Hope Ends by EldarExilePrincess
Note/Disclaimer: Please leave your thoughts about this piece. Anything recognizable belongs to Tolkien. This piece was made possible with the efforts of my esteemed beta, Crackers.
“It is time…”
Three seemingly simple words. Three words that I had dreaded from the moment the tragedy occurred last night. It always seems that nightfall brings naught but calamities with it. Never does nightfall bring glad tidings to the world of Men. At least we Elves have the stars and their light to comfort us.
I turned from the window overlooking the funeral beginning below. I did not want to face the young man who stood behind me, patiently awaiting my response. I kept my eyes trained on the sad procession below, slowly snaking its way through the streets, into the courtyard, onto the embrasure, bearing my dear friend to a place I could never follow.
I could easily count thousands who had come to pay their respects. The mourners were all dressed in gray, save for the Queen. Her garb was silver, the color the Noldor wear when a soul passes. Behind her were her daughters, similarly dressed. They carried their mother’s banner, the one she had secretly made for Elessar. During the War it seemed a beacon of power, but now it appeared weary, for it hung limply. An air of depression was about the city, and even the weather it seemed, for the clouds were gray, and there was a chill in the air. There was wailing on the breeze, and it was hard to decipher whether it was from weeping or the wind itself.
Yes, it was time. It had been time for a while; it had been time from the very start. All through the years that he was King, I stood by his side, dreading this moment. Every blessing for him was sad tidings for me, knowing that his days in this world were soon ending, that they were sorely numbered despite being of the Dúnedain. Though he may have felt time pass slowly, it was not so for me. His coronation marked the beginning of the end, and it truly was the end now. For there he lay in his coffin, as cold and lifeless as the white stone of his fair city.
“Prince Legolas…” That voice broke through my thoughts like a knife.
Suddenly I found myself incapable of moving. It was as if my feet had frozen to the floor beneath me. I felt a coldness seep through me as realization and acceptance began to set in. My chest tightened and breathing became a chore. Tears flowed from my eyes. I did not think it possible to feel so deeply a person’s passing. We Elves are not immune to grieving the loss of loved ones, but we find solace in the knowledge that their spirits live on in Mandos. It is not so with Men.
“I cannot…” I stammered, trying but failing to regain control of myself.
Eldarion moved next to me. His resemblance to his father was uncanny, and for a moment I imagined Elessar standing before me. I half-smiled.
“You were his closest friend. Mother insists. He would have wanted you to…”
The young man grew silent, his own grief catching hold of him. I placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. I had to do this—for him, for Arwen, and for Elessar.
“Come, Eldarion, let us not delay any longer,” I said, with heavy heart and voice.
I recall each of those steps as vividly as if it were happening again. My feet felt as if they were made of stone. I had never focused so much on walking as I did that day. With each step Time was taking me away from Elessar and closer to his finality. I had stalled as long as I could in the room, but no more. There was nothing to stop Time, nothing to reverse it: for it reigns over all, more swiftly for Men than Elves.
At last Eldarion and I reached the funeral, which only moments before had seemed so distant from the security of my room above. Eldarion took his place at the head of the gathering, this young man who must now shed careless thoughts and embrace more sober ones. I could see the weight of his future already on his mind, could sense his anxiety and fear. Today the boy would die alongside his father.
For Elessar’s death was not simply the closing of his life and kingship; his passing marked the ending of many things. As I gazed around at those gathered to pay him their respects and say their final farewells, I saw many endings before me.
Arwen, the Evenstar of her people, would soon fade into the night. She knew the price of binding her soul to a mortal, and she paid it willingly, for her love for Elessar was great indeed. Already she seemed diminished even from the time at which she forsook her immortality. The years she shared with Elessar seemed to pass in the span of four seasons to her. Once, she confided in me her fear and dread of the day when her bliss with Elessar would end. Our eyes met now, and I saw this same fear come to life. I knew it would not be long before she, too, would pass from the world.
The White City would never again be as fair as it was under Elessar’s rule. Music played on every corner. Flowers hung from its walls. The White Tree blossomed and grew as it never had done before. The city became a center of knowledge and justice for all, opening its doors to all races. Trade flourished within its walls. The citizens were well cared for under Elessar’s kingship. He had restored the strength of Men and their faith in themselves. But how long would this now last? I feared the answer.
The white braided beard next to me glistened with tears, for Gimli was also paying his respects. I had written to him two months ago when I sensed that the King’s days were drawing to a close. I had seen Gimli’s sadness from the moment he arrived; even he knew what was to come. The three of us spent many glorious days together, recalling our days as the Three Hunters. We fondly recollected the bonds of friendship that the Fellowship instilled within us, bonds that had only grown stronger.
I heard my name called out, and I realized it was my turn to speak of the dead king. I had been caught up in my reverie. Sheer willpower drove me as I took my place at the head of the crowd, my white garments a stark contrast to the dark ones around me. I could almost palpate the audience’s disbelief and grief at the King’s passing.
Words had never before failed me as they did that day. To mortals, my speech was well-spoken. But to me, I failed him. I was rendered speechless—me, an Elf! Such was my sadness that I could not even bid him a fitting farewell:
“I have known King Elessar for many years. I first met him when he captured Gollum and brought him to my father’s dungeon for imprisonment. Elessar was young then, haunted by the shadows of his past. His nobility and lordliness could not be hidden, though. We became friends. After that, I did not see him until Lord Elrond’s Council. Throughout our time with the Fellowship, I never once doubted him, following him willingly into whatever peril we met. I comforted him in his solitude, when all the world seemed to close in upon him and Arwen was not there, and he doubted himself. After he became King, I could not part from him, so he granted me Ithilien.
“It is said that Men are weak, that there is no hope in them. But Elessar proved that to be false. His first elven name was Estel, or hope. There was never a truer, nobler, or stronger Man than he. Even more importantly to me, there has never been a more loyal friend. I would follow him again, even now, and in more dire circumstances—but alas, I cannot. This is one journey that he must undertake on his own.
“I beseech all of you to learn from his life. Though not all have the power and strength he did, it is much simpler matters that keep evil away. Everyone has the choice to stand up to evil. Courage, bravery, and kindness are not limited to noble warriors. Fear should not be succumbed to so easily; for once this has been done, then doom shall follow. Elessar did not let his past hold sway over him—the weakness of his forefathers in regards to the One Ring worried him, but he overcame it. He trusted in himself. Do not forget your great King, his life, or any of his deeds.
“I never had any brothers, yet I consider Elessar as one. His passing is a terrible calamity for all, and I cannot pretend to understand how it affects mortals, for it has deeply wounded me. The greatest gift to Men has passed, and it is with sad and heavy hearts that we must part ways. I have, as do we all now, only the sweet memories of him to fondly recall. So thusly I bid you farewell, Elessar.”
In the tradition of my people, I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and placed my right hand over my heart. When I opened my eyes, Arwen and her children had done the same. As one, we raised our voices to the Valar above to bless his passing.
As his coffin was placed in the tomb, my heart felt as if it had been torn. When the stone door was slammed shut, I felt myself seize. The barrier between us had been placed. As I gazed upon his face through the glass, it seemed unfair that a man such as he could not live on, that he was shut away from the living.
His memory would end with his line, for such is the way of mortals. They forget so quickly what should be remembered, and remember what should be forgotten. Already I could see the city’s citizens begin to place his memory behind them. This pained me more than the loss of Elessar. We Elves always remember, but not Men.
My friendship and bond with Elessar had kept me on these shores…but that was severed now. His death finally brought the ending of the Fellowship, and I felt no more sense of duty or connection binding me to Middle-earth. There was nothing that could hold me here now. As I gazed above into the sky, a gull called out. The Sea called to me once more, stirring within me feelings that I had buried deeply for some time. I knew that my time here was coming to a close.
For that was the final ending that Elessar’s death brought: that of the time of the Elves. Middle-earth belonged to Men now. Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel had sailed away years before. Many of the ancient Elves had tired of these shores and sought peace. Though I am not of their standing, I too have grown weary. Centuries of defending my father’s kingdom have hardened my soul and heart, and the War had intensified my need for tranquility. I have only resisted leaving sooner because of my friendship with Elessar. But he is gone now, and I am free to go.
“Mortals ever envy our immortality as Elves, but at times I wonder what it is like to know that there is a definite end, a final peace. For we Elves do not die in the same sense as mortals; our souls continue to exist. How tiring that is, to go on and on until the world ends—but no mortal contemplates this. They see only that we have life forevermore, forgetting the pain, suffering, and toil that accompany it,” I said to the silver-haired and bearded Elf standing solemnly before me. “But I am tired of this; I want to go home, across the Sea. Please, Círdan, help me build a ship.”
It is this knowledge— that more trials await me in Middle-earth should I stay—that prompted me to journey to the Grey Havens. There I met Círdan, and after telling him my story, he instructed me in building a gray ship. But I did not travel alone. Gimli came with me, desiring to see the Lady Galadriel once more. His friendship with me never wavered, nor his desire to see the White Lady.
“Do not forget, Thranduilion, that though there was much pain and suffering in Middle-earth, there was also love. Your love of Elessar bound you to him until his death. For love is a great force, one that never ends. Love is what will always bind you to him, even though he is gone,” Círdan told me as I prepared the ship to set sail.
These thoughts entered my mind as emerald grass and glittering white shores came into view. Gimli stood next to me, his eyes wide with wonder. Perhaps a sweet beginning would be borne out of that bitter ending, for it is as Círdan said: love does not end.