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Water and Stone: 25. Healing
‘Yes, and Gwirith was with us also. He said being near the water would help me,’ said Celinn. ‘Elrond has been preparing me for the ritual on the night of the dark moon.’
‘That is three days from now, is it not?’ said Aiglin. ‘But why not Celebrant, since you love it so much?’
‘Because of what happened last time I went there.’ They were silent for a while, remembering. Then Celinn said,
‘I wanted to see you before…before I go.’
‘But you won’t be gone long, will you?’
‘No, not long…but…’
‘Celinn, it will be well, my dear. Elrond is skilled, and Gwirith will be with you.’
‘I know this…but…I am afraid, Aiglin. What if they are mistaken, and I fall again into madness and waking dreams?’
‘Do not say that, Celinn! Elrond would not let that happen.’
‘He could not heal his own wife,’ whispered Celinn. ‘She left him and went over Sea.’
They stared at each other, shaken and vulnerable. Then Aiglin said,
‘Brother, you must trust him. And Gwirith too. He loves you, truly he does. There is no other way. Tell me, what did you do at Nimrodel to prepare yourself?’
Celinn sighed and shook his head.
‘Elrond watered me,’ he said.
‘Watered you? How?’
‘He had a little watering can which Helevorn uses in his herb garden. He made me stand while he poured the water on me, so that I could attend to the part of my body which the water touched. He made me take fresh clothes to wear when he had finished.’
‘But why did he do this?’
‘He said I must learn to listen to my body again; that I feared it and had closed myself against it, and must open again. And since I cannot endure touch, this seemed to him the best way to begin to do it. He gave me the watering can, and I am to use it each day to learn to inhabit my body again.’
‘And how did you feel when he watered you?’
‘Wet,’ said Celinn.
Aiglin burst out laughing. ‘Maybe Helevorn should plant you in his garden,’ he said.
‘But there was something else,’ said Celinn. ‘I felt…the shadow of my wounds, the one from the arrow in my shoulder, and the long bone in my leg that was broken. And when he watered me a second time, I noticed more: the coldness of the water, its sweet taste on my lips, the way my hair felt plastered down on my forehead.’
‘Is that all you did at Nimrodel? Get wet?’
‘No,’ said Celinn, with a sigh of frustration. ‘He made me look and listen and smell and feel. He had a yulmalinde, a singing bowl, made of a golden metal, inscribed with runes and other designs. When he struck it, it rang a beautiful note, a strange double note which touched me somewhere deep within my bones. And it smelt burnt, like breathing in smoke. The metal was cold and smooth as ice. He had a bag with other things, like lavender and lemon balm, and I smelt those also.’
‘Naneth used to grow lemon balm,’ said Aiglin.
‘I remembered that,’ said Celinn. ‘But he also had some athelas, and that reminded me of…when I was wounded. Elrond had to help me then, because for a moment I was back at Anduin. That is what I fear, Aiglin. What if I can’t come back? What if they take me too far?’
‘They will not do that, Celinn. Elrond was able to help you, and he will help you again if you need it. What else did you do?’ Celinn looked less than convinced, but he said,
‘Then I was to close my eyes and look at my body with the eyes of my fea.’
‘What did you see?’
Celinn’s eyes filled with tears. ‘I could scarcely see myself at all,’ he said in a voice full of desolation. ‘My hands were there, and part of my face, but the rest of me was blurred and wavering, as if wreathed in mist, or else dark and altogether absent. When I asked him what had happened to me, Elrond laid his hand on my shoulder, and I shrank away from him, as I always do from any touch. Then he said that was why I could not see my body: because I resisted it and refused to let it speak to me, to protect myself from remembering what it had endured, and that I feared my own touch and the touch of others for the same reason.
‘He said my fea had not returned fully to my body after I was…tormented, and after I tried to go to Mandos. I got angry with him then, and said what use was it to smell lavender and be watered like a plant? I can already see and hear and smell and taste, but I can’t touch or be touched…or…live in my body…or…or love any more, and that he should do something for the part of me that had suffered worst.’
‘And what did he say?’ asked Aiglin.
‘He said that I was too hasty, and must do these tasks to re-awaken the senses each day to prepare myself for the ritual. He said we must begin with small safe things, and that there was no magic which would help me to trust my body again, only patience. He said I have been long away, and it takes time to come home from a far land. Only then would I be ready to grieve for what I had lost.’
‘It is true,’ said Aiglin, softly. ‘You have been very far, so far that we could not reach you at all for a long time. But you are close again, and almost home now. Just a little longer, and you will be at the door, and I will be waiting to hold you in my arms again.’
Celinn smiled at him sadly. ‘I hope with all my heart that you are right, Aiglin,’ he said, and tentatively he stretched out his fingers and touched his brother’s cheek.
Celinn’s hand shook as he re-fastened the gold clasp on the neck of his cloak.
‘I am ready,’ he said, glad his voice was steadier than his hand. His company waited, gathered behind Galadriel, near the gate of Caras Galadhon.
‘We wish you well,’ said Haldir quietly. ‘You know that the love of your company goes with you, Celinn.’
Celinn nodded, his mouth suddenly too dry to speak.
‘And mine also,’ said Galadriel in her deep musical voice. ‘Helevorn and Tathrenil and I will be sending whatever power we can to you to assist in the ritual.
‘Thank you, Lady,’ said Celinn, hoarsely, casting a parting glance at Aiglin, who smiled at him.
‘We will leave you now,’ said Elrond. ‘We must reach Nimrodel by twilight.’ He touched his heels to his horse’s sides and he and Celinn and Gwirith rode down the green lane and disappeared towards the gate of Caras Galadhon. Aiglin shuddered suddenly, and Luinil rested his arm gently across his shoulders.
‘It will be well, Aiglin,’ he said. ‘You will see.’
Aiglin nodded, unspeaking, and loosened his hand for a moment on Bran’s neck. The hound bounded forward and with long loping strides, followed Celinn and the others towards the gate.
‘Let him be,’ said Galadriel. ‘He knows where he is needed.’
At twilight on the fourteenth day after full moon Celinn knelt on the banks of Nimrodel, clad in white. Elrond and Gwirith were beside him, and Bran lay a short distance away. The voice of the river sang in the spring air, and the delicate vibration of the life of the forest tingled and rippled around them. Elrond had hung the travelling light from a tree and had set a pot of water to boil on a forked stick above a small fire.
Celinn’s fair hair shone in the last of the sunlight like a halo about his face, and his eyes were an intense turquoise-blue. There was a deep remoteness about him, as if he were here with them, and yet at the same time distant and unreachable. He was slender and beautiful and full of dignity; but his eyes were vulnerable and wide with fear.
Elrond was speaking. ‘This will be the night of the dark moon, which signifies a time of inwardness and new seeding. Do you understand why we have chosen this time, Celinn?’
‘No,’ said Celinn shortly.
‘Because we are looking for something unseen, Celinn. We are searching in darkness for a glimpse of light. If we choose this night to begin, we put ourselves in accord with powers greater than ourselves, and our bodies know this. And they know also that it is after the greatest darkness that we find the light. The dawn after the night of the dark moon is a time of renewal. We seek this for you also, Celinn, and the powers will assist us when we align ourselves with their cycles.’
‘I understand,’ said Celinn quietly.
‘Are you willing to be guided by me in the ritual we are about to perform, Celinn?’ said Elrond.
Celinn’s face grew very pale. The strong barrier of his self-control thinned, and Elrond could feel the pain and fear bleeding out of him. At last he said, tight-throated,
‘I am willing. What do you want of me?’
‘I want you to return to your body,’ said Elrond. ‘This is what you must do if you are to live fully again.’
‘How am I to do this?’ whispered Celinn.
‘By allowing yourself to feel again what is in your body, both the memories that are locked inside you, unfelt, and the living movement of your deep life within yourself, now, today,’ said Elrond. ‘When you have done this, even only a little, your body will speak to you and you will know how to grieve and to heal.’
‘I will know?’
‘Yes. Gwirith and I will help you, but the wisdom is in you, Celinn.’
Celinn looked at him sceptically, but he said, ‘What must I do?’
‘First you must give your consent. Do you wish us to perform this ritual, Celinn?’ Elrond asked formally.
Celinn’s head sank slowly down on to his chest. There was a long silence, but at last he lifted up his haggard face and looked at Elrond.
‘Yes,’ said Celinn, in a voice that seemed to come from a great distance away. ‘I have done everything you asked me to do to prepare myself.
‘Good,’ said Elrond, then impulsively stroked his fingers down Celinn’s cold cheek.
‘Don’t be so afraid, boy, you will not be alone,’ he said gently. Celinn’s lips moved, but the smile did not touch his eyes.
‘I cannot see the path we are travelling,’ he said quietly. ‘I am here in blind faith, because of Gwirith, because he trusts you.’
Elrond nodded. ‘I am humbled by your faith,’ he said. ‘I wish more than anything to be worthy of it, for my own sake as well as yours. Very well, now we are embarking on a journey together, and we must be sure we have what we need for our sustenance. Let us start with ourselves. We are your travelling companions, Celinn. You know you can rely on Gwirith; he has proved himself to you many times. But can you rely on me? I will be leading you to a dangerous place from which you have chosen to exile yourself. Can you trust me?’
‘My Lord, I am here, although I would rather be anywhere else in Arda at this moment,’ said Celinn dully. ‘Is that not trust enough?’
‘Your will keeps you here, Celinn, but in the heart of the ritual, it may not serve you as well as it does now. Your heart and your gut must trust me, or else I will not be able to hold you. Tell me now, what stands between us?’
Celinn looked away. ‘There is nothing, my Lord,’ he said. Elrond waited in silence. At last Celinn said,
‘Except maybe…what passed between you and Gwirith. If I am healed, you and he…’
‘You fear my jealousy, Celinn, and that my heart does not truly wish your healing.’
‘Yes,’ whispered Celinn.
‘It is true that Gwirith has changed me,’ said Elrond at last, looking down at the ground. Both Celinn and Gwirith watched him intently.
‘But even did he not love you, it is not him I long for. It is one whom I lost long ago, and whom Gwirith could not replace.’ He looked up again. ‘I too have grieving left unfinished, Celinn. But we three are bound together. Gwirith came to you cold in heart and body, and your care helped him to heal. From that grew his love for you, and now he seeks your wholeness. When Gwirith came to me it was out of longing for you, and that longing woke us both from a long sleep of the body. But he is yours, he always was.’
Elrond sighed deeply.
‘Celinn, you have nothing to fear from me. You belong to each other, and it honours me to offer my skill to you both. Does that lay your doubts to rest?’
Celinn nodded mutely.
‘Then let us talk about what you will take with you on the journey.’
‘Take with me?’ said Celinn.
‘The strength of your fea and your hroa, Celinn. The courage of your gut; the sensitivity of your heart; the resourcefulness of your mind. All the qualities which made you the youngest captain in Lorien, and which are still within you.’
‘No!’ said Celinn, fiercely. ‘I am no longer who I was. He has polluted me. I can never go back. If that is what you propose, then you will fail, Elrond.’
‘You misunderstand me, Celinn. I do not intend to try to undo what has happened, but instead to help you to complete it. There will be a time in the ritual when you will stand alone, and only your own choice will take you forward. I would prepare you for that moment, and help you find the strength to hold fast.’
Celinn’s eyes darkened and he shifted restlessly.
‘Only deep in yourself will you find that strength, at a time when every part of you longs to turn back,’ said Elrond.
‘I am already there,’ said Celinn through gritted teeth.
‘No, you are not,’ said Elrond. ‘It is worse than this, Celinn. But we will help you, and we will use that which is deepest within you to devise a healing.’
‘What can you use? There is nothing!’ cried Celinn.
‘The thing you love most: music.’
Celinn stared at him in astonishment.
‘How?’ he asked, his voice breaking on the question.
‘I have brought instruments with me, from Lindon. Their sounds are healing and harmonising. I have used them before to good effect. And the voice of water will be near.’
‘Its voice, yes, but I can no longer abide its touch,’ said Celinn.
‘Once the ritual is over, you will bathe in the river with joy.’
‘It cannot be,’ said Celinn, despairingly.
‘It will be,’ said Elrond. ‘Believe it, Celinn. You will be healed. You will embrace your comrades, you will love Gwirith at Midsummer, you will go naked into Celebrant again. You will find the self you have lost.’
Celinn shook his head, but he did not refuse when Elrond said they should take off their shoes, and afterwards they sat down on blankets they had laid out near the water.
‘Now tell me what it is you seek from this ritual,’ said Elrond.
Celinn closed his eyes. There was a long silence. Beside Elrond, Gwirith stirred anxiously, then clasped his hands together and became still. Celinn began to speak.
‘I am nearly healed, Elrond. My hroa is whole, save for the scar on my cheek. My hair grows. Soon I will lead my company as full captain again. I no longer wish to die. And yet I cannot truly live. What Adanwath did to me, taking me by force, cutting my hair, broke something in me. I…cannot love any more, with my heart or my body. All those who love me suffer, because I cannot touch them, or suffer them to touch me, because the memory of Adanwath rises up between us.’
‘Yet Gwirith may touch you,’ said Elrond. ‘And you have permitted me to do so.’
‘Your touch is safe: you ask nothing of me,’ said Celinn.
‘While I was in Adanwath’s hands, he reached me with his mind, helped me. After I was wounded and sick with pain, and when I thought my last hour had come, I endured his touch.’
‘At the end it was you who asked me,’ corrected Gwirith, sharply.
‘Yes,’ agreed Celinn.
‘With Gwirith, contact is the least unbearable,’ said Elrond. Celinn nodded.
‘He has been with me since the beginning; his hands have healed my wounds, made me a bow and a string from my hair which he kept after Adanwath cut it, found the stone that marked my oath before my braiding, held me when I walked the path to Mandos, brought me home after...’
‘You have walked the path to Mandos?’ said Elrond, incredulous.
‘He refused me,’ said Celinn wearily, ‘because my heart had in it more love than desire for death, although then I did not know why.’
Elrond visibly gathered himself. ‘Continue,’ he said.
‘But even with Gwirith’s love,’ Celinn went on, ‘and that of all who have willed my healing: Helevorn and Tathrenil, Aiglin, my company, Haldir, Galadriel and you, Elrond …it is not enough. Even with all this, a pattern woven to remake me, I am still separate and exiled. It is as if I have been unable to draw the sting which is in me, poisoning me.’ He paused. ‘And I have feared the cure,’ he said in a trembling voice.
‘Why do you choose it now?’ asked Elrond.
There was a long pause. ‘I choose it for Gwirith,’ whispered Celinn at last, ‘and for myself.’
‘If you would be healed, Celinn,’ said Elrond very gently, ‘you must make a place in your heart for your grief and your fear, and all that you cannot at present endure.’ He placed his hand lightly on Celinn’s back. ‘I will not let you break, Celinn,’ he said. ‘But I will help you to learn again what you knew so well before this tragedy came to you. Your energy streams through you like water or like music, but through fear it has become blocked and frozen. If you let if flow again, you will make new music.’
‘But I hear only discord,’ said Celinn bleakly. ‘And I cannot sing any more.’
‘You will,’ said Elrond. ‘You are a singer. Out of this pain you must make a lament, a piece of work that weaves the pattern of light and darkness both.’
‘But it is so small a thing,’ protested Celinn. ‘So many have suffered as I have. Why should my story be told and not theirs?’
‘Because it is theirs,’ said Elrond. ‘It is the same story, the story of the breaking of beauty and tenderness by evil, and the grief at what was lost, and the remaking after. Whenever it happens; whether to Amroth and Nimrodel, or to my beloved Gil-galad, or to you, Celinn, or to Gwirith or any other.’
Celinn’s breathing quickened and a flush of colour rose to his cheeks, but he ruthlessly suppressed the feeling, hunching his shoulders and closing his eyes.
‘Do it, then,’ he said, through clenched teeth, ‘while I still have the courage to face it.’
Elrond got up and dipped his hand in Nimrodel, then sprinkled droplets water round them in a wide circle.
‘By the One, this space is sacred to your healing, Celinn,’ he said quietly, and kneeling down again, he passed his hand slowly over Celinn from head to foot, a few inches away from his body. Then he went over to the fire and piled more wood on it, before coming back to Celinn’s side.
‘Celinn, for this ritual you need to open to deep parts of yourself that have long been closed,’ he said. ‘Normally I would use touch to soften your body and help loosen the barriers that have grown up, but that is not possible for you, so I must use other methods.’
‘What methods?’ said Celinn, uneasily.
‘Come close to the fire,’ said Elrond. ‘Its heat will help melt the armour you have built around yourself.’
Celinn did as he asked, extremely relieved. Then he saw that Elrond was pouring some hot water from the pot over the fire into a small green glass cup, and sprinkling something into it.
When it was ready, Elrond held the cup out to Celinn.
‘This herb will help to overcome your defences, Celinn. If you do not take it, you may resist every attempt we make to push past them, so that the part of you that is fearful will fight the part that has to courage to face the test. You are strong, Celinn, and we may not be able to defeat you.’
Celinn’s eyes were wide with fear. ‘Once I have taken this, I will not be able to turn back,’ he whispered.
‘Not so,’ said Elrond. ‘I can end the ritual at any time, if you truly wish it. But it will take some time to return to yourself once the herb has done its work.’
Celinn glanced at Gwirith for a moment, then took the cup and drained it quickly.
‘We must wait a while for the herb to take effect,’ said Elrond.
They sat in silence as the dusk deepened into night. At first Celinn seemed exactly as before, but gradually his eyes darkened until they were nearly all pupil and they felt something loosening in the energy that surrounded him. His tight self-control began to slip and both Elrond and Gwirith began to sense the texture of what was behind the barrier that was now beginning to weaken within him. He gave a deep, heavy sigh and shaded his face as if even the faint beam of the travelling light were too bright for him.
‘Do you understand what you must do, Celinn?’ said Elrond.
Celinn turned lethargically to him. ‘I must try to stay open, even when I am afraid, so that you and Gwirith can clear whatever has blocked my energy, ’ he said listlessly, as if repeating a lesson.
‘Celinn,’ said Elrond gently. ‘It is because the ritual has begun that you are already enduring its torment. Your body is giving up its pain, so long suppressed. It is well, Celinn.’
But Celinn was too deep in hopelessness to respond to him. He was beginning to sweat from the heat of the fire and the effects of the herb, and his hair was tousled and damp. The flames cast fantastic shapes on his face, sharpening his cheekbones and filling his eyes with shadow. Suddenly lost and bewildered, he raised his knees and rested his cheek on them, covering his head with both arms.
‘Celinn, do not give in to despair when we have scarce begun,’ said Elrond softly. ‘Close your eyes, and tell me what you see of your body.’
For a long time Celinn did not reply, and Elrond was just beginning to doubt his own judgment when Celinn said, slurring his words a little,
‘I see my head and face…but not my hair. My chest and…my heart beating. My arms, but not my hands. Nothing below my chest until my thighs. My legs are there, and my feet, but I still cannot reach the ground.’
‘That is very good, Celinn,’ said Elrond, in a voice of deep satisfaction. ‘You have done well. You are ready for the final part of the ritual. Gwirith will help you, since his hands have a special affinity for healing you.’
There was a stir of movement, and Gwirith came to kneel down behind Celinn.
‘Gwirith will lay his hands on your back, since that is less intrusive.,’ said Elrond quietly. ‘Listen to the places where he touches you, and tell us what they speak to you. We will see what emerges.’
There was a little gust of cold wind, and Celinn shivered.
‘Are you cold?’ said Gwirith.
‘Yes. No. I am afraid,’ whispered Celinn.
‘It is fearful,’ said Elrond. ‘But you are not alone. ’
‘Where shall I begin?’ said Gwirith, kneeling behind Celinn.
‘You must ask Celinn that,’ said Elrond.
Gwirith moved round to look at Celinn, seeing the dark shadows under his eyes in the pale beam of the travelling light.
Celinn took Gwirith’s hands and placed them on his neck, just above his shoulders.
‘Begin here,’ he said hoarsely.
At once Gwirith felt his hands begin to tingle with a sharp painful energy. He breathed deeply and let the energy enter his hands.
‘What is in your body, Celinn?’ asked Elrond in a low voice.
‘I don’t know,’ said Celinn, miserably. ‘There is something, but it is muted. I don’t know what it is.’
‘It is something sharp, cutting,’ said Gwirith, with difficulty. ‘Something cold.’
Celinn’s shoulders jerked upwards. ‘Cold,’ he said to himself.
‘What is it, Celinn?’ asked Elrond gently.
‘Something bright,’ said Celinn. ‘Bright and…’ his face crumpled suddenly into pain.
‘My hair,’ he whispered. ‘He’s cutting my hair.’ He began to shudder violently. Elrond moved round to his side and rested his hand firmly opposite Gwirith’s, at the top of Celinn’s chest. It was like putting his hand into a forest of blades.
‘Feel the earth, Gwirith,’ he said, seeking his own strength from beneath him. ‘Celinn, do not fight it. We will try to clear the energy.’ He closed his eyes and together he and Gwirith let the cruel cold vibration which seemed locked around Celinn’s neck to pass into their hands, replacing it with light and warmth. It was a long, difficult task. As they worked, Celinn’s neck seemed to become weaker and weaker, and Gwirith had to support his head with both hands.
‘Be patient, Celinn,’ said Elrond. ‘Soon it will be done.’ Celinn moaned softly under his breath.
‘The energy is strong, Elrond,’ said Gwirith. ‘I do not know if I can hold him much longer.’
‘You must,’ said Elrond shortly, and calling in his mind on Galadriel, he felt a surge of light enter his hands. ‘The Lady is helping us,’ he said.
Gwirith felt Celinn’s cool skin under his fingers, and gently began to stroke the underside of his neck with his thumbs. He wanted to lean forward and press his lips to Celinn’s cheek, but unsure what Celinn’s reaction might be, he held himself back. Instead he began to sing under his breath, the same song as on the day they were captured. Celinn sighed deeply, and the sharp energy began to fade. Gwirith and Elrond worked on, taking the harsh vibration into themselves, and letting clear pearly light flow into its place.
At last Gwirith felt Celinn’s head lift slightly from his hands. Celinn looked at him dazedly.
‘Warmer,’ he murmured.
Gwirith laid his hands on Celinn’s head and passed them downwards in long strokes from his crown to the ends of his short hair. After doing this three or four times, he gathered the ends of Celinn’s hair into his hands and rubbed them softly between his palms. Celinn shook his head gently, and Gwirith stroked the muscles of his neck downwards, then gently back up again, working his thumbs into the tightness at the base of Celinn’s skull.
Elrond had removed his hands and sat watching silently. At last Gwirith’s hands were still, and he let them rest on Celinn’s shoulders for a moment before lifting them away from him.
Celinn stretched his neck gently from side to side.
‘How do you fare, Celinn?’ said Elrond.
‘Warmer,’ repeated Celinn, his voice husky and strange. ‘Something has changed in my throat.’
‘The energy has changed. Continue, then, Gwirith,’ said Elrond, shaking his hands to release the energy from them.
‘Where now, Celinn?’ asked Gwirith.
‘I don’t know. You choose,’ croaked Celinn.
Gwirith placed his hands on Celinn’s back, over his heart. Elrond’s heart gave a painful jolt as he remembered Gwirith’s hands on his own chest, touching his skin. Pushing the memory away, he said,
‘What do you feel, Celinn?’
‘Tight,’ said Celinn. ‘Difficult to breathe.’
Gwirith took hold of Celinn’s shoulders and pulled them gently outwards, stretching his ribcage to give him more air.
‘Not there,’ gasped Celinn. ‘Further down.’ Gwirith slid his hands down to Celinn’s waist, and it was as if he had plunged them suddenly into fire. A wall of heat met him, and within it swirling patterns of burning rage and terror, forming and re-forming. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and his cheeks became flushed and hot, and he seemed to be seeing Celinn and Elrond through a wavering heat-mist.
Then a cool hand was laid on his brow. ‘Thank you, Elrond,’ he said, but as the mist cleared he saw that the elf-lord was kneeling in front of Celinn, and it was not his hand that touched him. Elrond raised a winged eyebrow. ‘Galadriel?’ he said softly. Gwirith nodded and turned his attention back to Celinn.
‘What is here in your body, Celinn?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Celinn said quietly. ‘There is some movement, but I don’t know what it signifies. But…I can see colour.’
‘What colour do you see?’
‘Red,’ said Celinn. ‘Bright, deep red.’
Gwirith and Elrond exchanged a glance, and Elrond brought his hands nearer to Celinn.
‘I will try to help you to open,’ said Gwirith, sweat streaming from him and soaking his shirt. ‘I will do it as gently as I can. Are you ready?’
He saw Celinn’s blond head dip down once, then he opened himself to let in the terrible heat. Once he had balanced the flow of it into his hands with the clean white light replacing it, he relaxed his fingers a little, and imagined the red heat gently emerging into Celinn’s consciousness. At first Celinn seemed to relax into the warmth, and Gwirith was able to contain it while he and Elrond worked to clear the powerful chaotic swirl of it. But as he loosened his hold little by little to allow Celinn to experience it, it seemed to press against the barrier he and Elrond had set in place, and become more erratic and difficult to control.
‘Quickly, Celinn, tell me what you feel,’ said Elrond, noticing his quick shallow breathing.
‘Something strong,’ said Celinn anxiously. ‘Fearfully strong. It is…red, very bright, like fire…and hot…it’s too hot.’ Suddenly he cried out, a fierce and terrifying sound of rage, and lurched forward so violently that Elrond was knocked to the ground. Gwirith seized Celinn’s shoulders but Celinn threw him off and leapt up, shuddering with anger and shouting wildly.
‘Get your hands off me! What do you think you’re doing?’ he cried. ‘You forced me to come here with you, even though you knew I didn’t want to, because you’re only interested in what you can get from me! Why can’t you just leave me alone? I could have gone to Mandos, I could have been free of all this! And I can’t even avenge myself, because Aragorn has taken that away from me, dispensing so-called justice on that filthy scum who used me like a whore for his pleasure. If he were here now, I would make him suffer every torment he made me endure, and more! And you won’t let me forget it, will you? You have to make me remember every detail of it, and you try to make me believe it’s all for my own good. Well let me tell you, you’re going to regret it. You should have let me go when you had the chance!’
Before they could stop him, he had run over to his horse and snatched up his sword from the saddle bow, brandishing it before him. Bran was on his feet, barking and leaping around Celinn.
‘Celinn,’ said Gwirith gently, taking a step towards him, but the blade flashed in the glow of the fire and clipped his forearm. Gwirith stepped quickly back, but Celinn moved towards him, forcing him to give ground.
‘Celinn!’ shouted Elrond, and in the instant that Celinn’s attention was diverted, Gwirith lunged towards him and seized his wrist, struggling to disarm him. But Celinn was possessed with unusual strength, and despite all his efforts Gwirith could not subdue him. Instead he spun round and drew his own sword, holding it defensively before him with both hands while Celinn slashed and thrust at him with his own blade. Gwirith called out to him all the while, trying to break through the blind mood that animated him, but Celinn was past reason.
‘Elrond, he is our best swordsman,’ Gwirith cried, breathless. ‘I cannot defeat him. Help me!’
Elrond held out both hands in front of him and bowing his head, began to speak softly under his breath.
‘Elrond, hurry!’ cried Gwirith. ‘I do not want to hurt him!’
Then Celinn gave a wild piercing cry and lunged forward, his sword thrust out before him. Gwirith sidestepped but the flat of the blade caught the side of his head and he staggered and nearly fell. He knew Celinn was beside him, and he was wrong-footed and unable to regain his balance. There was a little draught of wind as the blade came down again, and Gwirith closed his eyes and waited for the blow to fall.
There was a loud metallic clang and the sound of something falling heavily to the ground. Gwirith opened his eyes and saw Celinn lying curled up motionless on his side, his sword just out of reach of his fingers.
‘What did you do to him?’ he shouted at Elrond. ‘You weren’t supposed to hurt him!’
‘Would you rather I let him kill you?’ said Elrond, cool and sardonic. ‘That would have made a fitting end to his recovery, no doubt.’
Gwirith knelt down beside Celinn and raised him so that he was sitting up.
‘What did you do him?’ repeated Gwirith, more calmly, looking at Celinn’s dazed expression.
‘I cleared the anger very quickly,’ said Elrond. ‘More quickly than I would normally choose to, but it seemed necessary.’ One winged eyebrow flew upward. ‘Would you not agree, Gwirith?’
‘Yes, yes of course,’ said Gwirith impatiently. ‘Celinn, my dear, can you hear me? Elrond, why is he still so hot?’
Elrond laid his hand on Celinn’s waist for a moment. ‘There is more work to be done,’ he said quietly. ‘Celinn, what is in your body? Tell us, so that we can help you.’
Celinn turned his haggard white face on him, staring at him with eyes that were nearly black.
‘Leave me alone,’ he whispered, terrified.
‘Quickly,’ said Elrond, holding his hands near Celinn’s body. ‘Lay your hands on him, Gwirith, and try to ground him.’
Gwirith put his hands on Celinn’s waist and was nearly overcome with a wave of panic, but far in the depths of his mind, the Lady’s voice whispered to him. He could not hear or understand the words she spoke, but their energy seemed to root him to the ground. Opening himself, he let the shrill screaming energy of fear roll into him, draining it out of Celinn and replacing it with clean white light. Celinn was so deep in fear that he scarcely dared to breathe, but as the minutes went past, Gwirith felt him begin to relax, and at last he gave a deep sigh and his shoulders sank down.
‘What happened?’ he said weakly. ‘What did I do?’
‘You gave Gwirith a demonstration of your skills as a swordmaster’ said Elrond.
Celinn turned to Gwirith and saw the trickle of blood running down from his scalp and the dark stain on his sleeve. ‘I did this to you?’ he said, shocked.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Gwirith. ‘It was an accident.’ He stood up and extended his hand to Celinn. ‘Come and sit by the fire,’ he said gently. Celinn got to his feet, but immediately swayed and had to be supported by Gwirith on one side and Elrond on the other.
‘My body feels strange,’ he said, suddenly stumbling again.
‘Your energy is different,’ said Elrond. ‘It is affecting your balance.’
‘Is the ritual finished?’ asked Celinn, wearily.
‘What do you think?’ asked Elrond. ‘Is there more to do?’
Celinn sat down cross-legged by the fire and stretched out his hands to the flames. Elrond quickly treated Gwirith’s wounds, and they sat down beside Celinn. There was a long silence. The fire crackled and one of the branches hissed and whined as the sap oozed out of it in the heat.
‘There is more to do,’ Celinn said quietly at last. He glanced up, seeing the stars shining faintly against the ink black sky. Gwirith knelt down behind him.
‘Where must I touch you?’ he asked. Reaching back, Celinn took Gwirith’s hands and laid them at the base of his spine.
‘Here,’ he whispered. It was like touching solid darkness, and for a second Gwirith felt the breath stop in his throat.
‘What is here in your body?’ he said, forcing the words through his clenched throat.
‘Nothing,’ whispered Celinn. ‘It is empty. I am alone.’ He shivered, and Gwirith felt a freezing stream of dark energy pouring into his hands. Elrond came close to Celinn.
‘This is the place of rooting and belonging,’ he said. ‘Here we hold the energy of our kin and our home. Can you feel the energy here?’
‘No,’ said Celinn, without emotion. ‘All I can feel is cold.’
‘Celinn, you are not alone, but your body has forgotten its bond with your kin, with the Eldar, with the One. You belong to us, Celinn.’
‘No, not any more,’ said Celinn dully.
‘Celinn,’ said Gwirith. ‘We will send light and warmth into your body. Try to open to us.’
‘You are too far away,’ said Celinn faintly.
‘We can reach you, even from far away. Open, Celinn, just a little,’ said Gwirith, sending energy into Celinn’s body.
‘I am so cold,’ whispered Celinn, blue-lipped and shivering violently, his head sinking down on to his chest. But Gwirith worked on, and after a little while the colour began to come back to Celinn’s cheeks and he looked up again.
‘Gwirith?’ he said, squinting at him. ‘Come closer, you are too far away. Why am I so cold? Is it winter?’
‘No, my dear. But you will not be cold for long,’ said Gwirith. ‘It has been within you, but now it is leaving you.’ As Gwirith pressed his hand gently on the base of Celinn’s spine, a faint deep crimson glow began to appear in the midst of the dark smoky black energy that streamed out of Celinn’s body into Gwirith’s hands.
Celinn gasped and tears suddenly filled his eyes.
‘What do you feel, Celinn?’ said Gwirith.
‘It is loneliness,’ said Celinn. ‘I have been so lonely, so far away.’
‘Where do you feel it?’ said Elrond.
‘Deep,’ whispered Celinn. ‘In my bones, in the root of me. I have been alone for so long. Where are my kin, my comrades?’
‘They are waiting for you, Celinn, to welcome you home.’
‘How many years have I been away?’ asked Celinn, and the tears spilled out on to his cheeks. ‘I have missed you all so much. I want to come home.’
Deeply moved, Gwirith wrapped his arms round Celinn’s shoulders and pulled him close, but Celinn struggled to free himself.
‘What are you doing?’ he said, shocked. ‘You know I cannot…you cannot…touch me like that.’
Gwirith shrank away from him. ‘I am sorry,’ he whispered, averting his face. ‘I forgot myself. Forgive me.’
Celinn wound his arms tightly around himself and rested his chin on his upraised knees. The tears dried on his cheeks in the warmth of the fire, leaving darker streaks on his pale skin. Behind him, Elrond reached out and rested his hand on Gwirith’s shoulder.
It was deep night now. Bran was stretched out near the fire, keeping one eye open to make sure Celinn had no plans to go anywhere without him. Elrond and Gwirith waited in silence for Celinn to speak. At last he said quietly,
‘I have left the hardest till last, have I not?’
Elrond nodded. ‘Yes, you have. But there is wisdom in that. Now you can draw on your new strength: the strength of your throat that can speak your truth, no longer silenced; of your gut, released from anger and fear; of your roots to your kin and comrades and to the earth of Lorien.’
‘My heart is still closed,’ whispered Celinn, wiping his damp brow.
‘It is bound up with the wound deep inside you,’ said Elrond. ‘The one we will deal with now.’
Celinn bowed his head on to his knees. ‘I cannot face it,’ he whispered. ‘It is too black, too corrupted. It is impossible to make me clean again.’
‘Celinn, look at me,’ said Elrond. Celinn did not move. ‘Look at me,’ said Elrond again, and though his voice was no louder, there was something in it which could not be refused. Slowly Celinn raised his head.
‘Celinn, you are already clean,’ Elrond said quietly. ‘You have done nothing of which to be ashamed. You are innocent. You were forced to submit: you did not choose it.’
‘But I…I…’ Celinn began, then stopped, an expression of utter despair on his face.
‘Your body responded to him,’ said Elrond calmly. ‘Even though you were revolted by him.’
Celinn’s expression changed to one of total disbelief. ‘How did you know?’ he whispered.
‘Because I have lived more than six thousand years, my dear, and in that time I have seen what evil can do, and what it cannot. You are still pure and untouched, Celinn, because you did not give yourself. That gift is still yours to give.’
‘But he took that from me,’ said Celinn, so quietly Elrond could barely hear him.
‘No. He cannot take your body from you, or the giving of it. That is yours alone. It is only your fear that keeps you far from yourself and others.’
For a moment, Celinn’s face was full of incredulous hope, but then it was gone. ‘No, Elrond,’ he said wearily. ‘It is not only my fear, great though it is. He…I…it is as if…he is still with me, somewhere deep, in some dark, hidden place, and whenever I think I might be free of him, his face is suddenly before me, laughing at me. How could you know this, since it has never happened to you?’
‘I acknowledge the memory of him is still powerful,’ said Elrond. ‘But we will make it possible to change that, so that it will be just that: a memory, which can no longer blight your existence.’
Celinn shook his head sadly. ‘I have come this far with you and Gwirith, but now you ask me to enter the place of my greatest fear, walking blindly into the darkness. How can I do this? If you are wrong, I will be even more broken than I was on the day I fell into Adanwath’s hands.’
‘And if I am right, you have the chance of healing, and of love, and of pleasure that has become only a memory to you.’
Celinn was silent for so long that his cheeks became deeply flushed with the fire’s heat. ‘No,’ he said at last, in a dead, toneless voice. ‘I cannot do it.’ And straight away he made to get to his feet. But as he turned, his eye fell on Gwirith, and he saw that he was curled up tightly, his head covered by his arms resting on his upraised knees. He neither moved nor spoke, but his utter despair could be seen in every line of his motionless body. Celinn stared at him, shaken, and then Bran raised his head and looked at him sadly with his dark eyes. Celinn flinched and for a long moment he was so still that it seemed he must have stopped breathing. Then he turned slowly to Elrond.
‘What must I do?’ he said softly. Gwirith raised his head slowly.
Elrond moved to his side with a quick grace. ‘You must let us take you deep,’ he said. ‘Very deep. We must find the poison in the wound and excise it. Then you will be free.’
Celinn shivered. ‘It is so dark,’ he said. ‘Cannot we wait until the morning?’
‘No, this is the time,’ said Elrond. ‘In the deep night, your hidden self is nearer the surface than in the daylight.’
Celinn covered his face suddenly with his hands, his fingers tangled in his hair. Both Gwirith and Elrond heard the unuttered cry of anguish that escaped from his fea into the stillness of the night. Then abruptly he tore his hands away from his face. The scar had reappeared, a vivid silvery white line bisecting his cheek.
‘Begin,’ he said breathlessly. ‘Now.’
Elrond nodded to Gwirith, who knelt behind Celinn again, and gently undid the lacings at the back of his tunic. A tremor ran through Celinn’s body, and when Gwirith laid his palms gently against his skin, one on either side of his spine, just where his waist curved slightly outwards towards his hips, tears came into his eyes and spilt at once on to his cheeks. His whole body shrank away from Gwirith’s touch, and his fea cried out silently again with pain and fear.
Elrond’s grey eyes were full of sadness as he knelt before Celinn and rested his hands lightly on his knees.
‘Try not to fear,’ he said gently. ‘You may ask us to end the ritual at any time. We will not intrude further than this on your body: this contact is sufficient for us to reach you.’ Celinn nodded, then wiped his face roughly with the palms of his hands. The tears continued to flow, and waves of anguish rolled off him, like billows of dark smoke.
‘Now, my dear, tell us what your body feels when we touch you.’
‘I…I am helpless,’ sobbed Celinn, eyes tightly closed. ‘He is here, taunting me. I am afraid he will hurt Aiglin, or the others. I want to run, but there is too much pain, and my leg will not support me. I am helpless. I have failed. I am…I am bleeding…there is so much pain…if I can keep him talking…but maybe I cannot…’ He fell silent, staring into the darkness.
Gwirith struggled with the dark choking poisonous energy that coiled around Celinn’s fea, strangling his own strength with its insidious power. He tried to open to it, and take it in through his hands, but it was so foul and bitter that he felt sick and disorientated, and even Galadriel’s strong energy seemed far away from him. Then Celinn began to speak again.
‘I swear to you, Aiglin, we will go home again. Be calm, all of you. No heroics. Haldir will come for us soon. Ai!’ he cried out suddenly, his hand going up to his cheek. ‘He has cut me!’
Elrond felt the texture of Celinn’s pain under his hands. Whenever it threatened to become overwhelming, he dampened it down a little, but not so much that Celinn would lose touch with it. Gwirith’s hands shook as he channelled the heavy dark energy out of Celinn’s deep centre. It felt like he had been working for hours, but as yet there was no sign of an ending; in fact if anything, the energy was becoming darker and denser the deeper he went. Galadriel whispered words of encouragement in his head, and once again he felt her hands on his, steadying him, but despite that the muscles at the back of his shoulders were beginning to tremble with the strain.
Suddenly Celinn cried out and fell backwards against him, his head against Gwirith’s shoulder. Gwirith felt a jagged burst of pain like a bolt of lightning through his hands, then something sharp and cold slid through his palms.
‘He is remembering the knife,’ he said to Elrond, struggling to steady his breathing.
Elrond nodded. ‘Celinn,’ he said loudly, ‘tell me what is happening.’
‘I am bleeding…’ whispered Celinn. ‘I am wounded. But I have distracted him…he has not had what he wants from me…if I can make him talk…it will be well. Haldir will be here soon.’ He raised himself up again. ‘The Lady is here…I hear her voice,’ he said, smiling.
All at once his face went blank. Both Gwirith and Elrond felt a barrier go up, and the stream of energy dwindled to a trickle.
‘Celinn, try not to close to us,’ said Elrond. ‘Let us help you.’
Celinn turned slowly to him, staring at him as if he did not recognise him.
‘Speak to him, Gwirith,’ said Elrond, holding Celinn’s eyes.
‘Celinn,’ said Gwirith, stroking Celinn’s back gently with the tips of his fingers, ‘We are nearly home, my dearest. I know it is difficult for you, but go just a little further and we will be there. You are not alone on the road: we are beside you.’
There was the sound of soft footfalls on the grass, and Bran threw himself down beside Celinn and laid his head in his lap, staring up at him longingly with soft brown eyes. Celinn sighed deeply and unconsciously stroked the rough brindled fur that stood up in little bristly tufts on the ridge of Bran’s head. He said nothing, but Gwirith felt a tremor of energy in his hands, and a moment later the flow began again as the barrier cracked and broke and was swept away. His eyes met Elrond’s and they heartened one another with a glance.
Then Celinn sat up very straight, looking over Elrond’s shoulder into the dark forest. Elrond glanced at him and saw his eyes were very bright and clear and open, as though he were searching for something.
‘I am ready to meet you again,’ said Celinn softly, as though talking to someone the others could not see. ‘Do your worst.’ His mouth shut tightly and Gwirith felt the muscles of his back tighten as though he were bracing himself to meet a blow.
The energy hit Gwirith so hard that for a moment he thought he would lose consciousness, but he struggled to find the earth and the sky and his place between them, and though his eyes had been full of wheeling stars now the world tilted back into true again and he knew where he was. It was a dark sluggish energy, like a snake that has just crawled from a cesspool, stinking with the smell of carrion and death. Gwirith’s body resisted it, and he had to force his hands to stay in contact with Celinn’s skin and to draw the poison from deep within him. Elrond’s eyes were closed and Gwirith saw that his body was outlined with a soft blue light which even now was creeping around Celinn, twining itself round the venomous energy that belched out of him. Under his hands Celinn’s back was rigid and cold, and it was as if something had burst the strong wall of his defences, leaving a great gaping jagged hole.
‘Elrond, he is too open,’ muttered Gwirith, his arms aching and burning as the dark energy passed through them.
‘Be calm,’ said Elrond shortly without opening his eyes. ‘Celinn, can you hear me?’
Celinn made a strange soft whimpering sound.
‘Talk to us,’ said Elrond. ‘It will help to purge the energy.’
‘Touching…me,’ mumbled Celinn, slurring his words together. ‘Don’t…something…breaking. Don’t…please…don’t…’ He began to weep, deep heartbroken sobs, torn out of him. ‘Don’t…it was…beautiful…there was tenderness…such pleasure…it was…no…it is…beyond words…it was…myself…my deep…private self…now I can never…feel it again…you have broken it…your shadow, your smell… your mouth…I can’t breathe…don’t…no, please don’t…’
Gwirith felt a dark sexual energy come into his hands from Celinn’s body. He shifted awkwardly, feeling himself begin to harden.
‘It is an energy like any other,’ said Elrond, hoarsely, and Gwirith saw the glint of arousal in his face. ‘Send it into the earth with all the rest.’ For a moment their eyes met and a surge of lust passed through him. All at once he wanted to drop his hands from Celinn’s back and pull Elrond into his arms and press himself hard against his body. Elrond’s eyes answered and Gwirith saw the tip of his tongue moistening his dry lips as the energy surged through them again. Gwirith was so hard now that it was beginning to hurt him. His fingers began to draw away from Celinn’s back, and though he felt Celinn shudder and gasp all he could see were Elrond’s grey eyes calling him, promising him…Elrond turned his head away and bit his lip so hard that a trickle of blood ran down his chin. Gwirith’s body twitched as he felt a shadow of the pain with which Elrond had just lashed himself. He let out a harsh breath and immediately pressed his hands on to Celinn’s back, at last becoming aware of his distress. His erection dwindled and died and he found that he was shaking almost as much as Celinn.
‘Celinn, keep talking,’ said Elrond, not looking at Gwirith. ‘Keep talking!’
‘I can’t…fight him.’ He spoke in the flat dead tone of utter despair. ‘Trying to fight …holding me …No! No!’ His voice rose to a terrible shrill scream. The scream went on and on, shattering the stillness of the sleeping forest in the darkest hour of the night. Here at last was the heart of Celinn’s pain, and Gwirith and Elrond and Galadriel held him, letting his pain flow into them, suffering with him. Bran leaned against Celinn, whimpering softly, trying to comfort him with his warm body.
Celinn’s voice stopped so suddenly that the silence pressed against their ears. Gwirith found that there were tears on his face, but he did not want to remove his hands from Celinn’s body to wipe them away.
‘Celinn,’ he whispered. ‘Is it finished?’
But Celinn leaned forward until he was almost bent double.
‘I yielded to him,’ he whispered, and then Gwirith felt a movement begin deep in Celinn’s body, a movement of tightening and closing, so that all that was tender and vulnerable and open began to be drawn deep into his centre, and barricaded behind walls so thick that they could not be breached.
‘Celinn, do not do this,’ begged Gwirith, but still the movement continued.
Gwirith felt the tightening in Celinn’s flesh, in the long hard muscles of his back and buttocks, in his thighs, in his gut and the muscles that surrounded it, and in his vulnerable sexual parts, which drew up close to his body as his pelvis curved tightly round them for protection. Gwirith fought Celinn’s body, but muscle and bone and nerve and sinew ground against each other like great stones building a fortress, until finally the movement stopped and Celinn sat hunched and locked in the armour his body had made.
‘Celinn,’ whispered Gwirith. ‘What have you done?’
Celinn turned to him with difficulty. ‘I could not help it,’ he said, without emotion. He looked at Elrond. ‘It is over,’ he said wearily. ‘There is nothing you can do for me now.’
‘That is where you are wrong,’ said Elrond. ‘This is where the final healing begins.’
He reached for his pack and taking out a cherrywood box, he opened it and laid it on the ground. His hand hovered over it, then he took out a pair of two-tined forks, silver grey in colour and engraved with runes.
‘What are those?’ said Celinn with mild interest.
‘Close your eyes, Celinn, and tell me what your body is made of.’
‘Stone. I am made of stone,’ said Celinn impassively at once. Gwirith made an inarticulate sound of pain.
‘What can break stone, Celinn?’
‘Fire. Water. Time.’
‘Yes. But so also can sound. These can break through stone and release you from the prison you have made, but you must will it, for it will be like a little death. This is the time that I told you about, when you are alone and everything in you tells you not to go on, but you must find your courage and walk on regardless.’
Celinn sat hunched over, motionless, his face etched with the exhaustion of the past hours.
‘It is the last step,’ said Elrond quietly. ‘And then you will be free.’
Celinn stretched out his hand and Elrond put the silver fork into it and he looked at it for a long time.
‘Do you wish me to do this thing?’ Elrond asked at last.
‘Yes,’ whispered Celinn at last. Elrond’s face brightened. Gwirith laid his hands on Celinn’s back.
‘When it comes to the most difficult time, Celinn, you must surrender to it,’ said Elrond. Celinn made a tiny affirmative movement.
Elrond struck the fork on rock and stood it on its end. A deep piercing note sounded. Celinn shifted a little, then was still. The note rang on, pulsing and spreading, then softening and fading into silence. Immediately Elrond struck it again. This time Celinn shuddered a little, and small tremors began to pass through him. When the sound died away Elrond rang the fork again, and this time he struck a second fork at the same time. The harmony of the two notes was breathtakingly beautiful, and Celinn pressed his hand to his gut, letting out a little sound of longing. Soon Elrond had set up a rhythm, playing the two notes separately and then together, never letting them fall completely silent.
‘Talk to us, Celinn,’ he said. ‘What do you feel?’
‘The sound is beautiful,’ said Celinn, ‘but although it touches me, nothing moves within.’
Elrond nodded. ‘Give it time,’ he said.
As the sound flowed out into the darkness, Celinn’s eyelids began to droop a little. Elrond watched him intently, and when he judged it the right moment, he took up and rang a much deeper note, which sounded with a deep vibrating pulse. Celinn gasped and stared at him. Elrond struck the note again repeatedly, and the rich echo shook its way through the air. Celinn was breathing faster now, both hands pressed to his gut.
‘Something moves,’ said Elrond softly. Celinn nodded, groaning. ‘Let it lead you, Celinn.’
Gwirith felt the dark energy begin to uncoil deep inside Celinn, snaking out of him like smoke through a pitted wall. With his eyes closed he could feel the texture of the stone under his hands, rough and gritty and massive.
The sound of the note seemed to be building up a pressure in the air, and Celinn was struggling with it, rocking himself backwards and forwards. His hands slid down to cover his private parts, and he gripped them tightly, protecting himself.
‘Open a little, Celinn,’ said Elrond. ‘Just a little, and that will be enough.’
An expression of intense anguish filled Celinn’s face. ‘It’s not safe… he will…that’s why he didn’t kill me…to use me whenever he chooses…’
‘No, Celinn,’ said Elrond loudly. ‘Adanwath is dead. He is gone and will never return. You are safe. Open to us, and choose life. Grieve for what was done to you. What has happened to you is not only part of your own life: it is the story of all those who have suffered, of all beauty and tenderness marred and broken by evil and ignorance. It is the story of every one who has been touched by the shadow and its works: my story, and Gwirith’s and yours. You do not suffer alone, Celinn.’
Celinn rocked himself faster, muttering incoherently. Gwirith felt something shift under his hands. Elrond must have felt it too, because he said,
‘The stone is weakening, Celinn. Soon you will be free.’ The note belled through the dark air.
‘Don’t break me…’ he whispered. ‘Please…’
‘Open a little more, Celinn,’ said Elrond, and all at once Gwirith felt a great crack breaching one of the stones. The cold unyielding energy began to flow out of Celinn, twined with the carrion stream that they had tapped earlier. Then another crack appeared, and another, and then the strong fortress Celinn had built around himself began to crumble. Celinn screamed and started to struggle, but Elrond placed his hand flat over his heart, and at once he became still, though he was white with shock and fear.
Then Gwirith felt a strong spiral of poisoned lust and fear begin to flood out of Celinn’s body, and directing it down into the earth with one hand, he sent clean white healing light into Celinn’s body with the other. Under his hands he felt Celinn’s body softening, and the terrible dry chill began to leave his skin. Something began to open inside Gwirith too, a hope he had not dared to feel, and tears came into his eyes, and then the last stone shattered into dust.
There was a ringing silence, and then Celinn began to weep softly, his hands covering his face. He wept for a long time, rocking himself gently backwards and forwards, grieving deeply for what he had lost.
‘He took me from myself, Elrond,’ he whispered through his tears. ‘I was strong and trusting and sure, but now I know evil in my own body. I thought it could not touch me, if I fought well and was honourable and true. But I could not save myself. I have lost my certainty, my faith in goodness.’
‘You have lost your innocence,’ said Elrond gently, ‘and that is why you are grieving. But it is goodness and love which have brought you home from your exile; even in the moment of your greatest torment, Gwirith was with you, and his love held you so that your fea did not flee at once to Mandos as it would otherwise have done, and all those who love you have played their part in your healing. You have lost something, and you grieve; but you have gained something too. There is darkness and light in the weave of things, and until now your eyes would let you see only the darkness. Once you have finished grieving, you will see the light again.’
Celinn wept even more heartbrokenly, and Gwirith and Elrond laid their hands on him again, so he would know in his body that he was not alone. The last tremors as of settling stones passed through them, and with the eyes of their minds they saw the dust rise and fall again as Celinn’s tears flowed incessantly. His grieving was long and deep, but at last after nearly an hour they felt him relax under their hands and begin to yawn as his body started to feel the bliss of relinquishing its long armouring. His eyelids began to droop and they had to hold him more securely to prevent him from falling.
At last Celinn sighed softly and went completely limp, sinking back gently against Gwirith, his eyes closed. And for an instant, it seemed that the air around them was full of the shades of those whom Elrond had invoked; those who like Celinn had suffered from the shadow: Gil-galad, Celebrian, Alcarion, and the numberless Noldor and Galadhrim who had fallen in battle or in other strife. Gwirith and Elrond gazed at them, but they were wraithlike and insubstantial, and did not touch the heart. At once they faded, leaving behind them a shimmering silver light.
Elrond gave a cry of triumph and let the two-tined fork ring itself into silence. Celinn lay motionless, Gwirith’s hands still pressed against his back, channelling out the last of the dark energy. As they watched him, a soft white light began to glow around him, growing brighter until he was completely surrounded by it. Then out of the white light came a rainbow of colours, and each colour settled over a different part of Celinn’s body, from the base of his spine up to the crown of his head. The colours dimmed and then brightened until they harmonised with each other, and then blended again into unbroken white light.
Celinn smiled blissfully and turned his head into Gwirith’s shoulder, and they saw that his hands and feet were streaming with light. Gwirith raised his head, and felt the sudden breeze drying the tears on his cheeks. The surface of the river shone like grey silk, and the light of the stars was dimming as dawn approached.
Elrond covered his face and his shoulders shook. ‘Eru be thanked,’ he whispered. ‘He is healed.’
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