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Healing  by Bodkin


‘Why did you leave, at the end?’ she asked.

‘Does it matter?’ he replied, his smile a caress, deep with remembered intimacy.

She flushed, but did not yield.

He sighed.  ‘You spent so many years haunted by images of these lands in your yearning to come home.  Am I not permitted the same grace?’

She turned and touched him softly, feather-light.  ‘Your thoughts are shadowed.’

He watched her; his shining star, his lady of light, his wife.

‘Love brought me,’ he said, ‘even as love made me stay.’

Her kiss was gentle, but her probing of his injury was not.

‘I am glad that love drew you here, my husband, for I was lost without you, but your need for the land was strong and you were bound to it.  I do not believe that you would leave willingly.’

The silence drew out between them, but she could wait.

‘Not here,’ he said, and his voice was harsh with pain.  ‘I need the strength of growing things about me before I can begin this tale. I cannot speak surrounded by these walls of dead stone.’

She took him to an ancient grove of trees, their roots deep and their memories long. They pulsed with slow life, the warmth of the sun in their crowns, nourished by clean land and pure water.  They felt him, this lord of trees, and bade him welcome as he lay beneath them on his bed of moss, his lady in his arms, the scent of bluebells drifting in the air and the sound of a rill rippling over rocks.

She waited as he soaked it in, needy, like a plant for long-delayed rainfall.

At last he sighed.

‘We began in hope,’ he told her. ‘There was much loss,’ he took her hands and raised them to his lips, ‘but the shadow had gone and the land cried out for healing.  The Age of the Elves was ended, but this we could still do.’


‘It is no longer spreading,’ Thranduil said, gazing thoughtfully at the bleak desolation of stunted trees and silence surrounding Dol Guldur.

Celeborn crouched and touched a sprout of fireweed showing green between the tumbled stones. ‘Not spreading, no,’ he agreed.  ‘The darkness no longer holds sway here.’  He looked carefully around him.  ‘Some of the trees may heal,’ he said. ‘Those at the edge are blighted, but not beyond redemption. But as for the rest,’ he paused, ‘I would burn it.’

‘I have elves who wish to move here,’ Thranduil told him.  ‘Nurture the forest. Help it regrow. They are skilled in the ways of the woods. I believe they would be able to bring life back here.’

A thrush sang, its voice echoing in the emptiness, the song repeated insistently.

‘Then let them come,’ Celeborn said, comforted by the sweet sound. 

They continued to assess the extent of the devastation, until Celeborn glanced sharply at his cousin.  ‘I hear your son wishes to take himself off to Ithilien.’

Thranduil stiffened. ‘He learned to love the country of the moon,’ he said carefully. ‘He has asked my permission to take elves who are willing to sing the shadow from the land.  I am considering it.’

‘It would be a good thing for Arda,’ Celeborn replied conciliatorily.  ‘And for him,’ he added after a while.  ‘The remnants of shadow are less deep there and the trees are strong.’

‘At the very gates of Mordor? How can that be?’

Celeborn shrugged. ‘There was no malice intended there. The darkness spread, but there was not the deliberate spite of the Nazgul as there was here.  A small group of elves should be able to renew the light.  And it might help him fight off the sea-longing for a longer time.’

They remained silent for a time.

‘I suppose I shall have to let him go,’ the Woodland King said.  ‘We both know that you cannot keep what will not be held.’


‘The land hungered for our touch,’ he said, his eyes drowning in hers, his finger brushing against her lips as she shivered against him, the warmth of his chest on her shoulder.  ‘We missed those lost to us, but we had work to do.’

She tangled her fingers in his silver hair and wound her thought in his.

‘I had not realised,’ she said,’ that I would feel so empty here without you and without the duty that had sustained me for so long.’

‘You were not meant for idleness and contemplation, my lady,’ he smiled, the heat in his voice making her burn.

‘What happened next?’ she asked.


The white stone circles gleamed, healed and proud, over the productive fields of Gondor, but nothing could lighten the mood in the high towers, for hope had gone and the High King had joined his ancestors in the echoing tombs.

Celeborn watched his granddaughter, the beauty of Luthien now shadowed by the inevitability of her end.  Around her, her daughters sobbed and her son snapped sharply at his uncles, but Arwen neither spoke nor stirred. Her decision was made and nothing moved her.

The shifting of the shadows told him time had passed and finally her children had attained a level of acceptance.  The legend of Arwen and Elessar would end here, for she would not stay to dwindle without him, but, instead, leave to seek what salvation was to be found in the gift of Men.

Her brothers supported her in the saddle, for it seemed as if she could no longer control her body and all that held her was her will.  Her children hugged her, bade her farewell, wept and wished her peace, but she heard them not; she had already passed beyond them.

They led her to Lothlorien, as she had demanded, and left her alone among the remnants of the mallorn groves so that she could face her end where they had made their beginning: mortal and elf.

They watched over her, though she saw them not. 

Celeborn saw in her fading a reflection of the diminishing of the Golden Wood.  Without the power that Galadriel had expended to hold time and change at bay among the deep woods, decay had crept in. The effects of a thousand winters had come at once and worn the ancient trunks, ruined leaves had dropped and the trees had bent like so many old men. They sensed him still, but their touch was like that of a memory, distant and tremulous.

They lay her in the earth, she who should have enjoyed immortal life among her kind, and mourned her passing, even as they rejoiced in her reunion with her love beyond the circles of the world. Celeborn felt the shuddering of the ground beneath him at this further sundering of the bonds between elves and the land.

‘I intended to stay as long as Arwen needed me, but I find I am not yet ready to depart,’ Elladan told him.  ‘I do not wish to go to meet naneth with this moment fresh in my heart.’

‘There is still much to do,’ his brother agreed.  ‘Will you remain a while longer, grandfather?’

‘This is my home. I will not leave if I can still make a difference here,’ he said simply, in the silence of the broken woods.  


‘Oh, Celeborn!’ she said, her voice breaking. ‘I cannot bear to think of Arwen.  Elrond will never really forgive me for putting her in Estel’s way.  He knew, just as I did, that their love was as unavoidable as that of Luthien and Beren, but he always hoped to circumvent it.’

Celeborn shook his head.  He had had time to come to terms with the outcome. ‘She was happy in her choice, Galadriel, and she was not sorry to meet her death.  She only resented the time she had to wait to meet Estel again. Her face was filled with joy as she breathed her last.’

He sighed and leant back against the stately tree behind him, sensing its great age. He listened to the rhythm of its pulse and hummed gently the song the woods were sharing with him.

The lady frowned. If not the fate of their granddaughter, what then had been the focus of his words?

‘We knew that the Nenya’s failure would lead to the decline of the wood,’ she said tentatively.

‘That it would age, yes, and that the inrush of years would be a shock.  But those were mallorns, my love.  I had never before seen one fall to age or decay – not just among those in Lothlorien, but anywhere. And worse -.’ He drew an unsteady breath.

‘You were having difficulty hearing their voices.’


The gentle hidden valley of Imladris had faded, but it was still a refuge.  Not now for rangers seeking respite from endless war against orcs, dwarves trudging the long road to the mountains, or hobbits looking for adventure.  It had become a refuge for elves.

The sons of Elrond looked worn, a hopelessness in their fair faces.  Their grandfather watched them as they slouched in front of the leaping flames, wine goblets held listlessly in their hands, then turned to lift an eyebrow at Glorfindel.

‘What happened?’ he asked.

The tall golden elf shrugged. ‘Nothing,’ he said.

‘Nothing?’ He indicated the two younger elves. ‘It doesn’t look like nothing.’

‘They are finding the world harder to endure, that’s all.  The land is no longer truly alive and it is getting more difficult to hear its voice.  There are still places – here for one – where the song sounds out, but they are getting fewer.’  Glorfindel hesitated. ‘You haven’t left the borders for a while, Celeborn.  I think perhaps you should.’

‘It doesn’t seem to be affecting you so badly.’

Glorfindel’s lips twisted.  ‘I’m older – and I have better hearing.’ He filled his own glass and drank. ‘Ah, a good vintage.’  He held it up and admired the colour.  ‘The time has come to send those who remain here to the Havens, before it is too late.’

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ Elladan growled.  ‘I will not be forced out!’

‘Of course not,’ Glorfindel replied easily.  ‘No-one expects you to take the sensible course.’

Celeborn had not been surprised to find that Glorfindel’s assessment was, if anything, understated. Beyond the boundaries of the valley, life went on as normal. Men lived their lives in the hoarse cacophony of sound that had always been part of their world, seemingly unaware of the dimness of the song of the land.

‘How do they endure it?’ he marvelled.

His friend shrugged.  ‘They probably don’t even notice the change,’ he said.

They took as little time as they could to organise the final abandonment of the valley, packing away what could not be taken or found a home elsewhere, trying to pretend that there was a point to their care, that someone, sometime would unwrap the carefully preserved past.

‘I’m going to Lasgalen,’ Celeborn stated. ‘The time is not yet come for me to leave this land.’

He was not surprised when Elladan and Elrohir insisted on joining him and he was even less amazed when Glorfindel chose to accompany them.

The remaining Imladris elves tried to persuade them not to stay, and Erestor was forthright in his condemnation of their idiocy.

‘I’ve never known you to do anything quite this stupid!’ he told Glorfindel roundly. ‘You’ll do almost anything to aggravate, I know, but to allow yourself to fade – it’s pointless.  There is nothing more that you can do to help Arda.’

‘No,’ his friend agreed quietly.  ‘But there are other situations where I might make a difference.  Don’t try to stop me, Erestor.  I believe I’m needed.’

‘Bring them home safe,’ Erestor insisted finally, his voice choked.  ‘I don’t want to have to tell their naneth that they have chosen to stay.’

Glorfindel shook his head.  ‘They won’t choose mortality unless they are pushed,’ he said.

‘And bring that obstinate elf with you,’ the other added.  ‘He’ll be wanted.’


‘Why did you not come then?’ she asked fiercely.  ‘Did you dread our reunion so much that you were prepared to give up your life?’

His kiss was hard, long and sweet. ‘Do not doubt my love, my lady,’ he said, his voice dangerous.  ‘But I am no chattel to jump at your bidding.  My choices are my own.’

‘I feared for you, my lord.’

His fingers caressed her cheek and slid under her chin, tilting it so that her eyes met his. ‘Do you think I did not fear for you through all the long years when a ring and a lust for power seemed set to take over your heart?’ he said softly.

The challenge in her eyes relaxed to amusement.  ‘You held me safe in your hands, my lord. When the offer came, I knew that I did not wish for anything that came at the price of losing your respect.’

A soft flush stained his cheekbones. ‘Do I have that much power over you, my lady of light?’

‘You do,’ she agreed somewhat ruefully, ‘although I am glad you did not appear to know it. You might have been inclined to use it rather more frequently.’

‘As you did with me?’

She laughed.  ‘Of course.  We use the weapons we have,’ she said, teasing him.

He took her more firmly in his arms and held her warm strength close to him. ‘I shall not forget that,’ he said.


The heart of Lasgalen still rang with the song of Arda and responded to the hearts of elves.  No ring of power had been used to hold the forest and the strength developed to fight off the creeping shadow of Dol Guldur had given the land a resilience that kept it alive.

But not for long.

No longer did the elves ride out to bring their talents to bear in curing the ills of field and forest. No longer did they bring healing powers to augment the limited medical talents of men. No longer did they visit their kin in the kingdoms of the South.  No longer were they seen among the hobbits of the Shire. Their bright laughter was dimmed and their joyful song was no longer heard.

They were a fading remnant of a faded race, confined within a final enclave, a small tight-knit group of beleaguered survivors, trying to deny that the end was coming.

Thranduil sat in the Hall of the Woodland King, gazing at the circlet in his hands, unaware of the arrival of a delegation from the borders.

‘My lord!’

He looked up, his eyes dark. ‘What is it?’ he asked, his irritation plain.

‘We need to retrench again,’ the grim-faced elf told him bluntly. ‘The silence crawls ever closer.’

Thranduil closed his eyes. ‘Again?’ he asked.

‘It’s speeding up, my lord, and you can’t hold it much longer.’

Celeborn interrupted before his cousin was tempted to bite the head off the group’s leader.  ‘Is that the third time since winter?’

‘It is.  It can’t go on like this.’

Thranduil stood suddenly.  ‘You are right,’ he announced with sudden decision.  ‘We need to summon all the elves remaining in Lasgalen.  Today.  It is not as if there are many left to come.’

They knew what he would say.  There was little choice.  It was stay and fade, or leave for the Havens as quickly as possible and hope to reach the sea.

They abandoned all save their most precious possessions.  Speed was essential, as travel through the silent country exhausted elves already weakened by the long battle.  They rode by night, the distant song of the stars muted by the numbness of the land.

The strongest among them, great and ancient elf-lords, held them together and bound the group to its purpose, but still they were stumbling as they approached the worn white ship.

The sight of the sea and the song of the waves refreshed them as they settled on board for their final sight of the land where most of them had been born.

‘Did we choose?’ Elrohir asked Elladan.

‘I suppose we did,’ his brother replied. ‘I would not miss the chance of seeing naneth again.’

‘Good,’ Elrohir responded with satisfaction.

Celeborn stared at the thin line of land on the horizon as it faded from sight. He had not deserted.  He had not left Arda: Arda had abandoned him.  The final skirmish of the long defeat had not taken place with blades and arrows against the forces of the dark, but had been fought against a numbing indifference to their fate on the road to the Havens.  This was now truly the Age of Men.

He turned away from the rail and walked to the prow of the ship.  Now was the time to start looking forward.


Galadriel held him tight as he wept on her shoulder, stroking his silken hair, offering her strength to support him as he released his pain.

‘I’m glad for you that you stayed, my lord,’ she murmured.

She felt his surprise and smiled sadly.  ‘At least you know,’ she told him.

He pushed back her hair from his face and clasped it in his hand.  ‘Don’t you mean I can’t pretend?’ he asked.


‘I can’t wish I was back; I can’t hold it against you that I am confined here in the Blessed Realm; I can’t pretend to have sacrificed my wishes to be here with you.’

‘Oh, my lord,’ she said. ‘Do you believe me to be that mean-spirited?’

He laughed shakily.  ‘Practical, my love, practical.  It sounds better.’

‘It will be well,’ she said, warmly reassuring, if a little uncertain.

‘It will,’ he agreed, looking up at the noble tree above them and digging the fingers of one white hand into the moss and leaf litter.  ‘The song is powerful and clear and I will heal.’  He shifted his grip on her hair to draw her closer to him.  ‘And we will be stronger than ever.’





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