1. On the Frequent Obstacles to Marital Bliss
A necklace, you say? Set with rubies? Yes, I know the one. But this much I can tell you, young one: this argument between you and your beloved has little to do with a broken necklace clasp. You believe me not? Silence your protests; banish disbelieve from your mind. Remember, young one, I have several millennia of experience with marital arguments to your—how long has it been now? Two weeks? No, let me reckon—yes, sixteen days. Such an accurate account of the days of your heretofore nuptial bliss should be to your mortal liking! Ah, you Men, counting your lives by days. But what were we discussing? Yes, this broken necklace. Aragorn, I urge you to believe me that in marital disputes, a necklace, ruby or otherwise, is never simply a necklace.
Many were the times that I, in my naiveté, assumed that some seemingly simple marital spat concerned the issue directly at hand: a forgotten date, an ill-received gift, a mistimed comment. But without fail, when Galadriel and I examined the matter in dispute—whatever it happened to be at the time—with greater scrutiny, we discovered a deeper issue lurking beneath the surface. So you see, Aragorn, your beloved's necklace is a decoy for the genuine source of trouble.
But before I continue, I must commend you on the good judgment you have shown by coming to me rather than to Elrond. Not only am I something of an expert on the frequent obstacles to marital bliss, I am also more sympathetic to your plight than my son-in-law would be. It was always my belief that Elrond had excess softness for his daughter, allowing his love for her to blind him to some of her less agreeable ways. But that I can well understand, being a doting father myself. And glad I was when Elrond showed interest in my daughter, for he was as reliable and honest as anyone I had ever met, though somewhat hard to read. Galadriel and I knew she would do well with him, and never once have I regretted giving him her hand. No, he has not failed me; it is I who failed him. But that is of no import now.
As I was saying, Elrond would surely take his daughter's side in any disagreement, especially now when—forgive me, young one—tension between the two of you is greater than it might otherwise be. Not that he has ever held you in low esteem; you must know that Elrond loves you. And is proud of you, too! Still, you are old enough by the standards of Men to realize that when Elrond looks upon you nowadays, he sees not a king but the Man who has taken his daughter from him. Perhaps he questions whether he set the appropriate task for you to achieve ere you took Arwen to wife, for the mission of claiming the throne of the Reunited Kingdom was insufficient to prevent you from reaching your goal, though I cannot imagine a more difficult undertaking. In years to come, your victory will speak to Elrond of the measure of your love for his daughter, for I suspect that without the promise of her hand, you would not have persevered. But now? You must understand, Aragorn, that his pain is fresh, with no room in his heart to hear your marital grievances with open mind. Ah, but no additional burden do I mean to add to your woes. Not now, when you have a kingdom to rebuild and friends to mourn. Forgive me, young one, for I have digressed.
Now as to Arwen's less favorable side upon which you have, unfortunately, landed--I cannot say that I am surprised. These things happen, and forging one life from two can seem at times an even harder task than conquering Sauron. Much have you taken on this past year, young one, much—but naught as formidable as marriage!
I am also unsurprised by this dispute because whereas Elrond may be blind to his daughter's flaws, I am well aware of her high temper. After all, she got it from her grandmother, you know. It was well for Elrond that such a fiery temper skipped right over Celebrían, lest the Last Homely House would never have come to be known for its tranquility. Not that Celebrían wanted for spirit, young one, but she was ever good natured and eager to brush off a slight. Her anger, when it made a rare appearance, was short-lived and smoothed with ease. Not so with Arwen. From when I first looked into the grey eyes set in that little, pink, puckered face, I thought, This noble little lady has not her mother's good-natured placidity but the fiery temper of her grandmother. May it serve her well.
Does it surprise you to learn that such a temper exists in my garlanded maiden? I assure you, Aragorn, her rages have been virulent enough to humble even the most seasoned warrior. I shall confess that on more than one occasion, I have found amusement in watching our marchwardens shudder as their Lady addressed them with eyes narrowed, nostrils flared, and voice hushed into a serpent's hiss. The whisper of death I call it—though not to her face, of course—and it is always a great relief when she directs her icy rage at someone other than me. Her anger is always—no, almost always—controlled, making it all the more dangerous. She can wield words like weapons without batting a golden lash.
Ah, yes, I can recall one such occasion when I was the unfortunate target of Galadriel's frosty anger, and it may serve as example to you that in marital spats, all is not what it seems. Shall I tell you? Yes, I thought you might want to hear; it always seems to make a husband feel better to realize that he is not the only fool to have been on the bad side of his wife's less than good graces. Very well then.
Not long ago—ah, but by the way you mortals reckon time, it would be centuries ago—Galadriel asked me to send more patrols to the Redhorn Pass, which had grown dangerous with the prowling of Orcs. Naturally, I promised her that I would attend to this urgent matter with all haste. Safe passage through the mountains was an issue close to my own heart, for our own beloved Celebrían had recently passed through the Redhorn as she journeyed back to her husband in Imladris. How relieved I was to know that she had arrived home unscathed. I was confident, you see, that if anything had gone amiss, we would have heard from our son-in-law by then, and Galadriel seemed to share my certainty.
Now, as to carrying out Galadriel's request, I shall come right out and confess, Aragorn: I forgot to fulfill my promise. Yes, that is correct. No excuses do I make, for the truth is simple: I forgot. Easy enough to admit now, but imagine my saying such a thing to my lady wife when she asked with feigned diffidence, accompanied by two deliberate flutters of golden lashes, "My love, you did remember to send additional patrols to the Redhorn, did you not?"
I coughed and sputtered and made a valiant attempt to form words that I knew full well had no chance of success, no matter how well-crafted they might be, for my hesitation had already given me away.
You will recall that I mentioned that the Lady's anger is usually controlled. This instance was an exception, and if you have never heard my wife scream, and I wager you have not—she is too well-bred to allow such indiscretion to show in public—you cannot fathom how so loud a voice could come from so sweet a mouth. But her shriek was preferable to what I knew would follow, for as I have told you, Aragorn, Galadriel is one for controlled temper, not childish outbursts. Icy anger followed her shriek, and I tell you, young one, I would take the heat of an outburst any day over my lady's calculated frost.
"My love," she continued in that eerie whisper that makes even seasoned warriors shudder, "We did agree—did we not?—that allowing Sauron's fell beasts any more control in the mountains would be a grave danger to our realm. Does my memory fail me, Celeborn, or did we not have this conversation? And did you, or did you not, promise me—promise me!—that you would speak with the marchwardens about increasing patrols in that area?"
"No, dearest, your memory fails you not. The failure is mine. All mine. I will see to it at once. Please, my love, forgive me this transgression." I groveled, Aragon. Yes I admit it—I groveled.
"Do not trouble yourself, my love, for perhaps this deed is best left to me." And so the stallion was gelded, while the high strung mare trotted off with skirts billowing in the breeze.
Feeling sorry for myself, I went to stroll among the mallorns. I am ashamed to say that I have always been prone to bouts of melancholy, and Galadriel's disappointment kicked up a fresh bout of despair. I loathed myself, believing myself unable to handle even the most effortless task. Of course, now I realize that it was a simple error, but at the time, I felt like Arda's most incompetent fool, a husband who had to have his wife clean up his messes, like a babe in swaddling clothes dependent upon a nursemaid to wash him clean each time he soiled himself. Many have wondered—though they admit it not to my face—whether I ever felt emasculated, marrying so bold a woman, a maid who stood so easily in the light of leadership. From time to time, yes, I felt like a tame gelding or a helpless babe in the wake of my wife's prowess. Rarely did I feel this way, for when I was going about life with zest and enthusiasm, or even with calm certitude, no such doubts discomfited me. But let a fit of despair come upon me and suddenly, I was seized by insults from within my own mind, insults that mirrored the ones that I was sure others whispered behind my back: "Look at him; content to let his wife lead!" Were such words ever truly whispered? I shall never know. And in truth, Aragorn, I should never have cared. It is with great relief that I can tell you that I have learned, finally, to silence those doubts when they spring up in my mind. If others question my manliness simply because my wife is as strong a woman who ever walked Middle-earth, then so be it. It is no concern of mine what gossip breeds as long as my garlanded maiden knows both my courage and my might. And she has always promised me that she does.
I remember her saying to me on the eve of our betrothal, "My love, I am not a mild-mannered maiden; this much you know."
I smiled and nodded, utterly besotted. How sweet she looked when she grew serious! It made me wish that the wedding were that very day.
"Do you realize that others will wonder what sort of husband allows his woman to have such aspirations? You know well that I have always lusted after power, though it is with wisdom and compassion that I wish to rule."
"I know of your aspirations, my love, and cherish you all the more for them. I will see you with your fair head garlanded with the mark of leadership, for a more gracious queen Middle-earth will never know."
"Then if others were to whisper their doubts about your husbandly strength—"
"Let them whisper, dearest. They are but jealous that I should have won the heart of such a fair maiden as you."
And she smiled that smile—you have seen it, Aragorn. I am certain you have—when she lowers her eyes so that they are barely visibly beneath the long, golden sweep of lashes. Ah, the smile that makes my heart scream each time I see it, even to this day.
But I was telling you of this one particular argument. Yes, so there I was, wandering through our Golden Wood, feeling sorry for myself for being such a pathetic example of a husband and lord, and allowing my melancholy to silence all memory of the words I had spoken: "Let them whisper, dearest." No, now I was devastatingly certain that others whispered about Galadriel's little puppet of a husband, and I joined their chorus as the chief denouncer!
Beset by such a dour mood, I was too preoccupied to notice the form approaching from my left, until a familiar voice intruded upon my sulk. "Why so forlorn, Celeborn? A spat with the Lady I would guess, yes?"
The questioner was my dear friend, Remlas. Perhaps you met him when you were with us in Lórien. No? Ah, it is indeed a pity that he did not journey to Gondor with us; you would have enjoyed meeting him, I believe. Perhaps it surprises you to learn that one of my subjects spoke to me with such brazen bluntness, but he meant no disrespect. We had long been accustomed to the open conversation of genuine friendship rather than the irksome formality of subject to lord. You will, I am certain, develop keen appreciation for those friendships that afford you the rare opportunity to converse as a man rather than as a king.
Now, I dislike airing marital grievances in public, but as I said, Remlas was—is!—one of my dearest friends. I knew I could never hide the truth from him, so I nodded.
"Ah, so you have come out here to lick your wounds, have you? Really, Celeborn, sometimes you are moodier than any maid!"
Before you choke on the image of one of my subjects—close friend though he was—daring to say such a thing to me, let me assure you that Remlas was only jesting. To this day, we taunt and banter without mercy—yes, even more than Master Gimli and Thranduilion—driving our dear wives mad! But as you can well imagine, I was in no mood to trade quips, especially when that wit concerned the very issue over which I had chosen to berate myself: my perceived ineptitude as a husband and lord. Galadriel led our people with as much strength as any lord I have ever known, and there was I, Galadriel's pouting, sulking, maidenly husband! Or so I thought.
I said something rude to Remlas, what exactly I cannot remember. Thank the Valar his skin is thick, and he never held my outburst against me. I stormed off, and Remlas had the good sense not to follow me, for I tell you, young one, I was in such a foul temper and so anxious to prove to myself and the world that I was as robust as I had always been that I would have landed a blow across his pompous jaw if he had dared press the issue. I jest about the "pompous." Actually, he truly is pompous, but he would be the first one to admit it.
When I finally returned to our talan, night had yielded to the first light of dawn, and my garlanded maiden sat alone. Tears streaked her face, and she held a crumpled parchment in her hand. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen my ladylove cry, so I knew straight away that the letter held tragic news.
"My love?" I whispered, dread filling my bones.
She said naught for a moment, and I was on the verge of taking the missive from her hand, when she spoke in a hoarse whisper, a sound quite unlike the usual smooth melody of her voice. "Our daughter and her party were attacked as they passed through the Redhorn."
I gasped and dropped to the floor, kneeling in anguish, and frankly, I do not believe I could have stood if I had tried.
"Is she—" I could not say the word, Aragorn, could not even think it.
I exhaled and would have given a shout of joy had Galadriel not continued.
"In body, she lives. Her spirit, I fear, has fled."
She looked me full in the eye, and I shivered. Never before have I seen such a look of utter defeat in my lady's eyes.
"You know full well what Sauron's minions do to captives. Her escorts, they tortured and killed. Our daughter, they—"
"Enough, my love. Please, do not say it. You are correct; I know full well what Orcs do to fair ladies they capture." I swallowed the bile rising in my throat.
"She was held for some time—hence, we are only now receiving this dreadful news—but our grandsons eventually found her, and Elrond tends her wounds. Full faith in his abilities as healer I have, but there are some injuries that even Elrond cannot heal. There is naught he can do for a wounded mind or a slain spirit. In my mind's eye, I see her leaving these shores and sailing toward her peace. That vision both haunts and comforts me, Celeborn, for her absence will sting my spirit, but the promise of peace soothes my heart."
It would have made no difference to Celebrían's safety had I not failed on my promise to send additional patrols to the Redhorn as soon as my wife made that request of me; by that time, my grandsons already led Celebrían's wounded body and afflicted spirit to their home. Yet another secret guilt did I hold in my heart, one that I was loath to tell my wife, though I knew she would in time sense it, sniff it out. But for the moment, she was too caught up in her grief to notice my contrition, so once again, I left for the solace of the mallorn trees.
Yet no comfort could the trees give me, though they tried. In my heart I held fast to the echoes of a conversation I had never had, one in which I urged my daughter and her party to take reinforcements from among our numbers with them, for I held an evil foreboding in my soul concerning my daughter's journey. But Galadriel was usually the one to handle such matters. If she, with her flashes of foresight, sensed no reason to send additional protection, why should I have second-guessed her? So I kept my concerns to myself. By remaining silent, what disaster I brought upon my daughter, my wife, and my son-in-law! Now do you understand why I said that I failed Elrond? Alas, Elrond! Forgive me.
When I had brooded for I know not how long, I returned to my wife with firm resolution.
"Dearest," I announced, believing that I was making the right choice, "I will leave this realm and sail with my daughter, that she might not be alone on this journey. Middle-earth has yet need of Elrond, and I know well that he will not abandon the fight against evil. And Celebrían would not wish Elrond to leave our grandchildren to fight the growing darkness without the strength of their father. But you, my love, are more than capable of ruling this Wood without me." Of course she was, for I had been a curse upon my family, or so I thought. Alas, Aragorn, self-loathing can be a most potent enemy.
But Galadriel surprised me, as she still does. People may think that marriage holds no new discoveries for two bound as long as we, but I assure you, young one, a wife is an endless depth of mystery, and I am blessed to be given the chance each day to learn my lady anew.
"Celeborn!" she said, and her voice no longer wavered with sorrow. Her words were venom, crafted to sting and maim. Perhaps she was hardened by her sadness; perhaps she was simply being clever, for she knew how to reach through my murky self-loathing to the strength and pride that dwelled yet in me. She was clear, resolute, impossible to ignore. "My love, millennia have I known you, and all this time, never have I known you to be a quitter!"
"No, a quitter I am not; however, I am not quitting," I said.
"Now you speak truly, for you have already quit, left this marriage and this realm to me alone. Did you think I have no need for the one who shares my soul? Did you think that I yearn not to feel your presence? You have been here in body, Celeborn, but too oft have you been elsewhere in spirit, locking yourself away from me behind that wall of darkness. When I asked you to send patrols to the Redhorn, you cared so little for our bond that you neglected to complete that one simple task! You left me alone in my fears. You, Celeborn! The one who was to protect and comfort me for all time! Celebrían will leave, yet she and Elrond will yet be together in mind and spirit. You and I, however, dwell among the same trees, yet oft do I feel alone. Why, my love? Why have you forsaken our bond?"
Her words were harsh, yet my heart took wing and soared to the treetops, seeing our Golden Wood as if for the first time. She needed me, Aragorn! All along, the real reason for her anger concerning my failure to order patrols to the Redhorn was her fear that I no longer cared to support and protect her. And now, though darkness had befallen us, it seemed that a new light was kindled in my spirit. My beloved, the Lady of Lórien, needed me! And she was right: I am no quitter.
So I stayed. How many men could resist the appeal of Galadriel? I certainly could not. Oh, I shall not burden you with the tangled, messy aftermath of this affair. Suffice it to say that we argued, we cried, we argued some more, we sat silent and held each other, and when we could think of naught else, we argued again. But we remain, centuries later, to see the fading of one age and to greet the dawn of a new one.
Always shall I remember the underlying message of her words: souls can not be separated as long as they choose to turn toward one another in mutual trust and love. Believe that, young one, and know that Arwen and Elrond will always share a union of heart and mind, for their bond will survive their farewell. And as long as you and Arwen turn to one another, even in the face of marital strife, your souls will remain bound, as well.
Now, to return to this broken necklace. If you want my advice, and whether you do or not, I give it to you and urge you to heed it: go, make amends, talk, argue if need be. Just do not turn away. No matter your qualms, be wiser than I was and turn to your beloved forthwith. Far worse things are there than arguments, Aragorn. There is silence—deadly, icy silence. But before you go, young one, let me add one final thought, a benediction, if you will:
Aragorn Elessar, King of the Reunited Kingdom, may the Valar bless you with unsurpassed patience as a ruler and an even greater measure of patience as a husband. Eru knows that with a wife like my high-tempered granddaughter, you will undoubtedly need all the help you can get.
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.