"breath held, eyes closed" Genre: Drama, General Rating: PG Time Frame: Year 1200 of the Second Age Characters: Celebrían, Annatar (Sauron), Galadriel/Celeborn, OCs Summary: This was the part that the stories left out, she thinks. Not always were monsters creatures of claw and fang. No . . . sometimes, they were beautiful. Notes: Once again, this was written for The Spooky Story Challenge, the prompt being monster, full moon, and soul. Somehow Second Age shenanigans with child!Celebrían came out, and then Sauron decided that he wanted to play as well, and now here we are. While this story took a turn for the serious at the end, it was still a fun attempt at a child's ghost story, and I hope you enjoy. For any who are unfamiliar with this timeframe of Tolkien's epic, I included a handy list of who is who and what is what at the bottom, as well. Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. "breath held, eyes closed"by Mira_Jade Simply put, they were trying to catch a Balrog. It was a very important mission, this task of theirs; one that required stealth, a steady hand, and no small amount of courage. The shadows from the outer wall of Ost-in-edil seemed to be filled with sinister shapes that night. The flames from the warden's watches threw dancing shapes on the stone walls, seemingly hiding dark things within. The night was full with the moon above them, washing the world beneath its touch in shades of silver and blue. The empty branches from the trees were cold specters, scratching their spindle branches against the stone in a hymn to the night. Somewhere beyond them, an owl called to Ithil above, an ill omen for their quest, Celebrían knew. For now, nothing but their mettle and their warrior's courage would let them survive the encounter that surely - "Bree," came the soft voice from beside her. "You are scaring me." Belatedly, Celebrían realized that she had been narrating their adventure out loud. She stopped on the cobblestone path and turned to raise a withering brow at her friend. "I am not Celebrían," she whispered under her breath. "I am Glorfindel the Golden-haired, remember?" Carefully, she reached up to make sure that the yellow scarf she had wrapped about her head (hiding away her own silver tresses to stay in character) was safely in place. She tucked a long braid behind the scarf's edge with an annoyed huff of breath. "You must address me as such." Sítheril bit her lip, looking not at all like a would-be Balrog slayer. In fact, her friend (whom she was calling Ecthelion the Fair for this venture, in lieu of her coal colored hair and porcelain Noldor skin), looked downright unnerved as she cast her grey eyes from one shadow to the next. "Glorfindel," Sítheril stressed the name with what Celebrían thought to be a bit of annoyance. Her anxious eyes killed any ire her voice may have attempted to carry. "We really shouldn't be out so late -" "Nonsense," Celebrían waved her friend's concern away. "The last bell has not sounded yet. My parents are busy meeting with the smiths of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, and I shall not be missed until they return. Dark things stir in the night hour, everyone knows that. And if we wish to catch one, it is now that we must make our search." "Your parents may be away, but my parents are not going to believe the pillow under my sheets if they look any closer, and then they shall tell your parents," Sítheril pointed out with an infuriating logic. "We have already searched for Balrogs by the fountain in the light of day a hundred times over," Celebrían retorted, shaking her head imperiously. "And I told Aradhelon that I would bring back a Balrog horn before he." Aradhelon was the son of one of her father's advisors, and a troll if ever there was one, in Celebrían's kindest opinion. The slightly older boy was convinced that such fearsome activities as Balrog-slaying belonged to warriors – to men – and had told her to go back to her needle and thread. Celebrían had pushed him into the fountain for his words, and the anger Aradhelon had felt by being beaten by an elleth had soon prompted the race between them. Celebrían was determined not to loose – but, for that, they needed to get by the gates of the city, no matter what Sítheril said. She felt a rising in her stomach at the thought, but quickly pushed it down. Glorfindel would surely not be scared at such a prospect, and so, she would not be either. Sítheril hesitated, and Celebrían raised a brow, daring her to comment. "I did not think there were any Balrogs left," she pointed out gingerly. "Those who say so also said that Gondolin would never be found," Celebrían rolled her eyes. "You are merely stalling. Now come, my dear Ecthelion – forward." Sítheril looked dubious, but she pushed forward with her friend nonetheless. She trailed the wooden stick she was using for a sword alongside the wall as they walked. Above them, the same owl sang, hunting in the night. The darkness of hour felt heavy on their shoulders. Celebrían tilted her head at a sound from the shadows. She listened, hearing a step on the path. She raised her hand, gesturing for Sítheril to halt as she turned into the sound. There was . . . "That is not big enough to be a Balrog," Sítheril breathed, her eyes flickering from her friend to the shadows and back again. "But it could be something else . . . An Orc . . . a Warg . . ." "Or a guard doing his rounds," Celebrían notched a blue fletched arrow in her training bow as they stepped into the shadow of the nearest alley. "Take heart, Ecthelion, until we know the foe we face." The same step came closer and closer. Celebrían held her breath. "Halt, vile fiend of Morgoth!" she gave her cry in what she thought to be her best Glorfindel-esque voice as she sprang out of the shadows, Sítheril close behind, her wooden stick raised high with an inarticulate war-cry on her tongue. . . . only to see nothing nearly as exciting as an Orc or a Balrog. Instead, it was just Aradhelon and his two flunkies - who obviously had thought the same as Celebrían when planning their nightly hunt. The idea irked her, and so she pushed it aside. "Oh," Celebrían lowered her bow, adopting a bored tone of indifference she had seen her mother use many a time with company that vexed her. "It is merely you." Aradhelon rolled his eyes. "What are you doing out so late?" he asked, annoyance coating his voice. He was unfortunately handsome, Celebrían thought, with his dark brown hair and grey-blue eyes. She would have liked him better with warts. "Shouldn't proper young ladies be in bed right now?" Warts and scales, Celebrían thought. And lots of them. "Shouldn't scared little boys be in bed right now?" Celebrían returned, irked. "Or do you seek another rematch?" Behind Aradhelon, Erfaron – his right hand, snorted out a laugh, and Aradhelon quickly glared at his second to silence him. Harthor, the tallest of the three boys, as slim and golden as his Sindarin blood would imply, snorted. "Aradhelon does not need to answer the challenge of a mere maiden. It would be beneath him to do so." Aradhelon stepped forward, a hand on the wooden sword he wore at his waist. Celebrían clutched the wood of her bow, ready to use it to block a blow if she had to. "Just because I should not does not mean that I won't -" "Please," Sítheril stepped forward. "There is no need to fight. It is late, and we should all -" "Yes, run back home," Aradhelon taunted. "We shall slay the Balrog so that the fair young maidens may sleep safe in their beds." "No one is going anywhere," Celebrían said, glaring at her friend. "Ah, the lady is brave, I will give her that," Aradhelon said. There was a touch of mischief at his eyes, a smile tugging upon his mouth that she did not quite trust. "But I wonder, just how brave is she?" She stood up as straight as she could, glad of the height that let her stare straight into the older boy's eyes. "I am brave," she said simply, making her hand a fist on her bow and willing it to stay so. "If that is so, I then have a tale for you. There is a visitor, here for Celebrimbor's guild of jewel-smiths," Aradhelon said, and Celebrían fought to keep from dipping her brow in thought at his words. She had known that something was transpiring at Celebrimbor's forge that night. Her parent's had been ill at ease for the last two days since the stranger had arrived, and she knew that they met with the other lord to discus what to do about the visitor. "I have heard," Celebrían said simply, waiting for Aradhelon to get to it. "They say that he is practically monstrous," Aradhelon continued. Instead of standing still, he circled around her as she stayed rooted in her place, following him with her eyes. His steps were slow and menacing as he turned about her, while Celebrían bristled, wanting to trip him. "They say that he is a true creature of the darkness, with scales for skin and eyes of flame to see with. They say that when he speaks he breathes fire; that his fingers are talons, and his hair a dance of living serpents. But they also say that he has known the Valar themselves, and he would give of his gifts to anyone brave enough to do the taking. And yet, in return for his gifts, he demands a price . . . the price of your your soul." He glanced theatrically to Ithil above them. "But he is not just content with the souls gifted to him. No - his hunger is great, you see, so great that on nights when the moon is full – quite like this one, he stalks about the land, looking for the souls of children to slake his hunger - the most succulent of delicacies to his kind. They say that he waits in your shadow and siphons off your spirit bit by bit, until there is nothing left of you but a husk of your former self." Celebrían raised a brow. That was the best he had? she thought, telling herself that it was not a glimmer of fear she felt. It was not. "That is preposterous," she said. "Such a creature has not existed since the Dark Lord himself." She refused to say Morgoth's name again. Especially in shadow. "And yet, this is the creature who has the Council up in arms. This is the creature so dark and fell that Gil-galad the King and Lord Elrond his second would not even let past the gates of Lindon for the black nature of his soul. They turned him away at the guard-tower, even as he promised the knowledge of the Valar themselves." This Celebrían knew as true, she thought with an uncomfortable twisting in her gut. She had heard her parents discussing such a man that very morning, speaking in low, hushed whispers when they thought she could not hear. She was there when Gil-galad's letter of warning had come, the red of his seal as telling as blood. Celebrían swallowed. Her parents would not let such a man into their city . . . they would not. And yet . . . Celebrimbor wore the gleam of a hungry one about his eyes, her mother had said. Could he be one of those willing to give his soul for the gifts this creature would give in return? Was that why her parents knew worry, and met with the blacksmith-lord that very hour? She felt unease twist at her bones, knowing what Aradhelon would say even before he said it. His eyes made cruel shapes on his face. "If you are so brave – so certain that this monster does not exist as I say it does – then I dare you to go to the Gwaith-i-Mírdain. Slip inside and take one of the gifts from this creature as your own. Return with your soul still yours, and I shall never again question your might. This I vow, oh Celebrían, daughter of Galadriel the Lady of Light, daughter of Celeborn the Wise; heroes of the War of Wrath, royalty of Finwë and Elwë's line, most revered leaders of Elvendom beneath the sun." Aradhelon could not have taunted her better had Celebrían opened her chest and showed him where to sink his blade. Her parents, heroes of old and respected amongst her kind to the point where it was near painful at times . . . And what was she? A scared little girl, holding a not-real bow and looking for creatures who were long since known to be dead. She wore a golden scarf about her head, pretending to be another hero of old, but was she even worthy of that? This monster caused her parents fear, she knew. She could . . . She would write her own story, she decided then. She would prove her own worth, separate from her parent's names. And that penning would begin now. With hands that trembled she undid the knot that held her scarf in place. She took it off and shook her hair to let the silver braids fly free. She tied the scarf to her belt like a talisman before looking to Aradhelon with a somber, stoic look in her eyes. She was not afraid, she told herself. She was not. "I shall find this monster of which you speak," she said gravely. "And I shall bring back one of his gifts, my soul still my own." Aradhelon blinked – in surprise, Celebrían hated to see. Behind him, Harthor and Erfaron laughed outright. And that burned even more than the surprise. "Celebrían," Sítheril's voice was a high, alarmed sound. "You should not," her friend pleaded. "You must not." But Celebrían was not listening. Instead she was turning to where the high roof of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain could be seen shining in the moonlight. She had a monster to see to. . . The stories left this part out, Celebrían thought. They left out how the hero's heart would beat with fear and not gladness for the fight to come. They spoke of glory and honor and bravery, but did not mention how one's body would turn traitor in the darkness. They did not mention sweating palms and white knuckles and one's heart beating fast enough to be heard by all with ears to listen. Celebrían breathed, and knew fear. The stories said that Glorfindel went to his death against the Balrog with a smile on his mouth and joy in his heart. For through his deeds, the daughter of his King and her son, the heir of his Lord, would live. He was a warrior who would take the proof of his oaths and fealty to Mandos himself, and he could have wished for no better death. But Celebrían was not Glorfindel; she was simply a child with a child's bow and a child's stories clouding the sense between her ears. She should not have listened to Aradhelon and his taunts, she knew. She should not have . . . She pictured her mother then; pictured her battle bold and brilliant, as if daring a creature of the darkness to step near to her. She pictured the stone of her brow and the might of her eyes as she approached an enemy of claw and fang. She imagined the light spilling from her eyes, a reflection of Valinor itself, and wondered if she had ever known fear like this. Sometimes, reaching the glory of heroes of old seemed easier than attaining the goal of her mother, Celebrían thought. Better did she try to be Glorfindel Balrog-slayer than her mother in all of her might, great and terrible . . . Galadriel Finarfiniel would not quake in fear against a coward's door, Celebrían knew. And, with that last thought, she placed her small white hand against the carved oak handles before her and pushed . . . The doors opened with nary a creak, allowing her to slip into the shadows without a sound. The entrance halls were thick with a kiss of heat, soothing the cold sweat that had stuck the hair to the back of her neck. Her skin itched over her bones as she wiped at her brow, pushing errant strands of her mused braids from her eyes. She swallowed, her throat dry with both her nerves and the heat. It was dark inside. Even her keen eyes had trouble staring into the shadows. She walked down the hall, keeping to the wall and telling her way by the long line of moonlight that sank in from the thin windows in the ceiling above. From further within the complex, she could hear the sound of the massive bellows as they fed the forges. She could hear a hammer strike somewhere unseen, and something inside of her – Noldor and Aulë blessed – turned in interest at the sound. She could taste metal on the back of her tongue. She could imagine the heavy fold of a molten craft beneath her hands, and knew a queer sort of wanting. She swallowed, and step forward. The warm air turned hot the further and further in she walked. The air turned heavy, as if it were trying to swallow her whole. The shadows felt lined with teeth, ready to pounce at the barest of provocations. She glanced up at the moon, and wondered if Aradhelon spoke true. Did the light of Ithil move the monster to hunt? Was the creature Celebrimbor welcomed watching her in the shadows even as she searched for him . . . waiting? She felt like there were eyes in the dark, watching her. She could feel them move, following . . . But the shadows stayed still. No creature stepped forth; no one stirred but for the smiths beyond, working through the nighttime hour. She exhaled through her nose as she came up to another set of ornate doors. She would try this last room, and then tell Aradhelon that his stories were as smoke before a flame – useless to breathe and painful to the lungs. She pushed, and entered. Almost immediately, this room felt different. Where before she had felt her own nerves getting the best of her, she could now feel a presence licking at her senses, sharing the very air she breathed. She felt as eyes blinked, as a lithe step moved, and then - A hand settled on her shoulder, warm and heavy and strong. She let out a strangled sound and turned to flee, but her flight was cut off as she ran into a hard body, blocking her path. She scrambled backwards, standing strong and still in the middle of the room as she notched an arrow in her bow. She tried to speak – to utter her threat, to display her calm confidence and her bravery both - but her voice was lost to her. She could not speak. All that from her strong words was a croak of sound, small and afraid. In reply, she heard a warm rumble of amused laughter. "You may stay your arrow, child. I can assure you, I mean you no harm." Liar, that still alert part of her mind breathed, the part that was all sense and instinct. Celebrían bit the inside of her mouth. "You may open your eyes, at least. They will do you no good when closed - especially if you expect to be able to aim your arrow there." The voice did not sound like a Balrog's voice, she thought. She remembered seeing liquid gold once before when it was poured into a mold, and this reminded her of that, smooth and precious and deep from the belly of the earth . . . Slowly, she opened her eyes, one at a time. The first thing that she thought when she saw his face was fire. The man before her was not Elven-kind, she could tell that immediately from the curved shape of his ears. But he did not feel like one of the sons of Men to her senses. He felt . . . warm, as if his skin was stretched too tight over an inferno, the way the crust of the world concealed its molten core beneath. His skin was a deep, bronzed tan; his hair was the color of molten copper, left long to curl about his shoulders. His strong shoulders matched the thick muscle of his chest and arms before they tapered away into a slim waist and long legs. A blacksmith's body, she spied, made for heavy hammer falls and the ferocity of the forge. And indeed, he wore rings on every finger; an elegant coil of twisted black metal about his brow. He was beautiful, she saw. More beautiful than any other she had ever encountered. But . . . the most striking thing about the man was his eyes. The pupil was a molten shade of yellow and orange – as if someone had placed a live flame within his gaze. In the darkness, they burned as coals, brighter than even the moonlight from above them. The black of his iris was cat-like, but only for a moment. He blinked, and they were as round as her own. "What are you looking for, child?" the man asked, and Celebrían bit her lip. She forced her heart to calm. "A monster," she said simply, exhaling the one word through her teeth. She wished that she was better at telling tales on the spot – it was a flaw that had often left herself unable to talk her way out of trouble before. "Perhaps you have seen him?" The man laughed again, a low and rich sound that Celebrían felt surround her like an embrace. She swallowed upon hearing it, not liking the way it smothered. "A monster, you say?" he repeated, and there was something that touched the corner of his eyes, as if he knew a secret that he would not tell her. "If a monster dwells here, it is nothing with scales and fangs," he said. "Of that I can assure you." Celebrían huffed out a breath through her nose. Though a weight on her mind lifted, the shadows still felt heavy around her. They still felt as if they were pressing up against her, answering an unspoken call. She swallowed, moving so that she stood in the pale sliver of moonlight from the roof above. The natural light calmed her, cool and silver where the man before her was like the forge itself . . . "Not all fell creatures wear their true selves openly," she said. "The monster may be hiding in plain sight." There was no laughter from his mouth this time, but that same amusement stayed in his eyes. That same secret. The man – and how Celebrían knew that was not right – raised a copper brow, and said, "Who are your parents, child? They must wish for your return at such a late hour." He slowly looked her up and down, his gaze crawling from the boots of her feet to the crown of her head. The stare made her skin itch. "My name is Celebrían Celeborniel," Celebrían replied dutifully, feeling as if she betrayed a secret by doing so. "The Lady Galadriel and the Lord Celeborn are my parents." "Artanis," the man whispered thoughtfully, the name drawn between the tips of his teeth and held on the back of his tongue. She could not read the shape of his voice, the sudden flashing of his eyes . . . his very bright eyes, glowing in the non-light. "Yes," Celebrían said, remembering her courtesies. "Though she is known by that name no longer. And you, of whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?" A moment passed. The man tilted his head, as if making a decision. Briefly, Celebrían wondered how one could not know one's own name before he answered, "Annatar." He rolled the name from his mouth as if testing its weight. "You may call me Annatar." Annatar, she translated curiously. Giver of gifts. He shall give his gift, but take your soul in return, Aradhelon's cruel voice rang in her ears, and Celebrían backed up a step, instantly wary. She looked towards the door, suddenly wishing that she had found a being of scales and claws instead of the not-monster before her. She did not like the shape of his words, the slow way his eyes followed her timid attempt at retreat – like a wolf who watched a doe in the wood, slow to give chase when he so enjoyed the desperation of the hunt. She breathed in, and exhaled with her fear. When next she looked at Annatar she raised a haughty brow – another face stolen from her mother – and inclined her head. "I must apologize for intruding," she said gracefully. "I was mistaken in my search, and now I will leave you." She felt a weight against her mind the moment the last word left her mouth. A weight and then a question. She could feel concern press against her thoughts, and she swallowed before answering the voice in her mind. Her mother was calling her. Celebrían swallowed. Her mother's ire would be more fearsome than any monster she may have found that night, she knew. So she curtsied and said, "My naneth calls. I must go." The man blinked, and the bright light of his eyes seemed to dim, as if a curtain had been drawn over his gaze. "Here, young one, allow me to escort you." He stepped forward before she could answer. When he moved, she was reminded again of a wolf by the liquid ease of his stride. "We wouldn't want you running into any fell sort of creature on your way home. That monster you sought may still be about." She did not want him to come with her, but she had been the one to intrude on him to begin with, and she was unsure of how to say no. So, she nodded her head, and when he held his arm to her, she hooked her hand over his forearm and allowed him to lead her from the complex. Beneath the rich material of his coat, his skin was very warm. As if with fever. Their walk to where she lived with her parents was thankfully short, and Celebrían stepped away from Annatar as soon as they passed the threshold. She turned to thank him for escorting her when she was stopped by a voice from within. "Bree!" Sítheril exclaimed, and Celebrían turned to see her friend standing with her own parents . . . and her father. There was no warmth in Celeborn's gaze when she met his eyes, and she instantly bowed her head, abashed from that one look. "I was worried that the monster had gotten you!" Sítheril hugged her, and Celebrían returned the embrace before stepping back, seeing the bemused looks that Sítheril's parents gave each other, despite the situation. "Come," her father said, stepping forward to take his daughter's hand. "It has been quite the night." Sítheril looked between her father and Celebrían, and inclined her head. "I shall see you tomorrow at the fountain then?" she asked, and Celebrían could see the question there. Celebrían hesitated, but was saved when Celeborn answered for her. "Perhaps not," he said simply. "I must speak with her mother, but I see no such merriment in Celebrían's immediate future." Celebrían grimaced, but tried to offer her friend a smile as best she could before Sítheril was led away. Slowly, Celebrían met her father's eyes, but when she found his gaze there had been no softening. "Celebrimbor contacted your mother to say that an intruder tripped the wards at the Gwaith-i-Mírdain," Celeborn stated once Sítheril and her family had departed. "So, you can imagine our surprise when Sitheril came to us at the same time to explain the foolishness you had embarked on. You gave your friend quite the fright." "I am sorry, Adar," Celebrían answered dutifully, meaning every word she said. She wished that she had never taken Aradhelon on his dare, that she had ever even sneaked out that night to begin with. Her father's eyes were mirrors of her own; the same almond shape, the same blue color, and they narrowed as he weighed the sincerity of her answer. She could feel his presence push in against her skin, and she opened her mind to that place that was ever connected to her parents, letting him see . . . A moment passed, and while his expression had not softened, Celeborn did turn from her to meet Annatar's gaze . . . Annatar, who had been watching the domestic exchange with a detached, bemused expression upon the strong lines of his face. Annatar bowed low when her father's gaze came to him. Where Celeborn's stare had been disapproving upon her, upon the other man it was fairly frigid. "My lord Celebrimbor may have been startled at the breach, but I can assure you that she caused no harm. She strayed nowhere near the forges or anywhere else as dangerous, and I was only too happy to escort her home." "I give you my thanks then," Celeborn said after a moment, every word stiff and drawn from his tongue. Annatar's eyes flashed bright at the tone. Celebrían imagined she could feel the heat from him prickle against her skin. When Annatar smiled, the light caught on his teeth. "It was my pleasure, my lord. After all, we can't have the children running about in the night. The last thing any of us would wish for would be for the young ones to encounter anything . . . untoward in the shadows." His voice was amiable, and the hand that brushed her shoulder in a gesture of fondness was innocent enough, but Celebrían knew her father; she knew the way his eyes would set and his jaw would lock in his anger. And, in that moment, his every unspoken gesture spoke of a rage she could not understand. "Indeed, you have my gratitude," Celeborn's words had an edge of steel to them. She watched as he forced his jaw to relax. "She has a child's curiosity at times, and I thank you for understanding." "And a Noldorin fascination with things that glitter?" Annatar returned, what should have been a jest between comrades only furthering to deepen the dip between her father's brows. "We have seen very well how such fascinations have played before," Celeborn said simply. "We have learned caution after paying a price in the blood of kin." "I see," Annatar bowed one last time, low from his waist. "I could not have said it better with my own words." When he stood, the gold in his eye was as storm-light. Celebrían held a breath, but Annatar did nothing more than turn and take his leave, passing through the threshold at the same time Galadriel entered. The Lady of Ost-in-edhil turned for a moment to watch Annatar as he was swallowed by the night before turning to her husband and child. Galadriel raised a brow in question, but instead of answering, her father came to stand right before her, looking down at her from a great height. Celebrían braced herself for another angry word. She was ready for a scolding - for her sentencing, even. But the last thing she expected was for her father to kneel down and embrace her as if he had not seen her in years. He held on to her with a near desperate hold, every line of his body tight, and not with anger. He inhaled the scent of her hair, he ran his hands up and down her back as if to assure himself that she was whole and well while Celebrían blinked in surprised. She placed her hands on his shoulders, unsure of what had startled him so, but anxious to sooth it. She tightened her arms around his much larger frame, and finally he drew back to study her face. He glanced from her to her mother. Galadriel looked weary, Celebrían thought. She stood tall behind her husband, close enough to touch as she inclined her body towards his. Celebrían could feel the hum of her power on the air. It was nearly tangible how she took and received strength from the other, and as always she inhaled against the raw force of their bond, feeling it strike against her skin like a drum. She wore her worry more quietly than her father, but worry she did, and Celebrían could not understand what had scared them so. Fear . . . was it not just minutes ago when she had thought her parents to be without the emotion all lesser beings suffered from? Had she not imagined them as untouchable? She swallowed, not understanding how Aradhelon's silly dare could have gone so wrong. She did not understand the strain in her mother's shoulders, the near palpable worry in her father's eyes. "Naneth," Celebrían started, her voice trembling with the weight of her regret. "I am very -" "- we shall talk about your trespassing on the Gwaith-i-Mírdain when the morning comes," Galadriel interrupted. "For now, the hour is late, and you should be at rest." The cool dismissal stung more than any sharp rebuke, and Celebrían hung her head in shame at her mother's words. "Yes, Naneth," she said dutifully, bowing her head so as to hide the pink flush of her cheeks. She darted her eyes up to see that her father's gaze had softened. Galadriel too smiled softly, and Celebrían took that at her cue to leave – moving from the foyer to the hall that led to the family's rooms beyond. She stopped there, placing a hand over her chest as if to test the beat she could feel within. Her skin still crawled from Annatar's presence. She could still feel the touch of the moon in the air. She exhaled, and looked back the way she had came, careful to keep to the shadows as she watched her parents. They were silent for a moment before Galadriel sighed, and turned to lean her head against her husband's shoulder. There was a weariness to her frame that Celebrían had never seen before. A weakness of sorts . . . although she hesitated to call it as such, any such word feeling wrong when it described her mother. In reply, Celeborn wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. He threaded a hand soothingly through her hair for a moment, a long moment before smiling a soft smile, full of memory. "You should not be too cross with her," Celeborn said softly. "She has given herself quite the fright already from her actions this eve." Galadriel leaned back to meet his eyes, her mouth a bemused line on her face. "Is that so?" "Forgive me, my lady, for the centuries have been long indeed and the memory is blurred . . . but I seem to remember a dare from Beleg, and a stolen trip into Thingol's vault. And you had not of our daughter's excuse of childhood to hide behind." Galadriel raised a slender brow. "I have no recollection of what you speak, husband dear." "That is because," Celeborn continued amiably, "you and that wretched brother of yours let Thranduil and I take the blame for the wards being tripped. You were all to happy to escape the blame yourself." "Thingol did understand sudden and intense attachment," Galadriel retorted dryly. "He choked up the folly to the violence of such new found passions, and never questioned it past that." "So say you," Celeborn winced. "You did not have to hear him chuckle about it at every feast from then until the Naugrim came." "And you did not have to deal with Melian who knew the truth," Galadriel retorted, before sighing. "And yet, that was a folly done in a warded place, safe under a Maia's spell. Now . . ." She swallowed, looking in the direction of Celebrimbor's keep. "You do not trust him," Celeborn stated. "You can feel what I can feel." Galadriel leaned her head against his shoulder once again. "The Shadow," she said simply. "It spreads from the east and gathers at our feet. Annatar . . . my cousin is foolish, thinking that he has found a kindred spirit in this being. For I have seen the emissaries of the Valar, and Annatar is not what he says he is." Celeborn sighed. "I had hoped that it was not so. Gil-galad's warnings are true then, and yet we cannot influence Celebrimbor's decisions past to watch this . . . Annatar closely while he is here." "Very closely," Galadriel said, but her eyes were distant and cloudy. Celebrían swallowed, feeling the foreboding that clouded the air like something living. "We were supposed to bring a child into a time of peace," Galadriel said next. Her voice held a tremor in it; it was the closest Celebrían had ever heard her say with a voice shaped like fear. "We waited centuries for Morgoth's defeat, raising the children of others rather than one of their own, and now we have a child who is solely ours, and the Shadow comes to our very doorstep. It was not supposed to be this way." Celebrían took a step back, wishing to leave them to their privacy, but unsure of how to leave without betraying her presence. Though she was young, she knew the whispers. The whispers that spoke of her parent's marrying for power, for her mother waiting so long for a child out of a desire to keep her power for her own, unwilling as she was to spend herself into creating a new soul for the babe she would bring into the world. Celebrían was not deaf, but she had never questioned her parent's love for each other . . . their love for her. "A time of peace . . . is there really such a thing?" Celeborn asked. "The Dark One sleeps beyond the circles of the world. It is enough. And should this new threat come – you would have raised a child with every weapon to see that shadow set to light again. It is all you can do when we live in Arda marred. It is all any of us can do." "Just once if the shadow were to blink before taking sight of us, I would know contentment," Galadriel said, her voice tight from her throat. A moment passed. One, and then another. "What do you see?" Celeborn asked gently. "Something has troubled you." Galadriel was silent for a heartbeat. Then another. Celebrían did not think she would answer. And then . . . "I see . . . I see darkness beneath the rock. The Hithaeglir swallowing a lady cloaked in silver," she said. "I hear Orc-cries and the muttering of the Black Tongue . . . but first I see peace. A valley of falling water; a light like that of the evening star. And I see the ocean, taking it all. Long it will be before the sea returns what it takes, and that far off time is nothing but darkness to my vision. It is an end I cannot espy, and it burdens me." Her heart twisted at the words. Her future, she understood. At least, what her mother could see of it. Celebrían swallowed, and felt her tongue heavy against the roof of her mouth. Celeborn did not say anything in reply to that, for what could be said? The future was ever shifting, ever changing, and it was never known to be so one way or the other. Her mother's Sight was merely flashes, bits and pieces of a puzzle never fully seen until events were lived through to the end. And yet . . . . . . she saw Shadow everywhere she looked. From that, there was no escape. She would keep her eyes open, Celebrían finally decided. She would not give her mother, her dear mother who had fought for and against so much, another reason to know grief. She would not make her father play the role of yet another bulwark in that storm. She clenched her hands, something in her heart settling with her resolve. She had seen a monster that night, she finally understood. She had seen a monster, and he had been as beautiful as the flame itself. She would not let herself be fooled again. Silently, she padded down the hall to her room, ready for the years to come - no matter what they chose to bring. Who is Who and What is What: Celebrían: Daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn, future wife of Elrond, and mother of Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir. Tolkien was very fuzzy about when she was born, but I assume this: Galadriel and Celeborn helped build Lindon at the beginning of the Second Age, and then journeyed East around the year 750. I can't see them having a child in Lindon and then moving (plus, Elrond would have known Celebrían as a infant if that was so, and while I know that is probably a human-squick, it is still a squick for me nonetheless), so I gave them time to move and get settled before having a daughter, and thus, Celebrían is a rambunctious pre-teen when Sauron came to call. Annatar: Sauron's fair guise, which he used to seduce Celebrimbor and his jewel-smiths to aid him in creating the Rings of Power. At this time, Sauron, as a Maia, was able to take on a beautiful form and hide his dark motives. Although, he didn't fool everyone, as you see. Celebrimbor: The Elf-smith who created the Rings of Power for Men and Dwarves with Sauron. He later created the Three Elven Rings on his own, freeing them from Sauron's taint. The Elf Children: Are all OC's, with names gleaned from a handy online guide to Sindarin names. Funnily enough, Aradhelon means royal terror, which was amusing to include. Ost-in-edhil: A settlement in Eregion, the land just to the west of the Misty Mountains, outside the gates of Moria. You see the ruins of this land in LoTR. Sauron returned and burned the land when Celebrimbor refused to give him the rings they had forged together, and the survivors either returned to Lindon, pushed over the mountains to the woodland settlements, or took refuge in Rivendell, which was created when Elrond's army retreated during that war with the remnants of Celeborn's forces from Eregion. Gwaith-i-Mírdain: Celebrimbor's guild of craftsman and their keep. Sindar Elves: The largest of the three clans of elves, and the hardest to explain because there are so many off-shoots. Basically said, they split while journeying to Valinor, the Teleri making the journey to Aman, and the more commonly called 'Sindar' staying behind in Middle-earth with Thingol, their king. They are also known as the Grey-elves or the Woodland-elves. Legolas and Celeborn are Sindar, as reference. Noldor Elves: The second clan of Elves, who accepted the summoning to Valinor back before the First Age. Many later rebelled against the Valar, including Galadriel, and journeyed to Middle-earth to seek lands and power there. They are a people of crafts, taught by the blacksmith Valar Aulë himself. Ithil: Sindarin name for the moon. Adar and Naneth: Sindarin for 'father' and 'mother'. Glorfindel: A hero of the First Age who died slaying a Balrog so that the refugees from Gondolin could escape. Ironically, Glorfindel would later be resurrected and sent back to Middle-earth to continue serving the line of his king there. He would become Elrond's advisor (since Elrond is the great-grandson of King Turgon of Gondolin) and close friend, and as an extension Celebrían will later know him past her childhood's games here. That will be an interesting first meeting with that in mind. Ecthellion: Another hero of Gondolin who died slaying his own Balrog. A friend and comrade of Glorfindel. . . . and I think that's all. If I missed anything, let me know.