“Such a strange thing you tell me,” said Mithrandir. “I never thought to hear such a tale from one of the Firstborn. From mortals, yes, they are full of such lore, but not Elves. Superstition, mortals call it, yet it is born more of their ignorance and fear of the unknown than any genuine threat.”
“I have heard the term,” answered Glorfindel, “but this is no tale. I saw the air of ill in this thing for myself.”
Mithrandir sipped at his ale. “It is not uncommon for the possessions of the Shadow to become tainted, yet this is the first I have heard of gold being so ill-favored after it has been melted down and recast. Fire is often a purifying agent where such things are concerned. Still, I should like to have seen this bead for myself.”
“Even had I known you would come so soon, I would not have spared it for you,” said Glorfindel. “As it is, it seems to me I did not act in time. The lady has lost all joy in Middle-earth and passed over the sea, and the household is fallen into a shadow of its own. Elrond fears for his sons, that they will turn to the Shadow they so despise and strive against, for that has ever been the way of the Enemy.”
Elladan and Elrohir were not in residence, having left for the wilderness the day their mother sailed for Valinor. Whether they would return or no, or in what mood they would show themselves if they did, none knew. Mithrandir shook his head at the news. “I believe I know where to find them,” he said. “I will do my best to watch over them. But you are certain this thing is destroyed?”
“I had it melted down and cast away the very day I learned Elrond still had it and where he had given it. It will harm no one again.”
* * *
T.A. 2980 – Imladris
There were times Arminas looked back on his days in Ost-in-Edhil and grew particularly nostalgic. Obtaining materials was not as easy now as it had been, and he did not often have the precious metals and stones he would have liked to work with; even his tools were old and, though much loved and well-maintained, in need of replacement. There was no place more peaceful than Imladris, but its peace and isolation were a source of artistic poverty to a Noldorin jewel-smith. Most of the time he found himself mending swords and worn pots and shoeing horses.
When Elrond came to him with a commission, he was delighted. Out came his sketch pad and charcoal, and he drew several designs while Elrond watched. “In Ost-in-Edhil, I would have had several finished pieces to show you, of course,” he explained, “but now I must do these things as they come.”
“’Tis not a finished piece I came seeking, but something specially commissioned,” said Elrond, with a slight smile. “I have determined at last, I think, that my daughter does not care for books on obscure linguistic lore and never will, however edifying I may think them. No doubt she expects another such dull text for her begetting day.”
“It will be my pleasure to create a jewel for the lady Undómiel. Sufficient materials I have, I think.”
Silver he had, but gold was in short supply. Arminas occasionally managed to obtain scraps through barter, and Elrond’s mortal foster-son Estel sometimes remembered him on his travels, but the days of steady trade with the Naugrim were gone.
In his cabinet he found a few last scraps of gold and, shoved in the back of the drawer, a small lump of the metal. “Where did this come from?” he murmured, weighing the little glob in his hand in bewilderment. “I could have sworn I had no more.”
By itself, the quantity was sufficient to make a ring, or lend accent to the brooch to be cast in silver. It must have come off that armlet Erestor had me melt down and recast last year, though I was certain I used it all.
He and Elrond had not yet negotiated a price for the work. Usually he was paid in goods, as he had no need of coin in Imladris, and his cottage was full of textiles, books and other implements, but not the materials he needed to continue his work. If I do not receive something soon, I shall find myself working in iron and steel, or I shall be forced to leave these shores. They say there are plenty of ores and gems to be mined in Valinor.
“Laer, we need charcoal for the fire,” he called. When he received no acknowledgement, he got up and went to the yard, but his wayward assistant was nowhere to be found. The boy—well, after three hundred years Laer technically could not be called a boy—would never make a proper smith with all his grumbling and loafing about. If Arminas wanted anything done, he would, as usual, have to do it himself.
* * *
T.A. 2980 – Lothlórien
The watchwardens were not entirely friendly. Even when word came from Calas Galadon that he was of high and noble birth, and the Lady’s guest, some of them still looked on him with the disdain they had for mortals. Others were merely curious, for mortals did not pass beyond the Naith and there were some in the Golden Wood who had never looked upon the Secondborn. Aragorn suffered their gazes as he endured the cool reception of the warriors of the Galadhrim, letting his guard down only in the presence of the Lady herself.
He had never met Galadriel before, nor been in her realm, though as she glided down the steps of her talan in her snowy raiment to welcome him, it became clear she knew a great deal more about him than she ought.
“I know why you have come,” she said, “and who sent you. But first you must rest, for the marks of your long wandering are upon you and you are careworn.”
Her servants showed him a spring where he might bathe, and afterward the Lady came to him with garments of white and silver in which he was to array himself. Around his shoulders she pinned a cloak of the silken gray stuff which she and her maidens wove and bound his dark, still-damp hair with a circlet starred with a single white jewel.
He submitted to this treatment with as much patience as he could muster, for he was not accustomed to being attended thus and no explanation was forthcoming from the Lady as to why a mere mortal was being welcomed so.
“But no mere mortal are you,” Galadriel answered, and with a start he realized she was reading his thoughts. “You are of the line of Elendil, of the line of Elros Tar-Minyatur who was the son of Eärendil.”
Guarding his thoughts, Aragorn turned away from the mirror to look at her. “Surely your people do not set special store in the coming of the heirs of Isildur.” No one in Gondor would have welcomed him thus, had he revealed the true name and lineage of Thorongil, the name he had taken as a captain of Gondor. Nor did he think his father would even have been permitted within the bounds of the Golden Wood, much less brought into the Lady’s presence. “There is some other purpose at work here.”
She was silent a moment, watching him as if weighing her handiwork. “Elrond sent you here with a gift,” she answered, nodding toward the crumpled heap of his clothing where the little package was stowed.
“I would have given it to you, Lady, without such ceremony,” he said.
Her small, secretive smile made him wonder. “The gift you bear is not for me. Has Elrond not told you that the lady Undómiel is here?”
Now he understood her purpose, though not the why or how of it, and suddenly the lightweight Elven silks and soft wool felt heavy upon him. Elrond had never been amicable to the idea that his daughter’s heart would turn toward a mortal, and spoke against such a union on the few occasions the subject arose. Aragorn certainly did not expect Galadriel to approve, much less welcome him into her realm knowing his desire to look again upon the beauty of Arwen Undómiel.
You might have taken the gift from me and given it to her without her ever knowing I was here, he thought. Surely that would have been your way, and his, to keep her hidden from me until I had lived out my mortal span.
“But that is not my way, Dúnadan,” she said, “to strive against what is already doomed to pass.”
He pursed his lips into a tight line. You are reading my thoughts.
“Your mind is clearly written upon your countenance, without any need to peer at what may lie beneath,” she explained. “She is near, with her maidens upon the hill of Cerin Amroth. Go, and take to her the gift you have brought.”
In the glimmering twilight of Caras Galadon, on a green hill carpeted with white niphredil and yellow elanor, he found her. Flowers of gold he bore in his arms, and Elrond’s gift in a pouch at his side.
Right away he knew her, and yet did not, for though the mortal years had not touched her since their meeting thirty years before, she was grave and the laughter gone from her eyes. She turned at the sight of him, a white-clad figure who came to her out of the dusk like an Elf-lord of Tol Eressëa; it was only when she peered more closely at him that she saw he was a mortal Man, one whom she had met on another twilit evening long ago.
At a word, Arwen’s maidens vanished into the trees, yet Aragorn sensed they were not far. Striding forward, he laid the golden blooms in her arms and smiled, and in his smile all the long years of wandering and care fell away from him and she knew him.
“Estel,” she said. “How do you come to be here?”
“Your father sent me, though I knew not that you were here until the Lady Galadriel told me,” he replied.
They walked for a time along the twilit paths near Cerin Amroth, while he told her of the many lands and peoples he had encountered in his travels. In the shadows, he sensed others trailing them, but the presence of such chaperones was neither unexpected nor improper.
It was only when he returned to his talan that he remembered he had forgotten to give her Elrond’s gift. Two days later, he came upon her again, in a sunlit glade gathering elanor blooms to weave into a garland, and approached her with the velvet-wrapped item in his hand.
Elrond’s jeweler had fashioned a brooch in the shape of a silver leaf veined with gold and dewed with a single amethyst. Arwen took it in her hand and wondered over it, even as Aragorn gently took it and pinned it over her breast. “So fair a thing is this that you give me,” she said.
“’Tis not my gift,” he answered, eyeing the note that accompanied it, “but sent by your father for your begetting day.”
She smiled, her eyes luminous as her fingers traced the contours of the brooch. The gold veins gleamed against the silver, a tempting tracery against her breast. “Yet now when I see it and feel its weight I shall think always of you.”
He did not know what to say to this, for only the delivery of the gift had been his. Nor did he know what to say when she stepped to him and touched her lips lightly to his. The mingled gold and silver, cool and heavy between them, slowly warmed at the press of their bodies. “So fair a gift is this,” she whispered, “and bittersweet.”
“I do not ask more of you than you desire to give,” he murmured. “I would not have you forsake your immortal life for the sake of one doomed to die.”
Her hand came up to caress his cheek, even as the brooch dug sharply into his breast where he held her. “My uncle did not look on death as a doom but a gift of the One. I would rather love and die than dwell in gray solitude through all the ages of Arda. Do not refuse me this gift, meldo, for I know what I take upon myself and do it willingly.”
She spoke so softly that Aragorn knew her maidens could not have heard her. Joy rose within him, and anguish also. For a moment he wanted nothing more than to tear the brooch from her and cast it away in regret that he had ever agreed to bear such a gift to Lórien. Why did Elrond not send it with one of her brothers? She has not seen them in many years. To send it with me is to doom us both.
He wanted to tell her that he could not take such a gift from her as she meant to give, yet in his wonder and sorrow knew it was not his to refuse. And so, returning her kiss, he did not.
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.