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Heart's Ease  by Bodkin

Heart’s Ease

The silvery notes soared up towards the sky, sweet and joyous as a skylark, ringing in his very core like a rhapsody.  He closed his eyes and leaned back against the trunk of the stately beech, absorbing the sound of her song and letting it soothe the centuries’ old pain.  She was well.

‘Ada?’  Her singing stopped and her soft voice spoke to his soul.

‘I have longed to hear you say that again, my daughter,’ he replied.  ‘Will you not join me in the arms of this tree?’

She laughed gently.  ‘I have longed to hear you say that again, my adar.  I had begun to believe that you would never grant me the opportunity.’

With the graceful ease of a Wood Elf, she stepped into the branches, climbing swiftly and easily until she stood before him; slight, but strong as whipcord, her long moonlight hair loose around her shoulders, and with a vital energy about her.  He opened his arms, and she came to sit in front of him, enfolded in his embrace as he had held her as a child, their argent locks mingling and his cheek on her head.

‘I have missed you,’ he said simply.

She took his hand and brought it up to her lips.  ‘I am more content than I had ever thought to be again,’ she told him.  ‘All I ever hoped for when I sailed was to spare you all the pain of watching my death.  And, instead. . .’  She turned her head to look up at him, her silvery-blue eyes tender with love.  ‘I have been reborn,’ she said.

He kissed her brow and allowed her wonder to comfort him.

‘How are you, adar?’ she asked him at last.  ‘Naneth shines with happiness, but you are harder to read.’

His arms tightened.  ‘I am happy to be with you both.  But this is not yet my home,’ he admitted.  ‘I am lonely for small things – things you do not even know you love and will miss.  The light is different here and the air is stronger.  Many of the birds and flowers are unfamiliar – and so are the trees.’  He patted the bark of the ancient tree.  ‘He and I,’ he said, ‘we are both outsiders in this land.  We give each other comfort.’  Her silence drew speech from him.  ‘I begin to understand better your naneth’s occasional melancholy in our early years.  Everything conspires to remind you of what is no longer there.’

Her fingers stroked the backs of his hands reflectively.  ‘You need something to do, adar,’ she told him.  ‘You do not take well to inactivity.’

‘How did your naneth cope with the years of our parting?’ he asked.  ‘She seems changed in more ways than the loss of Nenya could explain.’

‘We feared for her,’ she answered simply.  ‘She could not have denied the call of the sea, but, once here, all she could hear was the silence where once you had been.  She watched the waters as if they were her jailer, and I was afraid that, one day, she would let them take her.’  He froze, even his breath stilling at the possibility she revealed.  ‘But she did not,’ Celebrian added swiftly, ‘and she promised me she would not.  She said she would not take the coward’s way – that if you could endure, so too could she.’

He laughed shakily.  ‘Even in that, she would not concede defeat.  I sometimes think, my daughter, that we make each other suffer rather more than we need.  We are both inclined to be somewhat high-handed and a trifle obstinate – and we impose decisions and inflict penalties that could easily be negotiated if only one of us was prepared to bend.’

Celebrian giggled.  ‘I am amused at the ‘trifle’,’ she declared.  ‘Between you, you bring intractable to the level of art.  Everything is taken as a challenge and treaties to end wars have been settled with less dispute than decisions you have taken relating to quite insignificant matters.  I am surprised you ever managed to agree a moment for my conception,’ she told him.  ‘When I was an elfling, you would always say ‘one day’ when I asked for a sibling – but you were never in accord and the time was never right.’

‘We may, perhaps, have acted impulsively,’ Celeborn conceded, ‘but, on the whole, I am quite pleased we decided to bring you to the world.’  He smiled.  ‘I am not entirely dissatisfied with the results.  I am only sorry that we did not feel able to provide you with the siblings you desired, but the Second Age became – difficult – and, by the time we settled down to the Third Age, you were already wed and having your own elflings – and I would not conceive an infant with one who wore a ring of power.’

‘I did!’  Celebrian said indignantly, sitting up straight.  ‘You did not object to that!’

‘Different,’ her adar replied briefly.


‘You nurtured the growing children and your spirit was unsullied,’ he stated coolly. ‘Although it is hardly something worth debating now, my daughter.  I made a decision and your naneth accepted it.  She could have chosen to find another to bear the ring, but she did not.’

Celebrian relaxed back into her father’s arms.  ‘She no longer bears a ring of power, adar,’ she said suggestively.  ‘She and Elrond and Mithrandir cast them into the sea. The only ring she wears now is yours.  And you do make a very good adar.’

He shook his head wistfully.  ‘We were not young when you were conceived – we are far too old to think of elflings now, my daughter.  I have not noticed that you and Elrond are surrounded by little ones, so why do you think we should we start again?  It is time for those sons of yours to wed and give us babies to love.’

‘One day,’ she replied easily.  ‘Like you, they need time – but that they have in plenty.’

She turned to look at him, studying his face carefully, tracing the angle of his cheekbone with her fingertips and moving his chin so she could look in his eyes.  Whatever she saw must have satisfied her, because with a final pat she rested her head under his ear.

‘Will I do?’ he enquired.

‘You have been in pain, but you are mending,’ she told him. ‘The time you have been spending with naneth in the woods has been good for you. Although perhaps you should take a blanket with you next time.’

‘Daughter!’ he said in a shocked tone, his eyes twinkling.

‘You are too well known for your fondness of woodland glades, adar.  I have seen much over the centuries that you probably imagined to be private.’  She grinned wickedly.  ‘I know the whereabouts of a very pretty pool, should you be interested.’

‘Do not think you are too old to smack,’ an amused voice came from below the tree.  ‘Keep evidence of your childhood snooping to yourself, for neither your husband nor I wish to know of it.’

‘You have not smacked me in two ages of Arda, naneth.  I do not think you are likely to start now.’

‘Perhaps not,’ Galadriel said consideringly. ‘Do you wish to risk it?’

‘Would you care to come up, my lady?  Or do you prefer us to descend?’ Celeborn enquired courteously.

Galadriel glanced at Elrond and raised her eyebrows. ‘I think we will join you, my lord, if we will be welcome.’ 

A muffled chuckle drifted to their ears as Elrond closed his eyes with resignation. He preferred to enjoy trees from the ground, as they all knew perfectly well.  Celebrian had always encouraged him to join her as she danced in the canopy, but he had sensed her teasing laughter as he scrambled through the branches like an awkward elfling just finding his feet.  The trees had never let him fall, but he was aware that it was more their affection for his wife that had persuaded them to aid him, than his own empathy with them.

His mother-in-law extended her hand to him and he bowed slightly, taking it with formal stateliness, following her as she stepped with dignity into the branches.  Their ascent was easier than he would have believed possible, as the tree eased the passage of the lady, until they sat, cradled comfortably, high above the garden.

Elrond’s stomach clenched as he looked at his wife clasped warmly in her adar’s arms.  The last time he had seen Celeborn holding his daughter in that way, she had been frail beyond belief, soul-sick from her injury and fast fading from the world.  He forced himself to breathe slowly and encouraged himself to absorb the sight of them now: healed, happy and reunited with one another.  It was no wonder, he thought, that Celeborn had been reluctant to lose his daughter to marriage – their relationship had always been special and they shared a closeness that excluded all others, including both Galadriel and him.  Not that it seemed to worry her, he thought.  He had believed at one time that it was indifference to her husband that allowed her to accept the depth of his affection for their child with such tolerance, but he had long since realised that her sanction came instead from her security in the strength of their own love.  He had tried to incorporate the same values into his own relationship – Celebrian loved her adar, but she had chosen to wed him.  He would not come between them, just as he would not take anything away from her love for their children.

Galadriel took his fingers in hers, sensing his ambivalence.  ‘Do not begrudge them this time, Elrond,’ her voice murmured in his head. 

‘I do not,’ he replied in the same way, surprised at her plea.  ‘I would give them all the time they wish to take.  If I seem distressed, it is because I am remembering what was, before she took ship. Their division has lasted too long.’  As he spoke, another face appeared in his mind, just as he had seen it last, dark where her mother and grandmother were fair, beautiful as twilight, with love and anguish in her grey eyes at their parting, and he grieved for a severance that would not end as long as the circles of the world endured.

He felt her sorrow as a wave, deep and vast as the ocean, and knew that she mourned her granddaughter’s passing with every breath.  He clasped her hand, returning the support she had offered him and finally forgiving her part in permitting the meeting of Arwen and Aragorn, predestined to be lovers despite all his efforts to circumvent fate. 

He looked up to find Celeborn’s compassion-filled eyes on him and knew that he had been aware of the exchange.  Elrond hoped that he had managed to keep his emotions from his wife, who did not, he felt, need to be reminded of their daughter’s doom.  He knew, as soon as she looked at him, that the flood of feeling had not escaped her notice, but she warmed him with her love and an understanding which, he realised with some humility, was deeper than his own.

‘How long shall all we sit here in silence?’ she enquired finally, enjoyment of their situation lilting in her voice.

‘Peace, my daughter,’ Celeborn commanded.  ‘You were always too restless.’

‘Do you remember,’ she said, ‘when you would take me into the forest and let me climb the trees, while you sat and thought?  Once I hid in a hollow in an old oak and asked the tree to keep my presence secret to make it harder for you to find me – it was such a long time before you realised I was missing that I had fallen asleep.’

His arms clasped her convulsively.  ‘I shall never forget,’ he told her. ‘I was terrified that you had been hurt and at first the trees would not tell me where you were.’

‘I was scared when you found me,’ she reflected. ‘I do not believe you had ever been angry with me before.’

‘You frightened me,’ he pointed out. ‘It is a not uncommon response.’

Galadriel tilted her head.  ‘Why do I know nothing of this incident?’

Her husband and daughter exchanged guilty glances.  ‘I believe we decided that it was unnecessary to worry you,’ Celeborn informed her.  ‘The matter had been resolved.’

‘A conspiracy!’

‘Had you known you might have decided that it was unwise for my daughter and me to spend so much time in the woods.’

Elrond laughed.  ‘I believe it is rather too late to take them to task for their deceit,’ he informed Galadriel. 

‘I kept my mind on her rather more attentively after that,’ Celeborn assured his wife.  ‘It was a long time before she was able to escape me again.’

‘I would like to live among trees again,’ Celebrian mused, ‘although I do not believe that would be Elrond’s first choice of setting.  Is it your intention to establish a new woodland home, adar?’

Her parents’ eyes met.  ‘It is, my daughter,’ Galadriel said simply. ‘We will move to the forests to the south and west as soon as we have satisfied ourselves that we have completed what is necessary here.’

‘Although I have no desire to move so far that we will not be able to visit at will,’ her adar added, stroking her hair.

‘I would not wish to lose you again so soon,’ she mourned, twining her fingers in his.

‘Soon can mean many things,’ he comforted her.  ‘I am in no rush to depart. But as you told me – I need a purpose, and planning our new haven will give me that.’

‘Had our sons not just arrived. . .’ Elrond hesitated.  ‘I mean – we were ourselves on the verge of deciding to set up our own home further to the west.  It may be that we will delay now – to give them time to settle in and establish themselves.  But in one version of soon – I would like us to be within reach of each other.’

The happiness in his wife’s eyes rewarded him for his suggestion.  ‘It would be my choice, too,’ she added.

‘Will Glorfindel go with you?’  Celeborn asked.  ‘And Erestor?’

‘I think many of the elves of Imladris will choose to join us, as those of Lothlorien will go with you.  Those two have assured us that, if we were to try to leave them behind, they would stow away and come with us anyway.’

‘They are family,’ Celebrian insisted.  ‘Their home is with us as long as they want it to be.  I hope,’ she confided, ‘that Elladan and Elrohir will find ellyth to marry and bring, though we cannot count on it.  I am looking forward to building a new home.’

‘It seems only right that those from the havens of Middle Earth should be within easy reach of each other here in the Blessed Realm,’ the silver-headed lord said slowly.  ‘The elves of Mithlond will wish to remain by the sea – but there remain Imladris and Lothlorien; Ithilien – and Lasgalen.’  He looked at Elrond.  ‘Do not tell my lady,’ he said seriously, watching his wife from the corner of his eye, ‘but I have no intention of allowing the divisions between our peoples to continue into this realm.   Your sons and I, Glorfindel and Thranduil – we have depended on each other’s strengths these last years and the friendship between us has become most profound, as is usually the case where lives are imperilled.  I intend that Lasgalen should no longer be on the edge of our councils.’ 

Galadriel sighed.  ‘You will be wanting me to stop tormenting Thranduil next,’ she complained. 

‘I insist on it,’ he said calmly.

Elrond and Celebrian both drew breath and waited for the lady’s response.

Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.

‘More,’ he said with reckless confidence.  ‘I want you to make him like you.  I know it is next to impossible, but you have never shied away from a task because nobody believes it has a hope of success.’

The silence drew out, until Galadriel began to laugh, quietly at first, then giggling until they all began to join her without being quite sure what amused her so.  ‘First you order me,’ she said, ticking off his errors on her fingers, ‘then you tell me I am loathsome, then that the task is impossible,  and then that I am stupid enough to try to do it anyway.  It is a good thing for you that I am feeling very co-operative at the moment, my lord.  I will try to win him over.  But I can tell you now,’ she added, ‘that probably the best way for me to do that is for me to sit at home stitching, so that he never sees me or has to speak to me again.’

‘Consult Legolas and the twins,’ Elrond suggested. ‘They are more skilled at manipulating Thranduil than anyone I know.’

‘Of one thing I am certain,’ she pointed out, ‘and that is, if you want him to take an equal part in this, we should talk no more of it in his absence.  He has always hated being left to find out what is being discussed after decisions have already been made.’

‘You are quite correct.’ Celeborn leaned his head back against the tree, revelling in the power of its slow song.  ‘I will speak to him and discover his thoughts on the matter.  Until then, let us enjoy being together, without concerning ourselves with the future.’

Celebrian sat up.  ‘I think it is time for me to return to the ground, adar,’ she said.  ‘Perhaps you and naneth would care to continue your communion with nature, but the near future needs my attention now. I must arrange tonight’s dinner and discuss matters with my housekeeper.’ 

He held on briefly, reluctant to let her go, but then sighed and released her.  She caressed him as she stood.  ‘Would you care to watch the sunset here with me?’ she asked.  ‘You can tell me of the stars as they begin their journey across the night sky.’

‘I will be here,’ he promised, their smiles matching and their eyes alight, as she recalled to his mind this tradition from her youth.

Elrond was aware a of twinge of pain at this further evidence of an adar’s love he had not himself been able to experience, but his wife stretched her hand to take his and draw him to his feet. ‘Come,’ she commanded him, leading him down through the branches, as confident as a squirrel.

‘I do not remember the ascent having been that difficult,’ he protested, breathless, as they reached the ground.

‘Of course not,’ she laughed.  ‘You climbed with naneth – and the tree would make her path as smooth as possible.  It would naturally make it more difficult for you – it is so much more amusing.’

He digested her words.  ‘Are you telling me that the trees are choosing to play with me?’ he asked, disbelievingly. 

‘Why would you doubt it?’ She looked at him teasingly. ‘Have you never wondered how it is that you always end up with your hair pulled and your clothes dirtied – that the branch is always only just within your range and yet you never fall?   Listen to the trees, my love.  You entertain them enormously.’

He stood dumbfounded, then suddenly laughed.  ‘I do not know why I am surprised,’ he said.  ‘Trees live long enough to have a much more developed sense of the ridiculous than horses, and they can cause enough difficulties when they decide to torment their riders.’

She moved closer, putting her lips by his ear and murmured confidentially, ‘Would you care to visit the pool in the glade with me, my husband?  I find the thought of bathing in its cool waters most appealing – and it is a very secluded spot.  I am sure you would find your escape to be rewarding.’

Even as he opened his mouth to protest the possibility of discovery, the words died in his throat as her fingers touched him, light as a breeze, making him shiver.  ‘Have I told you recently how glad I am that you consented to be joined with me?’ he asked. ‘You are my joy.’

‘I will take that as agreement,’ she sighed with evident pleasure.  ‘Let us go.’

In the high branches, in response to her husband’s offered hand, Galadriel rose and took up the position previously held by their daughter.  ‘She is good for him,’ she remarked.

‘And he for her,’ Celeborn responded.  ‘She lightens him and he grounds her.  What do we offer each other?’

‘I am not sure,’ she considered.  ‘In some ways, we are very alike, which is why we fight so.’

‘But in other things, we are – interestingly different.’  His voice was warm with desire. ‘Which is why we always make up again.’

‘It is more than that, I think.’  She linked her fingers with his.  ‘We share a world of experience. But it is not really important.  It just is so.’

‘I was going to ask our daughter the whereabouts of that pool, but I believe that would no longer be the wisest destination,’ he observed.  ‘I think we might find others in the glade.’

He tangled his fingers in her hair and drew her closer to him.  ‘No matter,’ she said contentedly, turning so that she could wrap her arms around him.  ‘We will remain here.’

‘I believe my son-in-law felt me to be very brave,’ he said after some time.

‘If not foolhardy,’ agreed his wife.

‘I meant it,’ he added, speaking seriously.

‘I know.’

‘It is harder to repair divisions than to create them,’ he warned.

She ran her hand through his hair, lingering over his ear and trailing her fingers along his jaw to his mouth.  ‘But it is a more worthy cause, my lord.’

‘You have grown, my love,’ he told her.  ‘You are less challenging than you were wont to be.  The hard shell that you developed as you channelled your power through Nenya has softened and your heart is warmer and more open.’

‘The Ring of Adamant,’ she said.  ‘I suppose it was inevitable.’

‘I am glad to have you back.’  He tightened his arms around her.  ‘For a time, I thought I had lost you both: Celebrian to torment, despair and death and you to something harder and colder and potentially even worse.  Beyond all hope, we have come back together and we are able to take the time to build again.  Let us take care, this time, my lady, to build strong and true and make ourselves a lasting peace.’

As the day drew to a close, Celebrian brought Elrond back to join her parents on the green sweep of rabbit-nibbled lawn amid the fragrance of the roses rambling over the sun-warm brick walls.  They watched as tendrils of flame adorned the sky, glowing across the horizon.

‘Sunset has always seemed to me to be a promise, there, in the west,’ Galadriel said. ‘A reminder of what could be, should evil be vanquished.  It never fails to move me and remind me why I must be strong.’

Celeborn moved closer, putting his arm round her and his hand on her shoulder. ‘And a reward,’ he told her, ‘for deeds done and honour upheld.’

The sky darkened gradually as the colour leached from their surroundings, leaving a world of twilight and shadow, which allowed the bright points of the stars to stud the silken canopy of night.  As one, they acknowledged the Evening Star, watching it rise as Earendil began his customary journey.  Celeborn sighed, relishing the soft light, a gift of which he never tired, bestowed on him here, even as it had been all the years of his long life.  The elf lord, who had started his days beneath a sky without either sun or moon, began to recount to his daughter, once again, tales of the stars in the words of ancient lays and, entwined, their voices rose in song in the pure still evening air.


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