19. Caras Galadhon
We had reached a great circle of level ground covered in emerald green grass, which glowed in the last pale golden light of an early spring sunset. But in the still pale sky, already the first stars were rising as bright pinpricks of gold and silver.
At the centre of the plains a great green hill rose up, surrounded by a moat and high walls, which shimmered as green as the grass of the meadows before us. Upon the hill mellyrn were growing that were even larger than the one on Cerin Amroth. In the deepening twilight they looked like great living towers, and in their branches many silver lights were shining.
Haldir turned around to us, the night breeze playing in his long brown hair, his green eyes blazing. "Welcome to Caras Galadhon," he said with pride in his voice. "This is the city of the Galadhrim, where dwell the Lord Celeborn and Galadriel, the Lady of Lórien."
"The gates are on the other side of the city; they face to the South. I am afraid the way is not short because the city is great," he added and started out on the path again.
The path led directly to the green city-walls, where it joined a road which was paved with smooth white stones. The road ran along the brink of the moat.
The fortifications of this city reminded me of the city of Carcasonne in France with its two rings of great walls. I knew that Rivendell had been besieged in past ages, but it was much less obviously safe-guarded against attack than Caras Galadhon.
I recalled the maps Glorfindel had shown to me at Rivendell. The evil tower of Dol Guldur was only one hundred and thirty miles to the East from the capital of Lórien. One hundred and thirty miles, or a little over two hundred kilometres. A ride of two and half days, if you could change horses…
Danger was near. Safety was an illusion.
Haldir carried the largest bow I had ever seen, and two long, thin blades were fastened in crossed scabbards to his back much like the thing Peter Jackson had out on Orlando Bloom in the movies. And the way the elf moved reminded me of a wild beast, perhaps a panther… his movements were fluid and graceful, but an invisible tension clung to his figure as if he was constantly on his guard, no matter that we were almost in the well-defended city of Caras Galadhon.
At first I had been glad to walk on the even surface of a real road once again. But after only a short time my feet noticed that the surface of a real road paved with beautiful white stone was much harder than the springy surface of a muddy path. My feet were hurting abominably by the time we reached the southern side of the city. The ache rose all through my legs. It intensified at the knees and throbbed in my hip bones. It stopped in a nasty dull pain in my back. I was also beginning to get really hungry. In fact, my stomach rumbled so loudly that Gimli and Merry had looked at me in surprise a moment ago.
To my relief I saw a white structure a few yards away that could only be a bridge, which led across the moat towards the walls of the city. This simply had to be the gate to the city.
It was indeed a bridge, made of white wood, its railings carved into great curling vines. Crossing it I noticed that at the end of the bridge, which faced the city, metal joints were inserted in the wood. If I was not very much mistaken, the bridge could be collapsed easily.
I looked down into the moat. It was very deep and there seemed to be sharp spikes set into it.
Fortifications against the coming war, I thought. Had Lórien been attacked during the war of the rings?
I could not remember. There were so many things I could not remember from the stories. In places the things I had seen and had been told since I had arrived in Middle-earth were also becoming mixed up with what I thought that I recalled from the stories. Last but not least there was a wealth of details about life in Middle-earth and its history that Tolkien never mentioned at all.
"How far do we have to go yet?" Pippin grumbled.
"Yes," Merry said. "I'm hungry!"
"Me, too," Sam added under his breath.
I could have added, "And my feet hurt!" But I decided to keep quiet as the leader of the fellowship was not happy with me to begin with at the moment.
It was Haldir who answered the querulous hobbits. "The capital of Lothlórien is a great city. We have to walk for some time yet until we reach our destination."
The gates to the city of the Galadhrim were huge and made of wood, of course, but they were beset with metal fittings to make them even stronger. Haldir walked up to the edge of the gates, knocked and seemed to speak softly to the edge of the wall. I frowned. Why did he do that? But then I recalled a thing I had once seen at a medieval castle on earth. At the sides of the gate there had been tiny shafts inserted into the wall; if you spoke into the shaft, your voice was carried up to the guard rooms. That way you could tell the watch that you were a friend and not have to shout. That way it was also possible to drop burning tar directly into the face of an enemy, or at least make the ground right in front of the gates uncomfortably slick, impeding the use of a battering ram. The Galadhrim had probably built a similar safety measure into their gates.
Anyway, the gates opened noiselessly in front of us. We entered the city, and the gates closed behind us just as silently as they had opened. But the guards who had opened and closed the gates were nowhere to be seen. We were led through a deep lane between the walls of the city. The walls, which seemed to be made from living trees, were not only very high, but also very wide. If they were indeed made of living wood; this was a great fortification indeed, I mused. Green wood does not burn easily. Although I thought that walls made of stone were yet a better defence, anyone who planned to attack the city of Lórien would have a hard time of it.
Our footsteps echoed eerily in the narrow lane between the walls of the city.
I saw how Boromir's shoulders tensed with apprehension. He did not trust the elves. He did not like to be shut in, in a strange city, which he only knew from fairy-tales and rumours.
I had the advantage on him there. I knew that Galadriel meant us no harm. I was looking forward to meeting the Lady in the Wood. Would she be at all like the Galadriel of the movies? Or more like the motherly, golden woman I had always envisioned when reading the books?
The lane opened on another broad road paved with white stones. Haldir lead us away from the gates straight into the city. He had been right; it was a great city. And my feet did not like it one little bit. At first I was so absorbed by the great trees to the left and to the right of the road, and enchanted by the sparkling light coming from the many silver and golden lanterns suspended from the boughs of the mellyrn that I forgot about my aching bones. But soon the weariness returned, and I thought that I would collapse if we had still to go very far.
Finally, after many white roads, a number of paths and many, many stairs, we emerged onto a high plateau. It was brightly lit by hundreds of lamps hidden in the trees surrounding it.
We had reached the heart of the city.
In the middle of a green lawn I saw two large fountains which spilled white foaming water into many silver basins. I could not be sure in the twilight, but I thought that the fountains were surrounded by formal gardens with many flower beds and low hedges. A path covered in white sands led straight ahead through the gardens, passing between the fountains.
At the end of the path grew the greatest mallorn tree that I had seen today. It had to be the tallest tree in Middle-earth. It had to be easily as tall as the tallest mammoth tree on earth.
Its smooth silvery trunk was as big as a house. A white narrow stair was winding its way up the bole of the tree. Where the stairway met the gigantic dark boughs of the tree, many lights were blazing brightly, mingled with the light of the stars now shining brilliantly from a dark night sky behind them. Indeed, it was difficult to say which light belonged to a lantern, and which to a star. At the bottom of the stairs four tall elves stood at the ready. They wore armour, silver-grey mail and billowing white cloaks. They had bows slung across their shoulders and large swords fastened in silver scabbards to their belts. In their hands they held tall spears with slightly curved heads, which glinted silverly and deadly in the glimmering light of lamps and stars.
Haldir walked ahead and talked to them. Then one of the guards put a small white horn to his lips and sounded a clear, bright call which was answered in kind from somewhere far above our heads.
Haldir came back to us. "This is the palace of the Lord and the Lady of Lórien. Though it is late, they wish to meet you at once. I will go first, then Frodo, and behind him Legolas. The others may follow as they wish. It is a long climb, but we will rest upon the way now and again for those of you with weary feet."
I favoured Haldir with a scathing look. But damn it, my feet hurt!
I was sweaty and itchy from a long day's walk, my hair was tangled and I was so tired that I could not see straight. My jeans were torn and dirty, buttons were missing from my shirt, and the clothes were reeking.
Exactly the way I had always wanted to look when meeting elvish royalty.
It did not comfort me that the others – save Legolas – looked no better than I did, and Merry and Pippin looked a good deal worse from playing 'race you' on the meadows of Cerin Amroth, their clothes dishevelled and covered with grass stains.
I was a girl, damn it. I wanted to look nice when I was introduced to the Lady in the Wood. Oh, hell, I wanted at least to be clean when I met the Lady Galadriel!
"Lothíriel, don't stand there dreaming, go on!" Aragorn's voice was impatient.
Boromir turned at once, ready to argue. Frantically I shook my head at him and ran for the stairs. The stairs were endless. Soon I had the feeling that I had been climbing stairs all day, and I was sweating like a pig. My right knee was on fire. Ever since my clumsy jump across that wide fissure in Moria, my right knee had been acting up on slopes and stairs.
If wishes were horses all beggars would ride.
What can't be cured must be endured.
I bloody hate proverbs.
Finally we reached a great talan high in the tree. I was so dizzy with climbing that I stumbled and almost fell, my feet searching for the next step automatically. I regained my balance at the last moment. Haldir observed me with faint amusement gleaming in his eyes.
My breath gradually going easier, I had a look around while we were waiting for the rest of the company to reach the platform. The talan was built in a branching of the tree trunk. The tree was branching into three limbs here, and each of these limbs was still as large as a tall tree all on its own, and I could see many more telain above my head.
The platform we were standing on now was huge. Perhaps not as large as an aircraft carrier, but close to it, or so it seemed to me, anyway. At the centre of the talan, surrounded by the three limbs of the tree, stood a great hall. It was built of white wood and opened to the south in a porch with many graceful arches. Soft light issued through those arcs, and behind them I glimpsed high walls hung with rich tapestries of red, gold and green.
Haldir led us into the hall.
It was the throne hall of the Galadhrim. The back of the hall and its sides were in part the living wood of the branching mallorn. At the back of the hall there were two thrones made of silver wood and their canopy was made of living branches, surprisingly delicate boughs growing directly from the broad pillar of the tree trunk, richly leaved in gold and silver.
A green carpet led up to the thrones. To the sides of the aisle long tables and many chairs were arranged, and there were many elves standing or sitting around. Most of them had blond hair, but there were also many Silvan elves with brown hair and green eyes. All of them were tall and slender and dressed richly in leggings and elegant robes.
The thrones were occupied by a tall elf-lord and an elvish lady.
Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel.
They were very regal and imposing, clothed in flowing white robes. The contrast of the plain white colour of their robes to the many hues of the fabrics worn by the other elves in the hall set them apart from the rest of the elves. Although they wore no jewellery or crowns at all, you knew at a glance that they were king and queen of this land. Their hair was very long and gleamed like precious metal spun out into threads of gold and silver.
Lord Celeborn's silver tresses were intricately braided, but still reached way below his shoulders; his eyes were of a warm grey colour, and although his face looked probably younger than my own, his eyes betrayed a certain… not weariness, not age… but a profundity gained in many centuries of toil and trouble.
The Lady Galadriel wore her hair open. It was a of deep, rich golden colour like the sun's own fire, a warm colour, very different from the movie version, which was fading from my mind even as I was staring at the Queen of the Galadhrim. Her eyes were not blue or grey, but turquoise as a southern sea; they were very keen and slightly slanted. Her ears protruded from her mass of golden hair, and they were exceptionally sharply pointed.
Galadriel did not look human at all. She looked like a dangerous creature from a species totally alien to humans, feral, with powers far beyond the grasp of the mortal mind.
I shivered suddenly with apprehension.
What would she say to me? What would she do to me?
I bit down on my lip so hard that it hurt, trying to drive the memory of the ring's evil insinuations from my mind.
Finally all members of the fellowship were assembled on the porch.
"I will present you to the Lord and Lady one by one," Haldir told us. "You walk up the aisle until you are at the chairs which have been made ready for you, then you bow, wait for the Lord and Lady to signal that you may be seated and then you sit down. Don't turn your back to the thrones and don't speak until you have been asked to." He turned gimlet eyes to the hobbits. Obviously he thought that they looked sufficiently intimidated because he turned around and walked up the aisle. He stopped at a row of ten chairs put up to the right of the aisle.
He bowed deeply to the king and queen and stepped to the side.
In a deep and clear voice he called one member of the fellowship after the other to come forward and be presented to Celeborn and Galadriel. Lord Celeborn greeted every member of the fellowship courteously in slightly accented Westron, but the Lady only looked at us with her penetrating, fierce turquoise eyes.
Haldir started with Frodo, and then came Aragorn and so forth. He left me for last, giving me time to grow nervous as I waited for my turn. Should I try to curtsy or simply bow as the others had? I did not know if elvish common courtesy demanded that I curtsy. I did not know how to curtsy!
"And this is Lothíriel, a stranger from far away, who has been included in this journey according to Gandalf's explicit wishes," Haldir announced. Gandalf's explicit wishes, I thought. That was Aragorn's phrasing. I swallowed hard, my knees feeling like jelly. I felt like a ten year old asked to recite a poem in front of the whole class. I felt heat rising to my cheeks. Blushing like a little girl caught at a prank…
I breathed deeply and straightened my back.
I had done my very best to help. I had done my best not to change what was necessary as far as I knew. Damn it, I had done my best!
Suddenly I had reached the row of chairs where the others were already seated, looking more or less comfortable.
I bowed deeply, my heart pounding like a drum.
"Welcome, Lothíriel, in Lórien. You are truly brave, my lady, to have endured such a dark and dangerous road! Now rest at ease and relax, for you have to be very weary from your travails!"
I looked up at the Lord and Lady, a wobbly smile forming on my face.
Suddenly I felt myself caught in the powerful gaze of Galadriel.
If I had not known about the elves' ability to speak from mind to mind from Glorfindel, I think I would have fainted with shock. Her mind voice was not the soothing whisper Glorfindel had used when speaking to me that way, but piercingly sharp. Her power of will was unrelenting, strong as steel, similar to the ring's power. But where the ring was like an abyss of darkness suddenly opening in one's thoughts, the power of the Lady was like a flash of lightning, almost unbearably bright. It felt as if she was tearing into the depths of the very essence that made up Lothíriel. Nothing could be hidden from her eyes.
Do not be afraid, Lothíriel. I will neither hurt you nor send you back. You did indeed do your very best on the journey. Be at ease now. There will be time for talking later, when you are rested.
I stumbled back to the chairs, slumping into the ninth chair. But my fears were eased and the haze of exhaustion had lifted from my eyes. I still felt very tired, but I could see the room and the faces around me clearly again.
"Here are only nine," Lord Celeborn said. "But there should be ten, or that was what the messages said sent out by Elrond. Was there a change of counsel after all? Darkness draws near, and my sight has grown limited."
"Nay," Galadriel said, her eyes still resting on me. "There was no change of counsel." Her voice was very clear, but not bright like the voice of her mind, but very deep and musical.
"Gandalf the Grey was their leader. But he did not pass the borders of this land. I cannot see him anymore."
"Alas," Aragorn cried, his voice torn by anguish and grief. "All foresight seems to fail us. Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape."
At Aragorn's words many of the assembled elves raised there voices in cries of grief and horror.
"These are evil tidings!" Lord Celeborn said, his voice shaking, its warmth drained away to expose a core of steal beneath his quiet demeanour. "Why was I not informed of this earlier?"
He sent a glare at Haldir, who visibly wilted under the anger of his overlord.
Legolas rose from his seat and bowed to the thrones respectfully.
"We have not spoken to Haldir of our journey. Danger and grief were too close behind, and we are very weary both of mind and body, my Lord."
"But our grief is great, and there is no way to mend the loss we suffered," Frodo added, and his bright voice was sad and tired. "Gandalf was our leader, and he fell to ensure our escape."
"Then tell us now the full tale of your journey," Celeborn ordered, turning to Aragorn.
The ranger inclined his head courteously. Even in his dirty and worn travelling clothes, his hair as straggly as my own, there was an air of majesty to Aragorn's figure. He told the tale of our journey in short, clipped sentences, his tone of voice cool and matter-of-fact.
When he ended, it was a long time until Celeborn spoke again. "Alas! We have known for a long time that a dark terror slept under the mountain of Caradhras. But it is ill news indeed that you have stirred up an evil of the ancient world on your passage through the mines. I might regret allowing you to enter these woods! Why do dwarves never know when to show restraint! I hope it was not unnecessary folly that led Gandalf into Moria. I hope no further evil comes of it, turning Gandalf's valour into needless sacrifice!"
"Do not be hasty in your judgment of Gandalf's deeds," Galadriel interrupted the Lord. "None of Gandalf's deeds were foolish. To judge a deed as unnecessary or needless, you need to know the full purpose and the whole story of the deed. And, sadly, this story is still far from its end, be it evil or good."
Then the Lady rose from her seat and went where Gimli was sitting. The dwarf had hung his head in shame, hiding his face. The Lady knelt down on the aisle to look the dwarf directly into the eye. "It is not this dwarf's fault that evil stirs again in Moria. And would we not wish to behold our beloved home of old again, even if it had become the abode of dragons?" Galadriel asked her voice filled with sadness. "Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram," she quoted the ancient hymn of the dwarves praising the beauty of their homes in Moria. "And cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dûm in Elder Days before the fall of the mighty kings beneath the stone."
Slowly the dwarf raised his head to look at the slender figure of the elvish Queen kneeling before him. Wonder spread across his face, and his eyes suddenly shone with tears.
Galadriel smiled at him and returning to her throne, she said in a kind voice, "Welcome, Gimli Glóin's son in the land of Lórien."
Gimli jumped up from his seat and bowed very low. "Thank you, my Lady, and I cherish this welcome more than any memory of the lost treasures of our ancient halls! For nothing is more fair than the living land of Lórien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all jewels of this earth."
Silence fell, only interrupted by hushed exchanges of whispers among the elves crowding the hall.
At length Celeborn spoke again. "Forgive me if my words were unduly harsh. But the tidings you bring are truly dark and my heart is troubled. I will do what I can to aid your quest especially the smallest with the heaviest burden." And he looked at Frodo with pity in his eyes.
"Your quest is known to us," Galadriel said in a quiet voice looking directly at Frodo. "And though it stands upon the edge of a knife, there is still hope. Stray but a little and the quest will fail to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true."
Having said that, the Lady looked at all the members of the fellowship in turn. To my relief she passed over me quickly. But she looked at Aragorn for a long time, and it seemed to be a small eternity that she gazed at Boromir. When she finally turned her gaze away from the warrior, he was trembling all over.
I swallowed dryly and looked at my feet. Boromir, I thought, poor Boromir. I wish I could help you.
When I finally looked up again, I saw that Aragorn was looking at me, and his gaze was cold. I looked down again quickly, feeling hot tears in my eyes, and this time I did not manage to blink them away but felt them running slowly down my cheeks.
"Do not let your hearts to be troubled," Galadriel said finally. "Tonight you shall sleep in peace."
"Go now," Celeborn added. "You are weary from your travels and much toil. Now you shall rest for a while, ere we talk of your quest once more."
The audience was over, and Haldir led us out of the Hall.
We did not sleep on the ground this night, but Haldir led us a few stairs back down the tree, where a few small houses had been built up against the smooth expanse of the trunk. "Guest houses," he explained.
Five rooms had been readied for us. I had my room to myself, but the others had to share their rooms. Frodo went with Sam, Merry with Pippin. Legolas asked Gimli if he would mind sharing a room with an elf. And Aragorn and Boromir took the room on the far side from the one appointed to me.
The room was small but clean. There was a real bed in it with white covers and cushions. On a chest of drawers was an ewer with cool, clear water and a large bowl for washing with a large, white towel neatly folded at its side. I dumped my backpack on the ground and undressed swiftly. Even though I felt tired to my bones, I took the time for a quick wash and brushed my teeth.
A real bed! Pure bliss!
I moaned with delight as I curled up among the warm, soft covers.
Another difference to Tolkien's version. I grinned faintly. But I really liked this difference!
I was asleep almost instantly, sleeping peacefully, without any dreams at all.
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.