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The Same Stars Shine

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I

Arwen brought a shimmer of starlight into the dim hall where the dead of the assault lay, passed between the bodies, touched each forehead in a blessing, murmured words of remembrance and reverence to those who stood and wept.

At the last body, laid in a place of honour on the dais, Arwen's hands faltered, her mouth opened, and she knelt on the bloodied ground instead of speaking comfort. The dead woman's hand twined with the young ranger's at her side.

"This woman lives yet, though not long if she is not tended to. Bring me lights and water, swiftly!"

II

Past nightfall, her brothers helped Arwen from the hall, staggering with exhausted magic. The building was brightly lit in a wash of candles, so that no shadow remained, and Elgarain had been bedded on a soft pallet, and slept. Olibanum and athelas leeched the evil from the wound Arwen had tended to with the gift of her father's skill.

One thing remained: Arwen lifted her sight to the stars shining in force, and raised her voice to follow - an entreaty for grace for the defender of the hall. A hush fell while she sang; even the night-birds quieted.

III

Elgarain woke after three days of sleep, reluctantly, when Arwen called her to open her eyes. Had she not been held fast, she would have turned away and hurt herself, for her wound was not yet healed.

"Arathorn is gone, is he not?" she said dully, and if her eyes had once held a spark of fire, that was extinguished now. "And my heart, Dírhaborn. What have I to live for?"

"That is for you to find," said Arwen, and cradled Elgarain while she wept, remembering the final time her mother had held her so. "But know this: Hope remains."

IV

"Gilraen ordered to disband Taurdal. Already people are saying their farewells, lest another attack take more from them. You must come with us to Imladris, there to fully heal. We tarried long and must travel soon."

"Is nothing constant? I lost all, and now must also lose my home?"

At star-rise, Arwen helped Elgarain sit by the window of her chamber. "Should you miss it, look to the sky," she said. "The same stars shine there and here; they are constant."

"Leave me to ponder this, Evenstar," Elgarain answered. "Hope and stars may be too high for me to reach."

V

That they would have left her to perish in Taurdal if she so wished - though Arwen called it crooked and was dim with grief as they readied - had Elgarain relent at last. She rode in a cart with Gilraen and Aragorn, and the child slept on her lap.

When the stars blinked into view and the Elves sang their evening-song, Elgarain saw at last that Arwen had spoken true. Over her, stretching in a wide arc with Eärendil - their shared forefather - like a jewel among them, the same stars shone, kin above to below.

Perhaps she had not lost all.