope they will grant us the opportunity to see them before you depart,’ he said.  ‘I will feel happier to see you leave if I am assured of the presence of an armed guard to see you safely across the mountains.’

‘There are too many renegade orcs and desperate men hiding still in the remote hills and valleys,’ Erchirion agreed.

‘Elves are not easy prey,’ Mithrellas reminded him.

‘Nimrodel?’ Amrothos asked pointedly.

‘Perhaps,’ she allowed, looking at him fondly.  ‘I will request that my escort show themselves to you, so that you know I will be in no danger.’

‘What will you do,’ Lothiriel asked suddenly, ‘in the Blessed Realm, far from the life you know in these lands?

Mithrellas tilted her head and her eyes, deep wells of experience in her youthful face, settled on the girl.  ‘Much remains the same wherever you may be,’ she said.  ‘Households must be run – meals cooked, food preserved, clothes provided and laundered.  Harmony between those carrying out the tasks must be maintained.  I will miss the mallorns – I have known them long and they know me, but there will be other trees to learn to love.  There will be people whose absence will sadden me.  Lord Celeborn remains with his grandsons for now, and the Evenstar will never come – but there will be others whom I love and whose presence will be a consolation.’

‘Having doubts?’ Erchirion took his sister’s hand.

‘No,’ she said.  ‘It will just be hard to leave you all.’

Imrahil smiled sadly.  ‘The distance between us will be measured only in leagues, my dear one,’ he said.  ‘That can be covered easily enough.’

Lothiriel drew a deep breath.  ‘Why have the elves chosen to leave now?’ she asked.  ‘Just as victory has been gained?’


The elves returning to the heart of the Wood after this third attack were the more severely injured, Mithrellas realised, but not the worst hurt.  Those still able to fight carried on, disregarding wounds that would normally have seen them in the care of healers.  Those whose injuries were so bad that they prevented them being brought to the care provided in the long shelters were unlikely to survive, even with the aid of the healers in the field, and there were not enough elves to bring back the corpses.  Tears stung her eyes at the thought of the bodies of those whom she had known for centuries, lying untended, gazing blankly at the trees they had died to defend.

There were not enough warriors; that was the trouble.

Long years of gradual erosion had seen elves drifting to the Havens, seeking a life free from Shadow in the Blessed Realm.  Some had seen no reason to suffer longer in a world that was turning itself over to the Aftercomers.  Others had heard, whispering in the rustle of leaves, the song of the sea.   A few had wanted to bring elflings into a new safe world, where their innocence would not be corrupted.  For whatever reason, however, the numbers left for these final battles were too small to confront the vast waves of orcs driven forth by the Dark Lord’s Wraiths and no matter what courage they showed, they were fighting only to delay defeat.

Lord Celeborn had been grim-faced when she had last seen him, but resolute, with a calm she had envied, and the glance and clasp of farewell that he had given his Lady had suggested that he thought this might be a final farewell indeed. 

‘Hold while you can,’ he had said, so quietly that only her closeness to them had allowed her to hear his words, ‘but do not let him take you.  If it comes to that, use your knife.’

‘I doubt he would give me time,’ she replied, touching her fingers to his face.  ‘I will do what I can.’

Mithrellas had seen little of the Lady since, as busy as she had been assisting the healers, but what she had seen had suggested that Lady Galadriel was fighting a battle every bit as fierce as that faced by the warriors of the Wood.

The turn came suddenly.

The darkness had lifted and there had been an unexpected freshness in the air.  There had been a moment of stillness, as if everything had changed and the world was uncertain, before time started to move again.  The Lady had fallen, exhausted by whatever struggles she had undertaken, and lay shaking.   Others had straightened up and looked stronger as though there now seemed some reason to continue the struggle.

Mithrellas had rushed with others to the support of Galadriel, burning feathers beneath her nose to bring her round and fussing about her pallor.  The Lady had sent most of them off firmly as soon as she had opened her eyes, and her determination had reassured them, but Mithrellas had seen the weariness behind her public face and stayed close.

‘How did you endure it?’  Galadriel asked with a sigh.  ‘Knowing that a change was coming that you could not resist, could not alter, could not avoid?  That there would be a sundering about which you could do nothing?’

‘You endure because you must,’ Mithrellas told her with a tiny smile.  ‘You are given no choice.’

The Lady of Lothlorien rested her head on her hand for a brief moment before standing with sudden determination.  ‘Come,’ she said.  ‘The Shadow is in retreat.  We must take the advantage offered us.’

Casualties had, at least, declined.  With the forces of the Shadow in disarray, the orcs had little guidance and their ferocity was no match for the organised patrols of elves, so that few more immortal lives were lost.  Within two weeks, Dol Guldur had been razed to the ground and Lord Celeborn and King Thranduil had met to rejoice in its destruction.

The process of healing had begun swiftly, and the coming of spring had rapidly begun to conceal the damage of war under a cover of fresh green.  Eryn Lasgalen, newly named, thrived in the removal of the Dark, and every day brought new delights to elves who had mourned Mirkwood’s suffering.  The first primrose, the first violet, the first leaves opening on the darkened trunk of a twisted tree: all were cause for celebration.

Lothlorien, on the other hand, felt – different.  Its exclusive tranquillity had fractured and the sound of the world beyond seemed to creep in through the cracks. Celeborn was strong and forceful, the vitality of his power clearly apparent, and he was yet to return to the appearance of the wise and considered lord of more peaceful days, but Galadriel seemed pale and sorrowful, distracted from the business of returning the Wood to its normal calm.

The party from Imladris had arrived unexpectedly, as far as Mithrellas was concerned. Lord Elrond and his daughter had been escorted into Lady Galadriel’s presence early one bright morning.  The Lady had not seemed surprised, nor had she taken long to arrange for the group to escort her and Lord Celeborn to Minas Tirith, which suggested that her plans had been long made.

‘You are taking too much baggage,’ Celeborn told her impatiently.

Arwen and Galadriel had thrown him identical looks of protest.  ‘It is for my wedding, Daeradar,’ Arwen said. ‘We have at least twice as many horses with us.  They kept going while we diverted into Lothlorien to ride with you.’

‘It is up to us to show the men of Gondor how impressive the elves can be, when they want to be,’ Galadriel smiled.  ‘You, also, will be dressed in your best, my love.  This is an occasion such as will not come again.’

Mithrellas had been disconcerted when Galadriel had insisted that she joined the delegation, but protesting that she did not have the right clothes was ineffective and the former Lady of Belfalas found herself, a millennium on, retracing her steps across the plains of what was now Rohan on her way to Gondor. 

She could not help but be struck by the contrast.  Guards were still needed and the way was not safe, but, instead of being a small group of elves flying the advance of the Shadow, they were a large, proud party containing some of the greatest Elf Lords of Arda, riding to embrace a fate that would see their Evenstar accepting death among men and the rest of them diminishing and passing into the West in the wake of the Dark Lord’s defeat.  The plains across which they rode were no longer empty grasslands, but the home of the Horse Lords of the north, busily working to rebuild their strongholds and repair the damage done in their fight against the traitor Curunír.

Their journey remained uneventful.  Not even the fleeing bands of orcs and men from Sauron’s armies dared to attack so large and well-defended a group, and, almost before Mithrellas realised it, they had arrived on the green expanse that was the site of the Battle of Pelennor Fields.

Many of the elves, bold warriors though they were, shrank back from the crowds of men who lined the streets to watch the elves ride up through the circles of the city, but Mithrellas found a little of their eager curiosity quite appealing, even though the smell of the overcrowded streets was not.  At least the Evenstar did not need to fear their hostility.  The events of the last few months, when a miraculous series of events had brought about the return of their King and the downfall of the Dark Tower and turned inevitable defeat into wholly unexpected victory, had opened their minds to new experiences and different peoples.

The glory in the faces of Arwen Undomiel and Aragorn Elessar Telcontar when they claimed each other had almost, Mithrellas thought, concealed the pain of loss that had been clear, to those who knew, in the shielded eyes of Lord Elrond.  He had felt her watching him, and later sought her out as she stood under the starlight.

‘Is is better?’ he asked bleakly.  ‘I have endured half a millennium without my wife, but I have known that we would be reunited in time.  I have lived without my brother for more than an age, knowing that only the end of days would bring us back together.  Is it better for Arwen to die and follow Estel on his journey?’

Mithrellas turned slowly to look at him.  ‘For her?  Yes,’ she said without hesitation, ‘it is better.  For you?’  She smiled sadly.  ‘I have lost my children to death.  For you, it is a grief you will live with always.  But you know that she will be happy.  To Estel, she is a star who has come to earth for him.’

‘If I could only stay for her,’ he whispered, his voice no more than a thread of sound.

‘But you cannot,’ she said simply.

‘No.’ Elrond looked down at his hands briefly.  ‘Victory has come at a price.  We have little time left to enjoy our success.  Within a few turns of the sun, we will meet again at the Havens to undertake a final journey.’

‘Make the most of every moment,’ Mithrellas told him as the moon lit up the Anduin into a silver ribbon across the night dark plain.  ‘Do not let your love end in bitterness – you need no regrets to fester over the long years to come.’

She had seen them there, at the bridal of King Elessar and his Elven Queen.  Faces in the crowds that reminded her with a keen pain she had not expected of those whom she had loved.  She had seen the young Steward, the silver gleam in his eyes as he allowed himself to drown in the bright blue gaze of the White Lady of Rohan, but, although she had recognised in him his kinship to Boromir, he had not moved her heart as had those whose father reigned in Dol Amroth.

She had stopped still as Amrothos led his sister out to dance, for before her was the embodiment of her children: Galador, his father’s son in looks, young and lithe, laughing, his black hair resting on his shoulders and his grey eyes bright with enthusiasm, and Gilmith, slight and graceful, her keen intelligence shining in her fair face.  In Prince Imrahil, she decided, she could see both Imrazor and his son as he would have become in the years after she left.  He was clearly a wise lord and much beloved and, if rumour were true, a gallant soldier and a loyal friend.  His older sons resembled him – the taller of the two, she thought, had a look of Adrahil about him, the look of one who had seen more war than he wanted, but who would hold for as long as it was needful.  In the other, she decided, examining him with the critical sight of long experience, she could see a love of the sea, and some of its restlessness.  But, it was back to the youngest pair that her eyes were drawn.  It was for this that she had loved, borne children who would leave her, endured loss and centuries of loneliness.  Her blood flowed in them, strengthened the Lords of Gondor, had lent itself to the growth of their House – her House, hers and Imrazor’s.

She had not spoken.  Adrahil had said that she must leave them to grow without interference and she had agreed at the end.  She was an elf and they were men – and she would be leaving soon with her kind, bequeathing Arda to the Secondborn.  It would be better to keep herself aloof.  She had not spoken, but she had watched them.  She had seen the young King of the Rohirrim and the Princess of Dol Amroth; she had watched the softness in Amrothos’s eyes as he courted a mist-eyed maiden; she had observed Imrahil in Council and at court, with his children and his nephew, with the King, but she had remained unnoticed, even as the court escorted the body of Théoden King to burial in Rohan.

The Lady Galadriel had noticed her preoccupation and had understood its reason.  ‘Speak to them,’ she urged, as the host gathered before Edoras.  ‘There is no reason why you should not.’

Mithrellas shrugged.  ‘And there is little reason why I should.  I would mean nothing to them – it is better if I keep my distance.’

The Lady had not gainsaid her, but her expression had indicated her doubt.

The betrothal of Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and Eowyn, sister to the King of Rohan had been marked with formal ceremony before the train had moved on its way homewards, escorted as far as possible by the hosts of Rohan and Gondor, for no-one wished the different groups to separate, knowing that many of the farewells made here would last until the end of days. 

Once returned to the shelter of the Golden Wood, Mithrellas was more aware of the passage of time than she had been since she had returned to live beneath its boughs. Lothlorien, which had been preserved in its ageless perfection, had begun to let in the cold winds of the outer world and the leaves shivered in their chill.  Mithrellas felt, too, that her heart again ached for the loss of those to whose absence she had believed she had accustomed herself.   She found herself stopping as the Lady’s attendants decided what would go with them to the Havens and what would stay, staring blankly into the distance as she recalled items she had not seen for ten times the life of a man, conversations she had had a thousand years before, places she had been – and wondering, wondering constantly about the lives of the descendants she had seen while travelling in the south.

‘You must go,’ Galadriel commanded her in the end.  ‘You cannot sail with these feelings – unresolved.  You may, I suppose, choose not to embark yet – it matters little, for there will be ships at the Havens for many years to come, and I know my Lord would welcome your remaining here, but you will not be able to settle west of the sea unless you return to Dol Amroth.’

Mithrellas sighed.  ‘I wish you had not insisted that I travel with you to the White City,’ she said.  ‘I had made my accommodation with the past, but those weeks have unsettled all that I had come to believe.’

‘I will send a party of warriors with you,’ Galadriel told her.  ‘The ways are safer than they were, but you cannot travel alone.’

‘It is unnecessary,’ Mithrellas protested.  ‘I do not wish to disrupt the work being done here.’

‘To be honest,’ Galadriel smiled, ‘if you remove a dozen or so warriors, it will be a help.  They are not suited to more mundane tasks and it will enable them to feel useful.’

‘If they cannot feel useful here at this time,’ Mithrellas said dryly, ‘then how do you expect them to be kept busy in the bliss of Valinor?’

Haldir had looked down his nose at the instructions he received to return to the lands of men to escort Mithrellas to the lands of her descendants, but he had not objected, and the warriors had indeed enjoyed an opportunity to ride swiftly across the open plains of the Rohirrim, so that it seemed to take little time to reach the city stretching down from the cliffs to hang over the blue of the Bay of Belfalas.


‘Has it helped?’ Elphir asked soberly, looking at the pale figure, shadowy in the silver moonlight.

‘I think it has,’ she replied.  ‘I know now in my heart, as I knew in my mind, that my family is all I could have hoped for it to be – and that you have grown beyond me.  I will hold you dear to me throughout the ages, and your faces will remind me why I had to leave Imrazor to live his last years alone.  Adrahil was right – my children were men and had to live as men.  They could not be half-elven – and, for that, I had to leave and be forgotten.’

‘Never forgotten,’ Imrahil said gently, taking her hand and looking in her eyes.  ‘You are now, as you have always been, a prized part of our family history.’

She smiled.  ‘And history is so much better if it remains that,’ she said.  ‘I would be grateful if you would allow me to remain here with my memories tonight.  I would like to sit and watch the moon on the water here, where Galador and Gilmith – and most of all, Imrazor – are so close to me.  I will be gone come morning.’  She clasped the Prince’s hand.  ‘You will begin to doubt that I was ever here,’ she said, ‘but do not doubt the tale of my love for Imrazor.’

‘What have you done with your guards?’ Erchirion reminded her.  ‘Are they nearby?’

‘They spent the day in the valley, where the trees follow the water to the sea,’ she answered.  ‘It is peaceful and green, and, even though the trees are young, the land remembers elves.  It is a good place.’  She looked up.  ‘But they are here now, some of them, to see that I return safely.’

A slight shift in the air on the edge of sight made Lothiriel gasp as she realised that a fair-haired elf stood in the shade of the big walnut tree.

‘This is Haldir,’ Mithrellas said.  ‘He has long been a warden of the marches of Lothlorien.  He will guard me well.’

Imrahil turned to meet the blade sharp eyes of the tall elf before inclining his head in greeting.  ‘I have a gift, my lady,’ he said, ‘that I would like you to take with you on your journey into the West.’  He lifted a cloth-wrapped package that had been left when the servants had removed the debris of their meal.  ‘It is not, I am afraid, the original,’ he apologised.  ‘That is too delicate for travel.  It is a copy of the journal kept by Galador of Dol Amroth.  My father showed it to me once, many years ago.’  He placed it on her lap and her fingers touched it tentatively.  ‘I think you might find that his words ease your heart,’ he said.

‘I have nothing to give you in return,’ she said sadly.

‘You have given us a great gift,’ Amrothos told her, the mysterious moonlight catching his eyes. ‘You have come to us out of the distant past to make a legend come to life.’

‘We will leave you now,’ Imrahil remarked, ‘and let you enjoy the peace of the garden.’  He lifted an eyebrow at the protesting expressions his children threw his way.  ‘I am honoured,’ he said, with a formal bow, ‘that you granted us this chance to meet you.’

Mithrellas gathered each of them in her arms and pressed a kiss of blessing on each brow.  ‘May you have the happiness you deserve,’ she wished them.

Despite their reluctance to leave, Imrahil shepherded his adult children through the open door into a room that felt dull and stuffy compared to the cool freshness of the night-scented garden.  He turned back once to see her silhouetted against the sky, a slight figure to bear the weight of so many memories, but, when he blinked away the tears that thought brought to his mind and looked again, he could see no indication of anyone standing among the shadows of the shrubs and nothing but the distant song echoing in his head suggested the continued presence of Mithrellas, Lady of Belfalas, in the dusky garden of her old home.

‘May the Valar bring you peace,’ he hoped in the depths of his heart, ‘and may your eventual reunions be as sweet as you deserve.’  And he turned away from the window into the past and led the hopes of his House back into the bright promise of the new world of men.


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