1. Wisdom Long Obscured
Important:- The lines in italics are Aragorn’s thoughts.
Aragorn walked amongst the silver trees. Moonlight danced around him, teasingly reflected off the blue and silver lamps that illuminated Caras Galadhon. Faint singing was audible. Though singing would never stop in any Elven realm, it was different this time, for rarely did immortal voices sing of the bravery of one who was not of their own kind.
A lament that echoed in his anguished heart. That he had not allowed himself to feel before this moment.
Oh, mellon nîn ....Why did you not heed my words?
Aragorn heard faint footsteps, but did not turn. Nor did he care about being found. Soft words were spoken to him, words impossibly true.
“You mourn for Mithrandir.”
Aragorn was silent. I mourn for you, mellon itsui..…but it will not bring you back…..
“As I do.” Celeborn’s tone was quiet.
“He could have been saved--”
“Nay, young one. He could not.”
“I told him…..”Aragorn’s voice lowered with unspoken sorrow. “I warned him not to--”
“And by doing that, you did all you could,” cut in Celeborn, softly. “No one could have done more……Mithrandir’s doom was wrought by Mithrandir himself.”
Aragorn spun around to face the silver haired Elf. “How can you say that? After all he did……” His voice grew harsh. “How can you decry his wisdom by mourning him in one breath and criticizing him in the next?”
Celeborn’s eyes lit with a sudden fire, but his words were calm. “He was wise, Aragorn…..wiser than all of us here on Middle Earth. But being wise does not mean that you always make the right decision, or that you necessarily see the correct choice.”
“He did what he thought was right.”
“And maybe it was.”
A silent sigh escaped Aragorn’s lips, renewed grief building in his heart. He hung his head.
“Regret experienced over the past does not change it, young one.” said Celeborn gently, moving closer to the ranger. “He knew his heart, he knew what dangers lay ahead.” Celeborn’s voice lowered, his own regret evident. “And my words spoken earlier pain me, for Gandalf fell not in folly, but in bravery.”
The silver haired Elf stood behind the Ranger. “Mourn, Aragorn. Mourn as we all do. But do not blame yourself for his fall.”
Aragorn turned slowly to face him. I lost him…..I lost the our leader, our strength…..I lost a friend…..He stood in front of the Lord of Lòrien, brow creased in unvoiced pain.
The moonlight fell on the Elf, caressing his tall body with slanting rays. His hair flowed down his back, a river of shimmering silver that sparkled when the light reflected off it. Dark blue eyes, eyes the colour of a cloudless night sky looked at the ranger thoughtfully, deep wells of unforgotten memory, as keen as the rays of the stars. Clothed wholly in white, with no ornaments except for a gold ring on his index finger and a slender pendant around his neck, a glowing luminosity surrounded him, a softly pulsing light that did not dim.
Whether it was the moonlight, or his own internal radiance, Aragorn did not know.
The Lord of the Galadhrim had always been uncommonly kind to the human. It had been a source of initial amazement to Aragorn, a great surprise that Celeborn had not been the first to proclaim a banishment from Lòrien when he had learnt of Arwen’s choice. Offering silent support, he had not only welcomed the Ranger into his realm, but had provided invaluable guidance in various matters, and continued to do so ever since. Practical in a way that only few High Elves remained, he was one of Aragorn’s most trusted advisors.
Celeborn moved, a slow, fluid motion. He stepped away from Aragorn towards the silver bark of the tree. Looking up into the high branches, he reached out and ran long, slender fingers along the smooth wood. There was love in that gesture, a fierce protectiveness that the Ranger had never seen him display.
Not even towards his wife.
Sensing the human’s thoughts, a brief flicker of sadness crossed Celeborn’s angular face and he said softly “It is a powerful emotion, Aragorn.”
“I know….” Aragorn’s voice was tinged with quiet pain. She will go…..she will leave these shores because I asked her to…..
“You have not lost her yet.” said the Elf, sensing his thoughts.
“But I will.”
Celeborn’s stare was piercing. “Her decision is not final.”
“But she must!” said Aragorn, a quiet despair arising in his tone. “She cannot stay…..”
“It is not your judgment to pronounce.”
“Why are you doing this?” Aragorn demanded, his voice rising, all care for respect fleeing. “Do you not know why I asked her? Would you wish to see her succumb to mortality? Do you not know what pain she will suffer when---”
“Peace, elvellon….” Celeborn interrupted softly, no anger in his words. Instead there was a sudden weariness, a great resignation that Aragorn had not seen before. He suddenly saw lines appear on the Elf lord’s face, latent marks not inflicted by age, but by a lifetime of having to endure much sorrow. “I do not say that.”
“Then why do you not tell me what I did was right?”
“You reject it, young one….”said Celeborn, nearing the ranger in one, silent stride. His voice was quiet, unnervingly calm. “You do her a great insult by refusing her sacrifice.”
Aragorn was stunned. “You condone our union?”
“I condoned before, Ranger.”
“Why?” whispered Aragorn, not taking his eyes from the elf’s, his startled incredulity evident. “Why do you say that?”
Celeborn’s eyes closed briefly, a slight shadow crossing his fair face. And when he spoke, the grating strain was now painfully clear, a deep sorrow for memories which his elvish heritage would not allow him to forget. “Because I have see what grief does to an elf….” Celeborn’s voice shook imperceptibly. “I saw what it did to….someone else…..someone who was very dear to me….”
Celeborn’s eyes opened. The hyacinthine orbs swam with visible pain, pain that he did not know was expressed on his face. They met Aragorn’s slowly. “You know of whom I speak?”
And as soon as he met the Lord of Lòrien’s eyes, Aragorn knew.
“I saw Lùthien waste away without him, Aragorn…..She lived a half-life, a life marred…. I would not wish the same on Arwen.”
Not replying, the ranger hung his head. Numbing sorrow flooded his weary heart, a grief that he had tried to suppress arising once again. He knew of whom Celeborn spoke, knew it because he had drawn such strength, such sustenance from the tale. Despite Thingol’s eventual sanctioning of Beren’s union with his daughter, their happiness had been terrifyingly short lived. A great love did Beren Erchamion and Lùthien Tinùviel share, a love surpassing the boundaries of race and time and age, but the end to that love had been heartbreakingly bitter. And Aragorn would not let the same happen to Arwen, would not permit the extinguishing of such brilliant light, no matter what anybody else said.
“My son-in-law is wise…..” said Celeborn, locking his hands behind his back. “But he acts in accordance with his heart in this matter.”
Still not looking at him, Aragorn asked softly. “And is he not right?”
Memories assailed the silver haired elf suddenly, memories of a past that had so nearly destroyed him. Aragorn’s question was undoubtedly correct, as were Elrond’s actions. For none knew what anguish the Lord of Imladris felt better than the Lord of Lòrien.
None knew better the pain of having to let go.
Celeborn fought a losing battle with his past, a helplessness uncoiling in his heart. Deep these thoughts had been buried, deep in the recesses of his immortal soul. Not even when Aragorn had been in Lòrien before had they assailed him with such magnitude, not even when Arwen had made her choice.
Slowly the Elf spoke, the words difficult to form in his mind. “Elrond knows, Aragorn…..but the situation he finds himself in does not allow him to exhibit that masterful self control of his. He loves you as his son, but he cherishes my granddaughter more.” Celeborn’s ultramarine eyes pierced into Aragorn’s, his voice painfully gentle. “Do not blame him for that. Do not blame him for loving his daughter.”
An unspoken sorrow surfaced in the elf lord as he spoke, heartbreakingly visible. It was not something one saw in any Elf’s eyes, for it was not something to be revealed. It struck Aragorn that Celeborn did not know it was present, that the anguish was so involuntary he could not control its appearance.
“I blame no one, my lord….” replied Aragorn quietly.
“Not even yourself?” Celeborn’s voice was distant, his eyes lidded. He was still in a different land, another time, where he could still see and hear the daughter that he had to give up so painfully.
Aragorn did not respond. This was the most emotional Celeborn had ever been in front of anybody other than his immediate family, and even then, he was famed for his icy control. He had heard stories about Celebrían’s departure, rumours about what had undoubtedly been terribly a painful time for all concerned. They spoke of Elrond’s internal torment, of Galadriel’s sorrow, of the twins’ guilt and grief, of Arwen’s helpless frustration….
Of Celeborn’s near collapse.
But after some time, and with visible effort, the Lord of Lòrien pulled himself back to reality. Quiet sorrow hid in the corners of his eyes, but he blinked it away. A small, regretful smile appeared on his face and he said, “It seems that even I have not conquered my past, Dùnadan.”
“Is it something to be conquered?” asked Aragorn softly, moving a step closer to the visibly shaken Elf. “Is the defeat of the past necessary for the victory of the future?”
“It is the one thing that always remains, Aragorn. Whether we like it or not. It may not define who we are in the future, but it is forever present…..a reminder that we were once different. Or that we stay the same.”
There was a sudden, calm finality in Celeborn’s tones, a certain indication that the topic was closed. He did not have Elrond’s endurance and tolerance for more sensitive topics, and least of all when it had potential to hurt him as much as this.
The Elf turned suddenly and began to walk, heading into the depths of the silver woods. After reaching a certain distance he saw that Aragorn did not follow, and he made a slight motion with his hand, indicating that Aragorn should, if he so wished. The Ranger hesitated for a brief time, uncertain as to what the Elf meant. Celeborn was not as familiar to him as Elrond was, and even though it was Elrond who was famed for inscrutability, the Lord of the Galadhrim was a difficult puzzle to solve, especially when he was in one of his more obscure moods. But Aragorn obeyed the silent command, following him. Together they walked in silence, the moonlight filtering through the trees, illuminating their bodies in its rays.
Deeper and deeper into the woods they went, exchanging no words, and yet understanding plenty. And as time passed, Aragorn observed the silver haired Elf standing next to him, an intriguing being if there ever was one.
Overwhelming physical appearance notwithstanding, for he was quite possibly the most fair of all male elves left on Arda, there was an innate beauty in Celeborn, a pristine elegance that Aragorn had never seen in any other Elf lord. Thranduil was regal, visibly proud, a commanding persona that one could not help but notice. Elrond exuded a quieter power, though no less effective, his deep, unfathomable eyes revealing nothing, a stern figure who possessed more knowledge than any other. Cirdan was the most affable, a quiet amiability that spoke of a great tolerance for all races of life. But Celeborn….
He was a fascinating combination of all three.
His dark blue eyes, the only betrayal to his age, spoke of an ancient, forgotten wisdom that even Elrond did not have, but same unfathomable, inscrutable aura surrounded him. There was a certain set of the head, a straightening of the shoulders that proclaimed him as regal and proud as Thranduil. Unusually short tempered at times, even if he possessed a patience that far exceeded the norms for a Sindar elf, his words could be scathing when the occasion arose. But for all his mystical appearance, he was most approachable, always ready to help a kinsman in times of need. Rarely did a smile grace his ageless face, but when it did, it would look as if Isil himself laughed.
There were some who considered him as merely another exquisitely beautiful ornament in the Lady of the Wood’s collection. They tended to overlook him, thinking that the silver hair hid an empty head. Celeborn was notoriously forthright, words that were not sugar-coated or riddle-like to hide their meaning. But he rarely spoke, indeed, rarely was he even called upon to. And many saw this as a sign of weakness, or even foolishness, believing that Galadriel dictated his every move.
Never could they be more wrong.
He was the strength behind Lòrien’s defences, a brilliant tactical mind that allowed nothing to pass his notice. Having dwelt in Middle Earth since the very days of dawn, there was a vitality in him still, a freshness tempered with heightened intellect. Unusually perceptive, a trait that had only been intensified after a prolonged relationship with Galadriel, he perceived much beyond outward facades and spoken words. Celeborn’s reputation as a master bowman was well known, a skilled fighter and a worthy opponent. Like Legolas, he was a contradiction, extremely unpredictable, but this was what made him so powerful.
Suddenly, his calm voice broke into the Ranger’s thoughts. Without turning his head to look at Aragorn, he said, “You praise me too much, young one.”
Aragorn blushed slightly and lowered his eyes. “My apologies, lord.”
“Compliments are few and far between, Aragorn. Do not apologize.” Dry amusement tinged Celeborn’s words.
Silence fell between them once more, the comforting cloak of the forest soothing the troubles in both their minds. It seemed to Aragorn that this was necessary for both, for Celeborn because they were his sustenance, his strength for times unnumbered and for himself because it allowed him to find some answers to the endless questions that he was doomed to carry. There was a peace in Lòrien, untouched, untroubled by the darkness that crowded increasingly on its borders. A serene tranquility, most of which was embodied in its Lord and Lady, lingered in the air, a slowly fading realm unwilling to fade. That year had not yet come, but all knew it would. And it lay heavy on every heart, a silent despair that it would come to an end.
“Destiny must be allowed play its part.” said Celeborn softly, attempting to give what little reassurance he could to the worn ranger.
Aragorn’s words were quiet. “Nay, my lord….let us not talk of destiny.”
“Do you hate it?”
“I used to.”
Celeborn looked genuinely surprised. “And now?”
“I do not know what I feel…..” said Aragorn. There was a muted pain in his tone that spoke volumes of his internal struggles, a sense of unworthiness that had only intensified after the debacle that had been Moria.
“You are destined for much, Aragorn…..but there is still time.”
“But what if I cannot? What if…..” Aragorn’s voice trailed off. The questions were familiar, the answers nonexistent. He had asked them so many times before, to so many different people, and had yet to find a solution. Aragorn feared that he would never know, that he would be doomed to walk in the shadow of this doubt until his end.
Celeborn was silent for some time. But when he spoke, his words held were simple, yet deeply profound. Spoken with the iron test of experience, they pierced Aragorn’s heart even more than the keenness of his blue eyes.
“Nobody is infallible, son of Arathorn. Not even immortals. We too fail when faced with decisions and choices, choices that we deem to painful to make. Making mistakes is not the monopoly of the Secondborn alone. We battle the same darkness you do, the same pain and have for far longer than you ever will.” A dry undertone came into his voice. “And neither are we allowed to forget. But we must do what is to be done, and we must let go of the grief and anguish and sorrow eventually.”
Celeborn’s next words were soft.
“Because the choices have to be made.”
Aragorn looked into the Elf’s eyes, and saw a quiet peace in them, a serenity visibly different from what Galadriel possessed. For Celeborn was one with this world like no other, perhaps save his son-in-law. He was tied to Arda Sahta, having only ever lived on its grounds, tied to it with bonds that were more powerful, more potent than his longing for the sea. The Lord of Lòrien had seen much throughout the long ages, more bloodshed, more sorrow, more deaths, more pain than what any mortal could comprehend, and yet it did not trouble him. For he had made his choice.
And Aragorn understood.
He understood why the Elf was called Celeborn the Wise.
mellon itsui – learned friend
mellon nîn – my friend
elvellon – elf friend
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.