8. Chapter 8
[Some quick notes –
To Ringwraith – thanks for keeping me on my toes! Let me defend on one count, though… The Lorien to which Melian refers, way back in chapter 2, is not Galadriel and Celeborn’s later realm of Lothlorien, or Laurelindorean. She is referring to the Lorien she knows, the forest of Irmo of the Valar, in Valinor, where Melian dwelt before she went to Middle-Earth and fell in love with Elwë.
And yes, you’re quite right - Luthien is far too young.
But she’s so freaking cute.
*ahem* That is to say, I was already a number of chapters into the story when that occurred to me, and by then, I was attached.]
[that said, on to the story, which I made you wait all summer for… *blush*]
“Hush. Pain builds character.”
Luthien gave her mother a reproachful look through a veil of wet, half brushed hair. “Who made that up?”
“I did. Now hold still,” Melian replied, setting her daughter’s head in an erect, forward position, and pulling the comb through the damp tangles of her raven hair.
Galadriel smiled at Luthien’s long-suffering expression, as she deftly wound her own plaits into a neat crown and pinned them in place.
“Why did you do that?” Luthien asked sharply.
“What?” Galadriel responded.
“Put your hair up. You should leave it down, it looks prettier that way…”
“Loathe though I am to admit that the Princess of Tangles here should give anyone advice about their hair,” Melian added, tugging at the comb, while Luthien winced, “she does have a point. Your hair looks much more becoming when it has room to shimmer.”
Galadriel paused, then hesitantly reached up to take the pins out, and unplait her waves. She always put her hair up for formal functions, ever since she was barely more than a child.
Because Fëanor might be there.
Well, she might find it difficult to explain to her hostess the origin of her habit. My father’s half-brother liked to touch my hair… And it scared her. Why, she wasn’t sure, quite. Other people touched her hair. Father stroked her hair when she cried. Mother loved to twine strings of pearls into it, and braid and fuss, much as Melian was doing with Luthien’s mane. And her brothers and cousins pulled it when they wanted to tease her, much as they did Aredhel’s and later, Finrod’s little friend Amarië’s.
But it was different, somehow. A different that made her freeze like a startled rabbit.
She remembered the day she learned to write, in particular. All of Finwë’s grandchildren, and his two younger sons, were gathered to learn the letters Fëanor had made. The letters had so pleased Aulë, who rejoiced in all the creations of his pupils, and now Fëanor taught them, as Aulë often taught the children. He was patient, but restless, as though ready to begin a new project. But he taught them.
Going through the ranks of bent heads, and uncertainly moving quills, Fëanor paused by each of his students, to check their progress, and provide an appropriate word of encouragement. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him pat Aredhel’s cheek, clap a hand on Finrod’s shoulder…
She felt his fingers in her hair, and her ink-laden quill halted. It was a few heartbeats, him pushing his fingers through her glossy waves all the while, until he spoke.
“Well, keep going. How I am to see if you’re doing well?” Galadriel managed to get the quill moving again, shivering as he rubbed his thumb across her temple. “Good girl.”
“Visiting Valinor?” Melian asked dryly.
Galadriel blinked, and brought two sets of very curious, very insightful eyes into focus as they fixed firmly on her.
“You could put it that way,” she replied, not bothering to try to smile.
Melian gave her daughter’s hair an appraising glance. “I think that’s all we can accomplish for now. Go make a nuisance of yourself until your hair is a little drier.
Luthien pouted. “Now you’re just trying to get rid of me.”
Melian laughed. “I need to talk to Galadriel, little one. So go play and get your hair into more wretched tangles, all right?”
“I’ll do my best,” Luthien said solemnly, and then stood and scampered off.
Melian turned to Galadriel, her expression intent. Galadriel did her best not to shift uncomfortably like a guilty child.
“I know your brother is full of plans for a hidden kingdom of his own. Do you mean to accompany him to the Narog?” she asked directly.
“I do,” Galadriel said with a nod.
Melian cocked her head. “How set are you on that decision?”
“Very,” Galadriel replied forcefully. “It is not a ‘decision’ in the least. He is my brother, and his ambitions are very close to my own.”
Melian mused, “I imagine you came to Middle-earth for very much that purpose.”
“I, like my brothers, came to oppose Morgoth, and to help protect our brethren who dwell here already,” Galadriel retorted icily.
“Which is why, or course, the Noldor build their own cities and nations, instead of putting their forces relentlessly against Angband,” Melian answered dryly.
“The gratitude of the Sindar is duly noted.” Galadriel’s anger flared, but not without an element of guilt. The Noldor were indeed making them selves quite comfortable in Middle-earth. Come what may of the battle against Morgoth, Beleriand and its realms would be their home until Arda was no more…
“Forgive me,” Melian said softly, reaching out a hand to Galadriel’s clenched fist. “I did not mean to accuse.”
“How foolish of me to be mistaken,” Galadriel said curtly.
“I meant to ask,” Melian continued, her expression turning very serious, “If you would consider remaining in Doriath, as my companion, and my student.”
Galadriel stared. She, princess of the line of Finwë, a lady-in-waiting for this…
“And what do you propose to teach me?” Galadriel asked, her voice carefully neutral.
“Do you mean to be a leader of Elves, Galadriel? I would be very much surprised if you did not. There is much you could learn about reading the hearts of those you lead.”
“I think I can manage well enough without invading the minds of my people,” she snapped.
Shaking her head with a half-smile quirking at her lips, Melian snorted. “I did not mean anything so crude. But there will be times when you may have to do things you would rather not, to protect the kingdom, and those people who’s privacy you value so highly.” Her eyes met Galadriel’s, and for an instant, the Noldor princess caught a glimpse of the power and wisdom that dwelt in Melian. “Besides,” she went on, after a slight pause, “I would dearly like to have someone close, who could speak to me of my home in the words of one who has dwelt countless years there and loves it as I do.” She smiled then – a simple smile that assured Galadriel that her motives were no more complex than the ones she’d explained. “I do not, propose, however, that you wholly deprive your brother and your people of your presence. And I think there are yet lessons you have to learn from Finrod as well.”
Galadriel blinked. “You truly think me so inept?”
“Hardly,” Melian denied vehemently. “You have potential beyond what I have seen in any, Galadriel. I think, perhaps, you only want a little guidance.”
“And for that, you think I should stay on in Doriath, as you lady-in-waiting?”
“I would not describe it as such. You would be my disciple and, I could only hope, my friend.” Melian smiled again. And the light in her eyes was the light of one who had seen Telperion and Laurelin at their first blooming, and chosen the starlight of Beleriand over their rays.
“I am that already,” Galadriel replied, smiling at last. “I appreciate your offer. But,” her smile faded, and she shook her head, “I have no wish to be parted from my brothers.”
There were others from whom she did not wish to be parted, but there was still a chance she might sway him…
“If you reconsider,” Melian offered gently, “know that you are always welcome in Doriath.”
He did not stand, but his voice quieted the chatter in the hall. The assembled throng of Menegroth all silently placed their silverware on the tablecloth, and lifted their heads attentively.
“Prince Finrod of the Noldor, our nephew, Princess Galadriel, our niece, and their brothers who were unable to pay their respects to Menegroth as of yet, will be setting forth to build Menegroth’s sister city with the first light of dawn.”
Galadriel almost choked. He was announcing it? She’d hoped to draw Celeborn aside after the meal, and explain – argue her cause. But now… he’d think she didn’t care enough to tell him before the rest of the city knew.
“We have promised our kinsmen the aid and good will of Doriath. Now we call upon you, our people to help show it. If there are architects, masons, sculptors, and artisans, who feel their skills are up to the challenge of a new city hewn from the living rock of Beleriand, we beseech you to lend your hands to Lord Finrod…”
Looking up from her plate, Galadriel found herself staring directly into Celeborn’s grey eyes. She would’ve looked away, but they held her fast.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he whispered from across the table, trying to keep the hurt out of his voice.
All of her “I meant to”s and “I was going to”s sounded feeble in her mind, so she kept silent. Thingol continued speaking, but she no longer remotely attended his words. Celeborn broke their gaze and shifted his chair, as though only his politeness prevented him from walking out of the hall.
Thingol concluded his speech and fell silent. Galadriel had caught something about the fellowship between the cities, but was distracted as Celeborn’s manners at last allowed him to flee. She stood to follow.
And at the same moment, Finrod stood to receive the of craftsman who crowded up to the place at Thingol’s table where he sat, offering their services and their wishes of good fortune. With a glance over her shoulder at Celeborn’s form disappearing through the corridors, Galadriel joined her brother, and stood at his side.
“As much as I am pleased with how the arches turned out in the entryways,” an architect was telling Finrod animatedly, “I have a new idea of how it might work, and would be eager…”
“A moment,” Finrod interrupted him regretfully, holding up a graceful hand. He turned to Galadriel, looking slightly annoyed. “Why aren’t you following him?”
“Beg pardon?” she replied primly, pointedly not looking at the builder who, far from being offended at having his speech interrupted, looked extremely interested in theirs.
“Go on,” Finrod bade her, making it clear that he had no intention of going back to his conversation until she obeyed him.
She followed Celeborn.
[An update at last! I’m horribly desperately sorry for making everyone wait all summer! I know it was cruel, but I had a nassssty busy summer of too much summer job and not remotely enough free time, not to mention an extremely slow dial-up connection. But I’m back at school, and writing a great deal more consistently now. Again, I’m sorry this story went so long between updates! And thanks to all of you who cared enough to keep nagging me. ^_^ Hope it was worth waiting for!]
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