13. Riddles in the Dark, Answers in the Light
Despite the warmth of the bright sun overheard, Peregrin Took wrapped his cloak firmly about himself and shivered. He stood knee-deep in a mist of darkness, and its disorienting chill was enough to dim the afternoon sun. His pony had refused to enter this flowing shadow and Pippin had whole-heartedly agreed with the horse’s sentiments, but the elves, Aragorn, and Gimli were pressing forward and Pippin wasn’t about to be left behind. True, all of the men of Gondor had stayed behind with the horses at Aragorn’s insistence—though Imhran had protested somewhat over this—and there would have been little shame if Pippin had elected to stay with them. Like the Gondorrim, he could not move about in the trees to escape the darkness and was forced to endure it without hope of relief. But the Took refused to stay. He had fought against being left behind far too often in the past to lose the battle now. Besides, Merry was somewhere beyond the darkness, and were their places exchanged, the Brandybuck wouldn’t hesitate a bit about braving the shadows for Pippin’s sake.
"We’re coming, Merry," Pippin promised, his voice soft as he stared into the surrounding forest and tried not to imagine all the types of creatures that might be lurking in the darkness. Aside from the cold, that was another problem with these swirling shadows. They had a tendency to play tricks on the mind. It was actually a very strange mist when one took the time to analyze it, and having nothing better to do, Pippin had analyzed it several times over. It was not something that one could physically feel. There was no sensation of touch as one walked through it. It was as an intangible shadow wholly within the realm of the mind. It made the day cold and dark as well as bewildering and confusing the thoughts of all who touched it, but the dark mist itself seemed to lack substance.
"I don’t fancy the pickle we’ve landed ourselves in now, Pippin," a voice at his side growled, and Pippin looked over as he was joined by a shivering Sam. "Strider and Elladan don’t seem to be making any headway, and this shadow, or whatever it is, can’t be good for us."
"Orophin offered to take us up into the trees if it became too bad," Pippin said, glancing around for the warden of Lothlórien.
"What good will that do us?" Sam asked. "In the trees or on the ground, it’s all the same. We’re just baggage, Pippin. We’re not doing them any good."
The Took frowned and turned to his companion, studying the other hobbit carefully. "Didn’t Rosie tell you something like that before you left? She said you wouldn’t be able to do anything here. But that didn’t stop you back at Rivendell. What’s wrong now?"
Sam’s mouth tightened into a thin line, but he made no answer and instead turned away, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.
"Sam?" Pippin prompted.
"I don’t know, Pippin," the other hobbit finally whispered. "I just feel…I don’t rightly know how I feel. But…"
"But you don’t like feeling helpless, and that’s how you feel right now," Pippin finished for him with a sigh. "I know exactly what you’re going through. I’m going through it, too. But Sam, if we head back to Rivendell, it’s a sure thing that Strider won’t send for us when it comes time to do battle. This is the only way we can be involved. We just have to wait for something to happen, and when that something does happen, we won’t be useless anymore." A feeling of rage powerful enough to blot out the shadows took Pippin’s heart, and he smote the hilt of his sword. "By the Shire, those Orcs will be sorry they ever thought about touching Merry! I swear it on the blood of all the Tooks!"
Sam looked up quickly, apparently startled by Pippin’s harsh tone, but he nodded slowly. "You’re right, Pippin, and I think that, deep down, I always knew that. But that doesn’t change how I’m feeling. And it doesn’t help, either."
"Maybe it’s this darkness," Pippin said, feeling some of his anger drain away at Sam’s words. He glanced at the mists swirling around their feet and shuddered slightly, feeling the disorienting chill creep back over his mind. "Should we ask Orophin about that tree now? We can stay there until Strider and Elladan figure out which way to go next."
"It would probably be for the best," Sam said with some reluctance.
"Right." Pippin turned his eyes upward, searching the leaves overhead for a sign of Orophin. Or any elf he knew, for that matter. Almost without exception, all of the elves were somewhere up in the trees for the darkness seemed to have a draining affect on them. Gimli had expressed no discomfort and Aragorn was too busy tracking the illusive Orc trail to complain about anything, but the elves were clearly uncomfortable on the ground with the swirling shadows. As any sane being should be, Pippin thought to himself, still searching the trees. "Orophin?" he called out after a moment, deciding that looking for a particular elf was rather fruitless because at the moment he couldn’t see any of them.
There was a murmur of movement above them, so faint as to be just on the edge of hobbit senses, and then Orophin and Haldir dropped to a low branch just over the heads of the hobbits. "Greetings, Master Peregrin," Orophin greeted, and Haldir inclined his head by way of acknowledgement. "Is there aught I may do for you?"
"Sam and I were wondering if we could take you up on that tree offer," Pippin said. "This darkness is getting to be a bit much for us."
"Of course, my friends," Orophin immediately said. "Haldir, have you any rope?"
Orophin’s brother arched one delicate eyebrow and cocked his head to the side. "As you can plainly see, I have naught by my bow and quiver with me."
"You did not bring some on the horses?" Orophin asked.
"I did not see a use for it," Haldir replied. "And if I had, the rope would currently be back with the horses beyond this unnatural shadow."
Orophin sighed, glanced around the trees, and then looked back down at the hobbits. "Then I suppose we shall have to do this ourselves."
"I cannot carry two hobbits into the trees by myself," Orophin reasoned, and without waiting for a response from his startled brother, the elf leaped off the branch and landed in a low crouch next to Sam. He shivered and hissed at the darkness that seemed to cling to his being, but his focus remained on the hobbits. "Come, then. I shall carry Master Samwise and Haldir shall take Master Peregrin."
Haldir murmured something rather unsavory about this arrangement in Sindarin, but as Orophin had already picked Sam up and leaped onto the lowest branch he could find, there was little Haldir could do about the situation. With what Pippin assumed to be some kind of a curse, Haldir let himself down off his branch and landed silently next to the Took.
"Let us finish this ordeal quickly," he muttered, his eyes darting about the forest floor. "This darkness is not natural, and I have no wish to endure it."
"I couldn’t have said it better myself," Pippin answered, hastily clambering onto Haldir’s back. "All settled here."
"Good." And at that word, Haldir launched himself back into the trees. For a brief moment, Pippin felt as though he was flying, and then leaves were dancing past his face. Closing his eyes and tightening his hold on Haldir’s neck, he sighed as he felt darkness flee his body to be replaced by the light of the elves.
Pippin opened his eyes and looked over at Sam, who was propped between two branches and clutching the thick limbs with all the strength in his body. "Comfortable?" Pippin asked innocently.
"Down you go, Master Peregrin," Haldir instructed, kneeling so that the hobbit might place his feet upon the branch. "I advise you to stay here, for I have no wish to retrieve you again."
"Thank you," Pippin said, transferring from Haldir’s back to the tree. A moment of vertigo took him, but he caught himself and forced several calming breaths into his lungs. "That foggy mist down there…well, it isn’t good to stand in for too long."
"I understand all too well, young one," Haldir said. "Let us hope, though, that your dwarven friend may endure it. For if he wishes to seek refuge in the trees, he shall have to do so on his own. I refuse to assist a dwarf in such a manner."
"Do you fear that your strength might fail you in such an attempt?" Orophin asked, a teasing smile upon his lips.
"Dwarves do not belong among trees," Haldir said sharply, his eyes flashing slightly. "And it is only by King Elessar’s good will, as well as the good will of Lord Elrohir and Lord Elladan, that he is here."
"Lord Celeborn holds no quarrel with Gimli," Orophin pointed out as Pippin attempted to cement his balance so that he might participate in this conversation. "And he was favored by the Lady ere she passed over the sea."
"You are too young to understand, brother," Haldir said.
"And you are too old to change."
Pippin had to stifle a laugh at that particular statement. It was actually something he’d heard Gimli say to Legolas once when they were discussing the merits of pipe-weed. Or rather, Gimli had been discussing the merits and Legolas had been informing the dwarf as to all its disadvantages. As Pippin remembered, it had been one of their more entertaining debates and had ultimately resulted in a room full of smoke from Gimli’s pipe. Arwen had protested rather emphatically, fearful that the smoke might linger into their wedding day, and Aragorn had ordered all the windows in the citadel to be opened.
"Begging your pardon," Sam interrupted, still clinging tightly to the tree’s branches, "but Gimli’s been a good friend to me as long as I’ve known him, and if Legolas were here, he’d tell you the same. There’s no call to be putting him down just because he’s a dwarf."
"Sam speaks for me, too," Pippin said, finally getting his balance. "Gimli was one of the Fellowship, and he’s just as much a hero as Strider and Gandalf."
For a moment, there was silence in the trees, and then Haldir said something in Sindarin and left, vanishing into the foliage as if he were a part of it. Orophin watched him go with something akin to sadness and then shook his head. "My apologies, on his behalf," the elf said at length with a sorrowful sigh. "He and Rúmil like not the changes that have come upon this world. The time of our people is ending, but they cannot accept it."
"What about you?" Pippin heard himself asking ere he could stop his words.
Fortunately, Orophin found the question amusing rather than offending. "What of me?" he echoed, a small smile finding its way onto his face. "Verily, that is the question each much ask, I fear. For myself, I would see the elves keep their honor and depart in peace, though some of us will linger as long as we are able. The woods of Lothlórien and southern Greenwood are fair and great, and I would not leave them yet. But the years are passing quickly now, and all things must wear to an end. It will be a hard ending for the elves." Orophin fell silent, his eyes vacant. "There are some who believe that elves may learn to live among men. Prince Legolas is among these. His father, by contrast, is one who believes that elves may remain secluded and yet still carry with them the power of times long past. I know not if either is right, but for those of us who dwell in Lothlórien, I fear our only choice is to pass over the sea. The time is coming, and no act of ours shall hasten or delay its arrival."
"I’m sorry," Sam whispered, watching the elf with sympathetic eyes.
Orophin laughed, his somber mood vanishing as quickly as it had come. "Nay, there is nothing for which you must be sorry, little one. The time of the elves has been great, and many deeds, both wondrous and grievous, have we done. It is now your time, the time of the mortals. But I fear I must leave you now, for I have duties to Lord Elladan and King Elessar. If you have need of aught, call." And with this, the elf turned and left, following the path of his brother and vanishing from mortal sight.
For a moment, there was an awkward silence, and then Sam sighed. "Now what?"
"What do you mean?" Pippin asked.
"We’re in a tree!" Sam exclaimed as though that would explain everything.
"You wanted to be in a tree. We’re not wading through that stuff down there," Pippin said, gesturing to the ground.
"I don’t know as this is any better," Sam grumbled, wrapping his arms tighter about his branch.
Pippin rolled his eyes and was about to say something about the mushrooms being bigger in someone else’s field, but a sharp whistle caught his attention first. Jerking his head around and almost falling in the process, he soon heard other whistles and then the unmistakable whine of flying arrows.
"Orophin!" he cried.
"Peace, little ones!" Orophin was suddenly back on their branch, his bow in his hand and one arrow already notched. "Orcs have come upon us, but we did not sense them until now. This darkness has clouded our minds and diminished our senses. Yet fear nor. We shall drive them. Await my return!" Orophin suddenly loosed an arrow and then leaped away. Below them, five Orcs suddenly surged forward, three of them falling with arrows embedded in their necks.
"I had hoped to never see one of those again," Sam whispered.
"Steady, Sam," Pippin encouraged, watching the battle closely. A few of the Orcs had realized that most of their adversaries were hidden in the trees and were now attempting to climb, but swift elven arrows were making short work of them. Others, though, had found prey upon the ground. To Pippin’s dismay, a dwarf suddenly stumbled into view, his axe stained with the foul blood of mountain goblins. Four Orcs followed him, surrounding the dwarf and advancing slowly. Before he even realized what he was doing, Pippin let go of his branch and landed awkwardly outside the circle.
"For Merry!" he cried, lunging forward and neatly dispatching the closest Orc. Taken by surprise, the Orc’s comrades turned to see what this new threat was, giving Gimli the chance to slay the rest of them.
"Pippin!" the dwarf roared as he relieved the last Orc of its head with one furious swing of his axe. "Pippin, this is the same foolish behavior that landed Merry in the hands of these beasts!"
Pippin’s blood boiled and he turned raging eyes upon Gimli even as his short sword caught a new advancing Orc in the stomach. "Merry and I were coming to save you and Legolas, and in that we were only doing what you would have in our place. I would rather face an army of darkness than the knowledge that I abandoned my friends. I could not leave you then, and I will not leave you now!"
The dwarf swore loudly in his own tongue but there was naught he could do about the situation. "Stand at my back," he finally said. "But stand not too close or you might feel my axe if a swing goes awry."
"Where is Aragorn?" Pippin asked.
"I was forced away from him," Gimli spat. "The Orcs swept us apart. Nor could Elrohir stand at his side, for Elladan was succumbing to the darkness of this mist. Before the Orcs attacked, Aragorn was trying to convince him to take shelter in the trees. Pippin, back!"
The dwarf’s startled order took Pippin by surprise, and he hastily moved out of Gimli’s way as three Orcs converged on the dwarf. A rush of anger took him and thoughts of vengeance on Merry’s behalf clouded his hobbit sense of self-preservation. With a cry that was more akin to a fierce knight of Gondor than a simple hobbit of the Shire, Pippin threw himself into battle, killing one of the Orcs but also earning himself a blow to the head by another that knocked him several yards away.
With his ears ringing, Pippin staggered to his feet and looked for Gimli only to discover that he had larger problems. Two more Orcs had been pressed their way and were now converging on the hobbit. Backing away quickly to prevent them from flanking him, Pippin brandished his sword and tried to swallow his sudden fear. A yell from above arrested his attention and with astonished eyes, Pippin looked upward as Sam came dropping out of a tree and landed on the back of one of the Orcs. Elven arrows suddenly sprouted in the chest of the other Orc while the blue-flamed Sting finished Sam’s enemy.
"What are you doing down here?" Pippin demanded after he recovered from his initial surprise.
"I’ll have you know that I’m asking myself the same question," Sam answered with a glare. "At least now I know that I was right when I told Rosie that you needed looking after. You’re nearly as bad as Mr. Frodo!"
"I was saving Pippin, Gimli," Sam yelled back at the dwarf, his eyes smoldering. "So you needn’t lecture me on taking precautions. It’s Pippin as needs your lecture."
The dwarf rolled his eyes and shook his head, mumbling something about hobbits behaving like elves, but the words were quiet enough that Pippin couldn’t quite catch them. Nor was he given the chance to question Gimli, for Orophin and Rúmil dropped into view above them.
"The Orcs are in retreat," Orophin reported while Rúmil looked restlessly to the east. "Those you slew here were among the last. Our forces are attempting to follow, but the darkness is making it difficult. Senses dull and confusion sets in when we draw too far from one another. I wonder if the fact that we are in a group somehow lessens the power of the shadows, for surely it must be difficult to prey upon the light of so many elves when they are gathered together."
"Group or no group, the darkness has still dealt us a grievous blow," Rúmil said quietly. "We should have been able to follow those last Orcs and so shorten the chase. But perhaps that would not have aided us, for the trail that Lord Elladan and King Elessar were following is not the direction in which these Orcs retreated. And judging from what we have already seen, I suspect they seek to lead us away from the true goal." The elf swore quietly and then muttered something to his brother in Sindarin before leaping back up into the foliage and hastening away. Pippin had no idea what Rúmil had said, but apparently Gimli did, for the dwarf stiffened as though he had been struck and turned dark eyes toward the place where Rúmil had disappeared.
"My apologies, Master Dwarf," Orophin murmured, moving further out on his limb until he was directly over Gimli. "He did not mean it."
"And know you the intents of your brother better than he?" Gimli demanded, rounding on the elf. Orophin winced slightly but met the dwarf’s glare with a calm that reminded Pippin instantly of Legolas when he was set on proving something to Gimli. And this calm seemed to work, for Gimli eventually dropped his eyes and sighed. "My apologies in return, Orophin. My anger was not meant for you."
"I know that well, Gimli son of Glóin, and I know also the reason for your anger," the elf said, his words soft as he tried to convey comfort. "You have no fault in my eyes, and Legolas is fortunate to have such a friend as you, elvellon."
Gimli froze at this and blinked. "Very few elves call me by that title," the dwarf said slowly. "Are you certain you do not err in this?"
"Legolas named you elvellon, did he not? I met the prince once while the Fellowship of the Ring was yet whole, and I judged him to be an elf with a sound mind and a good heart. If he elects to name you elvellon, then elvellon you shall be, and no prejudices of the older elves shall stand in the way. Have hope, Gimli, son of Glóin. If I, an elf of Lothlórien, can come to accept a dwarf as a friend, then favor and fortune are still at work in the world." And with these words, Orophin gave them all a bow and leaped higher into the trees, following his brother.
"What was that all about?" Pippin asked, his brow furrowed with confusion.
"Elvellon means elf-friend, doesn’t it?" Sam said.
"Yes, it does," Gimli murmured. He stood silent for a moment and Pippin wondered what he had missed in the conversation, but the dwarf gave him no chance to ponder on it. "Come," Gimli said roughly, securing his axe in his belt. "Let us see how Aragorn and the others fare. And if there are more Orcs to be had, then I wish to be present."
* * * *
Cloaked in a darkness so thick it might well serve as a covering, the Mouth of Sauron leaned against a cave wall and sighed. The surviving Orcs from the most recent attack had reported in. Their loss to the search party was truly no surprise, for the simple mountain goblins stood no chance against vengeful elves on the hunt. In addition to this, there were not enough Uruk-hai to make up for the weak skills of the mountain Orcs, and the Orcs from Mordor were needed here in the caves to help with the prisoners. Thus, the attack had consisted of many incapable Orcs and a few enraged Isengard half-breeds. Defeat was expected, and the Mouth of Sauron would have been shocked if his forces had actually bested the elves.
What was surprising, however, was just how far the Rivendell search party had penetrated into the darkness he had placed to serve as a hindrance. There were elves that had lived through the Second Age in Imladris, and it had really only been a matter of time until they recognized the sorcerer’s trick that had blocked the trail of the Orcs. But the Mouth of Sauron had not anticipated that they would recognize it so quickly, nor had he expected the elves to make so much progress in following the trail. Clearly there were trackers of great skill and perception at work, and it did not take much to hazard a guess as to whom those trackers might be.
Aragorn, naturally, for there were rumors and legends of his talents as a Ranger in addition to his known leadership abilities and skills as a ruler of Gondor. And beyond Aragorn, the Mouth of Sauron strongly suspected that Elrohir and Elladan, Elrond’s sons, were somehow involved in tracking the Orcs. They had spent much time riding with the Rangers, and centuries of tracking lent itself to great gifts and talents in that area. In addition to this, Elladan seemed to have inherited his father’s gift of foresight, making a more dangerous adversary at the same time it rendered him susceptible to more subtle attacks of darkness.
Then, of course, there was King Thranduil who had somehow managed to maintain an elven homeland without an Elven Ring to aid him. The Mouth of Sauron shook his head in disgust. For long it had been suspected by some of the Nazgul that one of the Three lay hidden in Mirkwood, for surely a kingdom of elves bereft of a Ring would be unable to stand against Sauron. Yet their suspicions had all been proven false, and unaided, Thranduil had held Dol Guldur at bay long enough for Lothlórien to intervene. That ability said much of Thranduil’s skills, and he would be an asset in trailing the Orcs through the shadows for he knew what it was like to live on the boundary of darkness. So perhaps, with all these skills combining behind a common purpose, it should not have been such a surprise that the searchers were quite far along the trail. But it had still not been anticipated, and as such, it was going to create problems.
The Mouth of Sauron rubbed his brow and tried to calculate how much time was left to him for preparing the prisoners. Much now depended upon the heir of Isildur and the lords of Rivendell, but the former lieutenant of Barad-dûr did not know enough of their abilities to hazard a reliable guess. Would that I had learned more of them and their gifts, he sighed, at the same time knowing that such a thing would have been nigh unto impossible. He had waited as long as he was able, studying out the movements and policies of all his enemies, but the Orcs beneath him had grown restless for vengeance with each passing day. Even their fear of him would not hold them at bay forever, nor would there be another gathering of powerful elven lords and Fellowship members for quite some time. He’d been forced to act before acquiring all the information needed, and it was now pressing his timetable together.
But the process cannot be rushed, he moaned silently. The transition between prevention and compulsion is not one that can be hastened. Yet if I am unable to completely infect their minds, this attempt will be for naught.
The Mouth of Sauron was used to taking gambles. Living in the same tower as Sauron was a gamble in and of itself, and the man who no longer remembered his name had grown accustomed to the risks associated with prolonged exposure to a temperamental necromancer equipped with an all-seeing eye. Yet now, the risks were slightly different. His plan was a last, desperate gamble to seek vengeance for Lord Sauron’s fall and hopefully reestablish the power and prestige of Mordor. This latter was a dim and rather unattainable goal, but the powers of darkness were ever hopeful and ever optimistic. Not for nothing had evil survived in direct opposition to the wishes and policies of the greatest Valar, and there was always an inkling of hope that evil would continue to survive in all its dark glory and power.
The Mouth of Sauron reluctantly roused himself from his mental meditations and turned his attention to the outside world. "You have something to report?" he said, his cold voice seeming to lower the temperature of the room.
The Orc standing before him cringed and took a shuffling step back while nodding hastily. "I was to tell you, master, that the prisoners are nearing the main tunnels. Within an hour, they shall be in sight of the outside world. And the sun will still be out."
Raising an eyebrow at this last statement, the Mouth of Sauron stayed silent and studied the poor Orc until the creature was nearly writhing before him. "And you would refuse to follow them into sunlight should the darkness prove incapable of holding them?"
"No, we follow your orders alone!" the Orc exclaimed, his voice gravelly with forced submission.
"See that you remember it," the Mouth of Sauron said quietly. "Come, then. I will personally mark their progress and hopefully hasten the shadows within. As for you, gather the fifth regiment of Uruk-hai and send them forth to guard the entrance. If the prisoners manage to somehow fight against us, there will be no escape for them."
The Orc nodded, sketched an awkward bow, and hurriedly left. The Mouth of Sauron watched until the creature vanished into one of the off-shooting tunnels, and then he stirred himself and turned. It was beginning to look as though the prisoners would have to be rushed through the rest of their training, though what consequences that would have, the Mouth of Sauron could not say. He had never been forced to hasten this particular process, and he feared what might be the result. He could easily lose both elf and hobbit to death, or their minds might not be completely turned, leaving the way open for rebellion and dissension. Still, it was a risk that could not be avoided, and a gamble that had to be taken. With a sigh and a shake of his head, the Mouth of Sauron shook the last vestiges of tension and worry from his frame and turned his mind to the wanderings of an elf and a hobbit as they stumbled through the darkness of an Orc stronghold.
* * * *
Celeborn sighed and turned over a dusty page in his thick volume of history from the middle of the First Age. On the other side of the table, Arwen was engrossed in a scroll that looked as though it had something to do with the fall of Anárion. From all sides of history we come at this, yet we are no closer to learning what must be learned. Arwen was right. This search is endless.
Arwen had actually been right about several things. This search was entirely out of character for the Lord of Lothlórien. He did not randomly peruse texts for answers but pondered out the problem, meditated upon it, and then devised logical solutions. Only when he had established a clear set of possibilities did he turn to the books. He had been the balance to Galadriel’s intuition, and together, with the aid of instinct and intellect, they had been able to defend Lothlórien from both the minions of Dol Guldur and the darkness of Mordor.
But now all that had changed. Perhaps he was compensating for the fact that Galadriel was not beside him. Perhaps he had simply lived in Middle Earth for too long and had lost his sanity. Perhaps he had become too reliant upon Nenya in serving as a temporary wall against evil while he searched for a more conventional means of defying Sauron, and he sought to overcome that reliance by speeding up the process. Perhaps it was a combination of all these things, but whatever the case, Celeborn now found himself driven to search the records of history.
It was not as if he searched completely without a purpose or goal, though. He did have an inkling of what to look for, but it was little more than that. In truth, it was actually just a nagging feeling that this had happened before. The entire situation seemed painfully familiar, but for the life of him, the lord of Lothlórien could not fathom why. He did not remember encountering similar circumstances in the past, yet this strange feeling persisted and was most insistent that he had indeed come across this before. Sometime during the course of his long life—a live that spanned Ages—Celeborn had either been faced with these same circumstances or had been brought tidings concerning this. And with each passing moment this feeling neither diminished nor left him, leaving him to conclude that his instincts were right and that he must follow their promptings.
Yet how am I so certain when I cannot even remember the details regarding the event?! The Lord of Lothlórien rubbed his face and shook his head. Even if he was following an instinct, he was coming to the realization that he could not simply chase it as Galadriel might have. He would have to go about this his own way, and that required sifting through this strange feeling and discovering something of its source. Very well, then. Let me first narrow the search. During what time might I have witnessed these events or heard of something similar taking place?
Celeborn leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, his brow creased in thought as he began to tick off dates in his memory. It would not have been during the Third Age; I believe that to be a safe assumption. There are enough elves about who would have also remembered if something similar to this had happened in the recent past. That leaves the Second Age, the First Age, and the years during the Ages of Stars.
Celeborn sighed, unused to working with vague hunches and uncertain guesses. It was not during the Ages of Stars, he eventually decided. It seems to me that Galadriel stood at my side when we faced either this situation or the tidings regarding this situation. Nor do I think it happened in the First Age. Celeborn rubbed at his temples as intuition began to take hold again, and the Lord of Lothlórien decided to simply let his mind wander over the span of time until something started to click. It was a completely unprecedented move for him, but having watched Galadriel do something akin to this many times in the past, he decided it couldn’t hurt to at least make the attempt. After the First Age, then. This leaves only the Second Age to search.
Celeborn shook his head and groaned within himself. Only the Second Age? By the Valar, such a search may still take several lifetimes. But there was naught to be done about it, and Celeborn was now getting the feeling that whatever he was trying to remember had indeed taken place during the Second Age. Once again, he could not pinpoint the origin of this feeling, but it refused to leave him alone. Very well then, I shall search my memory of the Second Age, he acquiesced, wondering briefly where his sanity had gone. The Second Age…would this have happened before or after our move into Eregion? Celeborn considered that for a moment. It was after we settled Eregion, he decided. There was much turmoil and upheaval in the beginning of the Second Age, but I do not think that circumstances such as these ever reached my knowledge. After Eregion, then. In fact, I believe this to have happened after Hollin and Celebrimbor…after Moria, too…after Tar-Minastir and the fleet of Númenórean ships… after Imladris was established as the new elven stronghold in Eriador…even after the first appearance of the Ringwraiths…
It was as if a voice had spoken to him, and Celeborn jerked his head up, half expecting to find that someone else had managed to enter the library and take him unawares. But he saw naught except for the top of Arwen’s head as she studied a new collection of scrolls that illustrated the founding of Eregion. Yet Celeborn was quite sure that he had not found the answer to his quandary himself.
I wonder…Hesitantly, with eyes narrowed in suspicion and the beginnings of a wild but desperate hope growing within his heart, he loosed his senses and allowed his mind to momentarily drift away from Middle Earth. And floating just beyond his reach in the ethereal world of elven dreams, he caught a flash of golden hair that would put to shame any metal crafted by man or dwarf. And to his ears came the sound of rich laughter that had been all too rare in Middle Earth.
Ah, Galadriel, he thought blissfully, returning to himself and slowly shaking his mind out of his daze. Your spirit is always present in my heart, and I thank you for now gracing my dreams as well. Belfalas it is, then.
With no small amount of effort, Celeborn managed to take his thoughts away from his wife and turn them again to the problem at hand, feeling much better now that he had more of a concrete idea with which to work. He cycled his memory back to the latter half of the Second Age when he and Galadriel had left Rivendell and moved to Belfalas, settling an area that would eventually be known as Dol Amroth. What had happened during their stay there that might be likened to their current situation? After a moment of further meditation, Celeborn eliminated the possibility that his feeling of familiarity might stem from an event that had happened at Belfalas itself, which meant that he must have heard about something happening elsewhere.
What was Gil-galad doing in Lindon at this time? Nay, I think it was not he, for I just reviewed his personally history as recorded by Glorfindel, and I saw nothing in it that triggered my memory. What of Elrond in Rivendell, then? Or Amroth? Valar, for all I know, Oropher and Thranduil might have been playing with some shadow or another in the Misty Mountains. They always were doing something odd with the Orcs there. Or perhaps the darkness came not from them but from Moria, or Umbar, or Harad, or even Valinor! Perhaps it…
Celeborn suddenly stopped, blinking with sudden realization as pieces of the puzzle seemed to tumble into place. Or even Valinor…
He glanced down at the books before him, eyes narrowing as intuition hardened itself into something akin to certainty. With new resolve, the Lord of Lothlórien pushed most of the books aside and then selected a series of manuscripts that lay beside his chair. His guess was still only a guess, and it needed to be validated ere he would feel comfortable acting upon it. But it was a guess that made sense, and more than that, his instincts were crying out that here at last were the answers he sought. And that was enough for Celeborn. More research was required, more books would have to be sought, but it was a beginning. It was a start. And at this point in the game, that was all that mattered.
Author’s Notes: Me again, stopping in to explain something I used in this chapter as well as to answer a few questions that popped up concerning the last chapter. Ready? Here we go!
There seem to be as many stories concerning the lives of Galadriel and Celeborn as there are names for Aragorn. As such, I’ve gone with what seems to me to be the most plausible story of their background and run with it. My assumption is that Galadriel did not meet Celeborn until after the Age of Stars, lived in both Hollin and Rivendell, and settled Belfalas during the last years of Númenor. Hope that explains any vague references that Celeborn used.
Now on to the questions. The reference in Chapter 12 to Legolas’s only venture into an Orc cave has no basis in canon and is actually a reminder for me to include it in a story that’s been zinging around the back of my head lately. It will be some time before this story ever sees the light of day, but…yeah. That’s what where the reference came from. It’s a pre-LotR story that involves most of the characters on a very distant, detached basis. Odd and it’s going to give me trouble, but…right. That’s all about that.
Next, huge thanks for all the encouragement on the Arabic class. I’m happy to report that it’s done now, the class was taken partially because of school and partially because of my masochistic tendencies, and I now have an entirely new respect for all people attempting to learn a foreign language. Anyway, as soon as I recover some of my lost and scattered sanity, updates should begin to pick up. Give me a chance to unwind first, though.
As for what to call the Mouth of Sauron…in my outline I’ve been calling him Mouth. ;) It is VERY difficult to keep writing out "Mouth of Sauron." Somebody should have given that guy a name!
And that’s all for now. Once again, huge thanks for the reviews, the encouragement, the critiques, the questions, and the ability to wait while I slaughter myself in an Arabic class. Hope you enjoy this chapter!
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.