1. In Darkness, Light
February 3019; Lothlórien
"You are uneasy."
Startled, Galadriel turned her head. She had been deep enough in thought that she had missed her husband's approach.
"Yes," she admitted as Celeborn stepped out from the deeper shadows under the trees, and sat down beside her. Not that he would need the confirmation, she thought as she huddled into the comfort of the cloak he had brought for her.
"So am I," he replied, his gaze drawn south to where, only hours before, the Ringbearer and his companions had left Lothlórien's protection to continue their Quest. "But they are beyond our aid now, and we can only hope..."
Beyond our aid and beyond our... my... grasp. She had rejected the temptation of the One Ring, but it was a relief that the strength of her will would not be tested further. "Hope," she said softly, "Such a slender foundation to be placing the Doom of Middle-earth on. Yet it is all we have."
He cast a sideways glance at her in the pale light of the stars. Even without looking deeper, it was easy to know what was on her mind. She had stood the test the night she had let the Ringbearer look in the Mirror, but resisting the Ring had taken much of her strength, and for a moment he had feared she would succumb to Its lure. He would not, could not, think of that. The Ring, along with he who bore It, was beyond their reach, for good or for ill, and they could only rely on their own strength in what was to come.
That threat at least Lothlórien was safe from now, even if it would be but a brief respite should the Halfling fail in his Quest and Sauron regain It. The Shadow would fall swiftly over them then. Orcs from Moria had already chased the Fellowship to their border, and though the first attacks had been repelled, he expected the next to follow soon.
She was too restless to easily find sleep, so after Celeborn left to hear reports from the patrols that had gone near Moria, she headed for the Mirror's glade. She would not attempt to see what might be in days to come – her imagination supplied her with sufficiently bleak speculation without the aid of the Mirror, but it might ease her somewhat if she could see where the Fellowship were on their path.
She had some idea of how far the river would have taken them, and with that in mind, it took little effort to find the Fellowship's camp. As Galadriel watched, she saw Boromir step from the shadow at the edge of the camp where he had been standing guard, and walk over to where Aragorn rested to wake him for his turn. The two men spoke briefly, then Aragorn sat down just outside the circle of light from their fire. Though his grey cloak hid him well in the shadowy darkness, she still saw his eyes gleaming in the light of the Moon as he watched over the camp. Hold on to hope for this trial, Aragorn, she thought, Though your burden is heavy, your time is at hand. With Aragorn's fate so bound up with the Quest, she could not trust to foresight to see what lay ahead for him. There were but two choices, though; he would succeed or he would fail. For one brief moment, fear gripped Galadriel's heart as she considered what failure would mean. Even if the Quest succeeded, and Sauron brought down, should Aragorn fall, Arwen would not linger long in Middle-earth.
Smiling as she espied the sleeping form of the dwarf Gimli, Galadriel's expression turned serious again as she considered Boromir; he still had to face the trial she had foreseen for him, and she could only hope his strength would be sufficient.
As soon as her focus wavered, the surface of the Mirror rippled, turning towards the Misty Mountains. Fickle as the Mirror could sometimes be, especially if she was weary, she still knew to pursue what it wanted to show her when it insisted. As she gave in, it showed her flashes of the Moria Gate and the Pass of Caradhras, and she wondered what bad news lay in wait; the Balrog they now knew dwelt in Moria, or an Orc army ready to march on Lothlórien? But no, the Mirror's vision led her still further up into the mountains. Was that Celebdil? It was difficult to make out from so high a vantage point, with the mountains illuminated only by Moon and stars.
Then she noticed a dark scar of bare rock along the snowy side of the mountain, and a deeper blackness further down. She wanted, nay, needed to look closer, but again the Mirror escaped her control, and a ripple left her staring at nothing but stars. The stars almost instantly faded to black and her sight was directed up, towards the very peak of the mountain. The rock there was scorched and shattered, and loose stones lay tumbled everywhere. The Moon was high enough now that the shadows fell but lightly on the ground, and the pale light lent an air of the unreal to the land. Suddenly, among the hard edges and planes of the broken rocks she saw the softer lines of what could only be a body. She gasped in a shock of recognition as she looked at the face of the one who lay there. Was he dead? Or did his chest stir, no matter how slightly?
His mind had been put at rest somewhat by the reports the messengers had brought. There would still be time before they came under attack again, which was more than he had hoped for. He wondered what had kept Galadriel, and was about to go and look for her when she entered their bedchamber. She was more agitated now than she had been when he found her near the river; yet there was an oddly joyful edge to her tension.
"I looked in the Mirror," she said at his unspoken question.
"What did you see?"
She took a deep breath. "Mithrandir... he may yet be alive..."
"Alive? But how? Where? Did you look into Moria?"
"No." She shook her head. "That is the oddest. The peak of Celebdil."
"Could climbers get to him?"
"That should not be necessary," she replied. "I spoke to Gwaihir. He should reach the mountain not long after the break of day. I wonder, though, how..." her voice trailed off as she paced away from him, then suddenly turned around. "Of course. Durin's Tower; the Endless Stair..."
"The Endless Stair?" Celeborn repeated, not familiar with the reference.
"I was once told of a stair that ran from the deepest part of Moria to Durin's Tower on Celebdil, but it was thought lost," Galadriel explained.
Celeborn nodded at her words, then sank back into his own thoughts as Galadriel continued her pacing. If Mithrandir lived... It would be good news indeed, but what had befallen him? Had he defeated the Balrog in the deep dark of Moria? Or had the demon also survived their confrontation? And if it had, would it turn its attention to Lothlórien? It was not impossible to defeat a Balrog, but such a victory would come at a high price.
He shook his head and sighed. It would be hours yet until morning, and there was nothing to be done until Gwaihir reached Celebdil. Just as Galadriel's pacing was starting to drive him to distraction, she sat down abruptly on the chair closest to the bed, and briefly met his gaze as he looked up. Neither of them was likely to find rest this night.
It was hard not to spend all morning gazing west towards the mountains, yet she managed to keep her composure at least outwardly, though her mind overran with questions and plans. Finally, Gwaihir spoke to tell her he was nearing Celebdil. She showed him again what she had seen that night, and she could feel the bird's elation as he recognised the rocks she showed him.
Yes, the Eagle's thought came to her, I see the place, and there is someo... then a flash of excitement. He lives..
Celeborn watched Galadriel's faraway expression, the only outward sign that she was speaking to the Eagle. Then, her relief was so clear that he did not have to ask. Somehow, then, Mithrandir had survived the confrontation with the Balrog and the fall into the abyss under Durin's bridge.
He followed Galadriel to a clearing where there was room for Gwaihir to land. Along the way, she spoke to one of her maidens and sent her to fetch clothing and make sure some with skill in healing would join them.
At Celeborn's questioning look, Galadriel repeated what Gwaihir had said to her, with a smile at the Eagle's phrasing. "The Windlord saw fit to remind me that Mithrandir is, as he puts it, naked as a newborn chick; for the sake of his dignity, if nothing else, we ought to have clothing at hand."
It was not long before Gwaihir circled down as slowly as he could, Mithrandir grasped firmly in his claws. As soon as the Eagle was almost on the ground, several Elves stepped forward, and Gwaihir released his burden so that they could catch the wizard. As soon as he had let go, Gwaihir beat his wings hard and rose slightly to land several yards from where he had deposited Mithrandir. While the other Elves rushed in to assist Mithrandir, and led him to a low seat, Celeborn, together with Galadriel, first thanked Gwaihir for his service.
"I was honoured to be of service," the Lord of Birds replied loftily, his eyes reflecting the sharp, almost eerie, intelligence of his kind. "Now though, I entrust my catch to your care. Look after him well."
As the Eagle rose and departed, they quickly turned towards the wizard. The first thing that struck Celeborn was how fragile he looked, almost transparent, the second was the light that welled up through that transparency; a deeper nakedness, not merely of body, but of spirit.
Celeborn wondered at that even as he remembered that he had seen such light before. It was similar to, yet not entirely the same, as the Light of Valinor, of the Two Trees, in his wife's eyes. He had first beheld this light, though rarely so bright, in Melian. As the years of her sojourn in Beleriand lengthened, her light had become more and more veiled, though still there to see for those who knew to look. Mithrandir, by contrast, had always kept his true nature hidden from all but a few. Now, though, Celeborn thought, none who saw him could doubt what he was.
As she approached Mithrandir and those attending him, one of the healers rose and turned towards her, speaking at her questioning glance.
"He appears well in body," the woman said, "But..."
The healer shook her head. "He does not respond, unless we give him some instruction also when we speak his name."
Quickly, Galadriel stepped forward to observe Mithrandir from close by. He sat looking intently at the glass of water in his hands, as if he had never yet beheld either glass or water.
"Mithrandir," she started, hoping that a familiar voice might draw his attention more fully, but he did not react. "Olórin," she said, lowering her voice, "Will you not look at me?"
At that name he did look up, but his gaze was not, as she had expected from the healer's words, devoid of attention. Rather, it was so intense that she nearly stepped back in reaction. Almost immediately, Celeborn was beside her. There is nothing you need to guard me from, she thought.
I know, the answer came immediately and a little sheepishly, as if he was embarrassed at his reflexive action.
The wizard studied her as closely as he had watched the glass of water he was holding. It was disconcerting to be the subject of such intent surveillance, and Galadriel found it hard to concentrate on her thoughts. What had happened to Mithrandir after he was dragged into the abyss by the Balrog? Judging from the ruin of Celebdil's peak, both had survived that fall, and had battled each other up there. She recalled the unusual storm over the mountain the guards upon the western border had reported two weeks before.
Yet Mithrandir was as good as unscathed, suffering from naught more than the effects of exposure to the cold of the mountains. Had he not been wounded, had he healed himself? No; the latter was well within the ability of the Maiar, but from what she had learned of the Istari over the years, they were fully incarnate, and bound by the limitations of their bodies. Unless... As she looked at Mithrandir again, Galadriel saw a twinkle of almost... amusement in his eyes, as if he could see her attempts at unravelling this riddle. Re-embodied?
"Mithrandir," Celeborn interrupted. "The Balrog? Did you defeat him?"
"Yes." Now that Galadriel had drawn him from wherever his thoughts had been, Mithrandir did respond.
"Yes," the wizard repeated, his expression turning dark. "Though I will not speak further now of... of what befell me."
Before Celeborn could continue, the healer came forward again, insisting that Mithrandir should rest. The woman was undoubtedly right, as the wizard, after some protest, went with her without further resistance.
She was surprised when Mithrandir joined her on the small talan high above Caras Galadhon. It was a week since his arrival in Lothlórien, and after the first two days – which he had spent in exhausted sleep – the wizard had wandered through the forest, usually alone. He had spoken kindly enough to anyone he encountered, but he had not sought the company of others.
In some ways the wizard had seemed almost like a child to her, and this was perhaps too how it was for the newly Reborn among the Elves, Galadriel considered. Though he was without doubt himself, she had seen a sense of wonder about him, of seeing the world anew, yet also a loss of will, no not a loss, for the will was there, yet it was buried deeply and needed to be re-awakened.
"How much will you speak of?" She spoke more bluntly than was her wont, but she was weary of subtle questions and fencing with words. Besides, in any of her encounters with Mithrandir in these last days, she had fared better with direct questions than with subtlety.
"I wandered far on roads that I will not tell, but I was sent back," Mithrandir responded. She gave him a sharp look when he did not elaborate, but he shook his head. "Nay, lady, there are things that must remain outside the ken of even the wisest among the Children."
She did not pursue that point further; it could wait until a better moment. Mithrandir might have died and been sent back from beyond the world, and been changed, unveiled, he would still not tell her what he did not want her to know. All the same, she welcomed this further sign of his return to his former self.
"Not that you are not welcome to remain here as long as you wish," she said, "But unless it is your intent to wait here for the Dark Lord's attack, you should leave Lothlórien sooner rather than later. Before long all roads will be closed."
He had ignored or rebuffed all her previous efforts to discuss his plans, but now he responded. "I assume that you have already sent word to Imladris?"
"Yes, by mind and messenger both."
"That is good. Now, though, if we are to look ahead, we must turn south and east." He emphasised his words by standing up and doing just that.
"The world beyond Lothlórien is dark, and look as I may, I have seen naught yet," Galadriel said as she joined him. "At least naught that is of use. Mayhap you will fare better."
Mithrandir looked at her sharply at the offer of her Mirror's use, but shook his head in refusal. "I must find my road as I walk it," he said. "And soon. My heart tells me that I should not linger here."
Galadriel felt the truth of Mithrandir's words. It was time for him to go, to travel onwards. "Where will you go, and when?"
"South," Mithrandir replied. "Within another day."
"To rejoin the Fellowship?"
"I know not. I do not doubt Gwaihir would bear me to them, but were I to depart Lothlórien on the back of an Eagle, I would risk drawing the Enemy's eye, not just to me, but to my destination and travelling companions also. Now, they may still be nothing more than a group of travellers in the wild lands, for a little while longer."
"For a little while longer. And then our doom will be decided, for good or for ill." Galadriel looked at Mithrandir, but he was gazing south again, his expression thoughtful. "But come," she said, "If you are indeed to depart on the morrow, there are preparations to be made."
"I require nothing beyond provisions," Mithrandir protested.
"Shall I then let you set forth in a huntsman's borrowed garb? Nay, Mithrandir, that would be shabby treatment. Are you not now the White, and should not your light shine for all to see, a challenge to the Dark Lord?"
"Not yet." He shook his head as he turned to look at her again. "And shabby, you say? But shabby I must remain, at least for a while yet."
Galadriel raised her hand to stop him. "Then you shall be both, until you choose to reveal yourself, and those with eyes to see shall know you for what you are."
After Mithrandir's departure, it was no surprise to again find Galadriel in thought near the river. This time, though, she turned to watch him approach.
Suddenly, the night seemed darker than it had been, and a coldness passed high up among the thin clouds.
"Nazgûl," he muttered, glancing up.
"Flying fast, along the river," Galadriel confirmed. It did not seem long before she smiled grimly. "Not for naught did I gift Legolas of Mirkwood with one of our bows. The threat is averted, for now."
"Will it be enough?" he wondered, not referring to the weapon, or the use to which it had been put.
"Perhaps." She looked down for a long time, her face hidden in shadow, before she continued. "I may have helped Frodo with the light I gave him, yet Mithrandir bears a light greater than any I could bestow. Even so, our chance and our hope rest in Frodo's hands, not Mithrandir's. Whether Lothlórien falls, or Imladris, Gondor, Rohan, as long as Frodo Baggins succeeds, we are victorious. Should he fail, it matters little what befalls elsewhere."
Neither of them speaking further, they sat down together upon the green sward, gazing south to where their hope lay, and east towards the hidden darkness of Dol Guldur. The Sun does also rise in the East, Galadriel at last spoke in mind. Light may yet be victorious.
He did not have the heart to ask whether she spoke out of hope or foresight.
A/N: This was started for the lotr_community LJ challenge for February 2009, then finally finished for the January 2010 'Potluck' Challenge, and was originally published here. The theme: Light and Shadow; the element: "Galadriel and Celeborn: how do they react to Gandalf's rescue by Gwaihir? What happens during his recovery in Lorien?"
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