Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade, Jan 2, 2014.
This story definitely expands upon LOTR greatly.
@Nyota's Heart: Thank-you for the kind words, my friend! I am thrilled that you are enjoying this.
@laurethiel1138: In a life as long as an elf's, there is going to be more than one parting, at that. I am glad that you are liking Celebrían's journey here. I can only imagine having Galadriel as a mother, and I had to think long and hard over how to characterize her as a teacher, and so, part of this chapter was a result. I am glad that you enjoyed it. We are definitely going to see more LOTR references creep in here - just you wait until we delve into Moria, which I am all but giddy to post. Indeed they were lucky with the Watcher in the Water! It's my personal head canon that he was not so much of a threat until the days turned dark - that, or he was particularly lazy that day and did not want to work for his meal. As always, thank-you so much for reading. I always look forward to your thoughts.
@earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you! It certainly is an intricate and fascinating world - I am glad that you are enjoying this glimpse.
@RX_Sith: I am glad to hear that. Thanks for reading, as always.
Author's Notes: I just have a few words of introduction for this chapter. Imagining Moria at the height of its power was a bit of a trick, but I cobbled together as many sources as I could, and this is what I cam up with as a result. I hope you enjoy my resurrection of an ancient gem in Tolkien's world.
Fáfnir: While Tolkien was very detailed with the line of Durin in the Third Age, the family tree is veeery sketchy in the Second Age. We know that Durin III was the King of Moria who accepted the First of the Seven Rings of Power from Celebrimbor - but that is still quite some time to come, and Durin III's grandfather would be on the throne now. Where did I get the name then? Well, this is where my inner geek comes out . . .
As a professor of Anglo-saxon literature, Tolkien mixed his work and his writing together by taking most of his Dwarf names from Norse mythology - more specifically, from the lay called Völuspá, which is the Norse creation tale. (If you ever want to dive into Norse myths, you pretty much start with this one, and Loki's roast of the gods in the Lokasenna.) Durin is the first dwarf named in this tale - and each dwarf from the Hobbit can be found listed after. Thorin is one, and Eikinskjaldi is another dwarf listed, which translates to 'oak shield'. You see the reference? For each dwarf you will meet in Moria, I have taken their names from this tale. (And you can read the poem here, if you are curious as to the names and the tale itself.)
Fáfnir is a special throwback. There is a myth that says that while traveling, Odin, Loki, and the god Hœnir (who helped create mankind) killed and skinned an otter. This otter, unbeknownst to them was a shape-shifting dwarf, the son of the dwarf whose hospitality they enjoyed that night. In rage, the father held Odin and Hœnir hostage and demanded recompense for his son's death. Loki was selected to fill the otter skin with gold and jewels in ransom. Insulted that, as a god, he would have to bow to such a command, Loki filled the skin with cursed gold - including an enchanted ring that turned the wearer's mind mad with greed for precious things. (Sound familiar? ) Fáfnir, the dwarf's other son, eventually killed his father and brother for the cursed gold, and the enchanted ring turned him into a dragon, so that he could forever protect his horde. He would later be the dragon that the hero Sigurd slayed as part of his trials. The tale has so many parallels with the trials and tribulations of the line of Durin, that I had to use the name here.
Now that my geek ranting is done, here we go . . .
How does one explain Moria?
The stairway from the West Gate seemed to at first go on forever. We walked for many hours, the soft blue light from the torch revealing halls touched by silver and shadow, giving little more away to my searching eyes.
At first, I thought I would feel ill at ease beneath the mountain. I had thought to miss the sunlight; the fresh air upon my face. Instead, something inside of me seemed to hum for walking through the dark places of the earth. The mountain had a pulse, a heartbeat, and I could feel it thrum in time with my own pulse. There was an energy in this land; a beating of drums upon the air, and a nearly tangible warmth to the stone beneath out feet.
My mother looked at me in the torchlight, and her gaze lingered for a moment.
“You look like Finrod with your wide eyes.” Galadriel's voice was soft, with a brow raised in fond amusement as she made the comparison between us.
I held my breath, not saying anything as I waited for her to say more. My mother was always slow to speak of her family, telling tales only if she spoke for my teaching – passing on her stories so that they would live on through the generations to come. Never did she speak of them lightly, with love and memory, for the grief in her heart. Such was not like my father, who spoke of his kin from Elmo to Thingol and Lúthien with fondness and pride.
“In the early days, before the Sun and Moon, whilst Morgoth still served his sentence in the Halls of Námo, the Dwarves of Belegost worked hand in hand with Elu Thingol to build a place of safety for the days to come - for Melian his queen foresaw the Dark Lord's return, and the grief such a return would bring. Elf and Dwarf worked side by side to hew a kingdom from stone – Menegroth, in Doriath that was. The city was a forest of silver, carved completely from a bed of rock; yet, when Melian's light filled it, you could fool yourself into thinking that you were in the forests above. It was a great kingdom, a great work of two hands – and your uncle tried to replicate a shadow of its glory in Nargothrond, so much so that the Dwarves called him the Hewer of Caves.”
The called my uncle Felugand, I remembered from my histories. Lord of caves, indeed. Thingol himself was brother to my father's grandfather, making him kindred of mine, as well. Their story seemed real to me in moments like this, with my mother lost to memory and the stone halls opened wide and yawning before me.
“This is in your blood,” Galadriel finished softly, still watching me. Her eyes seemed very bright then, reflecting both the blue light and the silver in the walls.
“Adar speaks of Doriath often, but not much of Menegroth,” I said, remembering Celeborn's tales.
“Your father never cared much for Menegroth when he could help it,” Galadriel replied. I could hear a smile in her voice – this being a source of age old teasing between the two of them, no doubt. “He stayed amongst the trees when the court was not in session, patrolling the edge of the girdle and staying finding sanctuary amongst the boughs. Yet, he was very young then – restless, even, for the Noldor were not the only Elves with uncountable days who were ill at ease with the stillness of their years. He has grown much since then, and his wisdoms have benefited from those days, no matter how dark they were.”
Galadriel was silent after that, and I let the story lay. For Doriath's tale was not a kind one at its end, torn apart first by the Dwarves of Nogrod and then the cruelty of Fëanorian blades. Neither, I reflected, would be well to think on when so deep within the mountain.
We at last came to an intersection of three paths, framed by three great arches – beneath which the doorwards sat. Upon seeing my mother, the guards stood from where they had been loudly playing a game of dice around what looked to be a covered well. Each dwarf was no taller than an elven child, with thick beards and iron armor worn in hard, geometrical lines. I'd met many of the dwarves who came from Moria to trade, or to work with Celebrimbor and his guild before, but I still looked on these new faces in curiosity. They were so very . . . different from the fair Elven faces I had so long known that they never truly stopped being a source of novelty to my eyes.
“My lady,” all were quick to recognize my mother, and they bowed low at the waist in respect, even though she was no lady of their kind.
I watched my mother stand proud and tall, asking for an audience with Fáfnir, Moria's king. Her voice rang with power, the light of her fëa taking on a physical shape as her will filled their air with a near tangible light. Even though I had spent many years in the face of Galadriel's power, hers was a might that still humbled me every time I witnessed it. The guards were quick to incline their heads and agree to lead us the rest of the way.
Yet, the hour was late, and we were welcomed to rest there until the morning came. The doorwards were of the night's watch, and their games and merriment continued long into the unwaking hours. Where they had been using a harsh, guttural sounding tongue when we came upon them, they switched to an accented Sindarin at our arrival, guarding their language as they would protact a treasure horde. Even still, I found myself listening for bits and pieces that would give their own tongue away, curious as I was.
When one of the guards caught my watching, he offered to teach me the game, and after a nod from my mother, I approached the covered well to observe. It was a game of bluffs and lies, and even though I was reasonably certain that I was catching on, I merely watched the guards as they played, amused by their camaraderie, and their . . . brusque ways of speaking with each other. I laughed out loud more than once – surprising both myself and them, while my mother watched with an amused light to her eyes.
Eventually the dawn came, though I could tell no such thing in the dark. We rose and took the hall to the right – which led to the King's halls, I was told. The passage to the left led down, deep into the heart of the mines, and the central path led to the craftsman's halls, making it easy for visitors to choose where they needed to go. I could hear a faint hammering, a bellowing of the great forges, and I felt curiosity pique within me – everything Noldor and Aulë blessed about my spirit curious for the deep places in the rock. Perhaps, I hoped then, we would be able to do some exploring of our own before passing on from the mountains. The sounds pulling at my ears teased me, and I could not keep from wondering about the deep places of Moria.
It took some time before we made it to the Great Gate. It was already noon our guards told us, and we had been walking since the dawn. The closer and closer we came, the halls became more and more elaborate, the rough stone by the entrance soothing to a polished black glass, lit by clever crystal lights on all sides as the floor smoothed and the air turned sweet. And then, there we were.
The Halls of Durin.
The King's halls were greater than anything I had yet to see in my years to date. There was a polished floor of black stone beneath us, inlaid with silver patterns in a great scope across the whole of the hall. The walls were of silver, and there was a ceiling of gold far above us, a great relief of Durin's Awakening shining down on his descendants below. The massive columns holding up the hall were of gold and silver and black marble mingling, tying together the richness of the materials used in the rest of the hall's construction. I looked up and up and up, my mouth open for the sheer size and intricate motifs of the dwarven kings of old far above. Artfully worked windows in the ceiling above let in natural light from the sun, and I looked in wonder, amazed at how something so massive could be constructed by hands so small.
Your mouth is agape, my mother wryly commented as we passed through the center of the main hall – where something of a market was in session, with dwarves hurrying by on a hundred different tasks as they went to and from a hundred different stalls, or so it seemed. Above, smaller coridors led off to homes and mines and the craftsmen's places. It was a ruckus of sound and light and glitter; every precious thing beneath the earth suddenly everywhere, all at once, with such grandeur and artful design that my eyes could not find only one thing to focus on.
I had never seen anything like the splendor of Moria . . . even the great halls of Erebor in the Lonely Mountain's days of glory would later pale in comparison to my eyes. Wonder and glory belonged to every turn, with the breath of Aulë seemingly lingering in every breeze of warm air from the sighing forges, deep beneath our feet.
We were led from the Great Hall to one of the smaller corridors – which was still massive in scope, forming a grand and ornate path to the palace and the King's personal halls. Although somewhat smaller in scale, the corridor around us was even more ornate then the hall we had just left. I found my eyes turning everywhere, taking in all that I could as quickly as I could.
The doorwards led us to a small council chamber, off to the side of the throne-room, where we were told that King Fáfnir would be honored to see to our needs personally.
We were only left waiting for a minute or two before Fáfnir entered, his inner circle of elder family members and foremost advisers stretching behind him in a rigid, square-like formation.
I looked down at the Dwarf-king, and yet, Fáfnir's presence was no less striking for the differences between us in height. He filled the room in the same way my mother did with her inner light, the mountain seemingly recognizing him as her chosen son, and holding him on high for all to see.
I tried not to stare as I studied him, curious as I took in his visage. Fáfnir had a thick mane of curling black hair, through which lines of silver were shot through in thick, eye-catching streaks. He had two massive braids plaited down from his temples, falling in front of his rather large ears – pointed, like mine, but more defined and less delicate. Silver clasps lined each curve of his braids, while the rest of his hair was allowed to flow wild down his back. Above his brow, his crown was square and hard in shape, but it glimmered of polished ever-silver – a king's ransom in mithril worn upon his head alone. His beard was thick, falling to cover most of his chest, and that too was ornately braided and lined in silver, with great, sparkling blue stones twinkling from where they were set into the mithril. He wore rings upon every fingers, speaking of the riches of his kingdom, and yet, his hands were thick and callused from his labors – he having worked as hard as any common-dwarf of Moria to learn his crafts, thus honoring Aulë his maker. His robes were blue and black in the colors of Durin, setting off the crystal blue color of his eyes to the fullest effect.
His eyes . . . for being so few of years, his eyes were clear and cutting. There was a weight to his gaze, telling where his spirit was of many years, no matter the cage of flesh encasing it. When his eyes flickered to me I found myself remembering the tales about Durin and his living forever in the souls of his descendants. I . . . I could believe that, I thought when gazing upon the Longbeard's king. I could believe it indeed.
Galadriel dipped low in a bow, inclining her head before the King of Carven Stone. I blinked at my mother for a moment - for she was one whom I could previously imagine bowing to no other, before copying her. Where Galadriel would not bend past a certain point, I dipped nearer to the floor, remembering my courtesies and my place within them as the Dwarf-king looked on in approval.
“Long has it been since the Golden Lady of the Noldor last passed through our halls,” Fáfnir spread his hands, encompassing Moria, silver and grand, around him. He had a deep, rumbling voice – deeper than any elf I had yet to meet. His voice was deeper than Celebrimbor's, even, and he was said to sound alike to Fëanor himself. “To what do we owe this great honor?”
Galadriel inclined her head, looking Fáfnir in the eye as she did so. I could feel the golden glow of her spirit on the air, and knew that the Dwarf-king could feel it too. “We seek to make use of your halls to travel safely through the mountains,” she said. “We seek our folk in the forests beyond, and would ask your hospitality through to the Dimril Gate.”
Fáfnir tilted his head. He stroked the end of his beard thoughtfully. “It has been nearly a season since hearing from Celebrimbor, or any other smith in his guild. Now, strange is it that the Lady of Ost-in-edhil would seek passage through our ways with her daughter in tow. Tell me, do you intend to return to your people in Hollin soon?”
“Our travels are our own, good King,” Galadriel said, her tone arching. “Celebrimbor has merely been swallowed by his crafts as of late, which is something I am certain you can identify with, Master-smith as you are.”
Rather than being offended by her frank tone, Fáfnir simply laughed - a low and rich sound that filled the room with its warmth. “Ah yes, keep your secrets, good lady! I cannot begrudge you that, though I must warn that I shall attempt to chisel one or two away during your stay, Master-smith that I am.”
“Perhaps, I shall allow you to do so,” Galadriel answered, even as I looked to her, curious. Our stay? I wondered, but I did not have to wonder for long as Fafnir continued.
“The times are strange, and the mountains are filling all the more so with foul creature – coming down from the north as they have not since the days were much darker overhead. Stay in our hospitality, and my own will clear the way for you. I can guarantee your safety to Mirrormere itself, but further than that, I trust that you understand?”
“I so understand,” Galadriel inclined her head. “And I thank you for your kindness in offering such. Your generosity shall not be forgotten.”
I could see Fáfnir's smile peeking through his beard. His blue eyes twinkled. “Longer than a Dwarf's memory is that of an Elf,” he commented wryly, “but that is only because you have more years in which to hold the memory.”
“With the wisdom of the Dwarves, I cannot disagree,” Galadriel said, a gentle smile pulling at her mouth. Fáfnir inclined his head in reply, clearly amused.
“Now then,” he said, clapping his hands together. “I have the affairs of my kingdom to tend to for the day, but I would ask you and your daughter to dine with me and mine this eve. Until then, take your rest from your travels, and enjoy the generosity of Moria.”
“As always, the hospitality of the Longbeards is without compare. I thank-you, good King,” Galadriel inclined her head. Fáfnir honored her by doing the same in reply, and then he and his council turned to a door that led to the throne-room, ready to attend to the people of Moria for the day.
We exited the council chamber by an opposite door, and stepped out into a warmly lit corridor beyond. There, waiting for us, was an elderly dwarf, his back stooped by time, and his body weighed by age. I looked curiously at him, seeing where his years had etched thick wrinkles into his brow and turned his hair as white as snow. He moved slowly, his body seemingly weary underneath the task of supporting its own weight. His hands trembled, making strange shapes as they moved, as if struggling to reply to the commands of his mind.
I looked, and saw for the first where age and mortality took its due from a being of flesh and bone. The sight caused something heavy to rest within me, something that I could not quite understand. Only years later would I understand the feeling of precognition – a whispering of the days to come.
“My lady,” the dwarf went to bow, but Galadriel stepped forward, resting a gentle hand on his shoulder to keep him from doing so.
“Dear Narvi,” she greeted, her voice warm with a true fondness. I blinked at the name, knowing then that I looked upon the greatest smith of the Dwarves since Telchar himself. Narvi, Celebrimbor's friend, with whom he had created such wonders . . .
“I heard that there were Elves in Moria, and my heart hoped to see . . .” Narvi's milky eyes blinked, as if trying to focus on something beyond his sight. His voice was slow and careful, concentrating to form every syllable before he spoke.
“I regret to tell you that Celebrimbor is not here,” Galadriel said gently. “I know that he would have wished to, had he been able.”
“I had assumed as much. Had Celebrimbor been with you, I would have felt him, for such is the spirit of him,” Narvi inclined his head gravely. “He has not visited me since the winter before last. He had questions about runes and spells of power when worked into certain ores. He had few words in question for my health upon that visit, which was not . . . not my friend as I have long known him.”
I looked, and saw where my mother's eyes flickered. They darkened for but a moment as she reached into an inner pocket to take out the ring I had given to her.
“Spells of power, you say? Like those used in this ring?” she asked, passing the ring to the dwarf.
Where we were careful not to touch the metal, Narvi took the ring with his bare fingers without hesitating. Though his hands were old, they knew their craft well as he turned the ring over in his hand. His white brow furrowed, before dipping in a frown, clearly alarmed.
“This . . .” his voice tapered off, clearly troubled. “This is not the craft I had shown to him. This is . . . something else. There is something black in this ring, something that slithers. This is not what I had advised my friend on, but more. Melt this; not in your forges, but in the deep places of the earth. Never again shall this metal be used for fair creation.”
“Can you dispose of it?” Galadriel asked. “We will have not the means where we are headed.”
Gravely, Narvi nodded. “I will see to it myself.”
Carefully, he folded the ring back in the handkerchief. I tried to look to Galadriel, but I could not find a trace of her thoughts upon her face.
“This troubles me; troubles me as it has for much too long now,” Narvi whispered, speaking as if to one far away. “I had hoped to speak to my friend one last time about my concerns, and yet, my bones are old within me, and I do not think . . .”
A moment passed. My mother's brow dipped, and I saw where sadness touch her gaze.
“Celebrimbor is blessed to have known such a friend in you,” Galadriel said softly.
“The blessing has been mine,” Narvi said. “Mahal has looked on my life with kindness, and my days have reflected his keeping.”
He reached out to take one of Galadriel's hands in his own, touching his brow to her knuckles in a gesture of respect. She touched his cheek once, softly, and in the gesture I could feel the golden warmth of her power, touching the dwarf with a gentle hand before fading away.
“I would like to take counsel with you later,” Galadriel said softly. “If that would be agreeable to you?”
“Anything for the Lady of the Noldor,” Narvi said, but his voice was already distant, vague. “But later, I must ask. For I am weary now, and I must rest.”
“Of course,” Galadriel replied. “I thank you for your time, Master-smith.”
At that, I felt her press softly against my thoughts, and at the cue, I turned to continue on down the hall. Our guide had respectfully stopped a few steps ahead, leaving us with the elder dwarf undisturbed. Then, it was time, and we were off again.
He has suspicions too, does he not? I asked into my mother's thoughts, mindful of our guide and the dwarves' love for gossip.
More so than even I, Galadriel replied, her thoughts weary against my own. And yet, Narvi is of many years. Once he passes on, his wisdoms will pass with him, and many will then mourn for the loss.
I looked at her, wondering what she knew that I did not.
He shall not live to see the spring, Galadriel said softly. Return his spirit shall to the rock, to wait for later days, and dimmer the land shall be for his passing.
Mortality . . . I let the idea of death settle in my bones, feeling the thought as if it were a weight. Narvi was scarcely older than me, and yet his body already betrayed him, and time took from him both vigor and vim. It did not seem right, I thought. It did not seem natural . . .
These are thoughts that have plagued many before you, Galadriel said into my mind. And they will continue to plague many after. Best it is not to think on them now, when there are other burdens to carry.
I nodded, showing that I understood. At the intersection of the corridors, I glanced behind to see where Narvi still stood outside of the King's chambers, pale and hunched in the silver light. I looked, seeing the dwarf with the ring in his hand, and knew a whisper of foreboding within me.
Great update Hospitality and courtesy intermingled with a sense of foreboding over the 'slithery' ring. I love and rejoice over the respect and honor Galadriel receives.
Through your words you see the halls coming alive in all their splendor
Great description of Moria and its immense and sheer beauty as it is experienced for the first time. Their stay there may be short, but it will still give them time to at least relax before their journey continues.
@Nyota's Heart: Thank-you, my friend! It's true, Galadriel is a light in dark places wherever she goes, and that is recognized, even here.
@earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you! Moria is a beautiful realm to explore, that's for sure.
@RX_Sith: Thanks! It was interesting to give life to a long dead kingdom, but the experiences here will linger long after, it's true. Thank-you for reading!
Now, for more . . .
For all of Moria's splendor and glory, the most ingenious aspect of the mountains was – in my eyes, at least - its hot springs. The Dwarves had ingeniously found a way to channel the water from the underground springs through great furnaces of heated embers, emptying out hot water into pools for bathing. The pools were communal, carved from black stone and polished to smooth brilliance. Steam billowed in the rooms like curtains, and the air smelled of the earthy freshness of minerals and the warm, clean scent of sultry heat.
The hot springs were refreshing after our days of traveling and bathing in the cool waters of the Sirannon. It was the middle of the day, and so I had the pools to myself to do with as I pleased. Moria was nothing if not full of working hands, and few were those idle in the mountain during the middle of the day. Alone, with nothing awaiting me but my own wanderings, I lounged until my skin threatened to prune, and then regretfully pulled myself away; dressing again and braiding my hair with an absent hand as I reflected on the events that had transpired since our arriving at the mansions of Durin.
Shortly after reaching our guest's chambers, my mother was visited by more Dwarves looking for counsel – all curious for news on Celebrimbor and his absence from Moria as of late. Instead of having me sit through what I had already heard, Galadriel waved me on to explore the mountain by myself. Now that I was fresh and clean once again, I was eager to set off on my own. There had been so many halls and tunnels that we had passed – who knew where they led, and what wonders they hid? I had specific instructions of where I could go, and where I could not go – and I had further been assured by a laughing dwarf that mine was an easy head to spot. I would be told if I strayed where I ought not – and so, with that thought in mind, I set out.
I left the bathing chambers behind, and walked out into a corridor lit by blue lanterns from far above. The hall was empty, and the stones seemed to reflect sound, rather than holding it – so much so that I became aware of the sound of feet following me after only a moment.
I stopped, curious. The footsteps behind me stopped to match.
I looked behind me, but could so no one – even though a small giggle gave my followers away. The giggle was a child's laugh, my alert ears picked out. At the realization, I started walked again, pretending to know not of my followers as they crept silently forward.
Silently . . . for all of their gifts, Dwarves were not graceful. Instead, they were strong and sturdy, and their footsteps fell to match such a presence. Their boots were thick to protect them from the stone of their home, and they slapped against the ground like thunder to my sensitive ears – even though they must have thought themselves quite quiet in comparison.
I stopped again, and there it was again – the sound of laughter.
Amused, I turned a corner, and waited one heartbeat . . . then two, before turning to fully face my pursuers.
I only had to wait for a moment before three small figures turned the corner after me – youths, by dwarrow standards. There were two boys, stocky and strong, dressed in thick blue-grey and brown clothing, respectively. One boy had long black hair, wild and curling, while the other had a thick mane of rich brown hair. Neither had much hair growing on their faces – betraying their youth, I assumed, even though the one boy tried to braid what little hair he did have growing from his mustache. Next to them was quite possibly the smallest creature I had ever seen – a true child of the Dwarves, little more than a toddler just learning to walk to my eyes, though she must have been quite older than that.
She, I thought, for the telling little pleats the skirt of her tunic made, and something about the lashes of her eyes . . . the shape of her mouth. She had no hair about her face, though someday I knew that she too would grow a beard in the ways of her people. It was rare to see a dwarrowdam outside of her mountain, and all but a privilege to see a dwarven-child – for the Dwarves guarded their young ones almost jealously, letting them stray not from the stone womb of their homes until they were old enough to hold themselves against the dangers of the world beyond.
“Ah,” I said, unable to look away from the large blue eyes blinking up at me, “It must have been you I heard laughing.”
Sure enough, the little girl gave another little peal of laughter, and tried to hide herself behind the legs of the boy with the black hair.
“I told you that she would give us away,” the boy with the brown hair complained to the other. “You should not have brought her.”
“Austri is the reason we are here,” the boy with the black hair protested. He had very bright blue eyes – eyes that the little girl shared in shape and color. I assumed that they were siblings from the way the boy moved to defend her. “We could not go without her.”
“Still,” the boy with the brown hair said, miffed. “She gave us away.”
“Well, there is little use hiding now,” the boy with black hair grumbled. He turned to me, and tilted up his chin. For all of his youth and the differences in our heights, he held himself in a proud manner. There was an air of regalness to his bearing, I thought, a richness in the cut and fabric of his clothes, and I wondered . . .
“I am Nothri, son of Fáfnir,” he introduced himself with a shallow bow. The king's son, I understood then – explaining much to my eyes. “This is my sister, Austri; and my friend Sviur, son of Hannar, apprentice to Narvi Master-smith.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” I dipped in a low curtsey out of respect for the Dwarf-prince before me. “I am Celebrían Celeborniel, of Eregion.”
When I spoke, the little girl – Austri – looked up at her brother, and spoke to him in a rapid spill of Khuzdul that I could not quite catch. Dwarves did not use their own tongue when in the presense of those from other races, preferring to speak the language of those they spoke to; but the girl was young, and I doubted that she knew anything more than the language of her birth. I could only catch every few words – having learned from Celebrimbor himself the little of Khuzdul he knew. Celebrimbor was born of Fëanor – the smith who had learned at the feet of Aulë himself, and thus so, he was an awe-inspiring figure to the Dwarves, and Narvi had shared even the closely kept secret of his language with him. The spoken word fascinated me in its every form, and I was eager to learn all I could about the tongues of others.
She spoke quickly, with an accent unfamiliar to me, and yet . . .
“Mithril?” I asked the word I picked out more than any other, puzzled for hearing so.
Nothri looked up at me, surprised when I translated the gist of his sister's words. He looked down at her – and I hoped that he would not demand her silence, as was his right. This was a rare opportunity, and I was curious . . .
“She says that your hair is like mithril,” he explained, rather than hiding his language away from my ears. “It is why she wanted to follow you in the first place. And we . . . we were curious too.” His bare cheeks flushed with the admittance, but he did not break gaze with me as he said so.
I stepped towards the little girl, and knelt down so that I was closer to eye-level with her. It took her a moment, but she bravely stepped away from her brother's side, meeting my eyes with her unblinking blue gaze. She was a beautiful child, I thought, my heart completely taken.
“It is just hair, like your own,” I said in Sindarin as I unwound one of my braids for her to see. She blinked at me oddly before I tried to remember the word in Khuzdul for hair, giving it then with a heavy tongue – awkward as it was for my throat to make the rather hoarse sound. My mouth was clumsy as it formed the shape.
Austri giggled at that, looking up at her brother and chattering at him again. Khuzdul was a harsh tongue, but it was softened from her mouth, and Nothri looked on, amused. “She says that you speak like a babe,” he gave with a grin. “She asks how old you are.”
I gave a rueful look. “I have just passed into the twentieth year of my second century,” I answered her. “But it appears that I am still learning, even still.”
After a moment of consideration, Nothri translated for me, and Austri clapped her hands, delighted. After looking at me in a questioning manner, she reached out tentative hands to touch my hair. I allowed her to do so, tilting my head so that she could more easily reach where she wanted. At first, it felt odd to have another's hands upon my hair – not even Sítheril ever braided my hair for me, for such a thing was left only to one's parents, or one's mate. And yet, there was no way that I could deny the child her wish. For one so young, her touch was careful – considering. She said something to her brother again, and Nothri laughed.
“She says that you are very old – that must be why your hair is silver. She asks why your face does not match.”
“Because, child,” I said carefully in Khuzdul, “I am an Elf.”
Austri tilted her head – my pronunciation and accent must have been truly off the mark, I thought. And yet, a moment passed, and she very carefully said in Sindarin, “Elf.”
“Yes,” I smiled at her efforts. “That I am.”
Austri let my hair go, and I tucked the strand behind my ear again, watching as her eyes followed to look at the tip of my ear as one curious. She said something, and Nothri translated, “She wishes to be a silver-smith when she grows. She wants to make something as beautiful as your hair when she is able.”
Something my mother had always observed in admiration of the Dwarves was their truth and honesty, for they gave freely of their thoughts, in both praise and insult. It was refreshing, she had once said, even as my father grumbled and muttered about their manners at the dinner table, he wanting little of their free-speech after that.
And yet . . .
“I am sure that Moria will know wonder for your works in the days to come,” I told the child.
At Nothri's side, Sviur snorted. “A daughter of Durin, toiling in the forge? Fáfnir will be hard to convince, and yet – his heart is stolen by this one. She may do whatever she wishes if she all but bats her eyes.”
Nothri snorted. “Sviur simply does not want competition in the days to come,” he clapped his friend on the back. “Sviur is one of the best silver-smiths Narvi has had the pleasure of teaching – or so Narvi would say, it he was not busy fussing over his mistakes instead.”
Sviur gave a small smile, but it was stretched around the edges, and I knew a pang for the look. No doubt he knew as well as my mother that Narvi was not faring well, and that his time was nearing its end. And yet, Narvi's wisdom would live on in the souls he taught. In this way, the Dwarves were immortal, their legacies and memories living on, even when their bodies did not.
Turning my head thoughtfully, I asked, “Do you have a knife on you? My own is with my pack, and yet . . .”
“Yes,” Sviur answered, looking at me oddly. And yet, he did not deny my request as he pulled a small dagger from a sheathe at his belt. The blade was an elegant, perfectly balanced weapon – with dwarven runes decorating the blade itself and the handle twisting to form a knot of three-fold strands. There was a strange white gem set into the bottom of the hilt – cloudy and softly glowing, which caught my eye more so than any of the priceless baubles I had seen upon Fáfnir's crown.
“This is beautiful,” I said, appreciating the precise balance in the blade as I held it. The edge was wickedly sharp in the light of the silver-blue lanterns above.
I caught the flash of a blush on Sviur's face before he ducked down to hide it away. I hid my own smile upon seeing so, instead moving to reach to the back of my head, to pull out a small lock out from underneath the long fall of my hair. This would not be missed, and would be hidden as it grew back, and without a second thought I cut through the lock. The little girl watched me with wide eyes as I did so – taking one of bands from my braids to tie off the lock of hair to give to the child.
“For you, and your efforts to come,” I said.
Austri gaped at me in awe, and held the lock in her hands as if she truly held strands of ever-silver. She said something stuttering to her brother – and I heard Fëanor's name there. I had not meant to call the tale to mind with my actions, but I had – for like the light of Laurelin was my mother's hair, and yet, she would give not even three strands to Fëanor for his crafts. Her uncle had already been ill at ease in his bones, the wiles of Morgoth and his own weaknesses rotting in his mind to destroy what was once beautiful and mighty, and Galadriel would further his greed not.
The dwarrowdam looked at me with wide eyes, before carefully pronouncing in Sindarin, “What . . . may I . . . give you?”
I shook my head. “Nothing, child,” I assured her. “I am simply glad to have met you.”
The little girl flushed, hugging the lock to her chest as she did so. I turned the knife in my hand, and went to give it back to Sviur hilt first, but he hesitated.
“No,” he said, pushing the knife back to me. “In payment for Austri's gift.”
I raised a brow, “I could not do so,” I said. “Not without offering you something in return.”
He hesitated. “I . . . I saw that you had a bow upon your back when you arrived. Perhaps, a demonstration could be arranged?” he looked up at me, his request hesitant, but hopeful. The bow was not a favored weapon of the Dwarves, I understood his curiosity. “I would consider us even for your doing so.”
I pulled the knife back, accepting his gift. “I believe that I could indulge you,” I answered. While I only knew they basics with steel – the bare minimum required to defend myself should it ever be needed, I was more than passable with a bow. My father was a son of Doriath, trained by Beleg Strongbow himself – and he would not have it any other way.
I felt a pang remembering my father and the events that had driven us beneath the earth, but pushed that away for later. Now was not the time.
“Most excellent,” Sviur said, smiling widely. At his side, Nothri gave a grin to match. “We will tell the others, then!”
Others? I wondered. Apparently, I was as much a curiosity to them as they were to me. I watched the way their faces lightened, and felt a similar brightening within my own eyes.
“Only,” I gave with a rueful look, “If you promise to correct my pronunciation as we go. My errors with your tongue were many, something tells me.”
Nothri gave a grimace. “ . . . only a few,” he gave diplomatically, with a straight face, “Here and there.”
“We will tell you,” Sviur answered bluntly instead, not bothering to hide the fact of my floundering. Yes, I reflected, there was indeed honesty amongst the Dwarves . . .
“Now, let me get my bow,” I said, “And we will see what we shall see.”
Cool and intriguing I like seeing this interaction/interplay, friendly and lighthearted ... I love these "extra" or missing scene type moments. They lend depth and richness.
Love the interaction with the children and their curiosity giving them the courage to tell Celebrian how interested they are in Elves like her.
A nice update with the children interacting with her.
@Nyota's Heart: Why thank-you! While the history of the Second Age is fun to explore, these were the moments I was really excited to delve into when writing this. It is really the best.
@RX_Sith: Thanks. Thankfully, in Moria at this time, there was still a friendship between Elves and Dwarves. We are going to see another side of that coming up, though.
@earlybird-obi-wan: I am glad that you enjoyed that! I could not resist.
Author's Notes: This update touches on Silmarillion history with the feud between the Sindarin Elves and the Dwarves. While the story is told in part in the prose, I will include it in whole here for anyone who is interested. You can feel free to skip this if you wish.
Thanks to LoTR, most of you know Lúthien Tinúviel - the fairest maiden ever born. She was the Sindarin Princess of Doriath, and fell in love with Beren the mortal man. Her father, King Thingol, disapproved of the union, and set her bride-price as one of the Silmarils from Morgoth's crown. (Morgoth/Melkor was the original Dark Lord. Sauron was his lieutenant, and "adored him since the beginning of all things", if you want to get a feel for just how evil and powerful he was. The Silmarils were three gems made by Fëanor, whom captured the light of the Two Trees - the source of light the Sun and Moon were born from.) Beren and Lúthien went through many hardships on their quest, and died. Lúthien told her story and her love to Námo - the Vala of Death - and her pleas earned she and Beren returning back to life, but at a price. The price was that Lúthien would live out a mortal life-span, and then die a mortal death. Her decendants each had a choice of immortality or mortality put to them - as Lúthien's great-great granddaughter, that is how Arwen was able to live out her days with Aragorn as a 'mortal'. Peter Jackson did not explain that especially well.
Now, Thingol wanted to set the Silmaril within the necklace Nauglamír - a great work of the Dwarves, which had been gifted to the Elves. The Dwarves of Nogrod set the Silmaril in the necklace at his bidding, but the Silmaril had a mind of its own, and caused possessiveness and its own form of 'insanity' in whoever held it. The Dwarves demanded the Silmaril as payment, and Thingol was incredulous - for his daughter had died to recover this gem, and he would not give it up. The Dwarves killed Thingol, and stole the gem and necklace both. While the Elves were able to kill the murderers, two escaped back to Nogrod to tell an exaggerated tale of what had happened. Incensed, the Dwarves marched on Doriath in vengeance, and laid waste to the city. (Celeborn, and perhaps Thranduil, were both princes of Doriath, and related to Thingol - explaining both of their prejudices). Doriath was unprotected because Melian their queen was a Maia (the same as Gandalf/Radagast/Saruman/Sauron), and her spells of protection laid over the forest. With her husband's death, she gave up her physical body, and returned to the West in grief. The Dwarves had an easy time sacking Doriath, and they returned to Nogrod, seemingly triumphant. Yet, on their way back to the Blue Mountains, Beren, along with an army of Green-elves and Ents, slew the army down to the last Dwarf. Nogrod was crippled, and then destroyed entirely when Beleriand was sunk at the end of the First Age.
Loni's insult here is the same that Gimli used at the entrance to Lothlórien, which translates to 'I spit on your grave'.
Now, that said, lets get started.
I had not known it at the time, but Sviur telling the others meant that every young dwarf in Moria seemingly gathered to see the strange tall creature wield her strange tall weapon.
By the time I rejoined Nothri and Sviur, my quiver and bow in hand, they were all but fidgeting with their excitement. Eager and chattering, they led me through a maze of passageways, to a run of more practical, less ornate halls – where the daily matters of people living and carrying on was done away from the gild and majesty of the King's halls. Nothri led me through what he introduced as the Halls of Learning – where the young were educated in everything from simple arithmetic to complex-design and forge-craft.
At the end of those passageways, there was a simple, coarse cavern. The walls were unsmoothed and undecorated; the cave being a natural part of the mountain, rather than a space cleared away by dwarven hands. The walls were studded with natural veins of raw diamond and sapphire, lightening the space with a dull glow. Cleverly lighted crystals had been hung here and there, pouring an artificial silver light alongside the blue and the white until the colours all but danced to my eyes.
The uneven flooring and natural structures of stone made for a perfect place for the Dwarves – both young and experienced - to practice the art of the sword. Even if they did not practice to someday join the Mountain-guard, each Dwarf knew how to handle the wares they would someday forge. No Longbeard was a stranger to steel, and they knew their craft in making and execution both.
Long rows of seats had been worked into one of the walls, where a good five dozen Dwarves already sat and chattered excitedly with one another. On the floor itself, there were a dozen young Dwarves donning yellow vests, and another dozen donning vests of bright green. I looked, and saw that all of the weapons they held were blunted – and coated in a strange power, both yellow and green respectively.
“The powder does not lie,” Nothri explained to me. “There is no way to hide that you have been hit. We pick teams, and we skirmish. It is all mock battles, for the most part – but the Guard recruits from these games, so it is serious, in part.”
Sviur patted his friend on the back. “Nothri here would rather have his nose pressed in a book, though - unnatural creature that he is.”
Nothri's cheeks flushed, and he scowled as he pushed his friend's hand away. He caught my curious look, and explained, “My people do not keep the written word, so much as we pass on our stories by mouth. Oh, we can write lists and tallies and record every coin and weight of ore, but that is about it. Our lore is all remembered by our Elders and passed on in kind.”
“He found the broken journals of Telchar in the Vaults,” Svuir continued to tease. “He is trying to translate them, and record them for others to read. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
Nothri pushed his friend. “Telchar's insights would prove to be invaluable, should I succeed in recovering them. And while we remember our stories, we forget even our old tongues without them being written down. We write in a language half designed by Elvish script, and forget our own arts with our insistence on keeping them secret – until the lack of use eventually loses that which should have never been lost.”
There was a wisdom in that, I thought – and yet, such was the thinking of the Elves. I wanted to speak, but I was drawn away by Austri tugging at the hem of my tunic, pointing to where the Dwarves were putting on their vests. I understood what she wished, and I knelt down to select one of the larger vests – which was wide enough for me to get my arms through and settle awkwardly on my chest, but quite short in comparison to my torso. Sviur tucked back a grin, and I too hid my own look as I resolved to find him once the melee started – assuming he was not on my team, of course.
Austri gestured for my quiver of arrows, and I undid the strap from my back. Next to her, she had cut squares of a strong, study canvas, and gathered a pail of sand. She wrapped tiny sandbags about each arrowhead – effectively dulling them, and yet, I still was not so sure of the Dwarves' precautions for safety.
She dipped each arrow in the bright yellow powder, and I hazarded my concerns. “Even if the head is blunted, the force of the arrow will still bruise,” I said. When I had agreed to a 'demonstration', I had thought to hit a few stationary targets and then be done with it. I had not pictured this at all.
Austri gave a smile, and shook her head, while Sviur laughed. “The vests are strong,” he explained. “The threads are designed to absorb the shock of steel – I am sure it will absorb your arrows too.”
“A bruise or two is a good lesson,” Nothri continued. “A goblin-arrow will sting much more than your blunted weapons, will they not?”
Yes, that was true, but -
“I simply do not wish to cause harm,” I said. “Not on my first day here, at least,” I amended.
Sviur snorted. “You are first assuming that you will be able to hit us, Lady-elf,” he challenged. “We may not look it, but the Longbeards are fast – born sprinters, some would say.”
“Just do not expect us to keep up in the long race,” Nothri muttered.
“Unless,” Sviur drawled, “the might of the Dwarves already has you turning craven from your offer to demonstrate your skills? We understand if you wish to reconsider.”
I was not so young that I could be bullied by such obvious taunts, I wanted to say. I raised a brow, and yet . . . “Which team are you on?” I asked with a glint in my eyes as I took back my quiver of blunted arrows.
“Yours, thankfully,” Sviur said cheekily. “Elsewise I would mind my tongue.”
“No, you would not,” Nothri snorted, calling out his friend.
“No,” Sviur agreed. “But I would try.”
Sviur and Nothri strapped into their own yellow vests, and then we stepped forward to where a red line had been painted on the dark ground. “The aim of the game is this,” Nothri explained. “There are five flags hidden amongst the rock,” he pointed to where I could see bright red flags waiting at various spots in the cavern. “The goal is to gather more flags than the other team, while suffering the fewest casualties possible. If you are hit in the arm or the leg, you can carry on – but without use of that limb. If you suffer a hit to the chest or back, you are out – walk to the sidelines, and your team will carry on without you.”
It seemed simple enough, I thought. And quite clever, at that. Besides my reservations, I actually felt my pulse increasing its tempo, eager as I now was for the challenge to come.
“Now,” Nothri gestured down at my bow. “Your job is to cover us while we go after the flags – there is no need for you to rush out unless absolutely needed.” I nodded at that. Austri had given me a blunted dagger dipped in powder, but I was better with my bow. I would rather it not come to that.
“Simple?” he made sure I understood.
“Simple,” I agreed.
“Alright then,” he rubbed his hands together.
We came up the red line, and those onlooking immediately turned from their chattering to watch. There was still an eager rumble of sound from the crowd, but it was all for the game that was about to begin. I looked at my competitors, seeing a variety of heights and hair colors before me – but each had the same eager curiosity about their eyes. That same curiosity and fascination was the very force that had birthed the mountain around me, I thought, a respect growing within me for the Dwarves and their ways.
At the sidelines, Austri held a small horn. She counted down in her own tongue, and then, the horn was blown -
Each team immediately leapt forward, going in pairs for the flags peaking up from the stone. Even though it was a mere exercise, they gave the mock battle their all – holding back none of their blows, and fighting with strength and force rather than speed and clever feints. I could not tell if the fervor of the game was to impress a guest, or the same zeal that they met all in life with.
Either way, I had my own part to play. I saw where the green team was reaching a flag before mine, and so, I drew back the string of my bow. I exhaled . . .
I hit the dwarf square in the back as he reached up for the flag. He stumbled from the force of the blow, and yet, my gauge on the sturdiness of the Dwarves was off, it seemed - for the force did not knock him to his feet. Instead, he shook his head at himself, annoyed, even as he made his way to the sidelines. A mighty cheer rose from the crowd following my actions. I caught a few cries of again, and so, I loaded my bow.
I was showing off now, I knew – hitting my targets one after another, even firing two arrows at once when I could, putting on the show that had been asked of me. I counted out my breaths and steadied my aim until I could all but feel my father at my back as I took my shot again and again. He would have been proud, I knew, and the thought brought with it a now familiar pang of missing.
It became apparent to the green team that if they wanted to take more of the flags, they would have to take out the archer. Each team had two flags each, and now it was a mad rush to the last remaining flag as all stood valiant with their last stand. In order to stay my arm, I had three Dwarves from the other team charge at me, but Nothri had stayed by my side to act as my shield, and he stepped forth to meet the oncoming team. I was able to pick off one as they approached, and Nothri entangled himself with the remaining two.
Distracted as I was by the oncoming Dwarves, I heard Sviur cry from further in the cavern, “Celebrían, the flag!”
For that was the purpose of the game. Ignoring the Dwarf that slipped past Nothri's defense, I took aim at a Dwarf on the green team with rich red hair, who was running as if Morgoth himself gave chase. He threw himself at the flag, his hair a brilliant halo about his head as he leapt down into the small chasm of stone where the flag was, and I let my arrow go.
The arrow had scarce flown free when I felt the breath being knocked from me. The Dwarf aimed low, and I felt a blunt pain bloom at my side from where the flat of his sword struck, staining the side of my vest with green powder.
I stumbled back a step, but was able to keep myself from falling. A moment after the Dwarf struck, Nothri turned from where he had won his scuffle with his own foe, and hit the one who 'felled' me on the back – effectively disqualifying us all.
But it mattered not. All of the flags were gained. Austri blew the horn again, signaling a halt to the melee. Around the caverns, Dwarves stopped to help their teammates and 'enemies' alike to their feet, chattering excitedly about the battle and commenting on their own glorious – and equally not so perfectly executed – moments. The cavern was abuzz with chatter, the audience clapping and cheering all about.
“I thank you for avenging me,” I wryly saluted Nothri with my bow.
“I was the least a son of Durin could do for his elven ally,” Nothri smiled before looking down at the Dwarf he had last defeated – who had comically passed out on the ground, his tongue sticking out. “Oh, get up Jári,” Nothri laughed at the other's antics. “It's over now.”
“And you slew the silver giant,” the charging Dwarf who had fallen to my arrow said, smiling as he helped his teammate up. “That alone is worth any mortal wound.”
I touched the green powder at my side – as telling as blood, and shook my head at the camaraderie before me.
“Yes, I suppose that I did,” Jári got to his feet. “All hail Jári Giant-slayer! You shall toast my name in the mead halls this eve, and sing songs of -”
Nothri stuck his foot out, and Jári stumbled a step, and then two. He did not fall, but it was enough for all around him to laugh anew.
“Jári Tangle-foot is more like it,” Sviur said as he came up to us, two flags held in hand. “That is a song I would sing well and loud!”
Jári took a bow, unaffected by the teasing, and the laughter doubled.
The red haired Dwarf from earlier came stalking over to us, the last flag held in his hand. Nothri watched him approach, and inclined his head. “Well done, Lóni. You retrieved the winning flag for your team.”
I watched as Lóni approached us. His eyes were a unique shade of pale brown, I observed, nearly amber in color, but his brow was deeply furrowed in a frown. He would not look at me.
My hand tightened on my bow, even though the game was done. The turbulence in the soul before me was as a tangible sensation against my skin. I watched him, wary.
“I don't know,” Sviur was the one to speak up where I would have held my silence. “I saw Celebrían's arrow hit him before he retrieved the flag.”
“Are you calling my word false?” Lóni's eyes flashed as he turned on Sviur.
“No,” Sviur held his ground. “I think that you got the flag. Only, not in time.”
“The arrow did not hit me,” Lóni ground out in a low voice. He still refused to look my way.
“Could you turn for us?” Sviur did not let the matter go. “If you are powder-free, then your team won. If you were hit, it is a draw, and we shall have to face each other again.”
Lóni glowered, but stubbornly stayed in place.
Nothri tilted his head. “Turn, Lóni,” he stated in a low voice, phrasing a command, no matter how softly he spoke. For the first, I saw the mettle of a prince in the gentle youth. It was Durin's strength he wielded in his eyes and voice; in reply, all seemed to stand up taller.
Lóni stayed still a moment longer, thus pushing the line of disobedience to a direct order from his lord as far as he could, before turning mockingly in reply. He held his hands up when he was done, as if challenging those who doubted him.
“You see?” he all but growled. “The Khulam's arrow struck me not.”
“The Elf is called Celebrían,” Sviur corrected as he circled the other, “And you, my friend, are a liar.” He reached out with his axe to flip up Lóni's long mane of red hair – showing where he had a marking of bright yellow power staining the collar of his vest, right at the base of his neck. My arrow had caught him while he was jumping, his hair flying wildly from its place.
“It struck me after I seized the flag,” Lóni protested. “It matters not.”
“And yet,” Nothri said tersely, “You lied about being struck, rendering the order invalid. Your team shall surrender to us on account of a fraud being amongst their ranks.”
The other Dwarves in green vests looked with narrowed eyes on their teammate. From my mother's tales, I knew how much the Dwarves valued honesty. The mountains were dangerous – beautiful and bountiful, but treacherous - and absolute trust needed to exist between those who made their home beneath the ground. Anything less was a grevious insult, I understood.
“Apologize,” Nothri commanded tersely, his voice shaped as steel.
Slowly, Lóni turned to face me. I watched him, wary – for his eyes were a dark shade of amber then, and his face was skewered into a cold look of distaste, as if I were something creeping and crawling upon the ground. I squared my own jaw in reply, unsure of how I could have so quickly earned his dislike.
“I refused to apologize to one of them,” Loni said, his voice quivering with a barely restrained rage. “And you,” he turned on Nothri, “You should be ashamed of yourself. Your own mother is one of the last left of Nogrod's line. Your forefathers would turn from the rock if they knew that a son of theirs could sport as comrades with a daughter of the Grey-king's ilk.”
Nothri stepped forward, his eyes harsh. “You think that I could so easily forget the history of my line?” he asked in a dangerous voice. “You presume much, Lóni, and cast yourself a fool with your every word. Apologize, and reclaim what honor you can for yourself.”
I waited, understanding at last the reason for Lóni's anger. His red hair and amber eyes . . . he was a Firebeard, one of the last surviving descendants of Nogrod in Beleriand that was. For the murder of Thingol their king and the theft of the Silmaril within its necklace of starlit stones, the Elves of Doriath had marched underneath the command of Beren the mortal-man. Joined by the Green-elves and the Ents of the River-lands they'd put Nogrod to the sword and reclaimed the Silmaril of Lúthien. It was an old wound between our two kinds – one that festered, always ready as it was to bubble over with fresh hurt.
My own father had stood behind Thingol when he fell to the surprise of the Dwarves' steel flashing forward in violence. The loss had cut him to the quick, and it was still something he did not like to speak of, even to this day. My father too had marched against Nogrod . . . he too had stained his sword red with dwarven blood . . . With the death of her husband, Melian the Maia-queen then retreated to Valinor, unable to hold onto her physical form when her grief so pierced her spirit. Her protection fell from Doriath, and the kingdom soon fell completely to the swords of Fëanor's sons.
If the Dwarves of Nogrod had acted honorably with Thingol, would Doriath still stand? Would its kingdom have survived the bloodied events of the First Age? It was impossible to know for sure, and yet, many believed . . .
My mother always said to blame the hate between the races – and the obsession the Silmaril itself inspired - rather than assigning the blame to a group of living souls in particular. This was a lesson my father still tried to learn to this very day, for he was still wary and ill at ease whenever there were Dwarves within the walls of Ost-in-edhil. In the end, their greed and lust for riches would trump every descent emotion - this he still believed, even when my mother held her own council, seeing possibilities for a future that the rest of us were blind to.
And yet, no matter the reason, the fact remained that Nogrod was left nearly extinct due to Beren's scourge in vengeance for his wife's kin. The question of guilt did not matter when only death was remembered by future generations. Only the pain remained . . . and would ever remain.
I stepped forward, and held out my hand. “I am honored to meet a surviving son of Nogrod,” I said solemnly, meaning my every word. There was blood between our kindreds, and yet, it was already deep into the Second Age. Centuries had passed, and it was time to let such old hatreds go.
I next thought of Annatar's eyes, narrowed and thoughtful, as beautiful and deadly as a flame . . . I thought of Narvi holding the ring crafted in wickedness, and I could not help but think that someday, such petty divisions could be the end of all with such a shadow returning to the world.
So, I held out my hand, and let myself hope.
Lóni looked at my hand incredulously. His eyes were very wide, golden in the cavern-shadows, and when I at last thought he would relent, he instead took a step back from me. He spat at me, and said, “Ishkhaqwi ai durugnul!”
He then spun on his heel, and left, his red hair stretching behind him like a flame.
I reached up to wipe at my cheek, while those around us looked on in horrified disbelief for Lóni's rudeness. There were a few cool eyes in the crowd – eyes that no doubt held Lóni's views, in part or in full, I suspected. Wetness met my fingertips, and for the first I felt as a stranger in a strange land beneath the eaves of the mountain.
Nothri's eyes were set like blue flames in his face, causing him to much resemble his father in that moment. For, while I could accept Lóni's reason for his anger, his disrespect to his lord was something that would not go overlooked.
“Please accept my deepest apologies for my kinsman's appalling behavior,” Nothri said, his voice dark. “It will be seen to.”
I forced myself to keep my expression composed. “He is not the only one in these lands to hold such a view,” I acknowledged. I felt tired in that moment, seeing only a long fight of many years before us. “I took no offense, truly I did not.”
“You are gracious,” Nothri inclined his head. “You need not be.”
“I do believe that if my father was here, he would have words to match Lóni's,” I acknowledged on a wry voice. “His is not the only view at fault in this land.”
Nothri sighed. I looked, and saw that I was not the only one with troubled thoughts.
“You still have arrows left,” he remarked after an uncomfortable silence. “If you would not mind, perhaps you could show us how you were able to loose two at once, and still hit your target?”
I felt the corner of my mouth turn up, accepting the offering for the attempt at peace it was. I took a step away from Nothri, so that as many of those onlooking could see my actions as I demonstrated the tricks of my trade.
“You do so,” I carefully aligned the arrows with the string, slowing my motions so that all could see, “like this . . .”
Excellent contest of wills/wits and skills You can feel the tension but not everyone gives into it In my opinion, it's always, always best to form your own opinions of a person of another race, instead of swallowing biases and half-truths naively.
Great use of the bow by Celebrian and of course taking the high road with the elf who did not like her.
great scenes and loved the description of the game
I have found the Poetic Edda a brilliant source for names for my the "ocs" in my story. I had this notion that there had to be some female dwarves in there and I attempted to find out if there were any. I found four which I knew for certain were female dwarves but it took me ages to find out that they were and I'm not even sure if I got it right. (Some names were weird because if I went by convention after finding an old Norse guide, Gandalf came out as female). I think that is probably partly where Tolkien got the idea that male and female dwarves are difficult to tell apart. But it depends on which English translation you look at. I have two copies of the Poetic Edda and some of the dwarf names are missing in one of the versions. I don't know if that is editing by the translator, or if it was a different manuscript that they were translating. It is annoying though when some names are literally translated into their English meaning because the poems make less sense then.
@Nyota's Heart: Exactly! And deeds of old are just that - deeds of old. Old prejudices are crippling, and it was wonderful writing both sides trying to rise above that here. As always, thank-you for reading!
@RX_Sith: Thank-you. The game was fun to write, as were the tensions.
@Space_Wolf: I have always enjoyed Northern lore, so it was lots of fun to cross that fascination with writing for Tolkien's work! It really is interesting what some translations leave and others keep, that's for sure, and I'm glad to hear you too found them useful for your writing.
Now, it's time for more! I have no notes for this one, though there are a few throwbacks to LoTR and the Hobbit here that should be easy to spy . . .
Weeks passed while we dwelt in Moria.
Fáfnir extended his invitation for us to stay until the festivities surrounding Durin's Day, and my mother accepted – her counsel her own for her reasons at further cultivating a friendship with the Dwarves. I did not mind the delay in our journey to Lórinand, for the mountain kingdom was seemingly never ending, and each day brought something new to my wide and searching eyes.
My friendship with Nothri grew as the days passed. He had a quick mind, and his ideas were many for furthering the good of his people. He filled a hole I had not realized had been left with Sítheril's departure, and I came to value his counsel and appreciate his unique brand of humor the more I came to know him.
Two weeks into our stay, I had garnered trust enough to be introduced to the youngest members of Nothri's family. They were two tiny dwarflings, one a boy just learning how to walk, and another little girl still swaddled in her mother's arms. Suthri was the name of the solemn little boy, and Vestri was the baby girl. Though only a few months old, her pale blue eyes were already alert and curious for the world around her. Dwarven parents kept their children tucked away for the first few years of their lives, only showing their dwarflings to their closest of kin, and I knew the honor granted to me with meeting Nothri's youngest siblings.
Nothri introduced me to his mother, Queen Fræg, as well. I instantly saw her rich red curls and her warm amber eyes, and knew her to be a daughter of the Firebeards, just as Lóni had said. Although she was not outrightly hostile, her demeanor was cool and aloof as Nothri made our introductions. And yet, she allowed me near her youngest children, which suggested some form of trust – or an attempt to rise above the deeds of the past, at the very least. I was appreciative of her attempts at extending her hand in friendship, understanding what they must have cost her.
Of course, friendship with the Dwarves always came with feasting and drinking, and I tried the Dwarves' version of ale - goraz - for the first time whilst in Moria. Nothri watched me with an expectant look, while Sviur had been less subtle with his amused anticipation as I choked a first sip down, and then a second. It was strong, very strong in taste, and yet, in potency I had known stronger spirits with elven wine. I made Sviur swallow his smile when I was able to drink through more tankards than him while still keeping my wits about me. While I did not quite make myself ill, I was most certainly not in the best of sorts the following day. In reply, my mother simply raised a brow – knowing of my misendeavors without I breathing a word of them.
At the next feast, Nothri showed me a sweet mead that the sons of Men from the Anduin vales crafted from honey, which I found more to my liking than the ale. Dwarves did not grow their own food in the mountains, rather, they traded their wares for the supplies to feed and clothe their numbers – which made for a rich relationship with both the mortal and elven settlements bordering the mountains. It was a symbiont circle between all of our peoples, and in those early days, it had been a rich relationship binding all together.
While not the lilting and graceful songs I knew from my own kind, the Dwarves finished their evenings with songs and tales of their own. They had rowdy ballads, and clever walking songs; heroic lays and deep chants that told the history of their people. Unlike the Elves, who wrote down as much of our great years as we could, the Dwarves passed their tales on from tongue to tongue - and there was a power clinging to their words as a result. A haunting, primitive energy enriched their deep voices when they sang of elder days, each note seemingly echoing in the mountain halls and reverberating from the stone.
Nothri told me of his wishes to start recording his people's history in writing, as queer as the idea was to his kin. Dwarves kept excellent inventories of their work, along with the history of their wares and their sale, but Nothri wished to commit his people's songs and stories to paper. It was a noble effort, I thought. Yet, I was elven, Sviur was quick to point out – of course I would think Nothri's ambition to be so.
Even so, Nothri took me to the Chamber of Records to share one of the more clever Dwarven inventions. When they did write in their true tongue, they wished to keep their language close at hand, and they had invented a way to keep their words both secret and safe. At first, Nothri handed me what looked like a book of blank pages, and nothing more. Yet, that night, he took me to a room of clear stones - where the moonlight was reflected down from strategically placed crystals high on the summit of the mountain. As the moonlight filled the chamber, I watched in amazement as the pages came alive with dancing silver-blue runes, telling a tale that had not previously been there before.
“Moon runes,” Nothri explained proudly. “They are similar to what you saw on the West-door, only more concentrated in this form.”
The runes could be enchanted to only show during a certain phase of the moon, or when certain words of power were spoken underneath the moonlight. Either way, I thought such a thing to be wonderfully clever.
“And priceless, at that,” Nothri commented. “The ink is made of refined mithril, and not a thing to be taken lightly. Celebrimbor invented the process along with Náli – Narvi's great-grandfather - and we have been using it for our secrets ever since.”
I ran my hand over the page, awed by the dancing blue runes, and Nothri smiled at my honest appreciation of his people's craft. “Perhaps we can communicate in secret, even after you carry on to Lórinand? We have trade routes which pass the Golden-vale, and I can arrange a messenger to carry our correspondence,” this Nothri offered with a cheeky smile. “Here, I can show you the process.”
Only in Moria would mithril be so readily available, I thought, watching as Nothri explained the science behind the dilution of the metal and the mixing it with other powders to make the ink react to the moonlight. Though Nothri did not prefer smith-work, like the majority of his kin did, his status as the king's son did not mean that he was exempt from learning the ways of the forge as all others were. He understood the workings of his kingdom to the smallest of degrees, and his dedication to the art of his people was something I admired.
During my stay, I often helped him with his translations, learning more and more of his tongue as we went through the few tomes of old left over from his people's past. I even started to copy what I could in a careful script when Nothri had other business to attend to for the day.
One day, he even put the tale of Lúthien in Dwarven runes for me. Ever since I first sang the lay, early on in our knowing each other, the Dwarves had known a fascination for that story more than any other. They understood it, this Sviur had said with a rueful smile, for the few dwarrowdams blessed to them meant that a male often had to go through grand gestures to win the heart of his chosen female. They sympathized with Beren's plight in a way I would not have considered before – especially Sviur, who had a pretty maiden by the name of Heith he was trying to woo. She was studying to be a wisewoman and herb mistress, and though she professed time and time again that she had no wish for a courtship, there was a pleased smile that touched her mouth whenever Sviur tried to catch her eye. Sviur said he understood Beren with Heith's father liking not of his pursuit - and that admission drew quite the smile from me.
Galadriel had paused when she caught Nothri whistling the familiar melody for the first. “Your father is not amused,” she said simply in reply, raising a brow. I then knew that Celeborn had been closer than I first thought through the cord that bound their souls. Of course he would see little humor in his kinswoman's tale being sung by dwarven tongues. Even so, my mother's eyes danced with her words, she holding the same amusement I felt.
During the days when Nothri and Sviur had their duties to attend to, I explored the mountain on my own. The tunnels and deep ways fascinated me just as much as the gilded halls did, and I followed the voices humming in the wall, leading me deeper and deeper still, to where a warmth seemed to rise up from the heart of the earth. The soul of the mountain, Nothri had called that heat, and I could believe that the mountain was all but alive with such a cadence dancing on the air.
That day, I went deeper than I had yet traveled before, following a line of ore in the rock that glittered like gold. Raw orange and red sapphires shone from the walls, drawing my eye and leading me on to where the ceiling draped in massive stone curtains and the floor made queer formations as natural pathways through the the mountain. I imagined that I could hear a heartbeat as I walked, a pulse that picked up whenever I reached out to touch the stone walls as I passed. There were underground rivers following the natural tunnels, and the day before Nothri had showed me where dancing waterfalls played over the strange stone formations in an otherly mirror of such rivers above. I sought to find that again now, letting the thundering in the rock lead me to the water.
Yet, my trying to retrace our path only seemed to lead me deeper and even deeper still in the tunnels. I knew that I was beyond where Nothri had showed me, and the sound of a beating heart had turned to that of a low drumming. The air had lost both the laughing cadence of the water and the deep resonance of the mountain itself. There was something breathing with the mountain, I then thought. There was something hiding itself underneath the stone; disguising itself with the fire resting beneath the belly of the earth. Where the heat of the world was natural, this was something different . . . something more.
My skin crawled as I stepped around one last bend in the tunnel, warning me to turn back. I had gone too deep, I thought, much too deep.
The tunnel fell away to a natural chasm in the ground, giving the path an abrupt end. I glanced over my shoulder, and decided to go back the way I had come. And yet, first . . .
I peered over the edge, but could only see the darkness stretching down below, as far as the eye could see. The heartbeat of the mountain was more here. The shadow seemed alive in this place; it seemed to breathe, and I could smell sulfur and brimstone and fire on the air. I took a shallow breath, and found the air sour, as with the stench of decay.
I bit my lip, deciding that I had seen enough. I stood, ready to double back on the path, when -
“You should know to turn back when the air turns as foul as this,” a voice hissed in rebuke. I felt a cool hand at my shoulder, turning me away from the chasm, and I looked behind to see that Galadriel had followed me.
I gasped, startled – for the foul presence had turned me skittish within my skin – but I calmed as soon as I saw my mother's face. Her brow was set, and her mouth was thin with distaste, and yet, neither were wholly directed towards me.
“I was turning back,” I said, unsure how to interpret the strange look on my mother's face. “Only, not soon enough,” I admitted, my cheeks flushing with more than the heat. “I was looking for the waterfalls Nothri showed me yesterday, yet, I seemed to have taken a wrong turn.”
Galadriel was silent for a moment before turning. I knew that she expected me to follow her, and so I did, feeling a strange sort of relief with every step we took away from the chasm in the deep. Instinctively, I had known of the nameless danger my mother so feared, and I felt unease turn within me, wondering what could send Galadriel to such a worry.
She had been meeting with Narvi and his smiths when I left. She must have sensed me going deeper in the tunnels, and broke her council short to come after me. That, more than anything else, had questions fill my mind.
“What was that?” I asked when the air at last turned fresh around us. Here the beat of the mountain was like that of a heart, rather than a drum. I did not fear speaking when I could feel the clean rush of the water again, rushing just beyond the stone walls of the passage.
“A fell spirit,” Galadriel at last answered. She was silent after saying so, and I nearly asked her to elaborate before she continued, “He is a Maia of Fire, twisted from his original purpose by Morgoth's black breath in the eldest of days. How a Balrog survived the War of Wrath, I do not know. And yet, here one of the Valaraukar sleeps, and shall continue to sleep for so long as he is left to his slumber.”
I felt my heart drop at her words. Balrogs had figured in nearly every tale Sítheril and I had scared each other with as children, and we had pretended to 'slay' our foes in the shadows with the breathless silliness of a child's game. And yet, each story we told was steeped in truth. The horde of Balrogs had been the bane of so many during the wars against Morgoth in the First Age, and the idea that there was one here, beneath our feet . . .
“Do they know?” I asked next, feeling my fear turn into the fierce urge to defend. Nothri . . . Sviur . . . their people. No good could come in building atop such a power, and if ever their mines went too deep . . .
“They know that a foul presence sleeps deep within the rock,” Galadriel answered. “Their superstitions keep them from disturbing the heart of the mountain with their delving, and it shall keep them from doing so for as long as there is wisdom reigning with Moria's king.”
And yet . . . I felt foreboding fill me, knowing that someday, even if it was a millennia from now, such wisdom could fail . . . Better would it be for the Longbeards to leave the mountain to the shadow before they had to war with such a force. Even as the thought passed my mind, I knew with a grave certainty that nothing less would disturb the heirs of Durin from their place . . . for they were connected to the mountain. These stone eves both succored them and sustained their souls; they would find no such belonging as they did within their ancestral homes. Dwarves were bound to their mother-mountain as my father's people were bound to the trees. It was a belonging that went soul-deep in the most literal of ways, and to ask them to retreat for a monster sleeping in the shadow . . .
We had many years in which to address this threat in the dark. For now, the Dwarves of Moria could sleep in peace, and yet . . .
To think that we had once been so naïve as to hunt for Balrog's in our child's games. The spirit I had felt . . . even when sleeping far beneath us, he had pressed as a fell weight upon my heart. He had settled as an unquiet dread against my spirit . . . and to have faced such a thing awake and aware before me, with it's demon's breath hot as it gave birth to flames . . . Such was an evil I could not fully comprehend.
I was silent as we returned to the halls high in the mountain. Though I had enjoyed my time in Moria up until then, I yearned for sunlight in that moment. I wanted the fresh air to erase the memory of what I had felt in the deep places of the earth; I wanted to reach down and feel tree-roots rather than the rock far beneath them. I wanted to look up, and see the starlight smiling down on me.
“Durin's Day approaches in three days time,” Galadriel said once we stepped into the silver halls once more. “Afterward, Fáfnir has made good on his promise to clear the paths as far as Mirrormere. We will depart for Lórinand before the deep frost comes.”
I had until then to say my goodbyes, I understood what she did not say. Though I appreciated the friends I met in Moria, and would continue to hold them dear for as long as I could, I was eager for the next phase of our journey to begin.
So, I caught my mother's eyes when she turned to me, and inclined my head. “I am ready,” I said, and spoke my words true.
Enjoyed the friendship with Nothri & the Moon Runes - how cool! But the Balrog - Gave me the willies. Celebrian wasn't the only one who sighed with relief! when her mother showed up LOL This 'verse nourishes my spirit longer than any other has and deeper than most. Thanks for sharing its profound loveliness and richness of history and superb interweaving of times and races.
Loved the descriptions of the friendship. And mithril used for writing, great. The Balrog sure is evil. Love the depth you are giving to this history
Definitely got the chills as well from the Balrog as it weighed heavily upon Celebrian's soul; that would scare the heck out of me as well.
@Nyota's Heart: I know exactly how you feel. While many fandoms have touched me over the years, this just settles bone deep, it seems. I am glad that you are enjoying this glimpse into the Professor's world. (And yikes! The Balrog was giving me the heebie geebies writing it. That curiosity is going to get her in trouble someday. And yet! That is what excellent parents are for. )
@earlybird-obi-wan: Thanks! It truly is a fascinating history to tackle.
@RX_Sith: Amen to that! The Balrogs are no laughing matter.
Yes, I know that this update is early. I was looking at my outline, and I realized that I have a lot more plot than would be possible to fit into a biweekly schedule before the end of the year. So, the obvious answer to that was not to cut content, but to speed up the updates. That said, we will have a few relatively quick updates while I get my plot back on course with the outline. Enjoy!
Durin's Day came and went, and the morning of our departure dawned upon us.
Even though our time in Moria was short, I came to care for my new friends in the season I had spent beneath the mountain. I smiled as I said my goodbyes, but it was a bittersweet smile, and my eyes burned as I made my farewells. A few of the dwarves I had come to know took turn carving their names onto my bow – Nothri had been the first to ask to do, and the others had then followed with the same.
“Consider it a talisman against misfortune,” Nothri said as he carefully worked the last rune into the wood. “Let the names of Durin's children make any enemy of yours quake in fear.”
Sviur carved his name next to Nothri's, and Austri took more time than all to carefully tool her name into the wood. A dozen or so others made their marks until one could not tell the design of vines and leaves on the bow from the deep ruts of the dwarven runes. Surprising me most of all was when Loni gravely asked if he too could add his name. Though Loni had not apologized to me during my stay, I had felt his eyes on me more often than not; watching me, weighing me, and he must have rewritten his opinions for him to swallow his old hatreds away.
Understanding the apology for what it was, and also understanding what such a humility must have cost him, I handed my bow to him, and he put more care than most into shaping the runes of his name.
Now, as I stood with my mother by the East-gate, I held my bow in my hands, and ran my fingers over the indentations of the letters as a comfort.
Before us was a wide and sprawling land. Never before had I been east of the mountains, and I looked on with wonder for the endless vale stretching out below us. Northward and behind us rose the three great peaks of Moria, while to the south the Misty Mountains went on as far as the eye could see, shrouded in the mist of their namesake as they pierced the grey skies overhead.
Directly down in the valley was the Mirrormere itself, the shape of the lake thrust like a spearpoint into the dale. Long and oval shape, we could not see the eastern side for the fog that billowed over the land. The day was overcast, and the sky threatened with cold rain overhead.
We set out for the mere, which was only a mile or so from the gate. We came to a tall pillar with Durin's stone upon it – marking both the edge of the Dwarves' claim on the mountains, and the sight where Durin had first beheld his reflection in days bygone. Upon seeing the monument, we took a small trail down a long green slope to where the lake glistened in its cradle.
There was no wind that day, and the lake ripped calm and glass-like before us. Mirrormere was a strange wonder of creation, reflecting the stars above even during the light of day. Even with the clouds stretching thick and grey from horizon to horizon, I could see the constellation Valacirca, glittering like diamonds thrown upon the water. Oddly enough, even though I could see the stars, I could not see my reflection. I waved my hand, but could not see my shadow move before me – that being a right reserved for Durin and Durin alone.
And yet, I had no time to tarry and remark over the wonder of the mere. While I knelt before the lake, Galadriel remained standing. She looked not at the lake, but rather, up to the crags of the mountains. Her eyes flickered over the shadows and steep pathways as if searching. She had been silent for most of our journey so far, on edge as a doe aware of the hunt, and her awareness drew my own silence in turn.
Nothri had told me about the long battles that his people went through to keep their northern-most boarders free of Orcs and other foul creatures. The sons of Durin had fought against the remnants of darkness since the First Age to keep Gundabad, the northern-most mountain in the range, free of taint - but it was a battle that they were ever short of completely winning. In the last two centuries, the Orc-kind had increased in might tenfold, and a strange breed of wolves reminiscent of Morgoth's monstrous Wargs of old started to walk the land. Something had awakened them, Nothri had whispered his father's fears, and that awakening coincided most disquietingly with our own concerns.
It was for this that Fáfnir had cleared the ways for us, and yet, that was to Mirrormere and not beyond.
At long last, Galadriel relinquished her vigil to look down on the lake, and yet, what she saw there I did not know. She simply turned a moment later, and walked on, trusting that I would follow her. And so, follow I did.
The road turned south after curving around the mere, and it went quickly downwards. We passed the rolling waterfalls that marked the beginning of the Celebrant river. Here the small, cold river was joined by other streams from the mountains, and together they rushed on to join the great Anduin as a tributary in the east. Where the Celebrant met the river Nimrodel was where we sought our entrance into Lórinand, still a half a day's travel away. Our path found, we followed the leaping and bubbling stream down into the valley, making our way quickly around its dips and turns. There were no trees here, nothing to shelter us from prying eyes. The noon shadows were few above our heads as we walked through the tall grasses and rocky ways, open for any to see.
We stopped late in the afternoon to break into our rations and rest by one of the waterfalls in the now strongly flowing Celebrant. Trees had started to dot the land here and there as young saplings that would someday grow to include the woods of Lórinand if they were not harvested first. I felt a comfort underneath the boughs of the trees, having liked but little the broad and open way of the foothills leading down into the valley.
While I sat on the rocks to allow my body a moment to rest from the quick pace we had set, Galadriel stalked the small copse with a restless step. Her eyes were narrowed, and her hand rested all but permanently on the hilt of her sword. She tilted her head, and I felt as something crawled across my skin . . . a feeling of dread like a cloud as it passed over the sun.
I stood, trusting my senses. I caught my mother's eye, and asked, “What is out there?”
“We have been hunted since we left the East-gate,” Galadriel answered tersely.
I blinked, for while Gundabad was taken, I did not think that they would so quickly take notice of two stray travelers -
“They have been waiting,” Galadriel said, having heard my thoughts. “I thought that we had delayed enough beneath the mountain to dissuade them, and yet, I underestimated their tenacity.”
Waiting for us? I tried to puzzle the through the idea in my mind. A random party of Orc-kind scouting the land I could understand as one of the typical dangers awaiting any road in Ennor. And yet, those specifically hunting us . . .
For two centuries, Gundabad had been awakening, Nothri had said. While, for two centuries, Annatar had . . .
I could not reason out the why, and yet, I knew almost certainly that the two were connected. What had been a mere theory and a feeling of deep unease when we left now picked up another stirring of proof, and the resulting implications were unsettling.
Galadriel watched me as I reached my own conclusions, and saw the moment where my thoughts aligned with her own. She inclined her head, and though she did not say so, I could tell that she was pleased.
“Time has diluted their numbers, at the very least,” she said. “We have Warg-riders following us, but they are only scouts. It will take some hours for their pack to follow, and yet, if we reach the woods before them, we shall have the help of the march-wardens within Amdír's boarders.”
We had to get to Lórinand, and quickly, I understood.
I looked further down the trail, ready to depart from the trees. And yet, Galadriel did not move to follow me. Her eyes were very bright in the half-shade from the boughs, and the air rippled with more than the threat of shadow.
“No,” she said. “The path opens back up just ahead, and the riders are faster than us. Here we have a defensible position.”
I looked back at the waterfall tumbling down the rock, and the various formations of stone on the side of the hill. The road we had just left cut down between two hills here, and if we waited from above . . . Yes, if we had to make a stand, better that it would be here than on the open plains, I understood.
Even still, I felt trepidation fill me. I had never fought in a true battle before, and I had to swallow a wave of apprehension at the idea of the fight to come. I had sparred with my friends as we learned to wield our arms, and I had participated in the mock war-games that the guard of Ost-in-edhil set up . . . And yet, the simple truth of the matter was that I had known my every year to date in a time of watchful peace. I had only ever struck an arrow with death in mind when hunting in the wood - and praying to Yavanna for the souls of the creatures I took would be worlds different than fighting against such black and shadowed folk.
I inhaled, and let my next breath out slow. Child I hissed at the wave of apprehension that filled me. I pressed my fears and my doubts down so that they lined my bones, becoming a part of me while not defining me. I had been fortunate in my years of peace, but such days were to be no more.
I felt a golden warmth wrap around me, and I knew that my mother had reached out to touch my spirit with her own, fortifying me for the fight to come. She trusted in both me and my abilities; elsewise, I would not be here with her. And if Galadriel believed in me . . .
“How long?” I asked. My voice portrayed a calmness I did not quite feel inside.
“Minutes,” Galadriel answered, the warmth of her presence cooling as I stepped away. We had little time then.
Where I preferred the bow, my mother was an expert swordsman. She had fought in battles uncounted, from all three of the Kinslayings to the War of Wrath itself, and she knew her craft well. She would most likely triumph over whatever foe descended on us even without my presence, and yet, I was determined to make a counting for myself.
Together, we moved to the edge of the lip, both taking our places behind the trees with my bow nocked and her sword at the ready. Beneath us, there was the scouting party from Gundabad – two heavily armed Orcs astride two massive Wargs, with four Orcs following on foot behind the riders.
I pressed my back to the tree, calming my breathing as I settled my grip on the bow. Underneath my fingers, the freshly inscribed runes were soothing ridges in the wood. A talisman indeed, I thought grimly as my mother gestured. Silently I turned, and I carefully took my aim . . .
The first arrow I shot was a clean strike, embedding itself between the eyes of the Orc rider furthest from us. I felt my stomach turn at the sight, but pushed the feeling away for later.
Immediately his Warg, who had been sniffing the path in confusion a moment before – trying to pick up our trail again, threw his head back with a howl, shaking his massive body to buck his now dead rider from his back. Unlike natural born wolves, these Wargs were great and terrible looking things with dark, mad eyes and sharp, wicked fangs peeking out from their massive snouts. Their fur was brittle, almost spine-like, colored a dark shade that molted from dirty brown to a flat black. A feeling of foul decay clung to their growls as they howled, their hunt having come to fruition.
They had come far in the light of day, I thought next. While not impossible for their kind to travel beneath the sun's rays, they did not wish to when they could avoid doing so. They must have been determined, I thought . . . very determined indeed to catch up with us.
The Warg howled again – a terrible sound that danced up and down my bones, rattling them in their places. The sound itself was worse than their horrible faces and dead, sickly yellow eyes. Just as grating was the sound of the Black Speech as it was spoken between the Orcs as they scrambled for their weapons - each discordant vowel battering my soul as a blow to the body. They had thought to surprise us, I thought. They did not plan for us to greet them on the offensive. And yet, they were quick to gather themselves from losing their companion - turning on us with a remarkable speed. I fired again and again, taking down a second Orc and then wounding the sword-arm of the remaining rider.
My mother had slipped down through the trees while I fired. She leapt down from the rock, and that first blow felled the Orc she aimed for. I could not fire freely with Galadriel so close to my targets, and so, I settled back against the trees, hiding and awaiting my moment.
Where the Gundabad party was all shadow and black feeling, there was a nearly tangible light that clung to my mother as she stepped forward. She wore her fëa close to the surface of her skin, and that as much as her skill with the sword had those she faced step back from her.
Galadriel felled one Orc, and then another was pushed back from the center of the melee when the riderless Warg snapped at his packmate, trying to reach my mother first. I picked the stray Orc off while aiming for one of the monstrous wolves, knowing that they were the worst of our assailants. The Wargs were harder to kill than their riders, and it took two arrows shot as one to his skull to stay the beast. When the Orc who spilled from his suddenly dead mount spied me in the trees, he wasted no time in switching his sword to his uninjured arm and scrambling up the rocky slope for me.
I took my aim, and felt my stomach turn when my first arrow went astray at my surprise with being charged. The second arrow I fired the Orc batted away as if it were nothing, and I felt a very real fear fill me as he stalked closer and closer still. The string was slippery in my fingers, and I faltered, the arrow fumbling from my suddenly clumsy hands as I tried to nock it. He was too close for me to load my bow again, and so, I forced myself to calm as I instead unsheathed the sword at my side. I stood my ground, ready, when -
The Orc charging me had forgotten about my mother in his pursuit. Where Galadriel's face had been a composed mask of serenity up until that point – she dealing with her foes in the same way she would stare down a displeasing voice in the Council chambers – her expression twisted into something fierce as she flipped one dagger and then a second at the Orc who charged me. The blades found the gaps between his armor, and he faltered enough for me to run forward and kick him back down the slope.
I drew my bow again, trying to help my mother where her pausing to help me had cost her with her own foes. There was only one Orc left with the remaining Warg still circling. The Warg had seen my mother's distraction, and leapt for Galadriel, taking her from her feet, his great maw snapping uselessly as she grappled with him.
The Orc turned from me to help the beast, clearly judging me a lesser foe. He was too close to my mother for me to aim with my bow – which he knew – and I felt my own mouth bare in a fierce expression as I skidded down the slope to join the fight below. My heart was pounding, but it was no longer fear alone so much as it was anger, and the frantic urge to protect that filled me and put my body to motion.
I did not think. I unsheathed the dagger Sviur had given to me, and with an inarticulate cry I threw myself against the Orc. My knife glanced harmlessly over the back of his armor, but the force of my blow was enough to knock him over and me with him. As he scrambled for purchase – trying both at once to avoid the blade in my hands and wrap his own considerable grip about my neck, I saw where the lacings holding together his breastplate had come askew in the fall. Once again, I did not think. I flipped the knife around, and -
His eyes widened in shock as the blade sunk in deep. His irises were green around the edges, and surprisingly fey in shape where I was now close enough to see. They were Elves once, I remembered my father's tales – he old enough to remember the days before the sun and moon; when friends and family were taken in the dark and then returned, twisted and in ruin, by the pits of Angband as foes to be slain. Suddenly, the green in the eyes before me was so very much . . .
It was this that was not – could not - be taught to us. We could practice with steel in theory, but now I could feel the life force of the body beneath me fade. I could feel his spirit shake and shudder and cry out before billowing away like a tendril of smoke on the air. What once was alive was suddenly no more, and something inside of me twisted, sickened.
I heard a pained yelp behind me, and knew that Galadriel was successful with her own foe. I was grateful, for I did not know if I would have been able to aid her in that moment. I rolled away from the now dead Orc, my stomach turning violently within me. I tried to stand, but could not make it to my feet. I crawled one pace away, then two, before emptying the contents of my stomach in the grass.
Humiliated by my body's rebellion, I retched pitifully as I caught the fresh, putrid scent of the blood on my hands. I tried to call my body back underneath my control as my mother knelt down next to me, but it was no use. I felt a cool hand at my shoulder, rubbing soothing circles on my back. With her other hand, Galadriel pulled my hair back from my face while I tried to summon myself to order once more. My mouth tasted sour, and each limb was a weak, limp thing on my body as it shuddered. My eyes burned, but I stubbornly refused to cry, not wanting to seem -
“This is a natural reaction to seeing battle for the first,” Galadriel's voice was warm and soothing. "You will do yourself a harm by fighting it."
I shook my head. “I am fine.” I tried to sit up, but found my body slow to respond to my commands. My stomach was leaving me be for the moment, even though it sat like a rock underneath my skin, holding me down.
“Clearly,” Galadriel's voice was dry. “Finrod had the same reaction shortly after reaching these shores,” she revealed after a moment. “He too was a gentle soul, and his response was as yours.”
Finrod Felagund was a great hero, I tried to remind myself. He stood up to Sauron himself with words of power, and later faced his monstrous werewolves single-handedly in combat. He died so that Beren would live to fulfill his quest, and never would the stories dare to call him craven. And yet, I still . . .
“How . . . did you . . .” I tried to form my question a moment later. My voice was raw; my throat sore from my body's betrayal. Though it helped knowing of my uncle, my mother was my goal and driving force in life, and if she . . .
Galadriel blinked, and looked away at my words. I regretted my half-formed question a moment later, knowing that her first battle had not been fighting evil creatures in a tainted land, but rather, Elves fighting Elves on the shores of Valinor beyond. Even to the western shores did Morgoth's shadow taint all that should have been beauty and light when her father's kin attacked her mother's people for a way to sail to a doomed land, and she . . . I winced, hating that I had not thought my words through before speaking them.
I pulled myself together while Galadriel set her jaw in memory of the First Kinslaying. She passed me her canteen upon seeing that I had recovered enough to drink, and I took the water, gratefully to clean out my mouth. A moment later, I felt as if I could move, and so I stood. My first few steps were unsteady, but I convinced my legs to carry me back up the slope to the river, where I washed my face and hands. I cleaned Sviur's blade in the current next, careful to see that every intricate groove of the hilt was once again pristine before I returned it to its place at my side. I then took a deep breath and centering myself. Those were only scouts, and if we did not move quickly . . .
By the time I returned to my mother, she had already pulled the bodies away from the path – they would still be found, but it would not be as obvious now that there was a battle here. Our time was now numbered, I knew.
Galadriel looked back down the foothills of the valley, to where the forest of Lórinand waited for us, still some hours away. Her mouth settled in a grim line, but it was not an impossible road before us if we moved quickly enough. I too looked, and felt as the warmth of her spirit touched mine – both fortifying me and assuring me that she was harmed not in the wake of her memories. I clung to both as I took back the arrows she had gathered for me, filling my quiver once again. I settled my weapons on my back, and was ready.
“Come,” she inclined her head, and together we set off at a brisk run for the forest below.
Gripping edge-of-seatness. Celebrian's first battle - she comported herself during it bravely and competently. Love how the filial bond sustains each of them separately and together. Rhetorical question of the decade at least: Is Galadriel awesome or what?
Exciting action and insight too for her. Orcs were once Elves
Great battle scenes as the sounds of war start to rumble fiercely.
I simply cannot tell you how much I appreciated this slight detour into Moria, and I took great pleasure to swipe the cobwebs and decay of FOTR away to imagine Dwarrowdelf in all its splendour...
Speaking of which, I could not help but envision Fafnir as anything but a majesticly regal Thorin Oakenshield, and Nothri as any other than a magnificently proud Prince Under the Mountain. A fine way to tide me over until TABA, that wee part of your tale. If the inspiration strikes, may I borrow them for my 50 Sentences sets?
I also liked how you linked your story to the greater history of Middle-Earth:
- The reference to Narvi and Celebrimbor, as we mourn the loss of a great friendship.
- The call-back and call-forward of Galadriel and her strands of hair, showing that sometimes youth can have the advantage over wisdom, as it is not tied up in the same old quarrels.
- The Dwarrow curiosity for the bow, which brings Kili's interest full circle.
- The mention of Durin's Bane, which only a Maia would be able to defeat.
Last, but not least, it was great to see the fight on the edge of Lorien, and how Celebrian was able to hold her own. As the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn, her skills with blade and bow were never in doubt, though they do tend to be forgotten in the wake of the attack that almost cost her her life. I'm glad that you showcased her abilities here.
@Nyota's Heart: What I love about writing this diary is looking at Galadriel the mother - a role we really never see her in. Counselor and guide, yes, but mother - that has been a very interesting part of writing this, that's for sure. (And you will love this update then, just saying. ) In the ends, bonds of the heart - both filial and otherwise - are what makes every dark day bearably, and it is fun exploring that here. As always, thank-you for reading.
@earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you! Battles are always a trick to write, so I am glad you enjoyed this. And yep, waaaay back in the day, Morgoth created Orcs from the firstborn Elves. it was a very dark and strange time then.
@RX_Sith: Thank-you! Things sure are building to a point.
@laurethiel1138: First of all, thank-you so much for your kind words. I enjoyed exploring Moria through Celebrían's eyes here - and her tales with the dwarves are most certainly not done. We will see Nothri again coming up, and then follow on all the way to his grandson Durin III and all that entails. That said, please! If the inspiration strikes you, you are more than welcome to use my names - I would be honored. As always, thank-you so much for reading and taking the time to leave your thoughts. I always appreciate it.
Author's Notes: I only have a few short notes here. We are finally reaching Lórinand, and the forest at this time is quite different from Lothlórien as we know it - even the famed golden leaves and the great Mallorn trees did not yet exist, as those were Galadriel's doing in the Third Age. Even a lot of the names we are familiar with haven't yet come in to use - but I will add notes on that coming up, with the relevant chapters. For now, particular things to mention with this one are:
NImrodel: I am assuming that the river bore her name, even before her tragic tale with Amroth in the Third Age. I have never read an earlier name, and I would rather use a name that is familiar than making up a new one.
Amroth: Son of Amdír, who is the Sindarin ruler of Lórinand at this time. In Tolkien's earlier writings, Amroth was even written as the son of Galadriel and Celeborn, rather than Amdír, but that idea was later cast aside.
Boldog: It has been theorized that this is not only an Orc title, but a title given to evil Maiar who took on Orcish hröas (bodies) in order to serve first Morgoth and then Sauron. If Sauron had to leave someone in charge of Gundabad, I would have to imagine that it would be to someone a little bit higher than a mere Orc captain.
Snaga: Black-speech for 'Slave'.
And now, that said . . .
At long last, we crossed into the great forest of Lórinand.
About a mile into the forest, where the hills still rolled underneath their thick blanket of towering green trees, we waded across the river Nimrodel. The river was more of a broad stream, leaping and bubbling playfully down from the Misty Mountains. Here the land was still relatively steep, and there were waterfalls aplenty as the river made its way to join the Anduin in the east. Night fell quickly in the forest, and the river already reflected shadow alongside the dying sunlight. From dawn until the late noon, it was said to reflect to colors of the rainbow, constantly dancing with light and life as it flowed.
The Nimrodel was whispered to have healing properties, but I was not sure what was song and what was truth in the stories told of this land. Either way, the waters – even while cold – felt cleansing as we waded across, holding our packs above our heads so as to prevent them from getting wet. The dancing current seemed to prod me with curious fingers, seeking out my disquiet and then soothing it away with the cadence of its song. The water tinkled and bubbled and danced, and I felt refreshed once we reached the opposite bank. The river splashed merrily as we left its hold, biding a farewell, and I reflected that the songs were true about that much, at least.
Overhead, the sun was setting, painting the green canopy of the forest in vibrant shades of gold and red. The woods were dense, even though we had barely pierced the outer eaves of the forest. I touched the smooth bark of an oak as I passed, giving my greetings to the wood and allowing the forest to know me in return; just as my father had taught me to do many years ago. The younger trees were curious, seemingly tilting their heads to our arrival, while the older wood slumbered on in silence, they needing more than the passage of two elves beneath their boughs to move them from their rest. I felt my spirit stretch to match the pulse of the forest, at ease beneath the trees as I had not felt in the open places we had passed.
We stopped on the other side of the river, my mother still looked behind, ever watchful for our foes. The forest would give our pursuers pause, but depending on what lash was at their heels, the eaves of Lórinand would stop them not.
“We will not move with the dark,” Galadriel said, her mouth fixed into a thin line. Depending on the rotation of the wardens, Amdír's folk could be mere miles away or several, and we would take no chances.
She looked up to branches, and I understood her intentions. Without her saying a word, I shouldered my pack and then leapt up to grasp the first limb I could, and then swung myself up into the welcoming branches of a nearby oak. His limbs were old and broad, and they would hold us for the night.
I climbed, and stopped only when Galadriel nodded and put her own pack down, satisfied with our place in oak tree's boughs. I knelt down to peer through the leaves, glancing to see where our sight of the path below was clear, while we were still hidden from the view of any on the forest floor. It was a wise choice, I knew, and yet, I found peace slow to come upon me.
After regarding me for a moment, Galadriel sat down upon the branches, resting her back against the trunk and folding her legs gracefully over the angle made by the intersecting limbs. Still sensing my mood from earlier, she opened up one of her arms in invitation. When I sat beside her, she wrapped an arm around my shoulders, and I rested my head underneath her chin without saying a word. It was not often she held me like this, and I had not realized how much I needed the comfort until it was given.
My eyes burned, and my jaw clenched as I fought against the strange urge I had to cry. My mother ran a soothing hand through my hair, chasing tangles away as she did so. I could feel the slow and steady pulse of her heart; the even rise and fall of her lungs as she breathed. Each soothed me as I thought about earlier, and remembered . . .
“I could feel his soul as it left,” I acknowledged on a whisper. “Even though he was a creature with evil intentions, he was still alive, and due to me he now is not.”
It was relatively easy shooting at an enemy from a distance, I thought next. It was easier to see my foe fall when I was not eye to eye with them. There I could be detached, not seeing their lifeforce flicker, not feeling as their body stilled and their breath gave out . . .
I swallowed, tasting bile as it rose again.
“The guilt you feel humanizes you,” Galadriel said after a moment. “Good it is that your heart is not so callused by battle that it cannot mourn so; and yet, you will do yourself a harm if you let such thoughts cripple you. You had no choice but to do as needed, and there was no evil in your actions.”
Evil, I thought with a pang. Once, my father told me that he viewed each Orc he killed as a mercy – freeing them from the twisted parameters of their own existence, and saving countless others who would have suffered from their evil in the future. I had thought I understood his words when he spoke them, but now, thinking about the Orc's green, fey eyes, and the light within as it faded . . . I understood Celeborn's words truly now.
I knew that this was a guilt that would become easier to bear in time, but I was thankful that my mother did not say so. Instead, she was silent while the sun set overhead. The world around us was nearly shadow when she let out a breath, ready to speak again.
“You know that your birth came late into my marriage with your father, even according to the years of our kind,” Galadriel finally said. Her words were given in a low voice, rather than strongly spoken. “I know that you have also heard the whispers theorizing the whys of our making such a decision.”
I had, I thought then - especially from the Sindarin mouths who approved but little for one of their foremost princes taking a Noldor bride. It was something that went unspoken in our family, for I had never taken much stock in the whispers of others. My mother did not let the majority of her true thoughts and feelings show outside of the walls of our home, and others could think what they wished as a result.
“And yet,” Galadriel continued, “It was not that I was hesitant to share my power . . . to share my soul with the child I would birth . . .” She faltered for a moment, and I knew that while not true in whole, there may have been a flickering of accuracy in the words. There was a reason that I so resembled my father in both face and talents, the whispers were quick to say . . . for, while the fire of Artanis as my mother once was now tempered with wisdom, and her thirst for leadership was soothed with duty and self-sacrifice . . .
I pushed those thoughts away before thinking them completely, liking them but little.
A moment later, she said again, “It was not that I was loathe to give of my power to another, so much as I feared the power a child could have over me. I spent my earliest years sheltered by the grace of Valinor, and yet, even to those hallowed lands the Shadow found a way to reach. Here, in Endórë, the fight I encountered was so much more than my naïve wishes for lands beyond my own could have possibly fathomed . . . The trials we faced upon reaching Middle-earth . . . the days we endured, toiling underneath Morgoth's shadow . . . I shared so many with Mandos in those days, and the idea that I would possibly have to part with a child – one who was not only beloved by me, but of me . . . ”
She paused to take a breath and collect her words once more. Her arms tightened around me, even as my eyes burned - for even though I never doubted my mother's love for me, her feelings were never plainly spoken. Ever could I feel her love wrap around my spirit and succor my soul, and yet, Galadriel spoke frankly of her own heart but little, and I cherished each word as they were spoken.
“Your father and I waited to have a child until after Morgoth was defeated, and even then I was hesitant to bring you into the world,” Galadriel continued. “For over two hundred years you were able to know peace, and perhaps you shall for two hundred more. Yet, the truth remains that shadow has returned again to this land, and not even I can see the tolls that will be taken beyond knowing that there are costs that shall be paid.
“I never wanted you to see what you saw today, and yet, before this fight is over you will have seen worse still. It is something I can not shield you from, and something that, someday, I may fail in protecting you from. And that thought brings me true fear indeed.”
I could feel as she took in a deep breath, as if steeling herself against her foresight. While she saw many things in her visions, most were things that simply could be, and would never come to pass, while others were true futures hidden beneath the myriad of infinite possibilities. It was both a gift and a curse, her insights, and I pressed closer to her as a result, wishing that I could ease her fears with my presence alone.
She wanted to keep me from the horrors that she herself had seen, this I had long known. Even though the land would never again be swallowed by darkness as it was underneath Morgoth's rule, never again would our kind turn on each other as they had when Fëanor's sons sought their crippling Oath, the fact remained that this world was still marred by Morgoth's taint in the beginning of all things, and it would continue to remain so until the reforging of the world. Each peace would be watchful only, and ever would those living upon Arda survive each wave of darkness until the end of all things.
In the end, it would not be about avoiding dark days, per say, so much as it was how we dealt with those days . . . and helped others cope with, and triumph over, them in turn.
I exhaled, and reached out to that part of my spirit that was my mother in shape. This time, I gave of my own strength, hoping to comfort her as she so often did me. In reply, the golden light of her spirit turned with a nearly tangible radiance, brightening the night. I let the familiar warmth wash over me in turn, and felt my spirits lift.
“I am ready,” I said simply in reply, meeting my mother's eyes and meaning my every word.
“Yes . . . I do believe you are,” Galadriel said after a moment. She sighed, her breath warm as it ghosted atop my head. “Now, try to rest. I will awaken you if there is movement in the night.”
“And you will awaken me so that you too can rest,” I said, not letting her mother me completely. “Adar showed me how to keep a watch, and I can.”
Galadriel was silent for a moment. “Very well,” was all that she said, but I knew that she would do so. I could feel her pride color her warmth as she disengaged her spirit from mine, and that more than anything else had peace returning to my being.
I turned from her to find a comfortable place amongst the tree limbs, freeing her so that she could move without disturbing me if need be. This would not be my first time sleeping in the trees, and with that thought, I remembered being much younger. I remembered my father taking me alone into the woods, teaching me each name of the trees in their turn. Celeborn had whispered of the tales behind their stretch of limb and shape of leaf, and while he spoke the trees would seemingly sway before him in reply.
I placed my hand against the bark of the oak, and closed my eye as I remembered his lessons and his love. A part of me even knew a brief moment of regret knowing that I was experiencing one of the great forests of old while he was not.
I thought next of the Orcs chasing us . . . of Annatar with his beautiful eyes of flame, sharing a city wall with my father . . . a city wall that Celeborn no longer deemed safe enough to hold the rest of the family. Ever did shadow return to the land, and yet, he was where its black touch would swallow first, and swallow with a vengeance. Fear and worry were a bitter taste in my mouth, even as I tried to swallow them away.
In the end, I stopped trying. Instead, I pressed my brow to the wood beneath me, and attempted to find what sleep I could.
I do not know for how long I slept. I only knew that when I opened my eyes the overcast skies from earlier had given way to a light rain that sang as it pitter-pattered against the leaves. I could see little on the ground beneath us, and the thunder rumbling in the distance distorted my hearing. Even so, I felt a whisper of disquiet against my skin, the same as I had felt earlier. I could feel something wrong on the air, and when my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see shadows moving in the distance, splashing across the Nimrodel just beyond. The song of the river turned discordant, mourning to have such black feet piercing her waters, and at that I awakened fully, my mouth setting at the disturbance to the land.
We have been followed, my mother spoke into my mind rather than betraying our location with words spoken aloud.
How many? I asked, even as I looked for myself, counting the splashes in the stream beyond.
Two dozen that I can espy from here, Galadriel said, her voice terse. There are Warg riders at the head of every six-count of Orcs on foot. I do not know how many still follow.
I fought the urge to grimace at the numbers as they were given. We had been fortunate earlier, and now . . . I pressed my palms flat against the tree before I rose to my feet again, asking to share of its strength for the fight to come.
We stayed quiet and still as Orcs filled the forest below. They chattered in the Black Tongue, while Wargs snarled at each other as they tried to beat their packmates to picking up our trail. The rain was light, it was not nearly enough to wash the whole of our scent away – especially with the breeding that had gone into the animals below for this specific purpose. When one Warg threw back his head and howled – or hiding place discovered - my skin crawled with the sound. I nocked an arrow in readiness, my mouth setting in a grim line as I picked out the shapes coming closer.
I fired my first arrow – a warning to any who would approach the tree.
There was a pained yelp, and a scuffling in reply. And yet, any satisfaction that I felt fill me was quickly cut through by the laughter I heard below. Laughter, coming from the mouth of a large Orc astride a truly massive Warg. His armor was more ornate than the Orcs on foot, and the piercings and markings upon his face must have told of some rank of commander that I was ignorant to translate.
He held up a hand, holding back his men. “You will run out of arrows before we do, She-elf,” his voice was deep and raspy, and his Sindarin was accented to the point where it was hard to understand him – but understand him we still could.
My mother stood from the cover of the branches. There was a wispy light clinging to her, turning her as a beacon in the darkness. “Then why do you not order your troops forward?” Galadriel challenged, her voice ringing on the night air – thrumming with power. “Could it be that you know fear . . . Gorgash . . . son of Boldog?”
She tilted her head, and the Orc-captain – Gorgash, held a hand to his own head, his brow furrowing with pain in reply. “Witch,” he hissed, his voice a snarl from his mouth. “You will regret that.”
“Perhaps,” Galadriel said archly. “And yet, where is the Boldog? He would consider such a paltry task to be beneath him, and yet, he would leave your success not to chance. Have him step forward, and let me see where he has toiled for so long within such an unworthy hröa.”
“You are not worthy of looking on the Boldog,” an Orc next to Gorgash said through his teeth. “We will instead show him your head -”
Galadriel held up a hand, and the Orc speaking clawed at his throat as his voice fled him. He made a wet, gurgling sound, and stumbled forth with his inability to catch his breath.
“Silence before your elders,” Galadriel chastised, not even glancing at the Orc as he struggled. Instead she held Gorgash's eye. “It is craven on the Boldog's part to send his son to greet me. Better would it be for you and yours to leave this place, snaga, for the only shadows in this place are natural, and they will suffer your desecration not.”
I was not sure what she was seeking to accomplish by stalling – as I assumed she was – or by antagonizing him further, but as soon as Gorgash urged his mount forward with an inarticulate cry of anger, a sharp whistling sound filled the night air around us. The sounds whooshed by, nearly the same in cadence as the rain as it fell upon the leaves, until -
One Orc fell to an arrow in the night. Then another and another and another fell, until Gorgash's forces rapidly stepped back, each Orc trying to find cover underneath the trees, but finding none from the deluge of arrows seemingly coming from all sides.
“The witch! The witch!” Many of the Orcs called in frustrated rage, and yet, I looked to Galadriel to see that she had done nothing. Her eyes were filled with a dark satisfaction, and I understood then that Amdír's March-wardens were closer than first we had thought.
As soon as I thought so, there was a Silvan warcry on the air as one warrior leapt from the trees, and then another and another, greeting Gorgash's men with the sword. Not hesitating, I nocked my arrow as well, firing as rapidly as I could to help the Wardens while we still had the power of surprise on our side. I prayed to aim true, and I did, my arrows finding their targets time and time again as the black company fell underneath the might of Lórinand's guardians.
The Orcs were pushed backwards towards the river, and I left my high perch in the tree so that I could better help - my small bow not having the range to fire from such a distance. Galadriel followed me, a golden light still clinging to her skin. Even though she did not draw a sword, her eyes were closed, and I knew her touch upon the battle for the way each Elven arrow seemed to strike true . . . for the way the Orcs seemed to turn, one on the other, recoiling in confusion and chaos as if responding to a voice in their heads . . .
In theory, I knew of my mother's powers over the minds of others, but to see it now on such display before me . . . a part of me knew an awe that I knew I would never completely be rid of in her presence. And so, where she spread herself across the battle, I stood by her side and picked off each Orc who thought to turn our way, aiming again and again until I had not an arrow left, and I instead drew my sword -
- and yet, by then, the battle was over.
My heartbeat was still thundering, and hands were slick with the rain over the hilt of my weapon. Yet, there was no one else to face as those few left alive retreated back beyond the river. The Elf leading the Wardens – cloaked in grey, with his hood hiding all but for the blue of his eyes - waved a hand, and a half dozen of his men gave pursuit – where they would no doubt chase those remaining to the edge of the forest and then just beyond.
“To long has it been since Lórinand has known your touch, good lady,” the hooded Elf said, stepping forward. He reached out to touch his brow to the back of Galadriel's hand in a gesture of respect. “And yet, I regret to welcome you with bodies lining the forest floor.”
“To the contrary, it is we who regret making our entrance as such,” Galadriel returned, her voice warm and sincere as she spoke. “We are thankful for the aid your Wardens provided.”
“We heard someone speaking with the trees,” the Elf replied, his voice wry. At his side, a second of his men came, and while I could not see his eyes from beneath his hood, I knew that he looked at me. I could feel my skin prickle with awareness at his attention. “The trees warned us of foul creatures amongst their eaves, and we were quick to answer their call when summoned.”
Galadriel's glance flickered to me, and I was not the only one who felt the warmth of her pride then. “My daughter, Celebrían Celeborniel,” she introduced when the first Elf too looked to me, understanding whom the trees had heard speak. “Before you is Amroth, son of Amdír, prince of Lórinand.”
Amroth threw back his hood, revealing a handsome face, even amongst elvish standards. His jaw was square and his cheekbones were high, while his nose and mouth were the graceful and deceivingly delicate features of the Sindarin. His hair was turned a dark shade of gold from the rain, while the blue in his eyes glittered even without the light to see by. His smile was the most catching aspect of his appeal, as warm as his bow was sincere in reply to my mother's introductions.
“It is my pleasure to meet you,” Amroth said before glancing above. “And yet, the storms have only just begun, and the forests are not yet clear of their taint. The Warden's telain are close by; if it is acceptable to you,we can rest there for tonight, and then carry on to Caras Galadhon in the morn.”
As soon as the words left Amroth's mouth, the rain seemed to double in intensity, while thunder rumbled through the trees, shaking the high boughs overhead. The land sighed in reply, content as the storms refreshed the earth below, and I knew then that the rain would be long in its duration.
“I do believe,” Galadriel's voice was wry as we turned to walk deeper into the forest, “That you already bear your father's wisdom, young Amroth.”
We continued on, and the trees seemed to close in around us.
Great to see help arriving and getting shelter.