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A Diplomatic Coup  by Nilmandra

Thank you to daw the minstrel for beta reading and to Karri for help with the idea.

Bodkin has always cheered for more Celebrían stories, so this is in honor of her birthday. Happy Birthday, Bodkin!

Celebrían is about 40 years old in this story (picture a 15-16 year old).

A Diplomatic Coup

Celebrían entered the family sitting room to find her sons and parents waiting. Her father poured her a cup of wine and brought it to her, while the twins made room for her on the sofa.

“Where is Adar?” asked Elrohir.

The door opened again and Elrond entered. He smiled, then walked to her, held out his hands and pulled her to her feet to kiss her in front of everyone. “You are an extraordinary naneth,” he said.

Celebrían sighed and smiled as Elladan slid to the floor to make room for their adar next to her. Celeborn brought another cup of wine for Elrond, amusement dancing in his eyes.

“You are an extraordinary adar,” Celebrían replied. She relaxed against Elrond as he began to knead her shoulders. “Though were we extraordinary, we might have seen what she was up to first and prevented it.”

Elladan laughed, a little too gleefully. “You have always said we must make our own mistakes. That includes Arwen.”

She looked at him thoughtfully. “I must say that Arwen’s acts of disobedience are far different from those of you and your brother. That does make it difficult to predict behavior from one child to the next.”

Elladan grinned unrepentantly. “I dragged my twin along more than once into mischief.”

“Yes, and you were fairly obvious about it,” noted Celebrían. “The mischief that did not seem like mischief on the surface could usually be traced to Elrohir.”

Elrohir flushed, and everyone laughed.

“So what is her punishment?” asked Elladan finally.

“That is between Arwen, your father and me,” she told him as she tweaked his hair. “If she wishes to tell you, she will.”

Elrond wrapped his arms around her. “I must say that you are better at discipline when they are at this age than I am. You know just the right punishment to fit the disobedience and ensure they learn.”

Celebrían grinned impudently at her parents. “I must say most of my wisdom was learned at the receiving end.’

Galadriel laughed. “You were a spirited child. Rather fearless, too. I suppose my own parents would not be surprised in the least that I would have such a daughter.”

“Naneth, now you must tell us a story of such an occasion,” said Elrohir. “We want to know only so that we might make good parents ourselves one day.”

Elladan grinned. “Speak for yourself, Elrohir! I want to be entertained hearing how our naneth got into trouble.”

Celebrían lightly swatted his head and began to speak.

~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~

Celebrían slipped out of her gown and dressed quickly in trousers and tunic. She fastened a cloak about her neck and tucked her dagger into her boot. She stopped before the mirror that hung upon her wall, inspecting her appearance. In these clothes, she might pass for an ellon, as long as no one looked at her too closely.

She opened her door far enough to peer out into the main room. It was dark, which meant her parents remained at the council hall or had retired to watch the harvest celebrations near the city fountain. She walked quickly out the door, turning on to back streets empty of people in the hopes of no one recognizing her.

She ran to the large oak tree that stood at the entrance to the market, and climbed to sit on a low wide branch hidden in the brilliant scarlet fall canopy of leaves. She could smell the scent of a wood fire burning and see the soft orange glow rising from near the city center. Voices were raised in song, a melody of hope and joy, but more and more lately it seemed that the songs were of the West. A shadow had hung over the city for several years, since news had come that Annatar was really Gorthaur, Sauron, lieutenant to Morgoth and survivor of the destruction of Thangorodrim long ago in the First Age of the Sun. The hopes of many had been dashed, and many eyes had turned West.

Celebrían looked east. Her heart had not turned West, for she knew little of her mother’s early home. Her father had told her stories of Doriath and Sirion, Balar and Lindon. Her mother spoke also of those times, but seldom of her life in Aman. She had once asked her father why this was, and he had replied that some memories were still too bitter.

She did not wish to think about those who might leave. There was too much here, now, to think about and explore. Like the dwarves from Moria. Many of them had traveled down from Moria, invited to the harvest celebrations. One young dwarf that she had become acquainted with had told her that some of them were leaving after the feast, to go to a favorite spot in the hills. He had invited her to come.

She tapped her hand against her thigh impatiently. Narusel was late.


Celebrían turned at the loud whisper, sliding to the ground at the call of her friend. Narusel ran up to her, her cheeks flushed. “No one saw me leave.”

Celebrían grinned. “You worry too much. I told you no one would notice, especially not with the celebrations ongoing. The dwarves said their parents never miss them either. Come!”

She took Narusel’s hand and they ran through the darkened streets to the back gate of the city. It was open, with two guards standing at their posts. They were not paying attention to who was leaving the city, only those coming in. Celebrían slowed to a sedate pace and fell into step with a small group of elves leaving. They lived outside the city walls, farming plots of land on the plains to their south. As soon as they were outside the gate, Celebrían began to run, tugging Narusel along with her.

“How are we going to get back in?” asked Narusel breathlessly.

Celebrían laughed. “We will worry about that when we are ready to return!”

They followed the dwarf road toward Moria. Celebrían slowed as they came near the spot where the dwarves had told her a path led off into the hills. He had taught her the whistle to use for them to come and meet her, but she was determined to find them herself. Her adar had taught her to track, though admittedly she had not practiced much in the dark.

“And they are dwarves and not exactly subtle about leaving a trail,” she said under her breath.

Just when she thought she might have to give in and whistle for an escort, Ithil came out from behind the clouds and shone brilliantly upon a small footpath that snaked off the main road. “There!” she cried softly, and plunged into the overgrowth.

She found much evidence of dwarves having passed this way in the recent past, but then, they were not trying to be stealthy. She followed their path, deep into the hills, finally reaching a hand back to warn Narusel from running into her when she stopped.

“Do you hear them?” she asked.

Suddenly voices rose in a loud roar, difficult for anyone to miss.

“They’re singing!” replied Narusel. “I see the light of their fire.”

“We will surprise them,” said Celebrían gleefully. “They are so loud, they will never hear us approach.”

They crept up to the small grove where the dwarves were gathered around a large fire. A barrel of ale was set upon a tree stump, and it flowed freely. Some of the dwarves were dancing a sort of jig, while the others sang and kept time by clapping their hands or beating on a form of drum. Celebrían found her foot tapping along with the beat. She could only pick up occasional bits of the dwarvish, but the gist of the rowdy song was unmistakable.

“What are they singing about?” whispered Narusel.

“Their hopes for finding gold, mithril and wives,” replied Celebrían, grinning. “I can dance that jig.”

She took off her cloak and handed it to Narusel, then shook her hair loose. She climbed up into the tree and shimmied out a long branch until she was above the dancing dwarves. The tempo of the music had increased, with the dancing dwarves dropping off one by one in laughing exhaustion. When there was one left, she dropped into the glade.

A cry arose, with alarm by some, but as she began to jig along with the remaining dwarf, the cry changed to one of glee. The dwarves were on their feet, stomping and clapping. She met the eyes of the dancing dwarf, and his eyes widened in surprise as he recognized her. His face split in a grin so wide that his face shone in the darkness. He held up a hand, which she took, and they danced together, rather than in competition.

They spun faster and faster, leaping and turning, until finally the dwarf threw up his hands and gave a roar. The rest of the dwarves roared with him then they clapped in appreciation.

“My lady, Celebrían,” panted the dwarf, bowing low.

“My lord, Dai,” she replied with a sweeping bow befitting the grandson of Durin, King of the Dwarves.

He took her hand and led her to a seat near the fire. Celebrían beckoned to Narusel from the shadows, and she came forth. The dwarves cheered when she bowed, then stood and made a place for her among them.

“We have no wine, which we know you elves prefer,” apologized Dai. He grinned slyly. “Will you have a cup of ale?”

“I will,” replied Celebrían readily. She took the cup offered, as did Narusel. All eyes were upon them. Celebrían lifted the cup to her lips and took a sip. The taste was bitter and strong, unlike anything she had tasted before. She swallowed, blinking back the tears that threatened her eyes, and then lifted her cup high. The dwarves cheered again.

Narusel took one sip, coughed and sputtered, and the dwarves laughed good-naturedly, quickly replacing her cup with one filled with water.

“Here, you have to eat something if you’re going to drink that,” said Dai. He handed her a piece of roasted meat, and she watched as he tore into his with his teeth. She lifted it to her mouth and ate it in a similar manner, though she hoped with more grace. It was cooked in a way she was not used to, but she found the spices went well with the ale. Soon she had finished the leg of meat along with half the ale.

They had all been speaking in the common tongue, but she heard several of the dwarves muttering in dwarvish. They were wondering at her boldness in joining them, and if she would join them in singing.

“I would love to learn your songs,” she replied in dwarvish.

Many a head looked at her in surprise then they laughed and cheered again. “She knows the dwarvish tongue! Few elves are there who can speak our language!” She found her ale refilled and another piece of meat shoved in her hand.

“A walking song, a mining song or a courting song?” asked a dwarf from the far side of the fire.

Celebrían heard the laughter that twittered around the fire, and suspected that one of these must be considered unfit for some ears. The dwarf who had asked the question looked slightly older than the others, his beard was deeper and longer, whereas many in the group still had thin or short beards.

“A walking song,” she replied finally.

When broad grins appeared on many faces and Dai groaned, she knew she had not chosen well. Yet she had spoken and would not change her mind.

The dwarves stood and began to march in place, their voices in cadence with their feet. The song began harmlessly enough, she thought. She began to hum and tap her foot along with it. Dai pulled her to her feet, and she marched along with them. The walking song was the tale of dwarves walking on the adventures of life. They walked many places, across Middle-earth, to their mines and halls, visiting their relatives. Celebrían listened intently, for she was learning much of dwarven culture. Then the walker met a maiden, and began to woo her. She told him what time to call upon her. At the appointed time, the walker found himself on paths that led to his lover’s door, but he found a line of suitors vying for her attention. Each dwarf would plead his case in turn. Celebrían soon had the refrain down, though she was sure she was red as a beet over the intimacy of the discussions between the dwarf and his lover. Each dwarf was singing a part, each vying for the female’s attention, speaking of his qualities and attributes. Celebrían found herself studying each dwarf, wondering how true his claims were. They would all sing the refrain together, though much ale flowed during the other verses.

Then suddenly one of them shouted and the voices fell silent, and Celebrían found them all looking at her. The dwarf who had offered her the choice of song stepped forward and lifted his cup of ale.

“And how would an elf choose from among her lovers?”

Celebrían took a sip of ale as she formulated her thoughts. Then she began to sing. She chose for her lover the brave captain with bright sword, but she had him lay down that sword and take up pen and book when the battle was over. She chose lover, husband, father of her children, the one she would bind her fëa to for all eternity - far too romantic, she thought, for the dwarves. But they cheered at the end and led back to the refrain.

One dwarf won the love of the maid and he was singing of the physical joys of marriage when Dai took over, finishing the verse. The dwarves laughed and called amicable insults to him, but he met Celebrían’s eyes and gave a slight nod, and she knew the song had been altered for their ears. She and Narusel had both been blushing at the bawdy tale, but the latest verse of the consummation was a little too graphic for mixed company. Then the rejected suitors each completed their verses, walking away from the maid’s home, some to seek another lover to court, others to return to their crafts or continue their journey. The song finally ended.

“If that is your walking song, I would not want to hear your courting song!” laughed Celebrían as Dai sat down again beside her.

Dai grinned. “The walking song is misleading! The courting song is much more romantic, for it is sung between the male and female. The mining song speaks of the joy of hewing stone, the glory of finding a vein of mithril or a nugget of gold, the pride of a finished work. But the walking song is always sung in a group, sometimes with females present, though if one of them answers which lover she chooses, it is a real answer.”

Celebrían’s heart gave a thump, wondering if she had just pledged herself to a particular dwarf. Dai grinned at her again and slapped his hand on his knee, laughing at the look that must have crossed her face. “So who is the lover of whom you speak?”

“I have not met him yet,” she replied primly.

A thoughtful look crept over his face, and he cocked his head as he studied her. “I suppose in the manner of the elves, you may one day tell my great-great-grandchildren whom you have chosen, and my many times great-grandchildren will sit with your son and daughter as we do this night.”

Celebrían’s reply and smile faded as she considered the meaning of his words. Dwarves were mortal, like Men, and while she would live on unless some unfortunate circumstance sent her fëa to the Halls of Mandos, the mortals had only a span of years allotted to them. How did they choose how to spend those years? What if the one who would be their spouse was not yet born?

“My parents had lived several ages of this world before they begat me,” she replied thoughtfully. “I once heard my father lament that of all the times of watchful peace, they chose the wrong one into which to bring a child, for shadow returned unlooked for.”

Dai smiled. “Mortals have little such choice. If we wish our lines to continue, we must beget our children whether times are ill or no. My grandfather Durin says it is seldom our people see an elf child.”

“I have never seen a dwarf child,” replied Celebrían when he paused.

“We have so few that we keep them hidden away!” laughed Dai. “That is also true of the elves, I think, only you cannot hide them as well in your city.”

Celebrían looked up as clouds drifted by, allowing Ithil to shine down upon them again. By the position of the stars it was late. She rose. “I must return home before my parents worry. Thank you for allowing us to join you. I will never forget the kindness of the dwarves.”

Dai rose and bowed before her, then took her hand and kissed it. “My children’s children will sing of the elf maiden who honored the dwarves by eating, singing and dancing with them. I will escort you back to your city.”

The dwarves called their good wishes and farewells as Dai led them away, then broke into a song of parting. Celebrían could hear their singing until they were nearly back to the dwarf road. Once they were on the main road, Dai offered them each an arm and walked between them back to the city gate.

The gate was closed.

“Oh!” cried Celebrían softly. “I did not think they would close the gates on a night of celebration.”

“Do you not know the passwords?” asked Dai in amazement.

“No,” replied Celebrían softly. She did not know if they even had passwords.

“I can try several and see if any of the common ones work to open the gate,” offered Dai. He disentangled his arms from theirs and walked right up to the gate. He felt along its edges, murmuring and muttering as he did so. Then he stood back and spoke a word in elvish. After a few moments he tried one in the common tongue. He paused, a puzzled look on his face, then turned and grinned at them.

“Obviously, I should use dwarvish.” He spoke a word Celebrían did not know and the gate slowly opened. A look of pride shone from his face. “There, now you are home.”

Celebrían was so surprised she could not speak, but then they all heard the sound of a sword being drawn and then several elves peered from around the door. “Daro!” they cried.

Celebrian, Narusel and Dai all watched in horror as two guards leapt out at them, swords drawn.

Then to Celebrían’s relief, her father strode from the gate, pushing one guard’s sword down as he walked by. “Stand down,” he commanded.

“Adar!” she cried, and took several steps forward to him. She could see the relief in his eyes, but he held up his hand to her and she stopped. He towered instead over the dwarf.

“By what magic did you open that gate?” he demanded.

Dai was young, but he was also Durin’s grandson. He glared back at the elf, then drew himself up to his full height. But when he opened his mouth to answer, no words came out. A puzzled look crossed his face. “The same magic used in all doors,” he sputtered indignantly.

“Adar, Dai spoke the password because we did not know it,” offered Celebrían. She stood at her father’s side, slipping her arm through his.

Celeborn turned his attention to her then. “Where were you? Narusel’s parents have been searching for her, and we for you.”

Celebrían bit her lip. “We were celebrating the harvest with the dwarves, Adar. They invited us to join them.”

Celeborn turned back to Dai, his eyes narrowed. Before he could speak, Celebrían interjected, “This is Dai, grandson of Durin. He was kind enough to escort us back.”

Dai immediately bowed and said, “At your service, and that of your family.”

Celeborn studied the three of them then, and his face finally softened. He nodded, acknowledging the dwarf’s greeting. “Dai, you have my thanks for escorting Celebrían and Narusel home.”

The young dwarf looked confused and slightly insulted, since Celeborn had not returned the proper greeting. Then he shrugged. Celebrían winked at him, and he winked back, a grin coming over his face.

“Fair night, my ladies,” he said, then bowed deeply before them.

Celebrían and Narusel curtseyed in return then Dai nodded at Celeborn and turned to walk back up the dwarf road to Moria.

They watched until he was out of sight, then Celeborn turned to face them. Celebrían could not read the look in his eye, but it was intense and she finally squirmed under it and had to look away.

“Go inside and close the gate,” he instructed the guards.

The guards’ looks of surprise were quickly masked and they did as requested. Celeborn walked to the gate, until he stood close enough for the door to just clear him. “Speak the password you heard Dai speak,” he instructed Celebrían.

Celebrían spoke the dwarvish word, but nothing happened. She repeated it, trying a slightly different pronunciation, but she was sure the first version was correct.

Still nothing happened. She looked up at her father, who seemed deep in thought. He spoke a word, different than what Dai had tried in elvish, and the gate swung open. The guards stepped aside as they entered.

Celeborn did not speak as they went first to Narusel’s home. Narusel’s father rushed outside, relief in his eyes. He hugged her, then stepped back and looked sternly upon her. Narusel stared at the ground. “We will speak in the morning. Go to bed, child.” When she had entered their home, he thanked Celeborn for finding his daughter and bringing her home, and then followed her.

Celebrían walked beside her father the few blocks to their home, but he did not speak. Nor did he take her arm, as he usually would. She entered their home to find her mother waiting in the sitting room. Her face was impassive. Celebrían crumbled.

“I am sorry,” she cried. “I did not mean to cause you to worry!”

Galadriel rose and came to stand at Celeborn’s side. “I would say,” said Galadriel softly, but with stern voice, “that you did not think at all. Go to bed. We will speak in the morning.”

Celebrían opened her mouth to reply, to explain herself, but the look on her parent’s faces dissuaded her. She hung her head instead and went to her chamber, closing the door softly behind her. She walked to the window, looking out at the night sky, full of stars, and sighed. Never had she seen her adar and naneth like this. They had never been truly angry at her, and she did not think they were now, but disappointment was clearly written in their faces.

She undressed and pulled a nightgown over her head, then lay down upon her bed, but sleep did not come.

Sometime later she heard her door open and her adar and naneth came into her room. She sat up.

They had come to watch over her sleep, she realized, to ensure she was well. Tears filled her eyes as she thought of the worry she must have caused them. They sat down beside her, and when a sob escaped her, her mother pulled her close and held her, and she felt her father’s hand on her back, its warm weight a comfort.

“What is the cause of these tears?” asked Galadriel softly.

“Sorrow for the heartache I have caused you,” she hiccupped.

There was a long pause, then Galadriel asked, “No sorrow for the wrong you committed?”

“Are they not one and the same?” She pulled back from her mother’s arms. “I thought only of the adventure of going off to where the young dwarves met to sing and dance. I did not think through that it was wrong not to tell you where I was going.”

Celeborn cleared his throat. “It would be wrong for you to tell us that you were going outside the city walls by yourself as well. You have a certain amount of freedom within the city walls, Celebrían, but those freedoms have limits. You have pushed far beyond them this night.”

Celebrían’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach. “I think I am digging the pit of my troubles deeper.”

Her mother laughed. “Indeed, but when you find the bottom of it, you will have a good foothold to begin the climb out. You are not to leave the city, and within the city we must know where you are at all times. A shadow now lingers over the city. We would not have you learn firsthand how closely it has crept to our borders.”

“What of the dwarves?” asked Celebrían as she wiped her tears. “Is it safe for them to meet in the hills?”

“The dwarves are not our concern,” said Celeborn acerbically.

“The dwarves,” said Galadriel more gently, “will watch out for their own children. Dai and the others may think the adults do not know where they go, but I assure you they do. Where do you think their parents went off to when they were young?”

Celebrían laughed, chagrined. “But then we were safe with them,” she pointed out.

Celeborn frowned. “Celebrían, not all dwarves can be trusted.”

“But I know Dai, Adar. He can be trusted,” she defended her friend.

“I do not doubt Durin’s line, nor do I think any of the dwarves of his people are not to be trusted,” replied Galadriel. “But, daughter, listen to me well: you did not have permission to leave the city and you are not of an age to make such decisions for your safety yourself. You do not know the dangers in the world around us.”

Celebrían hugged her mother tighter at those words.

“Beginning day after tomorrow, you will spend part of each day serving your father at the City Hall,” announced Galadriel.

Celebrían perked up. “Thank you, Naneth! I would like that.”

Celeborn laughed. “We thought you would. Thus it is a new responsibility, not your punishment.”

Celebrían looked from her adar to naneth, their looks bemused yet quite serious at the same time. She bowed her head. “What is my punishment?” she asked, determined not to react, no matter how bad it was.

“Since you led Narusel astray, you will apologize to her parents tomorrow. I believe that Narusel’s father will find some appropriate tasks in his shop to keep you two busy for a while,” said Celeborn.

Celebrían flushed. She had led Narusel astray, though she did not know how her parents knew this. Still, this was not a bad punishment, as she would be with her best friend.

“To serve in your adar’s office and Narusel’s adar’s shop,” continued Galadriel, as if reading her thoughts, “are the only places you may go without my companionship.”

Celebrían paled. “For how long, Naneth?”

“Until the winter solstice, at least,” replied Galadriel. “Longer if I am not content that you have learned better judgment.”

Celebrían sighed and nodded, but she did not think it would really be so bad. Content she was forgiven and knowing her punishment, she finally dozed off. She awoke when they arose and covered her with a blanket.

“Adar, why did the password work when Dai spoke it and not when I did?” she asked drowsily.

“I do not entirely know, but I intend to find out,” replied Celeborn. “That Dai is Durin’s grandson may have something to do with it.”

He kissed her and she felt herself drifting again into sleep. A thought slipped into her mind right before she succumbed to slumber: would the word her father spoke work for her, since she was his daughter? She smiled as she tucked the thought away for a day when she had the freedom to roam the city again.

A few weeks later, while Celebrían was serving in her father’s office, a messenger from King Durin arrived. She escorted him to her father, and was about to leave when the dwarf said, “This concerns your daughter, Lord Celeborn.”

Celebrían stopped in the door, looking hopefully at her father. He glanced at her, but did not wave her in or away. Instead he took the message and read it. Then the dwarf handed him a leather pouch. He withdrew from it a small box, which he opened and looked inside. A bemused look appeared on his face.

“Celebrían,” he said, and motioned her back to them.

She took the note and read it, then looked in awe at the exquisite treasure chest made of mithril, so small that it fit in the palm of her hand. She took it from her father. Inside was a token bearing the mark of Durin. She gasped.

“Young lord Dai is very talented,” said the messenger with pride. “He made that, and his grandfather consented to the token being added.” He bowed slightly before Celebrían. “There is no greater sign of friendship extended between dwarf and elf. Any of Durin’s people will aid you without condition at the sight of that token.”

The dwarf bowed before Celeborn again and took his leave.

Celebrían touched the mithril box in wonder, but at that moment the thought came to her mind that she had earned it in disobedience. She carefully set it on her father’s desk.

“I understand if I may not keep it, Adar,” she said resolutely.

Celeborn laughed. “It would be a great insult to Durin and Dai if you did not, Celebrían.” He placed the chest back in the leather bag. “Come, we will go show your naneth. I think she will be amused that your nighttime escapade has turned into a diplomatic coup.” He paused and then laughed again. “I suddenly feel a great affinity to your naneth’s parents.”

Celebrían grinned. “Naneth insists I am much more like you.’

Celeborn held out his arm to her. “I must respectfully disagree. Your naneth is, as seldom happens, wrong.”

Celebrían nearly danced in excitement. She could hardly wait to hear her adar tell her naneth that.

~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~

Her parent’s resumption of the age old argument as to which of them she was more like cut her off. Elrohir was already wondering where the mithril chest was, but it was Elladan that made her snort in laughter.

“Did it? Did the password work for you,” asked Elladan eagerly.

Celebrían looked over to see her father with one brow raised off his forehead in question, her mother with barely contained amusement evident in her eyes.

“That,” she replied with a grin, “is a story for another day.”

The End

* * * *

A/N: I couldn’t find any names for Durin’s son or grandsons, so Dai is made up. The Dwarf Walking Song has been mentioned in several of my other stories.



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