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Story [The Silmarillion] "This Taste of Shadow", Ficlets and Drabbles, updated 7/02!

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Thank you so much for the kind words!! [:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Most perfectly surmised. [face_love]

    AzureAngel2: Thank-you for saying so! I am glad that you enjoyed reading. [face_love][:D]

    Cael-Fenton: :) [:D]

    And now, for part two of this beast . . . 8-} The only translations to keep in mind are Olórin, for Gandalf, and Mairon for Sauron, once again. :)

    That said - enjoy! :) [:D]

    a veil before stars” pt. II

    CXCIX. Blink

    The months went by, and she waited for Mairon's next move seemingly in vain.

    Even with the apparent calm left in his wake, she did not relax her vigil, and many were the nights when she sat by her daughter's bedside, looking out the window in search of a shadow in the night. On one such eve, when her husband lingered late with his council, she felt a glimmer of a presence against her wards, seeking for a way within.

    Yet, there was no malice in the touch, only a soft light of certainty, of familiarity. With a flicker of recognition, Melian opened the way for the silver spirit to slip between the trees, and a soft white light soon filled her daughter's nursery – glimmering in washes of white and silver-grey over the walls. She breathed in deep with the old, familiar aura of the Maia's might, before turning to see -

    “Olórin!” she exclaimed, fondness brightening her voice. “Of all those I would have thought to find . . .”

    As a Maia of Manwë - though Olórin was notorious for serving any and all amongst the Valar with the endless search of his mind and the restless stride of his feet - he tellingly chose a raiment of the cloudy heavens. Although his robes were simple and unassuming, the handsome, square cut of his features could not be mistaken as anything less than lordly. He always managed to appear more solid than the majority of the Ainur when bearing an illusion of flesh; with his white hair falling long and straight, rather than hovering in a windless mass, and the divine glow of his eyes made tangible for the easy humor and high spirits that ever defined him. Immediately her guard fell, and she smiled, stepping forward to greet him.

    “You were not the only one with a fondness of walking these shores,” Olórin reminded her, a twinkling in his eyes that had long since endeared him to her. His skin was warm underneath her mouth when she kissed his cheek, and she felt an easy joy fill her as she remembered the long cast of time they'd spent serving in Lórien together.

    “I've never forgotten,” Melian answered simply. “There were many a time when I thought feel you nearby, especially when my dreams turned unusually fair.”

    “You flatter me,” Olórin said, but the too-innocent cast of his expression only confirmed her suspicions.

    “I would merely say that you were ever an attentive listener, and Irmo had much to speak of,” Melian teased. “But, I know that you are not here to see me – or,” she amended, “not entirely.”

    “Are my motives so transparent?” Olórin asked. Even as he spoke, he was discreetly trying gaze over her shoulder, looking for the cradle waiting behind her. She waved a hand, and the lamps softly burned into being, casting a pale glow upon the night.

    “Only to a very old friend, perhaps,” she assured him. “But it is a mother's joy to share her own, and I am eager to do so. Come.”

    Melian turned, and walked those few steps over to her daughter’s crib. She looked down to see that Lúthien was already awake, looking up at her with wide, curious eyes – she no doubt feeling her fellow Maia's spirit, and turning towards it as most were wont to do. “Nana,” she happily greeted as she put her arms up, wanting to be held, and Melian obliged her.

    Olórin watched her all the while, and was unblinking when he met Lúthien's fascinated gaze. Smiling, she held her arms to the silvery spirit, commanding “up” in an imperious voice that gave no doubt to her being the daughter of a king.

    Yet, the Maia-lord gave into the girl's request with more ease than which Melian had first held a child. He reached over to effortlessly tuck her daughter in against his body, smiling even as Lúthien immediately settled her hands into the glowing strands of his hair, intrigued by the not-quite real texture she found.

    “She is so small,” Olórin whispered, more to himself than to her. Deftly, he moved to unravel Lúthien's fingers from his hair – his glowing fingertips purposefully sparkling with white light so as to divert her attention, and Lúthien followed his trick with wide, awe-struck eyes.

    “They are even smaller when first born,” Melian delighted in someone sharing her initial wonder over the fact. “I could not believe how tiny her fingers were when first I held her, and now she grows so fast.”

    They moved to sit in the nursery's ring of cushioned chairs, and Lúthien climbed down from Olórin's lap when his show of light turned even elaborate for her amusement. Shapes and creatures came alive from his fingertips and danced around her daughter as she stood with wondrous eyes, reaching out and trying to touch that which was seemingly aglow around her. They spent some time like that, speaking of nothing but the child before them as Lúthien chased the light and enchanted them effortlessly in her turn.

    “I understand your choice, Melyanna,” Olórin said at long last. “You have gone about making quite the home for her, for yourself, as well. I am happy that you have found your path, and your place.”

    “I thank you, Olórin. Your words are cherished more than you know.” For a moment, Melian wished to ask how he was faring in finding his own way – for rare was it for a Maia to serve so many amongst the Valar, ever looking for a place and belonging - but his words brought another thought to mind . . . an unsettling question that only he could answer.

    “I had a disturbing visitor, not too long ago now,” she delicately began after some time had passed. After tiring of the show of light, Lúthien had climbed into Olórin's lap. Her eyes were now heavy with sleep as he rocked her back and forth, trailing a gentle hand through the inky fall of her hair. “He came from the north, for when Utumno was destroyed, he was not, and even now he continues his master's work.”

    “Mairon,” Olórin sighed the name after a long moment, the syllables weary from his mouth.

    “Mairon,” she confirmed. “He came to recruit me into his master's service, but such a thing is impossible - for Melkor is safely where he can harm no other, locked far away from any and for all . . . is he not?”

    Yet . . . Olórin was silent, slow to give her the assurance she sought. There was a burden in his eyes, a weight hanging on the absence of his words until they were as shackles, and she knew . . .

    “Olórin? Please, my friend, tell me these words are not true,” she entreated him. Yet, with a sinking feeling, she thought to know what he would say.

    “For some time now, Melkor has been free from his confinement. He now walks Valinor as one lesser than any other, sharing his crafts and wisdom in recompense for the great ills done to all.”

    “He walks free? He shares?” this she repeated incredulously. “What is Manwë thinking - not only with destroying his shackles, but also welcoming his words as if he is one fair and trustworthy of intention?”

    “There is no malice in our lord's heart, so much so that he does not think to expect it in others,” this Olórin said with a sigh. “And he is, first and foremost in his mind, a brother to the Black One, cut from the same cloth of our Father's spirit in the beginning of all things. Manwë loves, and for that love he hopes to see his faith returned.”

    But it could not be true . . . it could not. Melian looked down at her daughter's heavy eyes, seeing the contented expression on her face and knowing with a feeling of cold certainty that not eternally would such a peace be her own. She blinked, and could feel the far off strains of night; she could hear the howling of wolves, hunting and hungry; while, above all, she could see the light of a star seemingly caught within a jeweled casing as a desperate hand <I>snatched</I>, and -

    - but the vision faded away, as intangible as mist, and Melian was left with wisps of fading images, with only an impression of far off, distant feelings.

    “Then, when Melkor returns to these shores . . .” she processed her thoughts numbly, slowly. “When his feet once more touch the ground of Ennor. . .”

    “Which shall not happen,” Olórin insisted, his voice surprisingly fierce in the hushed lull of the night.

    “Can you guarantee that?” she countered him. “You yourself said that Manwë is blind to his brother's true nature, and if Melkor returns . . .” She let out a breath, and knew with certainty: “The Valar will not march to contain his evil. They will stand still, leaving Middle-earth as a toy to sate his fickle moods and black whims, all the while allowing my people to bear up underneath that burden. My daughter . . . her children . . . her children's children . . .”

    Melian could not breathe with the future playing out before her mind's eye, her form of bones suddenly constricting as her spirit swelled with a great and potent rage - seeing only swords held and crowns cast aside, seeing only the forests burning as the sea rose to take it all, and -

    “ - no . . . no,” she hissed against the images swallowing her mind. “No.”

    Lúthien turned in Olórin's arms, feeling the rise of her might – of her rage – and Melian bit back her anger before she disturbed her daughter from her sleep. She felt as if she'd swallowed a star for the way it burned through her pores and licked at the underside of her skin. She clenched her fingers, and made fists of her hands.

    “Mairon was right, if only in this regard,” she gave a dry laugh, devoid of humor. “We are forgotten here; we are forsaken. If the One looks upon us, it is as a blinking. Our fight will be our own in the days to come.”

    “And those words are the taint of this land speaking, not Melyanna as I knew her,” a note of crossness entered Olórin's voice as he countered her fears and pains. “You have dwelt in Ennor for too long if you can no longer feel Ulmo in these waters, or know Yavanna's presence in these trees. Manwë scarce turns his eyes away from across the Sea, and Varda remembers those whom her stars shine for. Nienna weeps for every sorrow, even as Irmo and Estë heal all pains through dreams and slumber. All the while Námo provides peace for each one who falls in death, and he knows of their pains and loves better than any other.

    “Yet, even so,” Olórin gentled his voice, his hold on her daughter seemingly shielding her from some imagined harm – from some far off, inevitable day. “We are all bound by the will of the One, and what may seem cruel and slow to our eyes is not so to his. Despair and doubt are the finest tools of the Enemy. Thus so, our own thoughts and hearts are the first battlefields to conquer before we can even think to confront a foe beyond that. Only,” she felt the same light he'd entertained Lúthien with rise to touch her spirit, bolstering her in the way a tree would find succor from the spring rains, “there are times when we must all be reminded of this, and allow our strength to be bolstered by others in our turn.”

    Even so, she was slow to smile in reply to his words, and when she did, the corners of her expression were sad. For while he spoke the truth, true were her visions as well. True was the return of the Shadow, as was the certainty of the dawn lighting the arrival of a fight unlike any they had yet to face. And while fight they would . . . Melian looked down at her daughter, and knew that there would be casualties. Her heart ached with the knowledge that what she had struggled to claim and birth, she could lose with but a blinking of the eye. The bitter with the sweet, she had been so quick to proclaim, and yet . . . She breathed in deep, and let her breath out slow, physically calming herself as much as she took strength from the touch of Olórin's spirit.

    “When did you become so wise?” she at last asked when she could find her voice, forcing a weak smile to the thin line of her mouth.

    “I make a habit of keeping exceptionally fine company,” Olórin's expression was as gentle as his voice; for he understood all that she did not say, knowing of the days to come as well as she.

    “And exceedingly humble, too,” she intoned wryly.

    “I would merely say that I am mindful of my place, and quite comfortable there,” Olórin countered, looking down at the child he still held.

    Melian too looked at her daughter, finding her strength slowly returning to her. A moment passed, heavy with the shadow of the future, before he gave his last words. “Only, I would have you remember this, Melyanna: you are not so far away as you may think, nor as forgotten as you may sometimes feel.”

    They said no more than that, merely sitting in companionable silence as her daughter continued to sleep, and dream.



    CC. Flesh

    Another season passed, and in the last days of summer Mairon's gift at long last arrived.

    That was . . . if a gift if it could possibly be called.

    How such a being was able to walk through her wards, she did not know – but she had an idea, remembering how Mairon had first touched the spells protecting her people, contemplating the threads of Song that made up her shields with the same uncanny mind that had long since made him a master of craft. It was an evening of merriment and feast, with her people gathered in the Great Hall, and few watching the outer ways. Harps sang and flutes trilled, prompting dozens of couples to take to dancing after the courses had been served and cleared away.

    Melian was not dancing in favor with sitting with her husband's family, and she first knew of the creature's arrival only though the discordant note of the harp as the minstrel's faltered, as the dancing couples gasped, and the flurry of activity stilled for all eyes to turn to the entrance of the hall. And while there were whispers and exclamations of shock, Melian did not have to wonder, she did not have to question . . . she simply looked, and with a sinking feeling in her spirit, she understood.

    The ambassador for Mairon's words was a sickening creature to look upon; with grey skin peeling away from too many gashes and contusions to number, and twisted, broken limbs working awkwardly as it dragged its body from one painful step into the next. It did not seem to have any rational thought, with its snarled, incoherent syllables of some black speech . . . a speech disgustingly similar to that which the Valar used, she at last translated with no small amount of revilement, understanding with slow, horrible comprehension that which she saw before her.

    This being was of the glamhoth . . . an Orc . . . one of the forebearers of the hosts of Screaming Ones they would know and battle in the later days. And what a twisted example it was, with little proclaiming it as one of the Firstborn but for the fey tips of its ears and that something buried deep within its blank, unseeing eyes.

    Beleg and Mablung stepped forward with hands held on the hilts of their swords, wary of letting the creature any closer to the royal family. Yet, the twisted form showed no signs of aggression, nor did it exhibit any inclination towards violence. Instead it seemed lost . . . disoriented, as if it were searching, trying to find . . .

    In the end, it was Elmo who stood – Elmo who pushed the march-wardens aside with a disbelieving look to his suddenly wide eyes. A wave of denial rose from his spirit, followed by such a crippling rise of anger and pain – so much so that Melian at once understood who this being was . . . who this being had been.

    “Move,” Elmo all but snarled when Beleg was slow to release his grip on his sword. “Move, she poses no harm. Not to you, not to me.”

    Melian glanced to see the hard, grim line of her husband's mouth, her worst suspicions confirmed with but a glance.

    Thingol stood, and waved a hand. “Stand aside,” he commanded his guard before turning to Elmo's grandsons. “Take my daughter, if you would. She needs see naught of this.”

    Lúthien, who was just now old enough to understand the sudden rise of hurt and pain in the hall, looked up with wide, tearful eyes. Just as her lower lip started to quiver, Celeborn leaned down to scoop her up, cooing into the child's ear and promising that he would convince Thranduil to braid flowers into her hair. At the Celeborn's side, Thranduil looked on the grandmother they had never known as if he dearly wished to stay, but the youth smiled in a forced way at the princess when Celeborn elbowed him, promising to see her any wish through to fulfillment as best he could.

    Once her daughter was safely away, Melian looked to see where Elmo was trying to approach the creature – his wife, she understood - her mind slow to understand and accept that one of the Firstborn could be so twisted, so altered from the role they had first been created to fill. She stood, unsure of what to do, but knowing that something ought to be done. While the Orc made no violent movements, she was snarling in her indefinable tongue; anxious in her skin, and clearly ill at ease with the idea of Elmo coming any closer.

    Even still, he held his hands out, keeping his palms up and his stance free of threat. His voice was soothing, as if he spoke to some wild animal, wounded and trapped – and all the more dangerous for being so. His words were soft and his eyes were full, so much so that Melian found it hard to breathe around the suddenly crushing weight filling her, understanding Mairon's words then as she had not before.

    Improving upon his siblings' creation, Mairon had said. An outlet for his frenzies . . .

    This was, Melian thought with a consuming, righteous anger filling her, capitol amongst Melkor's offenses - for him to pollute what had first been lovely, to profane that which had once been good and fair and living. She could not think around the proof of his deeds standing before her, seeing only the poor, twisted creature, and Elmo's despairing, loving eyes . . . feeling as if she had somehow failed him – failed them all – by taking her own joy while such an evil was allowed to flourish and thrive upon the world she had once given her voice to create.

    All the while, the Orc was having nothing of Elmo's gentle coaxing. She bared her teeth as she took a restless stance, her twisted limbs flexing in agitation. There was no recognition in her eyes, no understanding in her words. Instead her hands tightened, making fists as Elmo came closer, and closer . . .

    When Elmo's gentle patience proved to be for not, and the Orc at last lunged, Melian held up a hand and pushed on the turbulent spirit before her, coaxing her to stillness, to sleep. When she fell mid-lunge, Elmo only had to step forward to catch her, disregarding the twisted shape she bore in order to gently cradle her and settle her on the floor with the utmost gentleness. Wondrously, horribly, he touched her face, tracing his hands over her scarred cheekbones, over the missing bridge of her nose, and the high, sloping shape of her forehead. He looked, not at her ruined cage of flesh, but rather for that which was hidden beneath the ruined hröa, lingering far beneath the putrid skin and the twisted bones . . . searching for that smallest spark of light, of life. It glimmered as an ember, where once it had shone as eternal as star-flame, but a light still it was.

    Melian looked, and knew that Elmo could feel what she felt. He clung to that spark, that memory, and refused to let it go.

    “This is her,” he looked to her, to Thingol, and the rest of his family beyond. “This is my Celebressil. I would know her anywhere. No matter that . . .” his voice failed him, and a low noise of grief and disbelief slipped from his mouth, horrified and pained.

    His sons slowly ebbed forward, their faces more open in displaying their horror than their father's. Even so, Galadhon knelt to place a heavy hand on Elmo's shoulder, trying to be a support and a strength as his face twisted with disbelief and pained recognition. Oropher simply stood over the broken form at his feet and stared, his eyes terribly blank and unseeing until Galadhon hoarsely hissed his name, breaking him from the haze that had taken him.

    Oropher too knelt, but his hand on his father's opposite shoulder was listless, and his eyes were as unseeing as Elmo's.

    Melian distantly heard Thingol send for the healers – their healers, who unfortunately knew too much of these wounds and their black deformation – but his doing so was a useless gesture, this even she knew. Her untrained eyes could see that which was in ruin, could feel what was already too lost to ever be found again. But they could not keep her here on the cold ground, and if an end was to come, its last words would not be written here.

    “Help me carry her,” Elmo found his voice, seeing through his grief to acknowledge his sons on either side of him. Galadhon blinked before moving to help his father, while Oropher was a moment later in answering.

    And helplessly, Melian watched, seeing where Elmo clung to her as if she were the very thing holding him afloat in stormy waters . . . where Galadhon touched her as if she were an injured child, too weak to withstand too strong a grasp . . . where Oropher's cold indifference hid what she could feel building as a maelstrom in his veins, reaching out to bite at the very air around him.

    Without thinking, she stepped towards the grieving family and added her support – holding her hands underneath the thin, knobby shoulder and feeling where the skin shifted at her touch, loosely hanging on to the form of ruined muscle beneath it. Her stomach twisted, leaving her seemingly weightless in her body as she realized the enormity of the harm done . . . for not only was there the ruin of her hröa, but a discord woven into the very Song of her spirit. It was a disharmony Melian could not keep from hearing, a dichotomy that struck her as well as any tangible blow against her body.

    . . . it was a song she could not forget, and did not ever . . . not even unto the End of Days.

    “I will help you,” she whispered. The words were so terribly not enough . . . but they were words she could not keep from uttering. And then, slowly, they carried the poor, broken creature away.



    CCI. Body

    The healers gathered in droves around Celebressil, but she could see it in their eyes and hands, she could feel it in the low, thick cloud that seemed to engulf the chamber: there was little they could do to fix that which had been so badly mutilated.

    Even so, they practiced their arts, they sung; even giving of their own fëar to aid the broken Song of Celebressil's spirit. She could see it in the eyes of all, that they practiced their arts while knowing of its futility – yet, all they had to do was take one look at Elmo's determined, unblinking expression to want to hope, and believe.

    All the while, Melian stood at her husband's side, wishing that there was something – anything – more she could do. Power burned at her fingertips, but it was a useless might, an impotent strength. She could do nothing, nothing, to fix what had been so altered. And now . . .

    “We have succeeded in healing lesser evils than this,” Thingol whispered. “In the earliest of days, at least, before the Dark One better knew his arts. Yet, even then, those we'd healed tended to keep the North inside of them, breaking with seemingly little provocation – screaming in that horrible tongue, and blind to all that was fair around them. Now . . .” his words faltered. He had to try twice to speak them. “It was rare and rarer still, even before I met you, that our loved ones were ever returned to us. Mostly, we knew what to expect . . . and measures were taken with those we found, both in battle and outside. It was a cruelty, but a mercy, as well – and better one taken instead of putting those untouched at risk.”

    Melian understood his words and their meaning, but a part of her still rebelled against his saying so. Celebressil was still alive before them, alive, and she could not imagine . . .

    “Her body may yet live,” Thingol spoke gently, hearing her thoughts as his own, feeling her wounds as his own pains, “but Celebressil has been gone for a long time now. There is naught left of her.”

    Even so, Melian could feel the part of her that had buried itself deep in her consciousness. That spark, that founding glow of their Father's light, was hidden deep within her . . . like a seed sleeping through wintertime. Even so, that ember was a cracked thing, a tired spark. Its glow faltered; it waned.

    A mercy, he'd said. Yet . . .

    The healers worked long into the unwaking hours, only announcing their efforts as futile with the dawn. Respectfully, they bowed before leaving the room to let the family say their farewells in private. Melian watched where Galadhon knelt by his mother's bedside and whispered into her ear. His words had no outward effect, but they nonetheless had that small spark warming – turning as if towards a great light. Oropher said nothing aloud, but she could feel where he found that small spark, just as she did, holding it tightly within his spirit's sight before slowly, softly, letting it go.

    When Oropher turned to leave, Galadhon was slow to follow him. And yet, at long last, he too turned, and left his parents alone.

    Melian was not sure how long she stood in the shadows with her husband, but long was it until the twisted form on the bed blinked . . . blinked, and opened its mouth in a low, soundless expression of pain and rage.

    Immediately, a sense of black discord filled the room as the Orc fought against the holds Melian's power had placed over her. A grimace contorted the wounds defining her face, and her eyes rolled unseeingly, staring as if far away – perhaps even now hearing the voice of the fiend who had sent her. Melian could feel his power crawling about her bones and rising up to choke the air in the poor creature's lungs. It was consuming, as toxic and permeating as miasma, and there was naught she could do to help her breathe around it.

    She looked, and understood with a sinking feeling that she was not the only one who could feel Mairon's taint. Elmo inhaled a long and shaky breath, still unwilling to leave his wife's side, even as her fingers turned as claws against her sheets and her body turned taut with an anxious, restless energy.

    Melian pressed upon her spirit once more, and pushed her into sleep . . . but it was a slumber she could not permanently inflict. She could even now feel where the little that was left of Celebressil in the Orc's soul turned towards the purity of her power – desperate and so, so tired. Even as the thought crossed her mind, she could feel Námo lingering in the shadows, his presence waiting in the corners of the room . . . She could feel the tug of the Lord of Souls, uttering his siren's song even as he reached out to place a heavy hand on Elmo's spirit in both empathy and assurance.

    For a moment, she could not breathe in reply to his unspoken command, knowing then what she had to do, and yet rebelling violently against it.

    “She is trapped in this body, and I do not have the strength within me to let her free,” Elmo at last muttered. All the while, he looked down on her ruined hröa as if she were still something beautiful to behold, with one hand holding her bony fingers in his own while he soothed another through the tangled and remnants of her hair.

    “This is nothing . . . nothing we can heal, I know,” he continued to mutter. He swallowed, and his hold over her hands turned white; bloodless and clinging. “I have to believe that she would not harm me, nor anyone here . . . And yet . . . I do not think that she recognizes me, even now. I know what should be done . . . what must be done. And yet . . .”

    Melian bowed her head against the weight of her good-brother's grief, even as Thingol came over to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. She could feel a glimmer of Námo's thoughts touch her own, urging her on. The Judge was merciful, he was not without pity, she knew. Someday, in time . . .

    “This burden is one that will not fall to you,” she at last said. She could still feel the waning, struggling soul in the destroyed body before her. She wrapped her presence over that ember, and knew that she could ever so gently overwhelm it . . . and with but a whisper send her home.

    “Say your farewells,” Melian at last forced her voice to form her words, more difficult to say than any she had yet to speak, “and I will let her go.”



    CCII. Lungs

    For months after Celebressil's death, Elmo was unmovable from his place.

    He did little more than was necessary to keep his body going; eating when he needed to eat, and sleeping when he needed rest. For the most part, he spent his days in quiet contemplation, his eyes unseeing and his ears unhearing to anything and everything around him. Where once Eglador had seemed a happy, joyous realm to her – and all the more so for Elmo's gentle humor and good cheer – it was now a quiet, solemn place as the prince mourned, and their people grieved with him.

    For the most part, his sons seemed to deal with their grief for their mother by coaxing their father from his apathy as best they could, saying:

    “Lúthien is dancing for you, Adar,” Oropher would force a note of brightness to his voice, one which did not quite reach his eyes. “She picked flowers from the clearing, can you not see?”

    “We've had visitors from the mountains again,” Galadhon tried where his brother failed. “Have you ever seen anything as curious as the Dwarves to your eyes?”

    Even so, Elmo would not move from his place in the trees, seemingly staring at nothing in the silver boughs before placing a finger against his mouth and bidding his sons, “I am speaking to your mother, can you not see?”

    Melian became used to the look of helpless grief that his sons wore whenever they received such an answer – a look her husband shared, though he held his features more schooled that Elmo's sons. His grief instead showing itself as a simmering anger, pooling as a helpless, incompetent rage to do something, anything - and oftentimes his talks with their new found neighbors in the mountains turned to the forging of arms and armor, so much so that at times she feared for the shape of the future and the days it would bring. This was but a beginning, she knew, and if Melkor did indeed return to continue his work . . .

    Yet, that was a thought she swallowed away when it was her turn to sit with Elmo. Mostly they stayed in companionable silence, but when they did speak he would ask her of Námo, of Estë and Irmo and the other such healers of spirit. Over and over again she shared her memories of Lórien, of the peace and beauty that was the Gardens of Sanctuary in the West – where his wife would be succored, where she would heal, and perhaps even someday live again when the time for her was right.

    “And yet . . . what if she has yet to leave?” Elmo at last whispered. “I can feel her at times, not as a memory, but as a presence. This land . . .” he looked to her, and his eyes sharpened with clarity, with purpose, alerting her to the disquieting knowledge that it was not just his grief speaking, but the truth. “She loved this land; she loved these stars and trees and streams. She ever had little wish to cross the Sea, even before I realized my own desire to remain eternally bound to this land. Why would she go West, even for Lord Námo's call, when everything she knew and loved is here?”

    For a moment, Melian pondered his words. She let herself wonder. “I do not know,” she at last answered. “It is possible, in theory, for a fëa to linger and ignore Námo's summons. And yet . . .” she faltered, unsure.

    In truth, there had been so few deaths in their still-new world that she did not know how to answer the questions posed to her. She'd prayed to Námo, asking of the fate of Celebressil's spirit - of the fate of all those who'd been mutilated at Melkor's hand - but the Lord of Souls had only assured her that she was at peace, and healing. He was not blind to her, Námo had said in his voice of heartbeats and storm winds, and only now was Melian beginning to understand the full scope of his meaning.

    “Do you think it unnatural of her?” Elmo asked. His gaze sharpened upon hers to the point where she felt as if she held the eyes of one of the Valar themselves, so great was the light burning within.

    “I think that I can understand the hold of this land,” Melian replied, rather than answering him outright. “I can understand never wishing to leave that which I love and hold dear.”

    “And this place in particular she held dear,” Elmo tried to explain that for which there was no words. “I asked for her hand in this clearing, when we first stopped here on the Great Journey, and days later I wed her underneath the eyes of the One. In this same clearing I felt Oropher move for the first time in her womb, and here Galadhon took his first steps. It was here that I knew the happiest moments of my life, and it was here she found her love for this land. She has yet to leave, and sometimes . . .

    “It frightens me, for there are days when I close my eyes, and feel as if I am slipping away to join her. I am so tired, so often, it seems. If I let myself rest, I know that I may not awaken again. It is an urge I battle, and yet . . .”

    Elmo inclined his head, leaning into the touch of the breeze as if it were a true caress upon his skin. When Melian blinked, she thought that she could feel for but a moment: a whisper on the wind, a faint touch of a hand upon her cheek, showing itself as a more tangible warmth than the last days of autumn. It was subtle, but it was real enough to be believed.

    He touched his hand to the bark of the tree, and his skin seemed translucent in that moment, the bones within as pale as the center of the stars above. He sucked in a deep breath, as if forcing his lungs to fill, all but commanding his heart to draw its next flow of blood. He willed himself to stay, and after the passing of a mere moment, the presence on the air faded away. Yet, still it remained . . . it lingered . . . patient and beckoning.

    And Melian said no more where words could not be spoken. Instead, she simply took her good-brother's hand in her own, silent and thoughtful as she pondered the will of her Father, and the unforeseen effects of the world they created together.



    CCIII. Speech

    When her daughter was still a child, but old enough to understand the notes of the Song and feel them in her bones, Melian sat her before her Mirror.

    “I already know how to sing,” Lúthien smiled to say. She was a truly happy child; joyous in all her ways, and ever bringing joy to others. “Daeron tells me that I have a lovely voice, that is why he likes to write so many songs for me.”

    “And yet, this is no mere song I would show you,” Melian said, reaching out so that her fingertips hovered over the still waters in the basin. “This is something different . . . something more.”

    She had ever sang to her daughter the Songs of old; highlighting the words of power and repeating the melodies of life so they would ever resound in her child's heart. Now, all she had to do was sing once more; slowly, allowing Lúthien to see the strains of the ultimate Music around her. For now, she would teach her daughter to recognize the Songs, but she had great faith that someday Lúthien would be able to recreate them anew – for aptly was she named, and great was the mantle of more and other that had settled upon her child of heaven and earth.

    “What are you showing this to me?” Lúthien asked, solemn as she breathed in with the last strains of her song, the power of the melody linger as the notes themselves faded away.

    “It is your heritage, your responsibility to bear,” she answered simply. “Should you someday need them, I would not have them far beyond your reach, but rather at your fingertips, ready for the use.”

    Melian swallowed against her own whispers of foreboding, her own flickerings of doubt and unease for the days to come - an unease she not only knew for awaiting Mairon's next move, nor for what she had witnessed with Elmo and his wife - but rather for the mar upon Arda itself. It was for this that she taught her daughter, cultivating her strength – her power - so that she could in turn protect those she held dear when the days to come turned dark. This was the greatest gift she had within her to give, and so, give it she would.

    Lúthien was quiet for a long moment in reply, but she was the one to next turn to the Mirror and sing. Quietly, Melian listened, and let her daughter's voice wash over her as a cool and cleansing thing.

    The next day, Lúthien sat still at Elmo's side, and took her uncle's hands within her own.

    “Would it please your lady if I sang?” she bid of him, looking into his eyes with the utmost seriousness.

    Elmo did not say yes or no as to her request, hardly even blinking as the child sat by his side and started to sing with her clear, bright voice. Melian listened as she wove together notes of healing and comfort, spinning them alongside strains of remembrance and hope, unconsciously, perhaps, plucking out the melodies of memory that filled Elmo's clearing to create her song. Many stopped to listen to Lúthien sing, soft expressions upon their faces, while amongst the trees, a spectral presence lingered, and Melian felt as she listened.

    For the first time in the seasons since his wife's death, the Unbegotton-lord smiled, and looked away from the trees . . . at least, for a little while.



    CCIV. Song

    Elmo lasted to the next spring before fading away to join his wife's spirit.

    It was a passing that truly surprised none, though grief still laid upon their family as a shroud as Eglador filled with lamentation. Songs rose from hundreds of mouths as all those beneath the trees mourned one they had long followed with missing and bittersweet farewell.

    “I can still hear him,” Thingol whispered when she found him sitting where Elmo had long attended his vigil underneath the trees. “He remains here; his spirit has not yet crossed the Sea.”

    Melian came to sit next to him, feeling the cool grass underneath her dress and the bark of the tree against her back as she leaned her head against her husband's shoulder. The clearing was quiet, with only the far off echoes of the lament sang for Elmo reaching them. Even so, there was a familiar whisper amongst the boughs above their heads . . . a familiar presence waiting on the air, poignant on the breeze . . . there was a veil before the far off glow of the stars, hiding the light of the heavens away.

    Thingol was silent for a long moment, and she focused instead on the long draw of his breath, on the slow beat of his heart, rather than the ghostly reminders of those departed . . . the ghostly proof of that which even now remained. She wound her hand through his own, and felt where he squeezed her fingers in return, taking the strength she offered him.

    And, at long last, he spoke: “In the West, when we first visited as ambassadors for our people, we asked what became of those fallen – especially for those who had lost their loved ones in the dark pits of the North. We were answered with assurances that they would come when Námo called, and there in his Halls find healing and an eventual rebirth. Yet, nothing was ever said . . .”

    He swallowed, and had to try again to find his words. “Nothing was ever said about those who refused his call . . . about those who remain.”

    Melian was silent for a long moment in reply. “I once had this same conversation with Elmo,” she said, her voice gentle as she reached over to hold his spirit with her own. As natural as a breath, she felt his presence wind through hers until she could not tell his thoughts from her own, her pains and questions and love from his. “Since then, Námo has revealed none of his mysteries to me. He has only said that they are at peace, and through that peace they find healing.”

    “But shall they heal here?” Thingol asked, his voice full with his grief – with his missing. “How will they find their way if they never leave these trees, if they never . . .” He had to swallow, his words still too great upon his heart for him to speak.

    “In some ways, is this not the same as you having not of the inclination to dwell in the West? Is this not the same as your people's desire to dwell beneath these trees?” Melian answered his fears the best way she knew how. “Who is to say that this too is not through design of the One? Who is to say that they do not find peace and healing here? And, in time . . .”

    She breathed in deep, and looked up at the swaying silver canopy above them, still lost deep within Yavanna's slumber, awaiting for a light even greater than that of the stars. “In time, all souls will find their way home. For now; home is here, and here they shall remain. It is not to us to judge, and find their path wanting. Not in this.”

    Thingol loosed a deep breath, and she turned so that she rested her head on his chest, his arm coming to drape over her shoulders in an easy weaving of bodies. He was silent as he considered her words, and for a long moment they lingered, quiet in the clearing. Until: “Can you hear that?” he whispered at last.

    “The lamentation?” she asked.

    They add their voices to the song,” Thingol gave on a low voice. “I can hear them, and in that song . . .”

    Melian closed her eyes, and heard amongst the mourning and the grief a whispered strain of peace . . . notes of longing and contentment and the slow crescendo that came with reunion. She turned towards the song, feeling its tendrils seemingly reach out to wrap tightly about her soul. In reply, she further tucked herself into her husband's embrace, and listened to them sing.



    CCV. Fist

    That night, there was a visitor amongst the outermost eaves of Neldoreth.

    His was a presence she had been expecting; one she waited for, even, and this time she did not have to come as one summoned. Instead, she stepped out from behind the trees with a strong side as he materialized into being, feeling as a sharp and warring creature in reply to the slight he had inflicted on she and hers. In reply, his posture was lazy with a coiled ease as he turned towards her; his smile was a slow, dangerous slant upon his face, as if he were a cat chasing mice in the kitchens.

    “What did you think of my gift?” Mairon asked, steepling his hands together so that they touched the tip of his chin. His eyes burned as he spoke. “She was a thing of beauty, was she not?”

    “I grieved to see how one of the Children was twisted, and the pain that brought to others in turn,” Melian replied, tilting up her chin and forcing the strain of rancor from her voice. “I do not understand your motives for showing me so, if you truly wish to win my compliance.”

    “Do you not?” Mairon raised a copper brow. “Did I not show that nothing is untouchable in this land? We are all naught but my Master's to do with as he pleases; yet he does know how to reward his faithful followers. Perhaps he would return more of your people as a gesture of good faith, if you would but turn the might of you and yours to his disposal, swearing fealty to he who is the true One.”

    “You cannot return that which was never yours to begin with,” Melian disagreed. “Can you not feel it, Mairon? The Song fairly screams in discord for that which your lord has created, and I would not give my voice to any verses of his.”

    “And yet, it is that very discord that birthed this world. Everything the Song has created is by right and power my Master's.” Mairon returned harshly. “Do you not understand? He could crush them all; turn them to dust and houseless spirits that will not sing as prettily as your lost good-brother upon the wind. We are all but tools to his hand, and it is to him to see where best we are used.”

    “And yet, Melkor too was made to create as our Father bid him create. He is not the One, no matter his great strength. He too was created; he is not the Creator.” This she clung to as an absolute; the only unquestionable truth. “No matter his might, he is still only second, and I will serve nothing less than that which is first.”

    Her words rang in the clearing with an awful finality, the trees seemingly holding the syllables of sound before releasing them to the night. Melian stood still, watching as Mairon turned from his place with a liquid sort of grace. He circled her as a wolf would a wounded animal, allowing her to feel the way his fair intentions turned, the way his silence lined with a dangerously calm consideration.

    “Your decision wounds me, Melyanna,” Mairon intoned in a voice full of anything but. “Our of all of our siblings, you alone have shone some uniqueness of spirit - and I admired you for that. Yet, perhaps I misjudged you.”

    The fair facade he presented then cracked, the warm shade of his skin darkening to swallow the handsome planes of his face, leaving only the terrible flames of his gaze recognizable as his spirit contorted before her eyes. His bared his teeth, his fingers taking on the shape of claws as a wave of molten might rushed towards her. Though she could not truly be destroyed, her hröa could certainly be felled – especially as physically as she had created her body to birth her daughter. She could not even retreat as a spirit and suffer the wound of his power as the seashore bearing up against the might of the ocean. Instead, she had to -

    Not thinking, she held up a hand, and thought still and calm. She exerted her own will, and watched with a sort of horrified fascination as the great cast of his power washed harmlessly over the small sphere she had unconsciously erected. The molten colours of gold and scarlet hit her barrier, turning to the darkest of purples before dissolving harmlessly in the night air.

    Not to be deterred, Mairon released another wave of power; she could feel his strength as it built, rather than depleted, and still she held up her hands and thought no and cease. She closed her eyes, feeling as one with the deep roots and the sleeping ground, feeling as the stars danced behind her eyes while the babble of the river seemingly flowed through her veins in place of blood. There was the Song in them all, and through the force of her will she became that Song, refusing to let his discord harm her.

    And, calmly, she held up her hands. She opened her eyes, and let all that had been building behind her protection free. A blinding wave of pure energy, colourless but for the white glow of light rushed towards him, and she saw nothing but the flame of his gaze as he blinked -

    - and disappeared.

    She could still feel a whisper of his rage and promise in the clearing, for his retreat was but a momentary thing, and ever would his eye be upon her people and their doings. She looked, distraught to see the blackened remnants of the trees and the burned scar his power inflicted upon the ground. The silver grasses were no more, and the once blooming flowers were now crippled, charred things upon the land.

    And yet . . . Melian looked down at where her sphere of protection stood, seeing only a circle of healthy, thriving grass, untouched from the full brunt of Mairon's soul of heat and forge-fire.

    For a long time she stared, and barely . . . just barely, an idea began to take root within her mind.



    CCVI. Bones

    Their quarters in Belegost were grand by Dwarven standards – worthy of the far off West, even, for which their host, King Ginnar, beamed to hear. He took her compliment with pride, eager as he was for her to relate tales of Aulë's own mansions in Valinor beyond. She enjoyed telling all she could, for she had a devoted and adoring listener in the ears of the Dwarf-king - just as she had a curious audience in her own Sindarin followers, who were ever as children before a bard to hear her stories of Valinor beyond.

    Yet, even more of a delight for Melian was this visit being the first her daughter traveled to the mountain halls. Great was Lúthien's curiosity for anything and everything around her, just as was the Dwarves' amazement for her in turn. Her clear voice echoed off the stone ways as she explored the seemingly endless halls, and though she was not yet a woman grown, many were those who stopped and looked to stare in awe at her fairness.

    “If I could cast a ware to match the beauty of her voice,” the Dwarf-king smiled to say, “then unequal would be any piece yet cast in the forges of this world – and hard pressed would be any work of two hands to follow.”

    “You honor us merely by wishing to try,” Thingol said to Ginnar, and the Lord of the Broadbeams was then quick to go on about the jewels and ores at his disposal – for which her husband listened intently, having ever been interested in the craft of steel since its properties for defense had first been learned. For their latest visit, Ginnar had the Dwarves' invention of chain-mail to boast of, and Thingol was already bartering the best price to see his march-wardens properly outfitted in the days to come.

    Melian listened to them speak with half an ear as her eyes traced over the beauty of the underground halls. The stone of the mountain was nigh unbreachable, and the sheltered ways were all but untouchable to any who were not welcome by the King Under the Mountain. Thoughtfully, her eyes were drawn to the grace and awe-inspiring forms the Dwarves were able to coax from the seemingly unyielding stone. As they passed a bridge over a great courtyard of sparkling fountains, she looked down below to see where Lúthien was pulling Celeborn and Thranduil on to more quickly follow their Dwarven guides, the quick turn of her voice echoing as she asked the names and stories behind of every wonder they passed.

    The ideas her mind had been swimming with as of late suddenly settled upon her with a great and coaxing pressure. She felt words gather in the back of her mouth, the same as they had when her Father had moved her to sing with the celestial choir of her siblings. Then, she could hold them back no more.

    “The forests of Eglador grow over a great network of stone caverns,” she found her words developing of their own accord, a great weight to their speaking. “You have had chance to see them, have you not, Good-king?”

    “The stone is near as to what makes our own Gabilgathol,” Ginnar said after a moment's thoughtful consideration. “A good blue stock it is; elegant and strong.”

    He looked at her curiously, a look which her husband shared, though he quickly gleaned enough from her mind to stop and blink at her in surprise, seeing both the fervency of her determination and the rightness with which she believed this course to hold.

    “Is there a reason that my lady Maia asks?” Ginnar bid of her, his eyes sharp and canny as he spoke.

    “I have an idea,” she slowly replied. “A great idea . . . and yet, it is one that the Elves cannot accomplish alone. It would need the might of the Dwarves, and if it is accomplished, it shall go down in song as one of the greatest works of two hands since the Song of Creation itself.”

    Ginnar's eyes glittered with a greedy light – not for the idea of payment, which a Dwarf was always eager to see, but rather, for the thrill and enticement of creation, cast as they truly were in the likeness of Aulë their father.

    “You have the ears of this Dwarf,” he was eager to say, but once again his eyes were bright and discerning. “And yet, I see where you have given an early voice to a thought that has long weighed upon your mind. Discuss it amongst yourselves, and when you decide upon your course, show it to me as well.”

    Ginnar looked to Thingol, and after inclining his head, he respectfully took his leave – falling back to speak with Oropher and Galadhon, and thus giving her a moment to speak with her husband in private.

    Yet, little more needed to be said as she felt her husband's mind sift through her own, quickly spying out both her reasons and her wants more quickly and thoroughly than any spoken words could ever do.

    “How long has this been weighing upon you?” he asked.

    “Since Elmo's death,” she answered truthfully. “And perhaps even before that. It was then but the bare bones of an idea, but after seeing the ways of Belegost, after encountering . . . ” she had not the words for Mairon's visit, for Mairon's words of warning, and she felt as Thingol's own spirit turned molten with a hot rage at the shape of her shared memories. His hands made fists, and even those behind him looked to see what had caused their King such an anger – their faces only softening when they assured themselves that it was not their Queen, but rather, a force beyond the mountain that moved him.

    “It is true, then,” he said in a voice as hard as the stone ways they passed through. “The Shadow stands poised to return, and when it does . . .”

    “It will be to us to protect our people, to protect this land,” Melian confirmed aloud the horrible truth that had long been growing within her. “Those of Ennor have long paid the price for loving this land, and this time, I fear that toll will grow only higher. And yet . . .”

    She let him see the last moments of her battle against the Dark Maia – how she had stood there, untouched by his rage; how the ground beneath her feet had been unburnt, no matter Mairon's might or strength of power. The grass had thrived, the flowers continued to bloom, and if she could . . .

    “An entire realm,” Thingol finished for her. “Protected and untouchable.”

    “And free from the Shadow and its taint,” her voice was a bright, breathless rush for the idea. "A kingdom where our people may live sheltered, and our children's children remain safe from the dark of the North. A part of me believes that this may even be the ultimate will of the One in allowing me my happiness with you. If we can but fight back a fraction of that shadow, and help those others toiling in this land . . .”

    Her eyes flickered to the Dwarven realm around them, and she set her jaw. She found her purpose, and made it a strength deep within her. “Prepare our allies; ready our people, and we shall force the Shadow to fight for every parcel of land it seeks to darken,” she said, her voice low and fierce with her belief. Below, her daughter laughed, and the magic of the mountain-kingdom seemed to shimmer in reply. She closed her eyes against the sound, feeling her determination anchor within her as if she were the great mother tree of the forest, her roots reaching out to succor each of the mighty shapes around her in turn.

    Thingol stopped in the path, and reached over to tilt up her chin. The Tree-light within his eyes was very bright in that moment, feeding off and in turn brightening her own. He leaned down to touch his forehead to hers, and when she inhaled, she shared his breath.

    “My queen,” he said on an exhale, his awe and admiration a near touchable thing.

    “My own,” she replied, and found that her everything resided in her words, making them full to the speaking.

    Everything, she thought . . . everything she had left behind – everything that others would say she sacrificed for the surety of her husband at her side, for the unparalleled joy of being able to hear her daughter laugh in unsullied joy - was then inconsequential. The trust of her people was as a strength at her back, further fortifying her, and even the great halls of the Dwarves hinted at what else may be theirs to protect and draw near once the days drew on. She was but a small part in a vast plot, but even one thread in a great tapestry – a celestial and eternal work that only her Father could see - was a weighty role, and she was more than ready to do her utmost to play her part.

    “My lord Ginnar,” Thingol turned to say. “My lady has had a vision that we wish to share with you. And, with your hands alongside our own, we would wish your aid in seeing that vision come true.”

    And so, she shared with the Dwarf-king her fears and hopes, setting in place the bones of what would come to be a great building – an answer to the dark forces who would see the light of their land extinguished - their land, her home, which she had grown to hold so very dear.

    I will no longer look on our creation and find it wanting, she thought. For this is what we have strove for, and I will see it protected and preserved. No longer would she let the shadow be as a veil before the light of the stars.

    So, they spoke, and slowly, they began to build.

    ~MJ @};-
  2. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    WOW weaving history in beautiful words setting up for the dark to come
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Too many grand and transcendent feels with this one. First, Olorin! His wisdom, humility, humor, and gentleness. His clarity on the love and consideration the Valar hold for those of Middle-Earth. :)
    [face_love] [face_love]

    Yikes, the tragedy of Celebressil and Elmo :( ... only to be contrasted with the sweet beauty of Luthien's joy & song, Melian's unswerving integrity, and the great building project: the safe haven for succor and strength. =D=

    Simply, simply amazing. @};-
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  4. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    Your writing is way better than Tolkien´s. You get the emotional depths of the characters way better. They are like real persons with feelings. No stereo types in an epos. @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow, wow. Nicole's estimation echoes something I've been teetering on the brink of realizing LOL but didn't want to admit out loud, just in case ... but now I'm glad I'm nnot the only one who thinks so. :D ^:)^
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    earlybird-obi-wan: That's Melian for you. [face_love] As always, I thank you so much for reading!

    AzureAngel2: Oh, wow. I thank you so much for the kind words, for there truly can be no compliment greater than that! [face_blush] [:D]

    Nyota's Heart: And I thank-you for compounding that statement. You truly do me a great honor! [face_blush] I am just grateful to have such amazing characters to play with in the first place. [face_love][:D]

    Well, it seems that I am always playing catch-up for the NSWFF prompts. 8-}:p I was going to write for the three I still have to go all at once - since all of my ideas have a similar, underlying theme of hurt/comfort and hope for the future - but this one got longer (shocking, no? ;)), and I didn't want to throw another 10k + mess of words at you, so on its own this one stays. :p

    So, for the Bottled Up prompt, we find ourselves at the dawn of the First Age, with a Maedhros who is quite at a crossroads in his recovery from Angband . . .

    Enjoy. :)

    “sleep I cannot find, nor light”


    It was the black hour just before dawn, but he had yet to know of sleep the whole night through.

    It was simply, really: sleep bore dreams, and dreams held memories; both the good and the ill. Maedhros did not have the strength for the ill, nor did he have the heart to bear the good; so, most nights he spent with his eyes open, staring at the canvas walls of his tent. He let the dull tones sooth his eyes while he listened in silence to the soft rumble of the lake and the whispered movement of his uncle's encampment just beyond.

    Yet, there were some nights when he did not need sleep to call the memories forward. Sometimes his waking mind plagued him as much as his slumbering one, dragging and pulling him from one dark precipice in his mind to the next. Such was not uncommon, he was assured, for Angband was more than any mere fortress, and the torments he'd suffered within those black halls were more than those simply inflicted upon flesh and bone. Morgoth's seat was miasma to the breath and a taint within the ground itself; one could not simply walk through it without being unscathed, and to have suffered and endured for so long . . .

    There were time when he saw wonderment and awe in the eyes of his Sindarin healers . . . and sometimes, a very real disquiet followed that wonder, that amazed disbelief. For who was he to survive where so many had fallen before him? Who was he for Morgoth to delight in while leaving his hröa and fëa relatively intact – his mind unbroken, and his body free of Orc-ish confines? Some feared that he was nothing more than a cleverly planted tool, ready to turn on them as a blade in the night – and, such fears were not completely unfounded, based on other tales he had heard of those who survived Angband equally so 'unmarred'. It was a thought that he himself wondered for at times, feeling as if he carried the north as a stone in the pit of his gut, and wondering what that taint would do through his hands.

    On the worse nights, a voice within him – a voice that sounded painfully like his father's - muttered that such was not Morgoth's taint, but his own actions, his own vows and deeds, and those were the nights he did not sleep for fear of dreaming.

    Other times, Maedhros did not quite know how to say that he knew his rescue to be another torment on Morgoth's part. The Vala had tired of his torment, and he was delighted for the idea of one of Fëanor's fire trying to pull himself together again – only for the chains of his Oath to finish his fine work more cruelly than he could have ever scripted his end. Maedhros could still remember the thunder and black weight that was Morgoth's voice, sounding into his heart, rather than his ears, and the belief and knowing of his prediction had been as painful as any physical wound. Morgoth would simply watch, and wait. Eventually, no matter the years it took, great would his vengeance be . . . and he'd have to do naught but lift a finger to make it so. The glow of the Silmarils had been close then, so close as the Vala leaned down to share his breath with his saying so. The holy light of the gems had stung his eyes, but he'd not the strength to move, to strike, no matter the chains of his Oath insisting that he act, that he take. His pain in both body and spirit had been acute in that moment, and Morgoth had only laughed in reply.

    While Morgoth's foresight was a fate that Maedhros balked against, there were times when he closed his eyes, and it was not his memories waiting for him, but the inky bonds of his Oath . . . whispering . . . demanding . . . On those nights, his nightmares were not of Angband, but of before – of a seashore stained red, and the glow of flames setting the horizon alight when all else was darkness around them. On those days, he would awaken, choking on the remembered taste of ash and iron. He would clench his one fist, and feel as if he held the slick hilt of his sword, and the memories would be there . . . right there, waiting. He could not cast them aside, and in that there was a torture all its own.

    Sometimes, he could hear the way his brothers spoke in low, fierce whispers with Fingon – and he knew the even more terrible silence they held for Fingolfin as a knife-blow, few as those times were when his uncle sought him out. Relations between their families were still as a spark, waiting to take flame – with fallen souls the sundered bonds of kith and kin lying torn between them. He had thoughts . . . ideas of how to mend that breach, but first, he had to focus on his own traitorous mind, on his own unwieldy limbs. Only then could he be of use to his family; only then could he call himself fit to lead or give counsel in any way.

    And it was that, in part, that had him rising when there would of, perhaps, been more sense in his staying abed. Over a year had passed since Fingon had spirited him away from Thangorodrim, and only the last month or so had him attempting to stand and walk again. In the beginning, he had mostly slept as his body furiously tried to mend and his mind turned to darkness in order to shield the fragile state of his psyche with the peace of black oblivion. Afterward, it was simply that his body could not support his weight or movement of any kind. Bones had been misaligned; muscles had been left to wilt and heal over their pains in unnatural and twisted shapes; tendons had been cut and ligaments turned unwieldy to the point where the healers had looked and marveled over the idea that he had not yet given up the will to live. Through their whispers, he knew that they doubted whether or not he would ever know even half of his former strength – his former dexterity and function - again. Yet . . .

    Maedhros did not have a mind for the body or its mending, he only knew that there was still a great and terrible flame at the core of him – his father's fire, many would say – and he was not yet ready to relinquish his recovery as another victory of Morgoth. Some days . . . when the memories grew to overwhelm him, and his mind balked before reliving those harrowing years . . . he knew despair, but it was not yet enough to cripple him. It was not yet enough to define him.

    Even so, Fëanor's fire or not, he needed the assistance of a page to dress to go beyond his tent. It was an ignoble process, but one he was growing used to – and he recovered enough sense of self by allaying the anxious elf's fears that yes, I am well enough to walk unattended, and no, you need not summon a healer, nor my brother. It was a minor victory, but a victory nonetheless when he put up the hood to his cloak, and walked with a slow, unhurried stride through his uncle's camp.

    This was the first time he had walked on his own, unaided and unaccompanied, since returning from Thangorodrim. He had walked on either his brother's or his cousin's arm for the most part, and used crutches for long after that when he was able to – cleverly designed by Curufin so that he needed not of a hand to use the right-most one. The crutches had been gone for nearly a fortnight, and he now had a staff he used to aid his weak legs in supporting his paltry weight. It felt odd and ungainly, using his left hand about the staff, rather than his right - but it was better than walking arm and arm with another being whenever he was able to convince his keepers that he was well enough for movement.

    And so, he pushed on, albeit slowly.

    The sun had barely begun to crest the mountains, and mist danced in billowing and spectral curtains amongst the neat and tidy rows of tents. Beyond the camp, he could see the ghosty shell of where a more permanent settlement was being built, with strong Noldor lines and elegantly twining spires that would be one of their first claims upon the lands of Middle-earth. For a moment, Maedhros stared, and then continued onwards.

    Beyond Fingolfin's camp, Lake Mithrim was a dark violet underneath the overcast sunrise. The mists were thicker here, making the path over the rocky shore treacherous. Slowly, and carefully, he made it to where the great slabs of slate and granite gave way to a pebbled beech. He moved to stand toe to toe with the surf, looking down at the still water as he took a moment to catch his breath. The morning air was sweet in his mouth, and he swallowed against his memories of ash and smoke. His mind was uneasy with the fog, even though he was far from the miasma of Thangorodrim. No matter how he shaped his thoughts, his body was slow to believe what his mind told him, and his hand about his staff trembled for more than simple fatigue.

    He bit back a curse as he rested more weight on his staff, looking down to find his reflection in the glass of the water . . . his reflection, which he had not seen since that long-ago day when he'd readied to meet Morgoth for his travesty of a parlay. There had been no mirrors in Angband, and neither was there a looking glass in his tent. One had not been provided, and he had not yet the heart to request one.

    Slowly, he knelt down, filled with a morbid curiosity for the stranger he now saw staring back at him. His cheekbones were gaunt, and the bones of his body sharp and jutting to form harsh angles. He was painfully thin to look upon, wasted away to the barest shell of a form, and upon that shell . . . a gross reminder of Morgoth's cruelties remained in a telling map of silver and red; some wounds still healing, and some marked as scars, forever there to say. He blinked back against his memories, able to recall each and every brand or burn or blade that had touched him, even as he forced himself not to linger in his mind - not now. Wincing, he saw where the copper curtain of his hair fell to just barely brush his chin – for, so matted and tangled had it been that there was no hope for saving it. It had not been the first time a blade had touched his hair, for Morgoth himself had shorn the red mass the first time, in those early days, when he had still burned with defiance and hate. Yet, what he had then thought to be humiliating had proved to be but a drop in an ocean when the full brunt of Morgoth's hospitality was shown . . .

    Yet . . . the worst alteration done to his body was his darkened eyes. That dimming was not Morgoth's fine work, but rather his own Oath and foolish vow of tongue marring the nearly silver glow of his gaze. It was that, more so than anything else that had rage and despair filling him, and he slashed a hand through the shallow water, destroying the illusion with a satisfyingly savage gesture.

    The water felt good against his clammy skin, cool to the point of being cold, but refreshing – cleansing, even. He blinked as the lake soothed itself over, and as his reflection returned to stare at him, he made his decision.

    It was relatively simple to shrug aside his cloak, and though his tunic was more of a challenge, he nonetheless braved on through the task. He unlaced his boots and rolled up the hem of his pants, not trusting himself to be able to don them again if he managed to get them off. The water of the lake was shallow here, and he waded out into the clear, still depths until he was waist-deep. Coldness bit at his skin and snapped at his bones, but he paid the discomfort no heed in favor of reveling in the embrace of the water – the soothing pull of the faint current, tugging at his limbs as his feet sank into the sand and pebbles.

    When the water was deep enough, he cast aside caution and submerged himself, allowing the lake to swallow him like a womb. He was able to float well enough without using too much of his body's strength, but he could already feel where muscles long unused protested their treatment. Determinedly, he ignored his own pains, lingering until his fingertips pruned and his body filled with a chill that could no longer be borne. Yet, the discomfort meant little in the face of the few moments of weightless peace he'd been able to steal - buoyed by the softness of the morn and held by the crystal depths of the water . . . It was worth it, and though he struggled for his breath due to exertion, he at last felt as if he could breathe.

    His muscles were pained to the point of screaming by the time he pulled himself back to the shore, but he did not care. He had wished to swim, and he had swum. It did not matter that his lungs burned, that his maligned limbs were sore to the point of danger. He felt triumph fill him as he sat on the rocky shore with a dark satisfaction, glaring to the north as if by doing so he had turned a dagger on the Shadow itself.

    . . . while, even so, another part of him despaired over even the simplest of motions suddenly being a mountain of movement, a nearly insurmountable hurdle. It was a long road before him, a seemingly unending one, and he was already weary . . . so very weary.

    Time, the Sindarin healers liked to mutter in their kind voices, with their kind eyes alight. Time was all he needed, for body and mind and soul. Time, Fingon whispered with so much belief, so much faith that it was a blow of its own . . . Time, Maglor would echo with such a hope to his voice - as if there was absolution for his own soul in his recovery. For it was more for his brother and his cousin that Maedhros struggled to pull the sundered pieces of himself back together once more. It was not quite for his own sake he did so.

    Time, Maedhros despaired, when each second on the path ahead seemed to draw out and gouge its remorseless hands into his skin. Eternity, he could not yet fathom the idea when mere moments were burdens of their own to bear.

    Frustrated, he sucked in a deep breath, still unable to properly fill his lungs for the way they heaved. He had soaked the bandages over the stub of his wrist, and they now sagged and fell loose, revealing more of the ruined skin than he cared to see. It was a part of himself he tried to ignore as best he could, as if by ignoring it he could make it as if it had never been.

    Like Carnistir with vegetables on his plate as a child, he thought with an amusement that was dark and bitter. He felt a painful tightening about his abdomen that may have been an attempt at laughter, but he could not be certain.

    When his exhausted muscles at last ceased their trembling, he moved to shrug on his tunic with a painfully slow, halting range of motion. He had to carefully move around the newly healed muscles of his upper back, chest, and right shoulder – which had molted together and deformed as the result of hanging for so long. He was just now free to breathe without that damnable brace the healers had inflicted upon him, and he did not care to return to it due to one ill-thought outing. In the end, it was more determination that he clothe himself, more so than any strength of his body, that had him triumphant in his task – at least, as triumphant as he could be with his arms quivering and his lungs heaving as they draw in each breath.

    In the back of his mind, he could hear Morgoth laugh. He could hear the silky purr of his Lieutenant, prodding the broken lines marring his body and praising the beauty that his mother had named him for. Maitimo, the Dark Maia had sung where once Nerdanel had whispered in love – so much so that he swallowed back bile at the memory, the same as he determinedly pulled down his sleeve over his wrist, as if doing so was to stand tall against them, spoiling their fine work and proving it all for naught.

    He was able to struggle into his boots with one hand, but he looked at the laces next, feeling completely stumped as he regarded them. He could, he reasoned, walk back to his uncle's camp with them unlaced. But, he did not want to bear with the looks, the stares that would be both hard and pitying by turns, depending on whose eyes he met.

    . . . no, Maedhros at last decided. He would conquer this.

    He sat there for longer than he would later admit to, the once dexterous cast of his mind bent on the simple schematics of forcing the laces to bend to his will. So engrossed in his task, he did not at first notice the soft step approaching him – not until the figure was already standing right before him, peering down at his labours with a curious eye.

    “There is a trick to tying laces with one hand,” a voice spoke, warm and pleasant to the ear. “If you wish it of me, I would share my wisdom.”

    Maedhros blinked in surprise, and looked up, peering to see a woman standing in the mist – a tall woman, with a head of dark blonde curls, near to the shade of honey, and eyes the tellingly clear grey of Finwë's house. He frowned at the familiarity of her features, swearing that he knew her dimpled smile . . . the line of her nose . . . the sharp arch of her brow . . .

    “Itarillë?” he asked, somewhat stupidly. “Little Itarillë?”

    The girl's – woman's – soft smile in reply answered his question more so than anything else. By the Valar, but the colt-ish girl-child he'd known from his grandfather’s halls was no more. She had grown since he'd seen her last, grown in body as surely as the Darkening and the Helcaraxë had seen to the death of innocence about her mind.

    “It is I,” she answered, coming closer. “Though I have taken to Idril now,” she switched from Quenyan to Sindarin easily enough, before switching back to the former for his sake. While he was picking up the tongue of the Grey-folk quickly enough, he was still more comfortable with the language of his birth - especially when his mind was left reeling in such a way before him.

    “Idril,” Maedhros tried the name on his tongue. “Idril.”

    “Mm,” she agreed in the back of her throat. “As you are Maedhros now?” she inquired. After a moment, she inclined her head. “It is a fitting name, in more ways than one.”

    More fitting than Maitimo, he thought, but did not say. Nonetheless, the thought was loud between them, no matter its lack of speaking.

    And yet, she moved on from the subject gracefully, elegantly folding her body to sit down next to him on the rocks. “I believe that I offered to show you how to manage your laces one handed,” she reminded him. “I would do so now, if you would allow me.”

    She was looking at him – at his eyes – he thought with no small amount of discomfort, not understanding how she could do so so easily. She did not stare at the scars lining his face, or gawk at his shadowed gaze and missing right hand. She looked at him as if he were still whole and hale before her, untouched in body and mind, and he did not quite know how to take in her accepting, easy demeanor – as if this were merely another day in Aman, and he was simply family to be sitting with and speaking to so easily. He did not know how to reply to it. His tongue was suddenly thick and ungainly in his mouth, as leaden as a millstone.

    “Your father,” he had to swallow over the words, ill as they were to speak. “ . . . he would not wish you here.” The truth was a pain of its own, remembering Turgon trailing behind Fingon as a child, awe in his eyes as he so easily loved what his brother loved. Now, to remember the disgust in his eyes on Alqualondë's shores, and the barely veiled hatred in his eyes now . . .

    His hate stems from his sorrow, and yet, would you be any different in his stead? . . . would you bear it half so gracefully, even? The truth of his thoughts was a burden of its own, and Maedhros swallowed against them.

    “Here with you, or here on the lakeshore?” Idril asked cheekily. Her eyes twinkled, and her voice was so much like Elenwë's warm, Vanyarin lilt that he had to fight the urge to close his eyes against it. Elenwë, who had been such a quiet strength and balm of wisdom upon the wounds of Finwë's house – so much so that even his father had praised her for the blessing she was . . . before the Silmarils, that was . . . before his madness and the final, downward spiral of his mind. In the end, Fëanor had seen nothing and no one, and no wisdom could touch the decisions of his heart – neither that of his wife or children, nor even the grace of the Valar above.

    “You know what it is I say,” he replied in a hard voice, but Idril was maddeningly unabashed at his words.

    “Yes, I do,” she responded simply. “But I would not leave you to trip all the way back to Grandfather's camp. The rocks along the shore can be perilous, and my uncle would be cross indeed if a bad fall ruined your healers' fine work.”

    A long moment passed. He stared at her as if trying to weigh her meaning, her sincerity. Had the pains of the father also been the pains of the daughter, he would not have faulted her. Rather, he would understand. But she instead sat before him, patient and waiting, and he did not know how to reply to her.

    “For Fingon, then,” at long last, Maedhros forced the words from his mouth.

    “For Fingon,” Idril agreed easily. She leaned over, and he submitted to the indignity of being aided with something as simple as tying shoelaces - as if he were the child, when last he had seen Idril, she was barely taller than his waist. Yet, he swallowed, and pushed the thought away.

    With a deft hand, she showed him how to balance the laces between finger and thumb, while using the wrist of her opposite hand to hold them still and complete the loop – even saying that he could use his teeth to pull them tight when need be. He paid attention with the same focus as he once would know as a child at his father's side, determined to duplicate the skill as easily as she.

    Until, he could not help but ask: “How is it that you came by this talent?”

    She was silent for a long moment; a silence that he recognized from himself when he did not wish to give voice to a thought weighing upon his mind. Quickly, he regretted his asking.

    “I fell on the Helcaraxë,” she nonetheless answered, clearly choosing her words carefully. “There was a shelf of ice with unsure footing, and I slipped when the whole side gave way. I gashed my arm from here, to here,” she gestured from her elbow to shoulder, where he could even now see a faint, silvery mark reaching out to touch the skin of her collarbone. “The fall knocked my shoulder from its place, and I had not the use of a few broken fingers for a month or so. I did not wish to be a burden on others, who had their own burdens to bear, this being not long after my mother . . . after the Ice took her,” she had to try twice to find her words, and when she finished there was a false sort of cheer to her voice. “And so, I taught myself how to do this.”

    He was silent in reply to her words, having nothing he could say that would heal the wound upon her spirit. Rather, he then felt his own guilt as a crushing weight, thinking only that if he had been that much stronger . . . if he had been that much less a coward, that much more noble of heart . . . if he had, perhaps then none of this would have happened. Many good people may not have lost their lives, while he . . .

    Could Angband too have been avoided, if he had forsworn his father the way he perhaps should have? Could doing so have erased his own scars? The scars Fingon bore? The scars his brother carried from the burden of their grandfather's crown and from the guilt inspired by their Oath? He did not know, and that question was one that haunted him more so than any other.

    “It made my father smile when my knots were crooked and ungainly,” she continued, her voice soft with a true emotion. “I would have done anything to make him smile when all was cold and never-ending around us.”

    His next breath was drawn deep from his lungs. Words loitered on the tip of his tongue, but he could not give them a voice. Gracefully, she did not allow him the chance to do so, instead inclining her head and bidding him: “Now, you try,” in a voice that was as soft as the veiled dawn above them.

    He'd already known the fingers of his remaining hand to be stiff and ungainly – and they were no different for this task. His left hand was not his dominant hand, and the muscles and tendons of that arm were still not as strong as they should be after years of malnourishment and inactivity. He struggled where Idril had made such deft work look easy, and at last he sighed, flinging the laces away with an overwhelmed breath.

    Idril watched him, not interfering until he at last gave in defeat.

    “Here,” she tried once more, leaning over to help him, and then -

    - she did nothing more than place a hand upon his shoulder for balance, but he sucked in a deep breath as if struck when she pressed the barest amount of her weight down (remembering a guantleted hand exactly where hers was, pushing, forcing him to bow, to kneel; laughing as chains were pulled tight, before - )

    Out of reflex, his body expected pain, and he drew into himself in answer, making the smallest target possible. He made a low sound in the back of his throat, animal-like and pained, before shoving her back with a motion that even Angband had taken from him at the end. But he would no longer accept it, and so meekly endure -

    - yet, as soon as that flame rose within him, unbanked and fierce, it cooled upon realizing that he was now far from the North, and the girl he'd harmed had wanted nothing more than to help him.

    He sucked in a hiss of breath, and clenched his eyes shut, trying to tell here from there, separating the now from then as the healers had been working with him to do. Yet, doing so was a long battle, and by the time he called himself back to order, Idril had already recovered from where she fell backwards from his blow. She was looking upon him with such concern in her eyes – her eyes so much like Turgon's eyes, like Fingon's eyes, that the resemblance then hurt.

    “You should leave,” Maedhros ground out in a low voice, still pressing the heel of his remaining palm to his brow. “I fear that I am not fit for company . . . and I . . . I apologize, I did not mean to hurt you.”

    “The fault was not yours,” she said, her voice still and level – for which he was grateful. He did not think that he would be able to handle pity in her voice, as if she were trying to sooth a lame animal. “I did not think before acting, and for that I apologize.”

    He drew in a deep breath, and looked at her through lowered lids. “There is no right way of behaving around me, I fear,” he said, hating the bitterness in his voice as he spoke. “And I . . .” the throbbing in his head seemed to pick up in intensity, and he could not find his words.

    “You are not the only one who cannot sleep for fear of dreams, of memories; for why else did I find you walking this shore so early?” she whispered. “Nor are you the first to react as such to a hand extended in friendship; we had many such cases on the Ice. So quickly do you expect to cast yourself in your former mold that you fail to see just how far you have come. Instead, you see only how far you think you must go.”

    In her words there was another blow. He winced, wishing that she could see that he could not handle her kindness. He could not bear it; a weight as it was to match both his memories of Angband and the failings of his body. He needed her to leave, and let him be, more so than he had yet wanted anything since Fingon had rescued him from Thangorodrim.

    Yet, even as his thoughts rose to overwhelm him – to smother him - a warm, blue light then reached out to seemingly hold him steady. It filled his spirit, sinking into the shatter-lines marring his fëa in the same way the Sindarin healers had to repair that which had been gouged in and damaged about his soul. It took him a moment to realize that that light was Idril's spirit, reaching out for his own, and it took him an even longer moment to remember years ago – a lifetime ago, now – when Fingon had first mentioned the possibility of his niece bearing the Healer's gift. It was a gift little needed, and little used, in the glory of golden Aman, but the fact remained that Elenwë had looked with the eyes of the Vanyar and saw the light of Estë about her daughter. It was a light that Maedhros leaned into now, letting it fill him as something living, warming the cold places of his soul as no fire could; filling in his shadowed spirit with light, brightening the blight and soothing that which was scabbed and raw to the touch.

    “Where does your kindness stem from?” he finally forced the words out. “My family . . . what we did . . . Your mother . . .” his voice was a choked hiccup of sound. He could not complete his thought, he could not yet give it a voice, even to the softness of the morning and the gentle light in Idril's eyes.

    He was leaning, swaying unsteadily, even while seated, and Idril placed an easy hand on his back. She coaxed him to lean against her shoulder when his own body failed him, refusing to stay upright.

    “Eternity is a long time to serve such a sentence for a crime; especially a crime that you know regret for, and repent so dearly from. And you, more so than most, have paid the price for those long ago days,” the girl touched his arm, his shoulders, taking liberties that he could not yet allow his own brothers, or even Fingon, as she traced the lines of old hurts with gentle hands. Her fingers were soft as she ran them through the shorn ends of his hair. “It is not mine to give for the whole, neither am I wholly in the right to deserve such apologies. But, I forgive you, Maitimo Nelyafinwë. I forgive you, just as my mother would have forgiven you; and just as my grandfather's people shall forgive once they too heal as you try to heal. Do not lose hope, for in despair is a true victory for the Shadow, and you are stronger than it by far.”

    It took him a long moment to realize that he was crying into her shoulder, wetting the dark green of her cloak as he did so. He tried to pull back, but found himself weak in that moment, unable to move, and unwilling to do so, at that. Her words were the barest balm upon a great wound, and he could not yet count himself worthy of them. He could not yet accept them. And yet, someday . . .

    He took in a deep breath as he thought about eternity and time, and this time, when he stared down that road, he forced himself not to see the long shape of that path . . . but its end.

    He exhaled, and felt then as if he could breathe.

    When his shuddering subsided and his mind at last calmed, he felt as her spirit drew back again. She smiled, and held the dawn in her eyes as she looked on him in approval.

    “Now, let's get you back before it is realized that you are gone,” after his laces were at last tied, Idril helped him to his feet, and it did not feel as an ignominy to accept her aid in walking. Instead it was as a shared strength between them, keeping him upright. “My uncle is quite the mother hen, you know, and he shall be worried by now.”

    Maedhros simply made a noise of agreement in the back of his throat, and let her help him on.

  7. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    And not all is lost. Touching update
    AzureAngel2 and Nyota's Heart like this.
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    An indisputable fact on both counts. Idril is a gem, a wise and compassionate soul! The emotions were eloquent and poignant. Bravo, bravo! @};- =D=
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  9. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    What torments! What struggles! And yet, in the end, there is light again! @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  10. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    earlybird-obi-wan: Precisely. [face_love]

    Nyota's Heart: Thank-you so much! This world needs more souls like Idril, that's all I have to say. [face_love]

    AzureAngel2: Perfectly surmised! I am thrilled to hear that it struck as such. [face_love]

    As always, I thank you so much for taking the time to read, and leave your thoughts. [:D]

    I know, this is a quick update for me! But, this ficlet was written at the same time as the last update - originally, I was going to post them together, but that idea was scratched when the first ficlet turned too long to double up. Not to be deterred, I still cleaned up this one, and here it now is to share.

    Enjoy! :)

    "but for pale persistence"


    Centuries had passed, yet there were still nights when he woke up gasping.

    It was a routine he now knew well: inhaling, slowly and deeply, until his breath calmed; clearing his mind as if stretching a muscle, one by one replacing memories of smoke and blood with the gentle roll of the ocean and the soft hum of the night around him. When Maedhros at last opened his eyes, it was to see the moon staring down at him through the open roof above him. The stars were out in full that night, their light made all the brighter for the fire on the flagstones having faded to mere embers hours ago. Somewhere in the rafters of the ruined keep they camped in, an owl cried, and he felt the sound echo in his chest.

    Slowly, he exhaled, and found that he was still cradling the stub of his wrist in his opposite hand, even after the dream - the memory - had passed. The phantom aches where once a palm and fingers had been were intense that night, such as he had not endured in years. He frowned, wishing to unfurl and close fingers that were no longer there as his mind and body fed each other contradictory signals, struggling to work together once more.

    Maedhros laid back down, ignoring his discomfort, and simply closed his eyes to his memories. He no longer refused sleep for the sake of dreams, even when most nights only rewarded him with a dull haze of relief from the weight of his waking hours. Yet, there was naught to be done for that burden, and so, he took what rest he could.

    He was not sure how long his eyes were closed before he heard a soft step scrape against the stone. Out of reflex, he reached for the dagger hidden underneath his pillow. Yet, that was a reflex that had slowed since their taking children into their care – children who woke up for black dreams and other such ills in the night, even though they were now old enough that those incidents were few and far between.

    Sure enough, he opened his eyes to see one of the twins already sitting beside him, his back to the last embers of the fire. He at first thought to see Elros, but saw his mistake and amended his thoughts. Elrond was much the same as he in the night - sleeping shallowly in reply to the visions running unchecked in the dark (a thought he pushed away, for the Sight grew as the child grew, and there were none amongst their ranks who could guide him in the mental arts). In stark contrast, Elros slept as if he had not a care in the world; deeply and with the bright dreams of youth, so much so that Maedhros envied him.

    “You may go back to sleep, child,” he did not bother asking why Elrond was afoot in that hour. There were nights when his abilities were as a wound rubbed raw, and any sort of psychic distress from those in their following would disturb him from his sleep. This was not the first time Maedhros had unwittingly summoned him. “I shall bother you no more this night.”

    Rather than obeying him outright, Elrond was silent for a long moment. Maedhros could feel the weight of his gaze as the youth regarded him. “Was it Thangorodrim again?” he asked.

    Maedhros inhaled, and let his breath out slow. “It makes no difference,” he answered. His voice was cold, welcoming no further conversation on the matter.

    Yet, Elros was not the only stubborn soul betwixt the pair, and he could feel as Elrond's gaze narrowed thoughtfully. Pointedly, Maedhros closed his own eyes - hoping that the other would take the hint and leave him be.

    Yet, such wishing was for naught.

    “I can feel it too,” Elrond spoke slowly, as if choosing his words carefully. Maedhros cracked one eye open, and saw where Elrond was holding his right hand in his left, unconsciously soothing the unmarred flesh about his wrist. “Its absence pains you this night, and I . . . I think that I may be able to help.” He felt a flash of determination from the youth – for he gleaned from others as much as he unconsciously shared with other minds in return. It was something he long worked to contain, and controlled as best he could.

    “You cannot regrow limbs,” Maedhros frowned. “Even if you could, Healers more versed in their arts than you have aided me over the centuries. It has all been for naught.”

    “Yes, it is said to be an impossibility,” Elrond agreed, a note of stubbornness nonetheless entering his voice. “Yet, I have been working with Maglor. He has shared the few Songs of healing he can, and I think that I have figured out a way to - ”

    “ - Elrond,” Maedhros softened his voice, even as he interrupted him. He could not quite hide the affection he felt for the child in that moment, no matter how stolen such a thing was - a thief's treasure, ill-gained and jealously cherished. “I thank you for wishing to try. But it is a futility; one I have resigned myself to since the Sun was still young in the sky. Go back to sleep, and say no more of it.”

    Elrond worked his jaw as if he wished to say more. But he bowed his head in acceptance - a token acceptance, however, as he said, “Not tonight, then.” Even so, he was slow to rise to his feet. Strangely, Maedhros felt a wave of nervousness from him, a tide of hesitance and apprehension, before it was pushed aside with a firm hand. Strangely, he found himself holding his breath, sharing the poised sense of waiting, feeling as if he lingered before a precipice, dark and deep.

    “Goodnight, then,” Elrond at last whispered, his voice sounding very small in the night. “ . . . Adar.”

    As if someone put a flame to his skin, Maedhros was then fully awake. He sat upright, ignoring the now pulsing pressure in his wrist as he regarded the youth with no small amount of surprise. He worked his jaw, but no sound came from his mouth. A twisting, rolling sort of discomfort pierced through him, all stemming from the patient, hopeful expression he found awaiting him.

    “Do not,” Maedhros forced the words from his tongue, not quite knowing how to give voice to just how terribly wrong such a thing was to say. An awful weight settled upon him, and he found it hard to breathe. “You must not -”

    “ - yet, you have been to us,” Elrond's voice was measured, standing as a boulder in the current of Maedhros' suddenly turbulent emotions. "You and Maglor both."

    “I am not your father,” Maedhros nonetheless snapped, trying to regain a hold on the suddenly spinning shape of his emotions – feeling guilt and regret and such a simple, undeserved joy in reply to his words. That, in particular, he forced down with a nearly savage sort of determination.

    “No,” Elrond agreed, fighting to keep his voice steady, “my sire is far away, and never coming back to these shores. It is true.”

    “And whose fault is that?” Maedhros gave his words quickly, without thinking. “Do you so quickly forget Sirion, child?"

    “I do not forget,” Elrond's voice was cold in reply, impressively filling with a steel that Maedhros could not tell for Finwë or Elwë within his blood. “I cannot ever forget.”

    “If you cannot forget, then you are slow to understand,” Maedhros returned. He could feel his temper leaping from his desperation as a flame rising from kindle, and he felt the reflexive cast of Elrond's spirit pulse in reply. His presence was already a massively blue thing, like the slow roll of the ocean, soothing and endless, and Maedhros bit the inside of his lip in answer, unwilling to be swayed by Estë's presence in the young soul before him.

    The child wished to sooth, to aid. And so Maedhros let him slip further into his mind to see:

    Let him see that first, horrible day at Alqualondë – only for that sin, so long repented from, to be repeated at Doriath and again at Sirion. He let him see blood on the sand, blood on the snow, blood on the white stone of Elwing's tower – Maedhros could see it all when he all but closed his eyes. Yet, it was still not enough, not nearly enough to appease the consuming demon that even now rested alongside his bones, just waiting to be summoned once more. His Oath was an uncaring master, hungry and consuming and ever demanding to be sated; this he let the child see, this he let the child feel.

    Elrond's presence flinched, but he held on through the maelstrom of memories and ill deeds, stubbornly refusing to open his eyes and understand. So Maedhros dug in deeper, letting him see gentle Idril as she helped him with something as simple as boot laces, only to put her people to the sword and hold her grandchildren ransom for something as trifle as a gem, no matter how hallowed its name. She forgave him, forgave him, and he, in return . . .

    Your gift comes from your grandmother as much as it comes from Lúthien's might in your blood, Maedhros let him feel the memory he held of Idril's awesome blue presence - a presence so much like the child's own, and yet I turned on her kindness as a rabid dog strains against a leash. Someday, if need be, I would do the same to you. Do you not see? I serve but one thing in life, and for serving this one thing . . .

    . . . I deserve nothing else, nothing as good or fair or pure as . . . he could not finish the thought, even as it rolled up from the depths of his spirit. He swallowed, and tasted bile rising in his throat, for his memories were a blade that cut two ways, and the wounds they left were deep.

    What are you trying to prove to me? even so, Elrond held on determinedly, closing his eyes to the Kinslayings and instead seeing what Maedhros would rather not think on himself. Who do you think to convince? Yourself, or me?

    For every memory of blood, the child raised him one higher – reminding him of the tender hand he had used to help his brothers take their first step, learn their letters, and master their ponies and training swords . . . Elrond searched, and turned his own recollections on him, showing him a glimpse of his strong voice in Finwë's court, and his unwavering loyalty to his people as they conducted their siege of Angband and stood up to Morgoth's shadow as even the Valar themselves refused to do. Determinedly, Elrond dug even deeper, and turned up old, tender memories: reminding him of how he'd read to his mother's stomach while she carried Maglor, and showing him how he'd once balanced the newborn Ambarussa in his arms and fed them from a bottle when Nerdanel was too weak and Fëanor too unwilling to acknowledge the fractured lines of his family. Maedhros looked on the memory, and found the tiny, mirrored gazes so much like the stolen children before him that sometimes he thought . . .

    . . . but no. They were dead now, and that too was his fault, his burden to carry. He could not -

    - No, Elrond's voice was as storm-wind within his mind. Do not look there, but:

    It started here, the boy found with uncanny perception, and Maedhros was filled with a thousand memories: of Fingon laughing, and Fingon looping an arm about his shoulders, and Fingon shielding his ravaged body from the wind and cold as the Eagle bore them further and further away from Thangorodrim . . .

    You are stronger than a few ill words of tongue, Fingon had always fiercely believed, but his Oath had ruined their chances against Morgoth in that all-out desperate strike upon the North. His Oath had Thingol refusing to ally with them, and the Sindar, perhaps, would have turned the tide of the battle for the better. Even worse, his Oath made him blind to trickery and deception with his desperation to see Angband destroyed and Morgoth kneeling before them, thus allowing them to take the crown from his brow and return what had been stolen.

    This battle was one you truly believed in, the true vow of your soul and the legacy that should have been yours to leave behind, Elrond forced him to see. But, when Fingon fell – leaving such an awful, gaping chasm behind . . . When your armies broke due to betrayal, and Morgoth smashed your forces so thoroughly that there is no longer any strength amongst the Eldar left to defy him . . .

    . . . you did not care about anything after that, the boy whispered as he picked through his thoughts. All you had was your Oath . . . there was nothing left for you to turn to . . .

    All that you are, and all that you do, is now for this one thing, Fëanor had whispered, his voice terrible and dark and beautiful as the ships burned on the horizon behind him. You are nothing more than this: but to fulfill that which you swore. Now, hold your head high up and look forward. Such craven weakness is through no blood of mine.

    But, again, Elrond countered him. The boy illuminated his memories, and Maedhros was forced to see his father smiling at him, laughing as he picked him up and spun him about, and in Fëanor's laughter there was a greater light than that of the Trees to his child's mind. It had been so long . . . so long . . . if asked now, Maedhros would say that his father never laughed. And it was true, he had not in the end. But then . . . before . . .

    I am proud of you, my son, Fëanor whispered, but those words were a trick of his dreams, wished for to the point of his believing they happened. They were never spoken outright, and Maedhros made a fist of his one hand, wishing -

    - and then, he saw where Elrond saw how he viewed the twins: how they were as a balm on the wound of his days, stitching together the broken pieces his life had shattered into. He had not smiled since Fingon smiled, he had not laughed since his fallen brothers had laughed, and now . . . they were a light returned to him, a light he did not deserve underneath the pall of his deeds and the shadow of his Oath. The Valar were cruel to see that the children loved as he loved, for he did not deserve . . . they did not deserve . . .

    You love us as sons, Elrond stated with a calm, assured finality, the blue weight of his spirit smothering any argument he could think to make, any memory he could think to summon. You cannot lie to yourself, and you cannot lie to me. Is it so strange to see that love returned, when, for all of your deeds, you have loved and cared for us more than they who brought us into this world? No . . . it is not so strange to me.




    “Stop it,” Maedhros ordered aloud, his voice a strained hiss of sound. “Stop it.” Using a little-used muscle in his psyche, he heaved the Perelda from his mind as he had not needed to do so since Morgoth himself combed through his memories for that which he could use as a blow, as a wound. But Elrond was far from the Dark Vala, and he went easily when pushed, blinking as he returned to his own mind, and holding a hand to his temple as if pained from the separation of their thoughts.

    And still, Elrond looked up at him with such a light in the pale grey of his eyes – eyes that were shaped as Idril's eyes . . . just as they were Turgon's and Fingon's before her. Maedhros winced, and drew in a breath, as if steeling himself against a blow.

    “You can say what you like, throw whatever black memory at me you may,” Elrond said with a slow, dreadful certainty. “But it changes nothing.”

    Father . . . father, Maedhros could still hear the endearment as clearly as if Elrond had said so a hundred times. In the back of his mind, a wry thought admitted that he'd always expected Elros to be the first to address him as such. He closed his eyes, thinking of the adoration that was already as plain as the day was bright in the younger child's gaze. His breath was then as a blade, and he could not -

    - without sparing another word, he rose to his feet and stormed from the room. Blessedly, Elrond did not follow him.

    Maedhros walked without his feet truly knowing where it was he went, but when he approached his brother's bedroll – where he had fallen asleep in the ruined library of the once great keep – he toed Maglor's sleeping form with perhaps more force than he meant to.

    “We are changing course,” he did not wait for his brother to fully rouse himself before speaking. Blearily, Maglor rubbed at his eyes before turning a concerned look on him.

    Maedhros ignored the question in his gaze. “We are turning south, where we can make the crossing to Balar.”

    “ . . . Balar?” Maglor repeated, somewhat dumbly. “Do you mean – the children?” His speech was half-formed, his syllables halting as he gathered his thoughts. Maedhros felt his instinctive denial and fierce refusal to do so hit him like a war-hammer before Maglor checked his emotions.

    “Yes,” Maedhros returned harshly. “Yes, I mean to return them to their kin.”

    Fully awake now, Maglor frowned, his storm-grey eyes alight. “Brother, slow down and speak reasonably - ”

    “ - Eärendil is forever gone, and our father's Silmaril is lost with him,” Maedhros threw the truth out in harsh, clipped syllables, feeling his Oath shudder against the words even as he spoke them – demanding that he bring down the very heavens themselves if that was what was needed to fulfill his accursed vow of tongue. “He is never coming back, not even for the sons he left behind. I can acknowledge that truth; and now, I will no longer have children running about underfoot if I can help it.”

    His brother was silent in reply. Since the rise of Eärendil's star, Maglor had argued the merits of returning the twins to Gil-galad's keeping – for their own well-being and the sake of their futures to come. Yet, now that the moment was before him, he was oddly silent. He hesitated. Maedhros could feel a ghost of his pain for the parting to come as if it was his own. He tried to swallow the emotion away, but the taste it left behind was bitter.

    “The boy . . . he called me father,” Maedhros gave on the faintest whisper of a voice. He sat down next to Maglor when it became apparent that his legs no longer wished to support his weight. “He called me father, and I . . . I cannot . . . I do not deserve . . . they deserve more. They always have.”

    A long moment passed before Maedhros felt his brother's hand rest upon his shoulder. Once, Maglor squeezed, and argued no more.

    “Then,” Maglor simply inclined his head in reply, resignation heavy in his voice. “South we shall go.”

    ~MJ @};-
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Stunning =D= and so intensely touching! The memories that are brought to the fore that heal. @};- Wonderful of Elrond's affection and compassion to reach for those. :)
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    AzureAngel2 and Nyota's Heart like this.
  13. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    I like the intensity of the things your main character feels/ experiences... [face_love]
  14. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Ahh, this heartbreaking little family-ish unit never fails to give me feelings. [face_love] I am glad that you enjoyed, and, as always, I thank you so very much for reading. [:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: He is a favourite of mine, that's for certain. [face_love] I am glad that you enjoyed the update! :)

    AzureAngel2: I am so glad that they struck you so. That is always wonderful to hear. [face_love]

    I am still playing around with the NSWFF prompts - this time with Snowfall, which is something I am acutely familiar with in RL at this point in the season. 8-} Looking at the posts on this page, I also decided that it was high time for some mush and fun in this thread, so here we are with Galadriel/Celeborn in the early days. [face_love]

    Enjoy! :)

    where stirs a quiet pain”

    CCIX. Snowfall

    Winter was a quiet haze upon the world around them; frosting the forest with silver and blurring her sight with soft, lazy blotches of white.

    Galadriel sighed, and watched as her breath stained the air before her. Her boots made soft crushing noises over the freshly fallen snow, even as she closed her gloved hands about the fur lining of her cloak. She held one palm within the other, pressing the thumb of her right hand into the palm of her left, knowing, rather than feeling, where a long, ugly line of white marred the skin there. She did not feel cold, but she nonetheless shivered, feeling as if the winter looked down on her with less than kind eyes.

    At her side, Celeborn did not shy away from the cold as she did. Instead, he tilted his face upwards towards the falling snow, and closed his eyes in appreciation of its caress. His hands were gloveless and held open before him, attempting to catch the fat snowflakes on his bare palms. For a moment, she half expected him to tilt his head back and try to catch them upon his tongue – as Lúthien had when they first left the stone halls of Menegroth behind, she being as delighted as her kinsman was to walk underneath the barren trees once more.

    They were now alone in the forest. Thranduil and Lúthien had abandoned them soon after departing – the elder complaining about the younger's unfortunate habit of hiding behind trees with snowballs in hand, and this time resolving to ambush the princess first when he noticed her missing. He'd pulled Aegnor into his intrigue, his firm insistence leaving her brother no option but to leave her alone with her suitor.

    It was terribly transparent of their Sindarin friends, and such actions would have brought a fond smile to Galadriel's face under normal circumstances. But, now . . .

    She simply pulled her cloak more tightly about her shoulders, and stared at the soft hush of the winter as if it was a foe, a hunting thing waiting to strike.

    A step ahead of her, Celeborn noticed he'd outpaced her. He slowed, and she glanced at the bright glimmer in his eyes and the healthy flush to his cheeks, for a moment quite taken by the way the silver of his hair merged with the snowfall around him. She stared when a few snowflakes landed on the tips of his long eyelashes, quite content in their place before melting. He wiped a distracted hand at his eyes, and she watched him, all the while silent.

    “You do not care for the snow,” Celeborn at last stated, rather than questioning.

    “The cold season has its purpose,” Galadriel gave in reply, but even she could hear how stiff the words were from her mouth. She frowned, unsure if she was more put out by her inability to make an iron fist about her emotions, or by the deceivingly gentle lull of the snow around them. “I acknowledge its place, and accept that I must endure it until the spring comes once more.”

    Celeborn was silent in reply. He raised a brow as he normally would before teasing her about a particularly Noldorin trait she bore, before swallowing his words away. He frowned, the expression oddly gentle upon his face.

    Instead of teasing, he spoke to the heart of the matter with the precision of an arrow finding its mark. “We know that Fingolfin's host crossed the Helcaraxë to reach this land. I . . . I take it that the crossing was not pleasant.” Again, his words were a statement, rather than a question.

    She did not answer. Instead, she turned from him, and continued down the snow-covered path. After a moment, he followed. She could feel his concern as a warmth against her consciousness, lingering as a thaw upon ice, but she kept herself carefully indifferent. She could not . . . she would not share more about the days following the Darkening than she already had, not even with him . . . not now, not yet.

    Yet, her cheeks stung from the bite of the cold, and the ice underfoot seemed to bring forth ever memory she would rather lock away and never examine again. As if moments had passed, rather than years, she remembered the hunger gnawing at her belly and the fierce sting of the cold through the layers cocooning her body; so sharp and unforgiving was the weather that there were those of their host who froze in their step, never to walk again. There was no warmth to be found on the Helcaraxë, no mercy, and the number of those who fell to the cruelty of the frozen sea and the untrustworthiness of the glacial planes . . . she had stopped counting, her mind balking before the number as a shield to her thoughts.

    She frowned, even now remembering bits and pieces of those days; remembering Finrod trying to be a balm to Turgon when his wife fell, she going as far to welcome Idril to sleep by her own fire at night so that she did not have to endure her father's grief at so tender an age. Those nights spent encouraging the small, bright gift the child had burning like a flame at the core of her had been but bare distractions, and most nights ended with Idril shivering against her as she hummed into her hair for as long as her raw vocal cords would allow her to. She remembered cross words traded with Fingon as she took out her frustration for a foe far beyond her reach where her anger was not truly warranted – she recognizing the lack of gold in his hair only later, but refusing to apologize, not even when he placed a heavy hand on her shoulder the next day, his eyes weighed down by the burden of betrayal and grief, his in a way more poignant than even her own. She remembered the similar weight on her own brother's shoulders as he led Finarfin's people in their father's stead, cursing Fëanor and the Valar by turns with every step as she let her rage and her righteous anger carry her on and on and on . . .

    . . . there were some days when she still bore memory of the cold. For so long, she had been certain that she would never be warm again, and her mind did not yet trust the spring she'd found in Endórë.

    But now the winter was soft, and the concern in his eyes – in his spirit, growing all the more familiar to her as the days drew on – was a warmth of its own. She bit her lip in a habit she had long thought to have done away with, and fought the urge she had to close her eyes as Celeborn drew even with her and gently drew her to stand still. There was no pressure against her mind, and there was no coaxing in the way he cradled her face in his hands and leaned down to touch his brow to hers. His hands were chilled from the winter air, and she shivered.

    “I wish that you would tell me of that which weighs upon you,” he spoke to the wall that existed, tall and unmovable, in her mind. When he whispered, she breathed in his words. “Would that I could help you, even in the least of ways.”

    She leaned against him, her body loose with contentment; no matter that her bones were tight in wariness for the cold, no matter that she remembered, and for remembering . . .

    Slowly, gingerly, Galadriel moved to undo the glove of her left hand, exposing the ugly scar there for his view. The sight was not new to him, but neither had he ever asked as to the scar's origin, trusting her without words to tell him when she was ready to do so.

    For a moment, she cradled her bare palm within her gloved hand before offering the old wound to him. He moved his hands away from her face, understanding her offering as he took her hand within his own. His touch was cold, but this time she did not feel a chill.

    “There were many perils in crossing the Helcaraxë, and the Ice took more than this from many,” she whispered. “Some . . .” she remembered Elenwë and the hundreds like her, and for a moment she felt her breath as a pain in her lungs.

    “I was fortunate,” she whispered, “but I was not viewed as such. Before our departure from Aman, there was a quarrel between my father's kin and my mother's kin,” gingerly, as if her words were uneasy footing upon thin ice, she whispered, fearing a plunge at any moment. “For my stance in that quarrel, my father's kin were uneasy with me, and there were none of my mother's kin I had defended there to support me – and even they were . . . disapproving of the way I shielded their interests before I left the West behind. The days were not easy; more so than the elements was the grief sundering my people, the burden of leadership on my brother's shoulders – and my own, as I served by his side . . . They are days I do not recall with any sort of fondness, and this . . .” she looked again at the winter-touched forest, soft and deceptively beautiful, “reminds me of that which I would rather forget.”

    Celeborn listened, carefully hearing all that she did and did not say before exhaling. He said no words in comfort where none could truly be spoken, instead rubbing a slow, careful thumb about the scar marring her palm until the skin there warmed from his touch. She stood very still, feeling the warmth from his body as if it was a stolen thing, knowing that someday she would have to tell him all, and on that day . . .

    . . . he may not look on her as fondly as he did now. She inhaled, feeling her lungs fill on just how essential he had become to her being; standing as a strength for her when she'd thought herself to be so strong, and now . . .

    He leaned down to touch his brow to hers again. He did not speak, but she felt his presence touch her spirit, turning warm and soothing, not knowing the specifics of her hurt, but knowing that she hurt, and endeavoring to sooth over those raw pieces of her with a balm of his own. He did not press to look past the shields she had erected – such a thing was a capitol offense, even between a couple bound and wed – but instead allowed her to see into his own mind. He let her feel his connection with the trees; understanding how they slept in the winter, the snow settling upon them as a warmth, keeping them safe in the cold until the spring could come anew. The winter was not harsh, the winter was not death, but rather rest and healing so that the warmth of the seasons to come could be properly enjoyed – and fruitfully yielding in return.

    There was a softness, a magic in the forest during the winter, this he tried to share with her, replacing her memories of the Helcaraxë with -

    Just as she found herself relaxing – understanding, just barely, what he tried to show her – she felt a shocking sensation of cold strike her back, breaking through the warmth of her cloak and the thick layers she wore underneath. Snow exploded over her shoulders and caught in her hair, and she stiffened in surprise before hearing a musical peal of laughter from the cover of the trees.

    Blinking, affronted, Galadriel turned to see Lúthien's unapologetic face greet her. The princess' cheeks were flushed from the cold, and her eyes were dancing merrily – all but daring her to respond in kind. Yet, Galadriel did not have to avenge herself when Thranduil and Aegnor came up behind her with snowballs of their own in hand. Nonplussed, Lúthien turned to defend herself with a rather deadly aim - this Galadriel delighted to see when Aegnor took a face-full of snow with a yelp, shaking off the blow in order to return a salvo of his own – a barrage of snowballs that Lúthien only laughed all the more so for enduring.

    Galadriel could not help it, she too smiled in reply. Softly she laughed, and found an unexpected flare of delight warm the cold in her bones and sooth the frost in her memories. She smiled, and found the expression slow to fade - even when she found that smile interrupted by Aegnor's taking offense enough from her amusement to turn a snowball that was meant for Lúthien towards her. She was hit again, this time in the shoulder as snow sprayed up to decorate her face in a delicate frosting of fluffy white crystals.

    This time, it was Celeborn who gave a delighted chuckle at her expense, laughing openly at the rather silly image she must have presented. Galadriel felt her eyes narrow, the look turning deadly as she knelt down to scoop up a handful of snow – Celeborn instantly understanding her intentions and wisely backing away from her with his hands held up in supplication.

    But she had no mercy as she reached up to smear the snow on top of his head. The snow fell down into his face and plopped onto his shoulders – which she had no time to observe in satisfaction before he grabbed her wrist and pushed her into a waist-high snowbank. She twisted, and managed to pull him down with her - but, before she could shove more snow into his face, he took the easiest option he had for his defense: namely, leaning down to kiss her before her blow could make contact.

    Galadriel hesitated a moment before returning his kiss, unable to hold onto her ire as she instead melted against him like the thaw to come – accepting his truce, and pulling him down closer to her. The snow was cold as it cradled her body, and her cloak was quite soaked at this point, but she felt only warmth fill her as the weight of his body settled pleasantly atop her own. Feeling a flush spread across her skin, she wound her left hand through his hair to hold him closer to her, placing the scarred flat of her palm against his neck as she did so. She inhaled with the winter, and this time breathed out, feeling only contentment fill her as -

    - another shower of white exploded over Celeborn's shoulders as Aegnor's snowball struck her suitor with more force than was strictly necessary. She did not catch Aegnor's words, but she did hear Thranduil say something about prudish Noldorin sensibilities before both he and Lúthien turned on Aegnor, thus allowing them a moment unmolested as they found a way to their feet once more.

    She allowed Celeborn to help her up, but she was not quick to leave his side as she leaned her head against his shoulder, sharing his warmth as a chill bit through her from her snow-covered clothes. Yet, even that could not chase the smile from her face as he reached down to take her hand in his own, his thumb once again finding her scar and softly caressing. His spirit was full against hers, warm and content – as much for the happiness in her own spirit as it was for her finally trusting him with but a fraction of her story.

    And, so: “You do help me, more than you know,” she settled for whispering, addressing his words from earlier. It was not yet enough, it was not everything as he wanted, but it was a beginning, and he was patient . . . Indeed, his patience was one of the things she was growing to love about him.

    Perhaps it was her words, perhaps it was the last thought he gleaned from her mind, but he leaned down to kiss the ridged skin marring her palm before smiling softly at her. In his expression was all the warmth the winter lacked, and Galadriel felt herself turn towards it as the trees did to the promise of spring.

    Beyond them, Aegnor was loudly protesting his Sindarin assailants, fending off their dual attack as best he could. Celeborn gave a sharp grin, full of teeth, in reply. “Should we assist your brother?” he asked of her.

    Galadriel pretended to consider for a long moment, before winding her arm through his own. “I think not,” she at last answered, throwing her head up haughtily in reply. She turned on the path, tugging Celeborn with her, feeling amusement fill her all the more so as Aegnor protested behind them, asking for their aid even as they left him behind.

    She simply held her head up high, and held on to Celeborn more tightly than before. And barely, just barely, she smiled as the winter filled her.

    ~MJ @};-
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Delightful contrast between their experiences of cold/snow/winter. And Galadriel's reserve on sharing dissolves under his patience and genuine sympathy. =D= The memories she associates with icy wastes are truly, truly daunting! :eek:

    Yet, I am happy to find these literally melt ;) even more so with the fun with the snowballs and feeling warm in a snowbank. :D

    A crucial and lovely lesson in nurturance, healing, and trust.

    A SQUEE and a [:D]
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  16. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Nyota's Heart captured it perfectly. Snow, winter but comfortable
    Nyota's Heart and AzureAngel2 like this.
  17. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    You really got me into the right mood for my brief winter holidays in the Mountains! :*
  18. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: I am so glad that you enjoyed reading! I was so, so happy to share it knowing of your love for this couple, and it looks like it hit on all marks. [face_love][:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Precisely what I was going for. [face_love][:D]

    AzureAngel2: Ooh, that sounds absolutely lovely! Have fun! :)

    For the next NSWFF prompt Consolation we have more First Age Galadriel/Celeborn, this time with their first winter spent together in Sirion. Like the pair beforehand, this was supposed to go with the last ficlet, but the length escaped me, and I decided to break it up. So, here we are now (fitting for the wintery day in my corner of the world ;)) with more drama and fun in the snow . . .

    Enjoy! [:D]

    but for we who remain”

    CCX. Consolation

    The girl glowered at the snow covered dune as if it were a foe; an evil to be stared down and overcome through the force of her eyes alone.

    Teetering between wry bemusement and sad resignation, Galadriel watched her ward with a weary turn to her mouth. Elwing had always been a quiet child, but quick to laughter and dancing when so moved. Sadly, the last few months had seen but terribly little of each, and while a part of her knew that there would be laughter again in the child's future, there was a whisper of knowing within her that said that Elwing's smiles would never fully reach her eyes. Such was a disquieting gleaning of foresight, however, one that Galadriel did not wish to accept as a truth, so she pushed it from her thoughts entirely.

    Hers was not the only mind turned towards the return of normalcy and merriment, however. All of Sirion strove towards such a thing, and to that end the Gondolindrim had taken to crafting sleds for the great sandy dunes, now frosted in a thick blanket of glittering white. Such was a pastime they had often kept in the snowy peaks of the Encircling Mountains during the winter months, and Gondolin's survivors were eager to carry on that tradition in their new home. Doriath had been too flat in shape for such sports, but the Sindar were as eager as their Noldorin neighbors to make the best of the cold season. Even now she could hear Egalmoth's bell-like voice as he organized those who were waiting to try out skiing on the steeper dunes, while Tuor orchestrated the sledding; their words full of the crisp winter wind and the salty tang of the lazily undulating sea just beyond them.

    Galadriel merely watched, feeling a soft stillness in her bones for the sight of her people with slowly growing smiles upon their faces, hearing their hesitant laughter and joyful voices grow all the more sure with each passing day. Sirion was a city built on grief and founded in determination for life lived anew, and it had been unexpected – but bittersweet and welcome - to have encountered the survivors of Gondolin on their way to seek out refuge underneath Gil-galad's banner. The news of Turgon's death had been a numb sort of blow to Galadriel after a year full of such blows, but it had been a balm to see the woman-child she'd known Idril to be as a matron now steeped in wisdom and set in her place. She was Elenwë's daughter in all ways, from the dark gold of her hair to the soft glow in her grey eyes; her gentle demeanor and easy words carrying a distinctively Vayarin lilt in both sound in shape. Yet, there was, perhaps, a Noldorin steel about her for the way she held her people together and pushed them onwards, ever onwards, when all they had left were the clothes on their backs and the few possessions they had been able to claim before Morgoth destroyed their home in an unholy storm of Orc-swords and Balrog-fire.

    More surprising had been to greet the Atani man at her side, and the boy-child that union had produced. But Galadriel only needed but a moment with Tuor, son of Huor, to understand the might resting deep within his soul, great in shape even before bearing the mark of a Vala's favor. Idril's choice was a rare one – queer, some would say, destined only for pain and heartbreak – but it was an echo of another love Galadriel had known firsthand for its truth and potency. Over time, she had come to welcome Tuor's wisdom as much as she would that of any Elf-lord in their council, and great was the love the people of Gondolin held for their princess' mortal husband. In time, the survivors of Doriath could not help but feel the same.

    . . . that was not to say that there were not hurdles to be faced in two such ancient peoples - previously so long set in their ways - making their way together for the first. But, so far, the unifying force of combined loss and a common enemy had held together those who, perhaps, would have preferred to make their separate ways otherwise. For their efforts, Sirion was becoming a refuge and a home all the more so with each passing day.

    Yet, while Galadriel saw the needs of the whole as a burden and a responsibility for her own shoulders to bear, more so were the needs of her husband's great-niece - the girl they had claimed as their own after the Second Kinslaying. For, while there were those who hesitantly embraced the idea of more and again, Elwing was ever slow to smile and find her feet underneath her.

    Even now, Elwing stood at the top of the dune, her thin, willowy body painfully still and unmoving underneath her dark violet cloak. She hardly breathed, and she did not move, not even to put her bare hands into her pockets when they turned pink from the cold. Her breath frosted on the air before her, and her long, inky black hair streamed out behind her from the playful touch of the breeze; but that was the only sign of her being one of the living, and not an artist's uncanny illusion of cloth and marbled stone.

    More unsettling were the times when Elwing's eyes did not find the seashore. Rather, they flickered back to the city of white stone, and the Silmaril that waited within a locked chest in her chambers. All the more so with each passing day, Galadriel found it difficult to coax the child to leave her rooms without wearing the gem hidden about her throat. Better would she know how to handle childish tantrums for the idea of leaving the jewel behind, but what Galadriel did not know how to answer was the alarming sort of panic that would fill Elwing when she was parted from the gem for too long. It was something that Galadriel would have thought to fade in time – a scar deeply gouged from fleeing Doriath in the dead of the night – but it was a need, a desperation that seemed to grow all the more so with the passing of time, rather than fading away as she first had hoped.

    Yet, that was a disquieting a thought, one that Galadriel pushed away for another time, unwilling to examine it when all was good and fair around them.

    “Elwing, Elwing!” came the bright, cheerful voice as it ascended over the crest of the dune. Galadriel glanced to see Idril's son making his way towards them, his sled held in hand, and his face flushed from his exertion in climbing up the steep hill once more.

    Standing as the complete opposite of Elwing, Eärendil seemed to chase thrills and laughter where she sought solitude and the quiet of the beech-wood when her grief grew to overtake her. Eärendil's smiles were a bit too bright, his gaiety a bit too forced, but with each passing day his high spirits became a true thing as he fought to turn his grief aside. In time, Galadriel only hoped that his healing would be something that Elwing mimicked, and shared in turn. Better then would the girl would be, but only then.

    When they'd first met the ragged survivors of Gondolin, Eärendil had stared at Elwing with a look that was wide and solemn upon his face – at odds with the tender shape of his years when he pulled his mother aside to ask if the quiet girl with the star in her hands was Lúthien herself – for surely, he had insisted in his young, awed voice, she had to be.

    Idril had smiled fondly at her son's words, but there had been a flicker of consideration in her eyes when she whispered that Lúthien was gone from the circles of the world, but her granddaughter remained – and, no doubt, could use a friend after the losses she had suffered. Like a warrior summoned by his liege-lord, Eärendil had understood the unspoken in his mother's words – that while he had escaped the fires of Gondolin with both of his parents living, Elwing had neither father nor mother nor brothers left to speak of, and from that day forward he took her grief as a personal challenge to battle and overcome.

    Though Elwing had not encouraged his friendship in the slightest, Eärendil had persevered through her stony silences and withering glances. Now, while the girl did not welcome his company, she no longer tried to force him away - which was all that Eärendil seemed to require of her. Galadriel would even wager that Elwing longed for his friendship more than even she herself realized, for when her eyes were not searching for the Silmaril, they oftentimes sought him out, as they did even now – focusing on the snow clinging to his cloak, and the bright reflection of the sky and sea in his eyes as he grinned at her.

    “Will you go down with me?” Eärendil bid of her. “It may look scary at first, but I promise you, there is no joy superior to it.” In his hand he held a metal disk, hastily crafted by Celebrimbor's smiths for the first snowstorm of the season, and he gestured behind him to where Tuor was pushing another wary looking Sindarin Elf down the hill for the first.

    Elwing merely blinked at him in reply, and Galadriel did not think that she would answer him.

    Yet, Eärendil was unperturbed by her silence, as he ever was. “I could go down with you, if you'd wish,” he tried again. “That way you would not have to worry, and just enjoy yourself.” His eyes were full of hope, and his face was flushed from more than the sting of the winter.

    Finally, Elwing's mouth dipped in the barest of frowns. “Not this time,” she whispered, so softly that Galadriel had to strain to hear her.

    But Eärendil heard her clearly. “Are you sure?” he asked again, used to tried and true persistence when it came to his friend. “Because I could feel you watching me earlier. I know that you want to try.”

    “I do not want to,” a hard line formed Elwing's mouth, and her eyes narrowed. “Please, do not ask me again,” her voice took on an edge when she spoke, a shape that Galadriel recognized from both Dior and Thingol before her.

    Eärendil pursed his lips, unmoved by the sting of her words. “I will ask you every time I come to the top of this hill,” he warned. Nonetheless, his voice was shaped pleasantly, as if he were simply commenting on the weather. “You will try sledding before the day is through, my friend. This I promise you.”

    He did not wait to hear her reply, but Elwing's stare was withering enough for him to feel it as he ran back over to where his father was waiting for him. Tuor saw him approach, and his smile turned all the wider in welcome. He leaned forward to muse his son's wayward mop of curls, their yellow heads matching as Tuor leaned down to say something Galadriel could not hear before Eärendil declared himself ready to go down again. Elwing watched them for a moment, something flickering in her expression too quickly for her to fully see. And yet, she could guess the shape of her thoughts well enough, and understand them in kind.

    “Why do you not enjoy yourself, child?” Galadriel at last asked. Her words were patient and poised to coax, and with them she gently touched the girl's fëa with her own life's force, surprised for how turbulent her spirit was to the touch.

    “There is nothing enjoyable about the snow,” Elwing whispered after a long pause. She was silent again after speaking, and Galadriel waited for her to continue.

    “I do not like the winter at all,” Elwing at last found the words to express her thoughts. There was a tremor to her voice, matching the restless roll of her spirit underneath. “It reminds me, when all I want to do is forget.”

    Galadriel took in a deep breath when she gleaned a flash of memory from the girl's spirit, she herself remembering the hushed winter night when the Fëanorians had marched on Doriath. They had not been able to find the twins, and so, Nimloth had pushed the Silmaril into her daughter's hands and told her to run and not look back. Celeborn had gotten Elwing safely through the forests and across the Sirion river when he would have preferred to stay and fight. Galadriel had remained behind, once again staining her hands red with elven blood as she stood against her father's kin for the sake of her husband's people – for the sake of her people now, refusing to yield as her king had bid of her. Even now she could remember the sharp tang of the cold, and the unrecognizable fervency to Maedhros' eyes as he sat uncomfortably upon Dior's throne – Thingol's throne – once the kingdom was taken. She had negotiated for the release of those who had survived the scourge, her words harsh and cutting as she called him Russandol in spiteful memory of the gentle mentor he had once been to so many. In return, he'd bitten out Artanis as a blow, as if they had both betrayed bonds they should have rather seen untouched and honored. Her fëa had been a bright, untamed thing then, matching the fey son of Fëanor power for power in all ways before he waved her on - but not before promising that they would meet again, with no quarter shown between them next time.

    Next time . . .

    She exhaled, and let her memories go with her breath, casting aside the last image she bore of Doriath in the softly falling snow. Distantly, she remembered walking through the gently frosted woods with those who survived, seeing only all those who should have been amongst their host, but were not.

    . . . but no. With the painful practice of putting too many ghosts to rest for too many years, Galadriel set aside her grief, and knelt before the child.

    “I understand,” she simply said, feeling the deep gouges across the child's soul, and wishing that she could do something more – anything more – so sooth them. It was an urge she felt as much for the memory of the girl's kin – whom Galadriel too had loved – as it was for the growing love she herself felt for the child. “Believe me when I say that I do.”

    Her voice was softer than she'd first intended for it to be, her grief making it through when she'd rather hide it away, leaving it uncovered and forgotten until it was a pain no more. “Would you believe that I once thought that I would never enjoy the cold season again for the memories it held, much as you do now?”

    Elwing looked at her, as if weighing her words for a truth. Galadriel knew the figure she cut before the child – the awe and respect Elwing held for her - and she softened her features as best she could in reply, letting herself be weighed without argument.

    “The Helcaraxë,” Elwing at last whispered in understanding. “Eärendil said that his mother does not care for the snow for much the same reason.”

    Galadriel bowed her head, feeling the name of that dreaded tundra strike her as a glancing blow before skidding away, with no lasting harm left in its wake. Someday, she could only hope that her memories would be the same for the girl before her.

    “Yes,” she agreed. “It was the Helcaraxë I remembered, and I let that memory rob me of my joy for the present. It was only in others that I found my joy returned . . . through your uncle . . . through your grandmother . . . through so many of your kinsmen, really. They showed me that there were still those here with me now, waiting to love me, waiting to live with me. It was for them that I put my ghosts aside, and let them rest in peace.”

    Elwing was silent for a moment, clearly pondering her words. “But I miss them,” she confessed, her voice at last cracking with the strength of her emotions. “I do not know how to not miss them; such a thing does not yet seem possible.”

    She placed a hand over her chest as she spoke, as if by doing so she could put pressure on her heart and all of the absent, yawning voids within her spirit, filling in the holes where once echoes of her family had defined her child's soul.

    Galadriel found her eyes strangely warm when she blinked, remembering her own brothers, every one of them lost to Námo through Morgoth's black guile. She remembered her mentor in Melian, the replacement for her father she had found in Thingol, and her dear, dear friend in Lúthien. With even more grief, she remembered Nimloth, whom she had raised as if she were her own, and Dior whom she had also come to love . . .

    “And you shall always miss them,” Galadriel whispered, soothing over the girl's spirit with her own, allowing her to feel the barest echoes of her own losses – her own scars, long scabbed over and healed after it first seemed impossible to even stay the bleeding. “And yet, someday your missing shall change, this I can promise you with all certainty. It will change from something so fierce that it feels as if you are drowning within it, to a dull ache, a quiet pain. And, sometimes, that ache will turn to a warmth, allowing you to remember that which you loved and cherished, alongside your longing.”

    Elwing was silent for a long moment, leaning into their embrace of spirits as if it was the only thing keeping her upright. Galadriel closed her eyes against the child's mourning, hating all the more so the raw pain and broken sort of betrayal Elwing also felt - that being worse than all as the girl wondered how her father could love a jewel, no matter how sacred and coveted, over his wife and children and kingdom. Galadriel reached out, and took Elwing's hands in her own, giving her something physical to latch onto alongside the intangible, letting her feel just how much she was loved and held dear now, no matter that she was not a daughter born of her own flesh.

    “How long?” Elwing at last spoke, her voice very small between them. "How long does it take for the missing to stop?"

    Galadriel remembered her own losses, and set her mouth in reply. “Too long, it always feels in the moment. Yet, you are a strong child, born of great names. You will heal, I promise you. And, in the end, you will be all the more stronger for it.”

    “Sometimes I do not want to be strong. I am tired of having to be so,” Elwing whispered; such terrible words to come from the mouth of a child so young. Galadriel blinked, and felt her heart turn sore within her chest. “Sometimes, I wish . . .” she faltered, and Galadriel tightened her grip about her hands.

    “In those moments, that is when you find your strength in others, and allow them to lean on you in their turn,” Galadriel replied, feeling where a presence hovered right beyond them, clearly unsure if he was interrupting a moment he'd aught not.

    Elwing quickly drew her hands away, and narrowed her gaze crossly at Eärendil – whose eyes were wide with question and true concern.

    “I said that I did not wish to try, and I meant it,” she informed him before he could speak, her words coming out sharply as she reached up to wipe at her eyes. Her tears had not fallen, even still, Galadriel observed.

    “And I have decided that I will not let you stand still,” Eärendil replied after a moment, his words growing stronger with each syllable spoken. He furrowed his brow, allowing determination to take the place of his uncertainty.

    And still, Elwing would not yield. She narrowed her eyes, but, unperturbed, Eärendil continued: “It would mean a lot to me,” he alttered his attack, replacing calm certainty with the hesitance of hope. “Used to be, it was Glorfindel who would take me sledding. He had a great enthusiasm for the winter, and yet, now . . .” his voice tapered off, and for a moment, his face was a mirror of Elwing's own.

    Just barely, Elwing's look softened. A long moment passed, pregnant with promise, before she reached out to hesitantly touch the disk Eärendil still held, understanding what he meant to say when the words would not come. Slowly, Elwing let out a breath. Her terribly bright eyes softened, and she summoned the slightest smile.

    “Once,” she at last allowed, but in her voice was the resignation of apprehension, rather than any true vexation.

    “Once you try it, you shall wish to do so more than once,” Eärendil teased, his face nonetheless brightening. “It shall be like sailing all over again, you shall see!”

    “Perhaps,” Elwing was not so easily moved. Her face remained regal and impassive, queen-like, even at so young an age. Yet, the indomitable wall of her expression was something that Eärendil only seemed to smile all the more so for seeing, accepting the challenge with a stubborn tenacity Galadriel could not tell for Finwë or the combined might of Hador and Haleth in his blood.

    Either way, when he reached out to tug her towards the crest of the dune, Elwing followed him. She did not look back, no matter that Galadriel watched them all the while.

    Minutes passed as Tuor settled the two young ones on the sled, and still Galadriel lingered, a nearly parental worry filling her as she imagined all the harm that a mishap could cause on the icy hill, when -

    “It will do well to watch that boy in the days to come,” she heard a warm, measured voice speak at her back. Galadriel glanced over her shoulder to see that her husband had returned from his first turn with Egalmoth's skis alongside Thranduil and Amdír. When she looked, his eyes too were trained on Elwing and Eärendil.

    “For a great many things,” Galadriel agreed, welcoming him with a wordless flush of greeting against his spirit.

    She turned back to watch the children as Tuor sent them on their way. Eärendil gave a breathless whoop of delight while Elwing tried to clamp down on her shriek at the unexpected burst of speed and the sting of the cold air. Galadriel carefully felt for the girl's place against her consciousness, satisfied when she felt her joy rise higher than her apprehension as they raced down the hill.

    “You do well by her,” Celeborn at last stated. Her back was still to him, and he wrapped his arms about her shoulders from behind, resting his cheek against her hair as she leaned into him out of habit for their long years together.

    “I do not have your touch with children, I must confess,” Galadriel returned. “Sometimes that knowledge grieves me.”

    She felt him smile against her hair. “I have never known you to back down from a challenge,” he settled for saying, rather than consoling her. In answer, she felt her own mouth curve upwards in the barest of smiles.

    “But you are wise, and your heart shows through even when you would bid it still,” Celeborn amended his teasing to say in all seriousness. “In the end, it is Elwing who must decide that she wishes to heal. Until then, she shall not lack for guidance or encouragement.”

    As always, his high opinion – his love – meant more to her than even the approval of the Valar above. There were times when she ever strove to serve the whole, and fell short by the demands of her family with her doing so - or so she felt. Ever was it Celeborn who would be happier with a simple home filled with the laughter of children and family, the burdens of crowns and leadership a far thought from them. As a contrasting pull in a deep eddy, there were still times when she had to swallow away her initial motivations of more and everything that had turned her towards Middle-earth in the first place. Artanis she resolved to be no more, but sometimes she felt her husband as a compass to her heart as she figured out precisely who she was to be as Galadriel.

    She felt, more than saw when Eärendil and Elwing reached the bottom of the hill – the girl's legs boneless and her face flushed with adrenaline as she allowed Eärendil to help her to her feet. Snow had sprayed up with their landing, and white crystals clung to her hair and dusted her face as they slipped and struggled up the steep incline of the hill – they each eagerly chattering about going down again. Behind her, she could feel Celeborn's face soften at the sight, his fondness for the children a warm pulse against her fëa, soothing away the chill of the winter.

    As ever, his thoughts were an open and steady current against her own, just as her mind was to his. Quickly, before he could hide the thought from her – already well knowing her opinion on the matter – he imagined them with a true child of their own, rather than one merely claimed by their hearts. Such was a wish that had long weighed upon his mind, even when he accepted her decision – her need, really – not to bring a child into the world while Morgoth held such a complete grip over Middle-earth. Soon, sooner than she wished, the days would darken even further, and she would not give up a child of her body on the altar of his Shadow. She would not . . . she could not.

    . . . strong enough was she for a great many things, a great many burdens. But, that . . .

    “Nimloth would have thanked you for your efforts,” Celeborn settled for saying, subtly weaving her thoughts away from where she wished them not to go. She leaned back against him in appreciation, understanding all that he did not say.

    Would that she could be here, with her daughter, she thought, but left her words unspoken. Were that they were all here, from her brothers to his family and every hole and wanting place from this side of the Sea to the next.

    . . . but they were not, and such thoughts took away from the here, from the now. Galadriel breathed in with her missing, with her wanting, and let it out again.

    The shape of the world is ever changing, and it will only continue to do so as the years pass us by, Celeborn's voice was soft against her mind. All that I ask of this life is to be allowed to remain by your side, for as long as I may.

    She let their bond fill with her affection and love before it ebbed to a peaceful current once more, feeling true contentment as she watched the children crest the rise of the hill before excitedly darting to where Tuor stood applauding Elwing's first try at sledding. Within moments, they were already set to go off again.

    Galadriel watched them, and she felt the exact moment where Celeborn's thoughts turned against her own, wondering . . .

    “No,” she firmly declared, belaying his wish before he could even speak his idea aloud.

    “Why not?” he countered, and she could feel his grin. “Is Artanis of the Noldor, daughter of the most revered house of Finwë, scared by the idea of -”

    “ - I fear nothing, husband dear, especially not -”

    “ - a harmless hill of snow, and a mere moment without an iron grasp upon the world around you?”

    He had her, and she glared, unseen by him.

    “I will not do so because I wish not to do so. Nothing more, and nothing less,” she settled for stating obstinately. At that, Celeborn laughed at her outright.

    “As you wish, my lady,” he stepped back from her, and when she looked to her side she caught the twinkling in his eyes. “But I wish to try. And so . . .”

    He walked up to Tuor and the collection of waiting sleds without another word said between them. She saw the human man glance back towards her, and ask if she was going down. But, before Celeborn could give her excuses, she set her face in a serene mask and determinedly walked up to them.

    “One for me, as well, if you would be so kind,” Galadriel asked of Tuor, caring not for the way he shook his head and smiled as he glanced between them, bemusement filling his expression.

    At the bottom of the hill, the children started cheering when they saw her intention. She held her head up as regally as she could in reply, dutifully folding her long body down and arranging the dove grey folds of her cloak about the disk – the slip of metal not feeling like nearly enough for its intended purpose.

    “Do you need a push, my lady?” Tuor asked, but all she could see was Celeborn's smiling face as he launched himself forward, the silver of his hair already blurring together with the sheen of the noontide sun on the well packed snow. Watching him, she thought: if I am going to do this, I shall do so properly. He would not reach the bottom before her.

    She pushed off from the crest of the dune, and found the bright glare of the sea and snow and sky rise up to meet her. Her body flew forward, her vision blurring as the wind whipped back her hair and her cloak billowed behind her like the wings of some great bird in reply. The moment was fleeting and elating – more than enough to make up for the indignity of her landing as the snow flew up in an impressive wave to cover her, and she skidded to a somewhat jarring halt.

    But, she noticed with some satisfaction, she had arrived at the exact same moment as Celeborn. He had not bested her.

    “Well done, Lady Galadriel!” Eärendil praised, and even Elwing wore a true smile on her normally solemn face. For that alone, Galadriel considered the ride a fair price paid as she allowed the child to give her a hand in helping her to her feet.

    “You did well enough for your first time,” Celeborn teased as he leaned down to pick up her sled for her. He already held the children's sled in hand with his own. “But, you were not quick enough to best me.”

    “Was I not?” Galadriel returned with an exaggerated crossness. “For I thought us to arrive at the same time, and my vision is rarely false in such things.”

    “If you wish to go again,” Celeborn returned nonchalantly, “We shall discover the better between us for certain.”

    Galadriel narrowed her eyes, but she felt her look soften when she took in the way the children were looking at her too – leaving her with no doubt that they intended to join in on the race as well.

    She sighed, but the expression was a fond thing, and her eyes smiled for her. “If you wish so dearly to lose, husband mine, then please, feel free to try again,” she gave her challenge, and turned back up the hill without waiting to see if they followed.

    But follow they did, and she felt them close behind her as she breathed in with the winter once more.

    ~MJ @};-
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    What a delightful, in-the-moment time! :) :) Savored and cherished as the gift it is. :D
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  20. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Lovely and funny moment for Galadriel and her friends
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  21. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    "The Silmarillion" never sucked me in the way your fanfic does. I like the beauty & grace of your words... @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  22. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: That is the very best way to put it. Thank-you! [face_love]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you. :D

    AzureAngel2: You are so very, very kind to say so. I thank you so very much! [face_love][:D]

    And this update puts me current with the NSWFF prompts! Ha haa!! (Which is good, because I have other stories to update now. :p :oops:) This is a bit of a missing scene in my arc of Thranduil and family stories, the content of which was actually a request from a RL reader. So I hope you enjoy, kid. ;)

    First, a few notes:

    Rhovanion: While you can use this term for the region as a whole, I am speaking about the Kingdom of Rhovanion, stretching from the east of the Greenwood to the River Running. At this point in the Third Age, self-proclaimed 'princes' were popping up amongst the tribes of Northmen, and about two hundred years after this ficlet Prince Vidugavia would claim the title 'King of Rhovanion' for himself. Vidugavia would ally himself with Gondor to the south of their borders, and his daughter Vidumavi would marry into Gondor's royal house - which led to the Kin-Strife when the 'pure' Men of the West protested mixing the blood of the Middle-men in with the old blood from Númenor. But that's another story. ;)

    Saddly, Rhovanion did not survive long as a Kingdom, and the people of that land would soon become the ancestors of Rohan, and the northernmost lands of Men in Dale and Esgaroth.

    East Bight: I mentioned this in one of my earlier ficlets, but to state it plainly as a reminder - in the latter part of the Second Age, during Oropher's reign, the Northmen harvested too quickly and greedily into the forest, and left a large scar on the wood. You can see it here clearly here, if you are curious . . .


    I can only imagine that the Elves would be wary for anything of the sort ever happening again, and so here we are with the framework for this story . . . :)

    (On a side note, it gives Thranduil's dealings with Bard a whole new perspective if he has been treating with his people for that long - and Aragorn too, since this prince was one of his ancestors! It really is mind-boggling, at times, thinking about the agelessness of the Elves . . . 8-})

    But, that tangent was a side-point, mostly. Now, on we go with the story . . .

    to throw truth from mirrors”

    CCXI. Devour

    The pain now dominating his left side, was, perhaps, only eclipsed by the more bruised shape of his pride for suffering such a blow in the first place.

    The true irony of the matter was that they had been alert for such an occurrence in the first place; for the eastern-most passages of Emyn Duir were little used, and had fallen greatly into neglect and disrepair since the time of his father's reign. Cave-ins and crumbling walkways were an expected occurrence, and for that reason alone, most knew better than to travel them lightly and without just cause. Yet, in the more than a thousand years since their losses suffered at Mordor, their numbers had finally recovered to the point where they were hesitantly thinking about expanding the boundaries of their halls once more.

    For that end, his architects had scouted the abandoned caverns before sharing their ideas and looking for him to approve their decisions. What had at first been an afternoon of successfully picking their way through the neglected spaces suddenly turned dire when the corridor about them trembled and groaned in warning before the entire ceiling gave way above them. No one had been seriously injured, but more than one elf bore cuts and bruises – or, as in Thranduil's case, had a broken rib or three to show for the mishap.

    To add to his annoyance – for his injury had confined him to a limited range of motion, and even worse, bedrest - this occurred right before he was set to journey to Rhovanion to treat with Prince Vitiges, one of the leaders of the tribes of Northmen who ever gained more power and pride with each passing century. While both his people and the Northmen benefited through their trade and a relatively unstrained alliance, there were times when the mannish foresters harvested too greatly, too quickly, from the trees of the Greenwood. In an effort to forestall another wound in the forest akin to the tragedy of the East Bight, a visit in person was called for, and Thranduil had decided to head that meeting. His doing so would show the utmost seriousness with which his people viewed the matter, thus accomplishing their own ends while catering to the prince's ego in his being seen to over such a 'paltry' matter by an 'equal'.

    Rather than insulting the prince by rescheduling the talks until Thranduil could better travel, they had elected to send Calelassel in his stead – which sat as well with him as a boulder left upon cracking ice. It was not that he doubted his wife's competence in dealing with the Men of Rhovanion - if one looked at the matter from a purely tactical point of view, she was the clear choice to send, even if he were in full health, for she had stood at the vanguard of the assault when his father dealt with Mankind's desecration of the forest those many centuries prior. Yet, unfortunately, the Northmen were set in their ways, and their eyes would not see the same weight of power when treating with a woman – be she even an elvish queen – as they would with another man. A part of Thranduil wished that he could be there to see Calelassel deal with the mortal's ridiculous conceptions of gender, just as much as he desired to stand as a shield at her side should she have need of him in any way.

    To that end, Amathelon had been eager to go as a part of his mother's guard, and he had solemnly promised to do his father proud in every way. Yet, that was another loss to endure, even when the rational part of his mind acknowledged the need and inevitability for children to see to their own path, their own growth, without their parents standing in their way.

    . . . for that was the glaring truth of the matter, all political reasons aside: he had not been parted from his wife since the earliest days of the Third Age, when he had traveled often between Lindon and the Greenwood, doing his utmost to simultaneously settle his affairs in Harlindon and take on the burden of his father's crown as it was so unexpectedly thrust upon him. Thranduil did not like the stretched, thin feeling of their bond across the distance, and he spent much of the energy that he should have focused on healing in seeking her out from afar, feeling her as the light of a star when he was accustomed to her being as the heat of the sun to his senses.

    Would that they could deal with the affair in Rhovanion together, even, but their youngest son had seen not even a decade of years in age. Legolas was too young to embark on such a journey, and neither was his fëa set enough in its shape to endure both parents being away for too long. A parting was unavoidable, no matter which way the matter was viewed, and Thranduil tried to keep his spirits from descending into melancholy and irritation during the fortnight that Calelassel was gone from his side. Helping him in that endeavor, Legolas seemed to endure the parting from his mother as ill as Thranduil did, and he felt his own mood brightened for trying to see to his son's happiness in the intermediate time.

    In the end, the days passed all too slowly for his taste, turning him painfully aware of each creeping minute and hour - when normally they passed him by as unnoticed as the daylight to the sun. When their final night apart at last arrived, he turned his senses from trying to find Calelassel from afar – for the trees themselves had whispered that she was already beneath their eaves, eager and glad as they were to have their queen returned to her place – and focused instead on seeing his injuries through to healing, much as he should have been doing for the last two weeks' time.

    To that end, he dimmed his bonds with both his wife and children, and instead focused all of his attention and energy inward. It had been years since he'd relaxed the enchantments covering his scarred face in illusion – not since Amathelon himself was a youth, and hearing of the War of Wrath for the first – for that alteration to the Song of his fëa had become as routine to make it nearly instinctual, much as was predicted when his wounds were still fresh and the scars there first healing.

    But now he pulled his power back, instead redirecting all of his energy towards healing and rest. He quieted his mind and fell deeply into a much needed slumber, until -

    “Ada, Ada! Are you hurt?”

    Thranduil opened his eyes to the shadows of mid-night, but his vision soon sharpened enough to see the hazy outline of his son's face, illuminated by the soft remnants of the fire in its place. Instinctively, Thranduil stiffened, feeling both Legolas' distress and concern, and instantly searching for its source. Yet, he only had to feel the air trace its telling hands over the open, exposed shape of his face before he knew -

    “Adar!” Legolas pressed again, uncertain how to interpret the apparent calm his father was acting with.

    It was not shame, but it was most certainly unease that bit through Thranduil for the horrific sight of his scarred face being bared to his child's gaze. He looked, but Legolas' expression was shaped in horror for a different reason that first he'd guess – thinking that the nightmareish wound was still fresh, and needing attention, at that. The boy's mind was already restlessly leaping from one scenario to the next, picturing a Balrog emerging from the fireplace and already wondering how he could fetch the healer and slay the beast at the same time. Over and over his thoughts circled with the truly impressive imagination that only a child could possess, before -

    Reflexively, he reached out to calm his son's thoughts, stilling them from their restless spin. Almost instantly he felt Legolas' fear and adrenaline sooth, and was able to breathe easier himself in turn.

    “Calm yourself,” Thranduil softly bid. “It is not a wound fresh, but rather, one older than this age of the world. I need no aid that has not already been given.”

    Legolas was silent for a long, heavy moment. With wide eyes he watched him sit upright, turning his torso so that the ruined half of his face was facing away from the child. Legolas stared at him curiously, but he did not try to peer and see anything more than was shown to him out of respect. He did climb up to sit on the bed when Thranduil gestured, questions already racing through the bright gleam of his eyes in the dark. Confusion and bafflement were greater in his mind than any disgust or abhorrence – or worse, fear – for which he was grateful to find, ready as he was to call his illusion forth at the first sign of distress from the child.

    As if feeling his trepidation, Legolas leaned forward to peer curiously at his face. His eyes were very large as he took in the ruined flesh now revealed to his gaze, even going as far to lean forward and touch his small hands to his face – one hand braced on that which was fair while the other sought out that which had been devoured in fire, as if unsure if the scarred flesh was a lie when he'd known an illusion for so long.

    “Fire,” he at last stated, seeing but flashes of memory from Thranduil's mind; flashes that he could not wholly keep from sharing as they raced across his consciousness with an unerring clarity.

    “Of a sort,” Thranduil answered, fighting to keep very, very still underneath his son's curious fingers and seeking gaze.

    “Balrog-fire?” Legolas asked. He held his breath after that, remembering the Valaraukar from the stories he and Tauriel listened too before the evening fires, those same tales following his thoughts as black dreams into the unwaking hours.

    “Close,” Thranduil answered, tilting his head, “but not quite.”

    “Dragon-fire, then,” Legolas next stated with certainty, rather than asking.

    Thranduil did not have to confirm his words as the boy fell silent, clearly processing what he saw before him. He felt a wave of unease bite through him at the child's apparent acceptance of his face, ill as he was for his scars being so openly displayed to any other – even to the closest of kindred. It was a sight he still did not care for showing his wife, and to see a mere child look on and calmly observe what even he had difficulty accepting about himself . . .

    Thranduil took in a deep breath, and had to try twice to find his words. “Many millennia ago,” he took to explaining, “there was a great war, one greater than any the world had known before, nor seen since - not even when we toppled the Black Enemy from his might upon the battle-plains of Mordor. The War of Wrath it is called now, where the Foe of the World was forced from his place, and the very shape of the land was changed as a result of our struggles.”

    “The battle where Morgoth Bauglir was dethroned and cast beyond the Doors of Night,” Legolas recited dutifully, as if repeating the words straight from his lessons.

    Thranduil inclined his head, even now able to remember the divine proportions of that battle as if mere days had passed since its fury, rather than centuries. He could clearly remember the violence with which Morgoth's rage shook the land, just as he could recall how the cast of dragon wings blotted out even the sun above. Then, on the ground below . . .

    “There were many thousands of dragons we slew during the war, using the black arrows that the Maiar of Aulë showed us how to craft in order to pierce their diamond scales,” Thranduil went on to explain. “Your mother -”

    “ - a master-archer,” Legolas finished his words, his own newly burgeoning preference for the bow brightening his speech.

    “Yes,” Thranduil agreed, remembering those first, war-torn days of his knowing her with fondness alongside that which was darkness and violence in the plainest of ways. “And a most adapt one, at that, no matter her youth during that war. Yet, it only took but a moment of distraction, and one of the beasts came close enough to do her a true harm. I did not think twice before rushing forward with one of the black arrows in hand, and -” he gestured to his face, from the white glazing over his left eye to the raw sinews and flashes of yellowing bone. “I lost half my face to his fire, but the dragon was felled completely by my hand. There are those who have paid heavier prices than I for facing fire-drakes throughout the centuries.”

    Legolas' eyes were very wide as he finished his tale, and Thranduil was surprised to feel a warm sort of pride from his son - as if the fact that his father was a dragon-slayer was a greater revelation than the war-wound he had spent so many centuries concealing. If the child had felt any sort of disgust or fear for the ugliness of his face, that was now gone completely as he leaned back to meet his eyes – both of his them, even the one which the fire devoured. There was naught but adoration in his gaze – alongside an awed sort of adulation - for which Thranduil was surprised to feel a warm sort of heaviness fill his own spirit in reply. He was . . . pleased by his son's regard, and he let go a breath he'd not realized he'd been holding, his spirit worrying about his son's opinion where his conscious mind had not yet realized his doing so.

    “The dragons are gone now,” Legolas at last pondered aloud. “Are they not?”

    “Most are,” Thranduil replied after a pause. “Those greatest in might certainly are, for Ancalagon's evil is a shadow that will never again fall upon this land. But in the furthest north there are still remnants of the great wyrms of old – most were fledgling drakes at the time of the war, and any that now remain will keep to their place unless summoned.”

    Or, that was what the Wise hoped. He swallowed against an uneasy glimmer of foresight, given by the shadow of Thingol's might within his blood, and cast his knowing aside. Gold attracted gold, and nothing but the gold of the Enemy himself would move a dragon from his hiding.

    Of this, he should have been certain. And yet . . .

    But his answer had satisfied Legolas, and the child looked at him in curiosity, biting his lip as a flicker of uneasiness bit through his spirit. Thranduil wondered for it before Legolas gathered his courage and quite simply asked, “Does it hurt?” in a voice that was filled with all of the solemnity his child's years could summon.

    “Not physically,” Thranduil answered, his voice equally soft. “Only the memory, in odd, unguarded moments brings me pain. Yet those moments never last long.”

    Legolas let loose a shaky breath. “I am sorry,” he said, his eyes full with feeling for his saying so.

    “I am not,” Thranduil answered simply – for this was the truth that had helped with his own recovery, rising greater than both his pride and his vanity to mean everything to him. “My loss kept your mother safe from harm, when I may have instead known the much greater agony of losing her. My pain ensured that she would someday be my wife, and she in turn gave to me you and your brother. I would have endured this a hundred times over if it meant that she – that any of you - could be spared but a moment's harm.” For that was the simplest truth of the matter; one that meant more than anything else ever could.

    Legolas was silent, no doubt wondering how he would feel if faced with a similar choice, before finally nodding his head and gravely agreeing. “I think that I understand,” he whispered, and Thranduil felt his son's regard for him as a low warmth in his spirit, greater than any dragon's heat could ever hope to contend with.

    Hopefully, he would never have to know such a similar choice, Thranduil thought. Hopefully he would never know anything more than the peace of the trees and the sanctuary of the forest. And yet . . .

    He sighed, and decided to leave those fears for another day. When the time came, he would simply act as a shield for his family once more, and until such a defense was needed . . .

    With the adrenaline of the moment having passed, Legolas' eyes were finally drooping with the lateness of the hour. Thranduil tilted his head to the side and asked, “Why did you seek me out initially, child? This is an hour meant for sleep.”

    “It does not matter now,” Legolas answered with a yawn, and Thranduil caught a glimpse of dark dreams in the night from his mind before the memory was pushed aside entirely.

    “You may stay here,” Thranduil took little more than a moment to make his decision, opening an arm to welcome him. “If we are fortunate, your mother may even be home by morningtide, and we can greet her together.”

    He felt a low pulse of relief from his son's spirit, and watched him burrow underneath the blankets with no more coaxing needed than that. Thranduil waited a moment, and then laid down next to him, telling himself that he should not have been surprised by the ease with which Legolas curled in against him, the small child caring not that such a visage was but a whisper away from his own as he nestled his head into the hollow beneath his chin. It took only moments for him to fall into a deep sleep, one filled with fair dreams - this Thranduil ensured as he touched the child's mind with his own, asking Irmo to watch over him throughout the night.

    A moment passed, one filled with a quiet contemplation, before he too surrendered himself to sleep's keeping, and found rest with his dreams.

    It was not until an hour before the dawn that he felt a familiar tugging upon his spirit, drawing him from his rest when her quiet step and careful movements said that she would have rather him remained sleeping.

    Thranduil blinked, and looked up to find his wife's fond gaze upon them both, looking down with a softness in her eyes that he'd not first realized just how keenly he had missed. His spirit greedily sucked in renewed strength from their bond, much the same as she did, feeling peace and rejuvenation fill him from merely her presence alone.

    “I was anxious to be home, so we pushed on through the night. Few of our men protested, they feeling much the same about their families as I,” Calelassel whispered in explanation, green glittering from the blue of her eyes as she spoke. With nothing but a wordless brush of feeling, she let him know that the talks with the Northmen had been successful, but there would be time for speaking about that on the morrow. “However, you were both sleeping so soundly,” she confessed. “I was afraid to wake you.”

    “The years will quickly pass before he will no longer wish to be held as such,” Thranduil whispered, running an absent hand through Legolas' hair as the child turned in his sleep, not awakening, but nonetheless feeling contentment fill him for both of his parents looking down on him in love. “You know me to be greedy at heart, and I shall take what I can whilst I may.”

    “Truly, you are downright dragon-esque at times,” Calelassel wryly agreed, her eyes flickering to take in the bare shape of his scars, still open to the night air. Something about her expression softened even further as she took in each familiar line of singed flesh and raw tissue, and he felt her love fill him as a warmth nearly living in shape.

    “My beautiful husband,” she leaned over to press her mouth to the ruined shape of his cheek. He felt the softness of her hair fall forward to brush his skin, and he inhaled in contentment for the affection as it was given. He tugged her down next to him, feeling where the journey had left her weary in both body and spirit.

    “The dawn is still some time away. You should rest,” he whispered as she settled in against him, resting her head next to her son's while being careful of his still bruised ribs.

    “I have not truly slept these past few weeks, it seems,” she admitted, letting her eyes fall closed. “I may have been more cross with the Prince than I should have been, as a result.”

    “You would not be the only one,” Thranduil returned on a whisper, feeling as Legolas turned towards his mother's warmth. He ran his hand soothingly through Calelassel's hair as she pillowed her head against his chest, the same as he still did for his child. “But your son helped me with my efforts in restraining my own moods, merry child that he is.”

    He could feel her smile against his skin for his words. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but anything further she had to say was taken by sleep falling upon her, at last claiming her for dreams. Thranduil held her closer as he felt the pleasant lull of her spirit lap against his own. Then, with the warmth of both his wife and child surrounding him, he too closed his eyes and found dreams once more.

    ~MJ @};-
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004

    I love Legolas in this. The adoration he has - understandably for his father's selfless heroism - and the natural "Does it hurt?" :)

    Your Thranduil is totally sympathetic & I cannot nor will I read him in any other fashion. ;) @};-

    The final scene with all three cuddled together - one of the kinds of scenes I love the mostest!

    Thanks for sharing!

  24. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Nice update with Legolas and Thranduil together
  25. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: I am thrilled that you enjoyed reading! I am quite taken with my version of Thranduil, too, so it can be hard reading some other post PJ's Hobbit interpretations, that I more than understand! ;) This family gives me so many feelings, and it has been a blast sharing them! [face_love][:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: There's nothing better, it's true! I thank you for reading, as always. [:D]

    Now, this update is for the NSWFF prompt better safe than sorry. At first, I was completely stumped, but when reading the LoTR appendices for info on my next set of ficlets, a stray line caught my eye, and this piece was born as a result. So, that said, I have notes to share!

    Aranarth: Son of Arvedui, the last King of Arnor. (Arnor: the lands Elendil settled on the western side of the Misty Mountains after the fall of Númenor, and thus, the sister-kingdom to Gondor in the south-east.) After his father's death, and the destruction of the North-kingdom, Aranarth put aside his father's crown and called himself Chieftain of the Dúnedain so that his people could live in safety and security as the Rangers of the North until the return of their King - Aragorn, who was prophesied at Aranarth's birth. Aranarth is the twelve times great-grandfather of Aragorn, and the combined heir of both Isildur and Anárion, sons of Elendil, heir of Elros.

    Arahael: Son of Aranarth and an unnamed mother. He was fostered in Rivendell from a very young age until his twentieth birthday, as was custom with the Chieftains of the Dúnedain all the way down to Aragorn - and thus, the main content of this story.

    Arnor vs. Angmar: In the year 1300 of the Third Age, the Nazgûl reappeared in Middle-earth, and the Captain of the Nine took up residence in Angmar - the northernmost part of the Misty Mountains, with his kingdom spilling onto both the eastern and western side of the range. He made war on Arnor soon after and was not defeated until 1975 - when the combined might of Arnor, Lindon, Rivendell, those Galadriel could send from Lórien, as well as Prince Eärnur's might from Gondor all banded together to see him defeated. Unfortunately, the battle came at great cost, and Arnor was left in ruins, even after their victory.

    Glorfindel's Prophesy: When the Witch-king was finally forced to flee, Glorfindel foretold that his defeat would come by the hands of 'no man'. We all know who later fulfills those words . . . [face_batting];)[face_love]

    Concerning Hobbits: The Shire was founded in the year 1600 by a pair of Fallohide brothers, and they beseeched King Arvedui to let them fight for the safety of their home alongside the Big Folk. After much convincing, Arvedui finally welcomed archers from the Shire, but Tolkien himself wrote that not a one ever returned. So, my OC Fallogrim Took is not breaking that rule, per say - he did not return to the Shire, to follow the exact letter of the text. ;) However, I wanted to foreshadow another brave half-Took who made Rivendell his home out of hope for peace and healing, and I could not put this opportunity aside. [face_love]

    . . . and, I think that's it. This time-line will feed into my next set of ficlets in the Greenwood, at that, so writing this was a fun way to exercise my muse's familiarity with this part of Tolkien's world. I hope that you guys, perhaps, learn something new as well, and I hope that you enjoy! [face_love][:D]

    "just so long, and long enough”


    It had been many a year since last a child's cries rang out through the peaceful ways of Imladris.

    For much too long, the clinging of mail and the song of swords had been as known as the thunder of the falls and the melody of the dawn. The weeping of new widows and the whimpers of fatherless boys had been louder than any halfhearted song in the Hall of Fire, while the prayers of those who still had kin they hoped to walk alive from the shadow of Angmar was as a constant undertone, day and night.

    This was not the first time Celebrían had known Imladris to be a safe-haven for refugees of Mankind, but this was the first time she had stood as Lady in absolute leadership of those who sought her husband's banner as a sign of safekeeping and hope. Wearying and taxing had been those days; bearing first through siege and then holding upright as their warriors – both of Elves and Men - left the valley to join Círdan's ranks from Lindon and the newly arrived host of Prince Eärnur from Gondor. She had joined the ranks of women praying to the Valar to watch over both her husband and sons, before knowing an unparalleled relief when her own returned relatively unscathed from marching against Angmar's black might.

    Centuries ago, she had hoped to see Elrond don armor for the last time when Sauron himself was thrown from his place in Mordor, and even more fruitlessly she had prayed for her sons to know little of the same violence their elders had lived through in their own days. Yet, both of those prayers had come to not – just as they had for so many mothers and wives – and this time she knew better than to pray again, with the Shadow not yet vanquished, but only sleeping, allowing them but a moment's respite as the Enemy grew in strength and dark thought once more.

    Now, almost sixty years had passed since the Witch-king was chased back to his Master's domain in the East. Yet, memory of his scourge still remained; he was not yet forgotten, and the slowly growing smiles amongst the surviving Dúnedain remained touched with grief for all they had lost, even still.

    Even so, today was a day of smiles and rejoicing. For this day Aranarth – not King as was his birthright, but rather Chieftain by his own decree – welcomed his firstborn son into the world: Arahael, the combined heir of both Isildur and Anárion, of Elendil and Silmariën and Elros himself. The infant was born with a strong set of lungs, and his trumpeting cries announced his arrival more surely than any herald – putting a smile of relief to his exhausted mother's face, and turning Aranarth's countenance bright with more joy than Celebrían had seen since he was a youth, long before the blight of war and heartache left such a heavy shadow upon his brow.

    More subtly, Celebrían knew a matching relief for Arahael's robust cries. Berethiel's pregnancy had been long and fraught with complications, and her labor had been much the same - stretching from one sunset to the next as her child stubbornly refused to enter the world. Even the healing power of the Elves could do but little against a pain that was natural for all of its intensity, and the best they could do was to keep Berethiel positive and determined as they aided her struggles. Berethiel was understandably exhausted following her ordeal, and after holding and feeding her son for the first her eyes were already drooping. Even so, she fought to stay awake in order to take the opportunity to bathe and have her bedding changed before she slept. To that end, Aranarth reluctantly handed his son to the healers in order to tend to his wife himself - their marriage not purely being for political reasons, but rather, a much needed balm and solace after so many years of desolation and strife.

    Celebrían could admit to some selfishness on her part when she shooed her husband's apprentices away and swaddled the babe herself. There had been no child born to the valley since her own daughter, Arwen, and that was nearly two millennia ago. Though it had been many years since she last held her own children as such, her arms remembered as well as her heart, and it was second nature to rock Arahael with the same lullabies of the West her mother had once sang to her on her lips.

    Over the next few days she often found herself aiding Berethiel whenever she needed a moment's rest to recover her own strength. Berethiel's own mother had been one of Queen Fíriel's noblewomen who accompanied her from Gondor, yet she had sadly not survived Angmar's assaults along with her Lady. Thus, Berethiel had no kin left to her outside of far Gondor beyond, and Celebrían was pleased to offer what aid and companionship she could. To that end, on an eve when Aranarth was in council with his advisers and Elrond, she left Berethiel to doze in peace while she carried her son to the balcony at the far end of the hall - where Arahael could feel the sunlight on his brow and hear the constant laughter of the waterfalls, their mists close enough to kiss their skin in welcome. The summer evening was warm without being stifling, and the sky above them was an artist's work of gold and red as the setting sun set the crest of the mountains aflame. She breathed in deeply, glad for the timeless beauty of her home being unmarred by war and desolation once more.

    Yet, Arahael was more taken by the green gem she ever wore at her throat, rather than the glory of the sunset beyond. Bemused, Celebrían watched as he waved his impossibly small hands and blinked owlishly. He was not yet old enough to show his interest further, but his personality was already forceful enough so that she knew of his fascination, nonetheless.

    “This was a gift from my own mother,” Celebrían told Arahael as she rocked him back and forth, bringing the Elessar close enough for him to wrap his small hands around – stopping him only when he tried to bring the gem to his mouth in an infant's instinctive gesture. “The sunlight within its casing is from a young Sun, one that shone on the faces of your forefathers' forefathers – far before my own time, even.”

    And it is a light that shall shine all the brighter for your descendants, the premonition glanced against her consciousness before fading away, as intangible as mist. She held her smile against the sensation, for a moment seeing only the bright grey of Arahael's eyes . . . the telling blackness of his crowning fuzz of hair. Lúthien had failed to leave her descendants for yet another generation, no matter that Berethiel herself was brown-haired and brown-eyed. The King's line would ever hold Lúthien's mark as a mirror, of this Celebrían was nearly certain.

    Thoughtfully, she looked down at the child she held, cradling him closer as she let the song of the water and the caress of the golden light take them both, before -

    She glanced over her shoulder with feeling a familiar brush of greeting against her spirit, and found Elrond leaning against one of the ornate pillars just before the balcony. His expression was soft, and his gaze glimmered with fondness – as if he had been staring at her for quite some time, and only just now let her know of his presence.

    Celebrían raised a brow, allowing a note of teasing to touch her expression and hide where she blushed as if she were still the same wide-eyed girl who had first looked on Imladris – and its Lord – in awe and wonder, now so many centuries ago.

    “What has you so enraptured?” she asked, unable to keep her voice as teasing as she first intended.

    “Need you ask?” he answered with a question of his own. Briefly, she caught a glimpse from her husband's mind – of the golden light turning the silver of her hair aflame, and the soft sort of beauty that came with her holding a child in her arms, bringing back memories of when their own children were young, and all the world a possibility before them.

    “You need not flatter me,” she replied, her words filling with warmth, “for mine is a heart already won.”

    “Then, wise would it be for me to see such a gift cherished, would you not agree?” Elrond returned, leaving his vigil to join her on the balcony.

    He wrapped his arms around her from behind, and rested his cheek against her own so that he could peer over her shoulder. Reflexively, she felt him look over the child with a healer's critical eye before his spirit ebbed, retreating to simply enjoy the moment - taking in the familiarity of her alongside the cherished privilege of holding child between them. She closed her eyes in a drowsy sort of contentment, completely lulled in that moment.

    In the lazy warmth that fell between them, she even entertained what a blessing another child of their own would be. Though two children were common enough amongst the Elves of Ennor, one child was the norm, and three children were rare indeed – anything more was almost unheard of, far as they were from the succoring glory of the West and the beginning of days when such large families were more commonplace. Yet, Celebrían stubbornly reflected, she was strong in spirit, born of all five of the First Kings as she was, and she believed that she could share her soul with yet another -

    - she could feel a glimmer of Elrond's amusement against her spirit when he caught the turn of her thoughts. Nonetheless, there was affection alongside that amusement, and he was not yet telling her that such a child was an impossibility. Rather, she caught a moment's unguarded longing, and her spirit smiled against his triumphantly, turning with a sudden brightness in reply.

    Our years are not yet so great that the idea of children should be far in every way, she could not help but say into his mind, catching the wayward thought that wryly reflected that the minds of the Eldar were supposed to turn away from such desires after so many years together. To that end, she caught him imagining the surprise that would be on the faces of their children – especially the twins - and the thought had her smiling again, this time for another form of amusement entirely.

    Perhaps . . . after Sauron is defeated, once and for all? She sent the thought to him, and instead of the moment's consideration and loving affirmation she expected to feel in reply, she instead felt Elrond turn strangely silent against her thoughts. She frowned, the barest of probes showing where he had not come to her merely for the joy of doing so. Something weighed upon him - something that had not been there before speaking to Aranarth and his council, and now . . .

    Waiting for him to find his words, she asked, “How did your council with Aranarth go?” out loud. She could feel his stare drop from the crown of the valley to once again look down on the infant she held. Arahael's eyes were drooping in contentment now, his small fist still held tightly over the Elessar.

    “As well as one first would think,” Elrond answered after a pause. “Their victory was won at great cost, leaving their rejoicing all but hollow in shape. It is still a hard blow for the pride of the North-kingdom - for they were once the jewel upon Elendil's crown, and now they will be nothing more than shadows in the forest, simply existing and surviving until the time their King comes again.”

    “It is a hard road Aranarth has chosen,” Celebrían agreed, thinking then about the tolls that had been exacted on Imladris, on Lindon, as well. Their numbers had waned so sharply with the end of the Second Age and the Battle of the Last Alliance, and now . . . she frowned before continuing, “But his path will bring his people peace, and his son will be raised in that peace.”

    “Yes,” Elrond said, and she felt that something in his mind shimmer, as if wanting to give way. “His son's health and happiness is something that Aranarth means to make the utmost certain of.”

    A heartbeat passed, but still he hesitated. Finally, Celebrían turned in his arms to look him in the eye, seeing a matching weight darkening the usual warmth of his gaze.

    “You are not telling me something outright,” she confronted him plain-faced, concern pulsing between their bond. “What is it that weighs upon you?”

    Elrond's eyes fell away from her, looking down to Arahael once more. And, just after she caught a whisper of determination and decision from him, he said, “The Dúnedain will not resettle Fornost. They have not the numbers nor the power to reclaim their former glory, and they will instead seek out the shield of the forests to cloak them from the eyes of the Enemy.”

    She inclined her head. “Much as we first thought they would,” she said. “Aranarth has been veering down that path since the day he put his father's crown aside.”

    “And yet,” Elrond continued, “such a path is a perilous one, even when walked to ensure the safety and the survival of the Dúnedain as a whole. They are not yet wholly settled, and to raise a child in the rugged ways of the wild while every aspect of Sauron's being is bent on the complete destruction of Isildur's line . . .”

    A hush seemed to fall over the valley as she understood what he would say next. So many things now made sense - how Berethiel welcomed her presence and aid with a weight to her eyes and a forced sort of acceptance about her spirit . . . how Aranarth held his son as if counting down every moment until a farewell . . . A farewell, for -

    “They wish to foster Arahael in Imladris,” she stated outright. She spoke the words bluntly as their meaning set in, trying to imagine the same fate for one of her own children. She found it a hard reality to swallow, even in idea only.

    “Yes,” Elrond answered just as plainly. “For Men, such is a common thing amongst the Great Houses as a way to solidify alliances and deepen the wisdoms of their children. Arahael will be safe here - for Sauron can never touch Imladris without the power of the One Ring to triumph over Vilya's might. And, not only will Arahael's well-being be assured, but he will grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Elves, and someday use that learning to lead his people in his turn.”

    And yet, when Arahael at last married, and became a father himself . . . she blinked, but saw not only Arahael as a happy child growing and learning and loving in their halls, but after . . . for many years . . . for centuries to come . . . She frowned, and held a hand to her temple as a glimmer of her mother's foresight fell upon her, letting her see . . .

    “Yet, not only shall Arahael Aranarth's son come of age here, loved as if he were one of our own,” Celebrían whispered. “It is Arahael's son . . . and his son . . . and his son's son . . . then his every descendant thereafter, until the promised return of the King. You mean to watch each of these children grow and live and die . . . Husband, it is already such a blow you set upon yourself with merely so close a friendship with the Elendili, but now you seek to twist that blade in such a way . . .”

    She drew in her next breath sharply, feeling suddenly unsteady upon her feet. For years Elrond had stubbornly set his path alongside his brother's heirs, seeing them as kindred even when such bonds of old were but distant murmurs amongst the Dúnedain – fae-tales told to wide eyed children before they were sent on to bed and dreams. There was grief to be known in mere friendships with mortal-kind – this even she herself had learned from a relatively young age. But to raise a mortal child in love, over and over and over again . . .

    It was no easy task he set upon himself – and upon her, both for the grief she too would face, and support in him in turn. Celebrían sighed, even as she held Arahael that much tighter in her arms, as if by her will alone she could shield him from both the natural course of his mortality and the dark forces even now seeking his soul.

    “I would not agree to Aranarth's request without first gaining your blessing,” Elrond said, following the waves in her spirit as they rippled from the disturbance of his proposal. His voice was quiet, but a telling strength laid underneath his apparent ease – his mind was already made, and though he would do nothing without her approval, he nonetheless hoped for the answer she would give.

    “Allow me a day's time to consider?” she finally asked. She needed to take a step back, to think clearly, without the tempestuous rush of her emotions influencing her down either path set before them. “I would not make Aranarth wait longer than that,” she assured him.

    Elrond inclined his head. He would speak no more to sway her one way or the other, instead allowing her know her own mind, and form her own decision. When she fell silent and turned her gaze back to the final death of the sun above, he embraced her once more, holding both her and the child she carried without words. The shape of his place against her spirit was quiet with a deceiving tranquility, and she leaned in against him as if she could somehow make his peace and determination her own.

    Then, she blinked, and watched the sun give way to the stars.



    The next day, she sat with Berethiel and her ladies in the gardens, and tried to listen to the easy chatter of the women, rather than the restless spin of her own thoughts.

    Helping with the distraction of her thoughts was one Hobbit by the name of Fallogrim Took. Though she had met the Halfling brothers who first settled the Shire - now nearly four-hundred years ago - Fallogrim was the first of the Little People she had known in any deeper friendship. When they first mustered their forces to march against the Witch-king, the Shirefolk too had wanted to give their arms to protect their lands – no matter that Aranarth's father, the King at that time, had tried to dissuade them from their tribute. He had been outmoved by the brave Hobbits, however, and had at last allowed fifty of their archers to join his own. Besides Fallogrim – their leader and spokesman – none of the Halflings had survived their defense of the North, and Fallogrim had yet to return to his own folk, nor did he give any inclination of doing so – saying instead that he preferred the peace and healing of Imladris over the stares and accusations that would be his to own if he ever brought himself to return to his smial in the Shire.

    But Fallogrim was excellent with tales, and he was most delighted to have a child in the valley – one of the only downfalls about Imladris, he had been known to say, was the absence of little ones constantly underfoot and amusing their elders with their antics. The years seemed to fade away from the hobbit, and he seemed once more like the brave little warrior Celebrían had first met, rather than the steadily aging elder who sought peace and sanctuary within their halls.

    Now, the old hobbit was happily bouncing Arahael on his knee, and telling Berethiel's ladies – and, more importantly to him, their children – about Lord Glorfindel and Prince Eärnur's final encounter with the Witch-king of Angmar. Fallogrim was building up to the Elf-lord's prophesy, mimicking the black tones of the Nazgûl-lord as he wilted in the face of Glorfindel's Valar given light – much to the delighted gasp of both the children and the ladies of his audience.

    Somewhere behind her, Celebrían was aware of Erestor's subtle criticism of the hobbit's rendition, while Glorfindel simply smiled and said that it had happened exactly as Fallogrim said – no more and no less. Their well-worn teasing would normally have drawn Celebrían to turn and give her own words in jest, but her mind was too full for merriment that day, and she rather found her attention turning to Berethiel time and time again.

    For the most part, Berethiel was silent as to what her husband had requested – though Celebrían was aware of a new softness about the woman, understanding now the way she watched her interaction with her son as if weighing, as if making sure that she had made the correct decision in her own mind. There was a sadness to Berethiel's gaze, but a strange contentment too – one that was put to ease by the certainty that she was making the best choice by her son, no matter the pain she would bring upon herself by doing so.

    And so, when Celebrían could take the silence no more, she said, “You would be welcome to stay in Imladris with your son.”

    Berethiel's smile was sad in reply, but there was a softness about her expression. Though the woman was but a babe when compared to the great span of her own years, Celebrían nonetheless felt as a youth before a wise-woman when Berethiel said: “I knew my duty when I married my husband, and my duty is to him as much as it is to what remains of our people. I would not leave his side when he has need of me there.”

    Celebrían frowned, and looked over to the babe Fallogrim now looked directly at as he reached the climax of his tale, feeling as a thief with her doing so. The idea was anathema to her; for with the endless days of the Elves, very few of those days were spent with their children as children, and to lose but moments of those years was a crippling thought, so foreign as it was.

    “This is a decision I know you would make yourself if it was put to you,” Berethiel whispered, even though she had no insight into the innermost workings of her mind. “For the safety of your children, you would do anything needed. And to have the likes of the Enemy himself with his Eye turned in hatred to your child more so than any other being in Middle-earth . . .”

    Celebrían was silent at the thought, remembering Sauron when he was simply Annatar, beautiful and cloaked in trickery and guile. Even then, his hatred had burned when it was nothing more than his bruised pride underneath her mother's authority in Ost-in-edhil. To imagine the full brunt of his hatred and power turned upon a child – her child . . . She frowned, a pain in her heart for Berethiel and her quiet strength in reply to the unfortunate need of such a decision.

    “If you agree to aid my family, I will stay with Arahael until he is weaned, and those months will be precious to me,” Berethiel continued, looking over to her son with so much tenderness in her gaze that it hurt to see. “After, the forests of Rhudaur are not so far that we may not return to observe the Solstices in Imladris – or, perhaps, we shall make a yearly trip to celebrate his begetting days with him. Either way, my son will not grow up ignorant of me, and to know that he shall grow - safe and loved in a haven greater than any I could create and protect with my own two hands . . . No. There is no greater gift you may grant a mother than this assurance – this certainty.”

    Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hands of any man shall he fall! Fallogrim proclaimed in a great, commanding tone, and Arahael looked up at the hobbit with wide, solemn eyes, as if the infant understood the words that were spoken over his head.

    For a moment, Celebrían was distracted, and when she looked back to Berethiel, the human woman had leaned forward to place a hand over her own. The tips of her fingers were white, and her eyes were strangely shining in the bright light of noontide.

    “I know this to be a great a task I ask of you,” Berethiel continued. “You love my son already - I can see that much in your eyes. And to ask you to love him all the more so before the days of Mankind force you to give him up . . . If the Valar are kind, I pray that I shall not outlive my children, and to ask another to take that same pain upon their shoulders . . . My mind simply cannot comprehend the price demanded of immortality, but I am aware of the toll I am asking you to pay. I understand if the price is too great, and we shall bear you no ill will for your decision. And yet . . .”

    Unerringly, Berethiel spoke outright what had been as a disquieting thought to Celebrían since Elrond first told her of Aranarth's request. Even so, she fell quiet for a moment, as if searching for her words. Celebrían tilted her own head in return, considering what she could possibly say in reply to grant the mortal woman some peace for her decision, when -

    - Fallogrim came over with Arahael in hand, the infant giving a toothless smile as he was returned to his mother's arms. The hobbit then sat down in one of the plush chairs next to Berethiel, smiling grandly all the while.

    “Your son has a fine ear for tales, my queen,” Fallogrim proclaimed – he still having little liking for the title Chieftess. Over time, Berethiel had stayed her tongue in correcting him, knowing that her words would simply fall on deaf ears. “There is a bard-heart in this wee lad, mark my words. And what better a place shall that gift be encouraged to grow but in fair Rivendell?”

    “Anárion had a liking, and a talent, for giving lays alongside his harp. Perhaps Arahael has a bit of his forefather's soul within him? Though,” this Berethiel smiled to say, her eyes sparkling mischievously, “there are those here who would know of Anárion better than I.”

    Celebrían felt the hobbit's eyes turn to her in curiosity, and a true smile touched her mouth for her memories, drawn deep from the long halls of her mind. “Anárion did indeed have a talent for music,” she affirmed, remembering the kind, gentle man who had been the peace of a forest pool where his brother Isildur was all the strength of the moon upon the tides. “My husband – though he was not my husband at the time – had a harp that was crafted by Maglor Fëanorian himself, and Anárion would take his turn in the Hall of Fire with our own minstrels, singing the old songs from lost Númenor. I still remember those evenings with fondness, and appreciation for his gift.”

    Fallogrim's eyes glittered at the mention of such a harp, as if he were already contemplating how to phrase a request to see such a hallowed antique. “And that is the true magic of this place,” he said with warmth and fondness in his voice. “It is the memory held here, and in any elven-home, truly. For, even if we are merely mortals passing through, there is a gift to be had in thinking that we touched something timeless, and, perhaps, aided in shaping that time during our stay.”

    “You would be hard to forget, Master Hobbit, no matter how many ages of the world passed,” Celebrían said warmly. “The strength of heart you and yours bore humbled our own, and long shall we speak of it.”

    Fallogrim inclined his head, even as his eyes shadowed with a sadness that not even the peace of Imladris could wholly chase away. “Perhaps the lad here may write a song about it when he is older,” he said, a forced levity to his voice that nonetheless turned real as he spoke. “I'll have to tell him about his grandfather's – and his father's valiance, at that – it is the job of such stories, to aid those of us who do not have immortal memories, you know.”

    “And it is a blessing to share hand in hand with those who do have such memories,” Berethiel added, the woman's warm eyes finding hers with the unerring accuracy of an arrow. “We are grateful for their keeping our loved ones close when even we cannot, no matter how such a burden must weigh after so many years.”

    “Quite right you are, my queen,” Fallogrim put his hands together for saying so. “Quite right indeed! As I hope the tale of the Hobbit who held Maglor Fëanorian's harp to be a much remembered one! Say,” the hobbit turned to Berethiel for a moment upon seeing Lindir and Elrond walk into the gathering – just who he needed to see. “Might I borrow your little one for a moment more? It is all the more difficult to deny the request of a guest when they hold a child in hand, you know, and this Took intends to use every card he has to play.”

    Celebrían could not help but laugh at his words, mirroring the fond look Berethiel too turned on the hobbit. Shaking her head in bemusement, she rose to her feet, saying, “If his mother is amiable, you may take the babe for sake of merely doing so, but I shall fetch you the harp now – and perhaps you can then delight us all with a song.”

    “Well,” the hobbit flushed good-naturedly, “I am no Maglor Fëanorian, but if my audience demands it of me . . .”

    “Then consider such a request placed,” Celebrían was happy to say, and Fallogrim blushed anew.

    Before turning away, she looked down on the happily smiling babe Berethiel still held, feeling a pang fill her for the way Berethiel touched his cheek as if memorizing its curve. She stared for a moment, and was able to feel Berethiel's gaze follow her in return as she left the gardens behind. The consideration in her eyes then lingered as the warmth of summer, welcome after winter, and impossible to turn away.



    After Fallogrim's impromptu concert in the garden – which soon deteriorated into tales as Fallogrim shared about his learning to play the harp and fiddle in the Shire, and even Elrond was moved to relate how Elros was slow to pick up any instrument that was set upon him, even with Maglor himself as an instructor – Berethiel retired indoors once more. Still recovering from the complications of her labor, she tired easy, and while her ladies helped her bathe from the warmth of the summer and seek repose during the midday, Celebrían took Arahael to change and ready him for his own nap. She hummed softly to herself as she did so, once again giving voice to the old lullabies she had sang to her own children without conscious thought, letting the simplicity of the task take her until she felt a presence halt at the doorway, and linger.

    Arwen was as soft of step as any full-blooded Elf, and her eyes were bright and gleaming – holding the starlight as if she walked the land before the rise of the Sun and Moon in an uncanny reflection of Lúthien herself. Celebrían smiled in greeting, not needing to see her daughter to be aware of her presence, and welcomed her into the nursery with a wave of her hand.

    Arwen hesitated, but a moment later Celebrían felt her stand by her side. She simply looked down at the child, little inclined to pick him up and coo over him as most in the valley seemed eager to do. Celebrían watched the thoughtful twist to her brow, the way the full shape of her mouth pursed in a thin line, and wondered at her mind.

    “You look at the child as if he shall rise up and bite you,” Celebrían remarked. In direct contrast to her words, Arahael cooed out a nonsense string of noises as she went to wrap him in his blanket once more.

    “I fear no such thing,” Arwen replied after a moment. Yet her eyes were still locked on the child, and she gave a delicate frown in reply to his smiles. “Only . . . I have been dreaming again,” she admitted, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

    Celebrían inclined her head, ready to provide a listening ear for whatever was weighing upon her. Arwen was the most fey of all her children, and she had inherited the Sight – from her father or her grandmother, Celebrían could not be sure – in part. Yet, Arwen's visions did not come easily to her, and she had long been working with Galadriel in Lothlórien to control her premonitions through use of the Mirror – for meditation and dreams did not sharpen and refine her knowings as they did for Elrond. Ever did Arwen's visions come as half shapes and riddles – more so than most who dealt with the double-edged blade of the Sight – and her wispy knowings of the future were often a matter that frustrated her.

    “Did you dream about the boy?” Celebrían gently prodded, understanding the look Arwen bore for the child in part. Arahael nonetheless smiled a gummy smile, oblivious to the tone of the conversation above him, and raised his arms up to be held – not by her, Celebrían wryly noted, but by her daughter.

    Arwen looked down, and subtly stepped to the side, removing herself from the baby's limited field of vision. “I would not say anything, only that I heard from Elladan that it is Aranarth's wish that Arahael be fostered here. He is amiable to the decision, and hopeful for your agreeing to their wishes.”

    Her sons had hardly dwelt in Imladris since the Witch-king's defeat for aiding Aranarth and his people with settling in the forest, eager as they were to help the Men learn the ways of the wild in all things. Elladan's heart in particular was closely aligned with the sons of Men, and for his deep friendship with Aranarth, Celebrían was not surprised for his knowing what few others knew.

    “It has been suggested, and your father and I are weighing that option,” Celebrían answered truthfully, turning to hide the frown she bore in reply to Arwen's expression. “Your father has seen nothing that he has mentioned to me about Arahael's future, however. We are making our decision with only our own thoughts as counsel.”

    “It is even more difficult to foresee events connected to one's own future, and twice as untrustworthy are those visions,” Arwen admitted after a pause. “Adar would not have mentioned any such glimpses, even if he did see them . . . And yet, I have seen – I have dreamed, which you know to be rare for me . . . This child shall do Adar's heart a great harm one day, and I fear . . .”

    Arwen faltered, and had to pause to recover her words. There was a true source of conflicting pain and discomfort upon her face – for while Celebrían had never felt the lesser in her daughter's heart, it was true that Arwen favored her father in all things, being alike to him in both talents and temperament. Theirs was a bond that ever warmed Celebrían's heart to see, and she then understood Arwen's reservations for the shield they were.

    “There is ever an unspoken harm that comes with loving those of mortal blood,” Celebrían said softly, thinking to guess the root of her daughter's visions. “This is not the first time your father will love with such a parting in mind, and I believe that it shall not be the last.”

    Nonetheless, Arwen shook her head. Her frown only deepened. “I do not speak merely of the bite of mortality, Naneth. What I see is in shadow . . . so much of it that I hesitate to speak; but it is a hurt more so than that of death this child shall inflict. Only, I should say that he shall not, but rather, one born from his line . . .” She swallowed, and had to try again to find her words. “No mere sundering of deathlessness and mortality do I see, but rather, a grievous wound of spirit that shall be remembered err all the ages of the world pass; one so greatly inflicted that even the peace and the healing of the Uttermost West will do but naught to sooth that pain.”

    Celebrían blinked, taken back by the forceful cast of Arwen's words. This was a vision that had her truly concerned – and clearly troubled. She looked, and saw that her daughter clenched her slender hands into fists. The delicate line of her brow was furrowed, and there was a fierce gleam to the brightness of her eyes - as if she could vanquish whatever harm she foresaw by merely the strength of her gaze alone.

    “You should send him back with his folk,” Arwen said lowly. “Leave the Men to theirs and we to our own, for much will then be safeguarded that way.”

    “Someday, this shall not be our land, but theirs,” Celebrían said gently. “With every passing year the time of the Firstborn wanes, and to the Secondborn shall our inheritance soon pass.”

    Arwen's frown only deepened at her words, and Celebrían took a moment to collect her thoughts by leaning down to scoop Arahael up in her arms once more. He was still smiling and happily cooing, his eyes bright as he tried to stick his thumb in his mouth, while only succeeding in gumming on the side of his still curled fist.

    “You have never known the pain of mortal passing,” Celebrían at last found a path for her words to walk. “And while a pain it is, a great joy there is for watching the bright days of Mankind as they wax and wane. There is a strength to be found in mortal-folk, joy too, and while our association with the Dúnedain has shown us the worst of Mankind, it has also revealed the best, and little would we trade the sweet for dissatisfaction with the bitter – for if all of life's crossroads were decided with such a view in mind, then no path would you ever walk, but rather, remain still in your place.”

    Still Arwen's eyes were troubled, but she looked to Arahael now, allowing herself to truly see the child for the first. Gently, Celebrían bid of her, “What do you see for this child, and this child alone?”

    Arwen was silent for a moment. She then reached out to gently touch the baby's brow, her eyes softening as the boy tried to reach up to curiously grab her hand as it passed. “Joy,” she replied honestly. “Strength and peace and light, though nothing more specific than that.”

    Celebrían inclined her head. “And here that light may be allowed to grow, so that someday it may shine all the brighter for his people. Would I rather this burden fall to some other, and a simpler course be allowed to me and mine? Yes . . . perhaps. And yet, this path is now here before me, and I find that I cannot turn him away for fear of some far off, indefinable pain,” Celebrían found her own decision made even as she spoke it aloud. She held Arahael tighter with accepting her own mind, and felt her arms turn sure in their hold.

    Arwen's frown lessened, but there was still a shadow behind the growing acceptance in her gaze. She had yet to move her hand away from Arahael's brow, instead moving to gently touch the soft fuzz of his black hair and curiously trace the curved shape of his ear with her fingertips. Happily, the infant squirmed from the ticklish touch.

    And Celebrían reached over to tilt her daughter's chin up, wishing to meet her eyes. “Never fear embracing love for the pain of suffering loss for that love,” she said lowly – but strongly, feeling as if she shaped more than Arwen's future with Arahael with her speaking so. Her words were touched with a low, unsummoned power, and she strangely felt her eyes turn hot, as with the onset of tears. “If there is one lesson I can impart upon you as your mother, it is this one I would most dearly give, and know delight for your learning.”

    She leaned over to kiss her daughter's brow, holding the gesture for a long moment as she felt the tension leave Arwen's stance as with an exhale. She still looked wary when she looked down on Arahael, but there was nonetheless a softness in her gaze - an acceptance.

    “Allow me to hold him?” Arwen at last offered, finding her speech to be stronger with each word spoken. “And please, do not hesitate to tell me what I am doing wrong.”



    The evening came with another golden-red sunset setting the crown of the mountains ablaze. The summer birds were singing sweetly, and on one of the balconies beyond their own, a flutist had taken to trilling with the winged folk in order to sing the sun to sleep until the morrow.

    Pensively, she stood with her hands delicately braced against the railing before her. She looked down to the gardens below, where she could even now see Aranarth and Berethiel sitting with their son beside one of the fountains, not looking to the glory of the sunset around them, but rather, at the child they held between them – a softness to the moment the small family stole that Celebrían could not look away from, not even for the glorious drama playing out in the heavens above her.

    She felt a twisting in her chest at the sight, but her pain was more the pain of acceptance – the rush before a fall – and she swallowed it away to rest as an unacknowledged fluttering in her chest, unlooked for and little more examined beyond that. The Valar had placed a hard, strange road before Aranarth and his people, but he was rising to meet his days with bravery and good cheer, and she would learn from the mortal, and do the same as well as she could.

    “So, you have made your decision?” she heard Elrond's voice speak into her ear, uncannily following the train of her thoughts with his speaking.

    She looked behind her, not having heard him approach, but then understanding the peace in her spirit to be more than the decision she had reached in her mind.

    “I think that I made it from the first,” Celebrían confessed, a sad smile touching her mouth with her words. She felt his arms settle about her from behind once more, and she leaned into his embrace with the ease of long familiarity. “Only, I did not wish for it to be so.”

    “Celebrían -” she heard Elrond sigh against her hair, and she turned in his embrace to look him in the eye.

    “You do not have to speak so as to convince me,” she assured him. “It is the right thing to do, and more than that, I wish to aid them in whatever way we may. Arahael is a beautiful child, and my heart is already quite taken by him. You know that I love his parents, as well, and I . . . I will not be afraid of that love. No matter where it may lead.”

    She sighed with her final words, leaning forward to rest her brow against his own. She felt him touch the side of her face, the caress passing over her ear and into her hair, and she leaned into the tangibility of his affection, feeling as a tree rooted in the deep earth for the languid contentment then filling her bones. She raised her hands to rest atop his shoulders, quite comfortable with the idea of staying like so for an entire age of the world, at least.

    “Have you foreseen anything regarding the child?” she at last asked. When she spoke, the light of the setting sun had turned red above them, setting the rim of the valley aflame. She let him see her earlier conversation with Arwen, and felt him turn the memory over for a moment before understanding set in.

    “I've seen nothing more than shadows, half formed and impossible to interpret clearly,” Elrond told her honestly. If he was troubled by their daughter's premonition, it was a worry deeply hidden, and she exhaled, content with his answer. “Such foresight grows all the more dim and strange as the final days of our people come upon this land; this you have long since known as well as I.”

    That she did, she reflected. Her hands flexed against his shoulders as he ran a soothing hand through her hair. She made a humming noise in the back of her throat, content, no matter the shape of her reflections.

    “There will be many such wounds to heal when the end finally comes,” she finally said aloud. “It becomes hard to tell one harm from the other as the days stretch on.”

    “So, there is but little risk in adding but a few more to our days?” Elrond finished for her wryly.

    “That was not my precise meaning,” Celebrían returned, a matching smile touching her mouth. “Perhaps I meant to say that you will not – I will not – have to face those wounds alone. And that in of itself makes any dark possibility for the future bearable.” She felt his arms tighten about her at her words, and her spirit felt pleasantly cradled against his own. She let her eyes fall shut in contentment. “Arahael and his line will bring many blessings with him; it is just a matter of judging them to be worth more than the inevitable loss to come.”

    "And you do?" Elrond nonetheless paused to make sure, and she opened her eyes to meet his gaze.

    "I do," she made her vow, feeling the truth of her words as a lining in her bones.

    “I will tell Aranarth, then,” Elrond inclined his head. She felt him look over her shoulder to where the small mortal family was sitting down below. Arahael was growing fussy, and even his frustrated cries were endearing as they cut through the beauty of the evening.

    She turned towards the sound, bemused as his parents moved to do what they could to sooth him. “I miss those days,” she confessed out loud. "I did not think to experience the cries of a child again - not until we were grandparents, perhaps, or," she gave a wry smile, her fanciful wishing for another child of their own having been met - and answered - in the most unforeseen of ways.

    "Something tells me that we shall find our halls to be all the more quiet after the King returns and our time in Middle-earth comes to an end," Elrond still reflected. "Perhaps . . ." he let his voice tapper off, and she could not help the shape of her smile in reply.

    “I shall still hold you to that vow, Peredhel,” her eyes sparkled as she said so. Playfully, she tugged on one of his braids. "So mind the words you next say."

    “Merely would I say that I look forward to my path with you, no matter who joins us on that path,” Elrond settled for saying. Yet when he leaned down to kiss her she felt as a youth stealing a moment with her new love, sweet as the heat was that still filled her veins, no matter the many years between them.

    She smiled against his mouth when their kiss ended, and said, "That felt like a vow to me," with a brightly considering expression upon her face.

    "Then, a vow it is," Elrond agreed.

    Happily, she kissed him again, pulling away only when Arahael's cries turned louder below. She sighed fondly, and said, "Give them this moment, and then we shall tell them?" Someday, even memories of a fussy child would be cherished ones, and Aranarth and Berethiel deserved every one they could claim in the time they had allowed to them.

    Elrond inclined his head. "That would do well," he agreed, and pulled her close once more. She went to him willingly, and nestled into his embrace as she thought about the strange ways of time and fate. Perhaps, at the edge of her consciousness, a glimmer of her daughter's forewarnings remained, but in these shadowed days there was not a decision that could be made to avoid all such ill outcomes for the years ahead.

    Rather, all they could do was to take those years one day at a time, and find what joy in those days they could. Below, she could hear Berethiel's full laughter in reply to the silly faces Aranarth made to end their child's fussing, and her heart warmed at the sound, knowing that they took what they could while they could - and, in such, there was a lesson to be learned, and benefited from.

    So, for that moment, Celebrían leaned against her husband and thought of nothing more than the setting sunlight on her face and the warmth of the valley around her, content to leave room in her heart for nothing else.

    ~MJ @};-