1. Strange Loyalties
The Lord of the Golden Wood surveyed the courtiers assembled at his table. Having spent the day in solitude, he was looking forward to dining with his closest retainers. The board was spread in the shelter of two great trees. The light of the lamps which hung in their boughs, played over glittering bowls and shining goblets. All those of his household stood tall in their places. They would not be seated until he gave the signal. Galadriel waited in silence at his right hand, radiant in the silver lamplight.
He gazed at the fair Elvish faces turned expectantly toward him, then stopped suddenly short. There, in their midst, stood a Man. He was tall, for a mortal, with a dark beard, and the sea-grey eyes of a son of Elendil. In fact, the Man bore such a striking resemblance to his famed ancestor that Celeborn knew this could be none other than Elrond's ward, Aragorn the son of Arathorn, Chieftain of the Edain, and heir of Elendil.
Why had he not been informed that they had a guest? The Man could not have been admitted to their borders without Galadriel's knowledge. In fact, judging from his appearance, the Lady had already taken great pains to make him welcome. The Dunadan was clad, not in the weather-beaten raiment of a ranger, but in white and bright silver, the rich garb of an Elf-prince. His hair and beard had been immaculately groomed, and shone in the lamplight. A large white gem, one which Celeborn recognized all too well, glittered upon the Man's brow.
Resentment darkened the Elf's face as he stared at the stranger, yet Aragorn seemed oblivious to his scrutiny. He stood like one entranced, his eyes shining. Celeborn followed Aragorn's intent gaze across the table to the face of his own granddaughter. Arwen's flowing raven hair was crowned with golden flowers. A cluster of the lovely blossoms graced her white hand, and she inhaled deeply of their fragrance. As she looked over the bouquet, her eyes met the Man's and a demure smile played at the corners of her lips.
Arwen had encountered Aragorn years before, during her last sojourn in Imladris. Celeborn remembered how she had regaled them with the amusing tale. She had chanced to meet a young Dunadan of barely twenty years as he wandered in the woods, singing to himself.
"'Tinuviel! Tinuviel!' he called me, thinking me an apparition, conjured by the words of his song," Arwen had told them with laughter. She found the young man very droll (though she seemed flattered by his attentions). She was not laughing at him now. Arwen's gaze was warm, and inviting.
Celeborn had seen enough. His pulse pounded in his temples as he turned upon Galadriel. Her serene expression might have convinced anyone else of her innocence, but he knew better. With a great effort, he mastered his urge to reprove her, and instead turned on his heel and strode from the table. Galadriel would not appreciate his indecorous departure, but he didn't much care. Let her deal with the embarassment. She was the one responsible for his wrath. When would she learn to stop playing the matchmaker?
He wandered alone as the dusk deepened beneath the mallorns. Their silver-grey trunks glistened in the half-light. Celeborn's hands were clenched as he stalked through the silent wood.
He had never fully forgiven Galadriel for the way she had encouraged the Half-elf to woo Celebrian. Though it had been several thousand years, he could still recall their quarrel over the subject.
She had insisted on taking the girl with her to Imladris, claiming that their daughter should be educated in the history enshrined there. Celeborn had disagreed. If their daughter needed to learn of her heritage, why could her own mother not tell her of it? Why must she seek in a library that which was readily available at home?
"Really, my lord," Galadriel complained, "you cannot keep Celebrian a child forever. In your zeal to defend her from harm, you run the risk of smothering her spirit. Let her go to Imladris."
Celeborn had protested that he was only being prudent. He would always remember the bitter warning his cousin Thingol had given him ages before when Luthien, who was ever the delight of her own father's eyes, had broken the king's heart by falling in love with a mortal. "If you ever sire a daughter, Celeborn," he had said, "keep her close!"
Then too, there was the nagging dread that he could not explain, the unrest at the back of his mind, like a barely perceptible voice whispering doom for his child. He had always known that Galadriel thought him overprotective. How could he ever make her understand the fears that haunted him?
He had tried to dissuade her from making the journey by reminding her of her responsibilities. "The woods of Lothlorien cannot thrive apart from your vigilant care," he warned. "Would you really neglect your calling for the sake of a history lesson?" Celeborn understood how deeply devoted she was to the work of her hands. The great mallorn trees, which she guarded by the power of her will, were like her own children.
For a moment, he saw hesitation the in her eyes, and he knew he had aimed wisely. She could never abandon her life's work. Yet mastering her own doubts she answered, "Celebrian's education must take priority for this season if her life is to be fruitful."
Galadriel was clearly determined to carry out her plan. Despite his better judgement, he had permitted Celebrian to study in Imladris. When at last she returned home to him, she had left her heart behind. His beloved daughter was no longer a bashful Elf-maiden, but a woman hopelessly in love. What was a father to do?
The lord of Imladris, Elrond Half-elven had stolen his daughter's heart. Galadriel deemed the match quite satisfactory, but Celeborn had hoped his daughter would always remain in Caras Galadon. Why had he ever let her stray so far from home? Thingol had warned him, but he hadn't heeded his advice, and now the great grandson of the very mortal who had stolen Thingol's daughter forever, was seeking the hand of his own child.
"Elrond asks your leave to come and court Celebrian. How would you have me answer him, my lord?" Galadriel asked, upon their return. She looked to him expectantly, an expression of feigned innocence in her eyes.
"Galadriel, how could you! This is all your doing," he answered crossly.
"Celebrian fell in love with Elrond, and he with her. I played no role in it."
"He would never have wooed her had you not encouraged him!"
"What if I did? Really, my lord, you are overreacting. Elrond is worthy of our daughter both by breeding and by renown. Whom else should she marry?"
"Why couldn't she have given her heart to one of her own countrymen?"
Though Galadriel did not voice her thoughts, he could clearly read them in her face: Which of her countrymen would ever dare to come near her under her father's watchful eyes? Her snide assessment of him had only confirmed his suspicions that she had taken Celebrian to Imladris just for the purpose of introducing her to Elrond."You think I don't know your mind?" Celeborn exclaimed. "You favor Elrond, not because of his heritage or his prowess in arms but because of Gilgalad's bequest to him, because, like you, he bears a ring of power."
Galadriel's eyes flashed as she drew herself up to her full height. "Hold your tongue, my lord," she said in an ominous tone. "It is forbidden even for you to speak of such things."
Moments like this made Celeborn wonder if the Ring of Adamant were not having an unwholesome influence upon her. Her temptation to control the fates of others seemed to be growing.
He wondered, too, how his delicate child would fare as the spouse of a ring bearer. Galadriel, of course, would never acknowledge the strain involved in such a role, but Celeborn had other objections to this suitor which she could not dismiss. Elrond might not be human himself, but the blood of Men ran in his veins.
"You fancy yourself farsighted, my lady, but you do not see all ends. The sons of Earandil are not like you and me. The Half-elven must choose whether they will embrace the doom of Men or the doom of the Eldar."
"Do you presume to teach me this? But it is of no consequence. Elrond has already chosen the doom of Elves."
"And what of his heirs? Have you considered that his children may not make the same choice as their sire? Should Celebrian cleave to him, her own children could choose the doom of Men and abandon her forever."
A look of uncertainty flashed across Galadriel's proud face. He knew in an instant that she had not considered this, yet she would never admit he was right.
With a defiant tilt of her chin, she said, "Time will tell," and walked away, putting an abrupt end to all discussion.
In the end, Galadriel had prevailed upon Celeborn to give his blessing to their daughter's union, despite his misgivings. Celebrian was in love, and would be satisfied only with Elrond. In time, Celeborn and Galadriel settled into an unspoken truce regarding their daughter's choice and its possible consequences.
The years had passed and Celebrian had borne three beautiful children, who never questioned their fate, and seemed well content with the life of the Eldar. Elrond had loved Celebrian deeply, yet, in the end, her father's terrible forebodings had come true, and Elrond had been unable to shield Celebrian from the evil that assailed her. Laying all the blame upon Elrond was tempting, but Celeborn knew some of the guilt lay with him. Celebrian might never have been taken captive, had she not made the journey to Lothlorien to see her father.
When Celeborn's daughter, world weary and heartsick, had taken ship for Valinor, his three grandchildren, Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen, had all kissed her farewell with sorrow and tears, yet their grief was mitigated by hope. None of them had any doubt that they would all one day be reunited with their poor mother.
Celeborn had mourned for his daughter's departure, but he trusted that in Valinor she would find the healing for her soul which Elrond, for all his skill, had been unable to provide her. He found comfort in the thought that, now their mother had already crossed the seas, her children would all surely follow after her.
Celeborn's old anxieties regarding the children of Elrond had appeared groundless…until today. How could Galadriel encourage this Man's blatant infatuation with one of her own flesh and blood? Any attachment between them could only bring Arwen to grief. Either her heart must break for him, or she must die.
He remembered how Arwen had recounted her first meeting with Aragorn. From the beginning, her tale had made Celeborn uneasy. That the youth should call his granddaughter "Tinuviel," seemed an uncanny portent, since it was the fate of Luthien which he had ever feared might befall Elrond's children.
Now Aragorn had grown to full stature, and turned up on Celeborn's doorstep. Arwen might have found him a little more attractive in the flower of his manhood. But apart from Galadriel's meddling, he would have appeared as a mere lord of Men, hardly worthy of Arwen's notice, much less her favor. Had Galadriel not tried to disguise his mortality, by dressing him like an Elven-lord, like a noble prince out of the West, Arwen might have kept her head and resisted his charms. Who could blame the girl for losing her heart to him when her own grandmother had taken such pains to make him beautiful beyond the lot of mortals?
Preoccupied by his rage, Celeborn had wandered aimlessly, and now he found himself at the base of Cerin Amroth. He was still bitterly angry as he climbed to the brow of the hill and turned his eyes toward the sunset.
He stood silent as a statue, watching the sun sink in the West. One by one, the twinkling stars appeared in the black vault above, as bitterness turned the Elf-lord's heart to stone.
Galadriel approached without a sound, but he could feel her presence. He did not in any way acknowledge that she was there, but he could hear her thoughts within his own mind.
What troubles you, my lord?
Without speaking aloud he answered her. You could ever read my mind, Lady. You know full well what troubles me.
At his shoulder, Galadriel sighed deeply, like a mother who is tired of dealing with an intractable child.
"You are angry with me for showing hospitality to the Dunadan, is that it?" she asked aloud.
"No, Lady. I am angry with you for disguising him as something he is not. You have baited a trap that will surely ensnare the heart of your own kinswoman. By your gracious help, the heir of Elendil has won Arwen's favor, though His love will be her undoing."
"You accuse me of all this, merely for offering clean raiment to a road stained and weary warrior?"
"You know what you have done. And we both know what you intended by it." Celeborn turned his back to her.
"Come, my lord, be reasonable. I have not the power to make a woman fall in love. If Arwen gives her heart to the Dunadan, it is because that is her appointed doom, and none of my doing."
"I grow weary of debating with you, Lady, knowing, as I do, that you will never concede." He turned to face her. "It matters little whether you will admit what you have done, or no. It is already too late for you to undo it."
The stubborn expression on Galadriel's face, told him he had read her heart aright. She felt no remorse. He went on, "I am leaving for the Havens, as soon as it is light. I must bear the sad tidings to our daughter in Valinor that she will never see Arwen again. I will offer Celebrian what comfort I can, but I doubt that she will ever forgive you…"
Galadriel staggered back a step. "You're leaving me?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, he nodded silently, and turned to go.
"Wait! Celeborn, no!" Galadriel cried. He could feel her hand trembling as she clutched at his elbow.
"Please, my lord, listen to me," she pleaded. "I confess that I did dress the Dunadan as a lordly prince of the Eldar. I did it for his comfort, but also to make him seem fair in the sight our granddaughter."
Celeborn turned toward her, his wrath rising. "Why?" he demanded.
Galadriel dropped her eyes. "I looked into his mind, and I saw the depth of his love for her. He gave her his heart the day he first looked upon her. Though he despairs of ever winning her affection, he will never, can never love another woman. Arwen could search her whole life long, and never find another so completely devoted to her." The wistful tone in Galadriel's voice, betrayed her own feelings. It appeared that she herself deemed such love worthy of any sacrifice. The lady went on, "The future of the House of Elendil hangs on her choice. Knowing this, I wanted her to see the nobility of his spirit with eyes unclouded by prejudice…"
"To preserve the House of Elendil, you would sacrifice the life of your own granddaughter?" Celeborn's nostrils flared. "You have a strange sense of loyalty, Lady." He turned to leave, but she clung to his sleeve. With a jerk, he freed his arm from her grip, although he did not walk away.
"It was not only the House of Elendil I hoped to preserve…" Her voice was low and halting. Celeborn's coldness was wringing a confession from her which she would never have otherwise dared to whisper. He was forcing her to expose motives within her own heart which she had barely admitted to herself. "I also thought of our future, our posterity in Middle Earth…. The days grow dark, and all that the Elves have wrought here will come to nothing. No memory of the First Born or of the Elder Days will remain after the last ship sails…. As all the wise know, if a New Age dawns, it will be the age of Men."
Celeborn could see the pain in her eyes as she said this. To think of all she had made brought to ruin and forgotten forever weighed heavily on her spirit. The futility of all her labor was a grief which threatened to crush her.
Tears glistened in her eyes as she continued, "If Arwen cleaves to the Dunadan, some memory of the Elves will be preserved in Middle Earth. Though we may never see these shores again, our line will live on in her children. Our house will be joined to the House of Elendil and the kings of men will become our lasting inheritance."
Despite himself, Celeborn found his heart moved to pity. Foolish and desperate though it was, her plan had been to protect and preserve that which she loved, just as his heart had yearned to protect Celebrian and Arwen.
"Had I known how greatly I would offend you, I would never have clad the Dunadan in such fine raiment." She hung her head and tears trickled down her cheeks. "Please, Celeborn, I cannot abide here without you. I have not the strength to fight the long defeat alone." Her voice broke, as she began to weep in earnest. She covered her face with her hands, as sobs shook her slender frame.
Celeborn looked on impassively. Galadriel had admitted her folly. Only time would tell what damage she had done. He had good reason to be angry with her. But it occurred to him as he watched her weeping in anguish for fear of the evil days ahead, that the woman most in need of his protection and his strength was not his granddaughter, nor his daughter, but his wife.
Silently, he reached out to her, enfolding her in his arms.
I am here, dear one, he whispered in thought. I forgive you.
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.