1. A Leaf on a Stream
"Daerada!" Elladan burst from the house, his high, child's voice scattering the doves from the roof in a flight of white purity brighter than snow.
Celeborn's gaze left the aching beauty of silver wings and settled with great content on the hurtling form of his eldest grandchild. Elladan had the damp, rosy look of one newly come from the bath, his dark hair drying into Man-like curls and tangles. He bore a wide slice of toast from which honey was even now spreading onto his sleeve, and a bowl of porridge, becoming less full with each unguarded step.
Perceiving that he was about to be decorated with breakfast, Celeborn arose and took the food from Elladan's hands before catching the boy up and throwing him skywards to meet the circling birds. Elladan shrieked with delight at the high point of the toss and then plummeted, laughing, into his grandfather's embrace. "Do that again!"
Celeborn pried a small, honeyed hand from his hair. "Good morning, my shooting star," he said, "I will throw you to Ithil and back, later, but for now eat your food while it's still hot."
"Ada said you arrived last night," said Elladan, eyeing his half-full bowl with suspicion, "Why wasn't I allowed to be there?"
"You were asleep." The sound of careful footfalls and the rustle of silk drew Celeborn's attention once more to the house. He smiled to see Elrohir come into view, carrying a tray with hot wine and new white bread, frowning with concentration as he did it, while his mother stood in the doorway, a silent bulwark against momentary shyness.
Celebrian gave her father a little wave and arched a conspiratorial eyebrow. Knowing it would be appreciated if the boys did not go looking for their parents for the next hour or so, he waved back, glad to see her looking so happy.
"Why did you arrive when we were asleep?" said Elladan with contempt, "That was silly."
"Because I like to wake just before sunset, and ride under the stars, and go to bed just after dawn," Celeborn replied, making room for Elrohir's tray on the step beside him, "And sometimes I forget that my daughter's family do everything the wrong way round."
"We do not," Elrohir said with soft vehemence as he lifted the wine jug with both hands and wrinkled his nose at the smell of the steam. "It doesn't make sense to sleep while the sun is up, like a bat, or an orc. Why can't you do things properly, Daerada?"
Mae govannen to you too, Elrohir, Celeborn thought, amused, I have not seen you for years. My how you've grown!, but he laughed. "Yet when I arrived half the elves in Imladris were awake, laughing and singing in the moonlight. Were they being silly too?"
Elladan had finished his porridge and was now leaping from step to step of the long flight which led down to the valley floor, melting a pattern of footprints in the shining ice. But Elrohir frowned thoughtfully and came to sit by Celeborn's side, huddling absent mindedly into the elder elf's warmth. Celeborn put an arm around him and drank the quenched wine while he thought. "Not 'silly'," Elrohir decided at last, "But they're Wood Elves, and they do things differently from us."
There was something about that statement that made Celeborn uneasy. Dearly as he loved his son-in-law, Elrond's mind had been shaped at an early age by Maglor the Kinslayer and framed by the court of Ereinion Gil-Galad. Surrounded by Noldor advisers, tutored by Noldor scholars, he wondered how much the boys knew of their Sindar heritage. "Who is 'us'?" he said, "What have you been learning about your history here in this House of Lore?"
"We've learned everything!" Elladan came bounding back. He had finished the toast, except for the crust which he dropped on the tray in a heavy curl like discarded apple peel. "Glorfindel told us everything. About the elves' first waking at Cuivienen..."
"And going to Aman," Elrohir chipped in, eyes shining at his own cleverness, "How those who went were called 'Calaquendi' and those who stayed were 'Moriquendi'." He stopped, startled by a thought, and then his forehead creased and the pleasure went out of him. "Does that make you a Dark Elf, Daerada?"
Both boys were looking worried now, and he wondered what was going through their minds. Shame? Sympathy? It had been a cruel name when it was coined, and it had not become less cruel over the centuries. "The Noldor would call me that, yes. But look." He leaned down and drew a picture in the hoar frost on the stone between his feet. The granite showed dark beneath the white glitter. "What is it?"
"It's a holly leaf, floating on a stream," said Elrohir.
But Elladan, coming to peer over his shoulder said, "It's two flying dragons, stupid!"
"Or it could be both."
"How can something be two different things at once?" Elrohir asked, still troubled, but now also affronted by a situation that eluded his innate logic.
"It depends on how you look at it," said Celeborn, "Just as much of history depends on who's telling the tale. In Doriath we were very insulted when the returned Noldor called us 'Dark Elves', because we looked at it a different way. We said that anyone who fights the Dark Lord must be of the Light, and - as we had been fighting Morgoth's creatures without any help from them for thousands of years, while they lounged in their eternal peace overseas - we felt we had well earned the right to be called 'Light Elves'."
"You can't have been fighting very hard," Elladan nudged a foot into the crook of Celeborn's elbow and used it to scramble up to sit on his grandfather's shoulders. He leaned down from there, his upside-down face scowling, "Glorfindel told us the first murder was of Finwë, and the Noldor came back straight away to avenge it."
In his time Celeborn had been called a Noldor sympathizer, even a dupe, by his kin. Oropher in particular had ostracized him for his marriage to a Noldo, and his policy of open friendship with them. At times - like this - it was more than easy to understand Oropher's attitude.
"The first murder of a Noldo was Finwë." Celeborn said, trying not to be angry at the way his people's story had been utterly wiped out, so that even in the house of Elrond, descendant of Elu Thingol, the children saw all from the viewpoint of the Exiles. "But the Sindar - and our allies - had lost many, uncounted many, of our loved ones and friends by that time, and our memory of death goes back so far that we could not name the first." It had insulted him, it still did, that these casualties too were forgotten by history.
Suddenly, looking at the Twins' subdued expressions he thought I did not mean to be so grim. Putting the old resentments aside with the ease of long practice, he wrapped his hand around Elladan's ankle and surged unexpectedly to his feet. Elladan squeaked with surprise and Elrohir laughed, delighted by the look on his brother's face.
"Daerada!" they both exclaimed, accusingly.
Across the valley the sun fell, golden as pouring honey, on a stand of chestnut trees, their serrated leaves brilliant against a backdrop of dark pine. Steam curled up from them in lazy circles, a little like the ringlets in the boys' dishevelled hair. "Let us go there," Celeborn said, pointing them out, "And I'll tell you the story of your grandmother Elwing's people. Then you'll see why it's so unnatural for elves to wake in the sunshine and sleep at night."
They waded the shallows of Loudwater, the children's bare feet firm on the round mossy pebbles. Half way across, at the demand of both, he let Elladan down to peer at the darting fish and lifted Elrohir onto his shoulders with a great heave and splash. They were all somewhat less than dry when they reached the further bank. There stood many ancient oaks, and horse-chestnut behind them, their boughs tangled with each other as if holding hands. The canopy of the wood was thinning, but golden, and the forest floor was scattered with conkers.
He waited while they collected a dozen each, and exclaimed with them over the glossy beauty of each small seed, unsurpassed by any work of art. Then, thinking that the spiked cases would hurt the elfling's small feet, he lifted the twins, one after the other, onto a branch above his head, and leapt up to join them. "Let's travel like the elves of Lorien."
Their balance was sure and they were nimble, but for both of them this was an unusual experience. Elladan took to it immediately, crashing with much noise past smaller twigs, dislodging leaves and acorns in a shower, jumping fearlessly from branch to branch, crowing at the fun of it. Elrohir was nervous at first, but soon began to smile at the bounce of the pathway beneath him. He showed an early grace and awareness of the trees about him that his grandfather found impressive, moving quietly and efficiently through the interlocking boughs. "Were the Sindar like the elves of Lorien?" he asked, curious now, "Did they live in trees too?"
"No, the Sindar lived more like the elves of Mirkwood. Our city and our refuge was called Menegroth. It was a huge underground palace, like Thranduil's...only larger and more beautiful. But the elves of Lorien live like the Green Folk of Ossiriland - allies and friends to the Sindar. The best of scouts, the most wood-crafty, and the most carefree elves I have ever met. If they did not want an enemy to know they were there, he could walk from one end of their land to the other and believe it to be empty. The cloaks of Lorien - which blend with every colour and make it hard for spying eyes to see us? The Sindar learned the craft of weaving those from the Green Folk."
"Glorfindel didn't tell us about the Green Folk," a twig lashed towards Elrohir's face; bent back and then carelessly released by his brother. Catching it, he frowned fiercely, first at Elladan, then at his grandfather. "Is that because they weren't important?"
"They were very important to themselves, as we all are. But it's true that they come rarely into the tales of the Noldor. Let me start from the beginning. Do you know who the three clans were, who awoke by the lake of Cuivienen?"
"Vanyar," Elladan shouted back from the tree in front, "And Noldor,"
"And Teleri," the two voices finished together.
"And you know who the kings were of each clan?"
"Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë," the boys said, with the inflexion of rote learning, the very sound of dusty mornings spent in the schoolroom while all was bright outside.
"Right again." Celeborn smiled at them both and stopped to point out their route. "Though we call Elwë 'Elu'." It was becoming warm in the windless shelter of the trees, and the scent of ice had given way to the earthy comfort of soil and pine sap. They were close to their goal now; the large yellow leaves of the chestnut fluttered above the glint of a swift brook, and it seemed, high in the branches as they were, that they only had to reach out to put a hand in the cool water.
"Elu was King of all the Teleri, but there were an awful lot of us," he said, "More than both the other clans put together. It took a lot of organizing to get all those people marching in the same direction, and so the host of the Teleri was always at the end. The truth was, we did not really want to go. My Daeradar, who was born there, told me Cuivienen was beautiful, and Middle Earth was beautiful - new and shaded and full of stars and strangeness. And wide, and wondrous, and silent. There were no voices but the voices of the elves, no singers but us, and it grieved us to go away and let the Enemy fill it with clamour, to give up our homeland without even fighting him for it."
"So as we travelled, now and again some part of the Teleri would find a hill, or a tree, or a lake that spoke to them, and, with Elu's blessing they would take a Lord of their own and turn aside to dwell there. That is who the Silvan people of Lorien and Mirkwood are, and the Wood Elves of Imladris, and the Nandor and the Green Folk. All part of the same Clan. All 'us'."
"We're wood-elves as well?" said Elladan, swinging one handed above a drop that would bring him down in the clearing, "We seem to be just about everything."
Celeborn jumped down so that he could catch the elfling as he fell, "You are, and all the old enmities and separations have come together in love to produce you two. I sometimes wonder if you're destined for some lofty purpose or great task, like Earendil."
"Daernana would know." Elrohir accepted a helping hand to hold him in place as he climbed down the trunk. He looked both excited and slightly overawed by the idea. "Have you asked her if we have a destiny?"
"I have not. It seems to me that knowledge of the future has a tendency to ruin the present. Ask her if you like."
Elladan scowled, "She wouldn't tell us. She'd just say something mystical."
"Something you worked out after whatever it was had happened."
"And then you'd go 'Aha! So that's what she meant!' Only by that time it wouldn't be a lot of use."
Celeborn laughed with delight "What a couple of impudent young rogues you are!" he said, "And how right. Very well then, if we can leave the question of the future and get back to the past?"
While the boys scooped up handfuls of water from the brook he cleared a section of the forest floor - sweeping away dry leaves and loam until he had a large bare spot of cool earth. Then with his knife he shaved some pine sticks into tinder, brought out flint and steel from his belt and started a small fire. "Why don't you gather some chestnuts and we'll roast them?"
The twins bounced with pleasure at this idea, and soon Celeborn found himself being almost drowned in spiky seed-cases. He found two shards of sharp flint for the boys to use to cut crosses into the inner shell and began to open the protective cases and pass the nuts to the twins to prepare. When they all three had their hands occupied he went on with the story. "The Teleri who were left, following King Elu, came into Beleriand, which was one of the fairest countries that have ever been. Many of us yearned to stay there, but Elu, who had been to Aman and wanted to return, urged us on, and even those who cared little for the summons of the Valar followed because they loved him.
"He was a great king. Greatest of the Kings of Middle Earth. His hair was this colour - the same as mine - but he was a lot taller than I..."
"Taller than you?" Elladan was astonished, "But you're already as tall as a tree! I get a hurt neck from looking up at you."
"Elu was taller," said Celeborn, smiling, "And in temper he was like the ocean - he could storm or soothe, and you knew not how the weather might change between one word and the next. But he was kind and honourable and greatly beloved, and we were his people. So you can imagine how devastating it was to us when he disappeared."
"He disappeared? King Elwë disappeared? What happened to him?"
"We knew not. He had strolled ahead into a glade of trees, and after a while when he came not back folk went in after him, to see if he was well...but there was no trace of him. Nor was there blood, or spoor of orcs, or anything that might have taken him."
Elrohir's eyes were wide and the nut he was cutting into was sliced slowly in half as he forgot to check what his hands were doing, "What did you do?"
"We mourned for a long time," Celeborn put the first batch of chestnuts into the edge of the fire, "And then Elu's younger brother, Olwë, said that Elu was never coming back, so if the folk would have him instead, then he would lead them to Valinor. But my Daeradar, Elmo - who was Elu's youngest brother - said that he would not abandon his King, and he would not believe Elu was gone forever until he saw the dead body with his own eyes."
"I wouldn't leave my brother!" Elladan gripped Elrohir fiercely by the wrist as if to keep him safe by his side for all time.
"I hope you will never have to make the choice," Celeborn said, and thought with distant grief of his own brother Galathil, killed by Maglor's army in Sirion. "Those who went with Olwë felt guilty, those who stayed felt ...abandoned, even betrayed. Left behind because our loved ones would not wait for us. We called ourselves the Egladhrim - 'The Forsaken Ones' after that."
"Is it a sad story?"
"No," he found a couple of sticks and raked cooked chestnuts out of the fire, put the next handful in, "No, it's a happy story, because after a few yeni of searching for him, one day Elu came back."
"Was he all right?"
"Where had he been?"
"Ah," Celeborn grinned, "That was a mighty magic...he stepped out of the same grove and looked up at the telain and houses we had built with astonishment. For a long time he would not believe that we had been waiting for him for hundreds of years. 'Nay,' he said, 'I was gone but a moment. An hour at the longest. And now all is changed, myself not least.' Then he embraced Daeradar and my father, and lifted me up - as I did with you Elladan." Strange that the earliest memories remained most unstained. "For everything else I have told you was told to me by Elmo and Galadhon - my father - but I was there, I was little younger than you two, when Elu returned, who had left centuries before Galadhon even wed."
"But what had happened to him?" Elrohir insisted, while Elladan hissed through his teeth as he juggled chestnuts that were not quite cool enough to peel.
"It was true that he had been greatly changed," Celeborn said, getting up to find some dock leaves with which Elladan could soothe his singed fingers, "He looked no more like an Eldar, but like a Lord of the Maiar - surpassing tall, and terrible, fair and bright of face. Also a little dazed with good fortune and..." he smiled, he had not been able to place Elu's bemused look when he was a child, but time had taught him the same lesson as his King. "Humbled. You see, he did not return alone. He brought with him a Lady; a mighty, splendid and radiant lady of the Maia, called Melian. She, it was, who had laid the enchantment on him that hid him from our sight for so long."
"Why?" the twins were not exactly sure about this, as if they wondered what nefarious purpose she had in splitting up the host of the Teleri and causing so much grief.
"Because she saw him walking in the starlight, and she thought he was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Then, coming to him, she took his hands and time no longer had any meaning for them, lost in the wonder of each other." He thought it very romantic. The music of the world had tried to repeat the theme with Luthien and Beren, but too much tragedy had come of that for the pure joy to shine through. But it did not stop him thinking of his own lady, who had been - in her own forceful way - an equal revelation to him.
"Urgh!" said Elladan, wrinkling his nose, "That's mushy. I thought it was going to be a story with fighting, and heroes, and..." he thought awhile, 'Dragons."
"They came later," said Celeborn, unsurprised by this reaction. The boys' hearts were good, but it took a mature mind to prefer this tale of faithfulness and love to the Noldor's more showy history of betrayal and overweening pride. "Much later. Long after Elu and Melian had built their kingdom amid their steadfast people. Many thousands of years Elu ruled in Middle Earth, and the West was nothing to us. The light of the Two Trees was a fireside tale, but the stars and the forests and the coasts of the sea were ours. That does not mean that there were not orcs and wargs, vampires, balrogs, and many other nameless things involved, or great battles, or sacrifice and slaying and dying, but these things were never our desire. Even now, I think the yearning in the heart of all Sindar is only to be left in peace, as we were in the many pillared halls of Menegroth, where Elu reigned and Daeron sang, and the stars shone over all, undimmed by light of sun or moon."
"Who was Daeron?" Elrohir mumbled about a mouthful of nuts, "Was he the one who snitched on Luthien?"
Alas, my friend! Celeborn thought, remembering a gentle, wide-eyed boy, excruciatingly shy, whose song was like the first rising of the Sun, That this is all they remember of you. "He did tell the King about Beren, yes. He was concerned - who would not be? For none of us knew aught about Men in those days, and he was afraid for Luthien, whom he loved."
He handed over the last batch of cooked chestnuts, keeping a few for himself, and shook his head, smiling, "But Daeron was also the genius who invented writing. Though we now use the Tengwar of Feanor, Daeron's Cirth were first. Still the Dwarves use them in preference to anything else. And he was the greatest bard and singer there has ever been among any of the kindreds of the elves."
"How did he die?" Elrohir asked quietly. Elladan's brow was creased in - for him - unusual thought, but his gaze was inward, and he seemed not to be following his brother's interest in the minstrel.
"He did not die." A long thwarted desire flared to life at the words, and Celeborn found himself telling more than he had intended. "He fled the wars of Beleriand, coming East into Middle Earth, and there he was lost. None now know where he dwells. But it was partly in hope of meeting him again that I crossed the mountains of Lhun. Even now I cherish the ambition that one day - when I am freed from responsibility for my land - I might go further East and find him once more. It may be that in some small clan of the Avari, hidden since the days of Awakening, he has found a place to suit him.
"In the mean time, when I ride or walk or dance beneath the stars, I remember his voice as it lifted over Doriath, pure as the light."
"That's why you wake at night time and sleep in the day?" Elladan looked a little aghast that his grandfather's foolishness could have such deep roots. His thought had borne fruit, "Because it reminds you of home?"
"Home?" Celeborn repeated, and an anguish of regret came over him briefly at the loss of everything he had once loved - now drowned beneath the waves that lapped the shores of Lindon. "Aye. Menegroth, and Melian, Elu and Daeron and Luthien. All of them gone, but I remain... How just is that?" Then he laughed, looking up at the forget-me-not blue of the sky over his head and the golden spatter of sunlight through the leaves. The air was scented with resin and woodsmoke. Autumn spoke of winter, but beyond that, a new spring.
"Much that was old is lost," he reached out to pull the two children into a loose embrace. Their faces; Sindar and Noldor, Maia and Mortal, preserved the memory of all that had gone before, yet were fresh, uniquely precious. "But its place is taken by the new. That is the way of Ennor." He smiled, leaving history behind to savour the present joy - it was all the world ever had to offer. "For I had not grandchildren in Doriath, and I would not return there now if it meant I had to give you up."
Note: Daerada = grandad, Daeradar = grandfather, Daernana = grandma. Many thanks to the reviewer who mentioned that the 'An' in 'Anadar' was Quenya not Sindarin!
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.