It was an uneasy admission to make, even in the confines of his private thoughts. The spring morning had been beautiful, the afternoon sublime, yet the Lord of Lorien distrusted it. Celeborn the Wise could not see the future; he did not suffer that cursed gift. But he had walked Middle Earth before the coming of the sun – he sensed prophecy in a wind’s shift, a strand of pollen in the breeze, the smallest movement of the earth beneath his feet, the coo of a concerned creature. Middle Earth told him this day hid some treachery, its warnings anciently familiar and frustratingly opaque.
He had stood at the edge of the world at the first moonrise and the first dawn, awed at the beauty that had burned away his star-lit world. He had closed his eyes from the pain of the light and had opened them again on a life infinitely more complex, the trees, the sky, the water, his very body painted in hues he could not name. Despite the unspeakable splendor, his heart had quailed. The wind that brushed through the new light brought him echoes of grief threaded through the morn. He had looked into the now-unfamiliar features of his king.
“There is death in this gift, my lord,” he had said, and wept. Even these thousands of years later, he could still hear the destruction of the Trees in the light, and found pure peace only on the moonless nights when the rays of the untouched stars caressed his face.
But the stars had also been bright on nights when he had carried dying elflings in his arms, the night deeper for the darkness that followed destruction. In those nights the pain did not come from the heavens, but beneath his feet as the earth groaned from pools of elven blood seeping slowly to its heart. Doriath, Sirion, Eregion, all lost to evil. Three times the land had begged him to stop its grief, and three times his sword and bow, his armies, had been helpless to stop earth’s pain, and his peoples’, and his own. Three times he had cried to the Valar to spare them, and three times he had been ignored. Three times he collected the tattered remains of families, the scorched treasures and beauties of civilizations, the despair of his people, and moved them to unsullied lands to build again. Once he had been the young lord of an old family. Now he was among the oldest of all beings in Middle Earth, for times countless he had turned away from his fallen kin, leaving them to the unwilling earth and the silence of their tombs.
The same silence had stilled the air the first time Celeborn met Sauron. The corrupt Maia had clothed himself as Annatar, and though his face had been as beautiful as his gifts, the fair creatures of the earth cowered at his coming and stopped their songs. The birds knew the truth, and so Celeborn knew.
*Galadriel* he had whispered in mind, unable to speak.
She had turned to him with stricken eyes. *I know.* But few heeded their warnings until it was too late, and the birds did not sing again for many years.
Celeborn had greeted this day as he moved silently through the boughs of the trees, testing the borders of the kingdom and the happiness of his people from high above his realm, unseen by all but surprised aviators. Pleased with the state of Lorien he paused to rest and think, and without heed to his actions brushed his fingers against the bark of the mallorn tree where he perched. He nearly fell from the tree to his death, blindsided by the emotion thrumming through the ancient creature. He jerked his hand away, but not before the tree told him of an ache where its deep roots were disturbed by a low wave of evil that rumbled to Lorien from a distant land. Distant, but not far enough for the liking of the tree – or the lord.
A tree was a good place to survey a kingdom, but not a concerned world, and Celeborn had no desire to be thrown from the boughs if the tree became agitated again. He extended his senses and his concentration to the wind as he jumped from branch to earth, startling an elf who had not expected to see his lord materialize on the path.
“My lord, you nearly frightened me to Mandos!” the elf cried.
Celeborn waved to the elf in apology and dismissal before he crouched to the ground, one hand on the earth and the other on the tree. As still as stone, he breathed the air and felt the sting of it; he followed it to the depths of the caves where foul creatures breathed the same air. The voices on the wind brought him fell tidings and the staccato of scuttled preparations, as if the creatures anticipated a storm out of season. Though he would not have credited the concern an hour earlier, the tree flinched from an icy touch that Celeborn could not identify, despite a shiver of uneasy recollection. The world was disturbed.
And so was Celeborn.
With painful effort he returned to himself and sought his wife’s mind as he stood.
*Artanis Finarfiniel?* he quested, and was not comforted when he found her by her mirror, a place she had avoided since she had sought for the location of the lost ring centuries before.
*Celeborn o Garthurian* she answered wearily. *Are you feeling what I am seeing?*
*The trees are displeased, but cannot say why,* he said.
She sighed in his mind. *I dread the future when my foresight is confirmed by your skill, meleth-nín. I nearly had myself convinced that I was merely out of practice and seeing shadows where there were none.*
*I fear not. Is the mirror …*
*… more clear than the trees? Is it ever?*
*Nay. Nothing quite so unhelpful as an indecipherable warning.*
Indecipherable thought is was, it was all the warning they would get before an unexpected stab of blue crackled down a brilliant white line to Galadriel and then up the link from the ring bearer to her lover, sending both to their knees in shock. On opposite sides of Lorien nearby elves ran to a dazed leader.
“My lord?” asked one.
“My lady, are you well?” asked another.
*Vilya …* someone said.
Elrond was weakening, and quickly. The darkness that assailed his mind was unexpectedly sharp, and even as he struggled again it he was stunned that it had gained such strength without clearly alerting the three elven rings to the peril.
Too late, too late to contain this, Elrond thought, searching desperately through every word, teaching, or rumor he had ever encountered that might help him repel the rabid force that tore at his defenses, praying that a path of retreat might open long enough that he might at least make room for Celebrían to extract herself from this hell between body and mind where both now resided.
*I will not leave here without you, meleth-nín* she said, as calmly as if she were inviting him on an evening stroll.
*The point may well be moot in another moment or two,* he replied, groaning as the spinning froth of rage that was becoming Sauron breached the first wall to his mind. He had long since retreated to the core of himself, but the intrusion was still painful.
Then blessedly, unexpectedly, two pulses of power surged behind Elrond’s blue-tinged thoughts, and, like the old warrior he was, he instantly pressed his rekindled strength into one focused blow into their adversary. The darkness stumbled backward with a pained howl. It was enough! Elrond paused only long enough to fold his wife’s presence in his own and hurled them both backward into a suddenly open void, nearly out of the darkness – but snarling inarticulately at the loss of its lost prey, evil desperately lunged forward and caught Celebrían at the tip of one outstretch claw. She stared into its wild eyes as it hissed into her heart:
//I see YOU.//! eldar. I will not /!/forget …YOU//See you//I///
With a cry of righteous fury Elrond kicked it back into the abyss, pulling her free. They were … nowhere. It seemed they had left a world of dark for a world of light, but it was all-encompassing, without feature or door. If Celebrían had been in body, she would have simply closed her eyes and tried to calm her racing heart. As it was, she stayed as near to Elrond as she could. There was nothing to see and nothing to hear, but he was the blue presence.
The pure white presence questioned him sharply, and then softened its tone at his exhausted reply.
Mother? Celebrían thought, and some of the more incoherent threads of her childhood pulled into place. If my father is Narya, I shall simply despair of my ability to see anything clearly.
But the red presence was not her father; it spoke in an unfamiliar voice, uttering wearily that at least their growing fear had a name. Celebrían did not want to know its name, though she already heard it in Elrond’s thoughts. So she simply rested, ignored for the moment as the three most powerful forces for good in Middle Earth debated whether they had the power to contain evil.
They do not, Celebrían knew, and wondered if happiness was ended.
*Sell-nín?* asked a gentle voice, a soothing caress on her troubled soul.
*Adar?* she asked, and it was Celeborn. With tremendous mental skill and unnoticed by the three, he had maneuvered a thread of his thoughts from Middle Earth through his wife, across Nenya to Vilya, down Vilya to Elrond, and from Elrond to his only daughter. With a thought that felt for all the world like a gentle kiss on her brow, he calmed her reeling mind.
*Be at peace, gwilwileth. Come speak with me in Lothlorien before you react to this …* and then he was gone.
Celebrían gasped as her returned to herself, choking on an uneven breath. She coughed and felt dirt pressed beneath her cheek, arms around her body, hands holding her down, voices asking urgently if she was breathing and was she all right, and what had happened?
She struggled to sit up and opened her eyes into a world filled with Glorfindel’s concerned face. He helped her to sit and was obviously speaking to her, but she found she could not remember the language. She scrubbed at her face with a trembling hand and shook her head.
“What?” she asked.
“Are you all right, my lady?” he asked again.
She pressed her hand to her heaving breast and looked around. She was in the garden at Imladris, surrounded by what seemed to be every resident of the refuge. Glorfindel was kneeling in the dirt at her side, and someone had de-tangled Elrond’s limbs from her own. The lord was still stretched out on the ground, pale but breathing, his right hand drawn into a fist so tightly that his fingernails drew blood from his palm. She could see, though she knew that others could not, that the fist prevented a blue ring from sliding off of his forefinger. She was both entranced and nauseated by this first glimpse of the burden her love carried.
“Yes, Glorfindel, I’m fine,” she said weakly.
He signaled to someone outside her sight, and pressed a glass of wine to her lips.
“What happened, my lady?” he asked, gesturing at Elrond. “We were in our meeting when Elrond levitated from his chair and cried your name; he would have jumped over the balcony to get to you if I had not directed him down the stairs instead. He grabbed you, and you were both just …” he grabbed at empty air. “Just gone.”
Celebrían shivered and shook her head. “I think that is a question better put to your lord, mellon-nín, if he will answer you,” she said.
As if called by his wife’s voice, Elrond stirred and groaned. The elves at his side who had been listening to the exchange between Glorfindel and Celebrían leapt into action, helping him to sit up and offering him something to drink. He allowed their assistance and then shook them off before putting his elbows on his knees and dropping his head into his hands. He pressed his palms into his eyes and collected himself for a moment before looking up.
He ignored the elves around him and focused instead on his wife’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, his words raw in his throat. She just stared at him and said nothing. She kept her mind closed to her husband and her face smooth and blank as she looked up at Glorfindel.
“Help me up, please,” she said, her voice full of as much dignity as her heritage could lend her, extending one hand. The elf lord reached down and was surprised at her firm grip as he helped her stand. She ignored his proffered help and moved away from the group, her ladies scrambling to catch up. “I believe I shall retire for the day.”
Glorfindel stared at her in openmouthed wonder, and then down at Elrond, who sat with his head bowed and his eyes closed
“Elrond?” Glorfindel asked. The Lord of Rivendell merely shook his head and clasped his hands in front of his face, the left clutching the fingers of the right.
Artanis Finarfiniel – Artanis was Galadriel’s name before Celeborn renamed her. Finarfiniel means “daughter of Finarfin”
Celeborn o Garthurian – Celeborn was originally from, we think, the realm of Doriath. Garthurian is a name of that realm in the Sindarin-related dialect of that land.
meleth-nín – my love
mellon-nín – my friend
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.