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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

10: The Long Years

The sun sent a path of molten gold to light the way from the west to the Bay of Belfalas.  Wisps of cloud in vivid pink streaked the pure blue of the azure sky and the waves rocked gently.  Several swans flew over, their wings singing through the air as they worked their way down to join their fellows on the water.

‘What had Gilmith sent to you?’ Erchirion asked curiously.  ‘It sounds as if it was more than a letter to let you know of Imrazor’s last years.’

‘Erchirion!’ Lothiriel hissed disapprovingly.

‘If you do not wish to say,’ her brother continued charmingly, ‘of course you do not have to tell us.’  He turned to stare down his nose at his sister, who sniffed disdainfully.

‘If I was not happy to talk about it,’ Mithrellas said mildly, ‘I would not have mentioned it.  I have had many years to learn to live with these memories.’  She accepted the goblet of wine Amrothos offered her and took a mouthful.  ‘Imrazor sent a journal,’ she sighed, ‘a very long journal.  He had clearly spent much time composing it.’  She inspected the dark red of the wine in silence for several minutes before continuing.  ‘He had started it the night I left and added many pages over the years when he had been unable to resist.  He had passed it to Gilmith when she came to bid him farewell, fearing that Galador would have burnt his words, and left it to her to decide what to do with it.  She read it and decided that I should see it.’  Mithrellas looked up, the light of stars in her eyes.  ‘It was an avowal of love so deep, so beautiful, that, even as it made me cry, it healed a sorrow that I had not realised I felt.  Never, not for one moment, did he doubt that our love was worth it, whatever the cost.  No pain, no loneliness, no wait was too much to pay – and he was sure that, one day, we would be reunited.’

‘Oh,’ Lothiriel looked at her, eyes gleaming with tears.

‘It helped,’ Mithrellas allowed. ‘I had not thought it possible, but it did.’ She smiled briefly.  ‘But it drew a line.  That part of my life was over.  Imrazor was gone; my children had moved beyond me and I was alone.’  She sighed.  ‘And so began the long years.’


Time passed differently in Lothlorien.  It hit Mithrellas every now and then, when the gentle rhythm of nature’s song bore in echoes from outside – of bitter winters or summers of drought, of welcome late springs or long autumns of brilliant colour.  Few among the elves appeared to notice.  The Wood was a world enclosed, protected from the harsh winds that stung the lands of Men beyond its shelter.

Celeborn, as the Lord of Lorien, , seemed more alert to the shift of time and the affairs of Men, Dwarves and Elves outside the bounds of the Wood, but Galadriel – even as the Lady involved herself in the affairs of Arda, she seemed determined to keep the mallorn groves encased in a bubble of changelessness.  She had seen Mithrellas watching her and understood – the Silvan Elf had stepped outside the limits of her immortality and, to her, there were things of more importance than this peaceful haven.  Galadriel had slowly drawn the former Lady of Belfalas into the circle that was more aide than attendant: one who possessed the ability to organise and had an awareness of urgency was of value among a people who could spend a month in contemplation of the beauty of a flower or in singing the praises of a spring bubbling from the rocks. 

The years of the Watchful Peace passed quietly.  Little word came from the south.  Occasional reports from Gondor bore information about the Princes of Dol Amroth, but their names no longer meant anything to the elleth who had dwelt in the high stone castle by the blue ocean.  Those whose faces still lived in her mind were long dead and the elven blood in the line of princes had grown thin.

Darkness began again its inexorable rise in the lands beyond the marches of the defended wood.  Dol Guldur turned again to evil and the creatures of the Shadow bred in the Misty Mountains.  The Nazgul spread their evil on the borders of Gondor and broke Osgiliath’s stone bridge and threatened the White City.  Worse, far worse in the minds of the elves of Lorien: Celebrían, on her way to visit the Golden Wood, was attacked by orcs and wounded so that she could no longer suffer life east of the Sundering Seas.  Celeborn and Galadriel endured her departure, but their eyes, to one who knew, showed their pain.  Arwen came more often to Lorien and stayed longer under the towering mallorns, but her brothers, when they visited, showed faces that were cool and withdrawn in their attempt to hide the grief in their hearts.

Her loss seemed to signal a dreadful change.  Dragons again afflicted those in the far north and orcs continued to spread.  The new kingdom of the Rohirrim was attacked and overrun, while the Corsairs raided the Men of Gondor.  The pace of change seemed to be speeding up and the long slow centuries became naught but memory.  Each attack was pushed back but left behind it a smear of darkness that seemed to stretch ever further into the lands of those fighting the shadow.

‘The Age of Elves is winding to its close,’ Galadriel said sorrowfully in the months following the end of the White Council’s meeting.  ‘We will fight while we can, but the signs are not good.  Sauron’s strength grows with every passing year and there are few to fight him.  Thranduil struggles without support against the might of Dol Guldur, Men weaken in the South – and Curunír says ‘hold still’.  I feel that a time of tumult is coming.  There will be born soon some whose lives will be of such significance that the effects will change the world we know.’

‘The White Tree stands dead in the Citadel,’ Celeborn told her softly, ‘and there will be none to replace it in these days.  Gondor takes it as an omen of ill-fortune.’  He looked at Mithrellas who sat silent at her stitchery.  ‘But the descendants of Imrazor rule still in Belfalas and the blood of elves strengthens the Lords of Gondor.  Evil will be fought as long as there is any strength left in them.’

The bitter cold of the Fell Winter affected even the soft climate of the Golden Wood and the flooding that followed caused devastation west of the Misty Mountains.  Every step, it seemed to Mithrellas, as she sought news of the world beyond the trees, was backwards.  Every push of the enemy led to retrenchment.  Every success seemed to rest simply in confounding some small scheme.  It was not until the White Council forced Sauron from Dol Guldur and the evil worm Smaug was killed, that hope, for a short time, seemed to burn again deep within her. 

Then he had come to Lorien, a young man, grey-eyed and dark haired, and his presence in itself had been strange, for the sons of Men came rarely under the canopy of the Golden Wood.  Mithrellas had felt her heart contract at the sight of him.  It was not that he was like Imrazor, except in the most general terms, but he was a man among elves.  When she had heard him speak she had been shaken and doubted herself for a moment, because he spoke as an elf of Imladris, soft and strong, with the authority of the sons of Elrond in his voice. 

Arwen Undomiel herself had welcomed him and, as she watched, Mithrellas had realised why his appearance had moved her so, for she saw in his eyes the look of a man who loved an elf-maiden, beyond hope, beyond reason, beyond expectation. 

And in the face of the Evenstar, she had seen that love reciprocated.

Mithrellas found Lady Galadriel standing in the heart of a small glade where the sun brightened the silver-gilt of her hair.  She looked at the Lady, wondering whether wisdom would be in holding her tongue rather than speaking of what she had seen.

Galadriel smiled wryly.  ‘Is it right for me to permit my granddaughter to pledge herself to this man?’ she asked.  ‘I have known since her earliest days that her path would not be an easy one and that she would be forced to make an unpalatable choice.  Should I try to keep her from this?  I have lived long and tried to manipulate more people than I can remember – but in this I am certain that a wrong step could bring the whole of Arda down around us.  Is it such a bad thing for her to give herself to this man of the Dunedain?’

Mithrellas drew a deep breath.  ‘Love is love,’ she said.  ‘You could separate them and send the Evenstar back to her adar, but, if they are meant to be together, that will only make them more determined.’

‘If we keep her out of his way for a century or so, he will cease to be a problem,’ Galadriel pointed out. 

‘No!’ Mithrellas felt as if she had been punched. ‘These last centuries have been hard, for my husband has not been with me – will never be with me again – but had I not wed him, my life would have been empty.  It is better to have had those few years than to have spent empty ages without having known him.’

Galadriel looked at her quizzically.  ‘I sometimes wonder,’ she remarked, ‘if the purpose behind the love of Amroth and Nimrodel was simply to ensure that you reached Belfalas to meet Imrazor so that you and he might wed.’  She sighed and closed her eyes to listen to the song of the trees.  ‘If Arwen elects to marry Aragorn,’ she said, ‘she will be choosing to live a mortal life and she will be lost to her family until the end of days.’  She paused.  ‘It is entirely possible that neither my daughter nor Lord Elrond will ever forgive me.’  She looked down.  ‘But it is also entirely possible that it is for love of Arwen that this man will steel himself to take up the fate for which he has been born.’

‘I think –,’ Mithrellas hesitated. ‘I think that you should stand back and let your granddaughter make her own decision.  If it is meant to be – then it will.  And if it is not, then the danger will pass without your intervention.’

‘You counsel me not to interfere?’ Galadriel mused. ‘It goes against the grain to let matters take their own course.’

Mithrellas inclined her head in cautious acknowledgement.

‘It would not be so bad,’ Galadriel sighed again, ‘if she did not have to make the choice of Elrond’s House.  Without that, she could marry Aragorn and bear his children – then in days to come take ship into the West and join her family.’

‘Not so bad for whom?’  The words were jerked out of the Silvan Elf.  ‘You would rob her of her chance to follow her husband beyond the circles of the world? Take from her any chance of seeing her children again?  So that she might be a daughter and a granddaughter and a sister for all eternity?’  The reproachful look she threw at the gleaming Eldar was full of pain.  ‘How would you endure that?’ she asked.  ‘Would you find returning to your parents a fair exchange for a future with your lord?  With your daughter? Your grandchildren?  You would take that from her?’

After several moments of stunned silence, Galadriel said tentatively, ‘You would have chosen a mortal death?’

Mithrellas turned away.  ‘I would,’ she said with a simplicity that was more convincing than any dramatic vows.  ‘But it was not mine to choose,’ she murmured, her voice so quiet that even elven ears strained to hear it.

Celeborn intensified the training of the warriors of Lothlorien and increased the guard on the marches of the wood as the shadow of Mordor lengthened and the creatures of the Shadow proliferated in the dark places.  Lord Elrond sent for his daughter and Arwen returned to Imladris under the care of many warriors, as the mountains and the lands to the east became increasingly dangerous.  And yet, Mithrellas thought, for all the busyness of preparation, there was a feeling of waiting.  The air became oppressive, as if too many eyes were staring, waiting for a sign.

The change, when it came, came suddenly.  Even as the forces of the Dark Lord were attacking the kingdoms of Men and Elves, the Nazgul rode forth and their corruption could be sensed upon the land.  The watchers focused, aiming their spite in one direction.

‘It is come,’ Galadriel said with assurance.

‘We are as ready as we can be,’ her husband concluded.  ‘We will fight,’ he warned her, ‘that which can be fought – and we will not weaken.’

She looked at him, and Mithrellas could have sworn that she saw uncertainty in the face of the indomitable lady. ‘I hope you are right, my lord,’ she said.

The serenity of the mallorn groves, cultivated over a millennium and more, had not appeared to change, but, beneath the surface, Mithrellas had sensed an insecurity that may have found its origin in the Lady’s doubt.  War was coming – and with it, something worse than war.  Yet it was interesting, she thought, the strength of will the inhabitants of the Golden Wood were displaying to this great danger in comparison to the near panic that had overtaken them when the Dwarves had fled the unleashing of Durin’s Bane in Moria.  It came down to leadership, she decided.  Lord Celeborn was wise, skilled and resolute – and those qualities imparted a steadfastness to the elves who followed him.  And, on top of that, they had the example of the Lady, who prepared for disaster, ensured that all were ready and then stood firm in the face of danger.  She was aware of a wave of sympathy for Amroth and Nimrodel, who had both been so unequal to the task that confronted them, even as she thanked the Valar for the presence of two who, if anyone could, would see their people through this time without counting the cost to themselves.

As the dark of the year turned, and the days began to think of lengthening, a bizarre party crossed the borders of the wood – one comprised of men, an elf, halflings and, most odd of all, a dwarf.  They had been welcomed – in the end – despite the danger they brought with them.

Mithrellas had watched them from a distance.  The decisions of the Lord and Lady were theirs to make, and she had no wish to embroil herself in the goings-on that surrounded the unlikely fellowship, but she found herself enthralled despite herself.

They were so different, she thought, but their eyes shared the look of those who had seen horrors – and knew they were less than the horrors to come.  The man who had won the Evenstar’s heart was among them – older now and grimmer, but strong, maybe even strong enough to win his desire.  The elf, Mithrellas could see, was of the House of Oropher, young for an elf, but loyal to his odd party, showing unexpected friendship to the dwarf.  The halflings intrigued her: so small they were, yet they seemed resilient, bouncing back from their grief over the loss of Mithrandir, even the one shadowed with pain; obsessed with food and burning with curiosity.  But it was the last member of the party who caught her eye.

She came upon him moodily throwing small stones into a shady pool.  He looked somewhat dishevelled, she thought, like someone who had been untended for rather too long, used, perhaps, to having someone there to attend to basic matters like ripped hems and stain removal.  Yet his clothes had been made with care, from the best fabrics, and embroidered with skill.  He looked up, his grey eyes dark, and rose with automatic courtesy.

‘Lady,’ he said, with an inclination of his head.  His voice was deep and his accent that of the Southlands.

‘You are of Gondor?’ she asked, speaking carefully a language that she had not used in almost ten centuries.

He frowned.  Her pronunciation was strange and the words strangely old-fashioned, but the rhythm of the sea was in her lilt.  ‘I am Boromir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor,’ he told her.  ‘And you, my lady?  I feel there is something I should know about you.’  His eyes narrowed as he took in the fall of dark hair braided away from her face and her delicately pointed ears.  ‘I did not expect our language to be spoken among the Elves of the Golden Wood.’

‘It is not, in general,’ she shrugged.  ‘I learned it many years ago, when I dwelt among your people for a time.’  She considered him carefully.  ‘You are kin to the Lords of Dol Amroth?’ she asked.

‘You have the appearance of my mother,’ he said in shock, as her words brought to mind the mother he had lost thirty years before.  ‘She was a daughter of the Swan Prince.’  He stared, his formal manners forgotten.  ‘You are Mithrellas?’ he said incredulously.  ‘It is impossible – a children’s story!  My brother would delight in the tale and pretend that it was true, but it cannot be!’

‘You can believe in the existence of Lord Elrond – of Lord Glorfindel who has returned from the Halls of Mandos – and not believe that I exist, too?’ she enquired with amusement.  ‘Imrazor always found it impossible to credit that my father fought and died in the Last Alliance.  I am an elf, descendant of my descendants.  I lived before this age began and I will live to see it end.’

Mithrellas approached the shaken man and took his chin in her hand, looking intently into his face.  ‘You are drained,’ she said.  ‘And unsure.’  She pushed back his hair and sighed.  ‘Do what you know is right – not what is expedient,’ she told him.  ‘And while you are here, rest and let the song soothe you.’

Lady Galadriel met her in the high platforms among the mallorns and lifted an interested eyebrow.

‘He is blinkered,’ Mithrellas said.  ‘He is too concerned about the state of his city for him to see beyond it, but he is a good man.’

‘He could step either way,’ the Lady said.  ‘Success or failure rests with him, I think, although not, perchance, in the way that he would hope.’

The Evenstar’s lover had sought her out.  At close range other words of description came to her.  Weary was one, steadfast another – determined, a leader, but more than a figurehead; a king, perhaps, in truth.

‘You unsettled him,’ he said.  ‘He is a great believer in what he can see, what he can fight – you made him look at a world beyond that, where legends become true.’  He hesitated, unsure whether to reveal matters of which he spoke but little, then continued.  ‘I knew his mother,’ he said.  ‘And her family.  She was like you to look at – dark-haired and grey-eyed as are most of those descended from Númenor, but pale-skinned and slight with a gleam of silver in her eyes.  At the time, she brought Arwen to my mind – but now I see you in her.’  He looked at her.  ‘Your inheritance is strong still among the children of Dol Amroth – not in all, like a steady stream: it pools in some and runs thread-like in others.’  He returned her gaze with an ease that spoke of years withstanding the stares of elves.  ‘Mithrandir told me that it runs stronger in Boromir’s brother than he has seen.’  He smiled and suddenly, she found, he looked younger.  ‘He seemed to feel that this could be of great benefit in the struggle to come.’

‘You do not seem to find my identity difficult to accept,’ she said softly.

He laughed.  ‘I grew up in the household of Lord Elrond, my lady, whose adar pilots Vingilot through the night sky,’ he replied in his fluid Sindarin, ‘with brothers nigh on three thousand years older than me; I was trained in warfare by an elf lord from the First Age returned to Arda from Namo’s Halls; my heart is given to an elf-maid whose grandparents were born before the sun. I have no difficulty in accepting that you it was who wed a Lord of Belfalas and became the mother of a line of Princes.’

As Mithrellas listened to his words she became aware of a stirring of curiosity.  Adrahil had told her that her continued presence would be damaging both to her and her descendants – but surely, after all these years, it might be possible once again to visit the city by the ocean and see what had become of the land she had known.  Perhaps, she mused, if Arda survived the dangers of the next few seasons, she might be able to do that.

The strangely-assorted party departed with what aid the Lord and Lady could give them, and with their departure a different mood could be sensed.  Galadriel, Mithrellas thought, gleamed with a purer light and there was an acceptance in her face of whatever might befall.  Celeborn, too, seemed relieved, even as he redoubled his efforts to be sure that his warriors were ready.

And the shadows continued to gather beyond the Golden Wood like storm crows in search of carrion.


Elphir cleared his throat.  ‘And yet the Elves came not to the aid of Men on the battlefields of Gondor,’ he said tentatively, ‘save only for the sons of Elrond.’

‘The Elves spent their immortal lives elsewhere,’ Mithrellas told him.  ‘They fought against the might of Dol Guldur and prevailed at last, pulling down that evil dwelling.  The Men of Dale, the Dwarves of Erebor – all fought in their own lands.’  She looked sternly at the Prince’s oldest son.  ‘Do not denigrate what they achieved because they were not present for your campaign.  It may well be that your battles could not have been won had theirs not taken place.  Help came to Gondor in sufficient quantity at need – from Rohan, from the Oathbreakers – the King returned and the White Tree flowers again.’

‘You met Boromir,’ Lothiriel marvelled, ignoring this.  ‘Did you speak to Faramir and tell him of the words you spoke?  Let him know what Mithrandir said of him?’

Mithrellas shook her head.  ‘It was little enough,’ she said. ‘I doubt it would be of any comfort to him.’  She smiled. ‘And if Mithrandir wished to speak of anything else, then he was there himself to do it.’

‘My cousin would be ecstatic if he could meet you,’ Amrothos said with enthusiasm.  ‘Elessar was right – you are the embodiment of legend.’

She leaned forward and took his hand in a strong grasp.  ‘No legend, I,’ she said emphatically.  ‘I am a being just as you are.  I live, I bleed, I love, I mourn.  Elves are not Men, but we are all the children of Eru. I am as real as the grass under our feet or the tree over our heads.’  

‘We have seen few Elves in Gondor in the last centuries,’ Imrahil said mildly.  ‘Small wonder that your kind seem mythical to us.  The Rohirrim long since learned to be wary of their welcome in the Golden Wood and the dark shades of Mirkwood spelled danger to uninvited guests.  Imladris and Mithlond far to the north have seemed but ancient tales.  When Boromir headed through the Gap of Rohan to seek the hidden haven of Rivendell, it was a last desperate attempt to find aid – none expected help to come. Some said,’ he added, ‘that the quest was nothing but an attempt on the part of the Steward to preserve his son from the final campaign.’ 

‘I had not heard that,’ Amrothos observed.

His father smiled at him.  ‘No,’ he acknowledged. ‘It is likely that you would not have done.  The Captain-General was too popular a figure among his soldiers for them to doubt him and the members of the Council were too cautious to want your Uncle to learn of their cynicism.’

‘They showed some wisdom, then,’ Erchirion grinned.  ‘He would not have been pleased.’

‘But Boromir was right to go, for help came,’ Lothiriel said in wonder, ‘in the most unlikely guise – and we were saved.’


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