My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Water and Stone: 7. Gwirith
He could feel a struggle taking place within his fea. An old, old part of him was speaking, saying, ‘This is how things are. Nothing can change. Endure it.’ But tonight he could sense a new voice, and it whispered, ‘Look what you’ve become. This is the price you’ve paid for forgetting.’
And over and over in his mind, he could hear Caranfir’s voice saying, earlier that evening, ‘Do you love our dear Celinn?’ and his own voice, cold and disdainful, replying, ‘I? I love no-one.’ And then the terrible shocked silence that followed.
And it was true. He did love no one. Even with his own brother, he was distant and curt, and he made sure not to let him too close.
Gwirith dropped his head suddenly into his hands, and a groan of despair escaped him.
‘Elbereth, what would you have me do?’ he whispered into the darkness. ‘I cannot stay as I am, with a heart that is dead in my breast. But if I begin to feel again, what will become of me?’
He was silent for a long while, then as if answering someone, he said,
‘No, I cannot do it.’ He felt his body tighten in resistance, the muscles of his jaw and forehead hardening and his heart beginning to beat faster as though he were about to fight. His hands tightened around his head, and he said again, through clenched teeth,
‘I cannot do it. I cannot.’
He sat for a long time, his eyes tightly closed, trying to block out the insistent pressure within him. It was like a hunger long denied that demanded acknowledgement, and he fought to suppress it and send it back to wherever he had kept it contained for so long.
As he sat, rigid and terrified, the moon rose in the sky, and at length illumined the part of the forest where he sat. Behind his tightly closed eyes, he sensed the change and opened his eyes to see the trees around him bathed in silver light. He gazed around him, and all at once felt as if he were completely alone in an alien place, and that unless he chose a new path, his isolation would be permanent and unassuaged throughout all the ages of Arda. His body felt unsubstantial and strange, and he brought up his hands to his face and stared at them as if he were not sure they belonged to him.
He looked around him at the forest, that was usually so comforting. But it had never seemed so silent and uninhabited as it did now, and the weight of the silence seemed intolerable. Gwirith pushed himself up, his back pressed against the tree and his eyes wide with distress, and he took a few faltering steps forward, then, suddenly energised, began to run towards the centre of Caras Galadhon. He was not sure what he would do when he got there, but he knew he could not stay where he was.
He ran for a long time, feeling the power of his body and the strength of his lungs as they pulled the air into them, until he reached the lawn of the fountain and the Lady’s talan. The warden who sat at the foot of the white ladder was on his feet, barring his way.
‘What do you want with the Lord and Lady at this hour of the night?’ he demanded, then looked into Gwirith’s face. ‘What is the matter? Are you hurt? Is there bad news?’
Gwirith waited a few moments to catch his breath, then said in a voice that was less controlled than usual, ‘No, I am not hurt and there is no bad news, but I must see the Lady. I must see her now.’
‘You cannot disturb her now in the middle of the night,’ said the warden. ‘Cannot it wait until the morning?’
Gwirith tried to regain his composure, to assure himself that he could wait a few hours to see Galadriel, and he opened his mouth to say so. But his voice said,
‘No, I need her now. Please, I must see her.’
There must have been something in his voice, which indeed he scarcely recognised, because the warden looked up and made a sign to another elf who stood high up in the mallorn near the entrance to the Lady’s talan, and after a minute Gwirith saw the Lady herself emerge and gesture that he should come up.
With trembling limbs he climbed the white ladder until he stood beside the Lady, and she lifted the curtain and he passed inside.
‘I am sorry, Lady, to disturb you,’ he began, but Galadriel put her fingertips to his lips.
‘Be silent, and come and sit with me,’ she said, and led him to a long padded seat in the corner of the flet. He sat down and straight away his whole body was shaking. He tried to control it but it was as if he were naked in a cold wind, and he could do nothing. Galadriel put an arm round his shoulders and took hold of his hands.
Just then Celeborn emerged from behind a curtain, wearing a night robe. He looked at Galadriel and though no word passed between them, he disappeared again and came back shortly with a cup containing a steaming drink. Galadriel nodded her thanks and held the cup to Gwirith’s lips. He managed to drink a little bit, and then some more, and eventually the shaking stopped and he sat, shocked and staring, while Galadriel held his hands firmly.
‘Now, my dear, tell my why you are so distressed,’ she said, in her low, quiet voice.
‘It is my heart,’ he said, turning his head to look in her eyes. ‘It is dead. I have let it die.’
She looked down at his long slender hands which she held in her lap.
‘The charm we chose has numbed you, but your heart is not dead,’ she said.
‘I did not choose!’ he cried. ‘It was Luinil and my parents who asked you to do it.’
‘Because you were almost dead with grief.’
‘Yes,’ he gasped, ‘and I am still almost dead, although I still live.’
Galadriel waited. She did not try to deny what he had said. Gwirith felt a gentle power passing into him from her hands, and his mind seemed a little clearer.
‘Tonight I saw my heart, and it was empty. Everyone was talking about Celinn, and Caranfir said, ‘Do you love him?’ and I said, ‘I love no-one.’ And that is true. I have forgotten how to love. And I am afraid for the first time since … I am afraid that I will always be alone.’
Galadriel’s hands tightened on his. She moved a little and Gwirith noticed for the first time the soft sparkling fabric of her dress as it whispered around her.
‘Can the charm be removed?’ he asked, his voice a mere whisper.
‘It can,’ said Galadriel, ‘but I cannot say how it will be for you. It has been a part of your fea for many years. To feel all the sensations of your fea again may be very disquieting at first. And we cannot know how deeply the charm has become a part of you.’
‘What are you saying?’ he asked.
‘You may have been changed. Changed too profoundly to restore you to what you were. I cannot be sure whether we can remove the charm completely.’
The colour drained from his already pale face, leaving dark shadows under his eyes.
‘So my heart may never be fully mended.’
Galadriel looked away. ‘I am sorry,’ she said, her voice shaking a little. ‘Many times I have asked myself whether I was wise to agree to your family’s wishes. After the Fell Winter, even here in Lorien, many had died from the cold. We could not bear to let you die too, when we knew we had a way to prevent it. If I have afflicted your fea, I will pay the price when my time comes.’
‘I would never have dreamt that I would be asking you to remove the charm,’ said Gwirith. ‘The thought of what I might remember is a terror to me.’ And indeed Galadriel could feel shudders running through his body. ‘But I am caught,’ he said in despair. ‘I cannot live with my heart dead within me any more. I feel its weight like a stone.’ And he pressed his hand to his chest, his eyes dark with horror.
‘What has brought you to this, after so many long years?’ Galadriel asked him, to distract him as well as to know the answer to her question.
He looked round at her slowly. ‘I do not know,’ he said, wonderingly. For a long time he seemed to be searching for the answer, then he said, ‘I think it is being here, close to you, and near my brother again, and maybe also being with Celinn.’ His voice softened a little. ‘Many others gave up trying to befriend me, after I had worked so hard to push them away. But Celinn did not give up. Nor would he fight with me. He told me he that thought he knew I did not want him as a friend, yet he would not be my enemy. And somehow there is peace in that.’
Galadriel saw the change in him as he spoke of Celinn.
‘Is it possible that your heart is already learning to feel again?’ she said shrewdly.
But Gwirith’s face was full of sadness. ‘I feel nothing,’ he said. ‘I may know something with my mind, but not with my fea or my hroa. Even now when you touch me with kindness, my body cannot feel it. It has been so since you cast the protection on me.
Galadriel was frowning. ‘I do not understand. How can you not feel?’ She raised her hand and laid it against his cheek. ‘Do you not feel this?’
He smiled at her as one would at a child who could not grasp something. ‘I know your hand touches me. But it is as if there were something between my skin and yours: something like a layer of air no thicker than a hair. But it is enough to dampen the charge of your skin against mine.’
Galadriel’s hand slowly slid from his cheek, and she laid it in her lap, not looking at him.
‘Once when I was hit by an orc arrow,’ he went on, his eyes distant with the memory, ‘the poison numbed my flesh. I could see the healer cleaning the wound, I knew his hands touched me, but the full sense was not there. I was separated from the pain, but also from the sensation of my body. I was grateful. And for a long time I have been grateful for the charm of protection.’
His voice changed, became grating and harsh. ‘But I cannot continue as I have been. What was safety and ease for me has become isolation and a kind of death.’ His eyes met hers and she had to summon her strength to bear the pain in them. ‘Will you help me?’ he whispered.
‘Yes, I will help you,’ she said. ‘But I do not know what will happen if we remove the charm. Will you come to me afterwards, so that I may see how you are?’
He nodded. ‘What do I have to do?’ he asked urgently, keen to begin at once.
‘First you must listen to me,’ she said, and she took his shoulders and turned him so that he faced her directly. ‘How long is it since we cast the protection?’
‘Two centuries.’ She managed to hide her surprise at how long ago it had been.
‘Gwirith, the change to your fea and your hroa may be gradual or it may be sudden. I do not know. If it is gradual, you may have time to accustom yourself to the opening of your heart, but otherwise it may be more than you can bear at first. That is why you must come to me so that I can help you.’
He nodded again.
‘What you will feel will be real, some of it from the past, unfelt, some from the present, newly experienced. Trust your heart, but know that you will have forgotten how to keep the balance of mind, fea and hroa. At first it may be difficult to know what is passing and what is lasting.’
‘I understand,’ he said, and saw that she hesitated. ‘What is it?’ he asked. She moved closer to him on the bench.
‘Gwirith, I feel the charm is already breaking. Something has weakened it, or strengthened you. Your heart feels something. For Celinn.’
Gwirith looked at her in amazement. ‘Lady, my heart feels nothing. With Celinn there is an absence; an absence of conflict. But to feel warmth or affection is impossible for me. Even for my own brother. All I have given him are barren words about avoiding the dangers of love, and how it has crippled me. It was he who told me my heart had died.’ Gwirith’s face was bleak as he remembered the terrible words that were spoken on the morning after Midsummer. ‘I admit I felt something then, but it was terror, not love. Without my heart I feel dark or cold emotions: bitterness, arrogance, fear, contempt. I am tired of coldness. Even my anger is cold. I need to be warm once more.’ And Galadriel noticed that he was shaking again. She rose and fetched a cloak that lay on the back of a chair nearby and wrapped him in it, stroking his hair gently as she remembered stroking her daughter Celebrian’s so long ago to soothe her when she was upset.
When the chill had left him, she said, ‘You must rest first, and return later to me.’
‘No!’ His eyes were wide and dark in his pale face. ‘I cannot wait any longer. Please, let us do it now.’ Galadriel saw that he was at the end of his endurance, but was loath to work magic on him while he was so unstrung.
‘Then you must rest here,’ she said, and he did not resist as she helped him stretch out on the bench and made sure the cloak covered him well. ‘An hour, and then we will begin.’
He said nothing, but turned his head into his arm, covering his face. She saw the tension in every line of his long body.
‘I will sit by you,’ she said, and brought a chair near him. Gradually his breathing slowed and took on a regular rhythm as he fell suddenly, exhausted, into a pit of sleep. Galadriel looked at the thick braid the hung almost to his waist and wondered how he would look without all his hair bound so tightly. Maybe she would find out, if lifting the charm was successful. She let herself pass into dream, and in the hour that passed she refreshed herself and opened herself to communion with the powers, preparing herself for the task she was about to perform.
Gwirith woke exactly an hour after she had told him to rest. Galadriel was ready and watched him as he sat up, passing a hand across his forehead and putting his feet on the floor. She handed him a drink and he drained the whole cup in silence. Then he said, ‘Now?’
‘Yes,’ she answered. She had placed a chair near the open side of the talan, where they would both feel the soft wind on them. He sat down as she indicated, and she sat in another chair opposite him.
‘Gwirith, I must ask you whether you are sure you wish to do this,’ she said formally.
‘I am sure,’ he said, and his voice was firm and eager.
She took his hands. ‘Close your eyes,’ she said, ‘and think of yourself. I will help you. Imagine you are standing opposite yourself, looking at your body, but not just your hroa, your fea also. Look at the light and the colours surrounding your hroa.’
Gwirith nodded, eyes closed.
‘What can you see?’ she asked him. There was a long silence, and she sensed him looking with the eyes of his fea at the shape and colours of the emanations of his spirit.
‘I see greyness,’ he said, sadly. ‘And around my heart, worse: darkness, like a stone wall in a deep dungeon, hard and cold.’
‘Do you see any colour at all?’ she asked.
‘Maybe a little near my head and throat,’ he said, ‘but I’m not sure.’
‘That is also what I see,’ she said. ‘The charm is like the wall, surrounding your heart. I will begin to remove it, but first we must ask permission of your fea.’
Gwirith felt a touch upon his fea, a question, gentle and tentative. Something in him responded, but he did not know how.
‘Very well,’ said Galadriel. ‘Your fea consents. Be still, and tell me if anything pains you.’
At first Gwirith felt nothing, but gradually he became aware of a sensation of pressure in his chest. At first there was no pain, but as the moments passed, he felt a great struggle begin within him, as if Galadriel were trying to destroy the wall they had both perceived around his heart. Then there was pain, and he gasped and tightened his hands on the chair.
‘Be still,’ said Galadriel shortly, then, ‘do not fight me. Now you must open, or I may hurt you in trying to break the charm.’
At that moment, Gwirith would have done anything to be as far away as possible, so terrified was he of what he had asked Galadriel to do. Despite her words, he struggled to resist her, and he heard her gasp as his fea tried to push her away. But she was strong and ancient in power, and she did not yield. He felt her fea inexorably circling the wall around his heart, and saw her ruthless intention to do as he had asked her. Feeling as if there was no breath left in his body, Gwirith surrendered to her, and saw with his fea the first crack appear in the wall around his heart. Galadriel was there at once, standing at the fault line, no longer pushing now, but simply standing close to his heart. The pressure was if anything even greater than before and he felt his eyes begin to roll up into his head and a darkness come down over him, but before he could fall into unconsciousness, Galadriel seized his hand and he felt a shock of power jolt through him. He was conscious again, but the pressure was so great that he could not draw breath into his lungs or cry out to Galadriel that, yes, there was pain, and it was only her hold on him the kept him upright in the chair.
Gwirith felt tears burst from his eyes and roll down his cheeks as an ancient part of him cracked and broke into a thousand pieces, and the dark protection around his heart dissolved under Galadriel’s power. He felt naked, as if he were not only unclothed, but stripped of a layer of skin. The breeze on his face was exquisitely painful, and Galadriel’s hands burned his as if they were hot coals straight from the fire. Colours flashed before his closed eyes, and voices sounded in his head, unbearably loud and strident. He wanted to groan with pain, but his voice would not obey him.
Then the energy that had its focus over his heart began to radiate out into the rest of his body, and he felt it push through every part of his flesh until it reached the edge of his skin, and he trembled with the power of it. It passed the boundary of his hroa and washed out into the aura around him, and he wept again as the grey he had seen slowly began to bloom into colour, as when the sun rises at dawn and paints the world afresh. Soon before his eyes he could see every shade of colour, pulsing with a gentle light, and at the centre he saw his heart, vulnerable and open, and he was filled with joy and terror in equal parts. Of the dark dungeon wall not a trace remained.
Then he became aware of Galadriel’s voice singing softly, and of a warm golden light enfolding him from head to toe, and he was able to breathe again. He took in air with a shuddering gasp and his eyes snapped open, to see Galadriel’s very blue ones looking straight at him. She went on singing, not looking away, and he was overcome by her beauty, her long radiant hair, her fair face with its gentle mouth, and her slender, well shaped body. He sighed deeply and gazed at her in wonder. Her low voice thrummed within his chest and he felt the energy of it run down his spine and pool in his gut. There was another feeling too, but he did not recognise it, a different type of energy, coming out of his own body, could it be…?
Galadriel fell silent and the feeling died away unidentified. Her face was pale and weary, but she smiled suddenly and it was illumined with brilliance.
‘How fare you, my dear?’ she asked him.
He looked at her, unsure what to say, his body humming with sensation. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It is as if something within me is alive and I feel its power in me, in my skin, my bones, everywhere.’
Galadriel gave a deep sigh. ‘That is well,’ she said, and released his hands. He sat quietly, the acute sensitivity of his body slowly dying down into something approaching normal. Galadriel watched him, and he felt a feather light touch on his aura, balancing and smoothing it. Finally she sat back in her chair. ‘That is enough for now, I think,’ she said. ‘Now you must go home and sleep.’ He blinked a few times, then stood up, suddenly aware of the feel of the wooden floor beneath his feet, and of the sweet air of early dawn caressing his skin and entering his lungs. He felt like smiling, and did so experimentally. His face felt tight and the muscles unused to the movement, and indeed Galadriel said,
‘Are you in some pain?’ He said, ‘No,’ but could not tell her he had forgotten how to smile.
‘I hope the change in you will be gradual and easy but you must come to me if you are in difficulty. Will you promise me that?’
He nodded. ‘Thank you,’ he said. He felt peaceful and calm as she inclined her head in farewell, and he turned away and made his way down the white ladder to the ground.
The dawn smelt fresh and pungent, and the colours that grew out of the increasing light reminded him of the blossoming of colours within himself. He felt a poignant wave of happiness wash over him, a sensation he scarcely recognised.
He was suddenly bone weary, and found himself stumbling as he made his way to his own talan beside his workshop. When he reached it he dragged himself up the ladder and stripped his clothes off, falling on to his bed with a sigh of utmost relief. He lay face down, and he felt the linen cloth of the sheet and pillow slip against his skin and the soft wind of dawn on his naked body, and for the first time for as long as he could remember, he fell into a deep untroubled sleep.
In the hours after sunrise a thick mist came down over Lorien from the mountains, and in the sudden chill Gwirith began to dream. All at once his mind was full of terror and darkness, and he cried out in his sleep and tried to wake, but could not. It seemed that every battle in which he had ever taken part was being replayed in his mind, from the fall of Eregion and the flight of the Noldor through Khazad-Dum to Lorien, through the war of Doriath that followed, and finally the War of the Last Alliance and the Dagor Bragollach and the Siege of Barad-Dur. Memories long forgotten came vividly before his eyes, and he saw every battlefield, and every friend who had died, and the long rows of those slaughtered by the enemies of the light. He thought that he was weeping but maybe that was also part of the dream.
And there was another memory, he could feel it welling up from some deep place within him. He did not know what it was but he knew he could not endure it. He struggled to wake from the nightmare, but it was as if he was forced to see the images unfolding before his eyes. He knew he was weeping now, he could hear himself, so he must be waking, soon he would be awake. But then there was a face, a face that was so familiar and yet just out of reach, smiling at him and he was smiling back. And then the expression on the face changed, and he knew he could not watch any more, could not remember what happened next. And someone was screaming, very near to where he was. He turned his head to see who it was, and then all at once he was sitting up in his bed, his body drenched in sweat, trembling with shock. The sound of his scream hung in the air and his ears tingled with it.
I put in this scene because I wanted to explore how Galadriel would use the skills she had learnt over the years, maybe from Melian at Doriath, and how the Ring of Adamant which kept Lorien safe and gave her special powers might be used in practical terms to help her own people.
I have used ideas of healing energy and the chakras to suggest the shifting of blocked energy once the person looking for healing is willing to face whatever it is that he caused the blockage in the first place.
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