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Water and Stone: 24. Meeting
‘Do you wish me to use your title now that we are back in Lorien?’
‘I do not ask it,’ said Elrond. ‘After what has passed between us, it would be foolish.’
Both Lord and Lady welcomed them warmly; Galadriel was very merry and looked at them both with knowing eyes. Gwirith delivered the scroll box into her hand, though with Elrond by his side it seemed rather superfluous. Soon he asked permission to withdraw, and it was given. Elrond walked with him to the edge of the talan.
‘I will stay some time in Lorien, Gwirith. Think on my words: I will help Celinn if he wishes it.’ He paused. ‘And if you wish it,’ he said quietly. ‘I would do this for you because my heart has been touched by you.’
‘And mine by you,’ said Gwirith, smiling at him.
‘But know also that you may travel back to Imladris with me when I return,’ said Elrond. ‘I ask nothing of you, Gwirith. I only you offer a place where you might find peace amongst your own.’
Gwirith said nothing, and looking into his eyes, Elrond said, ‘The choice is yours. I will not speak of it more.’
‘I am surprised Curunir has not spoken of it,’ said Elrond late that night as he sat with Galadriel at the long table high up in her talan. ‘Can he really know nothing of what is going on just outside his own borders?’
‘His attention is always turned towards Mordor: it may be that he is too occupied with watching to see what is closer to home,’ said Galadriel. ‘At least we have learnt a great deal from Haldir’s careful work. He and the pellarim -those who were able to- brought back what they could to help us understand more about the purposes of these men. Let me call him, and he will tell you himself.’
Galadriel went to the edge of the talan and spoke a word to the white-cloaked guard who stood at the top of the ladder. A few minutes later Haldir was standing before them, describing what he had found.
‘We judge that these men had travelled some distance during the year, beginning in Dunland and coming through the Gap of Rohan to the Vale of Anduin, then far into the north before returning to Dunland for the winter. Adanwath’s band was only one of many, and it seems he spent longer than most around south Anduin in order to prey on the villages there. We know this because we found coins from Rohan and Dunland in the men’s possession, and wine and pottery from north Anduin in their camp. And of course we have Degil’s account, telling us what Adanwath’s woman, Marial, revealed about him after his death.’
‘What did she say?’ said Elrond, fascinated.
‘At first, nothing at all. She was terrified that he would find her and harm her, even though the Dunedain promised to keep her and her child safe. When Aragorn told them that Adanwath was dead, it seems she was relieved and distressed in equal measure, and agreed to speak in return for the kindness she had been shown. She told us they had fallen in with an outlaw band near the Gladden Fields the year they fled from Mirkwood, and they travelled back to Dunland with them when winter approached. That was when Adanwath changed his name from Madoc. He quickly rose to become the leader of one of these bands and they went out each year on this journey along Anduin.’
‘Could she say what was the purpose of these journeys?’
‘She could not, nor did she know why they were to travel so far from Dunland each year. She disliked the nomadic life she has led for so many years, and is grateful to the Dunedain for giving her a settled home.’
When Haldir had left them, Galadriel said, ‘There is something behind this, but I cannot see what it is.’
‘You have looked in your mirror?’
Galadriel nodded. ‘Sauron grows in power, and his gaze is widening, but his specific purposes are not clear to me. These men may be acting purely out of their own greed and spite, but my instinct tells me there is more.’
‘Of course Sauron will want to find the Ring. You know that is why I came in person to speak to you; you must have felt it, Galadriel. The Ring is active again.’
Galadriel was silent for a while, then she said, ‘I have felt it also, but I do not know why.’
‘Think you that Sauron is calling the Ring to him?’
‘It may be,’ she said. ‘Or possibly it seeks him.’
They looked at each other, neither wishing to be the first to say it.
‘Or maybe someone has found it, and is using it,’ said Elrond quietly at last.
‘You are right, Elrond. It is time for the White Council to meet again. We must summon Cirdan to come from Lindon. Will you send to Thranduil or shall I?’
‘He will not come,’ said Elrond.
‘But it concerns him even more closely than the rest of us, now that the Ulairi are at Dol Guldur again.’
‘That is why he will not come,’ said Elrond. ‘I would not leave Imladris when it was threatened by the enemy, even at so great a distance from my own halls as Dol Guldur is from Thranduil’s.’
‘And Mithrandir?’ said Galadriel.
‘He goes and comes as he wills, and cannot be summoned. We can only hope that chance will bring him to us.’ Elrond sighed deeply.
‘You are thinking of Estel,’ said Galadriel gently. Elrond nodded.
‘My heart tells me that of all the fosterlings who have dwelt under my roof, his doom will be the hardest. Already he has been brought face to face with the hard truth that even the most honourable intentions may yield unexpected and shattering evil.’
‘And Celinn was caught unwitting in that evil, between the hatred of Adanwath and whatever dark purpose was at work behind him.’
‘I regret that very much, Galadriel. I have heard his story, both from Estel and from Gwirith.’ said Elrond.
Galadriel looked at him closely. ‘Gwirith was a good companion on your journey, I think,’ she said quietly.
Elrond looked away. ‘Yes, he was,’ he said. ‘It is a long time since I have met someone from Eregion.’
‘A hound?’ said Gwirith.
‘Yes,’ said Luinil. ‘Aragorn has given it into his keeping until he returns.’
‘When will that be?’
‘He did not say. Gwirith, help me with this knot. We cannot attend the feast in honour of Elrond looking like…what is that word men use?’
‘How strange,’ said Luinil, standing still while Gwirith worked on the tangled linen tie caught at the end of his braid. ‘I suppose it is a little like the way we Noldor used to speak of the Sindar in past Ages, before we knew their ways.’ Gwirith’s fingers paused an instant in their work, then moved again.
‘Is the lutir completed, Luinil?’
‘No,’ said Luinil sadly. ‘After you left, Haldir decided Celinn was not ready to take up the captaincy yet, and he extended the time. And he has not given your place in the company to anyone else.’ He paused, then went on, ‘Did you like Imladris? You have told me nothing about it yet.’
‘Since I returned yesterday you have been on duty, Luinil. There,’ he said, handing his brother the tie. ‘Hurry, now, or we will arrive last.’
‘Tell me while I dress,’ said Luinil, sitting on his bed and pulling on dark blue breeches.
‘It was very beautiful. Luinil, it reminded me of home.’
Luinil paused and looked up at him. ‘Truly? How?’
‘Because Elrond is Noldor, and so are many who dwell there. I had forgotten how different are the ways of the Galadhrim from ours.’
‘But the Lady is Noldor,’ said Luinil, putting on a pale blue shirt and smoothing it down.
‘Yes, but she has taken many of the ways of the Galadhrim. Do not she and her Lord dwell high up in a tree? In Eregion we lived on the earth.’
Luinil looked doubtful. ‘But this is our home now, Gwirith. You are not thinking…’
‘I do not know what I will do,’ said Gwirith quickly. ‘Elrond has told me I may go back with him to Imladris if I wish.’
Luinil’s face was suddenly pinched and cold. ‘You would not leave me again,’ he whispered.
‘You could come with me,’ said Gwirith.
‘He has told me he will never love anyone, Luinil,’ said Gwirith bitterly. ‘He sent me away. Am I to wait an Age for nothing? I have woken from a long sleep: I do not want to close my eyes again.’
Luinil stood up and slowly came to Gwirith’s side.
‘Do you no longer love him, Gwirith?’ he asked.
It was a long time before Gwirith answered.
‘It is not that. My heart is his still,’ he said quietly.
‘After you left, Gwirith,’ said Luinil, ‘he came to find you, not knowing you had gone. He was full of remorse for the way he had spoken to you.’
‘Maybe so,’ said Gwirith, his voice a little gentler. ‘But he fears his healing, and without it he will never love again.’
Luinil turned away, going over to the table by his bed and picking up his comb. ‘Maybe you are right, Gwirith,’ he said, drawing it through his hair. ‘Well, tell me more of Imladris. Did you find Lord Elrond a pleasant host?’
Gwirith glanced away momentarily, but Luinil had seen his face.
‘Gwirith! Is that the long sleep from which you have woken?’
In two paces Gwirith was by his side, holding his shoulders.
‘Luinil, it was bliss! It was the night of the festival. I had forgotten…so much! But now my body has remembered.’
Luinil looked him up and down. ‘Indeed, there is a new energy about you. I thought something was different, but told myself it was just my joy at seeing you home. And are you…promised to each other?’
‘No, it was a gift for the festival. There is no binding.’
‘It has only increased my longing for him,’ said Gwirith, painfully. Luinil took him in his arms and held him gently.
‘My poor brother,’ he said, ‘I remember that pain.’
‘I am sorry, Luinil. You who have known his body must find it even more difficult to be deprived of it,’ said Gwirith against his shoulder.
‘I am reconciled to it,’ said Luinil calmly. ‘I told you a long time ago that nothing would separate us again, not even Celinn. He will not turn to me now, but I wish with my whole heart that he will be yours one day. Do not look so sad; now that Elrond is here, he may know something which may avail.’
‘Celinn will never ask it,’ said Gwirith.
‘Something will stir him, Gwirith. He has come far already with your help. It is only a small step further.’
‘Elrond told me he would do all he could to help him.’
‘Then let us go to the feast and the celebrate the kindness of your most generous lover!’ said Luinil taking up his cloak.
‘Never in my long life have I seen such an abundance of cropped elven heads,’ said Elrond to Galadriel, looking out over the lawn of the fountain at the guests who milled around between the tables spread with food and drink. The trees had been hung with lights and music seemed to flow from every corner of the lawn; but the ripple of the fountain’s voice could still be heard.
‘There are only eight in the company,’ said Galadriel.
‘I can see seven,’ said Elrond. ‘Three dark, one red and three blond.’
Galadriel scanned the crowd. ‘Celinn is not here,’ she said, and Elrond heard the echo of concern in her voice.
‘Do you think I could help him?’ he said quietly. ‘Estel has told me what he suffered.’
‘If he would let us, we both could, but I do not know when he will be ready to be helped, my dear. We of all people know that even our powers of healing do not always avail.’ They looked at each other, remembering Celebrian and the months they had spent trying to restore her to wholeness without success.
‘It is because of her that I cannot watch others suffer without offering my help,’ he said quietly. ‘I cannot bear the thought of one more having to endure what she did without hope.’
Galadriel took his hand and pressed it to her lips. ‘The chance may come, and if it does we will be ready,’ she said, and she pointed out a tall slender elf who had just appeared and was standing alone outside the circle of light cast by the lanterns hanging on the mellryn.
‘So that is Celinn,’ said Elrond, and all at once he shivered. ‘By Elbereth, how cold he is!’
‘You know why he is so cold,’ said Galadriel, and her voice rang with pity. ‘Elrond, help him if he will let you, for his sake and for Gwirith’s.’
Something sounded in her voice and Elrond turned sharply to her.
‘It is Celinn who woke Gwirith’s heart,’ she said. ‘If you force him to choose between Lorien and Imladris, he will be torn in two.’
‘He is strong,’ said Elrond. ‘He will survive.’
‘Do not ask him, my dear. A year ago he was as broken as Celinn is now. Do not break his healing because you are lonely.’
Elrond made a sound of pain and turned away, but she turned him back to face her.
‘You will find comfort again, dear husband of my daughter. You have not woken again for nothing.’
He gazed long into her face, and at last her steadfastness soothed him and he sighed deeply.
‘You who have looked on the light of the two trees; you see more than I ever could,’ he said.
‘And you have gifts that are yours alone, child of a star,’ said Galadriel.
They gazed up then at Earendil, circling the sky with the Silmaril bound to his brow, and Elrond’s hand tightened in Galadriel’s. He felt a light pressure on his shoulder and saw that Celeborn had joined them. And though he had lived long ages under the sun and moon of Arda, just now with these two beside him he felt as young as Estel.
Elrond looked over at Celinn, still standing absolutely motionless in the shade of a great mallorn, but now he saw the intensity of his concentration and, following his gaze, saw that it was focused on Gwirith, who was talking with animation to two or three others of his company. But as if he felt the force of Celinn’s attention, he turned a little and looked out towards the darkness, and then he saw Celinn standing alone, and he too became as still as a pillar of stone. Even from where he stood, Elrond felt the shock as their eyes met, and Celinn was freed from his immobility as suddenly as if a spell had been lifted from him. It was then that Elrond noticed the young hound who was sitting at his feet, but who leapt up and followed close on his heels as Celinn pushed his way through the crowd until he came to Gwirith’s side.
They spoke very little to each other, but there was something in the way they stood, a small distance apart, which made the air gather round them, as though in that moment they were separate from all the others on the lawn of the fountain.
‘They belong together,’ he said quietly, ‘though they have not yet come to the moment of knowing it.’
Galadriel nodded in silence, and after a few moments Elrond turned away, feeling as if he were intruding on something private.
‘Gwirith, you are back,’ said Celinn. He stood tall and straight and smooth-browed, but Gwirith felt the discord in his fea.
‘Yes, I am back,’ said Gwirith quietly. His heart beat slow and deep in his chest as he looked again on Celinn’s face.
Celinn said, ‘I came to find you after…’ He stopped abruptly and looked away. After a moment he turned back to Gwirith. ‘You had already gone.’ He swallowed visibly. ‘I am sorry, Gwirith. I was cruel and thoughtless. Forgive me.’ He spoke harshly, as though demanding what was already his.
Maybe it was his tone that stung Gwirith to unaccustomed severity.
‘I forgive you freely, Celinn. But neither of us can deny the truth of your words: what I have to give you, you cannot receive. Indeed it harms you for me to offer it. And it harms me to have it refused so many times.’ He looked away, his face full of hopelessness. ‘Even now we cause each other pain; maybe it is best if I stay away from you as you told me to do.’
Celinn gasped. The hound that was sitting at his feet thrust his nose into his hand as if he were aware he needed comfort, and at the same moment Galadriel’s voice said,
‘Celinn, Lord Elrond has asked to meet you.’
‘I wanted to thank you for what you did for my foster son,’ said Elrond, taking in the tension that filled the space between Celinn and Gwirith. ‘I wished to ask whether there is any service I may do for you in return.’
Celinn’s face was pale, and the long scar showed faintly on his cheek, but when he spoke his voice was calm and steady.
‘It was an honour to fight at his side, my Lord. I need no recompense for that,’ he said.
Elrond looked deep into his eyes. ‘If there is ever anything I can do for you, you have only to say. I am in your debt,’ he said gravely.
‘There is no debt, my Lord,’ said Celinn, simply.
‘You are most gracious,’ said Elrond. ‘I know you have paid a high price for my son’s impulsiveness.’
Celinn’s eyes flickered away for a moment. ‘He has the impulsiveness of one who is young, but the courage of a Man full grown,’ he said. ‘All my company honour him for the burden he carries for us all.’
Elrond bowed with all the dignity of the Lord of Imladris, but his face was that of a father joyful at hearing his child praised. He asked to be introduced to the rest of the company then, and stood speaking to them of the defence of Lorien and the other Elven lands. Bran whimpered then, and put up his paw on Elrond’s arm.
‘Have we left you out of the introductions, then?’ said Elrond, smiling and fondling the hound’s ears.
‘This is Bran,’ said Celinn. ‘He belongs to Aragorn. He left him in my care.’
‘Bran!’ said Elrond, kneeling down to look into the hound’s face. ‘Gwirith,’ he said, reaching absentmindedly for his hand. ‘He is the image of Gilgalad’s hound, Ra.’ Gwirith leaned lightly on Elrond’s shoulder for a moment and smiled at him with affection. Elrond stood up again, and the hound removed one paw from Celinn’s feet and placed it on Elrond’s, so that he had them both secured within his sphere.
Celinn stayed a little apart, watching the elf-lord, and after a while he began to see how from time to time he laid his fingers on Gwirith’s arm when he turned to ask him a question, and how Gwirith leaned closer to listen, curving his body slightly towards him. They must have felt his scrutiny because in the middle of a look they both half turned and met his eyes. Elrond dropped his gaze at once and continued to talk without pausing, but Gwirith held it for a moment longer, and a faint colour came into his cheeks before he looked away.
At last Galadriel said she would take Elrond to speak to Haldir, who was standing by one of the tables with his brothers, and after many courtesies, they left the company to their own conversation. Celinn turned at once, Bran at his side, and strode away, but Aiglin followed him and caught him up. They exchanged what seemed from a distance like heated words, then parted, Aiglin returning alone.
‘I told him it would be a discourtesy to Elrond to leave so early, but he said he is very tired,’ Aiglin said to the company in general. ‘I thought he could have stayed a little longer, especially since we are off duty now until the half moon.’
‘Leave him be,’ said Gwirith. ‘He still finds it hard to be among many others. I remember the feeling well.’
‘But you have been with one other, envoy of Lorien to Imladris,’ said Aiglin. ‘An elf-lord, no less!’
‘It was a gift for the festival, no more,’ said Gwirith, smiling. ‘Though he seems serious and stern, he is kind.’
‘We had much kindness here at the equinox also,’ said Sirion, wryly, and they all laughed. ‘You must beware, Gwirith,’ he went on. ‘He will frighten away all your other suitors.’
Gwirith joined in the general merriment, but his heart ached with loneliness even in the midst of his fellows.
Much later that night, while the last signs of the feast were being removed from the lawn of the fountain, Gwirith walked with Elrond at the elf-lord’s request in the forest near the Lord and Lady’s talan. They spoke of Celinn.
‘You say he is a singer,’ said Elrond.
‘Yes, and a harpist.’
‘And he loves water?’
‘That is why I thought of him so much at Imladris, though I had tried to escape him.’
‘I will think on it. Each one of us is unique in terms of healing. It is the healer’s task to discern how the fea may best be reached and restored.’
‘But how will you persuade him to seek healing?’
‘I will not persuade him. We must wait for the change to come from him.’
‘Then I fear it will never come,’ said Gwirith, sorrowfully, his head sinking down on to his chest.
Elrond reached out and took his face between his hands and looked deeply into his eyes. ‘Do not despair, my dear,’ he said gently. ‘The moment will come, maybe when we least expect it.’
Gwirith drew in a breath to reply but all at once there was a sound of movement in the trees, and Elrond looked up to see Bran bounding towards them. A few paces behind him, Celinn stood motionless, awkward and distressed. His blond head and pale face shone clear against the velvet green darkness of the forest. Gwirith made to turn to see who was there, but Elrond’s hands tightened on his face and held him still. Then Bran came up to him and thrust his nose into his hand, and Gwirith knew who was near, and his heart sank as he thought of the picture he and Elrond must present, alone and intimate in the moonlight.
‘Bran,’ said Celinn, softly, and the hound turned at once and loped to his side. ‘I did not mean to disturb you,’ he said calmly to Elrond, but the elf-lord felt the ripple of pain emanating from Celinn’s fea. ‘The hound is young; he goes where he will, and I follow.’
‘Celinn, come here,’ said Elrond, the words ringing in the silence.
A shadow of obstinacy passed across Celinn’s face, but he took a few steps forward.
‘Closer,’ said Elrond, in a voice that would not brook a refusal. With extreme reluctance, Celinn approached, and when he was within arm’s reach, Elrond dropped his hands from Gwirith’s face and turned him round to face Celinn.
‘Whatever you think you have seen, Celinn,’ said Elrond, his hands resting lightly on Gwirith’s shoulders, ‘Gwirith’s heart does not belong to me.’
There was a long silence. Gwirith and Celinn would not meet each other’s eyes. At last Celinn said gently,
‘I would be blind if I could not see the love between you, my Lord. I can feel it in the air even now.’
‘Celinn,’ said Gwirith in an agonised voice, but Elrond cut him off.
‘There is love between us, Celinn. You are not mistaken. We are friends, and we have shared a long and pleasurable night.’
Gwirith gasped. Celinn said nothing, but he became very still.
‘Celinn,’ said Elrond quietly. ‘The love I share with Gwirith is not the same as the love he has for you.’ Gwirith felt his hands tighten on his shoulders, then Elrond released him and stepped back, away from him. ‘We came together in loneliness, to celebrate the festival, but we are not bound to one another.’
At last Celinn said in a thin, choking voice, ‘Why should Gwirith not find pleasure with you, my Lord? I know that he loves me, but I can give him nothing in return. He is free to do as he pleases. Even he has told me it is better if we part.’
He lifted his gaze to Elrond, and at the sight of the pain in his face the elf-lord had to hold himself back from flinching.
‘If you love him, my Lord, then it is only what he deserves,’ he said, then turned to Gwirith. ‘Forget me,’ he said softly, ‘and take what is offered to you. Do not wait for a happiness you will never find with me.’
Gwirith took a staggering step forward, and there were tears on his face.
‘Celinn, do you think it is even possible for me to forget you, let alone to find happiness without you?’ he said harshly.
Celinn frowned and crossed his arms protectively over his chest. ‘Do not say that, Gwirith. I cannot bear the weight of your longing,’ he whispered.
‘You say you have nothing to give him,’ cut in Elrond in a clear strong voice. ‘But if you were whole, would you turn to him then?’
Celinn stared at him, wide-eyed and terrified, but he spoke defiantly.
‘My lord, it is not for you to ask me that,’ he said.
‘You are right,’ said Elrond. ‘But if you were to answer me, this could be ended once and for all. Tell Gwirith now that even were you whole, you would not love him, and then he will know that even your healing would not bring him what he desires. It would be merciful to spare him the torment of uncertainty that you see him enduring now, and it would free him to grieve for the loss of this love and to seek another with a clear heart.’
Celinn shook his head slowly. ‘You do not understand, my Lord,’ he said wearily, and he passed his hand blindly over his face. Sighing deeply, he sat down stiffly amid the scattering of mallorn leaves that lay on the path. Slowly Celinn wrapped his arms around his legs and brought his cheek down to rest on his upraised knees. Bran flung himself down beside him with a similar gusty sigh and laid his head on his paws. A long time passed, so long that it seemed he might have fallen asleep, but at last he spoke, half to himself, looking past Elrond into the dark forest.
‘I have nothing to give to anyone,’ he said softly. ‘I cannot endure my own nakedness, I cannot bear the touch of another. I have black moods when I am cruel and full of torment. It makes no difference whether I love him or not.’
Elrond crossed to Celinn’s side and knelt beside him. ‘But you do love him?’ he said gently, as if they were alone.
Celinn tilted his head and looked straight at Elrond. ‘With you he will be happy.’
‘But I have told you, Celinn,’ said Elrond. ‘We do not love one another with a binding love. That is not what we offered to each other. And in any case, it is you he wants.’
He turned then, and held out his hand to Gwirith, who was standing silent and transfixed behind him. Gwirith took it, and Elrond drew him down beside Celinn. Then he took Celinn’s hand and placed it in Gwirith’s.
‘However you have come to this moment,’ he said to them, ‘now you must choose. Join or part. If you join, I will help you heal. If you part, I will help you grieve. But choose, for both your sakes.’
And he stood up and went a little way apart. Celinn and Gwirith sat very still, hands clasped.
‘Is it true?’ said Gwirith at last.
‘Yes, it is true,’ whispered Celinn, shading his eyes with his hand. ‘My heart is opening to you. But it is no good, because I will harm you. You were right to leave Lorien: it is best if we part.’
Gwirith made a choked sound, halfway between a gasp and a sob, and his eyes glittered with tears.
‘When I came to find you after…after I had spoken so harshly to you, and you were already gone…then I knew,’ said Celinn, reaching out and wiping the tears from Gwirith’s cheeks. ‘Gwirith, do not weep, I beg you.’
‘What would you have me do?’ cried Gwirith. ‘After all this time you speak to me of love and parting in the same breath. By Elbereth, my heart is breaking. Your death I could accept; your cruelty I could endure, but not this, Celinn!’ He pressed his hand hard to his chest.
‘I would not have spoken if I had not come across you by chance,’ said Celinn, painfully, turning his face away. ‘I cannot endure a healing. It is for your sake that I would let you go. Return to Imladris; it will be easier for you there.’
Gwirith covered his face with his hands and wept bitterly. ‘I would rather bear your anger than this kindness,’ he said in a shaking voice. ‘Why say your heart is opening to me, then send me away? Do you think that now I could dwell in Imladris and be happy, leaving you behind?’
‘Gwirith, that is what I am telling you. The way I am now, it seems whatever I do must hurt you. It is best if I go,’ said Celinn anxiously, beginning to get to his feet, but Gwirith seized his arm and pulled him down again.
‘No, Celinn! It is not best if you go!’ he cried. ‘It is best if you stay and love me ! Look at me! This is the pain of losing you. If your heart is learning to feel again, you will be grieving as I am. Where is your grief? Where is your anger for what was done to you, what was stolen from you?’
Celinn began to tremble. ‘I cannot think of it, Gwirith. Do not ask me,’ he said. ‘You know I cannot endure it.’
‘Would you forgo joy forever because of your fear?’
Celinn did not answer, and Gwirith saw him begin to withdraw into himself.
‘Look how far you have come!’ cried Gwirith. ‘After we were captured, your hroa would not heal; you could not sleep for fear of your dreams; even waking it seemed you were back in his hands. Do you not remember how it was only a few weeks ago, when we found you by Celebrant? You wanted to die, Celinn! Now your hroa is healed, and you will soon be captain again; you can fulfil your oath. And more than all this, your heart is opening. It is such a small step, the final step, to begin the healing of what your body remembers from that day. You’re afraid! I know that. I was afraid when first I came to Caras Galadhon, but you held on to me; you refused to let me go.’
‘What you endured was not the same,’ whispered Celinn.
‘It was pain!’ cried Gwirith. ‘It turned my heart to stone for fear of feeling it again. I was dead, Celinn, though I breathed and my heart beat. Do not choose the death in life which I clung to for three centuries until I met you. Face this fear with me, and let us love one another with joy.’
The sound of Gwirith’s voice died away. Celinn did not answer, did not move, but very gradually something in the energy that surrounded him seemed to shift, and begin to vibrate with a new note.
‘Please, my dearest one,’ said Gwirith, gently caressing Celinn’s bowed head. ‘Let Elrond help you! You have such courage, I have seen it. I can see it now, in the way you bear your loneliness. Ask him. I will be with you: you do not have to face this alone.’
Celinn turned slowly back to him and, looking in his sea-green eyes, Gwirith felt the strong barrier of his unassailable loneliness tremble.
‘But I hate my own body; I fear it, even,’ whispered Celinn. ‘I have forgotten how to touch another with love, or to be touched.’
‘This can be healed, Celinn,’ said Gwirith.
‘Is it truly possible?’ said Celinn, in a voice of incredulity.
‘Yes, it is possible,’ said Gwirith, gently.
Celinn looked into Gwirith’s face and saw the love written unmistakably on it, and then he turned and saw that Elrond also was watching him with kindness and compassion, and something cold and unyielding broke inside him.
‘My lord,’ he said hoarsely, holding on tightly to Gwirith’s hand. ‘You asked whether there was any service you could do for me.’
‘Yes, Celinn,’ said Elrond, coming to his side and kneeling down. ‘Ask it and it is yours.’
‘My Lord,’ he said, speaking as if it hurt him, ‘I was captured by the enemy. I was held against my will and tortured.’ He took a deep shuddering breath. ‘I was raped and mutilated. I cannot heal myself.’ He stopped, and they saw that he was shaking, but neither Elrond nor Gwirith tried to prevent him from continuing.
‘I have been afraid,’ he said, and his eyes were wide with terror. ‘I am still afraid. I do not know how to face this healing, but…I am ready to try.’
Beside him Gwirith made a choked sound, immediately cut off.
‘I will try to do what you ask of me, my Lord’ said Celinn, ‘with Gwirith’s help.’
Elrond laid his hand gently on his shoulder, and the wisdom of long years shone out of his eyes. All at once Celinn felt like an elfling in the arms of his adar, and he sighed deeply.
‘I will do everything I can to help you,’ said Elrond, smiling at him. ‘You have begun your own healing, because you have asked for it. And it is your own will as well as my craft that has the power to complete it.’
‘Thank you, my Lord,’ said Celinn, and all at once he was weary beyond words. He smiled dazedly and Gwirith felt his heart turn over at the beauty of his face.
‘Let us go home and sleep now,’ said Elrond. ‘Tomorrow we will begin.’
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