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A Light at a Dark Time
He could not sleep. He had always enjoyed the night, wandering beneath the stars while others chose to waste their mystery to favour the harsh brightness of the day, but that had been for his pleasure. Now, night provided its own pain as the bright constellations simply reminded him of his daughter’s absence. Tears stung his eyes, bending and dispersing the light, making the stars dance in apparent mockery.
A whisper of silk brushing silk told him she had come and her strong arms enfolded him as she rested her cheek on his back. ‘She will be there to welcome you when you choose to sail,’ she murmured. ‘Healed and full of joy, as you would have her be.’
His breath shuddered, but he said nothing.
‘In time it will hurt less,’ Galadriel sighed. Too many trials had left their scars for them to ignore the truth of that – too much endured, too much still left to do. ‘And she is safe now.’
‘I cannot see that,’ he said. ‘Her sons will not see that. They seek death.’
‘Death, but not their own,’ his wife countered.
‘But they may well find their own in their obsession.’ He turned to wrap his arms around her. ‘I have seen them fight and heard their battle cries.’
Galadriel stiffened slightly.
Even as his fingers combed through her hair, seeking the comfort of its strength, Celeborn noted her response. It seemed, he thought, as if, in the middle of all this bitter desolation and the shattering of her family, she had found a desire to laugh. He suffered as an adar, as a daeradar, but he had led his people in peace and war for more years than he could remember and, when he found an anomaly, he sought its cause. His eyes narrowed.
‘Their wrath will ease,’ his wife said, her voice slightly husky.
He leaned back, drawing the fingers of one hand delicately down her cheek to rest under her chin, raising it so that their eyes met. The hand resting on her back felt her draw a deep breath.
‘You cannot find their rage amusing,’ he mused, ‘nor yet the situation that caused it – so the only thing that can be lightening your mood is the thought of their battle cries. Now, why would that offer entertainment?’
Galadriel squirmed – so slightly that only one whose understanding of her was as deep as his would have sensed her discomfort.
‘I have fought beside them,’ he continued. ‘And heard them call upon the power of the Valar to sustain them in battle – heard them demand vengeance – but I have never heard them say anything that would make me laugh.’
His wife’s stillness spoke of her control.
‘Yet,’ he reflected, watching her sharply, ‘there have been times – when they think I am out of earshot – when I have heard them using what sounds to me suspiciously like the dwarven tongue.’
Her shoulders quivered with the effort of keeping her face straight.
‘And, now I come to think of it, our daughter would have found it highly entertaining to teach her sons some highly inappropriate expressions in that wretched language.’
‘Dwarves come in as many guises as do elves,’ Galadriel insisted. Celeborn’s sweeping generalisations about Aulë’s people were, she had always found, both unlike him and highly irritating. ‘And your daughter would not dream of teaching her offspring to use bad language.’
‘Unlike her naneth,’ her husband commented.
Galadriel blushed. ‘Difficult times,’ she said. ‘And Celebrían always had sharp ears.’
‘But your daughter would have found it very amusing to know that her sons were indulging in dwarven curses,’ Celeborn contemplated, ‘particularly,’ he added, meeting her eyes, ‘if she knew that their words did not mean what they thought.’
His wife surrendered to the laugh that bubbled up inside her. ‘Our daughter, my lord, is a wicked tease – just like her adar – and has enjoyed this secret from the time of the twins’ first patrols. You are not to spoil it for her.’
Celeborn stared at her coolly before a slow smile spread across his face. ‘I do not know which of you is worse,’ he conceded. ‘I feel sorry for all we poor fools who have to deal with you. One condition,’ he demanded.
‘My lord?’ Galadriel enquired innocently.
‘I wish to know exactly what they are saying,’ Celeborn touched the tip of one long finger to her nose. ‘I do not intend to be the only one – other than the twins, that is – who is unaware of the meaning of these highly entertaining expressions.’
‘Of course, my love,’ Galadriel agreed easily. ‘Although you will only have my word for it, will you not? You have always been reluctant to show any interest in dwarven culture – and I believe that there is no other in Lothlórien who is familiar with Khuzdul. I could,’ she leaned forward to place a delicate kiss on his mouth, ‘tell you anything.’
‘I accept the warning,’ Celeborn told her. ‘But believe me when I say that I know you too well to be taken in. Attempt to deceive me, my love, and I will see that you pay for it.’
‘Promises,’ Galadriel said, taking his hand and leading him inside. ‘Promises.’
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