My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Water and Stone: 17. Freedom
‘Gwirith, he will listen to you. Will you speak to him?’ said Aiglin, without preamble.
‘He means Celinn, of course,’ said Luinil.
Gwirith finished twisting the bowstring and took some wax from an open pot. ‘What is there to say?’ he said quietly, beginning to seal the string with the wax.
‘Have some pity, Gwirith,’ said Aiglin. ‘Soon my heart will break as well as his.’
‘Aiglin,’ said Gwirith, continuing to work, ‘we cannot force him to change. After what was done to him, even the slightest touch is like a violation to him. He must recover his own wholeness before he can begin to turn to us again.’
Aiglin slammed both his hands down on the table in front of Gwirith, making him jump.
‘Do you feel nothing at all for him?’ he cried, his eyes wild. ‘He was a true friend to you when you first came to us, cold and dangerous as you were then. He never left you to fend for yourself, however many times I told him you were a lost cause. But now that his friendship has helped you, it seems there is nothing more you want from him, so you will abandon him when he needs you most.’
Gwirith was hunched over his work table, one hand stroking the long fibres of the bowstring. He seemed to be finding it difficult to breathe.
‘Aiglin,’ said Luinil, catching hold of his arm. ‘You know that is not true. Don’t speak to him so.’
But Aiglin was too distressed to listen. ‘What can I do for him? Nothing at all, because he will not listen to me. He will not let me touch him. Only Gwirith is allowed. Gwirith can help Celinn because his own brother is not good enough for him any more.’ Aiglin’s countenance was distorted with grief and anger. ‘Why you, Gwirith? He hardly knows you. Not even one turn of the year have you been at Caras Galadhon, but you have supplanted me with my own brother. Even Luinil, who has loved him long, cannot be near him any more.’
Luinil gasped and tried again to pull Aiglin away. ‘Aiglin, your words are poison. You are not yourself.’
‘If it is not true, then let him come with us now and find Celinn. His duty begins soon, he will be on his way,’ said Aiglin. ‘Let us know why his own kin count for nothing, and why those who are his friends will do nothing to help him, even when he risks doing great harm to himself.’
Gwirith turned to him. ‘Aiglin, this is foolishness. Celinn cannot bear our quarrels. Abuse me if you wish, but take them not to him.’
‘So you will not come,’ said Aiglin, angrily.
‘I will not come to fight with you or with him,’ said Gwirith.
‘Gwirith,’ pleaded Aiglin, suddenly in tears. ‘We will lose him. You know each day he moves a little further from us. I am begging you to help him.’
‘I am helping him,’ said Gwirith, his voice less than steady.
‘How?’ shouted Aiglin. ‘By making bowstrings? He cannot even draw a bow because his wounds are still unhealed. He will never heal until he forgives himself, until he lets us help him.’
‘Aiglin, this is your pain. You cannot force him to carry it. He has enough of his own,’ said Gwirith.
Aiglin stared at him, then all at once all his anger seemed to leave him and he slumped down on a chair, holding his head in his hands. There was a long silence, and then he said,
‘Please, Gwirith, come with me. If you love him at all, help him, for my sake.’ He looked up suddenly and caught sight of Gwirith’s face. Aiglin stared at him, then at Luinil, then back again at Gwirith.
‘You love him,’ he said in disbelief. ‘You love him as Luinil does.’
Gwirith looked away and started to wax the bowstring again. ‘Stop!’ cried Aiglin. ‘Tell me. Do you love him?’
Gwirith’s hands stopped moving. He looked down fixedly at the strong twists he had made in the string. Aiglin followed his look and his eyes widened.
‘His hair,’ he said. ‘How did you find it?’
‘I brought it back with me after …’
‘Did you love him then?’ demanded Aiglin, but Gwirith did not reply.
‘Aiglin, peace,’ said Luinil. ‘Do you not see how you hurt him?’ Aiglin continued to stare at Gwirith without changing his expression.
‘And he loves you. That is why you are the only one he will have beside him,’ said Aiglin.
‘He does not love me,’ said Gwirith, with difficulty. ‘And I have not told him what is in my heart. He does not want love.’
Aiglin stared at him in disbelief, but then he said, ‘Come with me, Gwirith. If you love him, you cannot want him to leave us.’
‘It is because I love him that I am prepared to let him go,’ whispered Gwirith painfully.
There was a long silence. Gwirith’s laboured breathing was loud in the room. Then Aiglin said,
‘Well, I am going, whether you come with me or not. Haldir will come with me. He is prepared to fight for Celinn, even if you are not,’ and he turned and left the workshop.
‘Gwirith, we must go with him. In this mood, who knows what he will do,’ said Luinil, pulling him by the arm.
‘He must not tell him,’ said Gwirith, distractedly. He got up slowly as if he were suddenly very tired, but he followed Luinil out into the forest. They soon caught up with Aiglin.
‘If he is coming from naneth’s talan, he should be on the path that comes to the gate from the east. This way,’ said Aiglin, beginning to run. The others ran beside him and soon they came to the gate.
‘I will find Haldir. Wait for me,’ said Aiglin, and left them.
‘This is folly, Luinil,’ said Gwirith. ‘He will undo all the work we have done.’
‘He fears he has lost his brother, Gwirith. Have pity on him.’
‘Luinil,’ said Gwirith, ‘he may lose him in very truth if he cannot wait for him to heal.’
They heard running feet and Aiglin stopped beside them. ‘I could not find Haldir. We will have to go alone. Let us go a little way down the path, otherwise Celinn will go straight to the gate and refuse to speak to us,’ said Aiglin. ‘Here,’ he said after a few minutes. ‘This is the stone where we used to wait for adar when he had been on duty at the gate,’ and he sat down on a flat table-like stone beside the grassy track. Luinil squatted down beside him.
‘Aiglin,’ he said, ‘you must be careful with your words, or you may turn him even further from us.’ Aiglin pushed him away impatiently.
‘You sound just like your brother,’ he said, then he leapt to his feet and cried out, ‘There he is!’
Celinn was coming slowly down the path, and when he saw them he visibly shrank back into himself and looked about him for a way to turn back. Then his shoulders sagged and he walked on resignedly, pulling his hood more tightly about his head. Aiglin made an inarticulate sound of pain.
‘Celinn,’ he said, catching him by the arm, ‘I must speak to you, brother.’ Gwirith and Luinil stood a little way behind him.
‘I am going to my duty, Aiglin, I cannot speak to you now,’ said Celinn, trying to pull away from him.
‘Please, Celinn, can I not have a few moments with you? Do you not know how much I miss you? Sit down, brother. Here, this is where we used to wait for adar.’
With great reluctance Celinn sat on the stone and looked at him, his eyes fierce and cold. ‘What do you want with me, Aiglin?’ he asked.
Aiglin threw himself down before Celinn and took hold of his knees, ‘I want to help you, Celinn. I want to see you smile again; to hold you close to me without feeling you pulling away. I want you to be happy.’
Celinn turned away, his face a mask of pain. ‘Aiglin,’ he whispered, ‘Stop.’
‘The Lady knows how to help you, Celinn, and so does Lord Celeborn. I beg you to see them,’ said Aiglin, in tears. ‘My heart is broken, brother. Please listen to me. How can I make you hear me?’
‘Aiglin, go away,’ said Celinn, his eyes closed, trying to get to his feet. But Aiglin said,
‘Then hear Gwirith speak, if my words are less than his. Gwirith, speak to him.’ Aiglin swung right round so that he was looking straight up at Gwirith. Celinn slowly lifted his head. There was a silence. Then Gwirith said, in a muffled voice,
‘I have nothing to say to Celinn. He must do as he chooses.’ Celinn did not look away from him.
But Aiglin was distraught. ‘By all that is holy, is this how your love moves you, Gwirith? To let him go so far from us that he will never find the way back?’
‘Aiglin,’ gasped Luinil, ‘you have said too much.’
Gwirith went white, but he could not take his eyes from Celinn’s.
‘I have not said enough,’ cried Aiglin. ‘Not until my brother hears me will I have said enough. Brother, there is enough love around you to fill your life through all the ages of Arda. You know I love you. You know Luinil does. And now Gwirith does too. But even that will not make you turn back to us. You let your pain make a chasm between us, and you will do nothing to help yourself.’
Celinn’s eyes were a dark turquoise blue as he silently held Gwirith’s gaze.
‘And you are our captain!’ cried Aiglin. ‘You cannot leave us. You promised me we would come home, Celinn. But you are not here. Your body is here, but you have gone. You can’t break your promise.’
Then Celinn moved suddenly, very fast. There was the flash of a blade and immediately following it, Gwirith’s hand seized Celinn’s wrist, arresting the movement of the knife towards Celinn’s throat.
Aiglin fell abruptly silent. Gwirith and Celinn stared at each other, unmoving. Light rippled off the blade as Celinn’s hand shook in Gwirith’s firm grip. Then, very slowly, Luinil reached for the knife. Not until Celinn had opened his hand and allowed Luinil to take it from him did Gwirith release his hold on him. His fingers had left their mark on Celinn’s skin.
‘What is going on?’ said Haldir’s steely voice behind them. He stepped past them and saw the knife in Luinil’s hand. ‘Whose knife is that?’
‘It is Celinn’s,’ said Luinil, since Celinn seemed to have lost the power of speech.
‘Aiglin, I heard you were looking for me. Why are you three here?’ asked Haldir. ‘Celinn is on his way to his duty. This is no time for social calls.’
Aiglin lunged towards him but Luinil wrapped his arms round him before he could reach the Guardian.
‘We needed to speak to him,’ said Luinil, pushing Aiglin behind him. ‘It was the only time we could be sure to find him, Guardian.’
‘So,’ said Haldir, looking around him. ‘The rest of you have nothing to say?’
Celinn was still as the stone on which he sat. Gwirith’s head was bent so that his dark hair covered his face. Aiglin stared at Haldir with blazing eyes, but Luinil held him firmly.
‘Then leave Celinn to his duty,’ said Haldir, leaving much unsaid. ‘Speak to him later.’
He turned to Luinil. ‘Give him back his knife, Luinil,’ he said. Aiglin made a sound, quickly cut off.
Luinil looked down at the knife in his hand, then over at Gwirith, who shook his head almost imperceptibly.
‘Guardian, I think that …’ Luinil began, but could think of nothing to say.
‘The handle is cracked,’ said Gwirith. ‘I am going to mend it,’ he said, and took the knife from Luinil’s hand.
Haldir looked at the three of them, then at Celinn, who had not moved at all. He held out his hand, and reluctantly Gwirith put the knife in it. Haldir examined it closely.
‘The handle appears to be undamaged, Gwirith,’ he said quietly. ‘Now, which of you is going to tell me what is going on?’ No one answered, and at last Haldir said,
‘My dear friends, please trust me. I don’t want to take you all down to the guardroom and summon the captains’ council.’
Luinil sighed deeply. ‘We came to find Celinn; Aiglin needed to talk to him. Things were said that might have been better left unsaid. Celinn had his knife, Gwirith took it away and gave it to me.’
‘Celinn had his knife, Gwirith took it away and gave it to you,’ repeated Haldir carefully. ‘Why does it sound as though the most important detail has been omitted?’
Celinn spoke suddenly. ‘I was going to cut off my braid,’ he said harshly, ‘to stop Aiglin talking about me being captain. I am not worthy of my braiding in any case. I told Haldir before now, but he wouldn’t listen to me. That is all. You can go now and leave me to my duty.
‘It is not your duty that would occupy you, Celinn. Guardian,’ pleaded Aiglin, ‘keep his knife.’
They all looked at Celinn, with varying degrees of disbelief.
Haldir took charge. ‘I will take the knife,’ he said curtly, and Luinil put it in his hand. Celinn’s eyes became very dark and he said wearily to his brother. ‘Aiglin, I thought that it was not possible for me to be more shamed than I am, but you have found a way to do it.’
Aiglin winced. ‘It is not a matter of shame,’ said Haldir, but Celinn said bitterly, ‘You dishonour me further by denying it, Guardian.’
He stood up slowly, and said with dangerous quiet, ‘You don’t believe me then, Aiglin?’ Without taking his eyes off his brother, his hand fumbled for his hood and he tore it off and flung it on the ground. ‘Look at me, Aiglin,’ he said, running his hands over his head. ‘Is it because you think that one pathetic lock of hair can make up for what he did to me? Could I really be any less naked and humiliated as I stand before you now, bare-headed and mutilated, than when he tied me to that tree and did what he did? Do you think I don’t see how everyone looks at me behind my back, polluted and shorn like a beast?’
‘Celinn, that isn’t true,’ protested Aiglin. ‘No one but those who brought us home know what he did to you.’
‘No one needs to, because it is written here, as plainly as if I stood on the green lawn of the fountain and told all Lorien the tale,’ said Celinn, passing his hand again over his head. ‘What am I now? I am nothing. What was it you said, Guardian, after my braiding? What would we be like without our hair? Unsexed, withered, derided, outcast. Those were your words, and that is what I am.’ His eyes narrowed, and the movement seemed to concentrate their vivid colour so that they blazed out like flame as he spoke. ‘Is there not one who of you who understands this? I can never be a part of you now. He has broken my bond with you all, with my kin; with my company, who stood with me at my braiding; with the One who gives us our beauty and our precious life. I cannot come back to you, because there is no way back.’
‘Brother,’ said Aiglin angrily, ‘your hair will grow again! You still belong to us and to Lorien and to the One!’
‘My hair will grow, Aiglin,’ said Celinn softly, ‘but I will not. I am changed. ‘Aiglin, maybe you are right,’ he went on, through gritted teeth. ‘Maybe it was not my braid which my knife was seeking. Maybe it was not even my throat. Maybe there is another part of me which deserves its kiss even more,’ and suddenly he reached out for the knife in Haldir’s hand. Haldir was caught off guard and Celinn snatched it from him and with a cry made to thrust it between his legs.
Again it was Gwirith whose fingers closed round his wrist. This time Celinn seemed far stronger and they struggled for some seconds before the knife rang as it fell on the ground. The blade was bloody and the snow was spattered with drops of red.
‘What harm has been done?’ he demanded, seizing Gwirith’s arm.
Gwirith and Celinn moved apart from each other. Celinn was shaking violently and his legs were spotted with blood, but it was his hands that he held up to Haldir.
‘Only this,’ he said, hoarsely.
‘And you, Gwirith?’ said Haldir, swinging round to him.
‘The same,’ said Gwirith.
Haldir looked at them both as though he might say more, but then he stooped down and picked up the knife, thrusting it into the snow to clean the blade before putting it swiftly into his belt.
Haldir said, ‘Hear me, all. Luinil, Aiglin, go. Gwirith, come here.’
Luinil got hold of Aiglin and started to pull him away.
‘We can’t leave now,’ cried Aiglin, but Luinil said, ‘Hush,’ and dragged him down the path.
Gwirith came towards Haldir, but then Celinn said savagely,
‘No! He goes too.’
Gwirith hesitated. ‘Celinn,’ he said uncertainly, but Celinn deliberately turned his back on him.
‘Gwirith, stay,’ said Haldir firmly. Celinn began to walk away from them but Haldir said his name quietly but with such command that he stopped in his tracks. With a restraining glance at Gwirith, Haldir walked to Celinn’s side and laid his hand gently on his shoulder. Celinn’s body twitched and then froze under his hand, but Haldir did not remove it. Silently he turned Celinn round and, picking up a handful of snow, used it to wipe the blood from Celinn’s lacerated palms.
‘You will have to get this treated before you go on duty, Celinn,’ he said.
Haldir took a piece of linen from his pocket and dried Celinn’s hands, speaking at the same time.
‘Do you remember my words to you at the northern fences? If you choose to leave us, it will not be with my help. I will fight you to the last breath, yours and mine. We fight you because we love you, Celinn. We love you.’ His voice broke with sorrow and despair but he regained his composure at once. Celinn said nothing, turning so that Haldir could not see his face.
‘I am going to send Gwirith to you. Speak to him. Or if you cannot do that, at least listen to him. He is your friend.’ A tremor passed through Celinn’s body but he gave no other sign that he had heard anything Haldir had said to him. Haldir sighed and turned to Gwirith, gesturing him to come over to them. He opened his mouth to speak to him, but all he could do was shrug helplessly and walk away.
Gwirith looked at Celinn’s stiff back and he shuddered with the waves of cold that he could feel rolling off Celinn’s fea.
‘Celinn, I would never have told you if Aiglin had not spoken,’ he said quietly. There was a long silence, then Celinn said, unsteadily,
‘You swore to me you were no more than a friend to me. I told you before Elbereth herself that I could not bear the love of another. I trusted you, Gwirith, I who have forgotten how to trust. Even to you it seems that merely by existing I must bring pain.’
‘Celinn, by existing you bring me joy, not pain,’ said Gwirith softly. ‘Nothing has changed. I gave you my word. You are free, always free to do whatever you need to.’
Celinn turned to him very slowly, as though he were moving in a dream.
‘And if I need to die?’ he whispered.
Gwirith gasped, but he did not look away from Celinn’s sea green eyes.
‘My dearest Celinn,’ he said softly. ‘I think I have loved you since the first moment I saw you, though it is only now that my heart avows it; but if you need to die, though I will be bereft until the last day of the last age of Arda, I will not try to prevent you from finding your death.’
Something sparked deep in Celinn’s eyes. ‘You alone would not prevent me,’ he said. ‘I believe you.’ Unconsciously he leaned towards Gwirith, and he let out his breath in a soft sigh as he said half to himself. ‘Maybe there might still have been peace with you, Gwirith, but not at the cost of your pain.’
‘I will pay the cost, willingly,’ said Gwirith urgently.
‘But I will not ask it,’ said Celinn.
‘Celinn, do not turn from me now,’ pleaded Gwirith, but Celinn had withdrawn into himself and was looking into the far distance as if he had forgotten Gwirith was there. Gwirith reached out his hand, wanting to restore the fragile connection between them, but he felt the strong barrier Celinn had erected and remembered his promise not to hold him, and so his hand dropped back down to his side.
At last it seemed he had come to the last moment of hope, and he stood and endured the pain of it in silence. Maybe Celinn felt something give between them, because he turned then and began to walk into the forest.
Haldir called out his name, and when Celinn did not answer, ran to catch up with him. They spoke briefly, then turned back and together began to walk in the direction of the gate. As they passed Gwirith, Haldir glanced at him reassuringly but Celinn seemed not to see him, and Gwirith watched them until they were out of sight. Then he felt suddenly weak and leaned against a tree, looking at his lacerated palms. He wondered if all he would ever have of Celinn would be his blood on his skin and then, in a moment of absurdity, hoped that maybe their blood had mingled and even now Celinn’s was flowing in his own veins.
And then he had to turn and hold on to the tree as he had on the night they had brought Celinn home, as he came to a full realisation of what he had said to Celinn. ‘But I don’t want him to leave me,’ he whispered to the strong oak to which he clung. ‘I’m not ready. I don’t know if I truly have the strength to bear it.’ From deep in the tree came a ligneous groan, and it drew an answering groan from Gwirith. He leaned against the oak, and its rooted solidity helped him to regain his balance. At length he stood up and pressed his lips against the bark. The tree creaked as he walked away, following the light prints in the snow in the direction of the gate of Caras Galadhon.
When he reached it he saw that Aiglin and Luinil were waiting anxiously for him. Aiglin leapt up.
‘We have seen him, he is with Haldir at his duty.’
Gwirith was suddenly furious with Aiglin.
‘Did you see what your foolishness has done?’ he shouted. ‘After what he has endured, do you think he needs the ravings of a lunatic as well?’
‘I am sorry,’ gasped Aiglin, suddenly in tears again. ‘I don’t know how to bear it any more.’
‘Nor does he,’ said Gwirith. ‘But he must, and so must you. And why did you tell him I loved him? Was it yours to tell?’ He seized Aiglin’s shirt and shoved him hard against the wooden palisade. ‘He told me he could not bear the guilt of anyone loving him without hope of return. I was the only one he would speak to, and now he has sent me away from him. If only you could have waited, he might have had the time to heal. Aiglin, if you were not his brother, I do not know what I would do to you.’
Luinil wrenched them apart. ‘Is there not enough pain without you making more of it?’ he shouted. ‘We are one company, we belong to each other. When did you forget it?’
‘When evil came to us,’ said Gwirith darkly, turning away from them.
‘What will become of him?’ wept Aiglin. ‘If it had not been for you, Gwirith, he would have …’ but the rest of his words were drowned in tears.
‘And he may again,’ said Gwirith, ‘and next time we will not be there to stop him. And I have sworn not to prevent him.’
Aiglin stared at him in horror, then lunged towards him and seized him by the throat. ‘So now you can’t have him, you will do nothing to stop him ending his life, so no one else may have him either!’ he shouted, half mad with despair, and he struck Gwirith hard across the face. Gwirith cried out and instinctively drew back his arm to return the blow, but Luinil grabbed Aiglin’s shoulders and dragged him away a second time. Aiglin collapsed into uncontrollable sobbing.
‘Go, weep somewhere else, Aiglin,’ said Gwirith coldly, gently touching his injured face.
‘Gwirith, you are cruel,’ said Luinil, his arm round Aiglin, but Gwirith said nothing.
‘I will go to the guardroom with him and wait for Haldir,’ said Luinil.
‘Do what you will,’ said Gwirith. He watched them walk away, Luinil half supporting Aiglin. When they were out of sight, he slumped against the palisade and covered his face with his hands, remembering how Celinn had looked at him with anger and disbelief, as though he were the worst kind of traitor.
Someone laid a hand on his shoulder and he looked up into Haldir’s grave face.
‘Gwirith, what has happened to your face?’ he began, but Gwirith cut across him.
‘How is he, Guardian? You should not have left him alone. What is he doing?’ and he made to push past Haldir.
‘Peace, Gwirith,’ said Haldir, pushing him back. ‘He is on duty at the gate. He has sworn to me he will not harm himself.’
‘He has sworn it? How?’ Haldir’s face changed.
‘He has sworn he will not harm himself today,’ he said quietly.
‘Today? But not tomorrow? Or any of the days after that?’
‘Gwirith,’ said Haldir gently. ‘Let us get through today first. Tomorrow we will begin again.’
‘He looks for death, Guardian. Can we truly keep him from it? I swore to him I would not prevent him, if that is what he desires.’
‘You did what?’ cried Haldir. ‘Why, Gwirith?’
‘Because it is all I have to give him. I think my heart loved him from the day I came to Caras Galadhon at your command, but I will not try to keep him in life if that life is a torment for him. You wanted me to tell him what was in my heart: now Aiglin has told him, and he has broken with me, for fear of hurting me. By Elbereth the best beloved, I would endure whatever pain was necessary, but now he will not let me near him.’
‘Gwirith, your love may touch him yet. Do not despair. I have told you I will do all I can to keep him.’
‘Then you will make a prison for him, and his only escape from it will be death. Sweet Elbereth, I do not know what to do,’ he said, distractedly. Something fell on him, and he looked up to see rain coming down from a soft grey sky. He closed his eyes and let it fall on his face, glad that Haldir could not see how his tears mingled with it.
‘Now it is the very root of his bodily life that he seeks to destroy. No matter what tenderness I would show him, hroa and fea, he sees in his body only corruption and decay. He does not deserve this pain, Haldir,’ he said.
‘No, he does not, and nor do any of us,’ said Haldir. ‘Evil does not choose between those who deserve it and those who do not. But the music of the One sounds even in the deepest chaos, and the discord of Melkor can never make anything which will last. If we bend instead of breaking, we can make beauty out of pain.’
‘But the pain makes it so hard to make beauty,’ whispered Gwirith. ‘Sometimes it turns our hearts to stone.’
‘Even a small amount of water will wear away stone at last,’ said Haldir, ‘and only a little yielding will let us hear the music.’ He took a step towards Gwirith and pulled him into his arms. Gwirith’s composure broke and he wept freely, his head on Haldir’s shoulder. The rain had turned to snow and the soft flakes fell gently on them.
‘Haldir,’ said Gwirith, his voice muffled against Haldir’s silver hair, ‘he said before Elbereth herself that he prayed the day would never come when another loved him, because he could never return that love; and now that Aiglin has told him, he looked at me as though I had betrayed him.’
‘Celinn’s fea knows your love, Gwirith. He has always known it, since the day when you touched his mind during his ordeal, maybe even before then.’
‘He only came because of the oath,’ said Gwirith.
‘But the oath is a part of him, Gwirith. You were calling him back to himself. And because of your love for him, your hands sang with his hroa in the healing music of the One, and he let you come close to him.’
‘But now he will not,’ wept Gwirith. ‘Now he will not.’
Haldir’s arms tightened around him. ‘Do not despair, Gwirith. He is on a threshold, and though he thinks he is alone, truly he is not. When I said I would fight for him, I did not mean I would use strategies and weapons. I will go to the Lady, and she will surround him with love, which is the light of the One, while you do as you have done until now, which is to walk as close to him as he will allow.’
‘He will not let me close, and I have sworn to leave him free,’ Gwirith whispered.
‘Then follow him from far, but stay with him,’ said Haldir. ‘He is wrong, Gwirith; you have not betrayed him. Do not you believe it now! Are you to abandon him, because you said you would leave his way open for him to choose?’
‘Though I may not prevent him, yet may I be with him if he…’ Tears took away his voice. At last he said, ‘Haldir, it will be soon. Whichever way he chooses, he cannot continue long on this path.’
‘Yes, my dear, you are right. Be strong a little longer. Keep close to Luinil and Aiglin, and the Lady will help us all.’
‘I fought with Aiglin,’ whispered Gwirith.
‘So that explains your face. Your beauty is much marred.’ said Haldir. But Gwirith did not respond. At last his tears dried and he sighed deeply and leaned against Haldir’s strong body.
‘I will watch him until his duty is over,’ said Haldir. ‘He must report to me afterwards: we are agreed on that. After that I will keep him in my sight as far as I can, but my duty begins at moonrise so he will be in your hands then. If you need me, I am at your service at any time.’
‘Haldir, your words comfort me,’ said Gwirith, and Haldir smiled and passed his hand from the crown of Gwirith’s head down his long hair to the small of his back.
‘I am glad,’ he said. Gwirith came out of his arms and his rare smile illumined his face.
‘Thank you,’ he said gently, and kissed Haldir on the cheek.
Adar = father
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