6. Meeting the In-Laws
To do honour to the bakers and cooks who must have been working the night through; the folk who had woven garlands of flowers; the musicians who performed unrehearsed; all the well wishers who came up to the High Table with words of welcome, Celeborn had to smile and seem carefree. So it was a relief when the formal greetings were done and the celebration deteriorated into a laughing riot of drinking and singing and making merry, with all intent on their own pursuits and no longer with an eye on him.
It was folly, he thought, resentfully, to suppose that Elmo must have become an orc. His grandfather was to him a memory of great kindness - a hand less heavy than Galadhon's, a friend untamed by the weight of care, always willing to assist in childish games, or hear his small concerns - and he had long refused even to imagine that mischievous but resolute spirit in Morgoth's hands. There were always other possibilities. He might indeed be lingering, ghostly, in Middle-earth. He might have escaped alive from Thangorodrim and be wandering the world, too scarred and scared to remember who or what he was. Unaware of the gazes on him, Celeborn shook his head, I will not cease to hope for him. Just as he did not cease to hope for Elu. The King returned, stronger and in greater bliss than before, so may his brother.
He felt rebuked by the thought, for Elmo had remained in Middle-earth, losing his chance of Valinor in order to find Elu, but Celeborn had not been so faithful. Daeron too was still outcast, journeying inconsolable in secrecy in Ennor. Would no one now continue the search for him? Would Celeborn wash his hands of them both and say 'enough. They may be my friends, my very blood, but I have had enough and will care no more?' He could not.
And what of the other houseless ones? Suppose by now many had repented of their decision to abandon their bodies. Suppose they now yearned for the chance of a new life in Valinor. Might not persuasion gather them in where mere summons had failed? He shook his head again, and Thingol laughed.
"There is some stubborn thought that irritates you as the whining of a fly. If you may not shake it out, have you tried speech?"
"I was wondering about Daeradar," Celeborn cursed himself as he watched the pain flick through Elu's storm grey eyes. It was no unfairness to Olwë to say that Elmo had been the more beloved of the two brothers - merely the truth. "Has Namo revealed nothing about the fate of orcs? Dying, do their fëar not come to him? And in time - cleansed of what they did not consent to - might they not also be rehoused as elves? So unjust it seems, else."
"Namo does not say," Melian, seeing their distress, smiled regretfully. "He has declared that the affairs of the dead are no concern of the living. Yet it may be so. They may come forth like Feanor, at the end of time, when all is made new. In Mandos even orcs might find healing, perhaps."
"You did not ask?"
"We did," she was stern at this suggestion they had not done enough, "We badgered the Doomsman without end, until he told us Elmo had not entered his halls, and was therefore outside his ken. And no more would he say, despite all our pleading. You are not the only one to care, kinsman."
"In this matter there is naught we can do but hope that our worst suspicions are one day proved wrong," said Thingol heavily, "And in the meantime go on with our duties. We are not the only family to have suffered such a loss, and for our people's sake we must be seen to bear it well. In appointing you to his place I prepare for the worst, but I nurture my faith in the best."
"I understand," Celeborn poured himself a bowlful of red berry soup and set the thoughts aside, concentrating on his task in this moment. Taking a pinch of aniseeds he looked out at the Iathrim, now regathered. Beleg Cuthalion was dancing there with a maiden whose Minyar-gold hair suggested she was one of Oropher's kin. She had indeed a look of Legolas; cousin, or niece, or daughter.
He sprinkled the seeds in his bowl. "Then will you not tell me what my duties are to be? From Amdir I gathered there was talk of war. Should I be training troops?"
"Amdir has many Avari in his following." Taking the cauldron, Elu ladled out a bowl of the soup for himself, stirring in extra cream, "and some ancestral bitterness remains there towards those who left them behind and long looked down on them." He snorted with amusement. "More resentment even than our own. Thus Amdir's thoughts on the Troubles represent an extreme. I am... hopeful... that it will not go so far. That we may sit down and talk together, emerging as friends. And to that end I am glad that you have returned now, for I have had need of you."
This was better news, Celeborn thought. It did not take lengthy pondering to see that - though any one of Elu's vassal-kings might serve him as a warlord - only he had long experience of working with the Noldor - understood how their minds worked, and was known to bear them no ill will; had indeed fought long beside them and wed into their King's house.
"Might not Cirdan have served you equally well," he said on an afterthought. "Or Elrond?"
"You are a hard man to compliment," Melian laughed, and rising took off her mantle in order to snag the hand of a passing reveller and be pulled into the dancing.
But Elu leaned forward and gave him a shrewd look. "I like and respect both," he said, "and trust them fully. But Cirdan has become far more a Teler now, looking as much to Olwe as to me. I do not begrudge him that - so long he yearned to sail and forebore for our sake. Yet my folk are Wood-elves at heart, and would not believe he spoke for them.
"Elrond, despite his lineage, inclines more toward the Noldor. Knowing this, he restrains himself and is too impartial for my tastes. I want a spokesman they will listen to, but who is yet bound by blood and passion to the Ennorim, to the Lindai, to my people. And that I know you are, Celeborn Gelaidh."
The nickname made him smile; 'Celeborn of the Trees'. It had first been given to him in scorn, by Celebrimbor, who could look at a grove of flowering cherries and see only charcoal for his forges. He thought it a very poor term of contempt, and had received it, even then, as an honour. But thought of Celebrimbor inevitably turned into memories of Galadriel. For she was root and stem of the gem-smith's dislike for him: the hatred of a spurned suitor for the successful.
"My lord," he said, after all this long waiting suddenly impatient. "While a division stands between myself and my wife, I will be of little use to you. It would be a poor heart, among the Noldor, that did not take the part of their slighted princess. Before I dared give advice to others, I should first repair the discord in my own house." His thoughts welled with her, with a near physical thirst to see her face again, whether in anger or in joy. Just to stand in the same room and watch the light on her hair... "With your leave I will go to her now. And - if you would aid me - it should be beneath your banner, with as showy an escort as can be mustered."
"Naturally," Thingol's eyes gleamed with dangerous humour, remembering perhaps the fell and spiteful words of the Sons of Feanor so long ago. "You shall not go to Finarfin's court as a poor relation. I will give you such an entourage that his sight will be darkened, from the dazzle. All who see you will conclude that you are the equal of any of his sons. My own pride demands no less."
"While I am there," Celeborn finished, "I will discover the truth about the Mirdain's secret works, and whether the Troubles go deeper than a few young idiots blinded by history and patriotism." And I will set in motion one or two small projects of my own, which I will ask permission for later; after I am assured they will work. "If I take Calandil with me, to teach me what I must know of Amanyar politics during the journey, is there any reason why I could not depart within a week?"
Elu laughed again. "For greatest splendour make it two, but I will not ask you to wait longer. Go and face the lightning while there is still some hope of you surviving it." He shed his cloak and stood, turning to the wheeling throng. "Go, and bring her home. Melian has missed her, and it is long past time."
Finarfin, King of the Noldor in Aman, turned a sapphire in his hand. Deepest blue, and - even to elvish eyes - apparently flawless, still his fingers could feel the small weakness in its heart which made it too fragile for Finrod's work. It was not, he thought, the only thing in this room poised on the brink of shattering.
Raising his head from contemplating the jewel he saw his wife, leaning out of the tower window as she might have leaned from a mast in the harbour, oblivious to height and danger. The wind made a river of her water-silver hair and plucked at her trailing, gold-lined cuffs, making them stream and snap in the air.
"They will not arrive faster for your hurling yourself from the window," he said in what was intended as a jocular tone. Even to his own ears it came out sounding peevish.
"I have ridden storms where the waves rose to the height of this room," Earwen snapped back at him, "I am perfectly capable of supporting myself on a ledge of unmoving stone."
In the corner of the solar, their daughter, who had cast aside the names they gave her and taken a new, foreign one, laughed bitterly over the small device of mithril she was examining. There was no shake in the hand which traced its subtleties, but her gaze was fierce and bleak. "I do not know why you are both so nervous," she said, her serenity marred by the slight tightening around her mouth. "Let the guard go out and turn them away, and have done with it."
Going to his wife's side, Finarfin sighed. Few who knew only his daughter's empathic grace, her gentleness and generosity, would suspect the streak of harmful stubbornness in her - the way she clung to hurt, though it all it achieved was to scar her. Had she not gone to Ennor in the first place largely to spite Feanor? So it seemed to be with this husband of hers; he had worn out his welcome, he had taken her for granted too long, and she intended that he should thoroughly know it.
Propping his chin on Earwen's shoulder, he looked down. Beneath their white walled house the path snaked, lined with avenues of olive and box trees, down the landscaped side of the green hill of Tuna. Through many gardens and arched walls, through courtyards of onyx and marble and obsidian, ringed with flowerbeds and ablaze with colour, down to the curtain wall, and thence into the glitter of Tirion. There the roofs were tiled with every shade of semi-precious stone, and the ridge-beams aflame with topaz and garnet.
His unknown son-in-law had brought an escort which filled the road from the street-gate to the very portico of the house. The vanguard had passed the third wall of the residence and were now trotting jauntily between the flowerbeds and fountains of the family garden. Among the warm and vibrant colours, they were a splash of cool brilliance. Caparisoned in cloth of silver, their unbridled horses snorted, restless, and tossed the gems wound into their manes in flashes of light, as though they had waded through Varda's stars. The clothes of the riders were of white and green, fresh and clean, and their eyes were the eyes of warriors. In conference with Elwë and his lords, Finarfin had long ago learned that no-one could part a Dark Elf from his knife, so he had no doubt each one of these guards of honour was armed. But, if it was so, the weapons were well hidden, and the mounted elves seemed as ready for peace as for war; a courtesy to Amanyar sensibilities that he had not expected from one so newly arrived.
At the head of the procession the standard of Thingol flew, dark as night and milk white as the moon, and behind it there streamed a banner - white and green as the livery - with the device of a silver tree. There, on a coal-black steed, rode Celeborn himself, his shining hair held by a circlet of gold - the only adornment of a severity which seemed out of place amid this vainglorious abundance of followers.
How should I feel, at the sight? Finarfin asked himself, aware that he was instinctively looking for something of which to disapprove. Here was the man who had stolen his only daughter, his little girl, and then abandoned and hurt her. By that standard he should feel, indeed, this swell of protective hatred. He should be - as he was - half hearkening to Artanis' wish to send the intruder on his way, dismissed and humiliated. No one could be worthy of her, least of all this dark elf, youngest of a line of youngest sons, unaware of how ridiculous his display of self importance was making him look.
At Earwen's gentle squeeze on his arm he started, surprised. There was a look of sympathetic reproach in her eyes, which made him unclench his teeth and essay an unconvincing smile. "Is not her fury," Earwen said, bending close to whisper out of the range of Galadriel's sharp hearing, "proof that she loves him deeply? If you value her weal, try not to frighten him away. Finrod has his happy ending, should we not hope for our daughter to now have hers?"
And she was right, as she so often was. There could be no doubt that this goading of her husband was pleasing to Artanis' pride, but not to her heart. She was as tense as a harpstring, and joyless. If the over-pretty princeling now riding into his house, in over-extravagant pomp, would make her happy, then he should be welcomed with as open arms as Finarfin could manage. He looked down again, and suiting his thoughts to his resolve, told himself that there was certainly no denying his son-in-law's nerve - to have defied Artanis so long, and be unafraid to face her even now. The show of power and prestige might be for Elwe's benefit, or indeed for Artanis' own - a demonstration to the people of her city that she had not married a nobody, that she was not belittled by her choice of husband. Some reason might lie behind it, he thought, grudgingly. But the banners were still a touch too far.
Behind Thingol's, and Celeborn's own banner, the host carried also a mist-grey pennant with a device of a lake beneath a canopy of leaves. A snowy standard all emblazoned in mithril, with hammer and anvil, and the star of Feanor amid two overarching beeches. An azure, wave-bright, on which a swan ship sailed. An emerald flag where a mallorn fluttered. The banner of Imladris; and several others behind that, their designs growing more opaque in meaning the longer he looked at them. Finarfin had heard enough of his daughter's history to recognize each device as that of a realm she had ruled beside her husband. The final few he must have established alone. But all were now left behind. Dead kingdoms; vanished glory.
"I thought you said he was not a vain man."
Galadriel risked a brief, tight glimpse out of the window. He knew she had seen her lover; for an instant she was shocked still, as if she had grasped a lightning strike. But a heartbeat later she was herself again, composed and amused. "He is not. His purpose is practical - to make it impossible for you to discreetly turn him away. He is not above using whatever weapon comes to hand." She breathed in, closed her eyes, and he would have said the emotion that flitted across her face was fear, but that his Artanis feared nothing. "Prove to him that you cannot be thus coerced, and refuse him audience. I do not wish to see him."
"Why ever not?" Earwen lost her patience. Her wide-set blue eyes darkened, and she pushed back the straight sleekness of her starlit hair from a face grown intently bright, "So many years you have yearned for his presence, and now you spurn it? I do not understand you."
"So many years, yes," said Galadriel angrily, but she did not sit down again, and her eyes strayed back to the window. "Has he not thoroughly proved that his love for me is a hundred times less than his care for Morgoth-marred Middle-earth? He came not because he wanted to, but because he could not escape death any other way. While he had any strength or endurance in him, he stayed away. How do you think that makes me feel?"
Irony caught Finarfin unawares, before he could prepare himself. He almost laughed; restrained himself only because he knew it was what Feanor would have done. The memory went beyond pain into a strange, eviscerating agony, too intense for reason. Do you say that to me, my daughter? You, who left me standing at the quayside and came not back for three Ages of the world? And at the thought, unexpectedly, unwelcomely, he found himself struck by a wave of sympathy for his son-in-law. I too know what it is like, to be left behind by Galadriel.
"Yet he is your husband," Earwen said inexorably, her slender hands tightening around the sill. "When I look into your eyes I perceive his spirit, joined with yours. You are no longer an isolate being, but part of him, and he of you."
"That may be so." Pointedly, Galadriel returned to her corner seat and took up her work again, keeping her head bent. "But still I do not want to see him."
Watching her, Finarfin was torn between pity and frustration. He moved to stroke the many tight braids of her hair, piled queenly on her head and aggressively pinned with rubies. "Well," he said, "if your Celeborn's purpose in such grandeur is to force my hand, then he has succeeded. He comes as Prince of Doreden, and to turn him away would be such an insult to Elu Thingol, in these troubled times, as could very well end in war. I must receive him, whether it is your wish or not."
They were now dismounting in the courtyard, and heralds were crying names. The clatter of hooves on marble sounded out, with the stable-boys' excited chatter; and Orodreth's deep, soft tones, greeting the new arrival as a friend long missed. A voice ringing with the unmistakable music of the Teleri answered, laughing, and Galadriel gasped and stood up, painfully rigid, her fists knotted into her skirts. "Then do so, if you must," she said, "but I will have no part of it. As surely he would know, if he only believed my words to Elladan. By your leave, my King."
Since she had couched her request in such terms, he contemplated ordering her to stay - to get the folly over with once and for all. Yet Artanis' mind could no more be forced by command than slate go in the fire without shattering. Her mother could sometimes shape her, as water can shape stone. But it was a long task and one for which he had no patience. He nodded therefore. "You have my leave, my noble maid. And I ask you not to resent your parents' curiosity about the father of their grandchildren, and forgive us."
The appeal made her smile, though her lips were white. "That will depend on whether you emerge from this meeting in league against me or not."
"I am not promising anything," Earwen smoothed her sky-blue sleeves primly, and watched her go with narrowed eyes. Exasperated with the pair of them, Finarfin sat down, and set his circlet on. At once his wife was before him, fussing over getting it straight, while taking the chance to stroke comforting fingers through the length of his hair. He breathed out at the touch and closed his eyes briefly, resting in the encirclement of her silk-clad slender arms.
"No interfering now, my lady. We do not even know if he was good to her. And it has been long since she needed our advice."
Shown in by Orodreth, Finarfin's problem son-by-marriage bowed with simple courtesy; far more hesitant than his massive entourage had led Finarfin to expect. Where he had thought to face a wall of Umanyar arrogance, he was taken aback to find something far more familiar. They stood, watching one another, and in a moment of profound and working silence what struck the king most was recognition. As masculine as he was, from the mithril hair to the elegance of his bones, Celeborn resembled Earwen.
Of course, Finarfin thought, though the realization had no flavour of 'of course' about it - more of astonishment. He is her cousin.
It had been a meaningless datum, a strange genealogical twist, that in plunging into the darkness of Endorë Galadriel should have met and married a blood-kinsman. One of those curious facts which briefly amuses before the mind travels to more important things. But now, the likeness played upon Finarfin's imagination. He saw Artanis - her certainties and supports cut away from her by the brutal murder of her grandfather, the madness of her family - alone in a hostile land, where even the song of the stones beneath her feet was in a foreign tongue. Did she cleave to Celeborn because he reminded her of home? Did she see in that face some promise of single-minded love, like a mother's unquestioning devotion to their child? If so, he could not help feeling sorry for the younger elf - to be loved because you looked like someone else, and worse, someone whose role was of unmixed support, unremitting forgiveness and kindness. To be cast aside, unneeded, when the original of that love was once more at hand... It would be a hard thing to bear.
"I hardly know what to say," Celeborn smiled, "since my staying away so long has made even politeness into an insult. It is good of you to see me at all."
But no one looking beyond the physical could have confused the two of them, Finarfin decided; for Earwen was sunlight on the waves, changeable but as clear as clean water. This man was all shadow - the moving shade and coolness of trees. One could not see what was going on in his mind, until speech broke the canopy of his thought, startling as a flight of hawks.
"I was not left with much choice," he said, annoyed at being thanked for something which he had been forced to do. Hostility threatened to break the bounds of his restraint. Forcibly he told himself to stop at that, and bite back the accusation of hypocrisy.
"But you would have been welcomed regardless;" Earwen broke in, with what seemed genuine pleasure, "for Celebrian's sake, and Amroth's, and their children. Quite apart from the fact that you are of my own family."
"Some would say that all of these things I have forfeited by too profound an absence," said Celeborn, ruefully, and sat, taking off his riding gloves and tucking them into his belt.
'Some' being Galadriel, Finarfin recognized. So her husband thought as she did, even in this. Was he then happy to take all her opinions before his own? Passive except in offering admiration? There were times he had feared his daughter might choose a worshipper, rather than a partner, in her marriage. It would be characteristic, but it would not be good for her. Was that why Artanis would not see him? Because he was a youthful folly of which she in her maturity now repented, no longer needing empty praise, unearned agreement?
He caught Earwen's glare, and again his heart spoke against itself, soothed and rebuked by her motherly wisdom. "I have known what it was," he offered, surprising himself once more with fellow feeling, "to see those I loved depart from me and to turn back because of duties owed. I cannot fault you for doing the same." Was it possible that in Celeborn Artanis saw also some reflection of her father - his integrity, his willingness to turn from paths of destruction and ask for forgiveness? It had taken her many years, on returning, to forgive him too.
Well, he wanted to see her happy, but not with a sycophant, not with a husband who was a mere embarrassment to her. If this Swan-Lord had the wit to win her back, if she had the heart to accept him again, then so be it. He would neither help nor hinder.
"But my daughter's forgiveness is not so easily obtained," he said, sternly. "Your tardiness has wounded her greatly, and she will not now receive you. I fear your journey has been in vain."
He expected protest; some change at the very least in the shadows of those verdant eyes, so strangely dark. Surprise, surely? But there was nothing, save perhaps the steady interest of a chess player, who sees a long foreseen move played out. His own interest was piqued. Was this a more even match than he had suspected?
"Lord," Celeborn laughed quietly, "Your daughter is as the North Star in my sky - the centre about which my world revolves. But I am not such a fool as to think her a liar. She said she would not see me, therefore she will not. The sight of her would be as rain to me after ten thousand years of drought, but nevertheless - respecting her wishes - I did not come to see her. Let my presence not trouble her in any way. For I came to see Finrod."
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.