5. Chapter 5
"We should return to the others," Galadriel said crisply, standing.
Celeborn struggled to his feet, and then took a few steps to retrieve his sword.
His expression at the crust of dried blackness on his blade almost softened her heart. Almost.
"You might’ve cleaned it sooner, and it would not have dried on," she pointed out, for something to say.
"Yes," he agreed, wiping the sword on the dewy grass several times, then deftly sheathing it.
He would be the sort to be good at putting a sword away, she thought, irrationally. Compassion for orcs…what was next, tears for Morgoth himself? She had no patience with Celeborn’s bleeding heart. He was soft. He belonged in Valinor, where it was safe to mourn and to philosophize. But Middle-Earth was harsh. One had to be able to do what had to be done and move on, in order to thrive in Middle-Earth.
He started back the way she’d come, towards the clearing where the sentries were probably gathering the slain orcs to burn. At least he wouldn’t be campaigning for burial ceremonies, she hoped. After a few steps, he paused, and turned back to her, almost as if he’d been privy to her thoughts.
"Was that…" he began, then paused to listen. His sword leapt from its sheath in a heartbeat, even more quickly than it had sought its rest there, and he stood, tall and alert, with the night wind running its fingers through his silver hair.
Galadriel froze, ears straining. What had she missed, wandering the confused paths of her thoughts instead of keeping her attention where it belonged?
Faster than thinking, Celeborn locked blades with that which burst forth, and seemed to grow out from the shadows themselves.
"Another band," he called, sinking his sword into the torso of the orc who dropped the hilt of its ill-made, shattered weapon. Grimacing, Celeborn raised a foot to kick the body from his blade, ready to turn and face the enemy he heard at his back. But the orc writhed on his sword and stuck there, perhaps determined to take him with it…into Mandos…
Drawing her own slender blade, Galadriel swatted that distressing thought from her consciousness as she lunged forward to defend Celeborn’s back. She’d learned swordplay alongside her brothers as a child, and was as comfortable with her weapon as Finrod was with his. Not a few orcs had tasted the steel of Galadriel’s skillful blade, and this one would be no different.
Have you ever …looked one in the eye? Just as your sword slid through it?
Part of her soul begged her to heed Celeborn’s advice. But a prouder part sought to prove that she could do as he’d done and remain unaffected…
And so she looked down at it, as her sword cleaved its clumsy mail and heavy hide cleanly, and its flat yellow eyes looked back.
…and for an instant, they were grey and deep, and shadowed by a curtain of mithril strands, and the black blood ran crimson.
The instant passed with a blink, and Galadriel stared at the crumpled corpse at her feet. She backed away from it, and ran into Celeborn. And may he be cursed a thousand ways into the Void for planting these thoughts in my head…
Still, it was good to have something solid and warm at her back, supporting her. With a ragged breath, she held her sword at ready.
Alert and ready, if shaken, she heard it this time. But these were not the heavy shufflings of the creatures of Morgoth, but light quick footsteps. And for one awful moment…
The moonlight caught in the golden curls of Finrod as hurried to his sister’s side, blade drawn, and again stained and dripping with shadow.
"You’re hurt,"he stated, short hair falling in front of his eyes.
"I am not," she retorted, more harshly than she’d intended.
Still catching his breath, Finrod faced her, a little bewildered.
"Milord, that’s the end of them," one of the sentries called to Finrod, placing his arrow back into his quiver. Finrod looked back at him.
The soldier nodded his flaxen head. "The tales of the prowess of the sons of Finwë are not exaggerated. Nor, indeed, are those concerning his daughters."
Finrod grinned, sheathing his sword after wiping the worst of its stain onto the grass, and gave a slight, gracious bow. Galadriel managed to nod curtly in response.
Celeborn stepped back, put away his own blade, and had cocked his head at her, expression concerned. Galadriel carefully avoided meeting his eyes. Finrod placed a hand on her shoulder. "Galadriel?"
"I told you I was fine," she repeated, voice dangerously quiet, as the sentry made his way back to his companion and Thingol, and they followed him.
"You can put your sword away," Finrod told her softly.
"This," Celeborn was telling his young charge as he opened a book and fondly let his fingers slide across the page, "is how the Noldor make their letters."
Luthien peered at them intently. "I like the Cirth better," she announced.
Celeborn laughed. "That’s just because you already know them. Fëanor’s letters are very clever, and you are going to need to learn them too."
Luthien cocked her head. "Fëanor?"
"The eldest son of Finwë. He would be… Lord Finrod and Lady Galadriel’s uncle."
"Half-blood," a voice interjected.
Celeborn looked up quickly to meet the cool eyes of Lady Galadriel, as she stood beside a pillar carved in the likeness of a great poplar. He stood politely to greet her, and Luthien followed his example. She aknowledged them with a stately nod, and they stood in silence a moment while Luthien fidgeted with her quill.
"When the princess would permit it, I have matters to discuss with her tutor," Galadriel began politely.
Luthien pulled at Celeborn’s sleeve. "Does that mean I can go outside?"
He smiled at her apologetically. "I’m afraid not, unless you can find someone to take you. Besides, it’s going to rain."
With a long-suffering sigh, Luthien put her quill down beside her books and started to wander off in search of amusement.
"Luthien!" Celeborn called after her. "Come back here after lunch!"
She nodded, still making a show of being melancholy at her confinement.
Grinning at his pupil, it was with hesitation that Celeborn turned his attention back to the icy lady of the Noldor. "What did you need to discuss with me?" he began, voice neutral.
"Don’t play daft, Celeborn," Galadriel snapped tightly, "because I know full well you aren’t."
"Very well then," he replied quietly, an eyebrow arching upward. "I am at the lady’s command."
Galadriel glanced around the small study, with its colorful hangings and delicate carvings adorning the stone walls. Comfortable and lovely though it was, it chafed at her to be too long underground, indoors. "If you do not fear the rain, then, we shall visit Doriath for Luthien’s sake."
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.