25. Galadriel’s Mirror
(This chapter takes up where the last left off: Elladan and Arwen sitting together, having an initimate heart-to-heart.)
Elladan also spoke of the Morannon, the Voice of Sauron, the downfall of Barad-dûr and passing of Sauron, of Cormallen, and their return to Minas Tirith. Arwen in turn told him what she knew of the Battle of the Golden Wood and how Celeborn led the host of Lórien against Dol Guldur, and how Galadriel threw down its walls. Finally they both grew a bit teary-eyed in joy and humor at the picture of Thranduil and Celeborn meeting in the forest and renaming as Eryn Lasgalen the part of Greenwood the Great that had long been referred to as Mirkwood. That, of course, led Arwen to ask of Legolas.
Elladan replied, "Oh, we see him constantly. He is well and as beautiful as ever. Lothíriel is quite taken with him--his relentless good nature and his singing voice."
Arwen tried and failed to control a laugh. "Why, I think you are jealous of him."
"He is as charming as ever he was," Elladan said. "You hardly are in a position to laugh at that little sister. I recall when you yourself were susceptible to the charms of our woodland prince, when he had barely reached his majority and you were more than old enough to know better."
Then Arwen answered, “Hmmm. Well, hmmm, at the risk of being accused of self-servingly changing the subject, these are not the things that led you to want to speak with me alone. I think I need not ask what troubles you. In light of your obsession with this princess, you wanted to speak with me without our brother because you want to know how it was that I came to love Estel.”
“I have been blindsided by this. I did not look for or expect it and less do I understand it. I always thought that you must have felt the experience of giving your heart wholly to another, holding nothing back, especially to a Mortal, wrenching, even torturous on some level. Now, I feel if I did not have the uncertainty of fulfillment, that this kind of love is easy. That it matters little whether the object of it is Elf or Mortal. Now it is only the lack of her love I fear.” Elladan sighed.
“I cannot answer for you. I know only what it means to me to love Estel. I know something of what it means to be Mortal through him and I am drawn to it, or perhaps I was drawn to him above all others because he is Mortal. I do not want to live as an Elf lost in a half-life of dreams and memories, one fading into the next inexorably without being fully touched by any. I am drawn to the intensity of mortality. I want live every moment unconditionally,” Arwen said.
“I feel something akin to that also. It is in my blood to reach, to grasp, to react, to need, to seek that sudden flare of the senses... I have been a poor Elf, little sister—no patience and no stillness before fate. But I fear I might be an even poorer Man,” said Elladan.
“Then you do understand something of the dilemma at least. I am not sure that even Estel fully understands me. My only grief has been the thought of hurting Adar, or you and Elrohir. I have not even thought of Naneth, because I do not believe that such an ache can survive across the Sea,” Arwen said.
“ ‘Across the Sea’ you say. It has no pull for me as yet. Legolas also rejoices in the intensity of the moment. He is infected by that same love of Mortals, and yet his answer is to long for respite from it, for peace from the passion and the longing. He is a true Elf,” he said.
“Elladan, I think there may be yet another form of joy for you,” Arwen said, taking his hand. He squeezed it and held it firmly, but did not meet her eyes.
“So many friends have talked to me of their longing for peace, to find a sweet, calm Elleth, to bond with her... I never experienced that and for that lack others labeled me as somehow immature, incomplete--all the joking about me breaking hearts,” he said shaking his head ruefully.
“But do you not remember, it was the same with me before Estel? How impatient I was with everyone’s sly suggestions of appropriate matches. Or horror at the thought of inappropriate ones.”
“I do remember, now that you mention it. At the time, I thought little enough of it. You were my little sister and it did not seem strange to me that you did not seek to bond with anyone then,” Elladan laughed.
“A rather over-ripened little sister I was,” Arwen answered laughing. “My anxiety was never over the ubiquitous choice of the peredhil that everyone endlessly debates, but whether or not I could trust my own heart. Estel was so young and rash when he first spoke to me of love. He was such a boy and yet laden with the hopes of so many. I did not want to do anything that would make his burden heavier.”
“Perhaps we are not so different after all, little sister. I would not deprive Lothíriel of the destiny she has foreseen with Éomer. I saw it myself in Rohan. She was quite taken with that rough, war-torn land. But I cannot entirely let go of the idea that there might be a place for me somewhere in her future as well,” he said.
“What will Éomer think of what has happened between the two of you?”
“She opens her mind to him. He will see everything we have shared here. But he will also see that it has not lessened her love for him or her desire to participate in his destiny,” Elladan said calmly.
Arwen moved closer to her brother, solicitously touching his cheek and taking his hand in hers. “Sweet brother, where does that leave you? I only want you to be happy.”
“I do not know where it leaves me. In a moment more of lust than love, I told her that I would wait for her. I know not what impelled me. Whether it was the result of foresight or wishful thinking,” said Elladan, “or perhaps a passion that one does not look for or choose, but which overtakes one nevertheless. Tell me what you think.”
“Elladan,” Arwen answered him with a question, “what did you mean by ‘wait’?”
“Strange that you should ask that, for she asked me the same more directly,” said Elladan with a soft laugh, ducking his head slightly and looking up at her with solemn grey eyes. “She wanted to know if I would remain celibate.”
“And you said that you did not think you would be.” Arwen laughed at his spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at youthful diffidence.
“I try to be honest,” Elladan said, lifting his eyebrows in umbrage.
“Poor girl. Then you offered her no choice but to come to you. She, like any woman in the throes of such infatuation, would want you to discover what she could be to you as well,” Arwen stated.
“That impulse is not limited to the female sex, Arwen. I have been most wicked with her. Inventive, one might say, and more than a little vain. I have done everything I could conceive of to make it impossible or at least challenging for her to try to forget me,” he answered. “Ai, but she is good at that as well…”
“Please, no details,” Arwen said and laughing lifted her hands as though to cover her ears. “There are particulars one does not want to imagine of one’s brothers.”
“But, Elladan,” Arwen asked, “You still did not answer my original question, what did you mean by ‘wait’?”
“I am not certain, sister,” Elladan answered, “Perhaps if I wait for her, I could still make her mine and then we could be together through all the Ages of Arda—here or across the Sea.”
“Elladan! That is madness. The choice of the peredhil comes to us through Eärendil. It not as though the offshoot of every Elven-Mortal encounter can choose to be an Elf!” Arwen said.
“Now she is an ‘offshoot.’ Lovely choice of terms, sister. I expected more of you,” Elladan answered.
He dropped her hand abruptly, rose and turned his back to her, his arms folded across his chest. Arwen stood, wound her arms around his waist, and pressed her cheek against his back. Elladan did not pull away from her.
“Arwen, do you now presume to know everything that is written in the Music of the Ainur? I know that you and Aragorn made your choice based upon what you both desired most. You chose to be tied to him and his destiny. Neither of you ever longed to leave these shores. Why should I not be granted that choice to leave or stay with my own love?”
“You must hear how preposterous you sound. Do you intend to storm the gates of Tirion dragging this half-elven child behind you?” Arwen said. Elladan did not move or speak. Arwen wished that she could see his face, but was afraid to move or let go of him, fearing he would rush away.
“I do not want to see you hurt. Talk to Grandmother. She is wiser and has seen far more,” Arwen said.
“I intend to do exactly that,” Elladan said, biting off each word as though it were distasteful. He turned to her and added in a softer tone, “We let you cherish your hope when it was but a fool’s hope and now you have him. Must you be so eager to smash mine?”
“I recall you shared that hope. That he could be king, I mean. But we are not speaking of the heir of Elendil here, but a princess of 20 years, betrothed to the king of Rohan, friend of Estel, an ally, and your own comrade-in-arms.”
Elladan did not answer her. Arwen could think of nothing more to say or do but simply hold him in her arms and so she did that.
Lothíriel walked along a forest path behind Galadriel, entranced by the lightness of her step, the graceful, swing of her hips, her loose white dress that swayed with her movements and the sunlight that gleamed on her hair. She was taller than Lothíriel, and broader of shoulder, but still slim and feminine. Observing her from behind it was impossible for Lothíriel to imagine that Galadriel could have lived in Valinor in the Years of the Trees.
“Would you like to look into my mirror, Lothíriel?” she said without turning around. Although Lothíriel could not see the Lady’s face, she thought she could detect a hint of a smile in her voice. Try as she might to maintain some dignity, Lothíriel could not hold back a giggle that she feared sounded absolutely infantile.
“Oh, my lady, please forgive me. I was laughing at myself. When you said ‘Would you like to look into my mirror?’ I thought of all the childish daydreams I had that I would someday meet you and you would ask me exactly that.”
“My husband and my grandsons oft times laugh at me too when they hear me ask visitors that. As though I were a conjurer at a village fair offering to predict the future of an unwitting dupe. I am not saying that they always deny that it has any value, but they never miss an opportunity to tease me. I suppose the fact that I react opens me up to their jesting,” she said turning and smiling at Lothíriel.
“From what I know of your grandsons, I can easily believe that.”
“And if you knew my husband better, you would believe it of him as well. So, if you were to look in my mirror what would you like to see?” The dappled sunlight filtering through the golden boughs cast a shimmering glow upon the Lady’s face that forced Lothíriel to imagine how she might have looked under the light of Laurelin.
"When I was young I always wanted to see the face of the man I would marry," Lothíriel said.
This time it was Galadriel who laughed. The sound was a close to a giggle as Lothíriel could imagine the Lady could produce.
"When I was girl, if I had seen the image of an extraordinarily tall, stubborn, hard-headed Sinda with silver hair, no matter how pretty his face, I think I would have run away screaming in horror," Galadriel said. "But the first time I actually saw him my reaction could not have been more different."
By now they had reached an opening in the trees and walked down a set of shallow stone stairs into an enclosed garden. Lothíriel spied what she believed must be the mythical Mirror of Galadriel. She forced her heart to still and asked, “Would it be rude for me to ask, my Lady, what was your first impression of Lord Celeborn?”
“To me he was the handsomest man I had ever seen. I was absolutely captivated, enthralled. Even in the full light of the midday sun, his silver luminescence was reminiscent of the light of Telperion. I had seen silver-haired Teleri of great beauty before, of course, but they were usually slighter of form, not so tall, and did not have his presence.” Galadriel laughed, extending her hand to Lothíriel to direct her to stand to the right of a carved pedestal holding a shallow, wide silver basin.
“Did you know immediately that you loved him?” Lothíriel asked.
“Far from it,” Galadriel said smiling. “I detested him. He stood there with an air of assurance that my Grandfather Finwë himself never would have dared assume, and him a petty Sindar princeling, I thought. I felt like he saw right through me as well. Then he touched my mind. It took all of my will to shut him out and I had secrets in those days, grim secrets.” The Lady of the Golden Wood allowed herself a full, hearty laugh, so unexpected it caused Lothíriel to startle.
“Elladan did the same to me, tried to read my thoughts, I mean,” Lothíriel blurted out. “The difference for me was that I could not close my mind to him quickly enough to prevent him from seeing how strongly he affected me.”
“And so it began for you. My grandson saw your weakness, also your struggle to resist, and could not refuse the challenge. He resembles his grandsire greatly, especially in his bullheadedness.”
“And then what happened with you, my Lady?”
“Oh, much the same as you, princess. I could not stop thinking of him. All he really had to do was wait and he did that very well. I would warrant a guess that my grandson had less patience, partly because he encountered the obstacle of a rival.”
“Is it obvious that we have become lovers?” Lothíriel had been told that the Lady could read one’s thoughts at a level of skill well beyond that of anyone she had encountered. She decided in a instant that she would rather be fully honest than have bits and pieces of truth filtered through by Galadriel.
“It is too late for me to judge, my dear. If you have not already discovered it, you should be aware that Elrond’s progeny have an underdeveloped sense of privacy. Arwen has been the subject of their discussions for years, now it seems to be Elladan’s turn.”
“Your family discussed Elladan and me?” She knew they had not been circumspect, but neither had she envisioned herself the subject of conversation.
“You need fear no judgment from me, my dear. By comparison to the crimes of passion I have witnessed, whatever happens between you and Elladan will appear a minor indiscretion—rather sweet and romantic. However, if you repeat that, I will be forced to deny I said it.” The Lady smiled in a falsely innocent manner that reminded Lothíriel of Elrohir.
Galadriel picked up a large silver pitcher sitting near the base of the pedestal and gestured toward a nearby stream of water with it. “But you have not told me if you would like to look into the mirror or not yet. I thought that you might perhaps like to see your mother, since you did not know her. I, however, cannot assure you what the mirror will chose to reveal to you.”
“Would you recommend that I look? The thought that the mirror can show things that might or might not come to pass could exacerbate my quandary rather than assist me in my choices,” Lothíriel said. A sensation of uneasiness and anxiety flooded her. “As far as the question of my mother goes, my father's and my brothers' reluctance to speak of her, has not increased my curiosity, but actually tended to make me think that there may be things about her that I would be happier not to know.”
Galadriel’s fair face sobered, for a brief moment she looked older and careworn. “It could be I am succumbing here to my own desire to know the answer. This decision should be yours alone and not done under any pressure from me.”
“Forgive me, Lady. What you offer, whatever maybe your motives, is an opportunity only a fool or a coward would let pass. I will look, but will ask the Mirror for naught and let it show me what it will,” Lothíriel said, with more confidence than she felt.
“You make me wonder if I have done right to offer, my child. But if you wish, then we will do it. It is best not to ask for anything. As I have often told visitors who voiced specific requests, more often than not it is things that are unbidden, which have far greater significance than things we wish to behold.” The Lady bent to fill the pitcher from the stream, filled the basin and blew softly upon the water.
“Come closer now and do not touch the water,” Galadriel said.
Lothíriel moved toward the basin and looked into it. Sunlight glinting through leaves of gold and the clear blue sky visible through gaps in the foliage reflected onto its surface. The mirror darkened, swirled for a moment with a kaleidoscope of colors, and revealed a newly familiar landscape—the plains of Rohan and with its mountain peaks as a backdrop. Three figures came to forefront of the image: her own, the face of Éomer, glad and alight with enthusiasm, and a male child, with the dark, bright blue eyes and thick mane of hair of the same shining gold as that of Éomer. The boy’s expression, a picture of joy coupled with fierce determination, shone on a face more resembling Imrahil’s than of either of his parents. Éomer lifted him onto a horse and he rode off across the plain without a backward glance.
Images of others dear to her flashed by, one following another, in rapid succession: Arwen and Aragorn greeting her and Éomer in the Merethrond of Minas Tirith; her father and brothers on the beach near the keep of Dol Amroth, with a small group of dark-haired children she did not recognize and the golden-haired boy, running in front of them; Legolas seated on the ground in an autumnal forest, laughing and taking a drink from a tankard of Rohirric design; the taut visage of Elladan, angry and accusing, a trickle of red blood against white skin from a cut on his lip, then her own hand reaching up to touch his face and his countenance softening with a look of hope and promise. Finally, she saw herself standing with Elladan on the wall of a city of glittering white stone (not Minas Tirith), his arm around her and a smile of profound contentment on his face. The mirror clouded and cleared and again she saw only the reflections of the mellyrn which surrounded them and a glimpse of the sky.
After not being able to decide if she should react more strongly to her feelings of foreboding or joy, Lothíriel experienced a surge of anger and irritation. What were these teasing images? Random imaginings, foresight or distractions? She wanted to splash her hand into the basin in frustration, but restrained herself just barely. She looked up at Galadriel who gazed at her expectant, with just a hint of impatience.
“Would you tell me what you saw? I sense it troubles you.”
At that Lothíriel released what sounded to her own ears to be a short, rather unpleasant laugh. “I apparently was not the ideal candidate for drawing anything helpful from your illustrious mirror. I saw nothing but a serious of useless images that I might have conjured up while falling asleep any night.”
“Do not be so quick to judge, my dear. You may have seen more than you know,” Galadriel said.
“I am sorry, my Lady. My expectations were too high. I tried to remain open, but, in truth, I hoped to receive guidance but instead saw only contradicting hopes, dreams and fears.”
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.