4. Chapter 4
“There you are, Galadriel,” Finrod greeted, taking her by the hands and whirling her around. Galadriel laughed. What put him in such a good mood? “And how did you find Doriath?”
“Lovely,” she answered, smiling. “And did Menegroth live up to your standards?”
“Mostly,” Finrod admitted with a grin. “There are a few things I’ll do differently.”
“Well that’s optimistic, isn’t it?” Galadriel replied, returning his grin with a cynical twist that his lacked. “That’s assuming you can find an appropriate site. And assuming our people are willing to follow you.”
Finrod waved off these details. “Yes, yes, and assuming that Varda’s stars don’t come loose from the heavens and knock me out cold.”
“Tempt not the Lady’s retribution,” Galadriel teased with a small, wry smile.
Finrod laughed. “Well my Galadriel, how would you feel about another journey into Doriath?” he inquired.
“Eager, naturally. Why do you ask?” She narrowed her eyes slightly at him.
He shrugged. “Thingol has a mind to show me the system of border sentries, and I’d like to see it. Would Milady care to join us?” he concluded with a gently teasing smile.
“Milady would,” she retorted. “I’m curious to see how the system that passed us along so efficiently when we arrived works. I however, may not recommend any improvements with which to offend my host,” she stated, raising her eyebrows at her brother.
“Well now, we can’t expect the most beautiful of the children of Finarfin to also be the most intelligent,” he replied, patting her cheek, eyes sparkling with restrained mirth.
Galadriel leveled a look at him best described as “dangerous.”
Finrod hurriedly looked up at Celeborn, who’d followed Galadriel into the hall a few steps behind. “Er…will you be joining us then, Master Celeborn?” he asked, changing the subject.
“To the borders?” Celeborn asked, voice impassive. “Would you like me to?”
Galadriel smiled. “Please, if Luthien can make do without her tutor for a few days. And I’m sure that you know many more beautiful parts of the forest.”
Finrod raised an eyebrow, which Galadriel missed, as she was smiling at Celeborn.
He returned her smile. “I do at that. I’d be pleased to accompany you.”
“Right then, Galadriel you should get changed. That dress is not very sensible for traveling,” Finrod pointed out.
She blinked. “We’re going now?”
Finrod blinked back. “Yes?”
Finrod gave his blade a disdainful look and leaned to wipe it on the closest limp form. After that, he wiped it on the grass. When he could, he’d clean it more thoroughly. Nothing stained bright Elvish steel like black orc blood. He glanced around to take stock of the damages. Thingol, unscathed, was attending his own blade. One of the sentries was nursing a strained wrist, and Galadriel wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her forearm. Finrod blinked. Someone was missing….
“Where’s Celeborn?” he asked, looking back around quickly.
Thingol shrugged. “He tends to disappear after battles like these. Not a bad hand with a sword, but I think he has a bit of a weak stomach.”
The sentries chuckled, and Galadriel glared at them as she passed.
“Galadriel?” Finrod asked, blinking. “Where…”
“I’ll be back,” she assured him, not looking back to answer him.
She didn’t have to wander far before she found him, seated at the base of a tree, one of his knees pulled up to his chest, and his head resting against it. His blade lay out of his sight among the tangled roots. He looked up at her approach, his face ashen-pale.
“Celeborn, are you all…”
“Please go back,” he interrupted before she took a step closer.
Galadriel blinked. “Why?”
“Because I’m going to be ill.”
“You mean that literally?”
Galadriel stood rooted on the spot until he lurched to his knees, and laid his white-knuckled fist on the rough bark of the tree he’d chosen as his comfort.
After a moment though, she hurried forward to gather his silver hair loosely and hold it in safety behind his head. Before she was quite aware of it, she began softly rubbing his back and murmuring comforting words.
When he straightened, she carefully helped him to his feet. “Come on, let’s get you some water,” she suggested, leading him towards the stream. Celeborn obeyed, his face still pale, but lacking the grayish cast. She sat him down by the stream, and he leaned over and filled his cupped hands with the clean water, infused with moonlight.
“You’re not hurt at all, are you?” she asked politely.
He shook his head. “No.”
He nodded. “Galadriel, I…”
“Hush, you don’t have to explain. I know exactly how you feel. Orcs make me want to be ill as well,” she interrupted hurriedly. And some just aren’t meant to be warriors, no matter how intelligent and skilled they are.
“It’s…not that exactly,” he replied, staring out over the stream. He turned his face back to her. “Have you ever …looked one in the eye? Just as your sword slid through it?” He closed his own eyes.
Galadriel blinked. “No.”
Celeborn shuddered. “Don’t.”
“I suppose seeing that kind of cruelty and evil…”
He shook his head. “I don’t know how to explain this, and I pray to Iluvatar you never have to see it yourself.”
“See what?” she asked, baffled.
He took a deep shuddering breath. “I was a little more than a child the first time I slew an orc,” he told her, staring at his hands. “I was good with a sword, and Thingol sent me with one of the border parties. There was a skirmish…much like this one. Completely routine - the sentries weren’t even concerned. Orcs came with border duty. So they sent me out, a fresh young warrior eager to defend his home with his blade.” Celeborn shook his head with a rueful smile.
Galadriel watched him intently, waiting for more.
about them of course, and even seen illustrations. Nothing could have prepared me for seeing them,
though. They made my flesh creep. I just … wanted to make them go away. All of them.”
“Celeborn, I think we all know that feeling,” Galadriel admitted, putting her hand gently on his, and shuddering a little as she tried to free her mind of the image of the orc she’d killed, with its wretched, cracked and blackened skin, and its twisted, bent stature of one tall forced down by some unthinkable weight.
“The first kill was so easy. My sword slid right through it, but just as I was about to pull my weapon free, it…latched onto it. And I looked right down into its horrible, twisted face, leering at me, and its hollow eyes…” He looked up at her, grey eyes deep, and full of pain. “I saw gratitude.”
Still silent, Galadriel twined her fingers with his and held his hand a little tighter.
Staring at their clasped hands, Celeborn went on. “And I saw myself.”
Galadriel let her grip slacken. “Orcs are creatures of Morgoth, Celeborn,” she said coldly.
“They’re children of Iluvatar, no different than us.”
“You aren’t even making sense.”
“Aren’t I? Morgoth cannot make his own race of children any more than Aulë could. Morgoth can only twist what Iluvatar made.”
“I know that, Celeborn,” Galadriel said tightly. “I’m as well read in lore as you. Are you suggesting,” she continued, “that the Halls of Mandos are full of those … creatures?” Her tone was scornful. “Whatever they originally were, they have long since ceased to be our kindred.”
“I’m suggesting,” Celeborn replied quietly, “that nothing Morgoth could do would ever shake Iluvatar’s love for his children, or his compassion for their misery. And I wonder…if the newest child of an orc looks any different than the children of the Elves.”
She wanted to silence him. Strike him or scorn him or anything that would make that abysmal, shining truth stop. But some things were stronger even than the will of the daughter of Finarfin.
“Galadriel, didn’t you ever wonder why orcs are so easy to kill? They want to die…”
She stared at him. His beautiful face reflected a painful mixture of compassion and revulsion, even as he thought about it.
“And I give them what they want,” Celeborn murmured numbly. “Iluvatar help me, I give them what they want.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.