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Celebrían closed her eyes, finding a center of peace in the pre-dawn grey of Imladris, the whisper of the breeze stirring the hem of her nightgown, and the gentle strokes of a brush through her silver-tinted hair.
Her moment of serenity was mere charade, for although the sun had not yet graced the sky, the air was filled with the sounds of bustle and preparation and an unmistakably elvish haste that sought nothing less than absolute perfection. But ‘twas not the racket that shattered her calm so much as the roiling of her own stomach. Fear? Anticipation? She could not tell. She sighed and opened her eyes again, allowing herself a small smile at the beauty of the valley, now lit pink by the first moments of sunrise.
"Galu, naneth-nín," she whispered as her mother placed the brush on a nearby table and began an intricate braiding. They were seated together on the balcony of the finest guest chamber of the Last Homely House. Kings of men and elves had contemplated the stunning view, but this morning it had been reserved for the lord's most precious guest, his betrothed.
The reborn morning seemed to rejoice in the beauty that had gathered, and for a time the household stilled as elves breathed the glory of the day and sang out for the joy of it. Mother and daughter sat in silence for a time, Galadriel braiding and remembering the past, Celebrían looking to the future. The ascent of anor had crowned the heavens in brilliant blue before either spoke again.
"A sapphire sky," Galadriel murmured.
*An appropriate hue for the nuptials of the wielder of Vilya,* a voice spoke in her mind. Galadriel stopped her hands for a moment and enjoyed the caressing presence of her husband's thoughts, sent to her from the opposite side of the valley.
*Indeed,* she replied. *And speaking of Elrond, are you not supposed to be helping him attend to the details of the celebration?*
*Mhmm, he is rather distracted.*
*All the more reason for you to remain focused rather than lazing here in the sunshine with me. Out, back to work!* *Bereth balch …*
*Mhmm, he is rather distracted.*
*All the more reason for you to remain focused rather than lazing here in the sunshine with me. Out, back to work!*she returned, playfully pushing him from her mind.
*Bereth balch …*
She returned to herself and smiled at her daughter, who had pulled away slightly to observe her mother's face.
"You were talking to Adar?" Celebrían asked.
"Mmm. Yes. Hold still and let me finish your hair."
"You always have the most serene look on your face when he speaks with you … will it be … will Elrond and I have that unity?" she asked, pulling away again.
Galadriel frowned. "I know not. Not all elves have the gift, or for some it only grows with time. You probably have it, but Elrond? Between the blood of Eldar, Edain, Maia, and … other forces working in his life, I cannot say."
Overcome at last by her bubbling agitation, Celebrían jumped up, moving to the edge of the veranda, her eyes sweeping across the haven that would soon be her home. For all the beauty of the mountains and the water, Galadriel knew that her daughter was looking for a fairer vision in the form of a certain elf-lord.
Shaking her head and despairing of the braids, Galadriel stood and joined her. "Ai, sell-nín," she said, her voice warm with a chuckle of understanding. "Nervous?"
Celebrían look away for a moment, her left hand idly fingering the hair near the nape of her neck, her eyes on some distant point. She brought her hand around to her mouth to hide the upward quirk of her lips, a response to some inward mischief, before ruefully looking back at her mother.
"Nervous, excited, terrified. I know not! Wishing that this day had never come, longing for it to begin, hoping above all that it will pass quickly into the first night I will spend in his arms." Celebrían looked away again, utterly unable to stop the smile that danced across her face, before turning back with a laugh. "Nana, I do not even know what to expect in regard to … the last."
Galadriel struggled to school her features to the appropriate solemnity expected of the Lady of the Galadhrim, but was not entirely successful. "’Twill be joyous, sell-nín. Beyond that, I can not say, for I suppose it is somewhat different for all lovers." The lady smiled and looked across the valley. "I fear I can be of little help to you in your concerns for this day. I am not … entirely familiar with the apprehension of wedding-night inexperience," she confided.
"Naneth!" Celebrían managed to be scandalized and amused in the same moment. "Middle-earth would be rocked to its core if it knew of that revelation."
Galadriel gestured eloquently. "What can I say? ‘Twas a different age. Frowned upon, yes, but … I usually get what I want, and I wanted your father, and could see little point in patience. Besides, he was not in much of a condition to refuse me at the time, if I recall correctly. Come, let us make you radiant this day, and Elrond will be equally conquered."
The morn was in its elder hours when Celeborn walked to the balcony to inform his daughter that all was prepared. He knew not what to expect, for he had never delivered such news, but was surprised when he was greeted by an amused glance between the women of his life. "What have you two been plotting?" he asked, pausing at the threshold. His answer was a mischievous kiss on the cheek from his only daughter.
"Tell me I look exquisite, Ada," she cried, grasping his hands and drawing him into the light with her.
"You do, celebrían-nín," he answered fervently.
"Then all is well! Come!"
As Celebrían danced out of the room in front of her parents Celeborn looked suspiciously across at his wife and brushed her mind. *What have you been telling her, Alatáriel?* he asked.
Galadriel slipped to his side and twined her arm under his. He smiled at her touch, but her innocent look did nothing to quell his suspicion, nor did her answer: *Nothing at all, melethron.*
Ada/adar Ai, sell-nín Alatáriel Anor Bereth balch – celebrían-nín Galu, naneth-nín melethron Naneth/nana
Ada/adar– father, daddy
Ai, sell-nín- Ah, daughter mine
Alatáriel- An ancient form of the name Galadriel
Anor– the sun
Bereth balch –cruel queen/spouse
celebrían-nín– my silver queen
Galu, naneth-nín- Blessings, mother mine
The lull was momentary, but all they needed. In a brief pause from the swirl of smiling, congratulatory faces of elves, men, and creatures Celebrían could not begin to name, Elrond stood and touched her shoulder, his hand lingering. She let him wait a heartbeat longer than needful, thrilling at his nearness, before demurely turning toward him.
"Come, hervess," he murmured, extending his hand to her. She gently placed her fingers in his palm and raised her face to meet his eyes as he drew her to her feet. She dropped her gaze to admire the angles of his body and lifted her chin again in a mock formality befitting the daughter of Galadriel.
"Oh, my lord?" she answered coyly, abandoning any attempt to hide the laughter in her eyes when she met the love in his. "Where?"
In answer he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. Time lingered, the sounds of celebration powerless to penetrate their unity. But some forces will invade even love; for a moment and an age Celebrían faced a flash of blue that engulfed the golden ring she had placed on his finger but an hour before. ‘Twas a jealous spark that mocked her, commanding a part of his heart she could not reach.
Then it was gone, and all the world was Elrond.
He drew her to him, then to the soft shadows at the edges of the great hall, then into the waiting night of Imladris.
Forever after the touch of his mind would return her to those first touches under the blue watchfulness of ithil.
His fingertips brushing hers, lightly, so lightly, more anticipation than sensation. His hands, guiding her, as she guided him. His lips in her most tender places, the sigh of his breath in her hair, the angle of his chest against her palm, the weight of his hips.
And at the moment of their joining his heart pounded in time with hers, his breath caught with hers. She arched against him, and held him blindly. And he was with her, and she with him, and suddenly it was more.
For she could feel him feeling her, the name on his lips the echo to the call in her mind. They shared equally in the sensation and passion of the other, and when they reached their physical end gasped as one, unable to resist the final pull into mind and memory.
She sat with him on the shore of a great sea beside his brother, long dead.
"Ai, muindor-nín," Elros cried, "how can you chose this? We have seen too much, you and I. Your eyes already hold the pain of ages unseen. You would choose torture over release? You, ever curious, would choose to remain than to see the beyond?"
Celebrían waited for her husband to answer.
"I am called here, Elros," he said slowly. "My heart tells me there is reason to remain. There will yet be joy."
Elros shook his head, his face grey with grief. "And you will live to see it all fled."
He watched her watching her mother.
Galadriel lifted her face but turned from her daughter's gaze. "It begins again. Must darkness always plague us? Are we fated to fight it until our hearts break from grief?"
They stood in silence under the heavens, looking up as Eärendil passed overhead, and neither could say whose memory it was.
"Gil-galad!" he screamed, the word torn up from the roots of his soul. He stood, stunned, his blood howling in his veins as the king fell. By instinct he deflected a blow aimed to kill and with an inarticulate cry of rage cleaved the orc in two, fighting toward Ereinion though he knew it was too late.
She swayed at the top of a mallorn tree, golden leaves in silver hair, and laughed for the joy of it.
He reverently touched the gem in his mother's palm.
"Would you like to hold it, ion-nín?" she asked.
His eyes widened. "What if I break it, naneth?"
"You shall not. This jewel breaks elves easier than elves break it. ‘Tis a silmaril, one of three," she said, tipping it into his hand.
"It is heavier than it looks," he exclaimed.
"Yes," Elwing whispered, "it is."
A friend returned, parents cried, cities burned, sunsets passed, bodies healed, exhaustion engulfed, songs sprang up, swords clashed, a refuge breathed, children laughed, men died, evil survived, trees spoke, rain fell, journeys ended, stories began.
And he loved her when first he saw her, though he said nothing of it.
With that final confession, his passion broke within her thoughts, all his dreams, his pains, his joys, pouring into her mind, nearly overwhelming her before the caress of his presence settled into a rhythm of deep song in her soul.
And as he was in her, she was with him. *Ai, melethron-nín, uin ind bain a naer. Sĭdh …* she said, pulling him closer to explore his mind, as she had done his body a few moments before.
She traced its contours, pleased to discover strength in harmony with compassion. She admired all that he was with a vision that was not sight, touching as she went, pausing from time to time in ecstasy as Elrond slipped through her own reflections.
The couple moved together, for though the forms of thought were distinct they were no longer separate. His mind was adorned in bolder strokes; if it had physical quality, she would have described it as the hidden heart of an ancient forest; darker, more silent, but with tremendous depth. Her mind was painted with finer details, a meadow in a valley of light and water, eager to nurture all living things. Speaking with him was simplicity in itself; she had only to reach out to his presence, like taking his hand in her own.
Somewhere under the stars two lovers lay entwined in slumber, dreaming together, not of past or future or hidden burdens, but fairer things. And it was then that both learned the difference between body, a gift to possess, mind, a place to be, and soul, one to love.
Ai, muindor-nín ion-nín ithil naneth
Ai, muindor-nín– Ah, my brother
ion-nín– my son
ithil– the moon
*Ai, melethron-nín, uin ind bain a naer. Sĭdh …* - Ah, my lover, of thought beautiful and sad. Peace.
Elrond threw his quill to the table and spread his hands as if to encompass all his frustrations.
"Why can we not finish this, Glorfindel?" he asked, interrupting a disturbingly routine report of orc skirmishes on the borders of Imladris. "We kill them often enough, and in countless numbers. They should be decreasing, running to their caves to lick their wounds, not plaguing us with their endless hatred. They are no longer supported by Sauron's power. So why can we not finish this?"
Elrond’s gold-maned councilor gestured in inarticulate helplessness and sat down, exchanging glances with the other advisors around the table. All wisely held their tongues as Imladris’ lord glowered, absently turning his broken quill in his hands. His darkened countenance was a jarring contrast with warm afternoon light in the study, for Elrond, surrounded by his tomes of wisdom and lore, could find no answers. Nor had his burst of irritation brought him anything more than a ruined tool. He set the quill aside with a sigh and held up his hands to placate his friend.
"Forgive me, Glorfindel. I have no excuse for inflicting my frustrations on you. It is only …" he mirrored Glorfindel's earlier gesture of helplessness before clasping his fingers in front of his face. "It is only that I am tired of death and terror. I am tired of losing warriors and innocents, tired of healing poisoned wounds. I could understand two centuries, even three, to mop up Sauron's minions. But a thousand years? And now they increase? Something is not right."
Glorfindel leaned forward intently, trying to shake his companion from his melancholy. "My Lord, we will succeed in time," he said, though doubting the truth of it. "We are protected on many sides; by you, by good warriors, by your sons…" the Elves in the room winced as Elrond’s anger descended again.
"By Varda, Glorfindel, thank you for reminding me how deeply practiced my sons are in killing yrch. It certainly is a helpful thought," he growled in his famously acerbic tone.
Glorfindel rested his chin on his hand, wrinkling the skin into his own emerging scowl. He said nothing, merely pinning his friend with a piercing gaze. Elrond returned it for one exasperated moment and then threw his head back with a groan, resting it on the high back of his chair as he closed his eyes. Glorfindel waited, expecting well the reward for his patience: when the lord opened his eyes the storm had cleared from their gray depths. He knew it was Celebrían's doing. Imladris’ lady could always dull the edges of Elrond's anger and tease away his frustration. Glorfindel was grateful for it – in ages past Elrond's more infamous moods had lasted for years.
"You were, I believe, interrupted while speaking to us of orc raids?" Elrond asked mildly, rubbing his right forefinger with his thumb. "Pray continue."
Glorfindel nodded once and stood. "Yes, my lord, as I was saying…"
That morning she had begging him to spend the day with her.
They had been lazy, a twisted sheet pulling their bodies near as he idly traced invisible patterns on her bare shoulder, his eyes half lidded and his breathing just shy of sleep.
"Elrond?" she asked. Nothing.
*Êl-nín … echui, meleth-nín?*
*Êl-nín … echui, meleth-nín?*
She smiled to herself and slid up his body until she lay atop him, their eyes even. He had finally opened his; they reflected a lazy contentment as he looked into hers. She leaned in and kissed him, lightly but by no means perfunctorily, her hair brushing his face. She felt his lips curve into a slow smile under her own and broke away with a musical laugh.
"You laugh at my kiss, lady?" he asked, feigning hurt.
"Aye, my lord."
"Fair enough," he answered, pulling her near again. She stopped him with a finger on his lips.
"Elrond…" she started with more seriousness than a moment before. She traced the puzzled features of his face with the back of her hand and looked away slightly.
"Spend the day with me," she continued, returning her gaze to his own. He lifted his eyebrows. "No! Not like that!" she laughed, giving him a mock shove. "Although the idea has merit … no, truly, spend it with me in the gardens. Life is returning there, the trees are awakening … they have been asking for you … be with me and enjoy the spring."
He sighed and lifted his hand to tuck a lock of escaped hair behind her ear.
"Would that I could," he answered. "But no fewer than four messengers descended on Imladris last evening, begging audience at the soonest moment. The Havens, Gondor, Greenwood, even the dwarves at Hadhodrond. I know not what news they bring or what favor they seek, but it will undoubtedly take time to sort out such an inauspicious convergence of races. Glorfindel has also arrived; he brought two of our archers with him, both gravely wounded, so I must see to their care. No, hervess, I fear this is our only time together today."
"I know," she sighed, folding herself into his embrace. "But I had still hoped. You spend much of your life as Imladris, and little as Elrond." He did not answer. "Did Glorfindel have any word about the boys?"
"No," Elrond said. "I assume they are well. Glorfindel would have come to me instantly if it were not so."
"’Tis strange to think of them as lords and warriors," Celebrían said. "I remember my terror when first they began stabbing each other with sticks, and now they spend their days slaying orc. I wish it were not so; some days I dream that we wander the woods in peace, bearing neither trouble nor care."
*Ol bain,*he answered.
She kissed Elrond again and rose from their bed. "Come, ellon hethu. ‘Tis morn, and there is no time for dreaming."
Though neither wished it, they spent the day apart, he in counsel and she in the gardens. It was often so, but they were comforted, for neither had been truly alone in nine hundred years. Both knew that intimacy was as near the whispered brush of thought.
So it was that Celebrían felt his frustration intensifying throughout the afternoon. She knew his anger was born of grief and failure, for one of the wounded archers had died before noon. The lord of the house had been powerless to stop a new and vicious orc poison, and though Elrond would understand its properties soon enough, that was little comfort for one who spent his life raging against death and evil. But beyond a single tragic source, Celebrían was aware that Elrond's unease had been building for years, though neither could find the cause.
Despite the sadness of the morning, the warm ground rejoiced in new life. The people flowed around their lady, humming strength to the blossoms they planted, while at the edge of elven hearing the oldest trees lifted their voices to the blue heavens in slow songs of welcome. The winter had been bitter, and with no desire to spend the first splendid day of spring embroiled in the woes of Middle-earth Celebrían closed her mind to all but her husband’s emotions. She worked well though the day until the hot surge of Elrond’s temper crackled through her mind. Concerned, she paused with a flower held midair to slip beyond the borders of his mind to the familiar paths of his soul.
*Hervenn, sîdh. Winter may well be confused and try to return when it sees your dark clouds. Do you feel this? This is the song of spring and trees, the gift of this day. Take it, be comforted, and apologize to Glorfindel.*
*You heard my outburst, did you?* *There is nothing to forgive
*Hervenn, sîdh. Winter may well be confused and try to return when it sees your dark clouds. Do you feel this? This is the song of spring and trees, the gift of this day. Take it, be comforted, and apologize to Glorfindel.*
*You heard my outburst, did you?*Elrond was amused, but Celebrían could feel the growing knell of concernin his heart. *As you will, bereth-nín. I did not intend to disturb you with my dark musings, though it seems of late that I can only escape them through your touch. Díhena-nin, Celebrían i-Golwen.*
*There is nothing to forgive, melethron-nín. Be at peace, and I am content.*
She withdrew to the threshold of his mind but lingered, unnoticed, to be certain he had regained his equilibrium. As she moved to return to herself the echo of Elrond's thoughts abruptly shifted strangely behind her, pulling her back. Though she had never witnessed such a thing, he reached within himself and out to the wind with practiced ease, summoning a deep blue note that coalesced into a palpable presence, a sapphire aura that enlightened the landscape of his mind while obscuring his subtle beauty. It was followed by a thousand voices and the mournful keen of the sea, a shroud of omnipresent and inescapable authority she thought she should know, but could not place.
*Heria ha ad*
*Heria ha ad*Elrond whispered, stepping into a sudden abyss.
Without thought, Celebrían followed.
She stood with him above Middle-earth; he did not notice her, but she was not surprised. She could barely feel him, for the borders of his personality were almost fully breached by the force that carried them both. For a moment he collected himself, and she was dazed by a burst of his agony – the seduction of a limitless but enslaved power. She moved outward with him to the borders of Rivendell, pausing to note the traces of orc. They passed over a troop of elves who glanced upward in surprise, each blessed for a moment with a dizzying vision of himself as he truly was. Celebrían could feel the presence of each elf in Arda, every note of life sounding on the air that carried her.
And with blinding clarity, she knew. Vilya.
O Elbereth!she prayed, mourning the burden he carried.
The ring and the elf-lord sought desperately for an answer to an unknown question, for a name to give to an unspoken fear. But because of the years in which Elrond's disquiet had slowly increased, the shadow of corruption obscured the presence of evil. Elrond passed untouched over the edges of the growing dark but could not distinguish it from the darkness he had seen his dreams. Neither did darkness perceive him, for he was cloaked in the power of his people. But Celebrían was unprotected and undisguised, a pure beacon, and evil was curious.
Where the unfamiliar azure light of Elrond's presence had been disquieting, the blackness that pulled her away was horror incarnate, a gloom that focused on her in one single, slashing gaze. She was tied, powerless to shrink from the shadowy teeth bared in a twisted mockery of smile. A cruel cackle spewed decayed breath on the tender boundaries of her mind, and she realized for the first time the weakness of her psychic defenses.
//HOw/How/how did/ an eLf/// you/?/Here./HERE/// The foul voice tore through her mind with the cry of ten thousand dead, demanding to know what she knew and swearing to shred her mind to get what it desired. Celebrían panicked. It was not the panic of the body, with its mechanisms to run and fight, but the pure emotional terror of losing self.
//Ring/ a/ ?/ RING/ power/elF/hate///WhERE///die// ash nazg thrakatuluuk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul// I will take IT and you I will/yOu/ WILL take// I see/TakE/ ash nazg//!!AshNAZG///
It snarled and spit in her mind, howling its eternal rage against beauty and joy. It charged, the first feint in an attack that would disembowel her memories. With a cry of despair Celebrían sought the road to Mandos, but was so shackled that even death was outside her grasp. The universe constricted to doom.
She did not sense his coming and could not say how he breached her prison, but before the darkness could violate her mind Elrond hurled it back. He poured all his strength into her, pulling her from the precipice of despair, and filled his own resulting weakness with the strength of all the elves. Against the cowering ooze of the dark, he was great and terrible, radiating the majesty of his unclaimed elven throne, the courage of men, and the godliness of the Maia, who stood second only to the Valar themselves under Ilúvatar.
With a snarl of rage enemy gnashed toward him, madly lusting for the power of the elven ring and the life of its bearer. Elrond heaved the creature back and then retreated, clasping Celebrían and pulling her with him. His devotion snapped the bonds that had held her, and he embraced her, sheltering her in a tranquil place in his mind she had not seen. He had always poured out his love to her, but this was its source. Fear and horror had no power to blaspheme them there, and the frightening strength of the ring he carried merely stood guard outside.
*Galu, meleth-nín!* she cried, and stood to face evil with him. For all his glory, she could feel Elrond weakening quickly as the darkness crackled on his defenses. One lesser ring could not stand alone against the might of Sauron reborn, for his life was still tied to the master ring, though he possessed it not.
They could not escape.
al-sír bereth-nín ellon hethu Êl-nín … echui, meleth-nín? Eru – Díhena-nin, Celebrían i-Golwen Galu, meleth-nín Hadhodrond Heria ha ad Hervenn, sîdh Hervess melethron-nín O Elbereth – Ol bain Yrch
al-sír– not today.
bereth-nín– my queen/spouse
ellon hethu– foggy elf
Êl-nín … echui, meleth-nín?– My Star … awakening, my love?
Eru –Ilúvatar, the Father of All
Díhena-nin, Celebrían i-Golwen– forgive me, Celebrían the Wise.
Galu, meleth-nín– blessings, my love
Hadhodrond– Khazad-dûm, Moria
Heria ha ad– it begins again
Hervenn, sîdh– husband, peace
melethron-nín– my lover
O Elbereth –prayer to the Queen of the Stars
Ol bain– beautiful dream
//ash nazg thrakatuluuk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul// one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them (Dark Speech)
Historical Note: This chapter is set some 1,000 years after the Last Alliance when the first shadow falls on Greenwood. Some 1,000 to 1,400 years later, the Wise confirm their long-held fear that the shadow is Sauron.
Celeborn could think of no other answer – he was disturbed.
It was an uneasy admission to make, even in the confines of his private thoughts. The spring morning had been beautiful, the afternoon sublime, yet the lord distrusted it. Celeborn the Wise could not see the future; he did not suffer that cursed gift. But he had walked Middle-earth before the coming of the sun – he sensed prophecy in a wind’s shift, a strand of pollen in the breeze, the smallest movement of the earth beneath his feet, the coo of a concerned creature. Middle-earth told him this day hid some treachery, its warnings anciently familiar and frustratingly opaque.
He had stood at the edge of the world at the first moonrise and the first dawn, awed at the beauty that had burned away his star-lit world. He had closed his eyes from the pain of the light and had opened them again on a life infinitely more complex, the trees, the sky, the water, his very body painted in hues he could not name. Despite the unspeakable splendor, his heart had quailed. The wind that brushed through the new light brought him echoes of grief threaded through the morn. He had looked into the now-unfamiliar features of his king.
"There is death in this gift, my lord," he had said, and wept. Even these thousands of years later, he could still hear the destruction of the Trees in the light, and found pure peace only on the moonless nights when the rays of the untouched stars caressed his face.
But the stars had also been bright on nights when he had carried dying elflings in his arms, the night deeper for the darkness that followed destruction. In those nights the pain did not come from the heavens, but beneath his feet as the earth groaned from pools of elven blood seeping slowly to its heart. Doriath, Sirion, Eregion, all lost to evil. Three times the land had begged him to stop its grief, and three times his sword and bow, his armies, had been helpless to stop the earth’s pain, and his peoples’, and his own. Three times he had cried to the Valar to spare them, and three times he had been ignored. Three times he collected the tattered remains of families, the scorched treasures and beauties of civilizations, the despair of his people, and moved them to unsullied lands to build again. Once he had been the young lord of an old family. Now he was among the oldest of all beings in Middle-earth, for times countless he had turned away from his fallen kin, leaving them to the unwilling earth and the silence of their tombs.
The same silence had stilled the air the first time Celeborn met Sauron. The corrupt Maia had clothed himself as Annatar, and though his face had been as beautiful as his gifts, the fair creatures of the earth cowered at his coming and stopped their songs. The birds knew the truth, and so Celeborn knew.
*Galadriel,* he had whispered in mind, unable to speak.
She had turned to him with stricken eyes. *I know.* But few heeded their warnings until it was too late, and the birds did not sing again for many years.
Celeborn had greeted this day as he moved silently through the boughs of the trees, testing the borders of the kingdom and the happiness of the people from high above the realm, unseen by all but surprised aviators. Pleased with the state of Lorien, he paused to rest and think, and without heed to his actions brushed his fingers against the bark of the mallorn tree where he perched. He nearly fell from the tree to his death, blindsided by the emotion thrumming through the ancient creature. He jerked his hand away, but not before the tree told him of an ache where its deep roots were disturbed by a low wave of evil that rumbled to Lorien from a distant land. Distant, but not far enough for the liking of the tree – or the lord.
A tree was a good place to survey a kingdom, but not a concerned world, and Celeborn had no desire to be thrown from the boughs if the tree became agitated again. He extended his senses and his concentration to the wind as he jumped from branch to earth, startling an elf who had not expected to see his lord materialize on the path.
"My lord, you nearly frightened me to Mandos!" the elf cried.
Celeborn waved to the elf in apology and dismissal before he crouched to the ground, one hand on the earth and the other on the tree. As still as stone, he breathed the air and felt the sting of it; he followed it to the depths of the caves where foul creatures breathed the same air. The voices on the wind brought him fell tidings and the staccato of scuttled preparations, as if the creatures anticipated a storm out of season. Though he would not have credited the concern an hour earlier, the tree flinched from an icy touch that Celeborn could not identify, despite a shiver of uneasy recollection. The world was disturbed.
And so was Celeborn.
With painful effort he returned to himself and sought his wife’s mind as he stood.
*Artanis Finarfiniel?* he quested, and was not comforted when he found her by her mirror, a place she had avoided since she had sought for the location of the lost ring centuries before.
*Celeborn o Garthurian* she answered wearily. *Are you feeling what I am seeing?*
*The trees are displeased, but cannot say why,* he said.
She sighed in his mind. *I dread the future when my foresight is confirmed by your skill, meleth-nín. I nearly had myself convinced that I was merely out of practice and seeing shadows where there were none.*
*I fear not. Is the mirror …*
*… more clear than the trees? *Nay. Nothing quite so unhelpful as an indecipherable warning.*
*I fear not. Is the mirror …*
*… more clear than the trees?Is it ever?*
*Nay. Nothing quite so unhelpful as an indecipherable warning.*
Indecipherable thought is was, it was all the warning they would get before an unexpected stab of blue crackled down a brilliant white line to Galadriel and then up the link from the ring bearer to her lover, sending both to their knees in shock. On opposite sides of Lorien nearby elves ran to a dazed leader.
"My lord?" asked one.
"My lady, are you well?" asked another.
*Vilya …* someone said.
Elrond was weakening, and quickly. The darkness that assailed his mind was unexpectedly sharp, and even as he struggled again it he was stunned that it had gained such strength without clearly alerting the three elven rings to the peril.
Too late, too late to contain this
Too late, too late to contain this, Elrond thought, searching desperately through every word, teaching, or rumor he had ever encountered that might help him repel the rabid force that tore at his defenses, praying that a path of retreat might open long enough that he might at least make room for Celebrían to extract herself from this hell between body and mind where both now resided.
*I will not leave here without you, meleth-nín,* she said, as calmly as if she were inviting him on an evening stroll.
*The point may well be moot in another moment or two,* he replied, groaning as the spinning froth of rage that was becoming Sauron breached the first wall to his mind. He had long since retreated to the core of himself, but the intrusion was still painful.
Then, blessedly, unexpectedly, two pulses of power surged behind Elrond’s blue-tinged thoughts, and, like the old warrior he was, he instantly pressed his rekindled strength into one focused blow into their adversary. The darkness stumbled backward with a pained howl. It was enough! Elrond paused only long enough to fold his wife’s presence in his own and hurled them both backward into a suddenly open void, nearly out of the darkness – but snarling inarticulately at the loss of its lost prey, evil desperately lunged forward and caught Celebrían at the tip of one outstretch claw. She stared into its wild eyes as it hissed into her heart:
//I see YOU.//! eldar. I will not /!/forget …YOU//See you//I///
With a cry of righteous fury Elrond kicked it back into the abyss, pulling her free. They were … nowhere. It seemed they had left the world of dark for a world of light, but it was all-encompassing, without feature or door. If Celebrían had been in body, she would have simply closed her eyes and tried to calm her racing heart. As it was, she stayed as near to Elrond as she could. There was nothing to see and nothing to hear, but he was the blue presence.
The pure white presence questioned him sharply, and then softened its tone at his exhausted reply.
Mother?Celebrían thought, and some of the more incoherent threads of her childhood pulled into place. If my father is Narya, I shall simply despair of my ability to see anything clearly.
But the red presence was not her father; it spoke in an unfamiliar voice, uttering wearily that at least their growing fear had a name. Celebrían did not want to know its name, though she already heard it in Elrond’s thoughts. So she simply rested, ignored for the moment as the three most powerful forces for good in Middle-earth debated whether they had the power to contain evil.
They do not,
They do not,Celebrían knew, and wondered if happiness was ended.
*Sell-nín?* asked a gentle voice, a soothing caress on her troubled soul.
*Adar?* she asked, and it was Celeborn. With tremendous mental skill and unnoticed by the three, he had maneuvered a thread of his thoughts from Middle-earth through his wife, across Nenya to Vilya, down Vilya to Elrond, and from Elrond to his only daughter. With a thought that felt for all the world like a gentle kiss on her brow, he calmed her reeling mind.
*Be at peace, gwilwileth. Come speak with me in Lothlórien before you react to this …*
*Be at peace, gwilwileth. Come speak with me in Lothlórien before you react to this …*and then he was gone.
Celebrían gasped as her returned to herself, choking on an uneven breath. She coughed and felt dirt pressed beneath her cheek, arms around her body, hands holding her down, voices asking urgently if she was breathing and was she all right, and what had happened?
She struggled to sit up and opened her eyes into a world filled with Glorfindel’s concerned face. He helped her to sit and was obviously speaking to her, but she found she could not remember the language. She scrubbed at her face with a trembling hand and shook her head.
"What?" she asked.
"Are you well, my lady?" he asked again.
She pressed her hand to her heaving breast and looked around. She was in the garden at Imladris, surrounded by what seemed to be every resident of the refuge. Glorfindel was kneeling in the dirt at her side, and someone had de-tangled Elrond’s limbs from her own. The lord was still stretched out on the ground, pale but breathing, his right hand drawn into a fist so tightly that his fingernails drew blood from his palm. She could see, though she knew that others could not, that the fist prevented a blue ring from sliding off of his forefinger. She was both entranced and nauseated by this first glimpse of the burden her love carried.
"Yes, Glorfindel, I’m fine," she said weakly.
He signaled to someone outside her sight and pressed a glass of wine to her lips.
"What happened, my lady?" he asked, gesturing at Elrond. "We were in our meeting when Elrond levitated from his chair and cried your name; he would have jumped over the balcony to get to you if I had not directed him down the stairs instead. He grabbed you, and you were both just …" he grabbed at empty air. "Just gone."
Celebrían shivered and shook her head. "I think that is a question better put to your lord, mellon-nín, if he will answer you," she said.
As if called by his wife’s voice, Elrond stirred and groaned. The elves at his side who had been listening to the exchange between Glorfindel and Celebrían leapt into action, helping him to sit up and offering him something to drink. He allowed their assistance and then shook them off before putting his elbows on his knees and dropping his head into his hands. He pressed his palms into his eyes and collected himself for a moment before looking up.
Ignoring the elves around him, he focused instead on his wife's eyes.
"I’m sorry," he whispered, his words raw in his throat. She just stared at him and said nothing. She kept her mind closed to her husband and her face smooth and blank as she looked up at Glorfindel.
"Help me up, please," she said, her voice full of as much dignity as her heritage could lend her, extending one hand. The elf lord reached down and was surprised at her firm grip as he helped her stand. She ignored his proffered help and moved away from the group, her ladies scrambling to catch up. "I believe I shall retire for the day."
Glorfindel stared at her in openmouthed wonder, and then down at Elrond, who sat with his head bowed and his eyes closed
"Elrond?" Glorfindel asked. The Lord of Rivendell merely shook his head and clasped his hands in front of his face, the left clutching the fingers of the right.
Artanis Finarfiniel Celeborn o Garthurian meleth-nín mellon-nín –
Artanis Finarfiniel– Artanis was Galadriel’s name before Celeborn renamed her. Finarfin is her father, and Finarfiniel means "daughter of Finarfin"
Celeborn o Garthurian– Celeborn was originally from, we think, the realm of Doriath. Garthurian is a name of that realm in the Sindarin-related dialect of that land.
meleth-nín– my love
mellon-nín –my friend
"Arwen, could you please fetch my cloak?" the elder lady of Imladris asked as passed through the room.
Arwen turned her head and watched her mother go, grace incarnate as ever, but woven this morning with the strength of mithril and the elegance of an arrow at the pause before flight. It was a tension Arwen could not explain; she had spent the previous day on a spring excursion and had returned home to a thick, foreign fear. Her mother was packing, her father was simply absent, and no one would tell her what had happened.
Even Glorfindel, whom she could usually charm into spilling the haven’s secrets and gossip, had been unwilling to answer her questions. When she confronted him with the news that her mother appeared to be leaving, he had stared at her for a heartbeat before turning swiftly away, muttering curses at her father in three elven dialects -- and she was sure she heard at least one mannish oath as he stomped up the staircase toward her father’s study.
Still in search of answers, Arwen had sought her mother and was promptly recruited into the hasty packing project.
"Naneth…" Arwen began, questing into the air in search of the words that would unlock this unpleasantness. They would not come, and she grimaced to herself before standing from where she had been seated on the foot of her parent’s bed to find the cloak.
Celebrían glided back into the room, her arms full of parcels. "You have the same note in your voice that El…your adar uses when he knows exactly what he wants to ask but is not certain he wishes to hear the answer."
Arwen turned with a sigh and folded her mother’s soft grey mantle, uncertain of how best to start. "Where are you going?" she asked, settling on what seemed to be the most benign of the questions crowding her mind.
"Lothlórien," her mother answered mildly.
Arwen looked briefly to the floor, then left to a painting on the wall, then to her mother’s face. "Why?"
"I have need to speak to your grandfather."
"What counsel do you seek?"
Arwen knew well what her mother was doing; it was a contest of telling truth that hid more than was revealed. It was a skill all those who knew Elrond had learned, and one that Arwen enjoyed – when it was done in the context of teasing her father with her own coy replies. But Celebrían was not jesting, and against the full power of Rivendell stonewalling the line of questioning was an excruciating exercise in interrogation for which the young elf had neither the patience nor skill to win.
She tried another angle. "Where is ada?"
Celebrían looked to heaven and threw her hands in the air. "Sell-nín, I truly cannot say," she answered in irritation and grief before turning to her packing again.
The horse was surprised that they were going, but was not unwilling to carry the burdens of one she loved well, and so stood patiently as Celebrían arranged her baggage on the animal.
"Not too much, I hope, Rochmilui?" Celebrían asked, wishing in her deepest heart that her equestrian friend might give her an excuse to stay. But although Rochmilui knew how to gallop like the wind and find the smoothest path, she knew little of the heartaches of the elves, and so merely looked meekly at her mistress before tossing her mane with a horsy sigh.
"No, I didn’t think so," Celebrían said wistfully as she absently patted the taller creature. "Am I ready?"
Rochmilui did not know, but Glorfindel did.
"By Elbereth, Celebrían, you are not leaving!" the golden elf exclaimed as he burst into the stable.
Celebrían raised a single delicate eyebrow. "Oh?" she asked.
Glorfindel stopped, halted by the menace in one otherwise benign syllable. He reconsidered his words and settled on a compromise. "You are not leaving … like this."
"Without an escort, to begin with."
"Glorfindel," she started with an exasperated sigh.
"No!" he said, cutting her off abruptly. "I have no idea what happened yesterday, but it nearly frightened me back to Mandos. I cannot, I will not allow you to leave here without at least ten warriors." Celebrían tilted her head at the big Vanya, and though annoyed at his tendency to mother-hen her, was nevertheless touched at his concern. And he was probably right.
"I will take three," she answered.
"They will be ready within the hour," Glorfindel answered. "Which gives you enough time to inform Elrond of … whatever it is that you are doing."
Celebrían laughed shortly and without humor. "Indeed, Glorfindel? And is he in any condition to hear me?"
Glorfindel merely stared at her before dropping his eyes and scrubbing his face with both hands. "No," he answered. before he looked back up at Celebrían, and his eyes pleaded with her. "Elbereth help him, I have not seen him like this since near the end of the Last Alliance."
Celebrían was taken aback. "You have seen this before?"
"Aye," he answered, and passed his hands in front of his eyes as if to clear a vision from them. "Gil-galad used to ask him to walk those dark paths, in search of … anything … that could assist us. Those were terrible days; we could see no way to victory, and merely tried to stave off defeat for another night." Glorfindel’s voice dropped ever lower, and he seemed to be whispering to himself. "Elrond hated it. He would always return to himself with black melancholy on his heart, and nothing could break it. It frightens me beyond words that we are back to this again, so soon."
Glorfindel held Celebrían with the intensity of his gaze.
"Please, lady, do not make me be the one to tell him you have left," he begged. "I do not know which ring it is, but is it not burden enough without the love of his life slipping away without a word?"
" ‘Which ring?’" Celebrían breathed, repeating back the most critical words. "You knew?"
Glorfindel bowed his head again. "Yes. I have known since Gil-galad gave it to him. It changed him so abruptly that I could not help but know."
"And yet I did not," she answered icily.
"A gift, Celebrían, ‘twas a gift. A time of innocence, a time to love without burdens. You must decide, my lady, if your love is what you thought it was; if you can still love knowing that his duties must be higher than his love for you. But remember this: if his duties are higher, his love must be deeper. You must decide if yours is deep enough to meet it." He turned away. "Your escort will be here in an hour."
Elrond’s study was strangely darkened, the shades pulled awkwardly against the sun; usually he wished as much light as possible to illuminate his books and scrolls. Celebrían paused at the threshold, uncertain for the first time in her marriage whether she dared disturb him. She gathered courage and walked softly in.
He was seated in his chair, his head bowed so that his chin rested on his fist, his eyes closed. He was there and not there, radiating both intense focus and deep absence, the ring on his finger glowing with the same blue that had filled his soul the day before.
She stared at him and saw not the man who was her husband, her lover, the father of her children, but a great and terrible lord. For the first time she saw the echoes in his face of his true kingliness, not in the majestic benevolence that she had sometimes glimpsed, but in the hard lines wrought by the weight of the thrones of two kingdoms, never claimed but always carried. She recognized in his countenance Gil-galad at his most thunderous and, from memories born of her father’s stories, traces of Thingol in anger. She had never noticed until now how the wrath of Maiar godliness radiated out from features coarsened slightly by the blood of men.
He was a ring bearer, holder of the most powerful force in Middle-earth save only the lost ring of Sauron, and she wondered how closely connected the two were. Did the rings call to each other, she pondered, did a part of him long for the darkness? He was certainly seeking shadow on this bright day -- did he ever wish to claim the tool of ultimate domination for himself?
She wondered how she had missed for all those years what was now so clear. How many times had she threaded her fingers in his without feeling the ring? How often had he caressed her, how often had his hands traced the curve of her breasts, how often had he pulled her hips into his, and she had never once noticed that cold band between his flesh and her own?
And why had he never mentioned it?
She gave him all her mind while held his secret. He freely walked the halls of her soul, yet she had never perceived that sapphire aura that bent the path of thought as he passed. How had she not heard the howling winds of the earth and the knell of the depths of the sea? Ai, the sea! It called to him, and he ignored it in his power. But it surged through him still and she, connected forever to his soul, was powerless to stop the pull of the current that twisted her thoughts in winds to the west.
Overwhelmed she turned to go, her errand abandoned, when his voice stopped her.
"You are leaving, then?" he asked tiredly, pushing himself to his feet before he had truly returned to himself
She paused, her back toward him, and almost against her will turned again to face him. His eyes clear, and she was drawn to their grey depths – for within them he was not the Lord, nor Imladris, nor Vilya, but simply Elrond. Had it not been so, she would have fled.
"Yes, hervenn, I will leave for Lothlórien in the hour."
"I see," he said, resigned. "And shall you return?"
"I have need of my father’s counsel, and afterward … perhaps, Elrond Hîr."
He closed his eyes again and rubbed his brow; her use of his title had not held any of the lighthearted, seductive teasing he was accustomed to, but rather the same awe and fear he received from strangers.
" ‘Lord Elrond,’ Celebrían, is that what I have become to you? I am no different today than I was on the day you married me," he said sadly, not daring to move lest he frighten her away.
She lifted her chin. "I know; that is part of the problem."
"I do not … nine-hundred years we have dwelt together, hervess, and never have you closed your mind to me. Never, until now."
"You could force the issue, if you wished," she said with false calm, knowing she was baiting him, uncertain why, fearing his response.
He exhaled as if struck and stepped near. He gently lifted his hand to her face but did not touch her, tracing the curves of it without contact. "I would not ever…" he whispered hoarsely. "What do you think I am, meleth-nín?" His nearness made her ache with the longing she usually indulged; she closed her eyes, desiring the caress of his hands and of his mind as she always had. They stood in silence and she warred with herself before breaking toward the door with a groan.
He returned to his chair and bowed his head more deeply so he could not see her go, and but raised his eyes to follow her nonetheless. With heavy heart, she passed over the threshold and gifted him with a single thought:
* Alcaro fara annan i dúath, melethron-nín.*
Alcaro fara annan i dúath, melethron-nín Elrond-Hîr meleth-nín hervenn hervess Rochmilui
Alcaro fara annan i dúath, melethron-nín– Do not long hunt the darkness, lover mine
Elrond-Hîr– Elrond Lord
meleth-nín– my love
Rochmilui– Friendly horse.
Celebrían thought it strange that returning to Lorien always felt like coming home. It should not have been so; she had been born in Lindon, lived much of her childhood in Eregion, and had only become acquainted with the Golden Wood when she dwelt there with her mother during the earlier war with Sauron. Imladris had been her abode for longer than them all; Elrond was more stable than her prominent but frequently nomadic parents, who themselves were only visiting Lothlórien at Amroth's indulgence.
Yet Lothlórien was her refuge. She felt it from the first moment she crossed into the trees, and she always had. There was something in the air of that fair land – perhaps it was the scent of a slightly spicy snap from the lordly mallorn trees, perhaps it was the knowledge that she was encircled by her brother's watchful protection, perhaps it was her mother’s subtle influence.
Perhaps it was Nenya.
No, Celebrían decided, it can not be that.
But she knew it was.
The trip had been blessedly uneventful, though her inner turmoil made true peace an impossible fantasy. And if the burden of care seemed less heavy among the mallorn, the hushed woods could not make the weight less real. Still, ‘twas good to be back.
Though she was nearly surrounded by Glorfindel’s guards, ever watchful even in the borders of the Golden Wood, there was room for Celebrían to stretch out her hands and brush the trees as she passed, as her father had taught her in their earliest excursions together through Middle-earth.
"Let them know you are there, sell-nín, ask their blessing before you go like thunder into a deep forest," Celeborn had often said. "Many trees are not fond of being disturbed, but most are less fond of being disregarded. And those at the edge of a grove are more curious, more open minded, more friendly than many of their older and deeper brethren; ask their leave as you pass, and your paths shall be clearer."
*Suilad, orn beleg,* she said softly to each, never expecting an answer but always pleased when one would politely reply:
—suilad o Laurelindórenan Celebelanor, sell uin Celebrannon, gell uin Galadrîn
—suilad o Laurelindórenan Celebelanor, sell uin Celebrannon, gell uin Galadrîn.—
Their name for her made her smile and remember falling asleep to the cadence of debates between her father and Fangorn. The tree-herder had called her the "Hasty Silver Flower" but had himself always been almost painfully eager to show her a delicate bird’s nest or the morning dew on a spider’s web. Celeborn had teased him incessantly about his love of such fleeting things, leaving Treebeard harummphing about "shortsighted-ignorant-overlooking-elf-lords who think children are forever, and hoom, just wait until some lordling catches her eye, the then we’ll talk about hasty."
Celebrían chuckled at the memory from her very early childhood, earning a strange look from the nearest guard, a young man coiled tight from the responsibility laid upon his shoulders as well as the creeping apprehension that they were being watched. Thus distracted, the nervous warrior nearly tumbled from his horse when a staccato command burst from above him.
She threw the boy an encouraging look before glancing upward with a small smile tugging at her lips.
"Tolo dad, and we will talk, Haldir," she cried back with a musical laugh.
"Lady Celebrían?" a surprised voice asked, just before its owner jumped deftly from branch to ground. "Forgive me – we were not expecting guests, much less ... are you … that is, does the king expect your arrival?"
She looked again to the forest ceiling and the shimmering dance of leaves in the wind. Her father was well concealed, but visible to anyone who knew how to look – discerning silver shadows, her mother called it – then she blinked, and he was gone. "My father knows that I am here, mellon-nín. And my mother as well, I would think. Amroth will know soon enough."
"And do others follow? Is Lord Elrond with you?" he asked.
"No," she answered smoothly.
"Ah … I see." Haldir cleared his throat and narrowed his eyes, certainly seeing more than he would say. "You have come to us in strange times, m’lady. Without apparent reason, Lord Celeborn implores King Amroth to increase the border guard four-fold, the Lady quests again for answers to unnamed questions, and the jewel of Imladris rides unannounced into Lothlórien with an armed guard. Peculiar, would you not say?"
"Odd coincidences," Celebrían answered, and imperceptibly urged her horse forward on the path to Caras Galadhon, leaving the border guard behind.
"Indeed," he answered to himself, and swung back into the tree with resolve to redouble his vigilance.
The evening sun streamed through the leaves of the trees, weaving a pattern of light and silver on Celebrían’s hair as she faced the west, a resplendent silhouette against the evening sky. Celeborn stood at the threshold of the flet in reverence of her beauty and in mourning for a faded age when he could delight her by sweeping her to his shoulders for a better view of Ennor. Though she faced the sunset, he knew she did not see it; she looked west because the west called – not to her, but to a heart near to her own, which was somehow worse. Celeborn knew the feeling well, for it had darkened his life for half an age.
"Mae aduial, adar," Celebrían said, turning toward him as she sensed his presence.
He shook himself from his reverie and summoned a smile as he stepped forward to embrace her. "Welcome, my daughter," he said, and then moved to arm’s length to study her face. She gazed back and could not stop the mildly amused expression she had inherited from her mother from flitting over her features.
"What do you see, father?" she asked, teasing him for his intensity.
He shook his head in longsuffering before meeting her eyes again. "Enough," he answered simply. "Sit here with me," he said, gesturing to a couch near the balcony. For a time they did not speak, but watched together as the evening melted into a canopy of stars. "No moon," he said at last and with a sigh. "A mercy, at least; I do not think I could abide its sorrow tonight." He sighed again and reached for is daughter’s hand, tucking it under his arm as she leaned into his shoulder.
"Tell me, my father, how do you bear it?" she asked at length. She could have been speaking of the moon, or of long years flown on the wind, or of battles lost, or of grown children, but she was not. No, she was speaking of a more circular problem that could be neither misunderstood nor ignored, even on a peaceful moonless night.
He grimaced and tilted his head up to the stars before turning to her again with a tale in his eyes.
"I knew of the rings," he began. "I knew of them all, from the great rings to the lesser. How could I not? I was the lord of Eregion, and the elven smiths did their work under my protection, if not my blessing. While the Seven and the Nine made me merely uncomfortable, the Three filled my heart with deep foreboding. Had we not already suffered greatly for trinkets that purported to ensnare similar virtue? Celebrimbor tried to explain his reasoning to me many, many times: how they would ‘protect and preserve the works of the Eldar, shielding all things good and beautiful from the ravages of time and change.’" Celeborn paused and smiled without humor.
"Such Noldo explanations did nothing to ease my mind. ‘Tis our curse and our blessing to stand unchanged while the world shifts around our feet, as leaving the world is the curse and the blessing of men; to deny the gifts of Eru is to deny ourselves the melody meant to guide our lives. Truly, daughter, I feared to live in the world of rigid stagnation they desired." Celeborn shook his head in frustration. "But the choices of others were not left to me, and the rings were made. And then we were betrayed, as I had feared and as Galadriel had seen.
"By that time, you were already here in Lorien with your mother and brother, and I was hopeful that you both would be spared the touch of the rings. Alas for that hope, which I did not see was ended until the very moment when ‘twas too late!"
He stopped speaking, and Celebrían wondered if he had the strength to continue, for there were tears in his eyes. But she said nothing, and for a time there was no sound save the lazy dance of the wind in the leaves and the muted rustle of unseen creatures. He stood and faced away, his head bowed. When he began again, his voice was softer than the night.
"When she placed the ring on her finger, I knew. Ai, I knew!"
*Galadriel, melethril-nín, bereth-nín, gell o ind nín, vi i eneth aer o Eru, take it off!*
*Galadriel, melethril-nín, bereth-nín, gell o ind nín, vi i eneth aer o Eru, take it off!*
"I begged her, Celebrían, I begged her to destroy it," he said, slowly facing her again. "While the Three are not evil – they have never been touched by it – so long as they exist, the elves are in peril of slavery. There is too much of our collective soul in them for it to be otherwise, and ultimately, freedom is the only difference between Elda and Orc. But my plea to Galadriel was not born of concern for our people; rather the desire to keep our bond as our own, untouched by the agony of righteous power and ancient cares.
"In the end, my daughter, a ringbearer will be either a thrall of corruption or a sacrifice for virtue. Knowing this, they try to remain in places of deep loneliness, try to protect those they love from suffering the same fate, little seeing that they are not alone. And so we who are their lovers stand in the storm. We feel the rings, but cannot control them; we are assailed by the sea and the darkness and the isolation, but cannot fight it. We chose love, not rings, but suffer the doom as if we had. I knew all these things the moment Galadriel claimed Nenya as her own, and I begged her to heed me, but she would not."
*You cannot ask this of me, husband.. ‘Tis my duty, my destiny, my doom – I have no power to turn away."*
"I could not abide the ring, or perhaps it could not abide me. When it forced me back to myself, I lay stricken in the midst of a battlefield with healers and heralds at my side searching desperately for the wound that fell me. I told them ‘twas a blow to my heart, but that they would find no mark. My link to my wife was broken, without even a line between us to say that the other yet lived. By her choice, we were utterly sundered."
"I did not know of that, adar-nín," Celebrían whispered, standing to take his hand. "Now I understand why mother was so frantic to find you after Eregion fell – she did not know if you survived."
Celeborn sighed heavily. "And I knew not whether she cared. Though I told myself that I remained in Imladris to help Elrond establish the haven, to wait for Gil-galad, to comfort the refugees, in truth I was fleeing her. I was too proud to face her again, and too fearful that I was unworthy of her glory. But she came to Rivendell, and found I loved her more than my pride. But it was not as it had been before; her mind was much changed, and so was mine. The consequence of the choice remains … it is merely deferred for a time." The muscles of his jaw rippled as he fought a black wave of regret; whether his own or his wife’s he could not discern.
Though he waited for it to recede, the pain of it lingered in his gaze as he gently pressed his daughter’s hand. "But what I do know is this: I love her. And if that means I must suffer the ring, then it shall be so. That is how I bear it."
"Then you would have me choose Vilya, father?" she asked, her voice weary with resignation.
"No," he answered regretfully, and tightened his grip on her fingers. "But you already have. You took his hand and promised in the name of the Valar and to Eru himself that you would give your life to Elrond, your heart, your love. You freely and joyfully made that choice long ago, so have no need to decide anew today."
"I chose Elrond, not a ring," she answered with some anger, pulling her hand away.
"They are the same," he answered. "The ring, and its lord."
"Nay! The ring, Eru mell, the ring’s aura encompasses Middle-earth. The ring knows the breadth and depth of all elven hearts. It is both hunter and hunted. It is … not Elrond."
"What do you think a ring is? Even the very ring you are so absently and agitatedly twisting holds great power," Celeborn answered. Celebrían looked reproachfully at her treacherous fingers, which had indeed been twisting her wedding band.
"A ring is a band of metal, a bit of stone, an empty repository for whatever its bearer choose to pour into it," he continued. "You fill your ring with your love. Sauron filled his with all the hatred of his dark heart. Vilya holds Celebrimbor’s hope, Gil-Galad’s loyalty, and all of Elrond’s majesty. From least to greatest, a ring can not be anything but what its bearer has the power to convey and to wield."
Celebrían shook her head in frustration. "Elrond is gentleness, wisdom, compassion …"
" … Lord of Imladris, son of Eärendil, descendant of Melian," Celeborn interrupted. "What you have seen of Vilya encompasses all that Elrond is. Perhaps, daughter, this is the source of your difficulty: not that you have been confronted with the ring, but rather by the bits of your husband you like least." Celeborn’s eyes flashed with fire, although his voice was as gentle as winter’s first snow.
"I know my husband. All of him, and better than you," she answered bitterly. "No, father, my concern is this: we went toe to toe with evil, and we almost lost. I would not live that life! I would not spend my blood and tears on the long defeat. I would rather abide in the joy sung of with such sweet reverence – the life enjoyed by all but the mightiest of the Eldar! I would not suffer the toil of wrenching a world from under the claws of misery!"
Silence descended for a moment, heavy with unspoken emotion. Celebrían turned from her father and sat again on the couch. She let her head fall against the back and pressed her hands against her eyes. "Adar, please, just go. I am weary and can bear no more of this tonight."
Celeborn bowed his head and rubbed his brow with the tips of his fingers before tightening those fingers into a fist and tapping his lips. Then, with a gesture strangely hesitant for the lordly elf, he placed his hand on his daughter’s shoulder.
"There are elves who stroll through the gardens of Middle-earth, singing to Elbereth under the stars and caring little for the problems of the world. ‘Tis an idyllic and carefree life. It would have driven you mad. For you, my daughter, are grace, kindness, charity, Lady of elven kingdoms, daughter of Galadriel, heir of Finarfin. There is a reason you fell in love with Elrond, and it was not because you thought he would give you a simple life."
She said nothing.
Celeborn sighed. Logic had accomplished little, nor appeals in love’s name. Knowing the cost of speaking his own weakness, he nevertheless reached into his soul and whispered what he well knew was the crux of her anguish. "You are no less than he. Elrond holds a ring. You hold his heart. In the end, which do you think will be more enduring?"
At his words, a light dawned in her face at last, greater than the light of the stars, of the sun. Greater, even, than the light of a Silmaril, which Celeborn had seen with his own eyes. She stood, a lady, a leader, one who held the power of a great Elven-ring in her mind and love of its bearer in her heart. She kissed her father’s cheek, and he smiled as he touched hers with paternal care. With a regal bow he melted wordlessly into the night, leaving her in peace.
"She has every reason to be angry with him," Galadriel said when she found her husband at last, sitting in a high branch with his back to the silver trunk of the tree.
"No, she doesn’t," he answered. Galadriel gave an exasperated sigh as she accepted Celeborn’s proffered hand and joined him in repose on the branch. She leaned lightly against his chest as he pulled her close, little needing to see his face to know his heart. Once she was settled he pressed a single melancholy kiss to her neck. She found his hands and clasped them in her own.
"A wide branch in a lonely tree … was that not what first caused us such trouble all those years ago, hervenn?" she asked with gentle teasing, trying to break his mood.
He gave an amused snort. "As I recall, the only trouble was your enraged brother. Elu and Melian made a valiant effort at wrath, but they could not stop smiling. And the tree was certainly delighted by the whole…"
"Affair?" she supplied helpfully. "And you certainly didn’t complain."
"Nor you, melethril."
They lapsed into silence, though she could hear both the throb of his heart and the slide of his thoughts back into gloom.
She closed her eyes and followed. *Is it so excruciating to be married to a ringbearer?*
*Yes,* his mind whispered. "No," he said aloud, his fingers briefly finding the hidden ring on her own.
She let it go. *And what of our daughter? How will she fare?*
*They will make it, our Celebrían and her Elrond. They will never be sundered, not truly, for they swore to one another that such a thing could not be.*
Galadriel reached blindly back and traced her husband’s face. "A vow that we, in our haste, never made."
"Could we please talk of something else?" he asked wearily. Valinor or Ennor. ‘Twas an old argument, and one that even a promise would not have changed.
"What would you have me speak of? Pleasant things?" she asked with some sharpness. "Perhaps this? We have pinpointed the source of the darkness Elrond stumbled upon. It has fallen on Greenwood."
Celeborn groaned. "Southern Greenwood too, I suppose? No; answer not. Of course it has," he sighed. "I will increase the guard on our eastern border. What creature do you anticipate is behind our new torment?"
"If I were to hazard a guess, I would say Nazgûl. Elrond suspects worse."
Celeborn dropped his head forward to his wife’s shoulder, his breath stirring her golden hair. "So close," he murmured. "I know not whether to be grateful for the protection of the ring, or fearful that evil has sensed its nearness and taken a strategic position in opposition. I will ride out tomorrow and see what remedy I can coordinate with Thranduil. Ai, what did Celebrían just call this? ‘The toil of wrenching a whole world from under the claws of misery?’ Ha rhach." He moved to rise and muster the preparations, but Galadriel stopped him with a gentle touch.
*A moment, hervenn, before you ride off and leave our daughter with her choice … I fear the possibilities we have seen swirling around her future have shifted to probabilities in recent days. Evil will recognize her better the next time. The cost to them, to us … are you at peace with this?*
*The choice, great lady, is not ours. And even if it were, I would choose love, even if only for a little while.*
*A moment, hervenn, before you ride off and leave our daughter with her choice … I fear the possibilities we have seen swirling around her future have shifted to probabilities in recent days. Evil will recognize her better the next time. The cost to them, to us … are you at peace with this?*
*The choice, great lady, is not ours. And even if it were, I would choose love, even if only for a little while.*
Daro! – Ennor Eru mell Ha rhach Mae aduial, adar melethril-nín, bereth-nín, gell o ind nín, vi i eneth aer o Eru mellon-nín sell-nín Suilad, orn beleg – suilad o Laurelindórenan Celebelanor, sell uin Celebrannon, gell uin Galadrîn Tolo dad -
Eru mell– Dear God
Ha rhach– Curse it
Mae aduial, adar– Good evening, father
melethril-nín, bereth-nín, gell o ind nín, vi i eneth aer o Eru– my lover, my queen, joy of my heart, in Eru’s holy name
mellon-nín– my friend
sell-nín– my daughter
Suilad, orn beleg –greetings, mighty tree
suilad o Laurelindórenan Celebelanor, sell uin Celebrannon, gell uin Galadrîn– greetings of Lothlórien, Silver Flower, daughter of Lord Silver, joy of Crowned Lady Radiance
Tolo dad -come down
When I completed this story in 2003, I had not yet settled in my mind the multiple contradictory accounts of Celeborn and Galadriel in the early third age, and wrote them (rather ambiguously) as the rulers of Lothlórien. Since finishing this story, I have settled a thread in canon in my mind. As I revise this now in 2005, I have made several changes to small details in order to make the timeline internally consistent with my other stories.
Suffice it to say that at this point in the timeline, Celeborn and Galadriel are visiting Lothlórien, as they often did before they became the rulers there, for the king, Amroth, was their son. (This is an ambiguous point in the canon, but one that I have chosen to explore.) Amroth Celebornion came to be king after developing a deep friendship with the previous king, Amdír, who was killed in the Last Alliance. Celeborn and Galadriel do settle permanently in the Golden Wood after Amroth's death, approximately 900 years from this point. For a more detailed telling of the travels and travails of Celeborn and Galadriel, I refer you to my story "Deific Flame."
Mithrandir may have been divine, but clothed as he was in an ancient body, he had difficulty observing keen-eared elves without being noticed himself. Rarer still was the chance to witness the lord and lady of Imladris in an uninterrupted private moment; they were beloved by their people and deeply embroiled in the troubles of Middle-earth, so had little rest from a constant barrage of counselors, petitioners, wounded, sick, hopeless, and lost. Thus it was that when the Istar encountered the opportunity one winter’s eve, he paused at the threshold and caught his companions’ arms, both curious and loath to intrude.
Two elves were seated at opposite ends of the same short table in the library of Imladris, tucked into a corner and surrounded by a halo of books and parchment. Texts detailing the pathological frailties of mortal bodies held the corners of scrolls tracing the growth of trees. Maps mingled with genealogy while diagrams of ancient plumbing perched precariously atop poetry. Careful lines of music twined with hasty scrawls of mathematics and unidentifiable heaps of lore claimed flat space wherever it could be found. An unlearned visitor would have seen only bookish clutter, or been concerned about some experiment gone awry. In truth, the sprawl detailed a lengthy journey of joint curiosity.
The scholars seemed as odd a combination as their subjects. The silver lady was dressed simply, her hair unadorned and flowing about her shoulders. Lithe and fair, she seemed a young maid. But her eyes belied her youth, lit with a glow and filled with wisdom that could not come in a mere score of years. Her darker companion was somewhat more formally dressed; there was a dignity in him that suggested he could easily wear far richer attire. Hale and ageless, he could not be called young, though in truth he was little older than the lady. There seemed in him a greater awareness of the passing of years, the faintest acknowledgment of departed heartbeats, even if he would never run short of them. Beautiful and majestic they were, and endowed by power greater than their books could bestow.
Despite the wizard’s silence as he stood in the doorway, little could escape Elrond’s attention in his own realm. While Mithrandir’s coming was always sudden – his nomadic nature and willingness to be carried upon the tide of chance and rumor usually caused a mild uproar wherever he entered – Elrond had easily marked the Grey Pilgrim’s footsteps across his land. He did so with every visitor and intruder, but it would have been strange indeed to overlook the blazing trail of Narya’s fire in his mind.
With a regretful smile the elf-lord closed his book and reached forward across the table to touch his wife’s hand. They did not immediately turn toward the figures they had sensed at the doorway, for both were reluctant to break the spell of peace that had enfolded them.
*Ai,* Celebrían said silently as she raised her head toward both her husband and the window behind him. *The snow comes at last.*
*Indeed. You were right.*
*Winter has always been somewhat of a relief. It is quieter, less frenzied. There are fewer guests, and those who do come do so with less urgency and stay until spring
*Indeed. You were right.*
*Winter has always been somewhat of a relief. It is quieter, less frenzied. There are fewer guests, and those who do come do so with less urgency and stay until spring.*
*You also spend more time seated beside the fire with your wife in your arms,* Celebrían said.
His lips twitched in amusement. *True. But not just now …* he answered, though his hand lingered on her arm to prolong the contact and a moment of solitude. Then Elrond stood smoothly and caught her hand in his own as she gracefully unfolded from the chair
"Mithrandir," Celebrían said as she turned with a smile of greeting, "you appear to have found a trio of rather soggy elves."
"Say rather that they found me," Mithrandir answered. "I always seem to miss that blasted turn – the landmarks have a rather disturbing habit of walking away between my visits." He gave Elrond a pointed glance.
"Then it is fortunate that Glorfindel stumbled across your path," Elrond said with a rare laugh as he closed the distance and clasped the wizard’s arm in welcome. Glorfindel, thoroughly soaked from the rapidly-melting snow that had coated his cloak, gave a disgusted snort and muttered loudly about the indignities he suffered for his lord’s feeble wit. One of his companions gleefully elbowed him in the ribs as he brushed into the room.
"Ai, Glorfindel," he said with obvious mirth. "Is it not a bit beneath the mighty Balrog slayer to fetch wandering peredhil and old men?" He deftly avoided Glorfindel’s mock-annoyed swipe and stepped forward to kiss Celebrían’s cheek, careful not to drip melting snow on her robes. "Thank you for sending him out with some winter supplies, mother. We had hoped to be home some months ago, and were not looking forward to finishing the journey outfitted for the spring. Allow me to guess; father knew we were coming, and you knew it would snow," he said as he embraced Elrond with aim to cover his father with as much water as possible.
"Indeed, Elladan. It takes both of us to accomplish anything worthwhile," Elrond answered as he pulled his other son into an embrace. "Which reminds me of another duo I know … welcome home, my sons. A productive journey?"
"A wet journey, at least," Elrohir answered.
"So it seems," Celebrían said with a laugh. "Go, dry yourselves before you drown my husband."
"They do fill a room," Mithrandir remarked after the brothers withdrew.
"That they do," Celebrían said with a fond note and wistful sigh. "But they spend less time filling the rooms of Imladris than I would like." She shook herself from melancholy and smiled warmly. "And how delightful to have you in our home again, brûn mellon."
"I must say, I am grateful to have arrived at last. I have had many a chilled mile under my feet since last we parted, mellhiril."
"Then you will be happy to know that we just happen to have a warm room and meal prepared to ward off the bitterest cold," Elrond said, a smile faint on his lips but deep in his eyes.
"Ah! How fortuitous! Then perhaps I shall take my leave of you for an hour to soak the weary road from my bones and cease filling your library with the flood that was once my cloak," Mithrandir said with both gratitude and relief that Imladris was prepared, as ever. He bowed and followed a silent elf who had materialized at his elbow.
Celebrían brushed Elrond’s mind with her own. *I want to be sure all is prepared for our guest, and see what manner of chaos our sons have blazed across the haven while we were not watching. Supper in an hour?* He nodded and absently watched her go before frowning and focusing a piercing gaze into the air, deep in thought and only superficially present in the library.
Momentarily forgotten, Glorfindel studied Elrond’s face with some concern. He grimly shook his head before replacing his expression with one of gentle mocking and bumping a soggy shoulder against his lord’s. " ‘Stumbled?’" Glorfindel interrupted with an outraged tone and a sniff. "I have never ‘stumbled’ onto a trail I seek in all my lives."
Elrond’s focus trickled back somewhat more slowly than Glorfindel liked, but he was glad when the peredhel turned to him with a genuine smile and little trace of shadow in his eyes. "Oh, come now. I told you exactly where you would find Mithrandir and the boys," Elrond answered as he moved to go. "Here, you go first," he said as he held the door. "I certainly don’t want you touching anything." Despite extreme dampness, Glorfindel made a grand exit, though it was somewhat ruined by Elrond’s laughter.
"Ha!" Glorfindel continued. "It may seem easy from inside a library and at your lady wife’s side, but the wizard is harder to track than he appears."
"Apparently so, edhel loen, for you are in greater need of a bath than my sons. And you were out but a week!"
The soft snow continued as night’s shadows slanted across the valley, each delicate crystal clear to elven eyes despite the darkness. The Eldar delighted in this glacial perfection that echoed their beloved stars, but as Elrond looked out into the night, he saw none of it. The twisting paths of shade where he drifted had neither room nor patience for senseless acts of beauty. Nonetheless, Elrond was grateful for the snow when Mithrandir’s presence at his back shook him from his wanderings, for it gave him an excuse to keep his gaze focused outside and collect his thoughts before the visitor saw his face.
Though Mithrandir likely perceived the charade.
"A beautiful evening, at least from inside," the wizard rumbled as he walked to stand beside his host. He rested his own gaze politely – though markedly – on the scenery beyond the window instead of the lord.
Elrond gave him a quick, nonplussed glance and turned back toward the window with a sigh. "Yes," he answered shortly. After a beat he shook himself and moved toward the table. "Tea before supper?"
"Something stronger, if you are willing." Elrond nodded and poured two generous tumblers of miruvor, keeping one for himself as he returned to stand beside his friend.
"Ah, now that is a taste I have missed," Mithrandir said as he rolled the drink about his palate.
Elrond smiled faintly and turned his tumbler in his hands, watching how the light from the nearby fire caught in the blue glass. "Are you going to tell me what has truly brought you to Imladris?" he asked at last.
Mithrandir took another drink and stared absently into the night.
"Likely respite from questions and care, hervenn," Celebrían gently chided as she glided gracefully but without ceremony into the dining hall. Her husband turned fractionally toward her as she trailed her fingers across his shoulders, then sighed contentedly as he pulled her comfortably into his arms; ‘twas a frequent disposition for the couple, and both were far too old to care what others thought of such displays of affection. And Mithrandir was far too old a friend to be anything but faintly amused.
"Yes, Lady Celebrían," Mithrandir answered once the couple was settled. "And there is no place in all of Middle-earth better than Imladris to find heartsease. Yet Elrond is perceives rightly; I also come with a question, and it is simply this: when did you last pass through Moria?"
Elrond paused for a long beat, and Mithrandir saw the reflected firelight in Elrond’s eyes momentarily flicker as if caught by wind, though the room was still. Celebrían breathed an almost imperceptible sigh as she took Elrond’s hands in her own. "Moria?" he asked with a frown.
"It has been some years since Elrond has traveled outside of Imladris," its lady answered. "But I was in the dwarven realm a year ago; I passed through on my way from Lorien. I have always preferred that route, for the Redhorn disquiets me."
"And what did you sense, lady?"
Celebrían tilted her head and wandered for a moment in memory. "Something was amiss. Durin would not say …" She frowned.
*What, Celebrían?*Elrond asked, troubled by the unexpected dawning of dread that shivered through her soul.
"The halls of Dwarrowdelf were strangely hushed, as if all who dwelt there were awaiting a storm. I was hurried through. I did not credit it at the time, but aye, Mithrandir, something was very wrong."
"I have felt … I feel nothing," Elrond said, his brow furrowed and his head tilted back.
"No …" Mithrandir said slowly as he eased into a chair beside the fire and bemoaned his creaking knees, a rather odd infirmity the Valar had seen fit to bestow on their servants. It was on cold evenings such as this that the Maia most cursed Manwë’s sense of humor. "Could I get you to top me off, mellon?" He asked, extending his glass. "Ah, thank you …
"You are like Galadriel in that," he said, continuing the conversation from where he had left it. "Yet before I left Lothlórien some month ago, Celeborn took me privately aside and asked if I would walk through Moria with a wary eye, for he sometimes receives reports that Galadriel does not credit. Your father is correct, as are you, Lady Celebrían; there is something amiss, though I am loath to give my concern a name."
"Wait, Mithrandir," Elrond said as he released his wife to pace. "What could stir that Vilya and Nenya can not see, but yet Narya perceives?"
"’Tis not Narya that informs me," Mithrandir answered. "And your answer concerns me. Like Galadriel, you reach too often to the power of the ring and ignore the more natural warnings of your heart."
Celebrían caught her husband’s eyes in silent agreement. There was no need for words, spoken or not, to reiterate her long held position; he was quite aware of it. Elrond nodded once and accepted the gentle reproaches with dignity, though the flash in his eyes bespoke his reluctance to heed them.
"You have not answered me, Mithrandir," he said. "I cannot see it, so I beg you tell me, what do you fear?"
There were few who had both the right and audacity to withstand a direct query from the Lord of Imladris, but Mithrandir was one of them. He shook his head and answered: "Come now, Elrond, search from a place deeper in your soul."
With a sinking heart, Celebrían caught Elrond’s hand to quiet his pacing. With a lover’s prerogative she forcibly muffled his ring’s pressure on his perceptions.
*Celebrían …* he said with a note of warning.
*Deep focus disallows breadth, Elrond. And Vilya is not as old as the world. It is tied to Sauron, but not …* she trailed off as he stepped into her recent memories of Khazad-dûm.
* … but not to Morgoth,*
* … but not to Morgoth,*he continued, understanding at last. *And Mithrandir the Maia would certainly recognize his dark sibling without the help of a ring. How clearly you see, hervess. Eru mell!*
"A Balrog," he murmured, and the air seemed to congeal around the word.
"Did I just hear you call Mithrandir a Balrog?" Glorfindel asked jovially as he entered the room. Then the golden lord narrowed his eyes as he perceived the mists of care permeating the room. "Is there something I should know?"
"Not today," Elrond answered, and as turned away from the window he left concern for another day. Laughter dispersed the somber weight of fears as Elladan and Elrohir burst in, as was their wont, Arwen in tow. Glorfindel pursed his lips and let his lord’s comment to pass, though he certainly would not dismiss it from his mind.
"Well, I certainly smell better than you, Elrohir," he answered in an instinctive response to a jest he had only barely registered, and then smiled as he allowed himself to be engulfed by a wave of elven merriment. ‘Twas rarer and rarer, even in Elrond’s house, and he had every intention of enjoying it.
There would be time enough for care tomorrow.
Celebrían wandered briefly in elven dreams as she waited for Elrond. She was reclined on a settee beside the fire in their chamber, a book of ancient poetry unread in her hands. She dreamed of her children’s laughter, and of Glorfindel’s singing, and Mithrandir’s pyrotechnics, and of snow.
And of Elrond, seated with her, holding her in his arms. For that was the best use for winter …
She returned to full wakefulness with a slow smile. "Elrond, that is the reason you like winter. It is most unfair of you to interfere with my dreams for your own licentious purposes."
"Ah," he answered from where he knelt beside her, "but you said this afternoon that ‘twas your favorite part of the season."
"Nay, oh forgetful husband. I said this afternoon that ‘twas yours."
"Never mind. Perhaps I shall just hold you, and avoid losing an argument," he said before putting action to his words.
"Most wise," she answered as she moved to make room for him beside her.
"Hmm … truly, sometimes I lose track of what you do, and what I do," he murmured lazily after a moment.
Celebrían chuckled richly. "Erestor told me of a conversation he had with you the other day … he wanted to close down a wing of the house for some minor repairs, and had spoken to me of it."
Elrond picked up the story, for it had amused him as well. "And when he approached me for the first time, I looked at him askance and asked why we were discussing the matter again."
"’Tis no different than that day I spoke with a man at length, asking how his family was, how his daughter was healing, only to realize some hours later that I had never met him," Celebrían said with dry mirth. "For I was in Lothlórien when he visited."
Elrond laughed joyfully, and his wife delighted in it.
"My parents used to do such things to me," she continued. "I tried once to go to naneth when adar had already said no …"
"I do not want to hear how we are like your parents," Elrond growled before turning and kissing her.
*Why, hervenn?* she murmured playfully as she pulled him closer. *I happen to know that, despite appearance, the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood are very passionate …*
*Too much information, meleth, far too much*
Then, with an ancient tenderness she never tired of, he dropped every barrier to his mind and stroked the borders of hers. He would never force his will, and there was no need, for with a sigh of gratitude she did the same.
During most of the hours of the day, they held themselves slightly apart so as to not live in the same moment from two lives, though as the years of their marriage increased the line had blurred. It was not unusual for one to hear a conversation many miles removed from the speaker, and flashes of sight frequently created a vision of the world from two points of view. Such moments were enlightening and indescribably pleasant. If they had existed in physical form, they would have been akin to the breath of a kiss, the lightest touch of hand to hand, or the awareness of a lover’s heartbeat, though such analogies only superficially illustrated the sensation.
But in private moments between the two the wear of holding one’s own thoughts and perceptions apart was unnecessary, and the pull to be fully together was irresistible. Simultaneously distinct and unified, there was no need for mask or facade, no need for excuse, justification, or apology. Vilya coexisted there in harmony with Celebrían’s disapproval of it, and both viewpoints were supernally important and utterly insignificant. In this place, joy was magnified while concern and heartache became one, and she agreed with his unspoken plea that she not pass through Moria again.
But there was far, far more than a simple exchange of ideas.
He embraced her thoughts, and when he did, words were unimportant. With his mind deep in her own, they jointly burned in the heat of pure perception, awash in the rhythm of sensation. From there, Arda called to their souls. They were one, and, coming to such an epiphany, they were allowed to see that they were also the Earth. They were bound to its fate forever, and only through it could they bound to each another. Thus carried to the precipice of consciousness, both could crest in an unadulterated release in emotion.
After the centuries, such was the magnitude of their union.
brûn mellon edhel loen Eru mell mellhiril
brûn mellon– old friend
edhel loen– soaking wet elf
Eru mell– Dear God
mellhiril– dear lady
There is indeed a Balrog in Moria, which will shortly wreck havoc on Khazad-dûmand Lorien. The Balrog shows up again later and does other unkind things, like harass the Fellowship and try to kill Gandalf (who is, on the off chance that you don’t know it, Mithrandir to the elves.)
The rather interesting thing is that a Balrog is a corrupted Maia, of the same race as Mithrandir, and Elrond’s several-times great grandmother Melian, not to mention Sauron. Lovely little family feud. And Sauron certainly did not corrupt the Balrogs – his evil master Morgoth the Vala did. From this comes my theory that the elven rings, though tied to Sauron, would not be directly helpful in perceiving this particular brand of evil.
*Celebrían, meleth, daro. Cuino, bereth nín. Cuino a no. Garo-lim. Celebrían, ai, Celebrían.*
The ground had been rough, had been sharp when she had been thrown there. Celebrían knew this. But now it was merely cold. The pricks against her face and her side receded into the deadly chill that had burrowed into her chest; it was in her bones, in her blood, in each breath. All world has been compressed into a grain of sand, she thought deliriously, and embedded in my mind. She commanded her body to stand, her joints to move. And so she stood, and she walked out into the light, where the sun would warm her and Elrond would find her . . . but no, she dreamed, and the ground was ice. Move, she told herself again. She remembered what it felt like to move, the sensation of blood flowing to muscles, the pull of tendons and the slide of bone. She felt herself move, hallucinated it, dreamed it, and saw herself from above, as still as stone. She wondered if she was truly breathing, or but dreamed of life. The world is in my mind, and so I can not move, which makes sense, of course, because I must wait for it to stop, which is reasonable, and then it will not be quite so cold in the morning.
*Celebrían, open your eyes.*
Which is a silly thing to say, Elrond, because my eyes are open. I can see them staring at me from the shadows, and they are the shadows, and they breathe their foul breath onto my face when they think I am not looking.
Which is a silly thing to say, Elrond, because my eyes are open. I can see them staring at me from the shadows, and they are the shadows, and they breathe their foul breath onto my face when they think I am not looking.With supreme effort, Celebrían opened her eyes, and with sight lucidity also returned, as did the pain. Bloodied, bound, and naked, she lay upon ground that was rough after all. And cold.
She shuddered as sensation and memory returned, and was grateful to be alone. She knew it would not last long.
"Open your eyes," a ruined voice demanded from the darkness. "Where is it?" She did not answer, and it snaked nearer. "Where is it?" it grated, and the darkness oiled through her mind unhindered. The invasion was, somehow, magnitudes worse than the earlier ravaging defilement of filth that had thrust into her body. "You reek of elven power," it continued disdainfully, "as you did when last we met. Yet now, as then, you are not the ringbearer. Who is he?" Evil moved languidly inside her soul at the question, taking its time.
"Who is he?" it asked again, pressing deeper, tearing, poisoning. "And where? I can hear him inside you, raging against the violation. Will you save her this time, ringbearer?" it mocked as it moved in the places that before had been Elrond's alone, grinding with brutality where Elrond had always caressed with care. "Would you want to? Or will you leave her here with me, as debased filth?"
It took pleasure in her agony but greater pleasure in its own power. Celebrían's connection with Elrond had gone utterly still, and in the silence she could hear familiar, fury-laced voices raised in distant battle. "Nothing to say, ringbearer?" evil continued, and then violently withdrew as Celebrían gasped in psychic pain.
It looked down at her, its hatred pulsing, dripping on her body and soul. "They are coming for you," it said smugly. "Which serves my purposes. I only need his trinket for a moment, to find what is mine. Though I think I would enjoy having my way with him before I break his mind to my will." Her tormentor drew near, and spoke against her lips. "Take me to him."
"Celeborn," Galadriel said, searching desperately for calm, "you must not do this."
"She is our daughter," he answered simply, and continued to strap his ancient but well-kept armor to his body.
"I had not forgotten. She was targeted, husband; evil knew her from before, and sought her again. It is more lucid; it is growing in power; it is searching for Elrond."
Celeborn looked up pointedly. "It may well find him unless we reach her soon. How much longer can you reign in his mind and hide the knowledge in hers?"
She brushed aside his comment, valid though it was. "And evil knows you, perhaps better than it knows her. Annatar sat at our table during our days at Eregion. He knew of our love, and loathed it. He suspected I held one of the rings. He would not hesitate to use your agony to test his theory."
"I am willing to take that chance," he answered as he stood, the mithril rings of his mail shimmering in the light.
"I am not," she answered with tight desperation, and her panic slipped from her control and echoed through their bond.
*Precious Eru,* she continued, unwilling to trust her voice, *I have no control where you are concerned; I never have. Not over myself, and certainly not over you. He needs but one of the Elven-rings to find the master ring; it matters not which. Could you hide all you know from his flaming eye? Could Elrond stop me when he is thus weakened? Could Mithrandir move in time? Would you give him Middle-earth to save your daughter?*
Celeborn stopped, his back toward her. "Thus will duty take all the fruits of our love," he answered. "For duty's sake we fought the Balrog, and lost Amroth to the sea. For duty's sake we fight for rings, and leave Celebrían to the dens of orc. For duty we will fight the long defeat until we are lost, even to each other. So be it." He turned, and there was a measure of peace even in his agonized gaze. "We knew long ago the cost of our love, and accepted it. The reckoning comes due, and almost it is beyond what can be borne; yet for love's sake, and for yours, I will bear it."
Elladan cradled his mother in his arms as he leapt from his horse and sprinted across the courtyard. He held the strong woman who had rocked him so many times. He held Galadriel's daughter, with her gentle poise and iron strength. He held Celeborn's child, who had a deep understanding of all Middle-earth and all who called it home. He held Elrond's wife, the better half of a mystical pair who opened their haven to all in need. He held his mother. Yet in his gentle embrace, she was none of what she had been; she was diminished, faded, cold -- so very cold. Her blood had already soaked through his tunic, and he wondered fleetingly whether he would always feel it upon his skin.
Behind him Elladan could hear his brother screaming for their father, though his voice seemed miles removed. Elladan could not move fast enough; it felt as if some terrible force was tearing at each stride. He took the stairs two at a time; three at a time. Where was the top? There was no air to breathe; there was not enough air in all the world, and he could feel his heart raging inside his chest. In its violence, he could not tell if his mother's heart yet beat. He burst into his parents' chambers, placed his precious, broken burden onto the bed and knelt at her side, his breath coming in painful, sobbing bursts.
Then Elrond was there; his father placed an unsteady hand on his son's shoulder. "Are you hurt?" he asked roughly.
Elladan shook his head. "The blood is mother's," he answered dully, and looked into his father's face. It was as grey as Celebrían's, and he could see that the pain that crested in her unconscious body was inflicted upon Elrond as waking agony. Elladan took a single, shaking breath to focus himself. "Can you do this, father?"
Elrond did not answer, but displaced his son to kneel at his wife's side. For a moment he did not touch her, but merely looked upon her, and struggled to replace the despair of a lover with the detachment of a healer.
"Celebrían," he murmured brokenly, and bowed his head. He clenched his right hand into a fist and looked up with desperate determination before he placed it on her breast. She came abruptly awake with a cough and a violent start; with speed and strength that Elrond could not expect she turned her hands to catch his wrist.
"Elrond," she hissed. "Do not. He seeks you through me. You know this."
"I care not," Elrond answered vehemently.
"I will not allow it."
"There is no other way."
"Elrond," she said with a desperate, pained whisper, and pulled at the collar of his cloak to bring his face nearer to her own. "I have been ravaged by evil . . . can feel it stalking us both . . . it lurks behind the ring, as it always . . . Elrond," she coughed, and there was blood on her lips. "I can not bear the touch of evil again. Please . . . " And oblivion took her again.
Elrond made no sound as he wretched the ring from his finger, though it seemed loath to release him, and hurled it furiously to the nightstand. It bounced once, twice, with a gentle, melodious chime, and came to rest, visible for the first time in centuries. From the doorway where he stood with medical supplies in his arms, Elrohir gave a strangled gasp. Elladan met his father's stony gaze with wide, betrayed eyes, and reached forward to touch the ring, disbelieving. His father roughly shoved him backward, and Imladris' lord and his eldest heir were briefly locked in a battle of wills before Elladan pulled away and fled the room.
"Elrohir," the lord commanded, "bring me those bandages."
Unseen in the doorway, Glorfindel sunk to the ground and leaned against the frame, his head in his hands.
Glorfindel found Elrond standing alone in the dark on a stone bridge. Far below the water hurried by, and the cools mists of Imladris' waterfalls carried the taste of autumn leaves in the air.
"How are you, my lord?" the councilor asked quietly.
Elrond sighed deeply. "Weary."
Glorfindel nodded and stood beside his old friend. Elrond looking listlessly across his star-lit valley, and drew no comfort from it.
"It knew her," Elrond said abruptly. "It knew her, and hunted her to find me."
"I'm . . . I'm sorry, my lord, what knew her? The orc horde?"
Elrond laughed darkly. "Worse than orc. The One Ring is stirring. It may even now be found."
Glorfindel shook his head. "You are grieved, Elrond, deeply so. You have been battered by the evil inflicted upon Celebrían. Perhaps it is that which you are feeling."
"Nay, Glorfindel," Elrond answered heavily. "I can feel his power growing through my own ring. I did not recognize it until Celebrían begged me not to touch her with Vilya -- she recognized the shadow of what she had known with such horrific intimacy." Elrond pressed his hands to his face and groaned. "How can I see all that I must see in the coming years without her to clarify my vision?"
"She will recover," his friend supplied with hollow hope.
Elrond looked to the sky and gasped; he ruthlessly quashed his grief. "No, she will not," he answered when he had regained control. "I have lost her, and I very nearly lost myself. He tortured her, he defiled her, and in my fury I nearly threw myself into the teeth of his trap, as he intended. She stopped me. So close. Next time he will have the ring, and he will succeed." He glanced into his friend's eyes, despairing. "I do not desire to survive that day."
Glorfindel wrapped his fists around the rail, and was reminded horribly of another age, another life, when the starlight had glistened off the tears of Elrond's ancestors -- when they had stood in the darkness with Glorfindel of Gondolin, and begged him to carry on when they fell. It was now as it had been then.
"Please, my lord, do not ask this of me," he whispered. "You wielded Vilya in the Second Age and eluded Sauron's grasp."
"And this age I have wrought too much, I have allowed it too deeply in my mind," Elrond said with a humorless laugh. "Should Sauron regain the One Ring, he would immediately discern my heart and works. Even if I was prepared for the onslaught, I fear I would not long withstand him."
"Would I have time?" the other murmured, breaking a moment of silence.
Elrond breathed deeply, meditatively. "I doubt it, but I would ask you to try."
"Or die in the attempt?" Glorfindel asked with an ironic lilt.
Elrond turned suddenly. "Should Sauron retake his prize, death will be for one of us. Pray that it is mine. Pray that you send my soul to the mercy of Mandos' Halls. Elsewise I fear the horror unleashed on this world by a tenth úlairi."
"What of the eleventh? And the twelfth?"
"One would be Celeborn's problem," Elrond answered. "And the other I do not know. But one is yours. Please."
Though the muscles of Glorfindel's jaw were knotted in grief, he placed his hand over his heart and nodded.
Elrond released a breath and turned to walk away.
"My lord," Glorfindel called softly after him. "Celebrían will sail?"
"She shall," Elrond answered.
It had been long since Celebrían had seen the sea. She remembered the cool touch of the waves upon her legs and the feel of the wet sand shifting beneath her feet as the tides teased the grains away. The mist upon her face, the salt in her hair, the cry of the gulls. She remembered the first time she had seen it when she was a child, and the awe she felt at its immensity. She had asked her mother if there was anything on the other side of the waves, and had been unable to understand the tension in her parents' bodies and the strife in their voices as they spoke rapidly -- angrily -- in a tongue she did not know. Even the loveliest shells had not comforted them, and so she distrusted the sea. In her adult life it had proved faithless, the instrument of Edhellond's sorrow, and later, Amroth's death.
She stood now beside it again, shrouded by the thick grey mist of the pre-dawn morning, and did not try to see what lay beyond the void. She could hear the mournful waves heaving themselves to the beach, clawing in fury at the shore before they slipped away into the troubled waters, unable to hold on.
She felt a gentle touch on her back and quieted her mind enough to find one last moment of peace on the shores of Middle-earth. "They wait," Elrond whispered. Celebrían nodded and sought blindly for his hand. She ignored Vilya, as she ignored the knowledge that behind them her footsteps were swept by the waves into the sea, erasing the proof of her passing. She had no desire to know whether Elrond's remained, whether it would seem to others that but one elf had walked alone, or whether the sea had claimed him as well. Both were metaphors of equal agony.
They had arrived at their ending.
"Elrond," she said taking his face gently in her hands and guiding his eyes to her own. His eyes, as grey as the sea, and as deep. "Elrond," she said again, helpless and grieved. She traced his brow with her fingertips, memorizing, beseeching. *Come with me!*
He drew a shuttering breath, pressed her cold hands between his own, and kissed them, weeping. "I cannot," he whispered.
*Give the ring to Glorfindel. Give it to Elladan. Give it to my father. Throw it into the sea.*
For a moment she saw him consider it. For the briefest flash of time his eyes told her yes. Then he closed them in pain and pulled her into his embrace. *Please, meleth-nín, do not ask me to do what I cannot.*
"Then promise me that you will follow," she whispered against his lips, his tears mingling with her own.
He did not answer.
"Elrond," she begged. And for the first time in a year, he opened his mind to her. In the pain of the long days he had often been in her mind with the cool touch of a healer. He had soothed, he had calmed, but he had refused her access to his thoughts, and though she had not admitted it to him, she had been grateful. She could not have borne his grief, much less the piercing knowledge that in his grief he leaned more heavily than before on Vilya.
Now, with infinite care he gently enfolded her mind in his own and guided her past his sorrow, outside Vilya's immediate attention, and to a memory where she could feel the cool mist of Imladris' waterfalls on Elrond's skin and taste the autumn leaves on the air.
*I cannot see the end of this,* he admitted to her. *All the paths I have wandered end, as they began, in the fires of Orodruin, and I see nothing beyond. If victory is yet a possibility, I see not how.* Through their bond, he allowed her to feel the swell of his grief, his only hope in death upon Glorfindel's sword.
"I cannot promise you that I will follow," Elrond continued in a low voice. "I cannot promise you anything."
Celebrían grasped the collar of his robe. "I will wait for you, Elrond Peredhil," she whispered fiercely. "On the shores of Valinor, or at the gates of Mandos, or at the end of the world, we shall meet again. Garn estel uireb, meleth-nín. Estel far an men."
Celebrían, meleth, daro. Cuino, bereth nín. Cuino a no. Garo-lim Garn estel uireb, meleth-nín. Estel far an men Orodruin Úlairi
Celebrían, meleth, daro. Cuino, bereth nín. Cuino a no. Garo-lim- Celebrían, love, stay. Live, my queen. Live and be. Hold on.
Garn estel uireb, meleth-nín. Estel far an men- I have eternal hope, my love. Hope enough for us.
Orodruin- Mount Doom
Úlairi- Nazgul, ring-wraith
- In 2509 of the Third Age, after 2,400 years of marriage, Celebrían was attacked by orc while passing through Redhorn pass, also known as Caradhras. (Interestingly, this is the same pass the Fellowship attempted to use before they diverted to Moria.) She was rescued by her sons. Elrond was able to heal her body, but not her soul, and she sailed to Valinor a year later.
We can not be certain the exact nature of her injuries. We know that she received a "poisoned wound." Fanon suggests that she raped as well. There is canon support for this proposition. Tolkien didn't tell us very much about sex in Middle-earth, and so it is a detail that he likely would have left out, even if it were present. Evil was rising again, and evil does not confine itself to physical hurts; it takes pleasure in torture of every kind, and there are few things more horrific than rape. And elves had fought evil for many years and been wounded, even poisoned. But they didn't always sail just because they were injured. These things point to the conclusion that Celebrían suffered more deeply that Tolkien told us.
The proposition that evil hunted Celebrían and that there was more waiting for her than orcs is my own theory, based in part by the developments I've set up in this story, but also on who she is married to and who her parents are.
- Elrond speaks of his concern that the One Ring has been found … it has been. Sméagol murdered his friend for the ring in about 2463; thus, the ring has been awake for 46 years.
- I also invented the proposition that each of the elven ring-bears has arranged for a swift trip to the halls of the dead should Sauron retake the ring. However, this does have canon support.
During the Counsil of Elrond, Elrond says of the Three: "Those who made them did not desire strength or domination or hoarding wealth, but understanding, making, and healing, to preserve all things unstained … But all that has been wrought by those who wield the Three will turn to their undoing, and their minds and hearts will become revealed to Sauron, if he regains the One. It would be better if the Three had never been. That is his purpose."
This, in combination with the idea that Sauron was able to enslave the Nine ringbearers of men, leads me to the conclusion that a fate worse than death awaits the elven ringbearers should Sauron retake his prize, and fate they would wish to avoid, even if death is the only way to do so.
Elrond sat alone in his library, as was his wont these last centuries, and frowned into the air. For the moment he was entirely within himself, unwilling to reach to the power of Vilya to confirm his fears. Three days he had suffered the creeping knowledge that hope staggered on the precipice of despair, yet maddeningly, reaching to Vilya had become a desperate exercise in stealth. The stirrings of the One Ring that he had long felt had become more frequent in the last years, but in the last weeks it had burst into his awareness with frightening regularity, and Sauron's flaming eye was ever in his mind. Even when he dared quest in the wilds where thought and answer tangled, all under the growing Shadow was hidden from him.
The future was certainly under the Shadow in these dark days.
Still, Elrond knew the ring was approaching Rivendell, though he had never been able to pinpoint its exact location. He had taken that failing as a blessed curse, for it meant that Sauron would be similarly frustrated. And so Elrond had waited. Yet now it seemed that Vilya had lulled him into the false security of inaction, for in his hand he held a parchment that had been brought but an hour before by an exhausted messenger.
He rubbed his brow with a sigh and reread the warning again, a knell of doom in his heart. The Nine were abroad indeed, Mithrandir was missing, and Bilbo's young nephew bore his terrible burden without guidance.
Elrond shook off his inaction and rose swiftly to his feet, although he suspected that he might already be too late, and sought Glorfindel.
"By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair," Elrond whispered, struck to the core by the apocalyptic act playing out at the edge of his realm. "Run, child."
The white-hot flame of Sauron's hate licked dangerously close to Elrond's heart, but the time for caution was long past. Elrond reached to Vilya fully and openly; he poured its power and his own fury into his river. He felt it surge through his blood, the white tips of the waves throbbing with his heart, its roar in harmony with each breath. Beside him he could see Mithrandir through the prism of their combined power, a shining angel who focused his wrath. Down the silvery thread, nine rings cried out in anguished recognition, while one laughed richly and flowed into his open soul.
With a pained gasp, Elrond jerked back to himself. He passed a trembling hand over his face and lifted his eyes to meet Mithrandir's. The wizard himself looked pale and shaken.
"Glorfindel was there," Elrond heard himself say through the clearing haze. He shook his head to clear his vision. "I saw him, as I have only seen him with sight magnified by rings; as he is on the other side. As you are, my friend. Fear not; he will bring Frodo. I only pray he is in time."
"Hobbits are made of strong stuff. The very fiber of Middle-earth, I would venture to guess," Mithrandir answered, and sighed. "Ai, that was a near thing."
"Indeed," Elrond said wearily. "Few there are even of the elves that can stand against the Nine Riders, yet the halfling stood alone against them and commanded them to be gone. He has succeeded in his task, and his cursed prize now dwells in my land."
"And what will you do now that it is here?" Mithrandir asked neutrally.
Elrond flicked his gaze to the wizard's, and dropped it again. "The One Ring recognized me," he murmured, and looked up again, his gaze hardening to stone. "And our actions have turned Sauron's eye here, the stronghold of those who dared survive his hatred two wars ago. This is the third time I have fought this same battle, Mithrandir, the third! I am wearied of the suffering as I am wearied of carrying on alone. And now you ask me what I will do with the very source of such death and fear now that it is in my hands. What do you propose I do with it? What am I supposed to do with it?" Elrond's voice rang with anger, but also with despair.
"I did not ask you what should be done with the ring," Mithrandir answered softly after a moment. "That decision is not your burden to bear alone, though the decision about what you shall do with it is," he continued cryptically. "I merely asked what you would do now, Master Elrond."
Elrond lifted his face to the sky and closed his eyes. "As a child I wondered if I were truly Eärendil's son. Elros heard the sea, as did my father, yet it never called to me. Now the surf breaks in my soul, and I would forsake these lands." He met Mithrandir's gaze again. "But for now I will try to save the Ringbearer's life," he said at last, before striding purposefully away.
"Gerich i sigil, Estel?" Elrond asked urgently as Glorfindel placed a small and gravely injured bundle on the bed.
Wordlessly Aragorn handed his father the hilt of the cursed blade. Elrond took it, and winced as he read the runes written there. He placed his hand on the Halfling's chest to remove the cloak, and went utterly still. Beneath the humble material, the One Ring was within his grasp.
*Ah,* it said melodiously within the places of his mind untouched since Celebrían had sailed. *We meet again, Elrond Gwelucyll. I mark you well, and have much to offer to you.*
It tapped gently into Vilya's link with his mind and lifted him high above Middle-earth. His vision pierced into every soul. He could feel each hope, each dream. He could feel lovers burning in passion, the song of a mother for her child. He could feel the pain of dying mortals, the joy of gentle elflings, the strange, and sad songs of the unknown and enchanted creatures of the earth. They filled the emptiness and eased his grief.
*They are yours,* the ring whispered, *to guide, to heal, to cherish. They need you; can you not feel that they do? You can not turn your back on them. Claim me now, and they will be safe, and they will love you. Set me free, use me as you have Vilya, to higher purposes and without fear. You need not ever fail again.*
He saw his brother's face, lined with creeping time. He saw Gil-galad's body, crumpled upon the battlefield and blasted beyond hope. He saw the anguished eyes of each life he had failed, and felt again their hands grasping his cloak, begging him to help them. He felt the burning agony in Celebrían's eyes, the agony he had been utterly unable to sooth. His saw his daughter, and the man she loved ,and the end of their lives. *It does not have to be,* the ring said. *I alone can give you power over death and mortality. You can save all you deserve life and smite every foul thing. I can give you your vengeance on Sauron the Deceiver.*
Elrond looked out over all of Middle-earth, the beautiful home of his birth. He saw so clearly the twining ribbons of mountains, the wide, green plains, the cool deep rivers. He saw children playing under the sun, and elves gazing at the stars. He saw the marring of Middle-earth, and understood how to cure it, how to make it again as it was meant to be. The ring opened his mind as nothing ever had, and it soothed every raw hurt that his soul bore. It whispered to him of answers to secrets he had never considered; it promised him hope and all of Middle-earth. *You are never alone so long as I am with you,* the ring said tenderly. *And I shall not leave you.*
Yet Elrond turned his gaze west, for in the west was the only vision in all of Arda he wished to see, and the only thing that the ring could not show him. Elrond looked toward unseen Valinor, and remembered she who waited there for him, and found his salvation. *For this purpose were you taken from me, meleth!* he cried over the seas, and raised his head and laughed in pain and relief, knowing his answer. Then he turned and faced his tempter, his eyes filled with a deadly calm.
*You have nothing I desire, ring,* he continued contemptuously. *You, least of rings. You, a twisted mockery of that which you were made to ensnare. What do you know of beauty? Of healing? Of love? All you know is destruction and lies. I shall not be made your willing slave.*
//FOOL!// the ring hissed. //THeN my UNWILLINING SLaVE you SHALL bE!// and poured the molten future into his mind.
With a cruel laugh of triumph, Sauron placed the ring on his finger, and Elrond had but a moment to feel the certainty of his doom before his will was torn from him. The Lord of the Rings crushed the ringbearer's heart, and in that seething grasp Elrond's soul burned to ash. He screamed as Vilya's blue flame became an eater of light and its grace coagulated in the halls of his mind.
Elrond's hands were covered in gore, and Glorfindel writhed in a pool of blood and rendered flesh, knowing as he breathed his last that his promise was failed. Elrond's children fled to the West with all the elves, and he let them go, not from pity (for he had none), but for cruelty; they would suffer in telling their mother her husband's fate. Imladris burned, and its former lord turned his back on it. He slashed east through the blasted land until he reached the right hand of his hated Lord's black throne, and was there named Môr-Êl, the dark star.
He stalked the people at his master's compulsion, and those few fair things that survived in Middle-earth scrabbled for life in hidden corners, ever fearing him, their hunter. He was their nightmare until the blood of men ran only in the veins of orc, and in him. The One Ring was impaled through everything that had been left to him -- fury, death, hate, destruction, and beneath it all, his fea, ever in agony. The wraith fed on that torment, and lusted for the power that gave it its shadowy half-life.
On the day when the true Lord Morgoth returned to tear power from Sauron's hand the dark elf waited for him at the gates of Barad-dur, his sword in hand. He let the corrupt Vala pass with a mock bow and a smoldering gaze, and thus Sauron was betrayed. Nothing changed for Middle-earth but the deepened terror of the night, and nothing changed for him but a crueler touch from a new master.
In time the elves returned to the twisted land to fight the hopeless battle for the ending of the world. He went before his lord like dark flame and slayed as many who dared stand before him. Nameless now, he laughed at their fear. They begged him to remember who he had been; some were his friends of old, returned from Mandos, and he sent them swiftly back again. At Morgoth's bidding he ripped the sun and moon from the sky, and in the darkness he hated Morgoth as he hated himself. He filled the heavens with his malignity and stopped the stars until in wrath Eärendil came upon him as a white flame.
They fought a long and desperate in the night, and in the end he reached through his ring to Middle-earth and pulled from it all life to save himself. But at last he could not withstand the light and fell as Eärendil, weeping, pressed the light of the Silmaril deep into the wraith's heart.
"Father!" Elrond cried in agony, and for a moment there was faint light in his dark eyes. "How long since I was free?"
"The rest of time," the old Mariner answered, and scattered his son's ruined soul to the judgment of Eru.
Beyond this the ring could not see.
*And at the end of the world,* Elrond gasped, *I would be sung anew. But there is yet hope for this world!* and he threw the vision from his mind. Shaking in the agony of the possibility Elrond stood over the Halfling, the ring burning under his palm. He gently took his hand from Frodo's chest and stepped backward.
"My Lord?" Glorfindel asked as his grasped Elrond's arm, concerned at the weariness that had descended on his friend between heartbeats.
Mithrandir reached forward gently to steady the peredhel, his gaze keen. "Samwise," he said softly to the little hobbit who had followed into the room unnoticed. "Please remove Frodo's cloak and shirt, and find the Ring."
The little hobbit had already rushed forward, sensing that something was amiss, though unable to grasp the subtleties of what had just transpired, and turned, the gold band in his palm. "What should I do with it, Mr. Gandalf, sir?" he asked.
"I do not know, Samwise," the wizard answered, "and that is a question for another day. But for now, put it in your pocket, and do not touch it, and keep it safe."
Gwelucyll- air-bearer, referring to Elrond's status as the holder of the ring of air.
"Gerich i sigil, Estel?" - Do you have the knife, Aragorn?
- Elrond is too late to help Frodo. He does not send parties to start looking for the ringbearer until three days after the hobbit was wounded on Weathertop.
- Gandalf faced the temptation of the ring, as did Galadriel. But we are not told what temptation Elrond faced. Surely it was equal to that of the other ringbearers.
The view from Imladris' highest balcony had not suffered, Glorfindel thought. Though Rivendell was beginning to show the subtle ravages of ages long denied by halfelven will, the water of the mighty river churned over the falls as it ever had, throwing up colored spray in a syncopated counterpoint to the roar. Though the branches of trees - old friends - now bent with sudden age, the walls of the cleft valley towered with all their usual magnificence, sunlight throwing their lines and shadows into sharp relief by day, moonlight wafting in the mist by night. Still a beautiful sight, even if the stars hid their luster and mourned, it seemed, for a lost son. Imladris was yet a haven, Glorfindel reasoned, even if its lord was gone.
Glorfindel sighed. Imladris was dying, and it was hard to accept. But it would not die today, and his attention was drawn away from the aging vista to an elf who had seen nearly as many years as the valley. Celeborn of Ennor stood at the edge of the terrace and gazed with distant appreciation across this corner of the world, unmoving as the balustrade where he rested his folded hands, and it seemed that he was a statue carved from the same stone -- rock from the heart of Middle-earth.
Glorfindel smiled to himself with humorless irony at the metaphor, which was not as comforting as it would have been in elder days, given that the stone facade on one of the great halls of Imladris had crumbled away but the day before. He suspected that other fronts would soon follow.
Celeborn had accompanied Galadriel on her final journey only as far as Rivendell and had taken his eternal leave of her by the shores of the Bruinen, its tumbling waters the only witness to their parting words. When the ringbearers departed for the West, Celeborn had not immediately returned to Lothlórien, as most had expected him to do. Instead he lingered, waiting. Few now there were to wonder why, and fewer still who knew the answer -- and they did not speak of it.
Youthful eyes, for all their sharpness, might have reported that the ancient silver lord was a study in serenity, and would have overlooked the slight, very slight, tension of his shoulders. Would have utterly missed the slow, meditative breathing that was just a shade forced. Would have dismissed as weariness the well-concealed tremor in his fingers, and not perceived that in Celeborn, such a thing could only be the manifestation of powerful internal temblors. But Glorfindel was not young, and Celeborn was not well.
With the gift and curse of immortal memory, Glorfindel could clearly recall the somber journey from the Grey Havens centuries earlier. It had rained, he recalled, poured, with rivulets of water soaking through collars and hems. Nenya's doing, and Vilya's, Glorfindel suspected, as those who controlled water and wind could scare control their grief. The pervasive wet had been miserable company for a miserable company, but Glorfindel had not imagined that anything could be worse than the black despair that had swept through the party when Celebrían's ship disappeared into the mist.
Thus he had been unprepared when, on the twelfth day, Elrond fell from his horse with a groan of abject desolation, his head in his hands. Glorfindel had kicked his mount forward, fearing some foul deed, but Celeborn, who had been hovering at his son-in-law's shoulder for days, had leapt from his own mount and broken Elrond's fall before maneuvering the half-elf to the base of an old and understanding tree.
The horses' breath had steamed near their noses as they shifted back and forth, sensing the sudden confusion of their riders. There was little sound, save rain in trees and Elrond's ragged gasps. After a moment Glorfindel had slid from his horse as Elladan and Elrohir simultaneously splashed down beside him. But Celeborn stood swiftly from where he had knelt in the mud beside his daughter's husband and pushed the concerned elves back with an authoritative hand.
"Celeborn," Glorfindel had hissed urgently, catching his forearm with an angry grip, concern and weariness taking him over a line of propriety few had ever dared cross.
"She has passed into Valinor; she is gone from his mind," Celeborn explained shortly as he wrenched his arm away, meeting Glorfindel's eyes with a countenance lined in aching empathy, though anger lurked beneath. "Let him be." It was not until much later that Glorfindel realized Celeborn had anticipated this true sundering, and had known that the final blow of parting was nearly beyond a heart's strength to bear.
It had been many hours before Elrond mustered the strength to continue, and when he stood at last it was with the wandering desperation of one who could think of nothing else to do. Glorfindel cared for little else in the journey save the utter silence of his lord and the emptiness of loss in his face each time he unconsciously reached for she who was no longer there.
Glorfindel had seen similar ruin in the eyes of warriors who had lost a limb in battle, elves who would not think to try to grasp a sword or bow with a hand he well knew was gone, but might try to brush back an errant strand of hair or gesture in conversation. Like all supreme losses, Elrond's wound had been inflicted between heartbeats and was most keenly felt in the long shadows that trailed moments of forgetfulness.
Now Celeborn awaited the same blow, unable to escape it notwithstanding his foreknowledge. He stood above a crumbling land as fall passed into winter, a silhouette in the slanting light of another waning day, an immortal caught at last by time. His long years could neither slow the hastening hours to his doom nor balance the empty ages to come, and so he stood silent, shrouded with the premonition of long-deferred inevitability.
And Glorfindel hovered at his shoulder.
Celebrían turned from her contemplation of the sea when a mild voice called her name. "Grandfather," she said with a smile, and reached to catch the hand of the king of the Noldor.
"My child," he said, his voice warm with delight, "how do you fare this day?"
She smiled again and said nothing, but tucked her hand under his arm and turned again to the sea, sharing the view with him in companionable silence. When Celebrían had sailed for Valinor she had not imagined that anyone anticipated her arrival, much less longed for it. But his warm hands had caught her cold ones as she weakly disembarked, and his startlingly familiar face had filled her weary gaze. In expression and tone, form and eyes, she saw her mother. But she had quickly learned that his gentleness reminded her powerfully of her father.
She had needed such unquestioning love. When her grey ship had passed beyond the circle of the world and slipped silently onto the straight road to Valinor her connection to Elrond had been snapped as if it had never been. Though her heart had also been flooded with the love of the Valar and their gentle song had soothed her hurt, she had not been healed, not then, and the pain was no less, though she understood that she was permitted to dream of living whole again. She knew that true peace would remain a spectre of the mist until he was with her again. Elrond had not believed such a day would come, and in her deepest heart Celebrían admitted her own doubt.
Many years later she had asked why their bond had not endured; her grandfather had answered that Elrond could not have borne Middle-earth with visions of Valinor in his mind, and that she could not be healed with the sorrows of Middle-earth in hers. And so Celebrían had used the strength of long-sundered family, the unexpected gift of Aman, to ease the loss, and was restored. She knew, without needing actual confirmation, that Elrond had reached to his duty, and to Vilya, and therein found preservation, though not peace.
She had thought that perhaps she would feel the call of his heart or the echoes of his emotions, especially if those emotions were strong; that somehow even the sea and the will of the Valar could not keep them apart. It had not been so. The only messages she had ever received from him were notes penned in his familiar hand, carried by elves returning from Middle-earth. He, of course, received no such tidings, for the ships did not sail West to East. His notes were pleasant and beloved, but carried very little of substance. That had worried her more than anything he could have said.
Nevertheless, she had known that events in Middle-earth were coming to their unknown end. Though it was not openly spoken of, she knew that the situation was a dire as it had ever been. If nothing else, the ever-increasing stream of refugees confirmed those fears, as did the way that elves formally of Imladris changed the topic of their conversation when she approached. From time to time, one of them would be willing to give her the details that Elrond's notes lacked, but most were deeply reluctant to do so.
Then, for one fearful year few elves had sailed from the Havens -- though many arrived in Valinor at the gates of Mandos. Those few who came on the ships told tales of ever-bold hordes of orc, of black riders who screamed in the night, of a flamed eye that pierced the staunchest heart, and none carried word from Elrond. Celebrían began to wonder if she would even know if evil triumphed.
"It has not," Finarfin answered, easily reading her thoughts from the expressions that flitting across and face and through the gentle kin-bond he had formed with her. He squeezed her hand. "Look, granddaughter." And so she stood on the white shore and gazed across the wide sea until she realized that she was seeing two horizons -- one from the east, and one from the west.
*Elrond?* she whispered across the water, disbelieving. There was no answer, until: *Celebrían,* his beloved presence returned. He said nothing else, but she could feel the gentle roll of the ship beneath his feet and the sun upon his face.Celebrían reached hesitantly for his mind, and almost could not find it. Then she realized what she had done -- she had searched first for sapphire penumbra that had ever eclipsed his soul.
It was gone, and he gleamed in the luminous radiance of his own majestic sovereignty.
She looked upon him with giddy awe. True, his mind was crossed with new wounds that had not been there when they parted. One was the grief of her passing. Another was an encounter with evil that had to be the One Ring itself. Aching above all was anguish for his children that he had not accepted, a desolation so deep that he had no power to hide it from her. Yet most profound was Vilya's absence. For all the years that she had loved him, all the years he had opened his mind to her, everything had been colored by its omnipresence. It had suffused him with such intensity that even she had never found this pure light, unfiltered by the opacity of obligation that the ring had necessarily imposed on his soul.
She probed deeper, surprised, for she had expected that losing the power of his ring would be the gravest hurt of all. But it had cut nothing from him; he was no less than he had been before, though he thought otherwise. But his wife perceived that Vilya had done what it had been made to do, and had preserved all that it touched with rigid perfection, even Elrond. Released now from the narrow confines that had been necessary to reach the heights and depths the ring had required, his shallowed profundity revealed a gentle fluidity that rippled exquisitely in her soul and a dazzling breadth that she longed to explore.
Elrond laughed. *Wait until I can touch you, I beg you. Then you may explore whatever you will.*
Bilbo elbowed his nephew in the ribs. "Look quickly," he said. "I do believe that Lord Elrond is smiling."
"I am lord of nothing, Master Baggins," Elrond said, turning gracefully from the prow of the ship. "And grateful for it. Perhaps that is why I am smiling." Bilbo looked dubiously at the former master of Rivendell. There was no mistaking Elrond for anything but a lord, even if he stood barefoot upon the desk of a ship.
"No," Frodo said slowly, his heart still recognizing the call of the elven ringbearers', even if the instrument of their connection was gone. "It is something more. Something has just happened, hasn't it?"
"Yes," Elrond answered, and his eyes flickered in some internal amusement before they deepened with thought and turned to the stern of the ship. "A moment, " he said as he stepped toward Galadriel, "and I shall explain."
"I am fine, Elrond," she answered with measured calm, her back to the group. To Frodo's eyes, she looked as she had when she had rejected his offering of the one ring -- diminished and beautiful and sad. A simple elf-woman, and profoundly not.
Elrond frowned, and did not believe her.
"We have just crossed into the waters of Valinor," Gandalf explained to the puzzled hobbits.
In that moment it seemed that he changed before their eyes, although they could not say why.
With another lingering look at his mother-in-law, Elrond turned back. "My wife waits for me on those shores, " he said quietly.
"Your wife?" Frodo asked, startled, and Gandalf chuckled.
Elrond's eyes twinkled. "Truly, master hobbit. From whence did you imagine my children came?"
"I suppose I had never thought of it," the hobbit laughed. Then his face grew grave. "There is some sorrow in your parting, isn't there?"
Elrond leaned upon the edge of the ship and looked out across the water again. "There is some sorrow in every parting, Frodo, as well you know. But yes … she has been gone from me since before your father's fathers' fathers were born. Yet a moment ago, for the first time in many centuries, she touched my mind. That is why I smiled."
"She was not permitted to before?"
"No," Gandalf rumbled, glancing to where the former Lady of the Golden Wood stood. "The line between Valinor and Middle-earth is difficult to cross, even for those who are deeply connected."
Frodo suddenly understood, and looked to Galadriel. "Celeborn stayed in Middle-earth," he said quietly.
Elrond nodded. "My joy is her sorrow, though she has long known this day would come."
"She weeps," Frodo whispered reverently.
"Of that I have no doubt," Elrond answered, his eyes seeking an unknown shore.
Galadriel's hair was caught by the wind and it played about her face, which was turned away to the receding east. Her hands were folded upon the rail, the hand bearing Nenya placed serenely upon the other. But the fingers of the hand beneath were white and trembled from their hold on the polished wood, and suddenly Frodo wondered what price she had paid to step on the deck of their ship.
"What of Celeborn?" he asked.
Elrond looked over at the little hobbit, who looked back with gentle concern. "He also weeps," Elrond said softly.
"Why did he not come with her?"
Elrond smiled faintly, and did not answer. Remembering that Elrond also had lingered even as his wife sailed away, Frodo felt suddenly foolish.
"Forgive me, Lord Elrond," he said. "It is not my place to ask." And though Frodo did not know the full tale, he sensed that such choices were the fate and despair of all the wise.
Then Elrond looked more keenly into Frodo's eyes. "Nay, not fate," he answered, his voice thoughtful and deep, seeming to read Frodo's heart. "Celeborn was born in Middle-earth before the moon and the sun; he is a part of Ennor in a way that this difficult to explain. But that is not the whole answer." Elrond lifted his face to the sun, and breathed the pure air, and smiled again at an unseen touch. Frodo waited, his own smile playing on his lips, for he had not thought to ever see Elrond thus.
Bilbo, who had been unabashedly listening in, snorted and shook his head. Much of the age and care had already dropped from the old Hobbit's face, and Frodo was delighted to see that his uncle's eyes danced with their usual mischief. "Elrond is useless now, Frodo-lad, what with his lady back in his head. But I can answer your question, at least. Sam let you sail away. Why didn't he come with you?"
Frodo frowned. "Rosie. Elanor. The Shire. People and places that he loves."
"Yet he loves you as dearly, and he always will," Elrond said, smoothly picking up the conversation as he gave Bilbo an amused glance. Then he settled his face into the lines of tranquility to which all were more accustomed. "What is the difference?"
"Duty," Frodo answered softly after a moment. "His duty to me is ended, but yet remains with Middle-earth."
"Indeed," Elrond said with a nod. "We sometimes must release what we love when their time is ended, even if we must remain because our time in not. That is your answer. Or, an answer."
He companionably grasped the Ringbearer's shoulder before he leaned again on the ship's bow. A glint of gold and blue drew Frodo's attention, and the hobbit saw that Elrond held his Elvish ring in his fingers, rolling it about with an air of distraction that could not fully disguise the focus he turned upon it.
"But fear not, young Frodo," Elrond said. Then the elf looked up, and his grey eyes gleamed with the familiar dualities that marked the elves -- melancholy and joy, reluctance and resolution. "For love may seek its own path when duty ends," he continued, and bent over the deep sea.
And opened his hands.
We've come to the end of this at last. It has been a fascinating journey, a tremendous joy, and an intriguing obsession. It was my purpose to cover some uncharted territory in this tale and to try to say something of value in the process. I hope I was successful.
Many thanks to each of you who reviewed. I write to preserve my own sanity, but was overjoyed by each note, and am grateful for the friendships they wrought. More than once, a comment from one of you made me think about an angle I had not before. Your insights enriched future chapters, and so this story belongs to all of you. That's part of the fascination of this medium.
Thank you also to any of you who read in silence. I hope you enjoyed the story, and thank you for staying with me.
I humbly acknowledge the source: the incomparable Professor Tolkien. He wanted to create a mythology, and indeed he did. Since mythologies are meant for retelling, I hope he will forgive this wandering minstrel's interpretation.
With kindest regards,
Revisited on 1/30/2005 to correct several grammar and timeline issues, with thanks to Marta for her help.
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