18. The Laws of the Galadhrim
I woke from golden spots of light dancing on my closed eyelids. I opened my eyes and blinked, for a moment confused, at my surroundings. Golden leaves were rustling all around me.
Lothlórien. I was up in a tree.
Boromir. What had I done?
Where was everyone?
I looked around me apprehensively. I was sitting in a heap of warm grey and green blankets with a large black fur at the bottom. The wooden platform we had slept on was deserted, but from somewhere close by I heard the voices of the hobbits raised in laughter.
A moment's peace. Thank God.
I rose to my feet carefully, not sure about the stability of the platform I was on. But the wood stayed firmly beneath my feet. I exhaled with a sigh. I simply was not at my best with heights.
At the edge of the platform the branches of the mallorn curled up, forming a natural balustrade around the talan. The thinner limbs growing to the sides had been skilfully braided together. Even if I had slept at the outer edge of the talan, I could never have fallen off. Looking down the hole, through which the platform could be accessed, my stomach lurched slightly. The grey rope ladder was swaying slightly in the breeze. On the other hand, I could see how well the wooden platform was built by looking at the hole. It showed clearly that the platform was made of very thick planks of silver wood. Each plank was probably a full foot wide, and they were attached without any obvious seams. This was woodwork of a quality I had never seen before. Even with the most sophisticated machinery of the earth you would be hard put to build something similar, I thought.
I walked around the platform once. I was all alone up here. Apparently I had been allowed to sleep myself out. For once I felt completely rested. And relaxed. Sex and a good night's rest and you're a new woman. But my stomach cramped at the thought of Boromir. I could not deny feeling attracted to the man. He was tall and well built. Every inch of him was more than well built, I thought and felt heat rising to my cheeks. He was brave. He was honest. He was kind. He had a sense of humour. He was falling in love with me. He was being corrupted by the ring. And in a month's time he'd be dead.
Gods, Lothíriel, you can really pick 'em.
Would it perhaps be possible to change his fate?
I intertwined my fingers, then parting my hands again, rubbing them together, and intertwining my fingers again…
No, I thought and felt tears rise to my eyes. True, my presence and my actions had accounted for some small changes in the storyline as I knew it. But to turn a fate? I could not really believe that this would be possible. And the orcs would be there. The orcs would be there. But where would I be?
"Lothíriel? Are you awake? Breakfast's ready!" Boromir called up to me from somewhere down below.
My heart pounding, I answered, having a hard time to keep my voice from shaking.
"Yes, I'm awake, and I'd love some breakfast. But how do I get down to you?" I could not suppress a slight quaver in my voice at the end. How had I ever managed to climb this thin rope ladder in the night?
I heard stifled male laughter and bright, hobbity giggling. Just you wait, Peregrin Took. There will be something disgusting waiting for you in your sleeping bag sometime soon! Just you wait!
A moment later Boromir appeared in the hole. When he saw me, the tension faded from his face and he smiled at me tenderly. I smiled back, a lopsided smile, hopefully not quite a grimace.
"Hey," the warrior said softly. "Don't worry; I'll get you down safely. And tonight we can perhaps sleep on the ground."
"Thank you," I whispered. This was going to be hard. What had I gotten myself into?
"Now, kneel down, and I will take your feet and place them on the ladder. Don't worry about falling; I am here to catch you! I will keep you safe."
"I hope so," I said. And who will catch you? Who will keep you safe?
Even if you have made sure that you cannot get pregnant, there is no such thing as safe sex. Afterwards, life is always changed for you in some way. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. And all too often, you only know when it's too late how things will turn out. I knew how it would end. But in this case that did not help, either.
I don't remember how, but somehow I reached the ground.
Once down, I looked up at the talan, where I had climbed down from. It was so high above the ground that it was almost hidden in the leaves. Suddenly my knees felt very weak.
We had breakfast on the banks of the Nimrodel. There were still wisps of mist drifting above the water, and the sky above us still held the very pale blue of early morning. The atmosphere was melancholy. I missed Gandalf. The others did, too; I could see it in their faces.
I remembered the many mornings on the road to Moria when we had made camp wearily as the sun came up. Gandalf had nearly always taken the first watch. I had fallen asleep watching the embers in his pipe glow in the twilight of dawn, rings of smoke drifting to the sky, the comfortable, spicy smell of his tobacco in the air.
Please, God, I thought. Please let him be alright. Please, all Valar of Middle-earth, let him be alright. Please.
When we had finished breakfast, Haldir arrived to lead us to Caras Galadhon.
Our packs waited untouched in the heaps of leaves, where we had hidden them the evening before. After brushing off a few golden leaves, we were ready to go within minutes.
Legolas was trailing behind us, looking back at the silver flood of the Nimrodel wistfully. "Never have I heard a river's rushing sound so sweetly. It is like an endless song…"
The elf's face was sombre. It was obvious that he would have liked to stay at the river for a time yet.
"You could come back some day," I said, touched by the unusual openness of the elf.
But Legolas shook his head sadly. "My gift of foresight is small. But this I know. No road of my life will lead back to this place of beauty."
Humming under his breath, Legolas walked along, following Haldir and the others.
Yeah, I thought, foresight sucks.
Boromir was walking with Aragorn. If I knew anything about body language, then the ranger did not particularly care for his company. Aragorn's eyes still were full of raw grief this morning, and when he had seen me, his eyes had turned very cold.
What had happened between Boromir and me yesterday afternoon had probably not escaped the ranger. Somehow I had the feeling that Aragorn would not be very understanding of shagging as a way of giving comfort to each other.
Sooner or later he would talk to me about it. Make that later, please, I prayed silently.
Leaving the Nimrodel behind us, we followed the Silverlode on a path high up on its western bank. It had grown into a swiftly flowing, broad river with strong currents, their cresting waves indicating a considerable depth of water.
We would have to cross the river soon, and I hoped that for once things would turn out differently from the books. I so did not relish the thought of crossing this river on a rope.
But when Legolas and I had reached the rest of our company, Haldir was already securing slender silvery ropes, which an elf had thrown to him across the river, to a tree on this side of the river.
Why couldn't they have boats? They had boats, I knew that! Why couldn't they use boats for this as well?
"The currents of the Celebrant are too strong for our boats," Haldir told me in response to my thoughts. "But I will assist you across, my lady. I promise you will reach the other shore safely."
Boromir glared at the elf. I raised my eyebrows at him, asking him silently to keep cool. Reluctantly Boromir inclined his head and gave me a small smile. Frodo had caught the exchange between the Gondorian warrior and me and was now taking a turn of raising his eyebrows at me. Aragorn turned to the river with a disgusted look upon his face.
I was beginning to feel more than a little irritated. A random quote from a German movie flashed through my mind: "That's why we never allowed girls to join our gang!"
Guys will be guys, apparently, be they rangers, warriors, hobbits or even elves.
Being angry kept me from being too frightened, and Haldir was very competent in assisting clumsy girls across the river on his make-shift bridge. It did help that I had acquired some muscular strength since I had first walked into Bree almost four months ago.
I had been here for almost four months!
By now they had probably stopped searching for me back on earth.
I hoped my folks would not take it too hard. My mother would get over it easily, I thought. She would consult one of her fortune-tellers, and they would probably even tell her some crap about me being in Middle-earth, to comfort her. I snorted at the thought. And she'd probably believe it, too. My step-father would take it harder. I sighed.
I very rarely thought of the people who would miss me on earth.
The reason was not only that I was too caught up in the dangers of our journey, I mused. I simply felt at home here. I felt more connected to every single member of the fellowship than to anyone I had ever known on earth, including the few men I had believed to be in love with.
Now Frodo stepped off the rope bridge and slumped heavily down on the grass, panting with the effort.
All of a sudden, I felt the tug of the ring again, a great power reaching out to me, drawing me closer, fear rising in my heart, choking me. My heart was pounding, and I felt cold sweat on my face.
What if they make you leave? Aragorn blames you for not preventing Gandalf's fall! He won't want you along! He will make you go! And the witch in the wood has the power to send you back! Back where you belong! Where you can live your life out grieving for the home you found here and lost again!
I closed my eyes and clenched my hands into fists. This is only the ring. A small, ugly piece of vile metal. It has no power over me. I concentrated on breathing slowly, exhaling in long and low breaths, letting the air flow into my lungs by itself. Gradually my heart rate slowed down again. White walls, I thought. I am sitting on a soft green lawn. All around me are smooth, white walls. I can touch the stones. They are stronger than the bones of the earth, stronger than anything. Above there is blue, blue sky and a golden sun. Nothing evil can touch me here. My fears will not control my mind or my heart.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will remain nothing. Only I will remain.
Only I will remain, I repeated in my mind, quoting the "Litany against Fear" from Frank Herbert's novel "Dune". Suddenly I could breathe easily again. My fear was gone. The horrible voice in my mind was gone. I opened my eyes.
Frodo looked shaken.
Boromir, who was sitting a few feet away, was white as a sheet, his eyes gleaming feverishly.
Did he hear the ring's voice, too?
Did he know it was the ring's voice?
Or did he think he was going insane?
"Now, friends, you have entered the Naith of Lórien. From here on the dwarf has to walk blindfolded, because we do not allow strangers to spy out our secrets," Haldir interrupted my dark thoughts. Spy? This choice of words is going to sit very well with Gimli, I thought.
Indeed, the dwarf turned on Haldir at once, his dark eyes blazing angrily. "I am not a spy! And I won't be led about blindfolded like a beggar or a prisoner. My people are enemies of the One Enemy just the same as you are. And we have never done the Elves any harm! This is no way to treat an ally!"
"I do not doubt you," Haldir said. "But it is our law."
But Gimli had had enough. With a mutinous look on his face, he planted his feet and shook his head so forcefully his long red beard was flying. "I will go forward free, or I will go back and seek my own lands."
"You are not allowed to go back. Now that you have set foot in the Naith, you have to be taken to the Lord and the Lady. That is our law," Haldir said stiffly.
Law abiding citizens, how nice.
"May I ask a question?" I asked Haldir. The elf turned to me with a look of surprise on his face, but nodded. "Your laws – do they apply to everyone in the same way?"
"Yes," Haldir answered, sounding confused. "They do. We are a just people. Our laws are just and equitable."
Well, I was not on firm ground with the concept of equity in English or American law. But I knew about the principles of justice.
"If that is the case," I said, smiling sweetly, "all of us save Aragorn have to be blindfolded, because all of us, save Aragorn, are strangers here."
"But I am an elf and a kinsman to the wood elves of Lórien." Legolas objected, an angry gleam in his dark eyes.
"But you have never been here before," I told him. "You said that yourself. If you have never been here before, you are a stranger, and therefore you have to be blindfolded, too. Or did I misunderstand the terms of the law in question?"
"No, you did not," Haldir said, completely flustered by now. "But…"
"Nothing but. I've studied law, where I come from. Either it's a law and applicable to every stranger, or it isn't and Gimli walks free," I said firmly.
For once knowing something about the principles of law came in handy. I felt inordinately pleased with myself. Boromir was hard put not to laugh out loud, and Merry and Pippin were giggling uncontrollably. Gimli looked like the cat that ate the canary. Legolas and Aragorn looked angry. Well, you can't make everyone happy.
But that ended the discussion, and everyone save Aragorn was blindfolded.
Holding on to a rope we walked in a single file, with Haldir and Aragorn at the front and the other elf who had waited for us on the other side of the river at the rear. The elves took care that we did not leave the path, stumbling in circles as blind-folded people without any guidance are prone to do. Fortunately the path was smooth and straight, but we kept bumping into one another again and again, when someone slowed down or walked faster for some reason. Boromir was walking behind me. And every time we connected I felt a jolt of desire flash through my body. The younger hobbits were giggling non-stop. Gimli was grumbling at every stumble, and I could add several colourful curses in Sindarin to my vocabulary at the end of the day. Gimli wore heavy, steel-capped boots, and he walked right behind Legolas.
This night we were allowed to sleep on the ground.
I gave serious thought to keeping up appearances. But the only one who could see us was Aragorn, and he was angry at me anyway. So I thought, "What the hell," and curled up as unobtrusively as possible next to Boromir. Not that we could so much as exchange a kiss. It is simply comforting and arousing at the same time to sleep in the close vicinity of a lover.
We were woken in the morning and continued on another smooth and fairly straight path under whispering leaves until noon. We had left the shelter of the trees because I could suddenly feel the sun upon my face.
We halted, and I had the strange feeling of being stared at by many sharp eyes.
"We have met a company of guards," Haldir announced. "They have fought the orcs which followed you and killed most of them. And they bring a message from the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim. All of you are to walk our lands freely, even the dwarf."
The next thing that happened was that I felt cool fingers at my temples, untying my blindfold.
We were standing on a narrow trail at the edge of a clearing. Some twenty feet away from us a group of twenty elvish warriors in green and golden armour were standing at the ready. Their captain was with Haldir, talking in a low voice. Haldir's companion and Aragorn were divesting the other members of the fellowship of their blindfolds.
The company of guards saluted us and then turned to disappear into the wood.
I turned my attention back to our surroundings.
We had come to a sunlit clearing. At its centre a grassy hill rose from the level ground of the forest. It was low rather than small. Upon the summit of the hill were two concentric rings of trees. The outer ring consisted of slender white trees which bore no leaves. In the inner ring mellyrn grew, still clothed in the golden leaves of Lothlórien's autumn and winter.
At the centre of both rings the largest mallorn I had seen up until now was reaching high into the sky. A soft wind moved the golden leaves at its top, now and then allowing a glimpse of a platform made of white wood, which was built around its trunk very high above the ground. In the grass many small flowers were blooming, some of them yellow, others white, and a third kind which had petals of the palest green, tinged in white.
Suddenly I realized what this place was. We had come to Cerin Amroth.
"This is Cerin Amroth," Haldir said, "all that remains of the ancient realm. A tall golden tree and small winter flowers in as yet unfading grass. The yellow blossoms are elanor. The pale are niphredil. I think we can rest here for a while and walk on to reach the city of the Galadhrim at dusk."
Haldir took Frodo and Sam to climb up the hill and then the great tree on its peak.
Aragorn wandered off among the rings of trees surrounding the summit of the hill.
Merry and Pippin were chasing each other around one of the mellyrn next to the path.
Legolas walked off in the company of Gimli.
I found myself suddenly alone with Boromir.
I turned to the tall warrior, who looked as if he had unexpectedly woken up in paradise, where no evil could touch him. "Hey," I said softly, smiling up at him.
"Hey yourself," Boromir answered, a smile tugging at his mouth. He took my hand, allowing his gaze to drift over the beauty of Cerin Amroth. "You were right, Lothíriel. There is a heavenly blessing alive in these woods. I am glad that I was allowed to come here."
The tension of his fighting the lure of the ring faded from his face. His eyes lit up with joy and happiness. He reached out for me and drew me closely against his chest.
My heart skipped a beat and my stomach fluttered as I lost myself in his bright grey gaze.
Then he lowered his head and gently, ever so gently placed his lips on my mouth.
The beauty of Cerin Amroth faded from my mind instantly.
I felt only the strong grip of Boromir's hands at my waist and the slow pressure of his kiss.
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.