4. A Great Darkness...
Seeing the desolation of the world, Sauron said in his heart that the Valar, having overthrown Morgoth, had again forgotten Middle-earth; and his pride grew apace. He looked with hatred on the Eldar, and he feared the Men of Númenor who came back at whiles in their ships to the shores of Middle-earth; but for long he dissembled his mind and concealed the dark designs that he shaped in his heart.
From The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Chapter 4 A great Darkness…
Glorfindel noticed that after Elrond's return, the usually amiable relationship between him and Gil-galad had taken a different form. With Elrond's flat-out refusal to inform the High-king of his whereabouts during the month of absence, and Gil-galad's endless mock persistence on the subject, Glorfindel was unsure on who would emerge victorious in the end.
Yet, he suspected it amused Elrond as much as Gil-galad, both playing along with the private, and public, remarks.
They would be discussing Númenor, which seemed to be the subject of most of their discussions nowadays, and with all the counsellors around, the High-king would imply something, and Elrond would bestow a look on him, and continue the meeting, ignoring the remark.
It was after a lengthy stay, that Gil-galad left for Lindon again. After putting his foot in the stirrup and mounting, he had looked down at his vice-regent.
'You will be here when I visit next time, won't you?'
Elrond had grinned broadly.
'I cannot promise anything.'
'Elbereth help us.' Gil-galad had exclaimed, before spurring his horse and riding off, his lords following.
A century later, finally meeting in the flesh again, the matter was taken up without delay, the years proving no impediment for Elvish memory.
Gil-galad, dismounting with a groan, bowed to Elrond, who returned the civility.
'I am glad to find you at home, Master Elrond. Recently returned?'
Elrond, not having left Imladris for more than a couple of days all those years, pursed his lips in an attempt to hide his broadening smile.
'Right on time, apparently.'
They embraced and Gil-galad sounded another grunt.
'I've sat on chairs in councils too long, my friend. I've grown unaccustomed to the saddle.'
Elrond grinned and accompanied him inside. There he poured Gil-galad a cup of wine, which was gratefully accepted. An attendant brought in some fruit and they both sat down. 'How was your journey?'
Gil-galad tasted some sugared fruit, one of Imladris's famed specialties.
Elrond smirked. The autumns in Eriador were indeed that, he agreed silently, as he got on his feet again and walked into the hallway, where he had noticed a messenger waiting. Gil-galad leant forward and waited if the message was for him, or Imladris. As Elrond returned after a short exchange, he sat back again.
'The Lord and Lady of Lórien send word of their imminent arrival.'
'Really?' Gil-galad asked, his eyes lighting up. 'That might explain the extremely good mood I find you in.' A mischievous smile appeared on his face, but he hid it as Elrond rested his gaze on him. 'And when is this to happen?'
'Within two hours.' Elrond answered, his thoughts gliding somewhere else.
'I better freshen up.' Gil-galad said, getting on his feet and taking some more of the sugared fruit as he wandered out of the room, well aware where his rooms would be; the same place as always.
Moving to the large balcony which looked out over the valley Elrond did the only thing he could now. He waited.
When Glorfindel entered to tell him the party had passed the last guarding post of the valley, they walked down together, joined by Gil-galad and Erestor on their way, who seemed to be discussing Númenórean king Tar-Telemmaite's love of silver. Elrond listened only half-heartedly.
He simply watched the riders come up the road. Then his heart jumped.
Her cheekbones were a little more pronounced than they had been when they had last seen each other. Her eyes were brighter, and he hadn't thought that possible. Celebrían had been enchanting before, but now she was impressing as well; her eyes piercing, her stature that of a lady, nobility. A green gem, caught in the silver image of an eagle hung around her neck.
She has grown into her name.* Elrond mused. Together with Gil-galad, he walked towards her horse and presented his hand to help her dismount.
Though he saw Elrond's offer, Gil-galad raised his as well and seemed pleased when Celebrían chose Elrond's without hesitation.
'I see we fall in with honoured guests.' Celeborn called over as he dismounted.
'If you had ridden only a little faster, I could have used that line instead.' Gil-galad smiled as they greeted each other. 'But you have only brought one Lady of Lórien*, unless I am much mistaken?'
'Galadriel stayed in Edhellond, but sends her warmest greetings to Imladris and its Master. And to the High-king as well, I guarantee you.'
Celeborn and Elrond embraced.
'There is no need to assure us of that. It is good to see you.' Elrond said.
'It has been too long already. We thought you might visit again, but when the years passed, we decided that if we wanted to see you, we would have to come ourselves. We made the journey to Lórien initially, but there I was… convinced…' Celeborn looked at Celebrían for a moment, '…that we could as well travel further before returning south.'
'And right she was,' Gil-galad said, nodding at Celebrían. 'For we only seem to meet in times of need.'
Celebrían looked at Elrond, who had turned towards her again.
'It seemed rude not to visit when we were so near.'
Elrond smiled contentedly. 'You are welcome, of course, and I invite you to stay as long as you please. Let me show you to your quarters.'
He offered Celebrían his elbow, a less formal escort than the last time she was at Imladris, and turned to see if Celeborn followed. Gil-galad stayed at the side of the Lord of Lórien as they trailed behind.
'Did I understand correctly, when you said Master Elrond had visited you? You were at Lórien I presume?'
'You understood perfectly, except for the part of it being Lórien.'
'He came to Edhellond?' Gil-galad asked. 'When would this have been?' He added, the tone in his voice a little too interested.
'Right after the first report of the Nazgûl arrived at Imladris, I believe. That was the reason of his visit, if I recall correctly.'
'You don't say.' Gil-galad replied, grinning, knowing Elrond had heard every word.
Elrond seemed to ignore the remark, smiling down at Celebrían.
'I am glad you persuaded your father.'
'So am I.' She replied, looking back, a confidence in her eyes he had not seen before.
Escorting Celebrían and Celeborn to the rooms that had been made ready not long ago, Elrond was quick to depart when his guests had entered.
But not quick enough, as Gil-galad gave him a knowing glance, making his way into the other direction.
Shrugging an awkward feeling, Elrond made way for his study, where Erestor was waiting, papers in his arms, ready to get to work.
As they sat down at the large table, Elrond began reading and listening; a routine that went on every day.
The subjects were as various as one could imagine; from political issues, like the maintaining of relations with the nearest settlements, to more domestic matters, for example the construction of a new wing, or the replacement of a statue in one of the gardens. Often they would finish late in the afternoon, and even though the morning had been more eventful than usual, the last bundle of papers was completed shortly before lunchtime. Elrond sat back and rubbed his eyes, a little drowsy from concentrating intensely. Erestor looked at him.
'Surely you will be going to lunch?'
Elrond nodded thoughtfully.
'I expect Glorfindel has asked for a table to be set in the upstairs dining room, now that we have so many guests.'
'I shall go and put these away,' Erestor said, as he got on his feet and collected the papers, 'and meet you there?'
Elrond nodded again, and sitting back, allowed his mind to recapitulate over some the worrying reports coming from Númenor.
As Erestor exited, Glorfindel, his step quick and light, entered. Finding Elrond so pensive, his face took a inquiring expression.
'Is something the matter?'
Elrond, his hand under his chin, gave Glorfindel a reassuring look.
'Nothing that needs immediate attention.'
Gil-galad's voice could be heard from afar, talking pleasantly about one thing or the other, continuing when Glorfindel and Elrond entered. Elrond sat down at the head of the table, Gil-galad sitting on the other side, Celebrían on his right, her father next to her. Glorfindel sat down on Elrond's left side. Erestor was the last to arrive and sat down hurriedly, so they could start.
Gil-galad moved his attention to Elrond.
'You have attended to your obligations?'
'Indeed we have.' Elrond answered, pouring some juice into his glass.
'Then perhaps you can help with some predicament we find ourselves in.'
'I shall try.' Elrond answered, as he was offered some bread by an attendant.
'You have heard of Tar-Telemmaite's search for wealth?'
Elrond nodded thoughtfully as he chewed.
'I heard you and Erestor discuss it quite vividly this morning. You fear that this will further distance Númenor from Lindon and the Elves?'
'They take no heed when we warn them not to tyrannize the men of Middle-earth. And even refuse to visit the Hallow of Eru at the proper times. The King's Men do no longer teach their children the Elven-tongues. It is indeed my fear that in time, they will forbid the Elven tongues completely. And ban us from visiting Númenor altogether.'
Elrond watched Gil-galad sit back. He put down his knife.
'If you ask if I know of some way to counter this; we have already tried many times, and it alarms me that it only seems to make them more hostile still.'
Gil-galad weakly smiled, then turned to Celebrían.
'You see, my Lady, it is not that we need the Númenóreans, but more that we do not wish to see Númenor become a haven for Darkness.'
'You say we do not need the Númenóreans, my Lord, but it seems they came in handy when we needed to drive Sauron out of Eriador.'
Elrond smiled amusedly at Gil-galad, waiting for a reply.
'That they did, but those were different times… A different king, I am sorry to say.' The High-king returned. Celebrían would not end it so easily.
'If we listen to the many tales that are told about the creation, we cannot deny that the Firstborn and the Followers are closely linked. I believe we should fear the downfall of Númenor because, in the end, it will mean our own downfall. But I also agree with Master Elrond; likely they will not listen. Our hope lies with the Faithful*.'
'Never a truer word said.' Glorfindel mused. 'Because one can predict, it will start with simply forbidding our people entrance. Trading will be more difficult to prohibit, since they cannot be entirely self-sufficient. But what I mean is that, eventually, the Lords of the West are next. Númenor will break with the Eldar, before they do with the Valar.'
'And then what?' Gil-galad said softly. If it was a question, no one answered.
'I foresee that from something good, shall come forth a great darkness.' Elrond said after a while, his eyes far away. Gil-galad looked at him, painfully aware of the overall accuracy of his vice-regents predictions.
'If that is so, let us hope that through darkness we shall come to the light.'
Silence hung over the table once again.
Celeborn emptied his glass.
'So… Are we to sit here and tell sad stories, waiting for them to happen?'
Elrond slowly got on his feet.
'Well, you are all welcome to do just that, but I have other plans.'
He offered his arm to Celebrían and they departed the room.
Gil-galad flashed a look, first to Celeborn, then to Glorfindel and Erestor.
The four of them were on their feet and at the window as quick as they could manage. Quite an amusing sight, if anyone had seen.
Elrond and Celebrían walked out of the hall and over the soft grass into the garden. Elrond bent towards her.
'Are they watching?'
Celebrían turned around cautiously and glimpsed over her shoulder.
'They are actually in the window.'
'Really?' Elrond replied amused, now also glancing around. The four Elves at the window tried to step back, resulting in some stumbling and laughter. Elrond chuckled and listened to Celebrían's giggle. 'Food for thought…'
Turning a corner she looked up at him.
'So, where are you taking me?'
'Well…' he started, 'my decision was a little impulsive, I must confess. Which leaves us with… no real destination.'
'Not a thing I would expect one to admit.'
Elrond touted his lips in amusement.
'Meanwhile, permit me to ask you a question.'
'I believe that can be allowed.'
Elrond narrowed his eyes as he looked over the edge of the hanging garden, over the valley.
'Promise me you will leave Edhellond, if you hear of troops crossing the Anduin.'
'Do you really think there will be new wars?' She asked him, softly.
Elrond took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh.
'Yes... I cannot deny it.'
'I know you feel a responsibility to bring that to an end first.'
Elrond looked at her, a little taken aback, before remembering this was Galadriel's daughter walking alongside him.
Celebrían smiled teasingly.
'Do not imagine I am saying I will be waiting for you.'
He shook his head and returned a similar smile.
'I wouldn't dare. But you promise?'
'I expect my father would send me to Lindon, if such a thing were to happen.'
Elrond looked at her.
'Under no circumstance go to Lórien, or come here.'
Celebrían looked up at him, seeing how serious he had gotten on this subject.
'There will be little time, if such a thing happens. But they will try and catch Pelargir first before crossing.'
Celebrían placed her hand on his arm.
'Do not worry about me.'
It was as they sat down on a stone bench, that Elrond mentioned the gem hanging on a delicate silver chain around Celebrían's neck.
'I recognise Celebrimbor's workmanship.'
Celebrían held it between her fingers for a moment.
'My mother gave it to me, some time ago. She told me that of Celebrimbor's work, only the Three Rings surpass it. It is called the Elessar. Quite stunning isn't it?'
'Yes.' Elrond replied, thinking for a moment and adding, silently:
But not as stunning as you.
As Celebrían looked up, he was afraid she had caught his mental comment. Then the moment passed and she began talking about the Elf-friends she had met in Pelargir.
It was after he had escorted Celebrían back to her rooms; when the feast held in honour of the High-king and the Lord of Lórien had ended, that Elrond met Celeborn in the covered passage nearby.
They stood quietly looking over the valley, listening to the sounds of the night, cicadas chirping loudly, some late birds attempting a last tune before retiring.
'I heard Oropher has chosen you as my successor, since he cannot complain to me anymore.' Celeborn said, a smile on his face.
Elrond smiled grimly.
'A dubious honour… One of the reasons I would prefer you back at Lórien.'
Celeborn shook his head.
'It is not likely that Galadriel will want to return there, not before… We finished making the last necessary preparations to defend Lórien when Sauron would cross the Anduin, if such a time comes. I do not intend to return until it is brought to an end.'
'What does she see?' Elrond asked, his eyes set on some point far away.
'She says it can go either way… And that it will take quite some years yet. There are designs that go beyond our understanding… But what do you see?'
Elrond kept his head still, his eyes fixed, and for a moment Celeborn thought the Master of Imladris had not heard him. Then Elrond spoke, his voice oddly unfamiliar.
'Gil-galad asked me if we are preparing for the prophesied battle…'
'Do you see Dagor Dagorath*?'
Elrond seemed not to have heard Celeborn's second remark, or ignored it.
'I answered him we are not the light, and though Sauron is darkness, he is not Melkor awakened.'
'Did you see victory?'
'I saw death.' Elrond answered almost whispering under his breath.
They both were silent until it was Elrond who spoke again, his tone of voice back to normal.
'Do not stay at Edhellond, Celeborn, if Galadriel seeks the sea, ask her if she would not rather go to Lindon… Those who have the gift so strongly, often are unconscious to their own fates…' Elrond turned towards him with a sigh. 'I beg of you…'
Celeborn nodded slowly.
'I will take it up with her.'
'Thank you.' Elrond stepped back, folding his hands before him, moving on.
Celeborn and Celebrían and their fellow travellers stayed for three months.
It were three months in which Elrond and Celebrían shared most of their time together; she even sat in his library when he was working in the morning. There were many conversations about the future of Middle-earth, of Númenor, but never their future.
Yet all around them, people saw and recognised what was growing between the two. Gil-galad had seized his teasing, dropping the subject of Elrond's earlier absence from every conversation. Sometimes a flash on the High-king's face could be distinguished, when he had to restrain himself from inserting an amusing remark at the expense of his vice-regent's feelings.
On the morning of their departure Celebrían waited for a private moment with Elrond in the garden outside his rooms.
'It shall be a long time before we meet again.' She predicted with a smile.
'Just remember you are always welcome here, as long as peace remains.' Elrond returned. 'I have a gift I hope you shall accept.' He added, handing her a small volume. 'It holds stories and poetry, a collection of my personal favourites. I gathered them over the years. You will find something of interest in it, I believe, the story of the first Elessar, the Stone of Eärendil.'
Celebrían opened the green booklet, the covers coated in green velvet, and recognised Elrond's own ornate handwriting, in dark ink.
'I will gladly accept it…' She raised her head. 'But I have nothing to give in return.'
'Promise me to write. I would like to continue our discussions. There are enough messengers that travel between Edhellond and Imladris.'
Celebrían smiled, and, catching the collar of his tunic, pulled him closer, kissing him on the lips briefly. It was difficult to tell in what way the kiss was meant, but it made Elrond glow. Celebrían pretended not to notice.
'Thank you. I will keep it close.'
Indeed many years passed.
In Edhellond, Celebrían waited for messengers to bring letters, which usually bore no name on the envelope. She always hoped, despite her better judgement, that one would announce his coming. In Imladris, Elrond in turn, waited for the same, measuring the time until their meeting in Númenórean kings.
After Tar-Telemmaite came Tar-Vanimelde, the queen that left ruling to her younger husband, finding more pleasure in dance and music. Her husband withheld the Sceptre from their son. But when Tar-Alcarin eventually began his rule, after winning many lands along the coast of Middle Earth in his youth, he awoke the hatred of Sauron. It was his son, Ar-Belyagar, who was the first King to take the Sceptre with an Andunic name, banishing the Elven-tongues from being used or taught.
Four kings followed, all proud and unbending.
It was when Inzilbêth, daughter of Lindórië of the House of Andúnië, was taken to wife by Ar-Gimilzôr, the Eldar began to regain hope. For those of the House of Andúnië were of old Elf-friends, and the King's oldest son, Inziladûn, took after his mother. Rather would Ar-Gimilzôr have yielded the sceptre to his younger son Gimilkhâd, who was like his father, but the laws did not allow it.
So when Inziladûn accepted the Sceptre, he took his title in the Elven-tongue of old, and called himself Tar-Palantir*. He was remorseful for the acts of the Kings before him and renewed the ties with the Eldar and The Lords of the West. He brought peace to the Faithful for a while, going once more to the Hallow of Eru upon the Meneltarma at the appointed times. He tended the White Tree with honour, and prophesised that when the tree perished, also the line of Kings would come to its end.
Yet his atonement came too late. The Valar were angered with the insolence of his fathers. Insolence the larger part of the Númenórean people still held deep in their hearts. And as Gimilkhâd opposed him openly, and in secret even more, the days of Tar-Palantir became filled with grief, as Civil War unfolded in Númenor.
It was two years short of his two hundredth year, an early death for one of Elros's line, even in its waning, that Gimilkhâd died. And Pharazôn, his son, a renowned leader in the wars with the coastlands of Middle-earth, hearing of his father's death, returned to Númenor, winning the hearts of the people.
Then, weary of grief, Tar-Palantir died also. His daughter and only child Míriel took the Sceptre by right, but was forced into marriage by Pharazôn, against the law of Númenor, which did not permit marriage of such close kin. He usurped the throne.
From light indeed, seemed to have come great Darkness.
She has grown into her name. = Celebrían means 'silver queen'
In Appendix A, A Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, Arwen is referred to as Lady of Imladris and Lórien, so I assume her mother was known as Lady of Lórien as well.
the Faithful = the Elf-friends
Dagor Dagorath = a prophesied final battle between Light and Darkness when Manwë would descend from the Mountain on the return of Melkor.
Palantir = 'he who looks far'
Oh boy, I really can't let them get together just yet… I'm starting to wonder if Tolkien wasn't right in leaving the story as mysterious (read: raw and uncompleted) as he did, but, I'm not throwing in the towel now, the hardest part (how to fill 500+ years) has just been completed. So, prepare for battle…
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