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Watching from afar

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March 15, 3019 - Rivendell

Too early, Arwen thought with a flash of annoyance as she woke up. Grabbing a cloak and wrapping it around her, she stepped out to her bedroom's balcony. It was still closer to midnight than to dawn, but now that she was awake, she found she was too restless to find sleep again, and she stood long staring into the night.

With the first hint of morn, Arwen realised the disquiet that had woken her had been Aragorn's, not her own. Far to the south, she knew, he too stood gazing into the slowly lightening night, waiting. Would that she had one of the palantíri of old, or her grandmother's easy skill in scrying. How she longed to see him in truth, not merely feel his presence; even the merest glimpse in Galadriel's Mirror would have eased her heart.

How much further could it be? Arwen wondered, then started. That had been Aragorn's thought, not hers. Yet it struck a chord within her own mind; their road had been long, stretching across the years of their waiting and the many miles Aragorn had travelled in those years. It could not be long now. For good or ill, the Ringbearer carried all their hope, and that of all Middle-earth, with him. She wished she knew where Frodo was; she did not even know whether the Fellowship was still together. She would guess that Aragorn was in Gondor, but Frodo's task lay further east.

Heavy-hearted, Arwen went back inside. It was nearly time to join her father for breakfast. Later in the day, she might perhaps go over their preparations for a siege again with Erestor – while she was certain Rivendell was as ready as possible, there was no harm in checking once more.

After breakfast, which had been a silent affair, both she and Elrond too immersed in their own thoughts for conversation, Arwen went outside, rather than immediately going to look for Erestor. Though the day was cold and pale, still more winter than spring, it was sunny; she would much rather be in the open air than going through gloomy storerooms. Perhaps she should go see how the lembas grain was doing; it was a week at most before it would be ready to harvest.

As she entered the gardens, Arwen returned to the bright spark in her mind that was Aragorn's far-distant presence. He was still waiting for something. Battle? It was rare that she saw clearly enough to know what he was doing; and he had been so weary lately that it had been harder than ever to see even the little she had. At least she knew Halbarad and her brothers had found him, as she had felt the standard raised for the first time slightly over a week before.

Arwen smiled as she saw that she was not the only one who had thought to take advantage of the weather. Bilbo had found a bench in a sheltered spot that caught the morning sun, and he was sitting pipe in hand, staring at the ground. Though the old hobbit was clearly deep in thought – a common affliction this morning, she considered somewhat wrily – he looked up at her approach and greeted her with a smile. Arwen gestured to stop him before he could get up and add a bow.

"It is early to find you out here," she said, smiling back at the hobbit.

First, Bilbo only shrugged. "I cannot keep my mind off Frodo, and the Quest," he added as Arwen sat down next to him.

"Nor can I," she replied.

"Of course, but what worries me," Bilbo went on, gesturing with his pipe, "I know why the Council decided to send only nine, why it was thought best, but things have gone wrong already, even if Gandalf did come back from Moria."

Arwen nodded. No news had come from east of the Misty Mountains beyond the Fellowship's departure from Lórien and Mithrandir's miraculous return from death. She shivered at another, quickly suppressed, thought, and Bilbo immediately turned to her. "It's not too cold for you?" he asked worriedly.

"No," she shook her head, "I just thought that we would know soon enough should the Quest fail." She hoped that, if that were to happen, her father would be able to take off his Ring in time, before his mind was laid bare to the Enemy.

The hobbit said nothing. Arwen wondered whether he knew of Vilya, and what it would mean for Rivendell if the Enemy regained the One. As far as she knew, no one had mentioned it to him; yet Bilbo was astute enough to figure things out for himself, or, as one who had borne the One Ring, he might even have felt Vilya's influence.

The sense of waiting that Arwen had felt from Aragorn all morning abruptly changed to a deep concentration that had to mean he had gone into battle. And there was something else... The standard... It had been raised again.

Suddenly, Arwen became aware of Bilbo calling her name, and realised that she had stood up to look south. Slowly, without speaking, she sat down again. She could still feel Aragorn's concentration, but put it to the back of her mind as much as possible, trying to keep her attention on talking with Bilbo. Her small friend might welcome the distraction from his fears about the Quest, and merely sitting here worrying would do her no good either.

"I should go back to the house," Bilbo said. "It's almost lunchtime, and Erestor has agreed to help me this afternoon with finding the right parchment to bind my book when I finish it."

She shook her head as Bilbo stood up. Fearful for Frodo, and concerned about the Quest as he was, he was still able to keep himself occupied with small, daily matters, but then, she was doing much the same herself. "I would have claimed Erestor's time if you had not," she replied with a quick smile. "Tell him I will wish to see him tomorrow or the day after." Counting Rivendell's stores could wait; they had prepared for any siege as well as they could, and it was only for peace of mind's – and distraction's – sake.

The hobbit was about to leave, but paused to take her hand, and somewhat awkwardly patted it as he spoke. "Arwen, I also worry about the Dúnadan, but he'll be well."

Arwen merely nodded at the reassurance. He'll be well. He has to be. Yet it was already well past noon, and still the battle raged. He will be well, she repeated as she followed the path that led to the field where the lembas grain grew.

Suddenly a wave of deepest grief hit her and she gasped and nearly stumbled at the shock of it. Standing still, leaning against a tree to recover, Arwen unclenched her hands, staring blankly at the crescents impressed in their palms by her nails. She did not know what had just happened, but it took no great leap of imagination to suspect that someone close to Aragorn had fallen or been grievously hurt. Perhaps Halbarad, or one of her brothers. She shuddered; Halbarad was beloved as brother to Aragorn, and she too counted the gruff Ranger a dear friend. Elladan and Elrohir...

It was some time before Arwen could bring herself to move again, and as she came past the turning that led to a certain copse of birch trees, she went that way rather than towards the grain field. She would sit on one of the benches there for a while first.

And the battle still went on, until at last she felt that it must have ended. When Arwen looked up, she was shocked to see the sun already low in the west. No point now in going to look at the grain, it could wait until the morrow.

She could feel grief, weariness..., but also... relief? They had won? Though Aragorn was unhurt, he was exhausted, wearier than she had ever felt him to be. And even now he did not rest. All through the evening and the night she could feel him pushing himself further, until he was so weary that she could barely feel his presence any more.

It was not until close to dawn of the next morning that Aragorn finally slept, and it was not until after she had whispered a message of comfort and peace to him that Arwen could bring herself to return to the house and find sleep herself.

...and when Aragorn was abroad, from afar she watched over him in thought.
LotR, Appendix A, the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen