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Eärendil’s Tale  by Bodkin

Cousins

‘We are cousins on my adar’s side, are we not?’ Celebrían said as she and Elwing sat amid the fragrance of the roses. ‘As I am cousins with Eärendil through my naneth’s family.’

‘Nimloth, my naneth, was your adar’s niece,’ Elwing admitted.  ‘I knew Celeborn quite well as I grew up – he would come and visit me often as I dwelt with Evranin and Gereth at the Havens of Sirion.’  She hesitated.  ‘I think that Evranin was rather surprised that he did not take me from her to raise me himself.  He was my only living kin, through Lúthien and Elu as well as Nimloth – and a Prince of Doriath.’ 

‘In truth,’ Celebrían agreed, ‘it surprises me, too.  I would have thought that he would have looked on it as his duty to care for Elu’s great-grandchild, at whatever cost – even if it divided him for a time from my naneth.’  She cupped a white blossom in her hands and raised it to her face.  ‘But perhaps the price he paid was not to remove you from those whom you looked on as your family.  I do not think he would have torn you from those who gave you security.’

‘Those of Elu’s people who joined us in our flight to the edge of the sea,’ Elwing said thoughtfully, ‘would not have endured the presence of one of Finwë’s House.  Not at first, when the actions of the Fëanoriannath were wounds fresh in their memories.  They would have been in no mood to distinguish between the Noldor.’

‘Gil-Galad was with Cirdan on the Isle of Balar, though, was he not?’ Celebrían enquired.  ‘And, after Turgon was lost with the destruction of Gondolin, he was High King of the Noldor.’

Elwing shrugged.  ‘He had been an elfling when he was sent to dwell with Cirdan,’ she said, ‘and he had grown under the eyes of the elves of the Falas.  He was Noldor by blood, but his accent was that of the Falathrim.  Galadriel was no elfling.’

‘She and my adar were identical in kinship to Elu,’ Celebrían said intensely.  ‘She had spent more time in Doriath with Melian and Lúthien than she had with the Noldor.  She was not even there when the sons of Fëanor attacked – and yet she still received nothing but suspicion.’

Elwing looked at Celebrían, but refrained from commenting.

‘Say it,’ her son’s wife told her fiercely.  ‘Her absence convinced many that she had been complicit in the attack.  Just as her survival, had she been there, would have assured them that she had been part of it.  It would seem that only her death would have led her detractors to believe that she had no knowledge of it – and even that many would have put to a falling-out among thieves.’  She paused.  ‘Even those who thought she may not have been involved,’ she added bitterly, ‘shared in the belief that she looked on the Kinslaying as an opportunity for my adar to take the kingship of the Sindar, so that she could rule both him and his people.’

‘Doriath had been long shielded by the Girdle of Melian,’ Elwing said mildly.  ‘There were few among those who sought safety with us who knew the Noldor except by reputation.  It was not until the exiles of Gondolin came to dwell in Nan-tathren and then followed the river to the sea that many realised that we were all elves, and that we were the victims of a common enemy, one whose power greatly exceeded that of the sons of Fëanor.’

‘I am sorry,’ Celebrían said after a few minutes, as the scent of the flowers calmed her mood and the soft breeze stirred her hair of silver.  ‘I was not born until my parents had settled in Ost-in-Edhil, but I heard enough against each of them from those who should have known better.  They dared say nothing, of course, in my parents’ presence, but they were not cautious enough to avoid my hearing Celeborn patronised by a variety of insignificant Exiles who had nothing in which to take pride other than that they had seen the Two Trees – who dared pity my naneth because she had married so far beneath her.  And,’ she went on softly, ‘at the same time I could see how my naneth was despised by some of the Sindar for nothing other than being who she was.’  She smiled wryly.  ‘When my parents discovered how it upset me, they told me it did not matter – they laughed and said it was doubtless good for them to have their pride kept in check.’  She fell silent again and they listened to the sound of water as the flat bowl of the fountain overflowed into the little rill.  ‘What do you remember of Celeborn’s visits?’ she asked.

Elwing smiled.  ‘I would be excited when I knew he was coming,’ she replied.  ‘Even though I knew that Evranin would be anxious and telling me to watch my manners and keep my clothes clean.  I think she was always afraid that this would be the time he would take me away, although she never said so.  He always seemed surprised by how much I had grown – but the beautifully embroidered clothes he brought always fitted, so perhaps he was not as astonished as he pretended.  He talked to me as if what I said really mattered – and I think he was very concerned to see that I was educated as befitted the offspring of the Houses of Elu and Elmo.  And he would tell me stories,’ she sighed, ‘stories of my naneth when she was a little elfling, tales of his own youth with Lúthien, tricks that he and his brother had played.  He told me things about my family that no-one else knew – and he made them real to me as no-one else could have done.  He knew less of Dior and Beren, but they were still people to him rather than legends.’  She considered for a moment and added.  ‘He made me proud of who I was.’

Celebrían’s face softened.  ‘That sounds like Adar,’ she said. 

‘When I was at my most awkward, he made me feel like a queen,’ Elwing said.  ‘Yet he ensured that I learned that to lead was to serve.’  She paused.  ‘He came less often as I grew older, although he wrote when he could – and he did not meet Eärendil.  He saw Elros and Elrond once, when he visited Sirion after a meeting with Cirdan and Gil-Galad in Balar, but he was increasingly busy further east.’  She hesitated.  ‘He did not take the twins into his care either, after I was lost.’

‘I believe,’ Celebrían considered, ‘that the situation was much the same as with you after the ruin of Doriath.  By the time he came, they had settled with others and he did not wish to disrupt them – it had taken some while for the twins to come to trust Cirdan and Ereinion and feel comfortable with them.  And then, of course, Gil-Galad was closer kin to Eärendil – and in the male line, too, so perhaps it seemed preferable to all to leave them as they were.’  She smiled slightly.  ‘And, as far as I am concerned, it was probably for the best – had Elrond been raised as my older brother, it is unlikely that we would have wed, and that would have been a pity.’

‘Perhaps,’ Elwing allowed.  ‘And, of course, I scarcely knew Gil-Galad.  He always seemed to me to be little more than an elfling himself.’

‘But elflings grow,’ her son’s wife pointed out.  ‘He was under his first century when Elrond and Elros came into his care, but you and Eärendil were younger still when you became parents.’

‘Do you think your adar will sail in time?’ Elwing asked abruptly.  ‘I would love to see him again.’

Celebrían sobered.  ‘I hope so,’ she said.  ‘And that he will bring our sons with him.  He will not leave while he feels that he is needed there – that he can make a difference – but I hope he knows that there are those here in the Blessed Realm who also need him.  Naneth misses him even more that she knew she would – they have spent more than two ages looking to one another for support.   I know what it is to ache for the emptiness that is missing the one to whom you are bound, and it is a pain like no other.  I could only hope that Elrond felt it less in Arda, but I have no doubt but that it was a wound that refused to heal.  I must believe they will come.’

A flicker of movement caused them both to turn their heads towards the arched entrance to the garden.  ‘My lady?’ An elf in a gown of soft green covered by a large apron looked at Elwing with amusement.

‘What is it, Glasiel?’ Elwing asked.  ‘I thought I had left instructions that we were not to be disturbed.’

‘You did, my lady,’ Glasiel smiled.  She was not as young as she had seemed at first, Celebrían thought.  Her long dark braid framed a pink-cheeked face, but her eyes revealed long experience.  ‘Which is why it is I who have come to let you know.’

‘Am I that frightening?’ Elwing complained.  ‘I have no objection to anyone arriving with an important message – I just do not want to be interrupted to discuss the laundry or to be asked what we should eat tonight.’

Glasiel shook her head.  ‘The staff is clearly terrified of you, my lady,’ she said solemnly.  ‘I thought you should know that the merchants’ caravan is approaching.  It should arrive by this afternoon – only one month late.’

‘It is about time!’ Elwing exclaimed.  ‘Prepare the usual accommodation for them, please, Glasiel, and see that everyone is informed that there will be a market held in two days.  That should give everyone time to gather what they wish to sell and prepare for the feast.’

‘It is already being done, Lady Elwing,’ Glasiel said.  ‘There is no need for you to concern yourselves.  I will send someone to you with food and wine.’

Celebrían watched the elleth as she left them.  ‘She seems to know you very well,’ she remarked.

‘She does.’  Elwing turned to regard her son’s wife.  ‘Elrond doubtless does not recall her – he was too young – but Glasiel was his nursemaid when he was very small.  She was killed at Sirion,’ she added quietly.  ‘When she was re-embodied she sought us out here and settled with us as part of our household.’  Elwing closed her eyes briefly. ‘Most of those here have come gradually over many years,’ she explained.  ‘At first it was just the two of us, but after the War of Wrath, some remnants of Doriath and Gondolin – mostly from those who had followed us to the Havens of Sirion – began to make their way to us.  Some green elves, a few of the Noldor – but most of them Sindar.  What had seemed an exile, here on the edge of nowhere, became, in time, our home.’

‘Tell me more of Sirion,’ Celebrían requested.  ‘What was it like, there by the sea?’

Elwing leaned back and let her mind drift.  ‘Have you ever lived at the ocean’s edge?’ she asked.  ‘I do not remember having any other home – not until we came here,’ she continued, looking around.  ‘And, although you would not know it now, to see the walled gardens and the wide lawns, the farms and forests, it was much like the salt marshes of Sirion then. 

‘The wind blew from the sea,’ she said reminiscently, ‘a lazy wind, Evranin called it, because it would blow right through you.  What trees there were grew low and hunched, forced into fantastic shapes, and the grasses extended for ever.  Little creeks drained into the sea as the tide retreated, only to fill again as it returned.   There was food in plenty – marsh samphire to pick, shellfish to dig, fish to catch.  We lived where the land met the marsh in a small valley that was sheltered from the worst of the wind by the curve of the cliff.  Setting up home here made me realise how hard it must have been in the early years.  Already wounded by the betrayal of Doriath, we had headed west until there was nowhere else to go – and the elves of the forest had been forced to learn to live with the sea.

‘Evranin and Gereth’s house was near the middle of the settlement,’ Elwing said more briskly.  ‘Again I did not realise that was for my safety.  We did not have the stone caverns of Menegroth to protect us and we were too many to hide easily among what trees there were.’  She fell silent as she thought back to her earliest years.  ‘It was not the Sirion in which Elrond was born,’ she told Celebrían.  ‘The houses on the cliff, the strong walls, the harbour of fishing smacks and the few larger vessels – they all came later.’ She said conversationally, ‘So much of what the elves had built was shattered over so few years – Sirion proved itself a haven indeed and there were those with skills enough to turn an encampment into a home.

‘I grew quickly – far faster than elflings my age, yet less quickly than children of men – I often felt like an outsider.  The only heir of Elu, but not really an elf.  The grandchild of Lúthien, yet ungainly – too tall and no dancer.  One for whose singing no-one would stop.  I could do nothing well.  I could not climb trees without slipping, or walk across the mud of the marshes without becoming caked, I could not run as far or as fast as those younger than me.  They humoured me, Celebrían,’ she sighed.  ‘They allowed me to win because I was Dior’s daughter.  They praised my harp-playing because Nimloth was my naneth – yet, behind every comment I could hear the proviso ‘for a child of men’.   If it had not been for Celeborn, I would have had no faith in myself at all.  He let me see that he cared for me just because I was Elwing – and that, if I did the best I could, that was fine.’

She sighed.  ‘Tuor and Idril’s people settled further inland, but it was not long before the call of the sea began to eat at Ulmo’s messenger.  He and Eärendil came down the Sirion to see if there was room for them to set up home at the sea’s edge.  They came to see those who guided the folk of Doriath – Geren and Chwinion, Golas and Bronion.  Evranin insisted that I should be there – I was of Elu’s House she said, it was only right that those of Fingolfin’s kin should see that we were no group of rustics.’  Elwing smiled.  ‘I was young still, but tall enough to look almost adult, and she made me dress in one of the most formal of the gowns given me by your adar.  Dark green it was; heavy brocade, with the bodice embroidered with small golden flowers and a band of the same flowers seeming to grow up from the hem.  No-one would have known to look at me, my hair held in place with a narrow band of gold and my embroidery in my hands, that there had been no time to cram my feet into shoes that were too small and that, under all my finery, I was barefoot.

‘Tuor impressed me little at that time – he seemed old to one who had dwelt always with elves.  His hair was white and his beard greying, his shoulders broad and his walk somewhat stiff.  I found myself wondering what Idril could have seen in him, though it became apparent as he talked that he was an inspiring leader.  But,’ she smiled, ‘I could not find it in me to pay him much heed.  Not when with him he had his son.’

Celebrían leaned forward.  ‘Do not stop there,’ she protested.

A soft laugh sounded as Glasiel stepped carefully through the gateway with a large tray and came to balance it on the stone wall beside the bench where Elwing and her daughter-in-law sat.  ‘She is unlikely to do that,’ she said with amusement.  ‘It is a long time since Elwing has had a fresh audience for this tale – and she would not want to rush it.’  She lifted an eyebrow at Celebrían.  ‘If you doubt anything she tells you,’ she confided, ‘you can come to me for the details.  I was there and I saw most of it.’

‘If you spoil my story, I will be sure to tell some unflattering stories that involve you, my friend,’ Elwing stated firmly.  ‘I will not have you casting doubt on my word.’

‘She looked beautiful,’ Glasiel told Celebrían.  ‘Do not let her convince you otherwise.  Most of Elwing’s flaws existed only in Elwing’s eyes.  The gown suited her colouring to perfection – and the sight of Tuor’s escort brought a delightful flush to her cheeks.  Her hair shone like polished jet and starlight sparkled in her eyes.  She wore no jewels – but she did not need any.  Eärendil was captured from the first moment she lifted her eyes to meet his.’ 

Celebrían sighed.  ‘You are fortunate,’ she said. ‘I first met Elrond soon after Imladris was established – but it took him until after War of the Last Alliance to make up his mind to ask me to bond with him.’

With a shake of her head, Elwing laughed.  ‘We would not have had the time to wait over a thousand years,’ she pointed out.  ‘We were aging much as men do – I daresay that, had we remained in Sirion, we would have not have lived to see the First Age end.’  She poured a glass of wine and offered it to her daughter-in-law.  ‘Join us, Glasiel,’ she invited.  ‘I am sure the rest can prepare for the market without you.  Have a glass of wine and listen to my story – you can make sure that Celebrían gets a true account.’

With an easy smile, Glasiel accepted a second goblet and sat down on the wall.  ‘If you insist, my lady,’ she agreed.

‘Glasiel is daughter to Evranin and Gereth,’ Elwing explained.  ‘She is the closest thing I have to a sister.’  She frowned at her.  ‘Even it she does insist on ‘my ladying’ me all the time.’

‘Eärendil,’ Celebrían reminded her.

‘Yes, my lady,’ Glasiel agreed, ‘Eärendil.’

Elwing sighed.  ‘He was stunning,’ she surrendered.  ‘Tall – his hair crisp black waves down on his shoulders.  He pushed it behind his ear as if he was not accustomed to having it hanging loose and his ear was elegantly pointed.  His eyes were serious – blue-grey like the sea – and, when he looked at me, I forgot to breathe.’

‘She was frozen,’ Glasiel agreed, ‘like a winter waterfall in the cold north.  You would never have thought to look at her that less than an hour before, my naneth had dragged her in from the fields and insisted that she washed the mud from her face and put on her best gown.  Her eyes were still glistening from Evranin’s urgent hair-brushing and she had been told to keep her hands hidden as far as possible under her embroidery so as not to reveal the state of her nails.

‘Tuor took one look at the two of them and his eyes narrowed as if an idea had occurred to him – and he suggested that Elwing should show his son more of the Havens.’

‘That makes it sound as if Tuor was scheming and that we were just being manipulated,’ Elwing objected.

‘Nobody needed to manipulate either of you,’ Glasiel said frankly.  ‘You were both obviously more than interested without anybody’s suggestion.’  She smiled.  ‘My naneth was not too pleased at the idea of you walking off with a son of the Noldor – but she could do little to prevent it.  The best she could manage was sending me along to act as chaperone.’  She laughed as Elwing looked at her indignantly.  ‘I admit I was not needed,’ she said, ‘but it made Evranin feel better – she was not giving in without a fight.’

‘We walked along the cliff,’ Elwing smiled reminiscently.  ‘I did not want everyone to see us, so I avoided the fields and I did not wish to be waving away the flies, so the salt marshes were not a good choice of direction.  The sun shone on the water and the sea pinks nodded in the breeze.  His attention was drawn to the white sails on the blue of the ocean and he told me how he yearned to take ship and learn the ways of the sea.’

‘And I followed them,’ Glasiel said, shaking her head. ‘I watched Elwing hang on to his every word and gaze at him with fascination.  Before my eyes she turned from a child to a woman.’  She grinned.  ‘Evranin no longer had any trouble getting you to brush the tangles from your hair and wear pretty gowns once you had met Eärendil.’  She handed Elwing a plate of fruit and waited until she had taken something before offering it to Celebrían.  ‘Did you know that my naneth sent an urgent message to Celeborn, pleading with him to come and talk to you?’

Elwing frowned.  ‘I remember that he came and spent several weeks with us.  I did not know that Evranin had sent for him.’

‘She was worried,’ Glasiel said without apology.  ‘You were young – as an elfling you were less than half-way to your majority.  He was of Fingolfin’s House – and half man.  She did not want your only kin to blame her for allowing a relationship to develop between you and Idril’s son.  Even more important, she loved you and wanted you to have the best.’

‘Tuor and Eärendil had gone on to Balar,’ Elwing said.  ‘Tuor was, I think, considering moving there – and he wanted a ship.  We were building small fishing vessels, but what he desired only Cirdan could provide.  And, just as I was wondering how to entertain myself in Eärendil’s absence, your adar arrived – and I found I could spend my time talking to Celeborn about him instead.’  She smiled wryly.  ‘I would think he must have been really bored with my adolescent ramblings, but he never showed it.  He listened intently – and the questions he asked were always acute and made me think about what I felt.  I think he had learned from Dior something of what it was like to be part elf, part Maiar and part man and he was determined to learn about my development.  He talked to Evranin and my tutors and to my friends’ parents and consulted with our leaders – then he hugged me and left.’

‘He went to Balar,’ Glasiel said simply.  ‘I do not know if you ever realised – but he wanted to consult with Tuor and go back with him to Nan-tathren to speak with Idril.’ She smiled.  ‘Whatever you said to him had clearly made him decide in Eärendil’s favour, but he was not about to let the exiles of Gondolin feel that you were unprotected.  You were Elu’s heir and his kin – and you would be treated as such.’

Elwing’s eyes narrowed slightly.  ‘That gives me another reason to hope that Celeborn decides to sail.  I would like to learn more of those meetings.’

‘You should have seen him when he realised that I was more than interested in Elrond,’ Celebrían told her.  ‘Even though he had known your son for almost an age and knew him to be an honourable elf of great worth, he was not at all certain that he wished him to be my husband.  And I daresay,’ she added softly, ‘that Arwen had the same difficulty convincing Elrond that Estel was worthy of her.’  She reached out to clasp Elwing’s hand.  ‘It can be annoying, but we should be pleased that they care for us and want to be certain that those we choose can make us happy.’

Glasiel considered Elwing thoughtfully.  She did not think Nimloth’s daughter had ever realised how many tears Evranin had wept when she had begun to see that Elwing had not inherited her naneth’s immortality – she had saved them for the dark hours of the night when the child had been sleeping with her eyes closed against the world.  She had changed so swiftly – in no more than a heartbeat.  By the time a dozen years had passed, she had been as tall as an elfling of thirty or more, and the few who were her age mates had been left behind, scarcely mature enough to leave the nursery, while Elwing was on the edge of adolescence.  And this time, after she had met Eärendil, the discussions had been even more difficult than in earlier years. Celeborn had spent long hours with Evranin and Gereth, talking over what would be likely to happen as his niece’s child grew older, when she would be adult, what her prospects were for the future.  In many ways, she sighed, Eärendil had been the best solution possible.  And it had been still more fortunate that the two half-elves had decided, within moments of meeting, that each saw the future in the other’s eyes.

‘I wonder,’ Celebrían mused, ‘if my naneth went with him to meet Idril.  I know she visited Balar more than once and I cannot imagine that she would pass up the chance to see Turgon’s daughter.’

‘But Galadriel did not come with your adar,’ Elwing frowned.  ‘I probably met her before Doriath fell, but I do not recollect her at all.’

‘She may not have visited you in Sirion,’ her son’s wife conceded, ‘but she was doubtless involved in the decisions Celeborn made – even to the gifts he brought.  She made me a gown, once,’ she smiled, ‘very like the one you described, save that it was embroidered in silver.  Her presence would not have been an advantage when he was visiting you, but would definitely have been more helpful when it came to dealing with her uncle’s House.  And she had helped Aredhel keep Idril alive as they crossed the Grinding Ice,’ she added. ‘I think she would have wanted to see Eärendil’s naneth.’

Elwing subjected Celebrían to a long cool gaze.  ‘I liked Idril,’ she said finally.  ‘Whether as a result of Celeborn’s – interest – or not, the exiles of Gondolin joined us in Sirion and it grew rapidly from a fairly rural settlement into a town, set where the marshes met the cliffs overhanging the water.  The stone was brought in on Cirdan’s ships and the walls grew broad and high to shield us from outsiders.  Many of the elves of Doriath were not happy about it – they asked why the Gondolindrim had not learned that walls cannot ensure safety; that if Menegroth fell, and Gondolin, there was no guarantee that the Noldor’s constructions would keep Sirion inviolate.  Some chose to remain outside and trust to the trees to afford them protection.’  Her eyes grew vague as she lost herself in the past.  ‘I think Idril was the first elf I ever saw who had been born in Aman,’ she said, ‘and who remembered the Two Trees.  Their light was – part of her: I cannot put it any better than that.  But she was shadowed, too – by loss and grief and the knowledge that she would lose both husband and son to the wearing of time, yet she had not been granted the chance to follow them.

‘I was not surprised,’ she added briskly, ‘that she and Tuor took ship to seek the passage to the West.  She would have followed Tuor as far as she could – and, had her life been forfeit, she would have paid the price.

‘She took me under her wing.’  Elwing refilled the wine glasses.  ‘I think she was mildly scandalised that I had been allowed to run wild for so long and decided that, if I was to marry her son – and it became evident fairly quickly that it was an inevitable outcome – then I must know the business of running a royal household, even if it was one in exile.  I think she knew, when she looked at Tuor, that she would not have many years in which to ensure that I would be prepared to look after her son properly.  Tuor heard the conches of Ulmo ever louder,’ she sighed, ‘and the sea was drawing him away.’

‘There is no doubt,’ Celebrían reflected, ‘that the mechanics of looking after large households are complex – and greatly underestimated by most males – but the destruction of your home and the loss of many of your people makes the business of learning society’s rules seem less a necessity than an indulgence.’

Elwing nodded absently.  ‘I believe Eärendil found it rather amusing,’ she said.  ‘He could not see that it mattered if anyone knew the exact degrees of relationship between people he would never see, or how many courses a banquet should have if in honour of a foreign king.  He and Tuor were involved in the building of Eärrámë. Then they and Voronwë spent months sailing the coasts and putting out into deep water beyond the sight of land.  And, when he was home,’ her face brightened, ‘we would spend hours sailing in his small skiff or walking along the cliff tops and just enjoying being together.  It was not very many years before Idril and Evranin decided that we were old enough to be wed.’

‘I think it was largely because Tuor was clearly not going to be with us for very much longer,’ Glasiel suggested.  ‘He and Idril wanted to see their son married and settled before Tuor ran out of time.’

‘I was disappointed when Celeborn wrote to say he would not be able to attend,’ Elwing sighed.  ‘Even though he sent many gifts, I would have preferred his presence to any of them.’  She looked sharply at Celebrían. ‘Do you think your naneth was responsible for the gowns and jewels?’

‘I expect so,’ she replied amiably.  ‘Adar has never been particularly interested in such matters.  And, if they suited you, were beautifully apt for the occasion and symbolic of the union of the Houses of Finwë and Elwë, then she almost certainly took charge of the matter.’

Elwing inclined her head slowly.  ‘I would like to meet your naneth,’ she said.  ‘She seems to have had a considerable influence on my life, for someone I have never met.’

Celebrían acknowledged her remark with a rueful smile.

‘Cirdan brought Gil-Galad to the wedding,’ Elwing changed the subject.  ‘I believed Idril wanted it made plain to all observers that our union had the approval of all and that to challenge Eärendil would be to take on all kindreds.

‘But we had scarcely had time to grow accustomed to being wed,’ she said, ‘when we woke one morning to find that Eärrámë had gone – and with it, both Tuor and Idril.’

Two silver tears welled in Elwing’s eyes and Celebrían shifted closer, putting an arm round her waist.  Glasiel removed a linen handkerchief and silently offered it to her foster sister.

‘Idril had left letters,’ Elwing sniffed.  ‘Turgon had sent messengers to the West to ask the Valar for forgiveness and aid, she said, but in vain.  All were lost, save only Voronwë, who then led Tuor to Gondolin.  And if Tuor was Ulmo’s messenger, then perhaps, she thought, it would be his duty to carry Arda’s message to the Undying Lands.  If he were to represent Men, then she would take it on herself to represent the Firstborn.  She was Noldor and an Exile, but no Kinslayer, and perhaps her voice would be heard.’  She closed her eyes and the tears dropped, rolling down her pale cheeks.  ‘Eärendil was in despair.  He had known that his time with his adar was limited, but he had expected his naneth to be there for him as long as he endured.’

‘It was not a comfortable time,’ Glasiel said softly to Celebrían.  ‘Eärendil was in a state of fury combined with desperation – and all he wanted was to go after them.  He took a ship and sailed to seek them, leaving Elwing abandoned in her cold house of stone overlooking the mocking ocean.  He was gone for months – but he found them not.’

‘But he came back,’ Elwing insisted, looking into Glasiel’s face defiantly.  ‘He came back.’

‘He did,’ Glasiel agreed, ‘but he was not the same carefree youngster who had sailed away.’

Elwing bit her lip.  ‘He was Lord of Sirion and the last of Turgon’s House,’ she said. ‘He no longer had the time to be young.’

‘If he had so much responsibility,’ Glasiel said dryly, ‘he should have spent more time on land fulfilling his duty.  But the sea called him and his loss drove him – and his wife sat in her tower waiting for him to return.’

‘You have always felt we were too young to be wed,’ Elwing accused.

‘I have,’ her foster sister told her calmly.  ‘Your bodies appeared to age rapidly as men’s do, but I never thought that your fëar aged at the same rate.’ She sighed.  ‘And then you found that you had been blessed.  You were left alone as the babes grew within you, waiting for your husband to decide to return to his place at your side.’

Celebrían looked at Glasiel thoughtfully and wondered how Eärendil had managed to deal for so long with her quiet disapproval.

‘I have grown to care for him dearly over the years, of course,’ Glasiel raised her eyebrows at the silver-haired elf.  ‘But they were too young to marry, too young to be abandoned, too young to be parents – and far too young to have to take the kind of decisions that brought them to this place.’ Her gesture encompassed the gardens, the tower, the sky above them.  ‘But they did it anyway.’

‘Elros and Elrond brought me such joy,’ Elwing stated with conviction.  ‘Throughout my life I had had no-one who belonged to me.  Your ada was my closest kin – and I saw him only briefly every year or two, but the twins were mine and they depended on me as none ever had.’  She smiled with a deep content.  ‘And Eärendil returned before their birth,’ she said pointedly, ‘and stayed with us without question through their first year.’

‘While Cirdan finished building Vingilot,’ Glasiel nodded.  ‘And then he was off again, in search of we knew not what.’

Silence fell amongst them, so that the distant noises of hammering and laughter reached them from the distant meadow where the long-awaited caravan settled in.

‘I must go,’ Glasiel said reluctantly, placing the goblets on the tray and picking it up.  ‘Do not be late, Elwing,’ she added.  ‘You will want to be ready to dine with the merchants’ leaders.’

Elwing watched her foster sister leave the garden, then continued to sit in silence as the shadows moved across the roses.  ‘She is fond of Eärendil, really,’ she said apologetically, ‘but she is right.  We were very young and we had so little time.  Ulmo’s voice called him and bade him seek succour in the West – he was driven to endure the hardships of the sea.  He had no time for the pleasures of marriage and parenthood.  And then, of course, the sons of Fëanor came.’  The quiet between them was so deep that the trickling of the rill rang in Celebrían’s ears.  ‘Four years,’ Elwing murmured, ‘was all I had with my sons.  Four years.  And more than two ages without them.  Years when all I had to remember was the fear in their faces and the terror in their voices.  Years when I tormented myself with wondering what they had endured after I chose the Silmaril over them.  Whether things would have turned out differently if only I had sent the cursed jewel to Maedhros with my compliments and let him bear its effects.’ 

‘We cannot know,’ Celebrían said with conviction, ‘what would have happened – we only know what did.  Between you, you and Eärendil brought the Valar to chain Morgoth.  Elros chose to become the first and greatest King of Númenor. And Elrond served to build a bridge between the peoples of Middle Earth that enabled them to stand together and defeat Sauron.  The way has been hard and it has demanded sacrifices that no-one expected at its beginning – but we are here now.’

Elwing turned her damp face to look searchingly at her daughter-in-law, then, with a deep sigh, took her hand.  ‘And so the road goes on,’ she said softly.  

************

Whilst probably of minimal interest to anybody except family tree obsessives and hobbits, who know it already:-

Celebrían and Elwing are third cousins through their descent from Elu and Elmo.

They are also first cousins once removed as Celeborn is uncle to Elwing’s mother.

Celebrían and Eärendil are second cousins once removed through their descent from Finwë.

All of which make Celebrían and Elrond:-

            first cousins twice removed

            second cousins twice removed and

            third cousins once removed.

Moreover, although Celebrían is considerably younger than Elrond, each of those removes puts her generations further up the family tree than her husband.

 





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