My Aragon Stories
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Father's Wish, A: 15. Chapter Fifteen
Author’s Note: It’s been so long since I’ve updated! I apologize for the delay, but the good news is that there is only one chapter left, and that will be done by the end of December. A New Years present, if you will. Special thanks to Inara for ideas and being a great beta.
Year 477 of the First Age – Nargothrond
Orodreth watched as his sister exchanged warm greetings with his daughter, Finduilas, and slighter cooler ones with his wife, Loriel (1). Though he was no master politician as some of his more illustrious cousins were, he was not unaware as to why his wife and sister were not on good terms. For over four hundred years, Artanis had ruled as the Lady of the House of Finarfin because Finrod would take no wife and had preferred his sister to take on such duties. But with Finrod’s death and Orodreth’s succession as head of house, his own wife had taken Artanis’s position with a great deal of relish.
He supposed that he should not have condoned such feelings from Loriel, but he sympathized with his wife. Though he had loved Finrod, he could not help feeling unjustly compared to him. It was hard to be in the shadow of one so great and fair, and Orodreth had long stopped trying to live up to his brother’s name. So too did Loriel feel, for people would whisper that she was not as great as her illustrious sister-in-law.
Since Finrod’s death, Artanis rarely came to Nargothrond. She preferred instead to dwell in Doriath or to wander with the Green-Elves. He did not approve her wanderings, but he also could not deny how much easier it was now that she lived elsewhere. Thus he kept silent and did not censor her, though as her older brother – her only brother now – it was his right.
When she did visit, it was for a few days only, generally bearing news from Thingol, Turgon, and at times, the sons of Fëanor. Her visit today must be for a similar reason, for he knew that she did not come simply to see him.
She turned to him now, and curtseyed, thus acknowledging his rank and station to be above hers. He would never admit it, but Orodreth was happy to see his proud, unyielding sister, who had once opposed him so vehemently on the shores of Araman, humble herself before him now. “Welcome to my halls, Sister. As always, we are glad to have you here among us.”
“Thank you for your hospitality, my lord and brother.” Orodreth shared a glance with his wife as he wondered why Artanis was here.
“We will prepare a room for you and provide whatever comforts you desire after such a long journey.”
She shook her head. “Thank you, but I must decline your kind invitation. Though I have arrived without notice, I was hoping that you could spare me a few moments of your time ‘ere I leave once again.”
Loriel started. “So short a time…”
Artanis smiled tiredly. “I have not much to spare.” She turned back to her brother.
Orodreth was tempted to say that he had no time to spare immediately, that she must wait if she wished for an audience. But the part of him that was not king remembered a laughing girl weaving him a coronet of flowers at their father’s home at Alqualondë. No, he had been king enough today. It was enough that his sister did not seek to interfere with the affairs of Nargothrond, though this place had been her home longer than it had been his. “Then perhaps we could walk outside and lunch under the trees?”
“I would like that very much.”
At first, Artanis asked about various friends and acquaintances, and then she updated him on the happenings in Doriath. “Linneth and Nimloth have been dwelling in Tol Galen for the past several years. Dior’s birth was difficult for Luthien, for now that she is no longer counted among the firstborn, much of her strength is diminished.”
“I am surprised our cousin permitted his family out of Doriath,” commented Orodreth. “I certainly would not send Loriel or Finduilas away.”
“Luthien has always been a sister to Galathil and Celeborn. Both would bear all manner of hardships for Luthien’s happiness. Besides, Linneth loves Luthien dearly, and it is with pleasure that she keeps her law sister company.” Something that your own wife would never do, Artanis added mentally.
Orodreth shrugged. “In any case, why are you here, Artanis? Not that I am displeased, but you rarely come here without reason.”
She picked at her dress, a habit acquired from childhood. “I have heard whispers while abroad. People say that Turin Adanedhel (2) is one of your favored counselors.”
“That he is. He is from a noble family, and he is fair and valorous. You know him from Menegroth, do you not?”
Artanis nodded. “I found him to be very skilled in warfare but lacking in temperance.”
He waved her comment away. “He is a young man. He will learn it in time.”
She decided to go straight to the point. “Orodreth, I have heard that he advised you to build a bridge over the Narog. Is this true?”
“Yes.” He narrowed his eyes. “How did you hear this? I have not made this public knowledge.”
“I hear things. Brother,” she said impatiently, “if you build such a bridge, then Nargothrond’s secrecy will be lost. Morgoth will know you are here.”
“It was Finrod’s idea to keep this location a secret. I believe that we ought to engage the enemy in the open. We are not cowered by Morgoth. Let him send whatever force, and we shall repel it.”
Artanis grasped her brother’s arm. “No doubt it was this mortal who counseled you thusly?”
He glared at her. “Yes, it was, and I agree.”
You forsake wisdom for the words of a mortal, simply because you cannot bear being in Finrod’s shadow. But she bit back these words that would have banished her from her brother’s realm. Instead she said, “Then you will not be the only son of Finarfin who will find his death at the hands of a mortal.”
“I am not Finrod,” warned Orodreth.
Artanis only gazed at her brother sadly. “No. You are not.”
Year 488 – Isle of Balar
Celeborn knew that it was Cirdan’s height that surprised Galadriel. She had known he had a beard and was not shocked to see it, but Celeborn had not informed her of the Shipwright’s imposing height. Though he would never say so, it was amusing to see the implacable Galadriel discomfited. “Lord Cirdan, may I present to you Galadriel Artanis, granddaughter of Lord Olwë?”
She curtseyed. “My lord, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
Cirdan looked at her speculatively. “Your name is known to me,” he said finally, not revealing exactly how he knew her name.
Celeborn sighed inwardly. Every person they met on Balar looked upon Galadriel with indecision. Though many years had passed since news of the Kinslaying had come to Cirdan’s folk, forgiveness came more slowly here, for many of Cirdan’s mariners had closer relations with those in Alqualondë.
Cirdan looked at Celeborn again. “I cannot tell you how welcome these supplies are. Thingol is most generous, for I know how his own resources are stretched thin.”
“I wish we could do more,” said Celeborn sadly. Everywhere he looked, he saw Elves, weary from Morgoth’s repeated assaults. “I cannot express the magnitude of my sorrow for the destruction of the Falas.”
“The Falas is another place on the long list of Morgoth’s destruction. It will not be the last.” They turned toward the haphazardly erected house of Cirdan. “How long will you be staying?”
Celeborn glanced at Galadriel, who met his eyes curiously. “I do not know.”
Cirdan gave the pair and inquiring look, but when no explanation was offered, “My home is open to you as long as you wish, kinsman.”
“Thank you,” smiled Celeborn. Galadriel also murmured her thanks but otherwise remained quiet. “With your permission, I would like to walk among the refugees and speak with them, if I may.”
“You have my leave to do so, but I must warn you that many of them are angry and may be hostile.” Galadriel raised her chin as the Shipwright gave her a pointed glance. “And while you are occupied, perhaps the lady would like to meet her young kinsman?”
Galadriel nodded, her eyes seeming almost eager. Fingon had sent his son to Cirdan for safekeeping, and in retrospect, it was perhaps the wisest move Fingon had made during his kingship.
They parted ways, Cirdan back to his home with Galadriel in tow while Celeborn headed to the main part of the island. For a long while, he walked silently as he noted the state of the refugees, how they lived, and from where they came from.
A few months ago, Thingol had asked him to go to the Isle of Balar, where a large number of Sindarin refugees had fled. Thingol wished to send supplies, and Celeborn wished to ferret out information. Often times, victims were a good source of information concerning the enemy’s whereabouts. Celeborn had asked Galadriel to accompany him, but she had been unsure of her reception with her grandfather’s old friend and had tried to decline. Yet Celeborn was surprisingly insistent and won in the end, for he knew that some time away from Doriath would be good for her. And since they had never been anywhere together except for Menegroth, it would be a refreshing change for the both of them.
Since the last great battle, his relationship with Galadriel had teetered on the brink of something greater. But something held both of them back, and thus they satisfied themselves with the occasional warm glance and fleeting touch. Often he wondered whether it would be wise to push their relationship forward. There was much between them that needed to be spoken of – Linneth, Glorfindel, the Kinslaying – topics that required more time than they had to give. And he knew that she secretly feared to taint him with her past sins, of which he only knew a few.
He was not sure if he were even ready to share such a burden. There was much about her that he still could not understand and even stomach, but the feelings inside him could not be tempered by any logic. He knew he did love her, but the question was how much he loved her, for Linneth still caused his own heart to ache.
But walking among these wearied people reminded him how much he had to lose by committing himself to Galadriel, and how much more he had to gain. The next several years would be filled with hardship and suffering, and after that, an even longer period of rebuilding. Galadriel’s intelligence and strength would be needed in a world that was growing – dare he say it – stagnant. But how could he ask the people who needed her help to trust her? He was no fool. Elves had long memories, and for the rest of her life, she would be branded a Kinslayer if she lived among her Sindarin brethren. She would find more acceptance in the Noldorin court, but Celeborn would never live among them, even at the cost of love.
Furthermore, could he share a home and a life with someone who had once been Fëanor’s most devoted disciple, someone who still secretly held those memories and teachings in her heart?
He realized then that he was no longer competing with Glorfindel for Galadriel’s affection. He was competing with Fëanor.
How preposterous the idea was! Was he following a path that he knew led to nowhere? But all these years he had been waiting to confront this barrier. It was his test, a test that he might fail. But losing this battle would mean losing Galadriel.
He would win.
In Cirdan’s study, Artanis watched as the Shipwright walked onto a small balcony that overlooked a training yard. She was surprisingly anxious to see her cousin’s son for the first time since he had been but a babe in swaddling cloths. “Ereinion?” called the Shipwright. “You have a visitor.”
From the gaggle of young men practicing swordplay, one of them looked up from where he had been about to disarm his opponent. He made a face at the Shipwright. “I shall be there in a few moments.”
“He will be relieved that you are not one of the tutors or counselors that he must deal with as heir to the kingship,” commented Cirdan as he sat down near Artanis.
“How does he fare here?” she asked.
“If I were raising a fisherman, I imagine he fares quite well. But having no children of my own does not make me an expert in such matters.” He poured drinks for the both of them.
She hid her smile. “I believe you do yourself an injustice. From what I have heard, you spend much time with the boy, not only providing him with your own wisdom but also that of the scholars you bring to him.”
He tapped his glass. “Still, I wonder why I am his guardian and not you.” The Shipwright continued shrewdly, “As his aunt, you ought to be playing a much larger role in his life. Neither his father nor his uncle ever deigned to answer that question. But I for one would think that the future High King would have some family in his life. And since his mother and aunt are dead, you are the closet mother figure he has.”
Artanis smiled almost bitterly. “Has Ereinion asked why?”
Cirdan nodded. “Yes, and I imagine you shall have to explain it to him, even if you do not tell me. He can be rather demanding at times. And late,” he added as he looked towards to the door.
“But surely reasons have occurred to you.”
“Yes, but from what I know of your cousins, they all esteem you highly and value your wisdom. You were Fingolfin’s most favored vassal. Naturally, I did not share my suspicions with my young ward, but he may have heard others speculating on this very matter.”
She nodded stiffly. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. At least I shall not be taken by surprise at his question.”
From outside the door, a pattering of feet could be heard. “Ahh, there is he now.” Cirdan rose and opened to the door before Ereinion could knock. “Lady Galadriel, may I present to you Ereinion, the late Prince of the Noldor.”
The youth flushed. “You always told me I have to wash before appearing in front of a lady,” he whispered to the Shipwright. He turned and bowed to Galadriel. “Welcome, cousin.”
She rose and inclined her head regally. “I am most pleased to be here.” She stepped back and regarded him more closely. “The resemblance…”
“Everyone says that I look like my father,” supplied Ereinion eagerly.
Artanis smiled sadly. “You do, but I was going to say that you look like your grandfather.”
Surprise flashed through the youth’s eyes and then joy. “I am glad of that. What few memories I have of my grandfather, I hold dear to my heart.”
Cirdan cleared his throat. “I shall leave both of you to become acquainted. Should you need me, I will be back in the shipyards.” He departed, and after a few moments, Ereinion gestured to the couches near the windows.
“I am glad you came, cousin.”
Artanis smiled more warmly. “So I am. I confess that I had wanted to come sooner, but things have been difficult.”
“My father had told me of your labors on behalf of grandfather. Do you still continue?” His bright eyes were curious.
She nodded. “Yes.” She briefly told him of how she was working to gain the trust of the Silvan Elves. “They do not like us, those who carry Valinorean blood. It is difficult,” she said again.
He continued to ask more questions but finally came to the one Artanis had no wish to answer. “I have heard that you were greatly respected by Fingolfin, and that you were considered close to my father.”
He looked at her steadily. “I love Cirdan, and living here has been good for me. But why did my father make me his ward and not yours?”
Artanis met his gaze evenly. “There are several reasons. Would you like to hear them all?”
“If you can tell me.”
“Very well then. You father and uncle knew that there was a great possibility they would not survive much longer. Turgon’s daughter could not claim the kingship anymore than your cousin Finduilas or I could. You and Celebrimbor are the only male heirs to the house of Finwë.” She looked out the window. “When Maedhros abdicated the kingship to Fingolfin, Fëanor’s line became dispossessed. You know all this, I imagine.” At Ereinion’s nod, she continued. “When Hithlum became too dangerous, Fingon knew he had to protect his beloved child, who was also the future of our line. At first he considered sending you to Gondolin, but a future king cannot be secluded from his people. He must first learn to live among them. The next option was Finrod and Orodreth, but they were dismissed for the same reason as Turgon. Obviously not Thingol, for he would never shelter, let alone raise, the next king of the Noldor. The sons of Fëanor were not even considered. After all this elimination, there were only two people left whom Fingon trusted – the Shipwright and me.”
Ereinion pursed his lips. “So how did he decide between the two of you?”
“He picked the one he trusted more, and that was the Shipwright.”
“But you are family. As much as I love Cirdan, you are my kinswoman. Surely even my father knew that.”
Artanis gazed at him sadly. There was much more to the matter, of course, but Artanis did not wish for the young prince to know it just yet. How could she tell him that he was denied his aunt because she was a threat to his kingship? She could never be queen as long as there was a male heir, but Fingon feared, and rightly so, that if she had raised his son, he would have been tainted by her ideas – ideas that had once been from the teachings of Fëanor. Had Ereinion grown to love her and think of her as a mother, he might have allowed her to dominate his will and have a larger part in the rule of the Noldor.
Fingon knew of her ambitions and decided that it would be better if Ereinion regarded her as a distant relative, a vassal in fact, that could not manipulate him. Thankfully, the temptation was not given to her and instead placed on Cirdan’s uninterested lap. She did not like to think what would have happened otherwise.
“When you become king, your subjects must trust you. I will forever be known as the Kinslayer princess, and your credibility with the Sindar would have been diminished. It will ease their hearts to know that you have been raised by the Shipwright.”
“But in other circumstances, my father would have raised me. There is more to this that you have not told me.”
Fingolfin’s son was shrewd. “There is also the fact that I have no real home of my own. Wandering the country side like a waif is not proper for the heir either,” she said with a smile. “But do you now see why I could not have provided you with the love and care that I ought to have bestowed upon you?”
He nodded mutely.
She rose. “It has grown late, and I must seek my companion. But we will remain for a while yet, so the two of us can be family for a while longer.”
“I would like that,” he said almost shyly.
Artanis turned to face him from the door. “For what it is worth, there were many days when I wished you would have been in my care, and I could have loved and cared for you like the son that I shall probably never have.”
Two weeks later, Celeborn found her near the beach late at night. The evening meal had passed long ago, and most had sought their beds. Yet she remained watchful and alert, almost as if she were a sentry guarding the shore.
Sitting next to her, he pulled her close and stroked the soft skin of her cheek. She had once been as radiant and beautiful as the morning sunshine, but living in shadow had dulled her countenance. How he longed to take her to a place where her heart would be free from worries.
Sighing contentedly at his surprising but welcomed show of affection, Galadriel ran her fingers through his hair and smiled when his eyes darkened. “You seem at peace, my lord.”
“I am, as I have not been in many years.” Her eyes grew curious, and she opened her mouth to ask why, but he laid a finger on her lips. “Just be quiet for a moment.” He grabbed a hold of her wrist, and with his other hand, he withdrew a delicate bracelet engraved with the emblem of his house from his pocket. “I once spoke to you about the bonds of friendship. Do you remember?” At her nod, he continued softly. “But there are many more bonds other than friendship.” He looked at her intently, almost tenderly. “Bonds that we do not understand, that we do not need to understand.”
She only watched him, riveted by his eyes and voice. He continued, his voice a whisper in her ears. “Bonds that are timeless, that are just to be experienced. Bonds that have no boundaries, no limits.” He began fitting the bracelet over her wrist. “Bonds that bind the hearts together. Bonds of passion and of love.” He finished clasping the bracelet on her wrist. Her eyes wide, she opened her mouth to speak once again. But Celeborn, enjoying a speechless Galadriel, pulled her closer and whispered in her ear, “No more hedging.”
His mouth took hers in a deep kiss, one hand massaging her breast and the other burying itself in her hair. He used his grip on her curls to pull her head back until he could look into her eyes.
“No more hedging,” she repeated.
He nodded and then pulled her to her feet. They made the walk to his rooms in record time, and once inside, she was almost pushed against the door as he bit the tip of her ear none too gently. “I will tolerate much from you, Galadriel,” he said, passion and anger adding a harsh tone to his voice. “I will take abuse, pain, and humiliation, and suffer it gladly for your sake.” He kissed her once again. “But what I cannot tolerate under any circumstances, the one thing I will not abide, is any dishonesty from you. Do you understand?”
She gasped, feeling a thrill at the tone of dominance in his voice. “Perfectly.”
“I ask for everything but your honor. That is your own.”
Year 495 of the First Age – Tol Galen
It was so peaceful here, reflected Nimloth, that one would hardly think there was a war brewing on the mainland. A little ways ahead were the shimmering waters of Lanthir Lamath (3), and all around the trees sang in the breeze. She smiled and lay down in the sweet smelling grass, not caring that her dress would be covered in grass stains.
Her mother had journeyed back to Doriath, for whatever the problems existed between her and Galathil, she loved him too much to stay away from him. But Nimloth had begged to stay, for Menegroth was no longer the place of joy it had been in her childhood. Now war loomed outside its borders, and day-to-day activities now consisted of fortifying Doriath and its neighboring villages.
Luthien had been glad for her company, for becoming mortal had suddenly changed all of Luthien’s perceptions, and though she would never say so to Beren, she found her mortal body cumbersome, and she was alarmed at the change in her fëa. Managing an infant and a weakened husband in her new state was hard for her, and thus Nimloth’s help was most welcomed.
It had been no hardship for her either, for Dior was a beautiful child. She called him Aranel (4), for even as a babe, the beauty of his mother shone through. And when she wished for other companions, she would venture to the mainland, where the Green Elves in Ossiriand were always welcoming. They were friends of Galadriel and often had tidings of her. Her father’s kinswoman was incapable of staying in any one place, and from what Luthien had playfully hinted at, staying with any particular lover.
Her thoughts unwittingly turned to Dior. Her little Aranel had grown into a very beautiful man, his dark hair and gray eyes seeming more vivid than even her own. Lately, he had been watching her with more interest than was proper, but she had attributed it to his own inexperience with other women. But his flirting grew bolder with each passing day, and Nimloth was embarrassed to find that she enjoyed his attentions. However, reason still remained with her, and she could not betray the trust that Luthien had placed in her, nor could she dally with someone so young. And yet…she liked the way his voice would join hers in song, and the way he would hold her hand, and even the way he would stubbornly pull out the clips from her hair.
“You were aptly named, for I have come across the fairest flower I have ever seen, your white skin shimmering in the light of the moon.” The admiring voice, which belonged to the object of her thoughts, jolted her into awareness.
“You flatter me, hir-neth,” she said playfully.
Dior smiled as he sat next to her. “I am not so little that I cannot appreciate beauty.”
She smiled in response. “And what would a young boy know of beauty when he has rarely been off this isle?”
His gaze turned intense. “Must I cross all of Middle Earth to learn what is beautiful? The trees around me, the waterfall, are they not beautiful?”
“Well, yes, they are,” she admitted.
“Then why must I be worldly to know what – and whom – is beautiful?”
Nimloth grew uncomfortable from the heat of his gaze. “Dior, there are many women in the world.”
He shook his head. “I cannot believe that there is anyone better than you.”
She bit her lip as frustration welled within her. Dior was far too young for her, and as someone who had cared for him since his infancy, she could not allow this infatuation to continue. “You mother-”
Dior cut her off. “I have spoken to my mother and father on this matter, and they do not disapprove.”
Nimloth’s eyes widened. “But…I disapprove. Dior, you are too young. You are only twenty years under the sun while I am far older. Besides, I have cared for you since birth. ‘Tis a different love you bear for me. You are only confused.”
“My mother was born centuries before my father. And do not tell me what manner of love I bear for you.” He looked away angrily. “I am young in the accounting of the Quendi, but in man years I am considered an adult, one who is considered old enough to take a bride.” He took a deep breath and looked back at her. “Nimloth, when you are near, I feel exhilarated and yet also at peace.”
“You have met very few women,” she maintained stubbornly.
“Then how many women should I meet before I know whom I love? Tell me, is there a set number? Perhaps a set number of kisses as well?” He reached over and stroked her cheek, leaving a trail of fire down her face, and when he reached her lips, he hesitated though his eyes lit on fire, Nimloth, realizing how dangerous the situation was becoming, suddenly ended all contact and turned away.
She stood and smoothed her dress. “I am going to seek my bed, and I advise you to do the same. Tomorrow, you shall see that this is a passing flight of fancy.”
Dior watched as she walked away, the line of his mouth set stubbornly.
Year 502 of the First Age – Doriath
The throne room was empty save for four Elves. Melian occupied her customary seat, with Mablung standing next to her. In front of her was Thingol, dressed in courtly finery as he lay on his funeral bier. His body had been washed, and in a few moments, the honor guard would come to take the body to the forests, where the king would be buried in the woods he so dearly loved.
Standing further away was Celeborn, who had arrived at Doriath to discover that his king had been slain by dwarves.
Melian had not uttered a single word since Celeborn’s arrival. Mablung had haltingly told him what had transpired. “The queen has asked me to send news to Beren and Luthien,” he had finally said.
She plans on leaving, thought Celeborn hollowly. Her husband is gone, and now she has no purpose. Are we not purpose enough? As if reading his thoughts, Melian gazed at him, sorrow and apologies swimming in her eyes.
“Forgive me,” she said, her voice sounding pitifully weak in the immense throne room. “I am not strong enough. Though I am Maia, Elu has always been stronger than I. I cannot hold back the shadow any longer, not without him.”
“But you can try!” Celeborn looked at Mablung pleadingly in support, but the warden shook his head in sadness. “Already the wards are failing, and soon, Doriath shall lay open to its enemies. That which we love shall be doomed.”
Melian looked at her husband’s body. “It is not within my abilities to hold back doom, Celeborn. Doriath has its own fate, one which no one can change.” Her eyes watered. “It is time I make my way back to Valinor.”
“So you will leave and abandon your home.” Celeborn’s voice grew flat.
“I cannot stay here, not now.” She had never sounded so tired before.
But Celeborn looked steadily at her. “You are Queen of Doriath. Where else would you be?”
To that, she did not answer.
After Thingol’s funeral, Celeborn headed straight for the hilltop where he had spent so many years in peaceful meditation and relaxation. Tomorrow would bring war councils and meetings. From tomorrow, Doriath would be on its own. Its defense would rest upon the people, Celeborn among them. Galathil was already at the main garrison, but Celeborn remained behind as he attempted to shoulder some of the Thingol’s responsibilities.
Luthien’s son was now king of Doriath, but until he arrived, daily governance would be in his hands. Melian was fading by the hour, and though Celeborn regretted his harsh words with her this morning, he could not help feeling disappointed. The love between Melian and Thingol had been great, but now it was crippling the queen.
Restless, he turned around and went towards the gardens, where he knew Galadriel to be. She had accompanied him back to Doriath, but when she had discovered that the Silmaril had led to Thingol’s death, she had fled from him.
He found her now, sitting dully on that same bench she would always sit upon when she was upset. “Your uncle’s Silmaril has started to wreck havoc here as well.”
She flinched but did not respond. He continued, “I saw the Silmaril once, from a distance. I should never wish to see it up close, else I become afflicted with the same madness that infects everyone else.”
“I would not wish you to be near any jewels he crafted,” she said softly.
“Galadriel?” he asked softly.
She looked at him questioningly.
He reached forward and pulled out the Elessar. “You do not heed your own warnings?”
She kept her eyes downcast. Clearly, she would not speak of this. She was as mule-headed as all her Noldo kin, but then, he had his own share of obstinacy.
“Even for one such as you, there is hesitant, and there is ridiculous,” he finally said with all the bluntness he knew Galadriel never confronted herself with. “And I think that deep down in your heart, you revel in the anger and bitterness you feel. You welcome it. This battle is so normal to you that it does not even seem you have been doing it.”
Galadriel turned and gaped at him, so surprised she was at Celeborn, who calmly sat next to her, as if he had just asked her the time. “Ever since I met you, you have had ‘property’ written all over you.”
“Property of who?” she asked sharply.
“Darkness? Morgoth? Fëanor? All three, I suppose.”
Yet she still murmured, in the softest of whispers because she knew Celeborn’s ears would hear, “I am not anyone’s property,” because he would understand what she meant, and more importantly, what she had not meant.
Celeborn’s heart lifted in hope as he looked straight at her, uncomfortably straight, as, “It is time for you to move on, Galadriel. Say goodbye to Fëanor.”
The minutes ticked by, each one more deafening than the last. “Preposterous,” she said scornfully. “Why look for meaning when there is none?
“It is preposterous,” he admitted. “But then so are the circumstances. You loved him and hated him – will you take this to the grave?”
“So sure are you, that I will die?” she asked him, her eyes daring him to say otherwise.
“Lady, we all face death. But should you continue in this fashion, be assured of yours.” He kept his eyes hard, for he knew that showing pity would be the wrong step. Instead, he boiled with self-righteous anger at the idea that Galadriel considered him, a mere dark Elf, not capable of understanding. But the sharp retort died in his throat when he saw the anguish carefully hidden by those bright eyes he had always secretly admired.
“How can I explain to you why I think and do the things that I do?” she finally said. “I do not know how to make you understand…why I cannot let go of Fëanor without forgiving him.”
“Then forgive him,” said Celeborn simply.
“He was a murderer of your own people.” Galadriel’s voice rose as she continued. “He was a liar, an abuser of trust. He has hurt you and yours. And now you think him deserving of forgiveness?”
She was trying to answer his question without really answering, and he would not allow that. “There are many here who do not think you worthy of the forgiveness offered to you by Thingol and his Queen. And yet I found it within myself to forgive you for your crimes – which, as you keep reminding me, are many.”
The anger seemed to leave her as she absorbed his harsh rebuttal. “I cannot forgive Fëanor without forgiving myself.” She spoke softly, her posture one of defeat.
She had never been so honest with him, and now she submitted herself wholly to his judgment. How deeply she must regard him to admit that she, who sought forgiveness in no one, feared her own. Celeborn’s affection for her grew greater in this very moment.
“Celeborn, I may never be able to forgive myself. I kept valuable information from Fingolfin on Araman because I was too busy trying to play the game of politics. I put Fëanor’s interests above those of my father’s. I have willingly deceived your king, your people, and most of all, you.” She gazed at him intently. “Knowing this, why do you continue to suffer my presence? Why are you trying to understand the burdens I bear?”
He almost said, Because I love you. Wisely, he did not say so. “We share a bed, but more importantly, we share a friendship that goes back for many years. Why should I not try to understand?”
She was once again silent – but silence was better than lying, which she had promised not to do.
Year 504 of the First Age – Outskirts of Doriath
“I am asking you to reconsider.” Artanis splayed her hands on the makeshift table. “You will gain nothing from this.”
Maedhros looked at her tiredly. In fact, that was the only expression she had seen on his face since arriving at his makeshift camp. “Artanis-”
Celegorm interrupted. “We will gain our inheritance back,” he snapped. “Your King Dior has refused to give the Silmaril back to its rightful owners.”
“So you will undertake another Kinslaying?”
He sneered at her. “We have warned him. He all but asks for it.”
Although she privately agreed, she could hardly say so. She turned back to Maedhros. “And you agreed to Celegorm’s nonsense?”
Except now Caranthir interrupted. “Does your lover know where you are?” Only he could say the word lover so maliciously.
“No, he does not,” she admitted. She had been in one of Doriath’s outer villages, where she had been encouraging people to go west, towards the shore. Celeborn was with reviewing defenses in Menegroth, and though he had been unhappy that she was exposing herself to danger, he had not tried to stop her.
She was supposed to have returned to Menegroth yesterday, but one of the villagers had reported seeing dark-haired warriors a few leagues away. After convincing the villager that he had most likely seen a wandering tribe of Avari, she decided to find them herself. For she knew exactly who these dark-haired warriors were and had in fact been expecting them ever since Dior refused to hand over the Silmaril.
“He would grow quite angry if he knew you were consorting with us once more.” She flinched at this reminder.
“He knows that I no longer hold allegiance to your House.”
Caranthir wrapped an unfriendly arm around her shoulders. “Allegiances once changed can change again,” he reminded her softly, dangerously.
Maedhros raised his hand. “Enough. Celegorm, Caranthir, leave us in peace.” The two brothers smiled coldly at their cousin before departing. “Artanis, you should not be here. At least if you had not come, you could have claimed ignorance.”
“I had to try.”
He regarded her silently for a few moments, this woman who was once a sister to him, the one woman other than his mother whom he had allowed near. “It bothers you, does it not? That all your brothers are dead, and so are Fingon and Aredhel, and yet all of us still live.”
Her eyes caressed his beloved face. “I cannot deny it. But all of you have lived so long in the presence of extreme danger that you now misjudge a change in its intensity.”
“That is only a good thing.” He lifted his hand and took a hold of hers. “How evil you must think I am.”
He smiled cynically. “Do you know what we have planned for Doriath?”
"No," answered Artanis flatly. "I do not. Nor I do wish to know. I need to get through this with my ignorance intact. Otherwise, I shall lose everything."
“We used to dream together, you and I, of the beautiful lands that we would rule. Remember when we spoke of going over the mountains, beyond Beleriand?”
She nodded. “They were such wonderful dreams.”
Maedhros released her hand. “I will never be able to fulfill them, Artanis. But as long as you remember, as long as your heart beats with that passion, that dream cannot die.” He gazed at her for a few moments. “I want you to promise me that you will go east. I want to know that you will leave Beleriand when you are able. It is bad enough that my father’s dreams have ruined the dreams of his sons. But I will not let him ruin yours.”
“Do you regret…?”
His eyes gleamed in memory. “No. For regret is dangerous because it gives rise to hope, and in times such as these, these sentiments can corrode a person like poison on an open wound.”
“But how long can you continue like this?” She clenched her hands in frustration. “Maedhros, please. You cannot keep doing this alone.”
She was not talking about the Oath, and he loved her all the more for it. His gray eyes filled with resolve. “But far worse, though, to stop fighting completely.”
She left his tent more depressed than ever. The Sons of Fëanor were about to attack Doriath, and she could not even warn them. Already Curufin and the twins had gone south to assail Menegroth from the north, and Maglor was waiting in the east for Caranthir. But even if she could get to Menegroth in time, what could she tell them? Whether you tell them to flee or tell them to fight, it matters not. No matter where they go or how prepared they are, they cannot stand long against our wrath, Caranthir had proclaimed.
Caranthir approached her now, the reins of her horse in his hands. “I will escort you as far as I am able, Artanis.”
“Why?” she asked. “Are you going to do away with me too?”
He laughed. “If it were up to me personally, yes. But Maedhros will not allow any harm to befall you. Besides, I quite enjoy your company.” He lifted her onto to her horse and then mounted his own. “But there is something I want to tell you.” She looked at him as dread filled the pit of her stomach. “We have intercepted the patrol routes of Doriath’s guard. I myself am leading a very special ambush tomorrow.”
“And why is it so special?” she asked steadily.
“Because, your lover’s brother will be in this patrol.”
Artanis gazed at her cousin in horror. “Caranthir, you cannot! Galathil is my cousin, and he has a wife and daughter and grandchildren.”
Caranthir continued on as if he had not heard her. “He will be riding with a small company, and he is already too far from the main garrison for him to send for help – or to be warned.”
“And why do you tell me this?”
He smiled at her in the way he knew she hated. “Celeborn would not have taken you,” and here he flicked a disdainful glance at the bracelet on her wrist, “without your pledge of loyalty – and honesty. How do you think he will feel when he discovers that you came here for whatever reason and were told of the impending massacre of his brother’s company?” His eyes grew even colder. “And he will know that I killed his brother because of you.”
“What have I done to earn such hate from you?” Artanis looked at him, the hopelessness of the situation becoming clearer by the moment.
“Because you are the only one who has survived my father’s tarnished dreams. You were my father’s daughter at heart, and yet you did not take the Oath with us, as was your duty to him. You wear his jewel on your breast, and yet you dare tell us to give up ours. So if you are going to survive this war – and I rather think you will – I want you to endure the shame of it.”
Two Days Later – Menegroth
The Sons of Fëanor had made good on their promise and gave exactly what his refusal had asked for. But, reflected Artanis as she stood above Caranthir’s body, they had not gotten what they wanted. The Silmaril was missing, for it had been taken away by a group of survivors, among them Nimloth’s daughter Elwing. Nimloth’s sons were lost in the woods, and even now Maedhros continued searching for them.
Celeborn and his remaining warriors had gone with the survivors to give them as much protection as they were able. But Artanis knew that whatever safety they found would not last long, for the sons of Fëanor, having already committed two Kinslayings, would now have no compunction about committing a third, and even more, until they got what they wanted – or until death took them.
Three were already dead. Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir. Only four sons left. But between them, eight hands to shed more blood.
“Artanis, why are you still here?” It was Maglor, his own helm blood streaked. “I thought you would have left with Celeborn.”
“He did not want me.” She sounded so young and lost that Maglor was taken back to the Valinor, on the day when a young swan princess had soundly trounced Caranthir in Finwë’s courtyard.
Maglor moved to embrace her, but he found that he could not. They stood in the middle of the slaughter, slaughter that he had helped created.
“I wish I had not sought your brother earlier.”
“At least you awoke with the battle nearly over.”
She rubbed her eyes tiredly. “At least you spared me from having to choose.”
“Choose what?” Pretending ignorance, he bent down and lifted his brother in his arms.
“If I had come any earlier, I would have had to lift a sword against you.” Her eyes glimmered. “And as much as I hate you now, at least you offered me that one comfort.”
She turned away from him blindly and walked away.
She had arrived at Doriath just as the attack began. Celeborn, too busy to ask questions, directed her towards Menegroth’s southern walls where she could usher survivors to safety. And when the walls were breached, she had reluctantly pulled out her sword. But before she could strike anyone, she saw Maglor’s face.
The last thing she remembered was the flat of his sword hitting her head.
She had come back to consciousness near the end of the battle. Having no idea how long she had been unconscious, she stood carefully as the pounding returned to her head.
She saw dark haired warriors search for survivors and possible prisoners. In a few places, some remaining Sindar offered some token resistance, but it was not enough.
Doriath had been sacked.
Where was Celeborn? She was not sure if she should make her presence known. No one would know what side she was on, and to be honest, she was not entirely sure either. There was still that tiny, treacherous part of her that could not commit to the Sindar completely.
In the end, it was Celeborn who had found her. He had been secretly ferreting out survivors into the woods, but at the sight of her, he crossed over to her immediately.
He was angry.
“You went to them, even after all you promised me. Caranthir told me that you knew of my brother’s slaughter. Before he died, he said you knew! Why did you not tell me when you arrived?” He was shouting at her now, his sword leveled at her.
“So you could go after him and die yourself?”
“So then I would have died,” he said angrily. “He was my brother. Brothers protect each other, Artanis. Or did you not know that?”
She shook her head, the headache and his forceful voice causing her to sway. “Celeborn, you must understand…”
He sneered. “Understand what? That you choose them over me?” He looked away, as if the very sight of her repulsed him. “I would kill you now, but I am no Kinslayer.”
“It was not supposed to be this way,” she said weakly. If only she could tell him that she had feared for his safety, that if she had told him, he would have gone after Galathil, thereby abandoning his duties at Menegroth and falling into whatever trap Caranthir laid for him.
“I will not share you with anyone, including your dead uncle and his twisted designs.”
She grew pale. “You are unjust.”
“Am I? I thought I could win you from him. But you cannot let go of him. But it was a fool’s errand on my part. You hold on to him every time you hide something from me, every time you lie to me.” Celeborn looked betrayed. “By the Valar, I wish we had never met.” Such loathing filled his voice as he spoke those words unthinkingly.
“Do you?” Galadriel’s eyes were fixed on his with an almost aching intensity.
“Sometimes…when…sometimes,” he said slowly. When he found himself loving her, and then he would remember her dishonesty, the use to which she could put her beauty and passion – that was when he wished they had never met. And that knowledge was never far from the surface, however hard he had tried to bury it.
He turned and disappeared into the woods.
Galadriel stood alone, the tears now flowing down her face freely. If they had never met, they both would have been spared this hurt. But if they had never met, she would have missed…much more.
Year 510 of the First Age – Gondolin
Glorfindel felt the agony of his hair being pulled from his head. He was in such intense agony that he was strangely distance himself from it. As he fell, he thought back to the carnage he had left behind him and foresaw the carnage ahead. A sense of foreboding filled him, and he knew, he knew, that this war was greater than anyone, both him and the balrog, and just like it had taken the balrog, it was now taking him as well, and would turn them into the same dust.
- Loriel (1) – Dream-maiden
- Adanedhel (2) – Elf-Man, one of Turin’s many names.
- Lanthir Lamath (3) – the waterfall that inspired Elwing’s name, “Star-spray.”
- Aranel (4) – One of Dior’s names, it refers to his beauty.
- Hir-neth (5) – Sindarin – “little lord”
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