9. Chapter 9
It was a little unsettling, but Galadriel’s first guess proved to be the right one. Celeborn was seated on the mossy ground of the grove by the stream bank that he had shown her the first day of her arrival in Menegroth.
Perhaps it was merely a place that he loved very dearly, so it was logical for him to go there for solitude.
And perhaps he wanted her to find him.
“Celeborn?” she called softly, for he had not looked up at her footsteps.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, eyes still on the running water. “I did not mean to run away. I needed a moment to gather my thoughts.”
“I didn’t know Thingol meant to cry it from the rooftops. I meant to tell you, before…”
“That wouldn’t really have changed anything,” he mused. “So the children of Finarfin go forth to build their own kingdom?”
“That is Finrod’s aim,” Galadriel agreed, nodding as she seated herself next to Celeborn.
“And what is Galadriel’s aim?” he asked, turning to look at her at last, breath catching as he found their faces inches apart.
“I aim to beguile a lad of Doriath to come with me,” she answered, lifting a hand to his cheek.
“Anyone specific in mind?” he quipped solemnly, eyes wide.
Smiling, she leaned closer, twining her fingers into his smooth hair, and pulling his face to hers.
Galadriel felt his lips move just as they touched hers, and she pulled back, confused.
Celeborn broke away, put his face in his hands, and took a shuddering breath. “For a moment, you were all that mattered. You were Galadriel, and that was enough. But the world is not that simple.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, half wishing he just kept quiet and let her kiss him, and half glad that he did not.
“You’re asking me to leave Doriath, and to go west with you?”
“I am,” she confirmed, firm tone hiding her awareness of how deeply vulnerable such a question made her.
She blinked. Why did he always have to be daft on purpose, when it mattered?
“Then I will say it first,” he continued, turning back to her, and gently taking her hands. “I love you. I think it might be enough love for eternity. And I would not be parted from you until I can be sure.”
“I want you to be with me,” she replied slowly, “because it would hurt to be away from you.”
He smiled a sad smile. “We agree on that much, at least.” His eyes were pained, and painful to look into…
“I see,” Galadriel spoke, voice cold and hard as smooth marble. It would take strength she wasn’t sure she wanted to expend to uproot the silver tree from his forest. “I pray we will meet again then. If not in Middle-earth, then in the Halls of Mandos.”
“I do not mean to give up so easily,” Celeborn countered, putting his hands on her shoulders just as she moved to turn away, and refusing to be hurt by her words.
Galadriel bit her lip, and cursed him in her heart for being so difficult to stay angry with.
“I would go into the depths of Angband to save you pain,” he said solemnly.
“It is very well to say such things, but no one is asking that of you. All I ask…”
“Is that I leave Doriath,” he finished for her, “correct? And in what capacity would I follow your people? What skills has Celeborn that the Noldor need?”
“You are a scholar,” she began.
“For the people who invented a writing system,” he retorted. “And I barely know the language your people speak.”
“…and knowing Menegroth, you could act as an advisor…” Galadriel went on, undaunted by his interruption.
“You cannot run another kingdom as you would Menegroth , without Melian,” he replied, shaking his head.
“And you are a brave and capable warrior, when need calls,” she concluded.
“Better to have no skills than to have ones you refuse to make use of,” Celeborn answered bitterly. “I would be a foreigner among your people - not kin as you are to us.”
Her brothers would love him before long, she knew. But to her cousins, and the proud Noldor folk, Celeborn would be nothing but the consort of the princess.
“Still, I would humble myself that far, if it came to it,” he replied. “But tell me… convince me, Galadriel. Why are these ambitions so dear to you?”
You cannot know what I have suffered for them. You will not.
“We have left our father, and our home for this - to make a place our own, and to build up a force to oppose Morgoth. To mend Beleriand to what it should have been.”
“Ambitious goals,” he commented softly, not at all as though he shared them. “And hard ones, for someone who loves Beleriand as it is, as it might be.”
“What might it be?”
“This,” Celeborn said, gesturing about him. “The Hidden Kingdom. Melian’s garden.”
“This is but the smallest portion of Beleriand, Celeborn. Can you truly hide in Menegroth while the Noldor fight your battles for you, and spill their blood for you?” Or perhaps, it is the least they can do…
“That isn’t what I meant,” he answered, shaking his head. “I meant only that the Noldor are not the only force for Melkor to reckon with. And if the forces that opposed him combined, they would be all the more formidable.”
“What would be better then, towards that end, than to have a Prince of Doriath in the company of the children of Finarfin?”
“To have a Princess of the line of Finwë in the court of Melian and Elwë.”
“I fail to see the difference! Is not one as good as the other?” Galadriel demanded in exasperation.
“Yes and no,” Celeborn stated noncommittally.
“That’s no kind of answer at all!” she stood, and began pacing on the moss.
“You already have a place here, Galadriel. You are Thingol’s niece, and Melian said…”
“Have I any chance, with the lot of you conspiring against me?” she retorted bitterly. “Is it so wrong that I do not wish to leave my brothers?”
“I have a brother as well. You haven’t met him – Galathil is the fine warrior that his brother is not. And he is a good and kind person. You would like him. Luthien is as dear to me as a baby sister. We both have family and a people to leave behind.”
“And yet you seek to convince me that your claims are higher than my own?”
Celeborn shrugged. “I have a home.”
“I go to make one,” Galadriel countered, wrapping her arms tightly around herself.
“You speak so much of building your own kingdom. But Galadriel, will your brother’s city be so different from your grandfather’s?”
“It will be different,” she answered softly. Nothing would be the same again.
“I do not mean to say that Finrod does not value your counsel…”
Galadriel raised a hand. “I know what you mean. You’re saying that I will be the Noldor’s princess, and never their leader. I’m not sure that I agree.”
And yet… the chance to distance herself from her cousins who would not meet her eyes and the brothers who would not speak of what haunted theirs, was tempting. Until she healed… Do you think you ever will?
“Consider what you felt at leaving your home. You ask me to do no less.”
“It is different.” He needn’t know how.
“This could be your home.” He got to his feet, and stood before her. Celeborn of Doriath stood under the trees of his home, with the moonlight on his hair, and the starlight in his eyes. Doriath was in his blood, and he was part of its soul.
“Your forest is fair, but it cannot replace my brothers, or my people,” she answered hotly, stepping away.
“Galadriel,” he said, catching her elbow in a warm, gentle hand, “if you go, I will follow you. But I beg you, do not force this choice upon me,” he pleaded earnestly.
“And what choice would you leave me?” She turned to face him, anger melting at his willingness to leave everything for her, but her exasperation remaining. “You said yourself, it is no different - I must either leave the brothers whom I love, or leave…”
Celeborn pulled her into his arms, and kissed her in the light of Varda’s stars.
“That isn’t going to work,” Galadriel murmured breathlessly, then put her hand at his cheek, twined her fingers into his silver hair and kissed him back.
“Whatever we choose,” Celeborn said after a moment, as they stood in each other’s arms, “we choose it together.”
“Perhaps…” Galadriel began quietly and carefully, laying her head on Celeborn’s shoulder, “I should try to discover what about this land has such a profound claim on your heart.”
“I should like that a great deal,” he answered softly, tightening his arms around her as the night wind rustled gently through the emerald leaves of Doriath.
“We are very unlike, you and I,” she told him, stroking through his smooth, straight silver hair.
She nodded. “Very. It’s in our blood.”
He snorted. “Stop being foolish. There isn’t some kind of profound difference between the Sindar and the Noldor. It has to do with the choices of our ancestors, nothing more.”
“I disagree,” Galadriel countered. “Those decisions have formed the way we look upon the world, and upon others.”
“We both seek knowledge of the world around us,” Celeborn pointed out.
“And how do we apply it? You look only to love, and to heal. As I learn about the world around me, I think of how best to rule it,” she concluded, voice a little rueful.
“Don’t say rule,” he began.
“It is the word that best suits.”
“Galadriel,” Celeborn continued, lifting a hand to tuck a strand of her lovely hair behind her ear, “your people….my people, our people will always need leadership. Say not that you seek to rule, but that you seek to lead.”
“Fair words do not change the truth,” she replied quickly.
“Speak the truth of me then,” he countered. “I could not lead a nation or build a kingdom. Nor would I even have a desire to. Say that I am constrained by my love of my forest, constrained by my own compassion, hindered by my own thoughts and philosophies.”
“And yet you walk on,” she pointed out.
“Oh, indeed,” he agreed, rubbing at his forehead. “I walk on, stumbling and falling over my own feet.”
“You criticize yourself too harshly.”
“And you, my Lady, do the same.”
Galadriel smiled suddenly, and Celeborn hesitantly returned it.
“We are not so unlike,” Celeborn told her.
“In some ways,” she conceded. “In others we are different as day and night.”
“Or gold and silver?” he asked, grinning as he tugged at her hair. His expression turned serious. “Will you be my guide?” he asked her as he held her close.
Galadriel laid her head against his shoulder again. And for that moment, the world was simple enough… “If you will be my conscience.”
Celeborn kissed her very seriously then.
“I think you got the harder job,” she mused, when she could speak again.
He laughed, and the night was brighter. And they walked, hand in hand, back to Menegroth.
[This scene was written, and rewritten, and rewritten… because they alternately wanted to fight, then to get all sappy. So eventually they ended up doing both. As usual, sorry it was a bit of a wait for an update. There would be more… but I just don’t have the energy to write Finrod at the moment. Soon, I dearly hope. ^_^ Until then, enjoy the sap, and tell me what you think!]
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