Author's note: Curvë –Science. Knowledge. In my verse, it refers specifically to Feänorian technology –which gives it connotations of forbidden knowledge. In The Shibboleth of Fëanor, nolmë is knowledge in philosophy for example and kurwë is technical skill and invention. The K of Quenya has, in my mind, been adapted to the C of sindarin even for Galadriel who has been in ME for almost four ages.
* Description of Lothlorien from FotR, Book II, Ch 7, The Mirror of Galadriel??
Chapter 24: Lothlorien
She sketched a mark across the Mirror, over its obsidian surface, and light scratched across the darkness. She stared into it, seeing her face reflected obliquely, distantly, shadowed and made brittle with grief.
This is not I, she thought with a start. Not I, with that weight of grief, of bitterness and guilt.
She blinked and for a moment thought about turning away, resisting the lure of the Mirror…but it was hard. It drew her in, knowledge, curvë. It always had. It was why in Aman she had followed Feänor. It was why in later ages, she had gone to Ost-in-Edhel. It was what Sauron had first cultivated and then deliberately sought to obliterate through the destruction of Celebrimbor's cities; he had slain every last soul, destroyed utterly the wondrous melding of Dwarvish and Noldor curvë.
The ignorant called it magic.
She drew Nenya across the obsidian glass, cutting lines across the reflection of her own face like wounds.
Tell me, she whispered. Show me.
The Mirror shot through with light suddenly and the threads of Time began to part and unravel. She skimmed across them with nothing but Thought and Nenya spooled and unraveled the threads. She peered into the spaces between and through the obsidian star-blasted glass into Time, through Time, beyond into those places that only curvë understood.
Nenya cut images from the obsidian darkness; she saw the white towers, the lofty spires of Tirion. Far away, long ago. Within marble halls, women glided, sang, weaved, strummed on harps and lutes... Sterile. Constrained She saw her own younger self, Artanis, straining at the restrictions that Aman laid upon her, wanting so much more.
Why are you showing me this? she demanded and suddenly there was Feänor himself staring out of the Mirror as if he saw her looking across three Ages of Elves. She stared back unflinching, remembered the burning ambition, the excitement of those heady, over-heated days.
The Mirror seemed to splinter into white dust: ash first, from the burning ships, and then snow. Snow hardened into the bitterness of the Ice. All Feänor's promises were empty and few had mourned his loss when they arrived on the shores of Ennor… Though hunger gnawed at her belly and her limbs burned with exhaustion, there was exhilaration too.
Why are you showing me this? She demanded again, more fiercely. Is this not long gone, done with? They are all dead. I am the last of the children of Finarfin. One of the last of the Exiles. She and a handful of others who yet defied the Valar...And I ever will, she swore.
Why do you show me this? She asked a third time. She stirred her finger across the black glass and cut it with light from Nenya.
This time the Mirror cleared and she saw herself in her Golden Wood that even after the long Ages, was still not home. She saw herself as she was, a Queen. But even to her, her beauty seemed harder, more brilliant. Upon her hand was Nenya but in the Mirror it was eclipsed by another ring. A simple gold ring.
There was such Power in this Queen's hand! Such knowledge within her grasp! The lost Curvë of the Noldor was nothing compared with what she knew. In the Mirror, she looked across the heavens scattered with stars and saw such things! Giant stars, unimaginably huge globes of gases that burned dully, tiny white stars that were collapsing, falling ever and ever inwards until… until…she could not comprehend but the Dark Queen did; she reached out her hand and harnessed the energy of it all, threw her power across the Sea and there ripped open the veil that cloaked Aman. She reached out with her other hand and drew them all back; beautiful, beloved Finrod, healed his scarred and broken body and restored him. And there was sweet Angrod, Orodreth – and behind them came her glorious cousins…and each one knelt before her and worshipped her as they would the Valar. Except they never had, she thought. She smiled and tasted salt, felt her face was wet and was surprised at the depth of her longing for their bright, lost souls.
Had they truly been banished, lost forever in the Dark?
And what if the Golden Wood fell? If she were taken and killed? Or if Lorien were overrun and she taken by Sauron?
A cold finger stroked down her spine. She would kill herself first...
Ah. That was it. What then indeed? Not Mandos' Hall for such a determined exile as she...Then Darkness? The Outer Dark where Melkor had been vanquished with his demons?
She threw her head up and lifted her chin defiantly. In the Mirror, the Dark Queen stood bright, proud; she lifted her hand and they stood, fell back, silenced as she passed. She quelled them with a glance…
This is what has yet to pass….
The Mirror darkened and faded. …And then the small, pinched face appeared. Eyes haunted by something that whispered, that thrummed with Power… It was not the first time she had seen this face.
And then the small face looked over his own shoulder and behind him eight more. One she knew was Gandalf for she saw the blue-steel light that was Olórin, though a fire-limned shadow followed him. Two Men she saw, one was Aragorn. A bright-haired Elf stood with a Dwarf. Narvi and Tylepo? she thought with a shock. But she looked closer. Not Celebrimbor then. Too sweet-faced, too naïve. Far too young and unspoiled. Green light, like sunlight through newly unfurled beech leaves bathed him and there were fireflies fluttering somewhere... they were not fireflies though but the flickering light of a feä. The Dwarf was not Narvi either; too young, his vibrancy was of war not craft. The second Man was a deep flame; he burned slowly, and there was a darkness about him born of despair.
The small company faded into the mists of the Mirror, the veil dropped over them and she knew this was soon to be. But quickly on their heels, two sparks appeared, flared and glittered. Flames in the wild night. She knew them. Her grandsons, the Sons of Thunder. They were coming…
This is now. And they bring news…
Something had happened… Her grandsons brought immense tidings from over the Mountains, tidings that connected these images somehow.
And then suddenly there was Elrohir. Crimson power, fire and blood. He was caught in a maelstrom. Shadows grasped at him, a low chanting filled the air and she stared, wide-eyed and pushed harder at the Threads of Time, wanting to see what had befallen him.
Silence fell and the darkness swirled and deepened to black. There was only sound then.
Distantly at first, a single note, a hammer on iron, steel…not a hammer but a sword on steel. Metal on metal. A din and clamour rang about her, all around, and then she heard cries and shouting far off. At first she had thought she was in a forge but then there was screaming that did not stop. Battle, she realised.
From the Dark appeared an iron ring. Then an iron crown…she saw through another's eyes that a dark figure was rising slowly from the earth, tall and strong, with long silk-black hair lifting on the wind. A dull gleam on its brow, an iron crown and on its hand gleamed a ring with a crimson jewel, like an eye. ?? She barely gasped, a dreadful pain in her chest pressed down upon her. Elrohir. ??
Elrohir's grey eyes were hard as flint, as steel, and his noble, stern face was impassive, implacable. In his hand a blade gleamed dully. A Morgul blade and he strode towards a fallen warrior…Elladan!
The Mirror shimmered and trembled and she realised she had touched its surface. She drew her hand quickly around the rim of the glass, so Nenya rang on the glass rim, grew to a high pitch almost a screech and she knew she was losing control.
She could not move and darkness roiled about her. The din of battle deafened her but words scattered like spider webs across her skin. ??
Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul...??
She felt the cold breath of the Nazgûl drawing close now and closer. Their naked hunger...and Aícanaro rang like a glass goblet with their closeness. But she could not lift it, could not wield the black blade. ?? She knew then she was seeing events through Elladan's eyes, felt what he felt, heard his thoughts. He had Aícanaro – how had Elrohir come to lose the dark blade? But Elladan had it -and he could not strike his brother though the world depended on it.
Aícanaro...a hiss, hatred that burned like ice. The Nazgûl drew close, leaned towards Elladan. This time thou shalt not survive. This time thou shalt melt in the heat of the One. ??
It was so hot, as hot as Oroduin. The darkness was limned with red fire which grew brighter and brighter and she could not turn away, or raise her hands to her face. ??
I see you. ??
A sense of absolute terror struck her and she felt a wetness run down her legs. A great Eye opened high, high up in the darkness but its brightness; its dreadful Power searched and pierced the dark like a spear.
I see you
She gasped and found herself drawn down, pulled into the Eye. She struggled tried to draw back, to cloak herself, hide but He switched his gaze. Like a beacon the Eye pierced the dark around her and she was caught in a spotlight of white flame and hurt.
Where is it?
Ah- the pressure…like stones upon her chest…like the Sea…dragging her under. She could not breath….
Where is it, my…?
She threw herself back, and suddenly the Mirror went black, obsidian star-blasted glass once again with merely swallowed the light, reflected nothing...
She found herself collapsed on the cold ground, trembling. Nenya was dull, lifeless. The Mirror darkened. Her hands shook and she clasped her shawl around her shoulders and knelt for hours in the shadows that crowded her in this place, the past, the future. Until the stars were fading from the sky she remained on the cold ground, and the thin crack of dawn appeared over the treetops.
They paused at the Dimril Dale as was their custom in spite of the bitter cold, for something called to Elladan about that deep, dark water. It evoked some sense of nostalgia in him that he could not account for. And as ever, Elrohir indulged him and stood watch high up and would not come down into the Dale for he said it was a haunted place, and full of ghosts.
Almost he could believe it for as he walked down to the Mirrormere something prickled down Elladan's spine like they were being watched and he turned quickly, surveying the surrounding mountains. Still, dark water like a glass reflected the circling mountains, the blue sky and the scudding clouds. Around him the dark pine trees climbed out the shallow bowl that held the lake, and he let his senses reach out to his brother. Lightly he brushed across Elrohir's thoughts, not probing, just lightly, to reassure and to touch...
But he was thrown back by the self-loathing and longing that roiled and surged from his brother.
Elladan rubbed a hand over his face; would it never end? It wearied him sometimes, and when he tried to draw Elrohir out, to comfort him, he was often thrown off, shaken loose as if his concern and love were nothing. It was worse when they crossed the Redhorn Gate, or were in Imladris or Lorien, for it was nearby that they had found their poor torn mother.
Elladan stood at the edge of the Mirrormere and stared into the cold stillness. They had found her, a bundle of thin bones and bloody rags and she had shrieked and cursed them both, torn and clawed at Elrohir's face for Elrohir had been the one to find her, brought her out of that den of Orcs and filth and stench. It had been Elrohir who had shielded Elladan from the sight, drawing his own cloak around her, and when her nails raked down Elrohir's face, he had not flinched, he simply wrapped her in his hurt love, and whispered soothingly to her. The things she had screamed at him…even now Elladan baulked at the memory.
Neither of them could forget. But Elladan felt the familiar guilt that he did not feel the same rage and fury that tormented Elrohir and if he were honest with himself, the merciless quest for vengeance was more about him following Elrohir than about his own need for revenge. He felt the lack in himself and hated himself for it.
Once when they were but children Elrohir had declared loudly 'I wish I had been born in the First Age, in the time of Heroes!' Their father had admonished him but he said, even more loudly, 'I would have followed Feänaró and stood with him against Moringotto!' But when Elrohir saw that it had grieved Celebrián, saw her hurt face, he had run to her and laid his head upon her chest and hugged her until she stroked his head and whispered that he was a monster child who had perhaps been mislaid indeed by Feänor and hatched from an egg. It had been Elrohir who had drawn Elladan into their mother's embrace and she had hugged him almost absent-mindedly. It had stung then and would have more had Elrohir not always tried so hard to bring Elladan into the warmth and embrace.
He turned from the gnaw of the Past and began climbing up the slope towards Elrohir. Baraghur nickered a welcome but Elrohir had his back to him and did not turn when Elladan joined him.
'She is watching us,' he said, and Elladan blinked.
'I thought there was something,' he replied, pulling his gloves from his cold hands and flexing his fingers. 'It always unnerves me when she does that.' He shrugged his cloak about himself more closely for the cold fingered its way down his neck. 'I know it is the Mirror but that does not make it any easier knowing she can spy on anyone of our blood.'
He thought about suggesting they rest and build a fire, eat, but his brother's closed face made him pause. 'If we ride fast we can be in the eaves of Lorien by nightfall tomorrow,' he said instead, as cheerfully as he could.
But Elrohir turned to him then with a black look. 'Would that we did not have to go there at all.' He pulled his gaze away from Elladan and looked down the mountain trail. 'But I suppose we must,' he added grimly.
Elladan frowned. The truth was that Elrohir avoided Lorien because the same dreadful loss was in Galadriel's eyes as in Elrohir's, and that was what he could not bear.
'It is different for you, she has always favoured you,' Elrohir said but it was without rancour or accusation.
'Do you think so?' Elladan asked mildly. He thought it true but only because Galadriel tried to compensate for the distance she saw between her daughter and her younger son. He said nothing though. What point was there? Instead he led his black horse out and stuck his foot in the stirrup, swung himself astride and waited for Elrohir. As he waited, and Baraghur snatched at the poor winter grass, he thought how he had tried not to let it wound him, that closeness between their mother and Elrohir for he could not begrudge his twin anything. Ever. But when Celebrián had sailed and Elladan had thought Elrohir would turn to him as he turned to Elrohir, he found that Elrohir had wrenched his heart away and hidden it deep, bathed in crimson fury and blood. So Elladan had been left to grieve in his own quiet way.
Erestor had been the one to draw him close, knowing perhaps how quietly and deeply Elladan was in grief not only for his mother but perhaps even more for his beloved twin.
A strange pair he and Erestor made, he thought as he watched Elrohir ready himself. While Elrohir checked his own horse's girth and pulled down the stirrups, kicked over the ashes of the fire, Elladan recalled drunken evenings of chess where Erestor had played him at Suicide. Or when they had sparring bouts and Erestor had driven him relentlessly, so he came home covered in bruises making Elrohir furious, first with Erestor, and then later with Elladan for allowing the beating. 'It is so I know pain and do not fear it,' he had told Elrohir. 'Erestor will not patronize me by letting me win. No Orc would.'
He looked up suddenly at the lightening sky, feeling a twinge of unease. Birds flew up from the margins of the lake, a clatter of wings in the silence. Both he and Elrohir froze, looked out to where the birds had flown up. For a long moment they did not move, but it was nothing; merely ducks flying in the early morning.
Elrohir glanced at him and then swung himself up onto his horse. He clicked to Barakhir and though they moved off, the feeling of unease did not leave Elladan and he scanned the mountain slopes above. The bitter cold turned their breath to smoke and the hard frost on the ground silvered everything. If they had not been here, perhaps both would have seen the beauty in it, thought Elladan and he put the unease down to the place.
They urged their black horses down the faint mountain trail. In spite of their haste, they were not reckless and it took some hours before they finally saw the silver ribbon that was the Anduin in the far distance. The Celebrant poured and foamed beside them, melt water from the glacier of Caradhras. Green-white water roared, almost deafening at times, thundering into pools and falls. Granite rocks gleamed in the pale winter light and above them, the skies were low and a yellowish tint touched the edges. Snow, thought Elladan and he glanced up at the Mountains behind them, glad to be off the steep and treacherous crags.
They rode carefully for hours but the concentration was tiring for both horses and when Baraghur stumbled, Elrohir slowed and turned and made them stop. They rested an hour before continuing for the path was icy in places and they often dismounted and led their horses down steep twisting paths that sometimes disappeared onto scree slopes or through the boulders as they descended the mountains in the bleak December afternoon that was lowering into dusk.
They were within sight of Lothlorien. Far away in the distance was the black line that was Mirkwood.
'Let us keep going as long as we can and then stop once more to rest the horses,' Elladan suggested, hoping that the niggle in the back of his mind would fade as they left the mountains far behind. Elrohir did not reply but both knew they needed to compose themselves before they arrived; they needed to smooth their pain away and to show the flat shield of their brotherhood to everyone, most especially Galadriel.
When finally it was too dark to continue and Barakhir stumbled, they stopped. A rabbit swung from Elrohir's saddle, bagged earlier, and Elladan gathered dry twigs for kindling for a fire. It did not take Elrohir long to skin and gut the rabbit while Elladan leaned forward to build the fire, the unease growing upon him inexplicably.
It was not imminent danger, he knew so he struck his flint and sparks flew. He held it close to the dry kindling he had found and murmured quietly. The dry twigs leapt and flared and kindled. He sat back on his heels, watching it for a moment.
'I will take watch,' Elrohir said. Sensing Elladan's disquiet, he smoothed a hand over his brother's hair as he passed.
Elladan looked up briefly and smiled. 'Do you think Aragorn has returned to Imladris yet?' He threw a few more sticks onto the fire to feed it and thought that perhaps he was just over-wrought from being in these Mountains, crossing the pass that they had once crossed with their mother. 'And Legolas? I wonder if he has recovered.'
He did not see how Elrohir's face darkened and his eyes grew hard and angry. Throwing more twigs on the fire, Elladan said, 'Perhaps he is already on his way home to Mirkwood.'
'He is probably fully recovered and fucking that whore, Berensul,' Elrohir snapped and Elladan shot him a startled look.
'I have never heard you use that word of Berensul before,' he observed mildly. 'Although others have and I have heard you upbraid them.' He held his brother's gaze until Elrohir looked away. He knew Elrohir was ashamed for it was unlike him to judge so harshly and he had never been one to cite the Laws.* Frowning, Elladan reached for a long, thin stick to prod the fire and threw on more kindling until the fire caught.
'Perhaps I have not realised it before,' he heard Elrohir say and his voice sounded distant, as if he were looking into the sky.
'What? You have been unaware of Berensul's promiscuity?' Elladan laughed and looked about for the heavier sticks and thin branches they had found. 'Surely not! When half the guardroom gossip is about him! I half expect to find him pursuing you,' he added lightly, pulling some thinner branches towards him, for both he and Elrohir were pursued by many potential lovers. But where Elladan had loved, Elrohir sternly repelled every effort with a cool bitterness that had made any suitor wary. There were whispers too in the kitchens and stables and barracks. He wished Elrohir could find happiness. That was behind his next words. 'Perhaps it is not Berensul that you think of but Legolas Thranduillion. Perhaps it is the thought of he and Berensul that makes you so angry.' He meant it as a throw away, to end Elrohir's hostility towards Berensul.
Elladan looked up in surprise to find Elrohir standing over him, fists clenched and glaring at him in outrage.
'How dare you say that! You may be my brother, my blood, but you know me not at all if you think that! How can you even think of it? How can you ever...How could you ever think of that again after....' Elrohir threw his hand out as if to ward off a blow. He turned his steel-grey eyes upon Elladan, hard, unforgiving as Elladan never saw them turned upon himself.
Elladan reached out a hand to stay him. 'I did not mean...I did not mean you desire him. I meant nothing...'
He stopped and breathed in. Elrohir's furious Power roiled over him, swirling round him like a cloak, red, deep red, and so dark in places it was purple like a bruise. And that was where the pain and hurt was...
Elladan closed his eyes, let the furious anger and pain wash over him. Gently he let his own blue peace settle and slowly push away the furious pain of his brother.
'Ah, Elrohir. I do not wish to hurt you,' he said penitently. 'I wish only to see you at peace.'
'There is no peace for me,' Elrohir said violently but Elladan knew the hurt was raw and tender.
'I wish you did not punish yourself so hard,' he said, not looking at Elrohir. 'Mother would hate to see you so miserable.'
Elrohir did not speak. It seemed almost as if any words would choke him. Instead he whirled away and strode into the dusk. 'I will scout,' he threw back over his shoulder and Elladan thought sadly that in truth Elrohir simply wanted to get away from him, from his concern and from his love. Miserably he prodded at the fire and then he too rose and stood between the horses, rubbed their soft noses as they nudged him in concern.
The Moon rose so brightly it cast shadows. Elrohir looked back to check their small fire could not be seen and was relieved that he could be alone out here in the slopes and foothills of the Mountains, and he did not yet have to face Her.
He cringed at the way he had spoken to his sweet brother, and felt the familiar surge of love for him, that wanted to protect him and only see him happy.
But happiness is beyond us now, he thought. For I am ruined beyond repair and I will destroy him with my wretchedness..
He strode up a steep scree slope, feeling the loose stones shift and slide under his feet and then was on a ridge where the stars were hard and bright and close. His breath frosted in the air and the piercing cold cleared his head. He glanced back down into the hollow where Elladan tended the horses; he could see dimly his shape where Elladan stood between Barakhir and Baraghur. They dipped their noses towards him.
He hated himself for upsetting Elladan. But he was all nervous energy and fury charged through his blood. He could not sleep, could not rest…how he hated these mountains. Everywhere he looked, he saw his sweet, beloved mother turning from him screaming, raking her nails down the side of his face as he brought her out, writhing in his arms, desperate to get away from him… as if it were he that had…
No. He would not think on it. He could not bear it. How many times had he sat in the darkness and slid dark Aícanaro from his sheath and slipped the point over his wrist…just there where the pulse banged and pumped. A small nick, slide it along the artery. It would be quick, almost painless compared with the endless torment and wrenching pain in his heart now… but Aícanaro would not draw his master's blood. It was in the sword's lore. The sword slipped from his hand, turned sideways so the flat was against his skin. As if sentient and unwilling to lose one that gave him so much blood.
It is the One Ring that makes me worse, he told himself desperately. It is that Mirkwood Elf who beyond belief, had let Sméagol go after all the trouble it gave Aragorn. It was one of those irrational dislikes that provoked him. It was the way he cut a glance across at you, provocative and timid at the same time, wary like a wild thing that lures you in and then savages you. It was his cornsilk hair that lifted in the wind, the stretch of his tunic across his broad shoulders, the strange green-gold light that seemed to infuse the air when he was near. It was his straight nose and high cheekbones, his full mouth that begged to be bruised...
He became aware of himself stiffening and bulging and shook his head. Surely he did not think this of the Elf? Was Elladan closer than he had realised with his question? Was that why he was so angry when he saw Legolas with Berensul?
No, it was not desire. That was neither acceptable nor the truth, he told himself. No, it was the familiar violence that made him swell; his only lust was for violence. His only desire for blood and revenge and violence. He had not had a woman since their mother was returned to them bloody and torn and mad. He had not even taken himself, or another, in hand...for the smell... the smell on her thighs was the same that he smelled on himself at release...The smell of Orc was the same as his own.
He gagged and squeezed closed his eyes, clenched his fist around Aícanaro and felt it coil pleasurably... wanting blood... wanting more... Have you not yet had your fill? he asked the dark sword, but of himself as well and knew he had not. Never.
Elrohir turned his back to the looming, overwhelming mountains and looked out into the vastness of the Night. Stars were hard and bright and the air was bitter. The familiar despair settled on his chest. A black shroud that seemed to wrap itself about him, thin, cold. There was no escape. None.
'Are you listening?' he whispered to the Dark, feeling for Her. There was a stir of air and he smiled thinly and filled his head with the vilest images so that she recoiled…Except she did not for she had seen worse. She was never shocked. And there was a strange comfort in that.
Their breath smoked in the bitter cold air of the morning as they trotted slowly between the dark pines, hoof beats muted by the pine needles that covered the ground. Elrohir had returned as light grew, his dark mood ruthlessly suppressed. He had clasped Elladan's shoulder when he roused him, held out a cup with hot tea in it.
Elladan had sipped at the tin cup and felt the scalding of his mouth bring him awake, letting the shadows of night and dreams that clung to him slip away. Except they did not.
'I dreamed of Erestor last night,' he said. It had been a troubling dream, full of danger, shadows crowded around Erestor and clung to him. There was an emptiness in him that frightened Elladan. It stayed with him when he awoke. Elladan felt his chest tighten still more and a nervous prickling stroked his neck.
'Erestor?' Elrohir looked at him suddenly and in surprise. He threw the rest of his own tea onto the fire and met Elladan's gaze. He did not ask what Elladan felt.
Above them a bird of prey spiraled upwards on the warm air currents.
Elrohir looked back along the mountain trail. 'Should we go back?' he asked.
Their eyes met in silence. Each read the other's shifting thoughts; concern, duty, loyalty. And then there was the Ring.
'We go on then,' Elladan said quietly but he felt the unease deepen. 'To the Wood.'
'We will stay long enough to deliver our messages and rest the horses.' Elrohir looked intently and with concern at Elladan.
Elladan nodded. 'Erestor rode with Elrond to the High Pass.'
Baraghur gave a soft whinny, shifted uneasily, and shook his head. Elladan rose and smoothed his neck until he quieted.
'Is it father too?'
Elladan shook his head.
'We will reach the Wood easily by dusk. We will return the following day if Barakhir and Baraghur are ready.'
It was winter and yet the leaves clung still to the silver trees. The air was still, and so silent. Elladan always felt it was like being in snow for the sounds seemed absorbed and the world seemed watchful, waiting. The peace always soothed him but he watched Elrohir from the corner of his eye and saw how his brother's fingers were tight on the reins and that Barakhir tossed his head and side-stepped though Elrohir was still, his face set like stone. But his mouth was a thin line of tension.
The leaves of the mallorn trees were golden though it was winter and the world was turned to sleep. The March Wardens they knew were there barely stirred as they passed and Elladan merely lifted a hand in greeting. They were not challenged.
They did not dismount but splashed through the river Celebrant although it was so bitter-cold that Baraghur baulked at it at first, and then surged through the cold and up the other bank and stood, shaking himself dry. Frost laced the golden mallorn trees in the pale winter sunlight, silver against gold.
They entered the Naith of Lorient that lay like a spearhead between the arms of Silverlode and the Great River, Anduin. Their horses were tired and knowing they were almost at their destination, they let their heads drop and plodded wearily the last few miles.
At last, as the sun slipped below the trees and long layers of cloud streaked the sky, they reached Caras Galadhon. They rode along the white-paved road that ran in a great circle, with the deep fosse on their left, lost in soft shadow, but the grass upon its brink was green, as if it glowed still in memory of the sun that had gone. Upon the other side of the fosse there rose to a great height a green wall encircling a green hill thronged with huge mallorn-trees. Their height could not be guessed, but they stood up in the twilight like living towers. In their many-tiered branches and amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights were gleaming, green and gold and silver.
The city climbed up like a green cloud upon their left; and as the night deepened more lights sprang forth, until all the hill seemed afire with stars. They came at last to a white bridge, and crossing found the great gates of the city: they faced south-west, set between the ends of the encircling wall that here overlapped, and they were tall and strong, and hung with many lamps. Far away up on the hill they could hear the sound of singing falling from on high like soft rain upon leaves.*
At last they came to the Fountain. Silver lamps swung from the boughs of trees and the sound of water mingled with the many voices that sang distantly, ethereally around them. They saw the shadows and shapes of the Elves who lived here and many stared with open curiosity at the Sons of Thunder. Some raised their hands in greeting or called out and Elladan acknowledged each one. But Elrohir rode on proud and silent. His mouth was a thin line and Elladan knew he hated the strange, dreamy quality of Lorien. It was suspended in time, he said, like a boulder in a river when the world was changing all around them. But though he would not admit it, Elladan knew he loved it too. He could not help it.
Upon the south side of the lawn there stood the mightiest of all the trees; its great smooth bole gleamed like grey silk, and up it towered, until its first branches, far above, opened their huge limbs under shadowy clouds of leaves.* Here they would leave their horses so they could ascend the stairways and bridges to greet their grandparents. Elrohir was already on the ground and unbuckling Barakhir's saddle. Barakhir turned his head and rubbed against Elrohir affectionately, urging him to be quicker and Elrohir smiled as he so rarely did and quickly slid off the bridle and then lifted the saddle from Barakhir's back. Elladan followed suit and Baraghur plunged his nose into the fountain and drank deeply.
'I will take them,' Elrohir volunteered, and after the horses had drunk their fill, he clucked to them both and they followed him along a narrow path where they knew a stable and feed awaited them.
Elladan sat on the edge of the Fountain and looked into the water. Above him the lights of Caras Galadhon gleamed like stars and voices drifted around him. He thought this must be like Menegroth had been those long ages ago with the night soft above him and the Power of Galadriel that, like Malian's Girdle, cocooned Lorien against the shadows without.
There was a clatter of footsteps and he turned, thinking it was Elrohir but wondering why he was so loud. But it was not Elrohir. It was Haldir, the March-Warden of the West Approach, hurrying down the wide steps towards him, hastily tucking in his shirt and smoothing his hair. He did not see Elladan at first and his expression was one of harried, excited anxiety. Elladan rose to his feet to greet Haldir for he knew him a little, but, liked him less; he found the March Warden aloof and rather haughty for one not highly born. Elladan himself did not put on airs and disliked it in others. But Haldir was clearly preoccupied and in haste, his handsome face was flushed with excitement.
Suddenly Haldir looked up and seeing Elladan, stopped abruptly, His eyes widened and his lips parted as if he were overjoyed at seeing Elladan. He gazed at Elladan as if he could not quite believe he were there.
'My lord! I did not see you there...' he said breathlessly,
Elladan blinked and did not quite know what to say for he had had less that three of four encounters with Haldir and all of those brief and cursory. Seeing Elladan's hesitation, the excitement seemed to drain from Haldir and he let his head drop. He murmured almost inaudibly, 'I would have come sooner had I known.' He glanced up quickly again at Elladan.
Elladan returned Haldir's gaze blankly for he did not know what Haldir expected. Slowly Haldir's expression changed and he seemed to crumple. He reached out again but this time, almost pleadingly. 'I ask nothing of you, my lord, but a little hope,' he said softly.
Elladan blinked. 'Hope? Forgive me Haldir, I do not understand you.'
For a moment, Haldir stared at Elladan uncomprehending, and then he stepped back, his proud mask in place and that haughty mouth a straight line, tight. 'My lord Elladan! Forgive me I thought...'
Elladan shook his head and smiled. 'It is forgotten, my friend.' He realised now that the conversation was not meant for him but Elrohir. 'My brother is with our horses and will return soon.'
'Of course, my lord. I should have realised.' Haldir bowed slightly, once again the supercilious Elf that Elladan recognized.
'Did you wish to speak with him?' Elladan asked kindly. Though he had never much liked Haldir, he would not wish such a difficult path for anyone. And in Lorien, they held the Laws* close indeed. And he needed more than Hope if he wished to win Elrohir's attention, let alone his angry, bitter heart.
'I merely wished to greet you both,' Haldir said and bowed slightly. 'And tell you that my lady is waiting.'
'Then she will wait,' another voice joined them. Elrohir. Both turned to see his tall, strong figure striding towards them along the path between the great silver trunks of the mallorn trees. His sable cloak swirled around him and dark Aícanaro rode against his black-clad thigh as he walked. His long black hair gleamed in the silver light. Black and silver. He looked dramatic, powerful, dangerous. Elladan smiled inwardly. No wonder Haldir caught his breath.
'My lord!' Haldir it seemed could not help himself thought Elladan mildly amused, for Haldir surged forwards and looked as though he would drop on his knees before Elrohir. But Elrohir's grey eyes barely flickered over the Marchwarden.
'Do you need to eat first? Rest?' Elrohir asked Elladan, deliberately provocative, deliberately snubbing Haldir.
Elladan caught his eye, disapproving.. 'Galadriel will feed us I am sure,' he replied.
Elrohir's mouth curled ever so slightly. 'Then come,' he said, deliberately ignoring Haldir. 'There is nothing here to keep us.' He turned and strode swiftly towards the wide silver wooden steps that curled around the greatest mallorn tree.
Elladan glanced awkwardly at the Marchwarden. Haldir stood, cheeks flushed with humiliation, but he gazed after Elrohir as if he were starving. An edge of pity struck Elladan and he gave a slight nod to Haldir, who looked away, ashamed of having given away such secret desire. Elladan felt a sudden intense pity for in Lorien the Laws were strict and Elrohir would never spare even a glance for Haldir.
Elladan followed Elrohir, but more slowly, and glanced behind him once to see that Haldir walked away, back stiff and head high. Not one to suffer such a rejection well, thought Elladan.
He slowly climbed the wide silver-wood steps, studying as he walked the carved curlicues and swirls, intricate designs even as he had as a child and he found a strange comfort in it. Woven between the abstract shapes and swirls was the white fire circle and sun of Galadriel, and the tree and horn device of Celeborn. He was suddenly reminded of the inked markings on Legolas' body and thought how the Silvan Elves had more curls and curves than the angular Noldor.
He climbed the wide, silver-wood steps that wound about the huge tree and went up and up until the stars seemed huge and close, and emerged on a wide talan that was so much part of the tree that not even elvish eyes could see where the tree ended and the carving began. It merged into one sweeping, organic sculpture. And at the centre, awaiting them was Galadriel.
She stood in a silver light that seemed to emanate from her. Her long white dress swept behind her and Nenya flashed once upon her hand.
She was there. In their minds. And her thoughts flashed over them, swift as light. And was gone. She knew everything.
He felt Elrohir tight and angry beside him at what he would see as an invasion.
'Do you have what you want now?' Elrohir demanded furiously, his fists were clenched.
Galadriel's smile was as sad as it was beautiful. 'No. That is long gone,' she said.
He was still stiff and angry when Celeborn arrived. 'Welcome, children!' He hugged them, dragged Elladan first and then an unwilling Elrohir into his embrace. He threw back his head and laughed loudly with rare joy. 'Tell me of your journey,' he demanded. 'And give me news from Imladris, not the official news though, boys, tell me the gossip in the guardroom and barracks. Tell me what battles you have fought and what journeys you have been on.' He did not reproach them for their long, long absence. His deep resonant voice filled the void of their collective loss with nonsense.
At last Elrohir softened and suddenly he let his shoulders drop. Elladan felt the moment his crimson fury subsided. As if he felt it too, Celeborn drew Elrohir's head down to rest upon his shoulder. He smoothed Elrohir's hair and murmured softly. 'Hush child. I know.'
They had talked first of small news, their journey, Arwen. And then Elladan had told them Elrond's message, given them Gandalf's news. He was serious as he told them for it was momentous and changed the world. But he watched his grandfather flick a careful and anxious glance at Galadriel, and her calm acceptance as if she knew. But beneath her serenity, Elladan sensed too something else; anticipation?
Later, in their talan, which was as rich and luxurious as their own rooms on Imladris, Elladan asked his silent brother, 'What is there between you and Haldir?'
Elrohir raised startled eyes but looked away just as quickly. 'Nothing,' he said curtly.
Elladan raised an eyebrow and slowly twirled his dagger between his fingers, watching the flash of light on the runes, the star and M intertwined. He said nothing but waited, knowing that Elrohir would either wish to tell him everything or he would stay completely silent and more subtle means would be needed.
Elrohir turned onto his side and pulled the blankets up over his shoulder. 'I will not speak more, Elladan, so go to sleep.'
* Laws and Customs of the Eldar; Tolkien's Laws and Customs among the Eldar" — Several essays and legends on the Eldar, particularly marriage and naming customs of the Elves, and Tolkien's conceptions of the soul and body. There is a noticeable point made about sex being clearly for procreation and for my purposes I have adopted this as a belief of the Imladrian elves- but by no means all of them think this, the powerful majority do. So relationships that do not lead to marriage are frowned upon in my version of Imladris. My reference makes the point that in the past, Elrohir had given no regard or importance to the Laws and yet here he is showing disgust for Berensul's rather frivolous attitude towards relationships and sex.
Sorry about the long wait. Only a few chapters left of this one I think and to make up for the wait, another chapter is ready to post nice and quick.
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