12. Chapter Twelve
"According to Fingon in his latest letter, it was quite unexpected." Along the outer walls of the fortress, Maedhros and Maglor strolled slowly. He had only recently arrived in Himring from his own fortress further east.
"I imagine so," Maglor agreed dryly. "A dragon is hardly something one would expect." He pursed his lips. "But now that we know Morgoth is capable of such base treachery, perhaps we should not be so lax in our guard."
Maedhros straightened. "Fingon was not lax in the first place, Brother."
Maglor smiled ruefully. "That was ill-spoken of me. Forgive me." He squeezed his brother's arm. "But this dragon was only half grown. 'Twas possible to stop him with our arrows now, but when he grows older and stronger? What then?"
"I know not," admitted Maedhros. They paused at one of the corner looking posts. "But we shall deal with it when the time comes. As we have been doing in the many years we have been here." He leaned over the side of the wall and turned his bright eyes to his brother. "Maglor," he asked earnestly. "Do you think me brutal?"
Maglor leaned against the wall of the parapet. "This war is brutal, Maedhros. When it is over, we will be as we are, not as it has made us."
His brother nodded thoughtfully. "True enough; very wise, in fact…but will any of us be as we were before?"
"I certainly hope not! I do not wish to be as I was before." As a son of a powerful but doomed prince.
"While I wish I could be," finished Maedhros. He looked in the direction of Angband. Then clasping his brother's shoulder with his left hand: "Regardless, I am glad you are here, Maglor. I feel lonely when you are away."
Maglor's lips quirked into a small smile. "It feels good to be missed."
Maedhros began to lead his brother inside the fortress. "I have received a rather interesting missive this morn," he said. "From Thingol, no less." Entering the kitchens, they made straight for the tray of warm biscuits laid out on one of the tables. "Generally, Thingol pretends that we do not exist, but he has asked a favor of me."
Maglor cast him a worried glance. Kings did not ask for favors lightly, especially not one such as Thingol. "What sort of favor?" He bit into the warm biscuit. "Some honey would go well with this, methinks."
His brother found a jar of honey and a spreading knife. They ate quietly for a while until, "There are some wandering companies of the Sindar in Lothlann. Thingol has requested permission for his messenger to cross through my lands." When he was done eating, he licked the honey off his fingers. "He will be here within the next two weeks, I imagine."
"What business does Thingol have with the wandering companies? They do not recognize him as their lord."
"He is trying to entice them to return to Doriath. To keep them from harms way, should Morgoth ever launch an offensive through Lothlann. And while he did not admit it, I think the business with Glaurang frightened him."
Maglor dipped his finger into the jar of honey absently. "I wonder what he is up to."
The messenger that Thingol had sent turned out to be none other than Celeborn. He exchanged formalities with Maedhros and Maglor, who still had not left Himring. "Thingol and his Queen send their greetings."
The three of them were sitting in the library. "You will be leaving tomorrow for Lothlann?" asked Maglor in a kind manner.
"So short a time here…"
Celeborn smiled slightly. "A Fëanorian fortress is the last place for me to stay, my lord." He hesitated, and then, "We in the west have not had any recent tidings of our kin. How fares Lady Galadriel?"
Galadriel. The brothers exchanged looks. Artanis had related the name incident in Doriath many years ago and how Celeborn had suggested a new name for her. "Artanis is well," said Maedhros, his lips tightening ever so slightly. He still had not forgiven the Sindar for accusing Artanis and her brothers for being Kinslayers.
Celeborn's silver eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. "That is good to hear," he offered politely. "Her kin has sent her some letters. We would appreciate it if you would kindly forward them." Sindarin messengers rarely traveled to Ossiriand, and when they did, they often took long, circuitous routes to avoid lands controlled by the Noldor.
"How is your brother?" asked Maglor. His eyes pleaded with his elder brother, who currently sat with a scowl marring his fair features.
For once, the smile that graced Celeborn's face was genuine. "They are well. My brother and his wife are expecting their first child. (1)"
"Congratulations," said Maedhros gruffly. "Your father's line will continue on." He shifted in his chair. "Forgive me for being abrupt, Lord Celeborn, but I must ask why you are here. You are Thingol's advisor, not his messenger boy."
"Thingol is concerned for the welfare of some of the Sindar in Lothlann." He took a careful sip of his tea as Maedhros flashed a knowing look to Maglor. "He wishes for them to return to Doriath and live under his protection."
"That is most understandable," agreed Maedhros.
Celeborn nodded. "Yes, but some of the tribal leaders are bound to disagree. They would rather keep their freedom than live under the rule of a distant king. I was sent in the hopes of persuading them."
Maglor offered the younger Elf some sweet cakes. "Our cousin Finrod has told us that you are an excellent orator. I imagine that you will succeed in your task."
The silver eyes looked very grave. "I certainly hope so. Their lives depend on it."
Soon food was brought in, which the three of them ate quite gratefully. As Maedhros explained to Celeborn, "We very rarely have excuses to cook fine food here. The arrival of Thingol's advisor happens to be an excellent one."
After Celeborn retired, Maedhros spoke: "He had his reasons for coming here."
"To fulfill whatever tasks Thingol has asked him to?" said Maglor in reply.
He shrugged. "Perhaps."
Year 306 of the First Age
"And do you trust this source?" asked Thingol. Beside him, Melian gave Celeborn a reassuring smile.
The silver-haired advisor nodded. "Implicitly."
"If he has your trust, then he has mine," said Thingol abruptly. He stood and walked toward one of the large windows in his study. "I wonder about these new creatures."
"They are mortal, my lord."
A sneer marked the king's face. "Closer to the Naugrim, are they?" Thingol, as much as he respected the skills of the Dwarven folk, still retained the commonly held belief of Elven superiority in all things, beauty most of all.
The queen raised a dark brow in the king's direction. "Husband," she chided gently. Then shifting her attention to her grandnephew: "When was the sighting confirmed?"
Celeborn gave the queen a grateful smile; she knew that Thingol's prejudice often discomfited him. "There have been rumors that the Avari," and here Thingol's eyes flashed angrily, "came into contact with them east of the Ered Luin. There have been reports that they taught these newcomers how to survive." Glancing at the king, Celeborn bravely continued on. "Wanderers, especially those that have been to Ossiriand recently, have spoken of an unrest among the Green Elves. That they have seen them and are angered by their intrusion."
"As they should be," snapped Thingol. "These Second born appear out of the Dark Lands – they are probably under the influence of Melkor!"
"Perhaps," agreed Melian cryptically.
The king gave her an annoyed look; it was well known that Melian's foresight gave Thingol as much headache as relief. "Celeborn, I want you to increase patrols around Doriath. And send some of your best people abroad. I want more information about these creatures." His bright eyes sharpened. "How goes your progress in finding out the infiltrator?"
Distaste crossed Celeborn's face. He despised spy work; indeed, he found it demeaning in its lack of honor. "Not well, my lord. There are simply too many tribes to sort through. I had hoped to find him in Lothlann, but that lead did not turn up."
"Perhaps you should recruit some of the Avari – they are quite clever at this sort of thing," commented the queen.
Horror crossed the king's face. "Absolutely not! I will have none of those Elves involved in the business of Doriath!"
Celeborn sighed and looked away. His audience with the king and queen was drawing to an end. "I will send out more people, my liege." He bowed to both of them and exited gracefully. But once out of the room, he stopped and leaned against the wall. Thingol's stubbornness was costing all of them much needed time. This spy was leaking information to Morgoth Bauglir's Orcs, and each month, more and more war parties were being ambushed. And while the Girdle of Melian kept Doriath safe, the villages and districts outside of it were constantly under the shadow of attack.
Furthermore, an increase in patrols meant even more work for the already over-worked warriors. Galathil would especially be affected, for he was one of Thingol's captains. And little Nimloth, who barely saw her father, would see him even less.
Thoughts of his niece brought a smile to his weary face, and after a few moments of consideration, he headed for the family rooms of his brother. Since Galathil had become captain, he spent most of his time in the barracks, so it was no surprise for Celeborn to discover that Galathil was out again. Linneth was, however, and she stood to greet her brother-in-law as he entered.
"Celeborn! I had thought that you would be tied up in matters of the king," she laughed as a smile of delight crossed her lovely features.
He bent down to kiss her cheek. "I slipped away when no one was looking." He cast a surreptitious eye around the suspiciously empty quarters. "Where is the fairest flower of Doriath?"
Linneth looked crestfallen, but her eyes twinkled. "She was picked by the gardener, and now she is in a bouquet meant for the queen."
Celeborn followed her line of sight to a strange, giggling, child-sized lump behind the curtains. "That is too bad, really, for I had a surprise for the flower – to help with growth, of course."
"And to make the flower more beautiful," added Linneth.
"More beautiful than Luthien?" demanded the curtain.
Without hesitation, Celeborn answered, "Of course. That is what enchanted sweets are for."
Silence, and then a dark-haired blur ran straight toward Celeborn, who deftly caught her. "Can I have them now?"
He sighed. "And to think that I was her favorite uncle yesterday. Now she does not even greet me properly."
Nimloth giggled before kissing her uncle sloppily. "Now can I have them?" Chuckling, Celeborn pulled out sweetmeats for the child. Still holding her in his arms, he sat on a couch in front of his sister-in-law.
"You look unwell," remarked Linneth softly.
Placing his chin on top of Nimloth's head, he examined Linneth. Her eyes seemed strained, and her normally pale skin seemed paler. "I could say the same for you."
"It is Galathil," she said abruptly. "I worry for him, especially now that Thingol seems even more tense." Guilt overcame Celeborn – what would Linneth say when she found out her husband would be in even greater danger? "And now that there are dragons –" she broke off as her eyes fell upon her daughter. Celeborn was about to set Nimloth down and send her away to continue the conversation, but Linneth held up a shaky hand. "No, do not do that. She has been waiting to see you all day. I can wait."
He kissed the top of Nimloth's head. "If you wish it. But you know that I am always ready to listen to you."
"I know." She gave him a gentle smile as she rose. "There are some things I must see to, so I will leave you two alone." She came over and pressed a hand to Celeborn's cheek. "You are so good to me."
A pang filled Celeborn's chest as he watched her walk away. Under different circumstances, Linneth would have been his wife, and Nimloth his child. But then again, perhaps those different circumstances were not for the better. Like his mother, Celeborn placed a great deal of trust in fate. Fate and a good deal of luck.
"Come, sweetling. The sun is about to set." Nimloth jumped from his lap eagerly; sunset was her favorite time of the day. They walked to their favorite vantage point – the top of a hill that overlooked the crest of the trees. Laying on his back, his niece tucked into his side, Celeborn remembered just why he loved being alive in Doriath. It was a cool summer night, and the sun was now preparing to set. Pinks, oranges, and reds streaked the vast expanse of the sky, a soothing reminder that the sun would be returning tomorrow, the day after, and the many days after that.
Many of his people despised the sun and moon, many who still grieved for the undiluted starlight. Celeborn himself had been one of those, but over time, he had learned to love the light of the sun.
When Nimloth had been very young, he, Galathil, and Linneth would tell the young girl different tales of the sun. Galathil said that the sun was a warrior and was hurrying across the sky to save helpless people in danger. Linneth would say that the sun was dreaming about going on a wonderful adventure far beyond the confines of Middle Earth. But Celeborn's story was always the same – the sun was a beautiful and kind princess from the west. She wandered too far from home and became lost in the east, where the silver moon fell in love with her. The moon hurried after her but could never seem to catch her. She would always run far away towards the west, her home, and the moon would chase her across the sky.
And when he told this story, Nimloth would wonder why her uncle seemed sad.
Year 365 of the First Age – Ossiriand
Winter had settled in with its usual mildness in Ossiriand. Further north, great gales of icy wind and unceasing snow characterized winter. But in the south, snowfall was occasional at best. Still, the Elves had prepared by gathering and preserving crops and meat, in case the winter took a turn for the worse.
Under Artanis's persuasion, the Green Elves had begun reluctant trade with their Avari neighbors to the northeast. She knew the value of commerce – that without commerce, there was no civilization. Nurwë had accepted Artanis's half-hearted explanation as to why she was insisting on trade, but Orimor, Nurwë's son, had not bothered to hide his gratitude.
"Perhaps there is some hope for my people," he had told her, for the new trade had increased the coffers of the Avari.
However, Artanis could not deny that this new trade was also helping her. The Avari Nation, perhaps due to their untrusting and desperate state, had no formal ties to either Thingol or Morgoth. As such, the Avari tended to interact with both sides, thereby giving themselves the advantage. Generally, the Avari were close-lipped with what news and troop movements they heard from their own spies, but Artanis had managed to win some sort of half-hearted trust with them. And being a wily Finwëan, she used this trust to her advantage.
Regardless of race, merchants anywhere were terrible gossips and the best way to spread information. Trade with them had allowed Artanis the opportunity to be included in this circle of information. The Avari would often share news of the Dark Lord's movements and current projects; these reports were surprisingly more accurate than the information gathered by Noldorin and Sindarin scouts.
It was only a few decades since Finrod had stumbled upon the Second born. He had been hunting with Maedhros and Maglor but had soon wearied, choosing instead to travel south to see his sister in Ossiriand. But he had come upon the sleeping Atani one night, and thereafter they had held his heart.
He had sent tidings to his sister about these new creatures, and Artanis, having met them at his behest, admitted they had a rustic and innocent charm that the Eldar no longer possessed. But unlike Finrod, she was too caught up in the troubles of her own people to be overly concerned with the fate of the Second born. Furthermore, the Green Elves themselves were unhappy with the migration of the Atani into Beleriand. Resentment festered among the otherwise happy and peaceful Elves, and Artanis was helpless to stop it. She knew that in time, the new race would be in danger of the Green Elves. And try as she might, she could not help agreeing with them. In their eyes, the Atani were the invaders that threatened to take over the lands that the Green Elves had so lovingly nourished.
Again, she persuaded the tribal leaders to talk amongst themselves, and in a council, the Elves of Ossiriand sent a polite but firm missive to Finrod in the north country (2).
In a letter of her own, she pleaded with her brother to understand that the Atani would find no welcome here, and if she were to intervene, she would lose her position of trust with these people – something that she could not afford just yet. She ended her message by saying: "The destinies of our people do not flow in the same river as theirs, Brother." And while she did not tell her brother so, she felt puzzled at Finrod's care and responsibility – misplaced, in her mind – for these new people. Deep in her heart, she feared that Finrod's tender nature would compel him to be the protector of men.
Her interest in the Naugrim, on the other hand, bordered on fascination and reluctant respect, especially when it concerned their craftsmanship. For she was of the Noldor, and she herself had a more than passing interest in the "Rock-born," a name snidely given to the Naugrim by Caranthir. It had amused her to no end to watch Caranthir interact with the Dwarves. Caranthir had always been the proudest and most arrogant of her family save Fëanor, and the Naugrim, while stout-hearted and skilled, were extremely unlovely.
In her most recent letter to Fingolfin, she had included a sketch of Caranthir and the Naugrim leader standing together. Her uncle would have several laughs over that, she knew.
Fingolfin's letters to her had been growing tenser and shorter with each passing year. He had informed her that Aredhel was lost in the dark forests of Nam Elmoth, and while he wished for nothing more than to send out search parties for her, his men were needed at the front. Furthermore, a large incursion of Noldorin warriors into the forests might anger Thingol.
The Noldor were still suffering from the last time Thingol had grown angered at them.
To her surprise, Fingolfin had welcomed the Atani into his services, as did Maedhros and Finrod. But according to Melian, Thingol remained unfriendly to these new peoples and kept Doriath closed against them.
From Melian Queen of Doriath to Galadriel Granddaughter of Olwë:
My Dear Child,
As you must well be aware, scores of years have passed since you last set foot within the lands of your mother's kin. Your brothers are far more faithful in their duties to King Thingol and I, and from them we receive what few tidings they have of you.
I am sure that you know of the recent events involving the Atani, so I will not waste time repeating them – yes, unlike all others, I know why you are so assiduously courting the wandering merchants. My king does not trust this new race – he much prefers the Naugrim, in fact. However, I share not his faith that Doriath will remain secure if he closes his borders. Now the world runs on swiftly to great tidings. And one of Men, even of Bëor's house, shall indeed come, and the Girdle of Melian shall not restrain him, for doom greater than my power shall send him; and the songs that shall spring from that coming shall endure when all Middle-earth is changed (3).
The letter continued with more details of royal decrees and court gossip, only to end with,
There is too much for me to say, and I find that parchment is inadequate. Your presence here would be greatly appreciated, both by my king and I, as well as your cousins. Luthien has been most anxious to see you. Furthermore, you have yet to see Galathil's daughter, Nimloth. She is quite lovely and shares her mother's delicate countenance.
Luthien also wants me to add that if you can, she would be grateful if you could bring back several bolts of muslin (4) from Ossiriand.
Artanis had only shaken her head and began preparing for her journey west.
Year 389 of the First Age – Doriath
Nimloth indeed was very lovely, and her name was more than fitting. Her skin was pale, and with a crown of dark, glossy hair, she did resemble a sort of ethereal flower. Galathil and Linneth adored their daughter, as did Celeborn, who played the doting uncle quite well.
She tried hard to avoid Celeborn, but for all the vastness of Menegroth, not even a thousand caves were enough to prevent her from seeing him several times a day. It was not that she disliked Celeborn; in fact, she was quite fond of his company. But she did not like the unwelcome feelings that he stirred within her. She did not like feeling unnerved by his presence and angered by Linneth's, and she most certainly did not like the fear and uncertainly that followed.
She had far too many things to fear, at any rate.
In Doriath, she was Galadriel again. People were much friendlier to her now that she had a Sindarin name, and while it was a beautiful name, her heart tightened any time someone would address her by it.
She missed her father.
In her free time, she had taken to strolling the gardens. Her long sojourn in Ossiriand had taught her to adore the forests and trees, and she now found little pleasure in dwelling in the halls of stone. Today was one such day, but on her way out, Celeborn himself intercepted her.
"May I accompany you?" he asked gravely.
"Of course, my lord." She accepted his arm with a sense of fear mingled with another unnamed emotion.
They strolled quietly, each of them basking in the sunlight, as well as in the company of the other. As they walked on, people would give them admiring glances, for they were both tall people, one as silver as the other gold.
"Galadriel, have I angered you?"
She glanced at him in surprise. "Why would you think that?" she asked curiously.
He turned his eyes to her. "It seems that you have been avoiding me, as of late."
"Please forgive me if it seemed so, my lord, but I have been occupied by Melian." That was partially true, for Melian often monopolized her time. "I meant no offense, Celeborn."
The use of his name dissolved the formal atmosphere. "Then I am glad to here it." They walked silently for a while longer, until, "I will be leaving on the king's business the next morn."
"What sort of business?" she asked with interest.
"I am seeking someone."
Suddenly, the information fell into place for her. "You are seeking for that spy again, are you not?"
Sorrow shaded his voice. "We have reason to believe that he is hiding in one of the wandering groups."
"Celeborn," she said imploringly, "This will not be a danger to you, will it?"
A strange expression crossed his face. "Does that matter so much to you?"
"Of course it matters. You are my cousin, and a dear friend besides," she said indignantly. He said nothing in reply as he kept his clear gaze upon her face. Some understanding hovered in his eyes, something that she did not quite comprehend.
"We Sindar are a strong and sturdy lot," he said with a gentle smile. "It shall take more than a sniveling traitor to kill me."
She reluctantly nodded. "When will you return?"
"In a fortnight, I expect. I do not have far to travel, for the company I am interested in is just outside of our borders."
Something prompted her to say sincerely: "You are a good friend, Celeborn."
He released her arm, and in a surprising move, he took a hold of her hands and rubbed them within his. "There are many bonds other than friendship."
Her eyes dropped to their entwined hands. "Oh?"
"Yes," he said softly. He paused, and then "Galadriel," he began hesitantly, "I have been meaning to ask you–" But before he could say more, a messenger interrupted, and she was startled to see the irritation and frustration in Celeborn's normally calm eyes.
"My lord, the king has asked for you."
Celeborn acknowledged the messenger and turned to her, the anger in his eyes disappearing. "I am needed, it seems." He smiled at her gently before bowing and then striding away.
Year 420 of the First Age – Dorthonion
"Frankly, I think she looks better than she has in ages." This chirpy comment came from Angrod, who was currently tilting his sister's face in all sorts of directions. "Exercise has added color to her face."
Aegnor wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "She easily could be getting that here. I daresay that Dorthonion would be all the better under her management." He waggled his eyebrows. "We would be better off under your management as well."
Artanis laughingly pushed her brothers away. Having only arrived moments before, she had been immediately swept into their embraces, as each brother fought to be the recipient of the first embrace. "You sound jealous, Brother."
"Of backwards-dwelling Elves?" scoffed Aegnor. At his sister's pointed glance, he amended, "Green Elves. Perhaps we are in a way, for you have not come here in well-nigh over a hundred years."
"Your fair face has been missed," added Angrod.
"Yet both of you have still remained miscreants in my absence," she said archly.
The brothers shook their heads. "Miscreants, she calls us. Whatever happened to 'Dear Brothers' or 'My Idols'?" asked Angrod sadly. "Besides, the real miscreants are the Twins."
The other brother nodded his head. "Oh yes. Do you know what Amrod and Amras did to Curufin's saddle?" The three of them headed into the outpost settlement.
"Do not tell me anymore!" exclaimed Artanis after hearing the tale. "Or else I shall never be able to accept their hospitality again for fear of such mischief."
But her brothers, being who they were, paid no heed to her pleas and continued on with their story telling and gossiping. Artanis shook her head wearily but felt happy all the same. Her brothers, all four of them, were so very dear to her. They had remained constant through the terrible years behind her, and by the grace of the Valar – if the Valar had any grace left for the Noldor – the horror of the oncoming years would be easier to bear with the company of her family.
Angrod's voice roused her from her contemplation. "Curufin was scandalized, of course, but the Twins just pretended that they had not noticed."
"Miscreants, I tell you," said Aegnor.
- (1) The child in question is Nimloth, who will later marry Dior son of Luthien and Beren. This in fact makes Nimloth much older than Dior (especially since Beren has not yet been born), but I take this to be acceptable, for both Luthien and Idril were far older than their husbands.
- (2) This letter is directly from "Of the Coming of Men Into the West," The Silmarillion, Page 166, Second Edition. It read:
If you have power over these newcomers, bid them return by the ways that they came, or else go forward. For we desire no strangers in this land to break the peace in which we live. And these folks are hewers of trees and hunters of beasts; therefore we are their unfriends, and if they will not depart we shall afflict them in all ways that we can.
- (3) "Now the...changed." Directly from "Of the Coming of Men Into the West," The Silmarillion, Page 166, Second Edition.
- (4) Not being very well versed in Elven fabric, I am taking the liberty of assuming that some form of muslin was used by the Eldar.
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