Celeborn and Galadriel
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Sapphire Aurae: 3. Shadow
“Why can we not finish this, Glorfindel?” he asked, interrupting a disturbingly routine report of orc skirmishes on the borders of Imladris. “We kill them often enough, and in countless numbers. They should be decreasing, running to their caves to lick their wounds, not plaguing us with their endless hatred. They are no longer supported by Sauron's power. So why can we not finish this?”
Elrond’s gold-maned councilor gestured in inarticulate helplessness and sat down, exchanging glances with the other advisors around the table. All wisely held their tongues as Imladris’ lord glowered, absently turning his broken quill in his hands. His darkened countenance was a jarring contrast with warm afternoon light in the study, for Elrond, surrounded by his tomes of wisdom and lore, could find no answers. Nor had his burst of irritation brought him anything more than ruined a tool. He set the quill aside with a sigh and held up his hands to placate his friend.
“Forgive me, Glorfindel. I have no excuse for inflicting my frustrations on you. It is only …” he mirrored Glorfindel's earlier gesture of helplessness before clasping his fingers in front of his face. “It is only that I am tired of death and terror. I am tired of losing warriors and innocents, tired of healing poisoned wounds. I could understand two centuries, even three, to mop up Sauron's minions. But a thousand years? And now they increase? Something is not right.”
Glorfindel leaned forward intently, trying to shake his companion from his melancholy. “My Lord, we will succeed in time,” he said, though doubting the truth of it. “We are protected on many sides; by you, by good warriors, by your sons…” the elves in the room winced as Elrond’s anger descended again.
“By Eru Glorfindel, thank you for reminding me how deeply practiced my sons are in killing yrch. It certainly is a helpful thought,” he growled in his famously acerbic tone.
Glorfindel rested his chin on his hand, wrinkling the skin into his own emerging scowl. He said nothing, merely pinning his friend with a piercing gaze. Elrond returned it for one exasperated moment and threw his head back with a groan, resting it on the high back of his chair as he closed his eyes. Glorfindel waited, expecting well the reward for his patience: when the lord opened his eyes the storm had cleared from their gray depths. It was Celebrían's doing. Imladris’ lady could always dull the edges of Elrond's anger and tease away his frustration. Glorfindel was grateful for it – in ages past Elrond's more infamous moods had lasted for years.
“You were, I believe, interrupted while speaking to us of orc raids?” Elrond asked mildly, rubbing his right forefinger with his thumb. “Pray continue.”
Glorfindel nodded once and stood. “Yes, my lord, as I was saying…”
That morning she had begging him to spend the day with her.
They had been lazy, a twisted sheet pulling their bodies near as he idly traced invisible patterns on her bare shoulder, his eyes half lidded and his breathing just shy of sleep.
“Elrond?” she asked. Nothing.
*Êl-nín … echui, meleth-nín?*
She smiled to herself and slid up his body until she lay atop him, their eyes even. He had finally opened his; they reflected a lazy contentment as he looked into hers. She leaned in a kissed him, lightly but by no means perfunctory, her hair brushing his face. She felt his lips curve into a slow smile under her own and broke away with a musical laugh.
“You laugh at my kiss, lady?” he asked, feigning hurt.
“Aye, my lord.”
“Fair enough,” he answered, pulling her near again. She stopped him with a finger on his lips.
“Elrond…” she started with more seriousness than a moment before. She traced the puzzled features of his face with the back of her hand and looked away slightly.
“Spend the day with me,” she continued, returning her gaze to his own. He lifted his eyebrows. “Nay! Not like that!” she laughed, giving him a mock shove. “Although the idea has merit … no, truly, spend it with me in the gardens. Life is returning there, the trees are awakening … they have been asking for you … be with me and enjoy the spring.”
He sighed and lifted his hand to tuck a lock of escaped hair behind her ear.
“Would that I could,” he answered. “But no fewer than four messengers descended on Imladris last evening, begging audience at the soonest moment. The Havens, Gondor, Greenwood, even the dwarves at Hadhodrond. I know not what news they bring or what favor they seek, but it will undoubtedly take time to sort out such an inauspicious convergence of races. Glorfindel has also arrived; he brought two of our archers with him, both gravely wounded, so I must see to their care. No hervess, I fear this is our only time together today.”
“I know,” she sighed, folding herself into his embrace. “But I had still hoped. You spend much of your life as Imladris, and little as Elrond.” He did not answer. “Did Glorfindel have any word about the boys?”
“No.” Elrond said. “I assume they are well. Glorfindel would have come to me instantly if it were not so.”
“’Tis strange to think of them as lords and warriors,” Celebrían said. “I remember my terror when first they began stabbing each other with sticks, and now they spend their days slaying orc. I wish it were not so; some days I dream that we wander the woods in peace, bearing neither trouble nor care.”
*Ol bain,* he answered.
She kissed Elrond again and rose from their bed. “Come, ellon hethu. ‘Tis morn, and there is no time for dreaming.”
Though neither wished it they spent the day apart, he in counsel and she in the gardens. It was often so, but they were comforted, for neither had been truly alone in nine hundred years. Both knew that intimacy was as near the whispered brush of thought.
So it was that Celebrían felt his frustration intensifying throughout the afternoon. She knew his anger was born of grief and failure, for one of the wounded archers had died before noon. The lord of the house had been powerless to stop a new and vicious orc poison, and though Elrond would understand its properties soon enough, that was little comfort for one who spent his life raging against death and evil. But beyond a single tragic source, Celebrían was aware that Elrond's unease had been building for years, though neither could find the cause.
Despite the sadness of the morning the warm ground rejoiced in new life. The people flowed around their lady, humming strength to the blossoms they planted, while at the edge of elven hearing the oldest trees lifted their voices to the blue heavens in slow songs of welcome. The winter had been bitter, and with no desire to spend the first splendid day of spring embroiled in the details of the woes of Middle Earth Celebrían closed her mind to all but her husband’s emotions. She worked well though the day until the hot surge of Elrond’s temper crackled through her mind. Concerned, she paused with a flower held midair to slip beyond the borders of his mind to the familiar paths of his soul.
*Hervenn, sîdh. Winter may well be confused and try to return when it sees your dark clouds. Do you feel this? This is the song of spring and trees, the gift of this day. Take it, be comforted, and apologize to Glorfindel.*
*You heard my outburst, did you?* Elrond was amused, but Celebrían could feel the growing knell of concern in his heart. *As you will, bereth-nín. I did not intend to disturb you with my dark musings, though it seems of late that I can only escape them through your touch. Díhena-nin, Celebrían i-Golwen.*
*There is nothing to forgive, melethron-nín. Be at peace, and I am content.*
She withdrew to the threshold of his mind, but lingered, unnoticed, to be certain he had regained his equilibrium. As she moved to return to herself the echo of Elrond's thoughts abruptly shifted strangely behind her, pulling her back. Though she had never witnessed such a thing, he reached within himself and out to the wind with practiced ease, summoning a deep blue note that coalesced into a palpable presence, a sapphire aura that enlightened the landscape of his mind while obscuring his subtle beauty. It was followed by a thousand voices and the mournful keen of the sea, a shroud of omnipresent and inescapable authority she thought she should know, but could not place.
*Heria ha ad* Elrond whispered, stepping into a sudden abyss.
Without thought, Celebrían followed.
She stood with him above Middle Earth; he did not notice her, but she was not surprised. She could barely feel him, for the borders of his personality were almost fully breached by the force that carried them both. For a moment he collected himself, and she was dazed a burst of his agony – the seduction of a limitless but enslaved power. She moved outward with him to the borders of Rivendell, pausing to note the traces of orc. They passed over a troop of elves who glanced upward in surprise, each blessed for a moment with a dizzying vision of himself as he truly was. Celebrían could feel the presence of each elf in Arda, every note of life sounding on the air that carried her.
And with blinding clarity, she knew. Vilya.
O Elbereth! she prayed, mourning the burden he carried.
The ring and the elf-lord sought desperately for an answer to an unknown question, for a name to give to an unspoken fear. But because of the years in which Elrond's disquiet had slowly increased, the shadow of corruption obscured the presence of evil. Elrond passed untouched over the edges of the growing dark, but could not distinguish it from the darkness he had seen his dreams. Neither did darkness perceive him, for he was cloaked in the power of his people. But Celebrían was unprotected and undisguised, a pure beacon, and evil was curious.
Where the unfamiliar azure light of Elrond's presence had been disquieting, the blackness that pulled her away was horror incarnate, a gloom that focused on her in one single, slashing gaze. She was tied, powerless to shrink from the shadowy teeth bared in a twisted mockery of smile. A cruel cackle spewed decayed breath on the tender boundaries of her mind, and she realized for the first time the weakness of her psychic defenses.
//HOw/How/how did/ an eLf/// you/?/Here./HERE/// The foul voice tore through her mind with the cry of ten thousand dead, demanding to know what she knew and swearing to shred her mind to get what it desired. Celebrían panicked. It was not the panic of the body, with its mechanisms to run and fight, but the pure emotional terror of losing self.
//Ring/ a/ ?/ RING/ power/elF/hate///WhERE///die// ash nazg thrakatuluuk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul// I will take IT and you I will/yOu/ WILL take// I see/TakE/ ash nazg//!!AshNAZG///
It snarled and spit in her mind, howling its eternal rage against beauty and joy. It charged, the first feint in an attack that would disembowel her memories. With a cry of despair Celebrían sought the road to Mandos, but was so shackled that even death was outside her grasp. The universe constricted to doom.
She did not sense his coming and could not say how he breached her prison, but before the darkness could violate her mind Elrond hurled it back. He poured all his strength into her, pulling her from the precipice of despair, and filled his own resulting weakness with the strength of all the elves. Against the cowering ooze of the dark, he was great and terrible, radiating the majesty of his unclaimed elven throne, the courage of men, and the godliness of the Maia, who stood second only to the Valar themselves.
With a snarl of rage enemy gnashed toward him, madly lusting for the power of the elven ring and the life of its bearer. Elrond heaved the creature back and then retreated, clasping Celebrían and pulling her with him. His devotion snapped the bonds that had held her, and he embraced her, sheltering her in a tranquil place in his mind she had not seen. He had always poured out his love to her, but this was its source. Fear and horror had no power to blaspheme them there, and the frightening strength of the ring he carried merely stood guard outside.
*Galu, meleth-nín!* she cried, and stood to face evil with him. For all his glory, she could feel Elrond weakening quickly as the darkness crackled on his defenses. One lesser ring could not stand alone against the might of Sauron reborn, for his life was still tied to the master ring, though he possessed it not.
They could not escape.
al-sír – not today.
bereth-nín – my queen/spouse
ellon hethu – foggy elf
Êl-nín … echui, meleth-nín? – My Star … awakening, my love?
Eru – Ilúvatar, the Father of All
Díhena-nin, Celebrían i-Golwen – forgive me, Celebrían the Wise.
Galu, meleth-nín – blessings, my love
Hadhodrond – Khazad-dûm, Moria
Heria ha ad – it begins again
Hervenn, sîdh – husband, peace
Hervess - wife
melethron-nín – my lover
O Elbereth – prayer to the Queen of the Stars
Ol bain – beautiful dream
Yrch – orc
//ash nazg thrakatuluuk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul// one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them (Dark Speech)
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