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Father's Wish, A: 14. Chapter Fourteen
Year 467 of the First Age – Doriath
“– berries?” Artanis blinked at the interruption of her thoughts.
“Of course,” she said, accepting the platter from Melian. After Finrod’s death, Artanis had returned to Doriath, where the king and queen welcomed her back with an intensity that Artanis knew was also tempered with despair. Orodreth had asked his sister to remain, but Artanis had known that her presence in Nargothrond would have been awkward. Orodreth’s policies were different from Finrod’s, and unlike Finrod, he would not welcome her intrusion in his affairs. Another complication was Orodreth’s wife, now Lady of the House of Finarfin, a role that had belonged to Artanis when Finrod was king. But without those duties to sustain her, Artanis knew that she could not live in a place that held so many memories of her beloved Finrod.
Forcing her attention back to the queen, she asked politely, “How is the king this morn?”
“Vexed. His scouts have search far and wide, and still there has been no sign of our daughter…or the mortal man.”
“Beren,” supplied Artanis, knowing full well that the queen had known that fact.
Melian nodded. “He even sent a message to Himring.”
Artanis averted her eyes. She, along with the rest of Thingol’s court, had heard of Luthien’s brief stay at Nargothrond and her subsequent escape, which had been followed by the banishment of Celegorm and Curufin from her brother’s realm. And although Artanis had no part in those events, the judgmental gazes of the Sindar followed her wherever she went. “The king must be very concerned, my Queen, for him to ask for the aid of my cousins.” Although his plea for help was probably couched in vague insults.
“Luthien is dear to him.” Melian, perhaps sensing the awkwardness of the topic, shifted gears. “I have been meaning to express my admiration at your needlework, Galadriel. The gown you beaded for Nimloth was very beautiful.”
Artanis reflexively clenched her hands. “It was very time-consuming, and as I am slow with pin and thread, it took even longer than it should have.”
“Nevertheless, it was most appreciated. The language of the Noldor may be outlawed, but Noldorin fashion and style – that is something that Thingol can never keep out.” Melian chuckled. “Strange, is it not? How the Sindar so easily despise the Noldor and yet willingly don their designs?”
“Indeed.” It was her turn to change the subject. “Celeborn is not yet returned from his latest foray. Something must have delayed him.” Careful to hide the extent of her concern for him, Artanis looked away from the Queen’s knowing gaze.
“The whispers in the villages keep him abroad. He is reluctant to dismiss any information as worthless, and thus he investigates everything.” Melian’s tone was suspiciously nonchalant. “And he is lonely in Doriath. Galathil’s entire existence revolves around the fortifications of the kingdom, Linneth is caught up in harrowing stages of Nimloth’s majority, and Thingol and I are too worried for our daughter to devote much time to our foster son.”
Artanis digested this information silently. “Indeed,” she finally said. “I shall be glad for his return, for I have no one here that I may call close family. It is fitting then, that two such orphans should seek companionship together.”
Melian smiled slightly and went back to her threading.
A few days later, Doriath grew joyful at the return of the princess – and suspicious of her mortal escort. The king himself had frowned upon seeing him, but with Luthien protecting him, no harm could befall Beren. They described their Quest in detail, and when Beren came to the part of Finrod’s death, he saluted Artanis with his remaining hand.
Artanis had returned the gesture, but she found it difficult to grasp the fact that Finrod had sacrificed himself for this insignificant mortal creature, and here the creature stood, healthy except for his missing hand.
She slept that night, her dreams filled with images of her brother as he was torn from limb to limb. Too terrified to wake but even more terrified to continue, Artanis got up, her nightdress drenched in sweat. And an hour later, she was dressed for a walk outside.
When the nightmares became unbearable, which was more often than not these days, she would try to find oblivion and forgetfulness by staying awake for days at a time, then finally falling asleep from exhaustion. And although the remedy had lost its effectiveness a while ago, she still kept trying, for what else could she do? She was careful to keep her remedy to herself, although Artanis suspected that Melian knew. But she needed the oblivion that could not be gained any other way within the safe borders of Doriath.
Because for her, the despair had never come from a lack of foresight, from not knowing what the future held. It was the things she already knew, the things she had learned and done in the long years of her life, the unspeakable things she had willed into action, whether passively or aggressively. It was the things she had kept secret, secrets that had a way of boring a hole straight through the heart. It was the events she remembered, of her first slaying of an Elf, of the several killings afterwards, and even further back to her childhood, of her father telling her that violence was never an answer to anything except hate, indeed, the nightmares that caused her to jolt awake in the middle of the night, sweating and too panicked to remember that she was safe in her bed. Sleep was supposed to peaceful and free of the horrifying memories that made up her life, but hers remained there, hiding in the darkness of her brain, and when she could not take it anymore, she would run in the only way she knew how. Many days she would go without sleeping, relying on sheer willpower to function within the bounds of normality. And when she could not take it anymore, she would seek rest by becoming near unconscious because then, her body would be too tired to torment her with dreams.
Yet nothing could cheat life, and soon the memories would find her again, standing beside her in the bright daylight.
Perhaps a walk in the cold, crisp air would refresh her, however slightly.
But even as she sought to escape from her dreams, the man who had placed them there was in the gardens as well, his mortal body forlornly sitting on a stone bench. She could leave – he had not seen her. Instead, she walked with a heavier step so that he could hear her approach. “Lady Galadriel,” he said respectfully as he rose in greeting.
“Greetings, Beren.” He gestured to the seat next to him, which she took. “I would think that after such an arduous quest, you would be sleeping.”
“I want to sleep.” His voice, which had been so strong in Thingol’s hall today, was sad. “But sleep is the once place I cannot chase away memories.”
Artanis smiled ever so slightly. “We have something in common then, you and I.”
He stilled suddenly, becoming quite like the statues standing near the fountain. Distantly she considered how very Elf-life Beren seemed at the moment. “That is not all we have in common, my lady.” The heaviness of his tone, even heavier than before, alerted her to the upcoming subject. His eyes turned to her, waiting for her to mumble an excuse or to change the topic, thereby giving her the opportunity to escape, if temporarily, from such a painful subject.
I am no coward. “And what would that be?” she asked, the steadiness of her voice surely a credit to her race.
Beren reached into his pocket. “Lord Finrod’s ring.” He held out the golden ring in his hand, the green stone gleaming even in the moonlight. “It belongs to you, my lady. The debt has been repaid a thousand times over.”
Artanis stared at it, the ring beckoning to her in the soft moonlight. “By the Valar, how much I want it,” she whispered, too soft for even Beren’s hearing. The ring was all that was left of Finrod to her, all that was left of her father. She reached out to take it…
“No,” she murmured. Her hands gently cupped Beren’s, and she urged his fingers to close around the ring.
He nodded, thankful for the reassuring weight of the ring once again. He had been prepared to give it up, had steeled himself from becoming dependent on it, but now he could give in to his relief. “The ring – allows me to believe.”
“I know,” whispered Artanis gently. “These are uncertain times, and many will doubt you. But remember that Finrod died because he believed in you. Keep it with you to remind yourself of that. Keep it to remind your people of him, should the day ever come when my kind vanishes from this world.” She looked away. “I still have my memories.”
Year 470 of the First Age – Himring
The morning was not even over, yet Maglor’s second horse also went lame. He could feel the hitch of the mare’s stride, which consecutively grew worse every minute. “This horse is finished.” He slowly dismounted from the tired animal and examined the sweating, sagging lines of the once fresh mare.
Maedhros, whose own horse was hardly better, cursed as he too sprang from his saddle to land nimbly at his brother’s side. He wiped face, his copper hair curling with sweat. He and Maglor were on their way back from one of the eastern villages of Ulfang, where they had gone to oversee their preparations for war. Unfortunately, on the way there, a poisoned Orc arrow had hit Maglor’s horse, and Maedhros’s had injured its leg. Ulfang’s people had been glad to give them some of their own horses, but the horses of mortals were no matches for their Elven counterparts.
“I hate this part of the country.” Maglor pulled out a small towel from his pack and wiped his own face. Northeast of Himring, near the northern ranges of the Ered Luin, the devastated lands of Lothlann had been bleached with the fires of the Dagor Bragollach, and now, under the intense heat of the sun, the ground was caked and dry, no moisture gracing the once lovely lands. “We should not have sent our guard ahead.”
Maedhros grunted as he removed the saddle from the horse. “What use is the guard here? Their horses would have been in the same shape.” He narrowed his eyes at the distant hilltop. “If we ride the rest of the day, we should reach Himring by tonight.”
Maglor sighed patiently. “Yes, but we do not have horses, brother. Although in your usual all-knowing way you probably have not noticed.”
“Be quiet and unsaddle your horse,” snapped Maedhros with uncustomary harshness. “I believe there is a wandering tribe beyond the next ridge. Perhaps we can get fresh horses from them.”
“They could be Orcs.”
“They could be mortals. Or better yet, Elves.” His posture and tone brooking no argument, Maedhros secured his travel pouch and then hoisted the saddle on his shoulder. “Be alert. Although Orcs do not travel during the day, we can never be too sure.”
Maglor nodded silently and followed suit. Ever since Maedhros had formed his alliance, his temper had been unusually frayed. The mortals wished to go to war right away and often chafed at being told to be patient. It was not necessarily their fault, for they had not waited almost five hundred years for this day as Maedhros and his brothers had. They could not understand how every detail needed to be planned, every movement coordinated. Most importantly, they did not understand the full consequences of losing.
Matters were complicated further because both Thingol and Orodreth refused to participate, both rulers content in the safeties of their underground kingdoms. The Dwarves compensated partially, but Maedhros’s strength was not what it should have been.
Then there was the unspoken matter that Maglor knew burned his elder brother’s heart nevertheless. That a mere slip of a girl and a weak mortal had taken what Maedhros had not been able to, even with the mighty strength of the Eldar behind him. Celegorm, Curufin, and on occasion, Caranthir, would remind him of their duty to reclaim the Silmaril, and as much as Maedhros wished too, he could not ignore the Oath.
So his attention was split in several different directions, and as he was wont, he devoted as much care as he could – thereby forgetting to care for himself. Having never fully recovered from his ordeal on Thangorodrim, he was far too gaunt and pale for Maglor’s peace of mind. And lately all he seemed to be eating were the dried rations of the soldiers because he was too busy to eat a hot meal.
And he was certainly too busy to sleep.
Maglor had tried to take care of him, but Maedhros was too stubborn and he himself was too tired. Where they would get the energy for another battle Maglor did not know nor care to ponder anymore. Better to fight half dead than not at all.
His ears picked up the sound of hooves in the distance. “Into the bushes,” hissed Maedhros. Maglor tiredly hid his gear then followed suit, the thorns scraping his skin. If they were Orcs, he and his brother would be scented out, but since it was barely midday, it was most likely a company of men, who had neither the eyes nor the noses to find them.
But it was neither man nor fell beast that galloped down the beaten path. A tall dark-haired Elf rode at the head of the small party, his keen eyes continuously roving the area around.
Maedhros emitted a sharp whistle in order to alert the party that one of their own, not an enemy, was in the vicinity. If either of them had jumped up or shouted, an arrow most likely would have been delivered instead. The riders stopped, their weapons still raised but no longer ready to shoot. “How did you find us?” demanded Maedhros as he left his hiding spot.
Celegorm smiled dangerously. “Your guard came across my hunting party and informed me that you were returning on mortal horses.” His gray eyes were laughing. “It was easy to guess why you were so late in returning.” He dismounted and offered his brother his own horse. After helping Maedhros mount, Celegorm turned to Maglor. “We can share the extra mount, if that is agreeable with you?”
Maglor nodded tiredly. It was certainly a blessing that he was lighter than his other brothers, or else sharing one mount would have been difficult. “Why did Maedhros dismiss his guard?” hissed Celegorm once they were under way. That is why he was so eager to share a mount with me – so he could ask me the questions he dare not ask Maedhros.
“I know not – he did not share the wisdom of his decision with me.” He leaned his head against his brother’s back, grateful for the rest.
“He must be careful! To be so careless with his life when it matters the most!”
Somehow Maglor summoned the energy to rebuke his younger brother. “When has his life mattered less?”
Celegorm grew contrite immediately. “I apologize, for my words were spoken in haste. But I have noticed that he has been taking more chances of late. His own soldiers speak of the doom in his eyes.”
“In all our eyes, brother,” corrected Maglor sleepily. “For are we not the source of our own doom?”
Year 470 of the First Age – The Borders of Doriath
Artanis felt the thrill of anticipation well within her as the mighty towers of Hithlum came into view. “Finally will we fulfill our oaths today.”
“Your oaths.” The admonishment came from a steel-faced Celeborn, his silver hair falling in a thick braid down his back. Artanis had insisted that she go to her own people at Hithlum, and though Thingol had argued with her, he could not refuse her the right of departure – especially since two of his own warriors, Mablung and Beleg, were also joining the fray. I will not be denied the right to be there when my people destroy Morgoth – or are destroyed by him. I stand as one of the Noldor, as I always have. So had her proud words rang through the caves of Menegroth, and Thingol, who at last saw her will in his, gave her his leave to depart. Celeborn was assigned to escort them from the Hidden Realm, and throughout the journey, he had remained silent – till now.
“Oaths have undone you before and will do so again.”
“You doubt the strength of our army?” Her voice was cool, indeed, it had been thus for the past several days in response to her cousin’s silent anger.
Celeborn looked straight ahead. “Lady, I doubt not the strength of your armies, but neither do I doubt the treachery of Morgoth.”
“Treacherous he has always been, and treacherous he will always be. We cannot wait for him to be anything else.”
“You have not the strength that you should. Morgoth’s foul creatures will outnumber you by the thousands.”
Anger flared in Artanis, and for the first time in many years, she nurtured it. “Your king is partially responsible for that,” she shot back.
Celeborn looked at her for the first time. “The Noldor came here and assumed they knew best. They sought to bend us to their will, to their goals and desires. We have faced the threat of Morgoth longer than you ever have, so forgive us if we do not come running to you at the first call. Perhaps things would have been different if your people had arrived with noble intentions, but so far everything you have done – or not done – was in self-interest.”
“That is not true.” She turned her face to him, willing him to look at her. “That is not true for all of us.”
He did not look at her, but she could see the muscles in his jaw relax slightly. “Then I have misspoken.” He paused, and then, “Many of your warriors are not true fighters. They are craft smiths and farmers.”
She nodded in sorrow. “Maedhros and Fingon called for help, and all able Elves answered. They may not be in good order now, but after some training…” she trailed off as she looked towards the horizon, looking for the spires of Hithlum. “I want my cousins to hit Morgoth, to hit him hard. I want them to hurt him right away, no matter what the cost.”
“And if you fail, your kind will be obliterated from these lands. Then there will be no hope left for any of us.” Celeborn watched her now, unwillingly liking the fire that burned so hotly in Galadriel. She sat canted forward in the saddle, her back taut, and her hands clenched tightly in the mane of her horse. In the otherworldly beauty of her face, her eyes shone, brilliantly alive, her attention focused on her enemy.
“We have Eru on our side. That is enough.”
They rode until midday when the approaching trumpets alerted them to the presence of one of Fingon’s warrior parties. “Here must we say farewell.” Celeborn halted his horse and gestured for his men to do the same.
Artanis had expected to be relieved to hear the approaching horses, to be glad that she could go to her cousins and help them prepare for the battle. But she had not expected the reluctance that welled within her at the prospect of this parting. I have parted from him before. This should not be any different. Yet it was. Perhaps it was the fact that neither of them might survive the upcoming years, or perhaps it was that they would survive and come back to each other as changed people. In either case, Artanis was at a loss.
“Celeborn.” Her voice had lost its usual haughtiness.
He gazed at her for a long while before turning to his men. “The lady and I would like a few moments.” His soldiers obeyed as they moved into the trees, near enough in case of danger, but still distant enough for some privacy. “Galadriel, must you go?” He brought his horse alongside hers. “You can stay in Doriath with your other family.”
“Or you could come with me and stay with your other family.” Artanis played with the hem of her tunic.
“I cannot,” came as predicted.
She looked up at him. “Then you cannot expect me to do so either.” Her tone softened. “You understand, do you not?”
The horses were coming closer. “I do not want to.” Celeborn’s eyes did not waver from hers. They were very close now. “Galadriel…” His eyes were saying something that Artanis could not, would not understand. So she did the only thing she knew how to do.
With an oath, Celeborn hauled her across her saddle and into a haphazard position on his lap. Viciously he kissed her, his anger and fear fueling his reaction. There was no tenderness in the kiss, or even affection. It was a kiss of possession and of too many missed opportunities. Vaguely, Artanis realized that she was trapped between his body and the horse, two unyielding surfaces. All of her fatigue, fears, and anger melted away into a fireball of sensation, of frustration, need, temper, and lust.
And when he released her, he spoke not a word, no promises or wishes uttered between them. They knew all too well the possibility of a bleak future, of the lack of hope. Just, “Goodbye, Galadriel.”
Her heart clenched in her breast, but she knew that Celeborn would despise her if she showed her fear. She knew that nothing angered him more. Silently praying for him, she held tight to her courage and watched as he rode away.
Year 471 of the First Age – Anfauglith
There was so much blood, of men, Elves, Orcs, and other creatures. In death they lay in peace, oblivious to the battle being waged around them and on top of them. It was an eerily familiar tableau – a sight that had followed her from Alqualondë. Except then it had been Elf against Elf, cousin against cousin. But was this battle any better? If the Avari were to be believed, these Orcs had once been their kin. Too tired for such philosophical wonderings, she carefully sifted through the bodies, hunting for survivors.
As a rule, Elda women did not participate in battle. But the need had been so great that even women were encouraged to take up arms. And Artanis, who had been a talented athlete in her earlier years, as well as a princess of the Noldor, refused to be denied her right to vengeance. She had forced Fingon in allowing her to participate. After a week of saying no, he gave in, for he had been too preoccupied by other things. Besides, he had always known that Artanis was able to take care of herself. Thus she now found herself in this desperate mess, her sword attached to her hand by gore, her blood-soaked braid dripping a trail behind her.
She had no idea where her comrades her, but in the distance, she could make out Turgon’s banner.
When she had first caught sight of Turgon’s host, her heart had jumped. But she had not been able to see Glorfindel, and as the battle refused to stop for her sake, she had kept on fighting, edging towards the main host.
But before she could get there, balrogs had surrounded her cousin Fingon and had beaten him to death. A distant part of her mind decided that Morgoth liked using balrogs to eliminate High Kings of the Noldor. At the moment of Fingon’s death, she had not the time to reflect upon anything else. Survival had been her only thought and motive. However, the battle was now over, and sooner or later she would have to make her way over to where Turgon’s temporary headquarters were. By nightfall they would have to leave before Morgoth sent more of his Orcs to finish them.
“Water.” Artanis almost missed the hoarse plea. She turned to see a man wearing the spoiled livery of Huor’s people looking at her with eyes glazed in pain. He was buried underneath two other bodies, one of Turgon’s people and another man. Briefly she considered leaving him – it was his kind that had caused so many problems. It was his kind that had betrayed Maedhros and had caused the Fëanorian host to weaken even before it reached the main battle. But then she thought of her dead brothers, Finrod and Angrod and Aegnor, all three who had died without someone to hold them as they passed from this world.
With a sigh, she trudged back, her boots sinking into a rather deep puddle of blood, the smell and feel of it making her want to wretch. “Brace yourself,” she said soothingly. “I must lift these bodies ere I can get to you.” The man grunted, but whether that was in agreement or in pain she did not know.
Artanis was no warrior, but she had disciplined her body to obey her. She called upon it now to pull the dead Elf, and with great pain to her battered arms, she moved him aside. Although the Elf was not as heavy as a human, his armor added to his mass, some strange metal that Turgon preferred. Next, the human was pulled off, this time more gently, for the injured man lay beneath him. When the man was free, Artanis looked over him critically. He was pinned to the ground by a wicked looking blade, his feet in someone else’s internal organs. Wrinkling her nose, she crouched and lifted the man’s head. “Here, drink this.” She placed her water skin to his mouth. There was not much left inside, but this man had lost so much blood he was very dehydrated.
He obediently drank, but he was in so much pain he could barely swallow. “Did we win?” he asked when he could drink no more.
Ought I tell him the truth? But he will die soon. No medicine that we know can save him. “Yes,” she lied.
“I will not live, will I?”
This she could not lie about. “No. Your wounds are too extensive, and you have lost too much blood.”
He closed his eyes. “At least I am dying in the arms of one so fair,” he rasped. “An honor.” He steadily grew weaker with each passing second.
“You have died in the service of something greater than the both of us,” she corrected. “That is the greatest honor anyone can ask for.”
She held him until his breathing stopped, and though her arms were aching, she gingerly placed him back on the ground. Already warriors were collecting bodies for cremation. There was not enough time to bury them all, nor could they be carried back for a proper funeral. Better they burned the bodies than have the Orcs defile them. Rising carefully, she once again began making her way to where Turgon’s banner blew in the breeze. She had not seen Turgon since long before he had left Vinyamar. Glorfindel she had not seen since their parting in Ossiriand, and she prayed that he had survived.
Her arrival in Turgon’s makeshift camp was barely noticed, and though she recognized a few faces – Penlod and Ecthelion were the most familiar to her – they were too preoccupied to pay attention to another blood-soaked Elf. She finally caught sight of Turgon on the far side of the camp, his tall form covered in dirty armor. Besides him was another much-beloved figure. Glorfindel.
Approaching them, she was stopped by a pair of guards. “The king is not to be disturbed,” said the stern-faced one the left.
“I understand, but I am his cousin Artanis, and I beg his audience.” The guards looked at each other, then looked back at her disbelievingly. Artanis was reputed to be very beautiful, but the creature in front of them may have been an Orc under the grime. The one on the right nodded and beckoned her to follow.
Her welcome was not what she had hoped. Upon seeing her, Glorfindel spilled an entire pot of ink over the maps he was bent over. Turgon dropped his mug of tea, and one of the women attending them fainted.
“Are you sure you are not an Orc?” asked the guard, a faint undertone of humor audible in his voice.
Half an hour later, she was a little cleaner but much crankier. Though she and Turgon had resolved their quarrel years ago, their truce had been an uncomfortable one, and she was certain that Turgon had not missed her while in Gondolin. Now he paced in front of her, alternating between cursing her and reluctantly expressing his joy that she was still alive. Glorfindel was still silent, however, his once warm eyes wary. Turgon questioned her on Thingol and Orodreth and the fact that they had not sent any aid. Turgon confessed that he had expected as such from Thingol, but Orodreth was their cousin, and his first duty was to that of his family and people. Finrod would not have cowered in his kingdom, he had declared. Artanis did not bother pointing out that many things would have been different if Finrod were still alive. And although she silently agreed with Turgon, she was relieved when he was summoned away by one of his other captains.
She waited until he left before turning to Glorfindel. “How long until you break camp?” It seemed much safer to speak of practicalities.
“In a few hours. We want to leave before midday is over so we have sufficient distance between our rear and the Orcs that will chase us once night has fallen.” He sighed wearily. “It is a week’s march to Gondolin, and we have so many wounded that it may take us double the time.”
She moved to sit closer to him. “You cannot afford such a journey.”
“No, we cannot,” he said quietly. “The severely wounded warriors have volunteered to stay behind with the men of Dor-Lomin. Turgon refused at first, but we cannot travel with such wounded men and make it back to Gondolin quickly. It was a most difficult decision for him.”
“Has he said anything about Fingon?”
He shook his head, his golden hair for once dull. “No, but I did not expect him to.”
Silence fell, and she was saddened by the impasse that had grown between them, “I am keeping you from your duties,” she said.
“We will speak on the journey back.” He rose to leave.
“I am not returning with you,” said Artanis softly.
He looked down at her in shock. “You would remain here?”
“I cannot go to a hidden kingdom. There are other interests I must protect in Beleriand.”
Glorfindel nodded. “I thought as much. You would not come to Gondolin when your burdens were light – why should you come now?” The hurt was in his voice, but there was also much anger.
“I would have come to Gondolin for you, Glorfindel. I would have married you and had children with you and grown old with you.” Her eyes were anguished. “You know this.”
“You would have come,” he repeated. “Not ‘would come’.” Before she could move away, he swept her lips in a kiss, and just as quickly, he released them, the beloved green eyes sad. “What do you want from me, Artanis? My permission? I can taste another on your lips, as I have foreseen. Do you wish for me to approve that you use me as an excuse?”
Glorfindel moved away from her. “I have loved you since Aman and in the long years after. I fought for you against your father and your brothers, against Fëanor, and against the very darkness that has doomed us all. I gave you my heart and the life that comes with it, and all I ever asked in return is that you be truthful. That has failed me before, and it will most likely fail again. So do not ask for my approval.”
His cold face was driving her to madness. “Would you cut me open to bleed, Glorfindel?”
Love for her was in his eyes, but there was also strength. “I can live without a heart, Artanis. When I knew that your heart could never be mine, I gave you my own and set you free.”
He raised a gloved hand to forestall her words. “I do not want to hurt you, Artanis, and I refuse to be hurt by you. We had a pleasant life together. Can you deny that?”
“Then we are agreed…I gave you everything I possibly could, you know, as much as it was in my nature to give. Which is more – a rather great deal more, Artanis – than you have ever given to me.” His golden voice was rough with tears, angers, and disappointment, but underneath she heard the steel pride, and she knew that he would not take her back, even if she were to throw away her own pride and go to him now.
There was nothing else to be said. She knew that they would both leave this room with compromises made and would fall back into their old patterns of smiles and easy reconciliation…that is, if either of them survived the war. But perhaps a better question would be if either of them would survive the war.
Silently she followed him outside, where Turgon was shouting for the camp to be disbanded. “You must come with us, of course,” stated Turgon as soon as he saw them.
“I cannot go to Gondolin.”
“Where would you go? My brother is dead, and so are three of yours. Orodreth is hidden away and likely will not emerge unless directly challenged.” His sneering tone indicated exactly what he thought of a cousin not coming to aid the rest of his family in war. “The sons of Fëanor are scattered like tree leaves, and your province in Ossiriand is not yours anymore.”
She looked at him stubbornly. “Artanis, I am your king now, and you will do as I say. Is that clear?” His gray eyes had become very flinty. “I am tired of loosing my family. My father, brother and sister are dead, as well as my cousins. The sons of Fëanor and Orodreth are dead to me, for I cannot forgive them their betrayals. I will not lose you to the same arrogant pride as I have lost the others.” Turgon pinched the bridge of his nose. “I have greater problems than a willful cousin. Glorfindel, she used to listen to you once. See if you can knock some sense into that thick skull of hers.”
Artanis softened slightly. “I understand what you say, Turgon. But I owe much to the Moriquendi. It is only right that I stay among them and give them aid and learning. I foresee this is my atonement for all that I have done.”
“You have been atoning for several years now,” he argued.
“I can atone for the next several millennia, and it will still not be enough. Turgon,” she said patiently, “we are all trying to help in our own way. You have built a haven for our people, and Glorfindel protects them. But my skills do not lie in that area.”
The muscles in his jaw twitched, but otherwise Turgon remained silent. She tried another tactic. “Gondolin cannot remain hidden forever. Once Morgoth discovers its location, he will attempt to overrun the city. If our people are driven forth from our last refuge, where will we go? Better I remain and strengthen our ties with the Sindar and Green-elves. We need allies, Turgon. The people here still trust us little.”
Glorfindel nodded his agreement. “She has a point, my lord.”
“You support her in this? You would let her go?” asked Turgon disbelievingly.
Glorfindel did not look at Artanis. “I cannot cage that which my hand cannot tame.”
Turgon gazed at both of them carefully, but after a few moments, he shrugged, deciding that he did not have the time to ask any questions. ““I will grant you your wish, for if my father trusted your judgment, then so shall I. But before you leave, you must swear an oath to me.”
She looked up sharply. Turgon would have been the last person to speak of oaths. “If Gondolin falls, I shall fall with it. If that is the case, I would like you to watch over Idril. I have kept her sheltered in Gondolin, so she will need your guidance.”
That Turgon trusted her with such a thing caused her throat to constrict. “It would be an honor.”
She had left Turgon’s camp with no fanfare, for Turgon himself had been in a hurry to leave. He had found the time to hug her goodbye, and Glorfindel gave her one last kiss before returning to his own men. He had left her life permanently, she knew.
Artanis, Mablung, and Beleg had journeyed back to Doriath in haste because now most of Beleriand was overrun with Morgoth’s troops. Very few places were safe enough to linger for more than a few hours, and as many of the forests had burned down, very little shelter was available. In under a week they had reached the Girdle, where Thingol’s people escorted them back to Menegroth. The king and queen had welcomed her two Sinda companions back warmly, but perhaps knowing Artanis’s mood, they left her alone.
She seldom ventured from her rooms. At times, Linneth and Nimloth would attempt to coax her out, but it was to no avail unless the queen specifically requested her presence. Celeborn was away again, and for that Artanis was grateful. She had not thought about their last encounter because she had been so wrapped by the battle. She did not know how much their relationship would have to change – if it would change at all.
Sleep came with even more difficulty, and when she finally did sleep, her dreams simply rehashed events and people from her past.
One night, when the mournful lamentations of the harpists became too much for her, she dreamt of her uncle.
Lost in vivid memory, she wandered around the clearing slowly. The air whipped around her, playing the many leaves of the forest around her as an instrument. The cold bit into her body, when she heard her name in the wind.
Artanis spun around, and to her shock, she found herself staring at Fëanor’s translucent face. There were a hundred ways she could have greeted this apparition, but she found herself pushing her fingertips through the silver aura that surrounded him with a child-like curiosity. She touched nothing solid, and fleetingly she wondered if all ghosts were like this.
You doubt I am real? he asked, his wonderful voice mocking her.
She did not respond immediately. It had been so long since she had heard Fëanor’s voice, that hearing it now uncovered an abundance of aged emotion. And there was much that she wanted to confront him with. “Why have you not come to me before?”
I have always been with you, he answered. But you have never truly wanted me until now.
Artanis wondered if that was true. Had she been so intent on overshadowing Fëanor’s legacy that she did not see him all this time? In her life, to survive, she had to be perceptive and diligent of all that was around her. Had she lost those abilities in the past few years? She did not think so. If anything, her training with Melian had enhanced those abilities beyond what she thought was possible.
Fëanor had lied to her about a number of important issues in the last months of his life. Could she trust him again? “I thought that Mandos had taken you.”
I am with Mandos. But the part of me that resides within you is still here – and will be there as long as you want it.
Her heart constricted. “My family is dying.” She fell silent as images of her dead family flashed before her eyes. Her brothers, her cousins, her uncles, her friends.
Fëanor gazed at her reprovingly.
She took several deep breaths. “I apologize for my weakness.”
Nerwen, did I not tell you that anger must not be harnessed all the time? Remember?
She remembered, and her belief in his words had brought her to where she was now. Where would she be if she had not joined Fëanor on that rooftop so many years ago? “What good is anger now?” she asked dully.
Anger does not go away just because you think it will serve no purpose. Nerwen, you have been responsible for yourself even before you reached your majority. Since those years, you have lost much.
“Yes, but so have many others-”
He cut her off brusquely, just like he used to when he had been alive. Others are not you. You are trying to rationalize. Others may feel their own anger, but it is yours that you feel. It is the injustice against you that hurts your heart. His eyes softened. There is no shame in this.
If she had been blind, she might have believed that Morgoth and Sauron were guilty of the death of her people, and personal vengeance would have consumed her as it had consumed her half-cousins. But the evil that had destroyed her family had no face. It was not Orcs or Vampires but what they represented that she had come to hate. It was a thing that could never be locked away in the Void or even killed. It was bigger than Sauron, bigger even than Morgoth himself, and though she could never destroy it, nevertheless she knew she would have to fight it. It was a realization that would later define her life.
You are not helpless, Nerwen. Just alone. He reached out and passed his fingers through her hair. You have walked alone all your life. Truly, do a few more steps matter?
“I am afraid,” she admitted.
He looked at her sternly. Fear is of the future. In the present, there is only action. His hand dropped the where the Elessar lay on her chest. Use everything and survive, Nerwen. That is the best revenge of all.
“You also told me never to make promises I could not keep.”
You can, you will. For your family, for me. He started to fade. For your father.
Year 472 of the First Age – Menegroth
“Do you plan to wither away in this darkness?” The quiet voice was a whisper in her rooms.
Artanis, in an armchair by the fire, did not even bother to rise. “I will not even ask how you entered my chambers so stealthily, Celeborn…or why you entered without my permission. I could have been otherwise occupied.” She was too tired to be reproachful.
Celeborn came closer, his long body illuminated by the fire. “I brought you your evening meal. Melian has told me that you rarely come to the halls to dine anymore.”
She waved the tray to a nearby table. “Thank you for your kindness, Celeborn. But it was not necessary. I have but to ask, and someone would have brought me all the food I desire.”
He took a hold of her wrist, frowning as he felt the thinness of it. “You have lost weight.”
Her eyes finally met his. “It is no matter, Celeborn.” She gestured to a chair. “Please sit down. I have been remiss in my manners. Would you care for any refreshments?”
“No,” he answered as he pulled the table with a tray so it was in between them. “I had hoped to share this meal with you.” He gave her a plate then took one for himself.
“I was not aware you had returned.”
He applied himself to the leafy vegetables for a few moments before answering. “I returned just last night, and I have been in council with the king for most of today.”
She looked him over critically. “Once again, I am glad that you are safe.”
Celeborn met her gaze evenly as he tried to read her emotions. All day, he had wondered what his reception would be. Clearly, there would be none if Artanis had her way. And though he had acted impulsively when he had kissed her over a year ago, he would not allow her to forget it. “Did you find what you needed?” she asked.
“I found who I needed.” He sipped water thoughtfully. “Morgoth convinced one of the captains of the outer garrisons much wealth and land if he would leak our movements to his own army.”
“What will be done with him?”
Celeborn looked at the fire. “It is up to Thingol. Death is never a punishment we apply, but this circumstance is exceptional. This man’s greed has cost us many lives – including my father’s. Thingol’s temper was already hot before, but now…”
“My cousin Turgon cast his own brother-in-law to his death,” added Artanis thoughtfully.
“Because he tried to kill his own son, except he took his wife’s – my cousin’s – life in the process.” Her eyes were mocking. “There is only one punishment for a Kinslayer.”
There it was again – this bitterness that caused her to bleed so much. “What is wrong, Galadriel?”
The name flowed over her like a blanket, its very intimacy igniting another spark of regret within her. She gazed at him earnestly now. “Do you think me beautiful, Celeborn?”
His breath caught at the strange question. Many possible answers flashed in his mind. “I think you are lovely.”
“Lovely – strange that you should say that. Only one other person has called me lovely before.” She rubbed her arms as if warding off a sudden chill. “I miss him.”
“Glorfindel,” he said flatly.
Artanis shook her head. “No. Glorfindel’s language is full of flowers and sunlight. It was Fëanor who called me so.” Once she had said the name, a great weight was lifted off her, and the words fell more freely now. She told Celeborn about her relationship with her mentor who later became her enemy. Although it was difficult, she tried to explain to him what it was she had sought – and found in this friendship. She hesitantly expressed the odd sense of fitting that she had with Fëanor, and that during her visits with the temperamental prince, there were moments when she had felt fully herself. There were no airs, no diplomacy, no self-imposed censoring. Just comfortable moments when she had felt like she was in the presence of someone who would understand…although she had never been sure what it was that Fëanor could understand, but she had felt it hovering around their conversations like a shared shield. “He liked me,” she said finally. “It was nice. He liked very few others.”
Celeborn listened patiently, not liking everything he was hearing but understanding that this was the woman whom he had come to respect and admire so much. And when she told him of the burning of the ships at Losgar, she took the disappoint in his eyes calmly, asking him, “Did I do the right thing?”
He gazed at her gravely before answering. “You did the only thing, Galadriel. Else there would have been more bloodshed.”
But Artanis did not want to be told that she had been backed into a corner and taken the only path out. “That is not what I asked. I want to know if what I did was right.”
“It is not a decision I would have made,” he said finally. “You took away the choice from Fingolfin. Perhaps he would have bargained with his brother, or perhaps he would have fought.”
“Fëanor would not have accepted anything other than Fingolfin’s total annihilation. His people were safer crossing the Helcaraxë.”
“Were they?” Celeborn steepled his hands. “Fëanor’s legacy is not a passing thunder cloud. It is a spider that tries to catch us all in its web. It traps us with fear, mistrust, and anger. You had no choice on Araman. And it was the right choice not to let more of your people die, if that is what you are asking.”
“Then you have your answer.” She looked at the floor, her shoulders weary from the many burdens she carried. His heart ached for her, and yet he knew that she must carry this weight on her own. “Come here, Galadriel.”
She looked up, her eyes a maelstrom of regret and sadness. But she rose anyway and came to stand in front of him. Pulling her down, he tucked her neatly into his lap and waited to see what her reaction would be. She held still for a long moment, but all his doubts were cast aside when Artanis coiled her hands around his neck and lay her head on his shoulder. They remained like this for a while, until “This cannot happen,” she murmured, undoubtedly thinking of Glorfindel, Linneth, and everything else that had defined their relationship for the past few centuries.
Celeborn nodded in agreement before he slid his arm more securely around her waist. “Perhaps this is not meant to be, and we are fools for wasting time like this.” He bent his head and nuzzled the skin behind her ear. “But are you not tired?”
Tired of the fighting, of hurting, of being fine, of not needing anyone, of being afraid, of pretending. Of life.
Artanis felt the tears well in her eyes as she felt his arms hold her more tightly and his cool lips on the tips of her ears.
This was not worth fighting. It did not hurt, it was not fine. They needed each other, and they were not afraid. They were not pretending. Was this the same life they had been living for so many years?
She whispered his name as his hand brushed over her hair.
This was wrong. But neither of them cared.
He held her until her eyes grew glazed with sleep, and for the first time in hundreds of years, she finally knew peaceful rest.
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