Water and Stone: 3. The Braiding

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3. The Braiding

Celinn stood alone beneath a tall mallorn tree on the bank of Celebrant, his eyes dazzled by the sparkle of sunlight on the water. He had come to this part of the Golden Wood, far from Caras Galadhon, to prepare himself for his braiding. He had packed what he needed and left without breaking his fast, despite the protestations of a sleepy Aiglin, and his garments were still damp from the early mist that had silvered the banks of the river as he had made his way to this place.

Celinn felt lightheaded from fasting and broken sleep, but he knew this weakness of his body would better open him to the ritual he would begin that morning. When he was fully rested and fit, the world was clear and bright and solid, but in his half-dreaming state, he could better feel around and within him the brimming over of the life of the unmanifest, and hear deep in his being the music of the Ainur. A warm breeze passed through the trees as he gazed, eyes unfocussed, at the water that rippled and danced before him. He gave a deep sigh and came to himself, blinking a little, then sat down on the shore of Celebrant and began to take off his boots. He laid them aside and rolled up his breeches, then stepped into the water. It was warm on the river’s sandy edge, and he stood, feeling it lap against his calves, smiling at the memory of playing in just this spot with Aiglin and their sister Alfirin when they were elflings. If he closed his eyes he could almost hear Aiglin’s voice as he shouted at them to come and join him, his strong arms cutting through the water in the deepest part of the river, while their adar and naneth watched them fondly from the glade.

Celinn stood motionless for some time, resting in the gentle touch of sun, wind and water, drifting in dream. His felt his hair lift and long strands caressed his cheek and neck. Then one of his side braids tapped against his jaw, and he opened his eyes, remembering why he was here. Still half dreaming, he took hold of the braid and loosened the silver thread that held it secure, then carefully untied the braid. He tucked the thread into his shirt and his fingers undid the other braid, but the second silver thread slipped from his fingers into the water. He bent down quickly and caught it before it could drift away, and droplets of water from his fingers flashed in the sun as he stowed it away with the other one.

He stretched his arms above his head, yawning, then brought down his hands and reached back to untie the thick braid that fell from his crown to half way down his back. As his fingers undid the tight braiding, he felt a change in his body, as if there were a corresponding loosening of a part of himself, of some outer garment in which he habitually clothed himself which he was now laying aside. He felt a twinge of some emotion, but he could not name it at once. He knew the ritual had begun even though he had not spoken the words of opening.

Now Celinn was no longer in a state of dream, but nor was he fully in the realm of Arda. He felt numinous presences, and his lips parted in a sigh of awe. His loosened hair felt heavy as he turned and walked out of the water. Kneeling by his pack, he took out a piece of green linen which he carefully unwrapped. Inside was a long flat stone, big enough to rest in the palm of his hand, a thick flake of rock shaped and polished to a smooth shine. It was a deep clear blue, the colour of the river when it reflected the sky of springtime. Celinn passed his hand over it, feeling the coolness of it, and also feeling the outline of the tengwar with which he had inscribed it, a woven pattern of letters representing his own name and that of each of the members of his company to whom he would today be bound as captain. Celinn had begun to make this work when Haldir had told him he would be captain, and he had told no one of its making, nor of the hallowing of the names he had put into it.

He stood up, leaving the stone couched in its cloth, and turned again to the river. He was ready to begin. His felt his legs begin to tremble a little as he raised his hands to speak the words of opening.

‘I call on the One and on Manwe and Varda and Ulmo: holy ones, let me know your presence as I make my offering to you and ask your grace on me.’ His voice was so low that even someone beside him could not have understood his words, but he was heard by those to whom he called. Celinn felt a gentle tremor beneath his feet, and a little gust of wind lifted his unbound hair. He placed the palms of his hands over his heart and bowed in homage, then with mindful care, he began to undo the lacings of his tunic. Carefully he drew it over his head, then removed his breeches until he stood naked on the banks of Celebrant. He put up his hands again and drew them through the heavy fall of his hair, opening it out like a fan and letting it drop back on to his shoulders. The sun shone warmly on his fair skin and he was slender and beautiful as a young tree.

‘Holy ones,’ he said in a voice that shook slightly, ‘I come before you naked and with my hair unbound so that I may hide nothing of myself from you. I give myself into your hands, as those who I will lead give themselves into my hands. Today I come to bind myself to you and to them, in life and death.’ A sudden vision of battle flashed through his mind and as quickly faded away. Celinn felt himself surrounded by the power of the holy ones, and knew their touch on his mind.

He gave a deep sigh of surrender, and let his body relax, feeling the power of the earth holding up his limbs, and the light energy of the heavens sustaining him from above. For a long time he stood still, his eyes closed, bathing in the gentle pulse of the earth and heavens calling to his fea and to his body. Then he began to know the energy of the One moving through him, energy that was always there, the ground of Arda and of Aman, of which his present mindfulness had made him fully conscious. He felt the energy tingle as it passed through the crown of his head and through his body before soaking into the earth, and then turning again and rising through him, then falling again until soon he was held in an ever moving spiral. Celinn gasped with the pleasure of it, and with a sense more fine than those of his body he began to feel the music of the Ainur, the vibration of creation itself. He heard the voice of Manwe in the wind that sighed through the trees and caressed his naked body, and the voice of Varda in the light of the sun that warmed him, while Ulmo laughed in the waters of Celebrant. The sound was so hauntingly beautiful that tears of longing slipped down his cheeks, and he clenched his hands with the sweet grief of it.

He did not know how long he stayed so, but at last he came back to himself. He looked down at his body as though expecting it to be changed, so powerful had been the sense of the presence of the holy ones within and around him. But all he could see was a warm flush on his skin, and a drop of moisture the colour of pearl on the tip of his cock. He touched the clear liquid with his fingertips and felt himself stir at the touch. He gave a shout of joy, suddenly aware of the life of his body, the same life that kept all of creation in being, and which Iluvatar had made, flawless and good.

The sun was high in the sky. Celinn turned and took up the offering he had made, and walked to the edge of Celebrant.

‘Holy ones,’ he said, ‘I bring a gift and a remembrance, to mark this day when I give my will to the task before me. I ask for your grace on me and your aid in fulfilling my vow.’

He began to walk into the water, and his body sang at the coldness of Celebrant against his warm skin. He walked until the water was at his shoulders, then stopped and pressed the stone to his heart. His other hand came down and rested gently on his groin.

‘Ulmo of the waters,’ he whispered, ‘by the life of my heart and the power of my body, I bind myself to my company, to lead them with honour and with all the skill that is in me. Hear my vow and let my words sound in the ears of the One, and of Manwe and Varda, you whose waters bring to us the music of the Ainur and who hears the voices of all who call to you.’

The river leapt around him at once, the water sliding round his body and blessing him with its touch.

Celinn raised the blue stone to his lips and, his face close to the river, murmured the names of all those in his company, and then his own name at the last. ‘Ulmo, mighty Valar,’ he said, ‘for the swift song of whose waters I am named, take this offering that I have made with my hands.’ Then holding the stone to his breast, he sank down in the water until it covered his head completely. His hair floated out on to the surface and he could see the sun shining through it as he lifted his feet from the bottom and swam with strong strokes. The music of the Ainur sang to him through Ulmo’s voice, and the river carried away his tears as longing assailed him. He swam until there was no breath left in him, and then he let the stone sink to the bottom of the river, whispering his thanks to the Ainur for receiving his gift.

Celinn burst up through the surface of the water, his lungs heaving as he took in great gasps of air. He pushed his wet hair off his face with both hands, then began to make his way to the bank. He had swum a long way and it took a little while for him to walk back to where he had left his pack. When he reached the place, he knelt by the river and cupping his hands, filled them with water and poured it over his bowed head.

‘I take the blessing of the water, Ulmo of the Ainur, and of your light, Lady Varda and of the air, O, Manwe,’ he said, still a little out of breath. ‘I give thanks to you, O, Iluvatar and join with you and the blessed ones in the weaving of the pattern.’

Then he smiled and laughed, and he went back into the glade and took his cloak out of his pack and spread it on the grass by the water. He lay down then, and all at once he was so weary that he could scarcely breathe. He tried to stay awake, but his eyes closed, and the last sound that he heard before drifting into the paths of dream was the laughter of the water beside him.

He dreamt that he was in a glade much like the one in which he slept, and that he lay on his back, looking up into the canopy of trees above him. Then a sad, grave elven face was looking down at him, a face he was sure he knew, and yet its identity was just out of reach. The dark eyes regarded him with a calm, haunted expression, but then the elf smiled, transforming his face to unexpected beauty. Even in his dream Celinn felt himself begin to smile back, but then the face changed again.

This time Celinn was standing, looking into the face of a man. The face before him was fair but brutal and cold, with flashing eyes full of anger and cruelty, directed at Celinn himself. He felt his heart tighten within him and shrank away, but then it was as if he glimpsed something behind the cruelty: yes, the dark mask of arrogance and control hid something else, some grief or loss which had been so well hidden he would never have imagined it could exist in such a face, in such eyes. Celinn still felt fear, but mingled with it was pity for the creature who hid behind the mask, vulnerable behind the hard shell he had built up to protect himself. Then it was gone: he had been wrong, surely; the wanton desire to destroy that was in the man’s eyes hid nothing but emptiness.

Then there was pain in Celinn’s dream, and he struggled against it, jerking awake, his heart pounding. He put his hand on his breast as if to soothe himself, and little by little his breathing slowed. He sat for a while, gazing out at the river without seeing it, his mind occupied with the strange dream. Coming so soon after his self-dedication, he felt it must have some special meaning for him.

The wind suddenly felt chill on his bare skin, and he got up and dressed quickly and took up his pack. His empty stomach growled as he straightened up, bringing him back from celestial concerns to thoughts of food: if he hastened, he would be in time to eat with the rest of the company. Cheered by the thought, he hoisted his pack onto his shoulders and began the journey back to Lorien, at first walking, then breaking into a run, eager to be home.

Behind him in the glade, the river ran on, and the blue stone lay still on the river bed.

***

Celinn stood in his new garments in the ceremonial tent while his sister prepared his hair for his braiding. His shirt and breeches were of an undyed fabric, stitched with designs that he had chosen: small curling waves from a swift running river, after his own naming; and a pattern of leaves entwined, for his love of the forest. His sister had made the clothes for him, and had woven the cloth for his cloak, using a different colour thread for warp and weft, so that the fabric shimmered pale green and silver as it moved.

Alfirin drew the comb through Celinn’s unbound hair, her face serious and still as she worked.

‘You have been in the river,’ she murmured, removing a speck of weed as she gently teased out a tangle.

‘Yes,’ said Celinn, ‘where we used to go with adar and naneth.’

He was about to tell her about his dedication, but something stopped him, and he fell silent. After a while, he said,

‘I wonder how Cerveth is faring in Mirkwood.’

‘I hope he is glad to be there; he was a good captain, was he not?’ said Alfirin.

‘Yes, it will be hard for me to walk in his shoes,’ said Celinn.

‘Why did he leave, Celinn? I never heard the reason,’ asked his sister.

Celinn’s face was suddenly blank. ‘I believe it was a matter of honour; something to do with one of the elves of Mirkwood who came here last season as an emissary of King Thranduil,’ he said.

Alfirin heard the warning in his voice, and she knew he would reveal no more about the details of the matter, even if the whole substance was known to him.

‘When will he return to Lorien?’ she asked.

‘I think he serves Thranduil for a ten-year,’ Celinn replied.

Alfirin gasped before she could stop herself. ‘A serious matter, then,’ she murmured, but Celinn said nothing. Her hands had paused in their work, and she brought her mind back from Cerveth’s departure to the new beginning it had made for Celinn. She did not want his braiding day to be shadowed by whatever trouble had come to the previous captain of his company, so she began to draw the comb through Celinn’s hair again as she said,

‘Is Luinil pleased to have his brother with him?’

‘Oh, Luinil is very glad that Gwirith was chosen after Cerveth left,’ said Celinn. ‘He likes to have him near. It is many years since they have seen each other.’

‘Is Gwirith glad to be in your company?’ she asked, tentatively.

‘Gwirith seems content,’ he replied. ‘Beyond that I cannot say: it is not easy to know him.’

Silence fell between them again, and Celinn understood that there was both shadow and light in the change that was taking place in his life today.

At last Alfirin managed to ease the comb through the snarl of hair, and he felt her begin the soothing rhythm she had been using before.

‘Well, Celebrant is clean,’ she paused to press her face against his hair, ‘and bestows a sweet fragrance. Your hair is more beautiful than mine,’ she said cheerfully. ‘It has many colours in it, like the weave of your cloak.’ She took a lock of hair and spread it between her hands.

‘Three colours,’ she went on, ‘a dark gold, almost russet like Caranfir’s hair; then a bright gold like the sunlight, and a pale gold, not silver like Celeborn’s, but very fair and light.’ She let the hair slip through her fingers. ‘The three colours together make a colour with no name, unless it be honey or chestnut or … or just gold.’ She laughed and ran her hands down the heavy golden fall, then went back to combing.

He was smiling, enjoying the time he was spending with her. Since her binding a decade ago they had had little chance to be alone, especially since the births of her elflings.

‘I wonder who writes verses on the colour of Celinn’s hair,’ she mused, teasing him. ‘I know many elf maidens who would wish to be here doing what I do now, but not as a sister.’ She gave his hair a little tug.

Celinn laughed.

‘You know there is no elf maiden who has touched my heart, sister,’ he said.

‘Well, maybe an elf man, then?’ she asked. ‘I know you are greatly admired, brother, not least by some of your company. Do you not spend much of your time with Luinil?’

‘Stop your teasing, Alfirin,’ Celinn said, ‘you know our company must be close if we are to trust each other in battle, but my heart is free from binding love for man or maiden. So do not start weaving cloth for my binding clothes, for I will not be needing them yet.’

Alrifin put the comb down.

‘There, that is done.’ She took up a small pot of oil and put a few drops on her fingers, then ran them quickly through her brother’s hair.

‘You are sweet smelling as well as beautiful,’ she said, and she put her arms round him from behind and held him tightly to her. Celinn leaned back against her.

‘Do you know, Celinn, my Miriel wanted to be here for your preparation, and she was most offended when I told her that it was not seemly for her to see you with your hair unbraided. She told me that she envies me, and Haldir, and the Lord and Lady, that they may see you unbound and she may not.’

Celinn smiled. ‘When she has a lover she will understand what is revealed of us when we unbind our hair, and how precious a gift it is to give another,’ he said.

‘Brother, I hope you will find one to whom you desire to give that gift,’ she said, her voice vibrating against his shoulder. He did not respond to that, but at last he said,

‘I am glad you are here with me, and that you have prepared me for my braiding.’

‘And so am I,’ she said, letting him go and coming round to stand before him. She looked deeply into his face.

‘Are you sad, brother?’ she asked in surprise.

Celinn did not answer at once.

‘I am sad that I might lose something of the friendship of my company, once I am their captain,’ he said at last, looking away from her.

Alfirin reached out and took both his hands.

‘Do you remember when Haldir was made Guardian?’ she said.

‘Yes, of course,’ he said.

‘Do you think our warriors love him less because of it?’

‘No,’ said Celinn slowly, ‘not less, but differently, maybe. Things are not the same.’

‘No, things are not the same,’ she said, ‘but things are never the same, are they? And it is our weakness to try to keep them so instead of letting them go and embracing the next thing.’

He thought about that for a while, then looked up at her again.

‘You are wise, Alfirin, wiser than I am.’

‘So! It is a fair exchange for your having more beautiful hair!’

They both burst into laughter and Celinn seized his sister in his arms and was spinning her round when a dry voice behind them said,

‘I see you are in the solemn frame of mind required for a braiding ceremony, Celinn, captain of the guard,’ and they turned to see Haldir standing inside the flap of the tent. Then Haldir’s eyes flickered for an instant over the mass of gold which fell unbound half way down Celinn’s back, and he averted his eyes and turned his back to them.

Celinn put Alfirin down and they hastily tidied themselves up, Alfirin smoothing down his hair. She took a thin strand of plaited cloth of the same hue as his cloak from her pocket and loosely tied his hair back from his face, fastening the cloth in a fair knot at the base of his neck.

‘Are you ready, Celinn?’ Haldir asked, gently. Celinn took a deep breath.

‘I am ready,’ he said.

Haldir turned back to face him. ‘I am sorry, I did not mean to intrude upon you,’ he said, including Alfirin in the apology. His eyes had softened a little. ‘I would not have seen you … unprepared.’

‘It is no matter,’ said Celinn, smiling, ‘I know you intended no offence.’

‘Indeed I did not,’ agreed Haldir, a little affronted and yet relieved at the same time. ‘So, may we go?’

In place of an answer, Celinn took up his bow and quiver, and Alfirin helped him strap on his sword. When it was done, he looked at his sister a long moment, then kissed her on the cheek. She smiled at him, and Haldir saw the affection with which they regarded one another. Then Celinn turned to him, and repeated formally,

‘I am ready, Guardian.’

‘Then we will go.’ Haldir stepped forward and gently raised the hood of Celinn’s cloak, making sure that none of his hair remained outside. He made to go, but then hesitated and turned back to Celinn.

‘You will make a good captain, Celinn,’ he said quietly, ‘worthy of the love of your company.’

Celinn felt a flush rise to his cheeks as he smiled at this high praise from Haldir.

‘Thank you, Haldir,’ he said, and was met with a rare and dazzling smile from the Guardian.

‘Now we must go,’ said Haldir, ‘The Lord and Lady will be waiting for us.’

They emerged from the tent into the afternoon light. The long shadows of the mellryn fell before them as they walked in silence to the lawn of the fountain. Celinn’s company were waiting there, standing in a semi circle and arrayed in their ceremonial gear of silver shirts in honour of Celeborn and pale green breeches and cloaks for the Lady of the Trees. They were in full battle gear but without their helmets and they looked as one to Celinn as he approached the mound. Celinn sought out Aiglin, and their eyes met and held for a long moment. He saw Aiglin’s lips twitch in a small smile, then return to the solemn expression fitting to the moment.

Haldir stopped before the company and saluted them with a hand to his brow and his heart. They returned the gesture in silence, then watched him turn to a tall screen of many-coloured silk which stood nearby. Haldir went behind the screen and a few minutes later re-emerged with Galadriel and Celeborn, and with his own brothers, Rumil and Orophin, captains of the other two companies of the pellarim. These four also saluted the company and were greeted in return, after which they stood aside, leaving Celinn and Alfirin standing alone.

Haldir nodded to Alfirin, who with a look at her brothers, went to stand alongside the Lord and Lady.

It was probably no longer than fifty heartbeats before Haldir began to speak the words of the ceremony, but to Celinn, that time seemed long and lonely, as though he stood with his foot on a broken bridge looking across a deep chasm at those he loved on the other side. He felt the movement of the ritual already beginning within him, separating him from his fellows, changing him from one who was the same as them into one who was different, set apart. He was aware of the light slowly fading in the sky and the shadows lengthening on Cerin Amroth, and there was fear in him. But then he heard in the sound of the breeze the voice of Manwe, and Varda was in the light, and in his mind he could hear Celebrant rippling over the stones. The cold fear did not pass, but it was mixed with the touch of the holy ones, and his heart was soothed a little.

He became aware of Haldir standing beside him. The tall Guardian gave an almost imperceptible nod at the elves of Celinn’s company, and with a great clang of steel, they drew their swords and held them point upwards before their faces. Then Haldir began to speak and though his voice was quiet, all those present could hear every word.

‘We are here to honour our brother warrior Celinn, who today will become the captain of this company.’ Haldir turned to Celinn and rested a hand on his shoulder.

‘We have chosen you because of your skills as a warrior, and because your heart is both bold and gentle: bold to fight the enemies of the elves, and gentle towards those you lead.’

Haldir’s gaze intensified as he spoke the next words:

‘Celinn, will you become captain of this company, binding yourself to the service of Lorien?’

‘Yes, I will,’ said Celinn, relieved at the steadiness of his voice.

‘Will you swear that you will not avoid engagement when it is wise to meet the enemy, but that you will not put your company in danger without purpose?’

‘I will so swear.’

‘Will you swear not to yield to the enemy or allow any of your company to yield, if it is within your power to prevent it?’

‘I will so swear.’

‘Will you swear to do all you can to ensure the well-being of your company, in battle and in peace?’

‘I will so swear.’

Haldir’s hand tightened momentarily on Celinn’s shoulder, before he turned and faced the rest of those assembled.

‘Celinn has accepted the burden of his duty as captain of this company. Do you now accept him?’

Haldir stepped away from Celinn and stood before the elves Celinn would command.

‘Caranfir?’ he asked.

Caranfir brought his sword down from before his face and rested the point on the ground before bowing his head in silence.

Haldir bowed also in acceptance of his gesture, then moved on.

‘Sirion?’

The dark haired elf brought down his sword in the same movement as had Caranfir, and bowed in acknowledgment of Celinn.

Haldir bowed his acceptance again, then repeated the question with all the others in the company: Aelindor, Silivren, Luinil, Gwirith, and then stopped at last before Celinn’s brother Aiglin. Haldir spoke his name, and Aiglin immediately brought down his sword point to the ground, but instead of merely bowing his acquiescence, he said,

‘I accept Celinn heartily as my captain,’ and he looked at his brother and gave him a dazzling smile.

Although this was not in the tradition, Haldir’s face lost its solemn expression, and he said,

‘Thank you very much, Aiglin,’ before bowing to him formally.

Haldir turned then to Galadriel and Celeborn, and said,

‘The company has accepted Celinn as their captain, My Lady, My Lord. I would ask you to test him and if he stands the trial, give your blessing on their choice.’

‘Most willingly,’ said Galadriel, smiling. She and Celeborn took hands and stood before the company, whilst Haldir led Celinn and his sister to stand beside them.

Galadriel looked at each of the company in turn, then at Celinn, and each felt the power of her gaze, the power of one who has looked on the two trees of Valinor.

‘Celinn, your company has chosen you as their captain, and I am not at all surprised that they have done so.’ Galadriel’s deep voice managed to sound merry and lighthearted and deeply formal all at once, and Celinn found himself relaxing in the soft light that radiated from her.

‘They have shown wisdom,’ said Celeborn, ‘and I know you will prove worthy of their faith in you.’

Celinn bowed, unable to find words that could express his feelings adequately.

‘And now, we will see if we are able to bestow the marks of his captaincy upon him,’ said Galadriel, and she took Celinn’s hand and led him towards the screen. Celeborn and Alfirin followed. Haldir nodded at Celinn’s company and immediately they raised their swords again, holding them before their faces as they had at the beginning of the ceremony. Orophin and Rumil took up positions facing them, and when Haldir was satisfied all was as it should be, he followed the others behind the screen. He saw that all the was needful had been prepared by his brothers: a small three-legged stool of pale green and silver and two tables of woven rushes, one empty and one bearing a pitcher filled with clear liquid and a tall glass.

Galadriel smiled at him and said, ‘Haldir, you may begin.’

Haldir went to Celinn and helped him remove his sword and his bow and quiver. These he gave to Celeborn, who laid them on one of the tables. Then Galadriel stepped close to Celinn and unhooked the fastening of his cloak, pushing back his hood on to his shoulders. Haldir removed the cloak and laid it over Celinn’s weapons. Alfirin had been standing quietly aside, but now at a nod from Galadriel her hands want to Celinn’s hair and with great mindfulness she undid the knot she had made in the plaited cloth which held it back from his face.

Alfirin knew and trusted all those who stood with them behind the screen, but nevertheless her hands shook a little as she drew the fabric from her brother’s hair and watched it swing loose to fall on his shoulders, bare of any tie or ornament. Tenderly she smoothed Celinn’s hair in a fair arrangement, and under her hands she felt him tremble a little. When she had finished, she stepped back and waited for the ceremony to continue. But for a long time Galadriel and Celeborn remained silent, gazing steadily at Celinn, and Haldir too stood mute beside them.

Finally Galadriel spoke, and her voice rang differently from the way it had before.

‘Celinn of the waters,’ she said, ‘the One blesses all elves with the gift of hair of surpassing beauty, and in you we see that gift to the highest degree. We honour him by refraining from altering his gift in any way, except by beautifying it with ornament and braiding, and we too are honoured to see you before us with your hair unbound. The full unbinding of our hair is rare and precious to those privileged to see it, and we know that you stand before us open and naked, despite the garments on your body, and that it is costing you something to show yourself to us in this way. It is necessary for us to see you revealed to us so that we may test your fitness for the duty you are about to undertake.’

Galadriel paused, and her eyes seemed to brighten.

‘Are you ready for your testing?’

Listening to her words, Celinn had felt himself opening to her mind, and it was as if his hold on himself was loosening, so that he was not sure where he ended and she began. And so it was with a great effort that he said,

‘I am ready, Lady.’

‘Very well,’ said Galadriel, and she seated herself on the pale green and silver stool and arranged her white dress around her. Then she fixed her gaze on Celinn and became completely still.

Celinn stood in silence before her, aware of Celeborn standing by her side, a hand resting lightly on her shoulder, and Haldir whose fierce face and flashing eyes seemed to be measuring him. He sensed the warm presence of Alfirin behind him, but it felt like she was moving away. He felt his fea reach out to her for comfort, but Galadriel’s touch was on his mind, firm and relentless, and he could do nothing but invoke the solid ground beneath his feet to hold him up while she began to probe the deepest parts of his fea.

A series of images from his own life played themselves out in his mind, and he felt the emotions connected to them: times when he had shown courage and nobility which warmed him with joy and pride, but also times of failure and weakness and loss, at which he burned with shame and sorrow. Galadriel walked through his mind and his heart impartially, looking wherever she would and touching his deepest secrets, his darkest fears. He felt his body stir with a wash of desire, a dark need to take, to destroy, and then he was shaking with terror and grief, and he heard himself groan aloud. Galadriel did not flinch away but pushed further in, until at last she touched the deep centre of his being, the place where there was deepest love and deepest hate. He gasped, wide open to her probing, and the ground seemed to shift beneath his feet. He was afraid, exposed and helpless, known in a way he scarcely knew himself. He was lost, and thought he would fall and break into fragments, unable to hold himself together under her scrutiny. But then she took hold of him, and the fragments of dark and light came together in a pattern of broken beauty, and he saw that somehow the weakness and the strength belonged together, the desire to destroy and the desire to be tender were part of the whole. And he sighed, and felt the ground firm beneath his feet again. Galadriel’s mind touched his gently as she withdrew, and he found that his eyes were closed, and that the afternoon light made him blink as he opened them.

Before he could come fully to himself, Galadriel’s eyes were on his, and a look of the deepest intimacy passed between them. Celinn had never been touched as deeply as he had by her probing of his fea, and he felt as open as if he had been stripped of a layer of skin. His lips parted, but he had no words to describe what had happened, and stood mute before her.

After a long while she smiled at him, and with that smile the look of intimacy was gone. Celinn found that he was relieved, and he knew she had veiled herself from him because he could not bear the closeness of her touch any longer. He became conscious of Celeborn and Haldir watching him closely, weighing up his fitness to be captain of his company, and he suddenly feared that he had failed the test, and would be rejected by them.

But Galadriel was standing before him, and putting both hands on his shoulders, she kissed him gently on the brow.

‘Well done, my dear, you showed great courage,’ she said. ‘I am not gentle when I am testing a captain, but you were strong enough to open yourself without breaking. I thought as much when I saw the way you stood before me today, and now I am sure.’

She took his arm and made him sit on the stool from which she had just risen, and when he sat it felt as if his legs could not have held him up for a moment longer. With her own hands she poured a cool drink from the glass pitcher and put it into his hands. Still Celinn could not speak, but it did not seem to matter, and he sipped the drink and was revived by it.

‘Now we will bestow your new braids upon you, that you may declare your rank to all who look upon you,’ she said. ‘No, be still, you must rest now, we will come to you,’ she commanded him as he made to stand up.

‘Thank you, my Lady,’ Celinn said, his voice hoarse as if he had not spoken for days, and a deep sigh of relief escaped him.

Galadriel went to stand behind him next to Alfirin, and he heard her draw something out of her clothing. Then Alfirin said, ‘Thank you, my Lady,’ and she used the comb that Galadriel had given her to prepare the thick braid that would draw back the hair from the crown of his head. Deftly the two elf women’s hands divided the hair into four thick strands, and then he felt them begin to weave the kinbraid, intertwining threads of colour into the hair. The movement of their hands was soothing and Celinn leaned back against them without thinking. Neither Galadriel nor Alfirin seemed to object to this, and his mind drifted a little, so that he was only a little surprised when he heard Galadriel’s voice inside his head.

‘I wish you a lover worthy of your fine hair, Celinn of the waters,’ she whispered to him, ‘one who will feel the pleasure of what is revealed when you unbind your hair, and one who will give you the same pleasure in return.’

Celinn felt a wave of heat rising to his cheeks, and Galadriel’s fingers touched him with fire, and he was bewildered to feel himself hardening suddenly. He shifted his position on the stool and he felt the heat ebb away, and Galadriel’s voice spoke within him again: ‘This is nothing to the pleasure you will feel when you find the one to whom you will bind yourself. I envy you the joy you will give and receive, but that is for another time than this.’ And he was calm and master of himself again.

He felt Alfirin’s and Galadriel’s hands securing the end of the kinbraid they had fashioned, and when they stepped away from him he felt an absurd sense of loss and longed for them to touch him again. But then Celeborn and Haldir came near, one on each side of him, and they took in their hands the thick locks of hair that the elf women had left out of the kinbraid, and began to weave those into the patterns that signified his captaincy.

Their hands felt different to those of the women, firmer and cooler somehow, and soon the ancient weave was in his hair, and the Elflord and the Guardian were fastening the ends of the warrior braids with new silver threads.

All four of them stood before him, looking down fondly at him, and Celinn smiled up at them, grateful for what they had done. At the moment he felt nothing like a captain at all, more like an elfling whose doting parents have just finished preparing him for his first festival.

‘Sweet one, you are worthy of our doting,’ said Galadriel’s voice in his head, ‘I am becoming very fond of you,’ and she saw him turn and glance at Celeborn, who smiled back at her.

Then he heard Haldir’s voice, but it was in his ear, not in his head, and it bade him stand before the Lord and Lady. Celinn obeyed, finding his eyes on a level with Galadriel’s as she spoke the words of changing.

‘Celinn, now you are captain of your company. These braids mark your rank and your duty, and while you wear them you are in the service of Lorien. I call the Valar and the One to witness that you came before us unbound and the now you are bound to our service,’ and he heard the voice continue in his head, ‘although I believe the Valar and the One have heard of this binding already today, and have given you their blessing at your own request.’

He looked directly at her then, and saw the ancient power in her eyes, the deep magic that she had learnt in ages long past, and from Melian at Doriath. He could not hold her gaze and had to look away, but she leaned forward and again she took his face in her hands and tenderly kissed his brow. He felt a thrill of power enter him and spiral through him before passing into the ground, and it was an echo of the power he had felt earlier that day when he stood alone in the glade.

Haldir saw Celinn’s eyes darken suddenly with weariness, and he took his elbow to steady him.

‘My Lady, shall we complete the ceremony?’ he asked, and Galadriel looked at him sidelong, perceiving the censure in his face. Haldir heard her voice speaking only to him:

‘Beware, Guardian, that you judge not the power that holds Lorien safe from the intrusion of the Dark. It is not a tender power, but a strong one, and those who are touched by it are changed.’ Haldir felt a twinge of fear, knowing she spoke the truth: her power was not to be controlled or limited by him or any other.

He inclined his head before her, still holding Celinn’s arm, and was relieved to see Galadriel’s face watching him with amusement as he and Celeborn helped Celinn re-arm himself, and Alfirin took his cloak and placed it round his shoulders, securing it at his neck.

When they emerged from behind the screen, no-one in the company moved from their positions, but all eyes swivelled towards Celinn, and Haldir saw how glad they were that he had passed the test and wore his new warrior braids. Aiglin’s face broke into a broad grin, which a glance from Haldir quickly quashed.

Galadriel came to stand before the company again, and said in a ringing voice,

‘We vouch that Celinn came before us unbound, and that after testing him fully, we have bestowed on him the braids that signify his authority as your captain. We wish you good fortune in peace and in battle, and joy in the brotherhood of your company.’

Now all the elf warriors were smiling, even Sirion and Gwirith, neither of whom were famed for displays of emotion.

Haldir said, ‘You have honoured your captain while he received his braids. Now put up your swords and welcome him.’

Again the lawn of the fountain resounded with the clang of steel as seven swords were sheathed, and with Haldir at his side, Celinn went to each member of his company in turn and embraced him. In this moment, with his mind and body full of the energy of the ritual, Celinn was aware of how different was each embrace he received. Caranfir’s was gentle and unassuming, while Sirion’s was firm, almost defiant. Aelindor’s and Silivren’s were much alike: straightforward and cheerful. Aiglin’s was joyful and tender, and in Luinil’s there was a hint of a desire for a closer, more intimate touch. But from Gwirith, despite the warm smile he gave Celinn, he felt almost nothing, as though there were a barrier between Gwirith and those around him, from which nothing of his true self might emerge.

Celinn detected a slight sense of shock at this, and his first active thought as captain was whether this would affect Gwirith as a warrior. But the ceremony flowed on and he had no time to give more careful thought to the question.

Galadriel was directing them to stand in a circle close to one another, so that their bodies were in contact, and then she stretched out her arms and called upon the holy ones.

‘Iluvatar the One, and Valar of Valinor, we seek to weave the pattern as you would have it, until you call us from Arda and time comes to an end. May we know the sweetness and power of your presence, in war and peace, in sunlight and starlight, in life and death, in love and in solitude.’ Then a wind arose and whipped up their clothes and their hair, and Galadriel bowed her head in thanks.

Then the ceremony was over, and Rumil and Orophin were preparing to escort Celeborn and Galadriel to the feast that awaited them all, and the other warriors were gathering around Celinn, admiring the coloured threads in his kinbraid, and his new garments. Only Gwirith stood a little apart, smiling as before, but cool and distant and a little awkward.

Celinn had been greeted and praised, and now was being held firmly in the arms of his brother and his sister, both of whom had tears in their eyes, when he heard Galadriel speak her parting words to him from far away.

‘Do not forget what I have said, dear one; do not be too long alone, but find one to whom you desire to give the gift of your unbound hair, and do not be too proud to receive this joy from another also.’ Then he thought he heard her laugh, and her voice faded away and he could hear those around him again.

Aiglin released him from his arms, wiping the tears from his cheeks with both hands.

‘Now Celinn, I have waited a long time for this. Let us go and celebrate! Food and drink and entertainment await us, so let us make haste!’

Relieved that the braiding was over, and that though he was their captain, his friends and his brother and his sister were not treating him as an outcast, Celinn realised how very weary he felt, and was only too glad to let the others lead him away to food, drink, pleasure and rest.

***

Two long tables together with benches and chairs had been prepared in the wide clearing where the elves of Lorien celebrated all their festivals. The grass was still short in the centre where the Midwinter bonfire had scorched the earth two months before, and in the dusk Celinn saw a much smaller fire was waiting to be kindled.

Caranfir appeared at his side with a blazing brand.

‘Captain, the honour is yours,’ he said, smiling as he used Celinn’s new rank for the first time. Celinn smiled back foolishly at him, then took the brand and placed it carefully under the pyramid of twigs in the heart of the fire. They all watched the flames lick round the wood until it began to crackle and burn fiercely, and then Aiglin turned Celinn round to see the group of musicians who had appeared and were preparing to play.

‘Will you sing, Celinn?’ he asked.

‘Give me a drink first, brother, for pity’s sake!’ said Celinn.

‘Very well,’ said Aiglin, ‘but you must sing later.’

Soon Rumil’s and Orophin’s companies arrived and everyone set themselves to eating and drinking. Celinn had the place of honour beside Galadriel and Celeborn, and a while after Aragorn appeared and after greeting the Lord and Lady, seated himself beside Celinn.

‘Welcome,’ said Celinn, looking at the glass in his hand. ‘Will you eat something with us?’

Aragorn nodded his thanks and went to fetch some food, then returned to sit beside Celinn.

‘Is that not Rumil?’ Aragorn asked suddenly. ‘I thought he was journeying to Mirkwood.’

‘Three of his company have gone on horseback,’ said Celinn. ‘We could not spare a whole company for the task. Orophin’s company are on watch in Caras Galadhon this month, so three of them have made up the numbers. The watch is the easiest duty to cover, since it can be done by elves who are not of the pellarim, and there are plenty of those.’

‘Do not more of you wish to see the world outside the Golden Wood? Three companies seem very few for the task.’

‘Our time is fading,’ said Celinn sadly. ‘Most of us do not willingly have dealing with any other folk, and so we abide here, away from the eyes of the world.’ He looked at Aragorn, a deep appraising glance. ‘It is your time that is coming, if the darkness can be defeated again. But the task before us, and especially before you, Aragorn, is an arduous one.’

Aragorn looked into Celinn’s sea-green eyes and was comforted by their steadfast gaze.

‘With the help of the elves, I know I will not carry the burden alone,’ he said, smiling.

Celinn nodded. ‘Lorien is at your service, and also in your debt for warning us of this latest threat to us.’

‘Do you know,’ said Aragorn abruptly, ‘he was not always called Adanwath? The leader of the outlaw band,’ he explained, when Celinn looked baffled. ‘Surindel told me before he died that he recognised him. Once he was known as Madoc, and a ten-year past, Mirkwood sheltered him when he was wounded.’

Just then there was a burst of laughter behind them, and Aragorn turned to see that a couple of dancers had lost their step and fallen, bringing down several others with them.

‘Only Rhovanion wine could make elves so clumsy,’ he said, looking suddenly very young as he too laughed at the scene. ‘We had to hide it from Elladan every festival night.’

He was too absorbed to notice that Celinn’s face was suddenly a shade paler than before, and that for a moment a deep frown shadowed his brow.

Night fell and the fire burned brightly. Caranfir had joined the musicians and solemn music gave way to more lively strains. Alfirin was dancing with her partner, as were many of the elves of the three companies, both nisi and neri. Aragorn fell silent and looked into the distance. Celinn sensed his sadness and to distract him, he said,

‘I have just welcomed a new member into my company. He perplexes me, Aragorn. What do you make of him?’ And he nodded his head towards where Gwirith was sitting alone on the grass, just outside the circle of firelight. They watched him for some time. Gwirith’s back was spear straight as usual, and his thick braid hung across his right shoulder. Half his face was in shadow, casting the other half into pale relief, its clear sharp lines reminding Celinn of the proud birds of prey that wheeled above the trees of Lorien in the heat of summer.

‘He seems lonely to me,’ said Aragorn, speaking as one who understood. ‘But he is strong and obdurate. A good person to have at your shoulder in battle.’

Celinn’s gut ached suddenly and he pressed his hand to it. Gwirith turned abruptly and gave him a fierce stern look, then just as quickly turned away.

‘Even our conversation seems to intrude upon him,’ said Celinn sadly. ‘How can he have such a thin skin and yet be so difficult to reach?’

‘Maybe it is because it is so thin that he has built such a defence,’ said Aragorn. ‘When my brother Elrohir is troubled, no-one may approach him, however kind their intentions towards him.’

‘None of my kin is like that,’ said Celinn. ‘And of the company, only Sirion is sometimes melancholy, but his Siriel has only to kiss him for him to be restored to cheerfulness.’

Aragorn’s head went down as he sank again into gloom, and Celinn cursed himself for his clumsiness. At last Aragorn said in a muffled voice,

‘Is there a she-elf who you admire, captain?’

Celinn shook his head. ‘I am devoted to Elbereth and to the Lady Galadriel, but aside from that it is to ner rather than nis that I turn for my pleasures.’

Aragorn glanced at him quickly. ‘But your heart has never been engaged?’

Celinn sighed deeply. ‘I love my comrades, and I enjoy a warrior’s comfort, but I have never found the deepest love of fea and hroa united in one person. I hope it will come to me one day, but it is not given to all of us.’

Aragorn seemed suddenly subdued. ‘Celinn,’ he said at last. ‘There is something I want to ask you.’

‘Then ask it,’ said Celinn, lying back and taking up a long blade of grass and chewing on it.

‘Are there any in Lorien who frown on your desire?’

‘You mean the desire for one of my own sex?’ said Celinn. ‘Why, do they frown on it in Imladris?’

‘No, not the elves. But others who visit us there have spoken against it, saying it is unnatural, and that it will harm the race for desire to be divorced from the begetting of children.’

‘Do men know only the desire to beget children, then? Do they not know the desire to touch and be touched, and to comfort and be close to another, and to give and receive joy and pleasure?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Aragorn. ‘I am a man, but I have grown up among elves. My ways are not theirs.’

‘Well, here in Lorien, no-one frowns about desire at all. Those who wish it bind and beget children, but the love one has for someone of one’s own sex, nis or ner, is love as true and good and pleasurable as any other, and we hold love as the gift of the One, and revere it as such.’

‘I am sure there are many who admire you,’ said Aragorn shyly.

Celinn laughed. ‘In Lorien we welcome pleasure. We do not fear it like some do, so we take happiness whenever it shows its face to us.’

‘Celinn, I’ve been watching you,’ said Aiglin’s voice beside them. ‘You must have had at least three glasses of Rhovanion. Now you can no longer refuse to sing.’ Celinn smiled an apology at Aragorn and got up and followed his brother.

As the first notes of Celinn’s song flowed out into the evening air, Luinil walked slightly unsteadily over to Gwirith and sat down beside him, .

‘How do you fare this evening, brother?’ he asked. ‘Will you not have some food or drink? The Rhovanion wine is sweet and potent.’

Gwirith did not answer, looking sullenly into the fire. Luinil put his arm round his shoulders but he moved carefully away until he was out of reach.

‘I am glad to have you near me again after so long, brother,’ said Luinil, looking sadly at him. ‘How do you like Caras Galadhon?’

‘I am here because Haldir commanded me,’ said Gwirith shortly. ‘If I was free, I would leave this place tonight.’ He shook his head as if to clear it. ‘Why are they making so much noise?’

‘You miss the solitude of your life far from others,’ said Luinil. ‘But maybe in time you may find pleasure in being amongst us, Gwirith.’

Gwirith gave a sigh of frustration. ‘You know why I cannot, Luinil. After all these years, it is too late to begin again. And in any case, I dare not,’ he said, barely audible.

Luinil said nothing and Gwirith glanced round and saw that he was watching Celinn intently as he sang. He opened his mouth to make a bitter comment, but Luinil seemed so absorbed that he repented of it and looked at Celinn instead. Their new captain had just come to the end of a merry song, and the musicians re-tuned their instruments and began again, this time with a slower gentler melody. Celinn’s voice rose clear and pure, his face serene and joyful as he sang. Gwirith found himself looking more closely at his vivid sea-green eyes in his fair face, and at the splendid golden fall of his hair. There was something so open and unforced about him, something so beautiful and somehow complete that for a moment Gwirith felt a deep unknown grief stir within him.

The song came to an end and, despite Caranfir’s protests, Celinn would not sing again. He caught sight of them then and began to come towards them. Gwirith turned away sharply, scowling and cynical.

‘He would do better to spend his time practising with the bow, Luinil,’ he said bitterly, just as Celinn came within earshot. ‘What is the use of singing to a warrior?’

Luinil turned to him, startled by his sudden anger, but Gwirith had already got to his feet and was walking away towards the trees. Luinil got up to follow him, but Celinn’s hand was on his arm.

‘Let him go,’ Celinn said softly, sitting down beside him.

‘He did not mean to offend you,’ said Luinil anxiously. ‘It is just he is not used to being with others yet, he has lived alone for so long.’

‘Luinil, I am not offended,’ said Celinn, smiling at him and pulling him down to sit beside him. ‘Tell me some more about him. Maybe that will help me to understand him better.’

Luinil hesitated, then said at last, ‘He…would not want me to speak of him without his knowledge. It is best if he reveals himself to you in his own time.’

Celinn frowned for a moment. ‘Luinil, do you know what it is that I fear most about becoming captain of this company? It is not the danger, nor the fact that my friends’ lives may depend on my good judgment, weighty though these things are to me. It is my untroubled life. The Valar have smiled on me and spared me from much suffering. I should be grateful for it, but I fear something is lacking in me. You and Gwirith and your Noldor kin have endured the history of our people, good and evil. You have a wisdom and a steadfastness that I cannot match.

‘Look at your brother over there,’ he said, indicating where Gwirith sat in the shadows at the edge of the forest. ‘I know he does not wish to tell me what he suffers. But I honour his courage, and yours, and that of all those who have known grief. I have lived in peace and blessedness all my life in Lorien. What can I as your captain and your friend offer to you and to those who known the darkness of the world?’

Luinil put his arm round Celinn’s shoulder. ‘You have your own gifts, Celinn. Your strength, your simplicity and your openness. To those of us who have known evil, your innocence and restfulness is like the deepest peace. It gives us hope, Celinn, that beauty may grow and flourish far from the taint of darkness.’

Celinn sighed. ‘Maybe it is a sign of some weakness in me, that the Holy Ones have found me unworthy to be tested as you and your kin have been,’ he said.

Luinil sat up, suddenly completely sober, and made the sign against evil.

‘Celinn, you don’t know what you are saying. Be careful what you wish for, lest the gods hear you,’ he said, shocked. But before Celinn could answer Aiglin collapsed beside them, carrying a jug of wine.

‘Sorry, brother,’ he said, slurring his words a little. ‘There’s a strange dip in the ground just there. I must have caught my foot in it.’ He began to giggle foolishly. He put the green earthenware jug down carefully but it fell over, and he watched the growing pool of red wine spill from it, then soak slowly into the earth.

‘More like one glass of Rhovanion too many,’ said Celinn, pulling his brother over to sit next to him.

Aiglin rested his head on Celinn’s shoulder and began to play with his hair.

‘Your new braids are most becoming, Celinn. You endured the ritual well: I have seen other captains emerge barely able to speak after Galadriel has tested them.’

‘With hair like his, we know he has been blessed by the Valar,’ said Luinil, looking pointedly at Celinn.

Just then Haldir came and sat down with them, bringing Aragorn with him.

‘I congratulate you, Celinn. You bore your testing well,’ he said.

Catching the end of the conversation, Aragorn said, slurring his words a little, ‘I have never understood the elvish fascination with hair. Maybe it is because mine is so little to look at in comparison.’

‘You don’t understand it?’ cried Luinil. ‘Only imagine a night of clear moonlight, and a secluded glade in the forest at midsummer, and your beloved with hair unbound, spread out about them like a shining fan. I can barely imagine the act of love with one who has shorn their hair. The touch of it against the skin, the fragrance of it: it is the greatest beauty and vitality of the elves.’

‘It is true,’ said Haldir. ‘Our hair is not only an ornament, it is a sign of the love of the One, who bestowed it upon us. Without it we would be…unsexed, withered, derided, outcast.’

‘Who would wish to look upon a lover without their chief glory?’ said Luinil. ‘Not I, even on the darkest night. And it is not only fair to look on, it is a sign of a lover’s power and strength. What grows well and flows from the crown of the head foreshadows another kind of growth and another kind of flowing.’

Everyone burst into laughter at this, although Aragorn seemed a little embarrassed at the allusions Luinil had made.

‘Remember that, next festival night, Aragorn,’ said Luinil. Aragorn turned away slightly, and Luinil’s eyes widened.

‘Aragorn, surely…’ He stopped abruptly as Celinn kicked his ankle hard. ‘Ai! What was that for, Celinn? I was only going to say…’ Celinn gave him a powerful look, and he quailed beneath it. ‘I was only going to say that I hoped he would be here for Midsummer because I am sure there would be many who would wish to be his partner.’

Even in the firelight Aragorn’s blushes were clearly visible.

Fortunately at that moment Caranfir struck up another tune with the musicians, and everyone except Celinn and Aragorn leapt up to dance.

‘Take no heed of Luinil,’ said Celinn gently. ‘He did not mean to distress you.’

‘He did not distress me,’ said Aragorn in a muffled voice. There was a long pause. ‘It is just that…what he was about to say…he is right. I am…innocent. My brothers are always teasing me about it.’

‘Then you are most blessed, for all the pleasure of discovery is yet to come!’ said Celinn. ‘And if you are with us at festival time, you will find that Luinil is right. I promise you that you will not be short of partners.’

‘But…I am not bound. And…there is Arwen.’

‘Have you opened your heart to her?’

‘No.’ The word was barely a whisper.

‘Even if you had, we elves do not begrudge one another pleasure. Our lives are long and we are generous with one another. We do not think that one love or one giving of ourselves cancels out another.’

‘But I am not an elf,’ said Aragorn.

‘The blood of Numenor runs in your veins, and you were fostered at Imladris. You are so nearly an elf as makes no difference,’ said Celinn, smiling. ‘And love is love and pleasure is pleasure, no matter which form the One has given us. Make sure you are here at Midsummer, Aragorn, and you will see that love can be a joy and a completion, not a torment; a gift to be given and received.’

Aragorn nodded mutely, and Celinn patted him on the shoulder amicably.

Just then a shower of sparks flew up from the fire as someone threw another log on to it. In the sudden blaze of light, Celinn saw Gwirith looking at them from the shadows at the edge of the wood, and he was shocked to see that his face was twisted with grief.

*******

Author’s notes

In this chapter I wanted to explore why I love elves so much: because they seem to represent a kind of integration of mind/body/spirit and a union with nature that is so difficult to achieve from a human point of view, and of course they are beautiful, skilled warriors. I also wanted to show how the elves might feel about their hair as a kind of obvious and yet restrained sign of their bodily, sexual life.

In the context of this fantasy, it seems possible to imagine a world in which the fear and mistrust of the body is absent, and that the different ways of using it to show love and tenderness between those of the opposite or the same sex can be equally acceptable.

I am also very taken by the power of ritual to bring about powerful change, and the elemental symbols like air, water and stone, and the archetypal ones like Ulmo, the god of the waters. I thought the elves would find this natural and acceptable as a way of relating to what is unseen but beautiful and real.

The title of the story tries to encapsulate this integration, and is taken from FOTR, Ch 8, Farewell to Lorien, from the section where the Nine Walkers are given elvish cloaks, and when Pippin asks if they are magic cloaks, he is answered, ‘They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.’

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.

Story Information

Author: erynhith

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 07/13/08

Original Post: 06/04/04

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Playlists Featuring the Story

My Favorite Aragorn Stories - 25 stories - Owner: viggomaniac
A place to find the best stories about Aragorn in any of his many roles -- Estel, Thorongil, Aragorn, etc. I'm just getting started so expect to see a lot more stories here.
Included because: Wonderfully written tale of a young Aragorn coming to Lorien not long after being told of his heritage. The story is not completely Aragorn-centric but the other main character, the elf Cellin, has a fascinating story as well. Disturbing and erotic content within the story.

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