1. No Love Lost
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There was no love lost between them.
It had been thus for many years, for Celebrimbor resented Celeborn – he who had stolen away the heart of the one Lady he loved. And Celeborn, for his part, had little care for the grandson of Fëanor or his crafts; he saw no purpose in seeking to capture the beauty of the natural when it might merely be perpetuated by loving care, and he did not trust the Maia that had come among the Elves of Eregion, seeking to turn their craft towards ever mightier works and powers.
So it was that Celeborn was surprised that Celebrimbor sought to speak with him in secret. He could not guess the Elf's purpose, but he was upset ere he came to the private chambers, for the Lord Celebrimbor had gifted the Lady Galadriel in a most unusual way for one not seeking marriage.
"'Tis a kingly gift you give my wife," Celeborn murmured as he came in, regarding the Noldorin Elf warily.
The Fëanorian stood by the window, his manner subdued but no less proud than Galadriel herself. "She deserves no less. She is as a Queen among her people," came Celebrimbor's soft reply, full of reverence and touched by bitterness. "Would you deny it of her?"
"I would deny her nothing were she to ask it of me; I deny nothing of her save cruel falsehoods. Indeed she is as a Queen, but she would not hear herself spoken of thus." She loved greatness and she sought power, but the flattery of high words she pierced through until nothing was between herself and the truth. "But it is not my wife that I would speak of. This gift! It is one of your Rings, is it not – forged with the aid of the Lord Annatar?"
"Nay," said Celebrimbor, and his voice was little more than a whisper. He raised proud eyes to meet Celeborn's, and he drew himself unto his full height, proud and powerful. But as he did so Celeborn perceived the brokenness of a fallen creature. "Yea it is a Ring of Power, forged upon the fires in Eregion, but the Lord Annatar had no part in it. And never shall he again take part in my crafting, nor enter the land of Eregion with welcome!" Here he paused, and it seemed to Celeborn as if a shadow passed over Celebrimbor. "For the secret of his designs has been revealed unto us; he has forged another Ring, and with it he seeks dominion over all our craft."
"Then it is a dangerous gift!" cried Celeborn, horror choking him; long had he borne no trust for the Lord of Gifts, but to know that such a treacherous thing had been brought into Caras Galadhon – given to his wife—! It was a sin beyond measure. "And you give this to Galadriel? You would put her in peril?"
"Hear me out!" Celebrimbor replied, and the fire in his silver eyes was a shadow of the spirit of Feanor. "This is no easy thing to confess! I thought myself no one's fool, Lord Celeborn, but now my shame is such that I cannot speak of it before Lady Artanis, for I have aided our enemy in his efforts to rule over all of Arda. I did this unknowingly, but my sight was cut short by my love for crafts of the hand, and despite the fair warning of the High King Gil-galad and the forebodings of your heart and mine I have given myself and my craft over to evil. Alas, Celeborn, I was poorly named! For I am no faithful vassal."
Here the smith paused to draw a breath, and it shook, and Celeborn found himself somewhat softened in heart towards Celebrimbor. But his anger was not placated.
Nor had Celebrimbor finished. "The Ring Artanis bears has never touched Lord Annatar's hand; I had hidden the Ring Nenya and her sisters that they may be separate from his power. They cannot be wholly free of my folly, it is true, but unless these three Rings come into the hand of Lord Annatar, they are not under the direct dominion of his Ring. Ai, he may perceive of their making, but he cannot see, as he does with all the other Rings, the mind of their bearers! And if they are not used openly, he may never even come to know their locations. Thusly have I instructed Artanis, and though she suffered me to withhold the reason why she must not openly wield the Ring, I beg you to bear the truth of the matter to her. Do not ask me to confess my crimes before her; I cannot do it. I shall die of grief and shame."
Celeborn looked upon Celebrimbor, and he saw the sadness in him and how the horror bent him in spirit, although his body remained straight and proud. And he saw what he did not fully expect: repentance. His anger was replaced by pity, although he knew Celebrimbor would not want it. "You do not give Galadriel's perception enough credit, Lord Celebrimbor," he said not unkindly. "For she has greater insight than I, and she may well have gleaned the purpose of your advice without your speaking of it. But since you ask it of me, I shall tell her."
Celebrimbor bowed his head respectfully to Celeborn. "I am in your debt, Lord Celeborn," he murmured.
"The debt is forgiven," Celeborn said with a benevolence that even he had not expected; he wondered if it sprang from pity, and he saw that Celebrimbor wondered the same, for his eyes again flashed with fire.
"I do not desire your pity," he said sharply. "What I have done is wrong and deserves none, and I will not suffer myself to be looked down upon by you!" He looked away and paused to draw breath, a sound unnaturally loud in the silent chamber, and after a moment set out upon a new subject. "I must hasten again to the road, for the two remaining Rings must be delivered to Gil-galad; he will put them to some good use, and it would be well that the Rings were far away from Eregion! For Lord Annatar – or by his true name, Sauron – knows, or will soon know, that the Elves of Eregion have turned their backs on him." He smiled a bitter smile. "Or so I imagine Artanis would counsel me, for she is wise beyond measure.
"As for me, I will send the Rings on and return again to Eregion to confront the Dark Lord face to face. It is the least I can do to repent my sins."
But Celeborn saw a dark desire in Celebrimbor's words, and he frowned. "I cannot claim to understand what you now suffer or believe, Celebrimbor, but know this: I have no especial love for you, but I perceive no desire for evil in your heart; only an overzealousness, perhaps, for the works of your hands – that which led you into folly. Do not walk into the hands of the Enemy in penance! If you will not tell Galadriel of your foolishness yourself, then I shall do so and we shall hear her counsel, which is greater than my own. Tarry at least until I have done so."
But Celebrimbor shook his head slowly, and the bitter smile touched his lips again. "I cannot, Lord Celeborn; my mind is set. I shall travel as soon as I am able. But is there aught more you would know? I would tell you if I can, for I do not know when we will speak again."
Celeborn had no gift of foresight, but he then knew he would not speak again with Celebrimbor in Arda; yet he said nothing. "I have but one question. This Ring you give: was it given for duty, to keep the Ring from the Enemy's hand, or in love?"
Celebrimbor looked upon Celeborn with unreadable eyes. "Truly? I could not tell you. For the love I bear for Artanis colors all I do until I cannot remember how it was when I did not love her. But for the first time, I can also speak thus: I have no especial love for you, but I see now what the Lady Galadriel perceived worthy of marriage in Celeborn of the Trees." Again he bowed, and this time low. "May the Valar protect and light your path always."
And before Celeborn could say aught, the grandson of Fëanor had swept himself from the room.
There was no love lost between them.
What, then, of understanding gained?
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More Notes: Celebrimbor is named in the Sindarin fashion, as his first origin was an Elvensmith of Gondolin. The parts of the name are 'Celebrim', meaning 'silver in hue/worth', and 'bor', meaning 'faithful vassal, steadfast'. Hence his own reference to his name.
Celebrimbor has almost as many origins and histories as Galadriel herself. The ones I chose make him the estranged son of Curufin, son of Fëanor, and so Celebrimbor is the grandson of Fëanor. I also stole a snippet of the idea that Celebrimbor loved Galadriel from Unfinished Tales. 'Tis an intriguing idea with many plot potentials!
As to the AU-ness, this is the result of my reinterpretation of Galadriel's counsel to Celebrimbor that he send the two remaining Rings to Gil-galad. I suggest that Galadriel did not actually counsel Celebrimbor thusly, but he only imagined she would do so. And I also suggest that he hand-delivered the Ring Nenya to Galadriel; the books are worded to suggest the Ring was sent via messengers.
Lastly, Artanis was the Quenyan name given to Galadriel by her father. She did not take the name Galadriel unto herself until Celeborn gave it to her. I imagine Celebrimbor knew her first as Artanis, and so never remitted calling her thusly.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to drop me a line about anything you liked/hated.
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