21. Galadriel's Counsel
I sighed softly into Boromir's chest. I loved the silky feeling of the hair on his chest against my cheeks. We had spent the night outside, in a pavilion hidden behind evergreen bushes at the edge of the formal gardens on the plateau of Galadriel's palace. The pavilion offered a magnificent view of the city and the surrounding woods. The day was dawning in soft pale colours, as if a giant hand had tinted the eastern sky in watercolours, a touch of red, a pale pink, a shimmering golden hue. It was not a magnificent sunrise, not awesome or glorious. It was a quiet sunrise, a peaceful dawn. From the humid earth beneath the great mellyrn white and silver mists rose and slowly drifted up between the treetops, floated for moments above the woods and then swiftly melted away in the first rays of sun.
The elvish city was still asleep, but Lórien's birds were greeting the sun in a great warbling choir. The trees all around me were full of song, piping, trilling, carolling. On the head of a nearby statue carved from gleaming white stone a blackbird perched and was singing with the sweetest voice. A few feet away, in the lawn still wet with dew, one of Lady Galadriel's sleek grey cats was sitting, watching the bird intently with gleaming golden eyes. But she did not attack, merely sat very still, watching the bird in feline fascination.
Although it was only the end of January, we had not been cold.
Perhaps we were by now simply used to sleeping out of doors, so that we did not even notice the cold anymore. Perhaps it was the elvish blessing alive in the golden woods of Lórien, the fading touches of an eternal summer that would soon be gone from the world. Or perhaps the heat of our bodies chased away the cold of the night.
Boromir was still asleep. Deeply asleep. In his sleep, his face was for once completely relaxed and unguarded. He looked so young in his sleep, much younger than the forty years of his age. He looked innocent and vulnerable. Lost in dreams which were for once bright and easy. Dreams which would never come true. It is so easy to write down phrases like "and the lines of many years of living a dangerous life of many hardships and battles were graven in his face" if you have never seen such a face. I never had seen such a face until I had met Aragorn. And now, Boromir.
The ring was taking its toll.
Our night's desires had held the sharp edge of desperation.
The blackbird suddenly took wing, flying off into the dawn. The cat merrowed a greeting, arching its back and twirling its long, elegant tail. Seemingly out of thin air a figure cloaked in pale blue had materialized on the lawn behind the pavilion. The figure bent down and stroked the cat, and then the person straightened up and folded back the hood of the cloak. Golden hair braided into thousands of tiny braids fell across slender shoulders. Bright turquoise eyes gazed at me, their power veiled.
"Good morning, Lothíriel," the Lady Galadriel said to me in a soft voice as if she did not want to wake the sleeping warrior.
I rose slowly, careful not to disturb Boromir's sleep. I walked out onto the lawn and bowed very low in front of the Lady. "My Lady."
"Would you like to take a walk with me, Lothíriel? And perhaps join me for a light breakfast?" Galadriel asked, her voice low.
I glanced back at Boromir. I did not want him to be alone when he woke.
The Lady caught my look and smiled at me. "Boromir Denethor's son will not wake ere we return, I promise."
Then she turned and walked off to a narrow trail leading away from the formal gardens of the plateau. "Come, Lothíriel. There are things we have to talk about."
I followed her, my heart pounding.
It was not that I did not trust her. But I had felt her power, and I was deeply in awe of her.
It was hard to believe that she was the Lady Arwen's grandmother. Arwen was so much softer, so much more accessible… almost human in comparison.
"Yes," agreed Galadriel, who had apparently caught my thoughts. "My grandchild takes after her father, doesn't she?" For a moment her gaze darkened to a deep indigo hue as if she grew once more aware of a sorrow always present in her heart, but not always on her mind.
She is worried about Elrond, I thought. How he will take it, when Arwen…
"Don't, Lothíriel," Galadriel interrupted my thoughts with a cool hand placed softly on my shoulder. "I will say, what others have said before: you are very perceptive. – There is no deceit in you at all; for that reason your thoughts lie open before me. And although I can still see further on the roads of destiny than others, there are places hidden from my sight, and evil may come of foreknowledge. Aragorn, Gandalf and Glorfindel were right when they cautioned you not to speak of your knowledge lightly. I ask you to guard your thoughts this morning."
I gulped. How do you guard your thoughts? I thought nervously. Couldn't she just keep from looking?
The elf-lady laughed softly. "I do keep from 'looking', Lothíriel! But the thoughts of mortals are much noisier than the thoughts of elves. I simply would not stumble inadvertently on things which should remain hidden. But be at ease, the Lady's power is still strong enough to interrupt any flow of thoughts ere it reveals too much – even if the Lady much desired that knowledge…"
Be at ease. That's easier said than done, I thought.
The Lady laughed again, probably having listened to that thought, too. Her laughter was bright with mirth, the sound of golden bells in a soft breeze.
The way elves move and talk calls the strangest images and analogies to the mortal mind.
"This is my private garden," Galadriel told me, as she led me down the hill on a winding path of firm brown earth. The edges of the path were grown with moss, grass and ferns, but the path itself was free from weeds, bare, dry earth, although all around the leaves were still glittering wetly with dew.
The garden of the plateau was a formal garden. Galadriel's own garden was not. It reminded me of English landscaped gardens. But where on earth even the most skilfully planted landscaped garden still betrayed the touches of the gardener – sowing, shaping, ploughing, clearing –, this was a garden shaped by the power of the Eldar. It was nature in its untouched perfection. Each leaf, each blossom, each shrub and each tree showed its loveliness, its textures and colours, in the best possible way of its own accord, thus creating a vision of nature unsurpassed in beauty and harmony anywhere in Middle-earth.
I felt at peace with the world, walking down the path behind Galadriel. The golden rays of the morning sun were slanting through the golden leaves of the mellyrn above us, filling the forest with a golden light. In this sheltered garden spring was already on its way, shrubs and bushes were budding, moss, grass and the new, curling shoots of fern were glowing with the emerald green of new life.
Finally we came to a flight of stairs leading down into a dell. Under a rocky ledge a bench of grey marble was set, forming half a circle. At the feet of the bench snowdrops were blooming among dark green moss. Across from the bench was a deep fissure in the hill. In this cleft a rivulet of crystal clear, icy water was murmuring. The stream that fed the fountains on the plateau, probably. Five feet above the floor of the dell a ledge had been built to hinder the flow of the water. It was held in a deep pool of rocks grown with fern, long grasses and tiny silver flowers. From there the water dropped in a thin veil across the ledge of grey stones. At the foot of the waterfall a low bridge had been built of the same grey stones which had been used to create this miniature fall. Under the bridge a pool of dark green water could be glimpsed; from this pool the river disappeared from sight, being led away into the city and the woods below the ground. To the right of the waterfall a terrace had been built, fashioned into a half circle to mirror the bench on the other side of the dell. On this terrace was a pedestal of smooth grey stone which was carved like a branching tree. In the top of this tree made of stone a silver basin was set, and at the foot of the pedestal stood a silver ewer.
This was the sanctuary of the Lady Galadriel in Lothlórien.
The basin was her mirror, which could show her things far away in time and space.
She led me to the bench and motioned for me to sit down.
"There is nothing my mirror could show you," she said kindly.
"I would not want to look anyway," I said. Foresight sucks.
She laughed at me then.
"Yes, it does," she agreed, and her eyes sparkled with mirth.
The Lady reached under the bench with one slender, white hand and produced a pale white wicker basket. "Breakfast," she said. "Honey cakes and the remaining sweet berries of autumn last year, orange juice and water from Galadriel's spring. Not a Hobbit feast."
"I am not a Hobbit," I said.
"I know," the elf-lady said, her voice bright and cheerful.
She laid a white kerchief on the bench between us and set out two silver dishes and four beakers, and then added a plate with rich golden honey cakes. After she had poured yellow juice from a silver flask, she swiftly walked over to the pedestal and picked up the silver ewer. She filled it with water at the fall and brought it back to the bench, where she poured some of the water into the two remaining beakers.
I felt a bit nervous. I had never even dreamed of sharing an intimate breakfast with royalty, least of all elvish royalty. Galadriel raised her delicately slanted, golden eyebrows at me, her eyes gleaming with amusement. "Eat, child! I invited you to have breakfast with me so that you would not feel nervous or overwhelmed. Now, be at ease and eat!"
"Your wish is my command," I said at my driest. Galadriel laughed again, a carefree, joyous laughter, I would not have thought possible in this powerful, intimidating immortal.
I did manage to eat a honey cake and to enjoy the tart, fruity taste of the orange juice after that. But it was the taste of the water that will stay with me no matter how old I will grow.
It was cool and clear and refreshing. But it was also golden and spicy, sparkling in my mouth and exhilarating as champagne. If you could turn a spring morning into liquid, you would have a taste of Galadriel's spring.
When she had put the dishes and beakers back into the basket and returned the basket under the bench, my nervousness had finally passed. I felt not quite as intimidated by the Lady as I had felt before. I did realize that Galadriel had gone to considerable lengths to put me at ease.
"Now we need to talk about you, Lothíriel." Galadriel said. I nodded. "I know where you come from."
I started at that, staring at her in surprise.
She smiled soothingly. "Gandalf told me. He has visited your world before, though I do not know to what purpose. But he has been aware that our worlds are linked mysteriously, that our histories and legends are passed on in your world as tales. However, he did not dare to read those tales himself, acutely aware of the vulnerable balance of fate; in this world as well as in the world you come from. I think by now you know just how dangerous and difficult foreknowledge can be. Even for immortals it is difficult to discern, which deeds and omissions lead to the one end or the other. But Gandalf often wondered why it was that our worlds are linked like that, for chance it is surely not, but fate. Why he was in your world when you met him, I cannot tell; private dealings of his own, no doubt. Perhaps a short respite from his struggles. When he met you on that hill, and you told him your name and your desire to find your destiny, he knew that it was more than good fortune that had led you to meet each other, then and there. He believed from the start that your fate lies in this world."
She paused for a moment. "I was not sure of this. To travel the void is dangerous. Too easily the balance of Eä is disturbed. Worlds may be destroyed by a misstep between them."
I gulped nervously.
"Do not worry, Lothíriel, for Gandalf was right; his eyes were always keen, and he could read the other races deeper than elves. I can see a part of your way in your eyes. Your road is dark and dangerous, as all roads are in Middle-earth at the end of the third age. But it ends, whenever that will be, in Middle-earth. If nothing else is sure in this moment of time, this I know: your place is truly here. And you have earned your place by courage and care."
I felt my cheeks burn with embarrassment. I had not done anything much. I did not deserve such high praise from such a high lady.
"Thank you, my Lady," I murmured.
"I cannot see much from this moment in time; the tides of time are turning, and each step of the way holds dark choices. Therefore there is little I can offer you in the way of counsel. Perhaps this, though you may already know this truth yourself. A woman's way may be unobtrusive, and her deeds of valour may not be remembered in song; but words spoken in discretion and kindness may sway even great decisions of life and death."
Silence fell, and for a moment Galadriel stared unseeing into the distance.
At last she spoke again. "Yes," she said softly, smiling faintly. "Even now Aragorn is thinking about wise words offered by a failed law student. He will find his strength."
She turned to me again. "But veiled words of wisdom may not comfort you in future grief."
I knew she was talking about Boromir now, and felt tears well up in my eyes.
I did not love him yet.
Love takes time to grow, I think.
But I might have, had we been allowed the time.
Galadriel looked at me and her face was soft with pity. "As a firstborn, I cannot fully comprehend the gift of men, but this I know: Eru, the One, will not let a noble soul fall into darkness and be lost. Souls can be saved, Lothíriel, even when lives are lost. And comfort may be found in unlikely places."
I would miss him so much.
"Now it is time for you to return to the pavilion. Boromir stirs; he will wake soon. Stay away from Frodo, and you will have a few days' peace under golden trees."
"Thank you, my Lady," I said, my voice choked with tears. "We will."
"I know. May the blessings of the Valar and the One guide your steps and your tongue."
I rose from the bench and bowed to her clumsily. Then I turned onto the path which would lead me back up the hill to the plateau of the palace gardens.
"And don't come back here tonight for Frodo and Sam will wish to look into my mirror."
I turned around and looked back. "I won't, my Lady," I said, bowing again.
She smiled at me and lifted her hand in farewell. The morning sun glinted on her golden braids and her bright eyes gleamed like jewels. For a moment I thought I saw a white star blaze on her hand, but when she lowered her hand, I saw that it had only been the sun slanting down through the trees, which had reflected on the silver surface of the mirror's basin.
Galadriel's counsel had eased my fears, and the remaining days in Lórien passed for Boromir and me much as they are described in the books: all the while that they dwelt there the sun shone clear, save for a gentle rain that fell at times, and passed away to leave all things fresh and clean; and though it seemed to them that they did little but eat and drink and rest and walk among the trees, it was enough.
It was all we ever had.
Then, one night in the middle of February, we were summoned again to the palace of the Lord and the Lady of Lórien.
Our sojourn in the golden wood was nearing its end. Dark roads were waiting for us.
Celeborn talked to us about which course we would take from here. Boromir wanted to follow the Anduin on its western shore and head for Minas Tirith. Aragorn was doubtful of any course. I did not offer any ideas. In the end, Celeborn offered to furnish us with boats, so we might travel swiftly, carried by the strong currents of the Anduin.
Both Aragorn and Boromir thought that this was a good idea, and both of them knew how to handle boats. Legolas was an expert boat's man, as the forest river of Mirkwood was swift and dangerous, and I had at least done some canoeing during almost forgotten summer holidays. Although Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Gimli were afraid of travelling in the small grey boats on the great river, all of them agreed that the river was our best bet for the time being.
So it was decided that we should leave the following day, the sixteenth of February 3019.
This last night we spent again in the guest house. I slept well and peacefully without any dreams at all. But when I saw Boromir in the morning, I knew that he had not slept at all. His movements were jerky, and his eyes gleamed feverishly. His manner was fierce and he was cold and strangely angry with me.
The voice of the ring was back in Boromir's mind, and he had no way to fight it.
I forced myself to remain calm and kept my distance.
I caught Frodo watching Boromir with apprehension.
After breakfast elves who could speak our language came to us. They brought many gifts of food and clothing for our journey, including my old clothes, cleaned and mended.
Gimli and the hobbits had an epiphany eating lembas; and belly ache for the rest of the day.
I tried only a small piece of the elvish waybread. It was truly an elvish bakery, lifting the heart as much as it gave strength to the body.
Each of us was presented with a cloak spun of the silk of the Galadhrim. The cloaks were just as light and warm as Tolkien had described them and their changing hues reminded me of the camouflage technique of earthly chameleons. We would need this stealth.
High honour was bestowed upon us with these cloaks, for we were told that the Lady herself and her handmaidens had woven the fabric and that we were the first strangers in all the ages of Middle-earth to be garbed in Lórien's silk.
My fingers kept returning to the brooch which fastened the cloak at my neck. It was very beautiful. It looked like a real, green leaf veined faintly with silver. It reminded me of the morning the Lady Galadriel had invited me to share her breakfast, and of Boromir's face as he had slept that morning, relaxed and at peace.
When we climbed down from the guest house, we found Haldir waiting for us at the fountains. He would be our guide to the river. He had come during the night from the northern borders, and his news was ominous. The earth was trembling in the Dimrill Dale, and the valley was filled with mists and noxious fumes. Even if we had wanted to, we could not have retraced our steps that way. For now there was no safe way across the Misty Mountains for at least sixty miles to the North and as much again to the South.
It was as if the elves of Caras Galadhon knew that evil was passing through their streets and out of Lothlórien today. As we walked along the streets of the great elvish city, they were deserted, but from above our heads songs of prayer were drifting down to us, accompanying us to the great gates.
We passed through the gates and crossed the white bridge. We turned left on the whitely paved road, which we had used coming here. But after only half a mile, we left the road, taking a path southwards and eastwards, walking down softly sloping woodlands of silvery mellyrn until we reached the river.
Early in the afternoon we suddenly reached the south-eastern edge of Lothlórien, the confluence of the Silverlode and the Anduin, where elanor bloom brightly in the sunny lawns.
At a distance in the East I thought I could see the shadow of another, darker wood, but the banks of the rivers were bare, and I knew that there were no mallorn trees beyond the rivers in any direction, be it North, East or South. And far behind us, in the West the Misty Mountains loomed, their peaks hidden in low, grey clouds.
At some distance of the merging of the streams, a quay was built at the banks of the Silverlode. Many boats and barges were moored there. Some of them were painted in rich colours and decorated with silver and gold but most were plain, white or grey.
There were three boats made ready for us, one of them a little larger than the other two.
Elves waited at the quay for us and helped us stow away our baggage, supplying each boat with an additional coil of rope, which delighted Sam. Yes, we could have used some rope in Moria, I thought. And it would not come amiss on the river, either.
I was put with Legolas, Gimli and the supplies in the largest boat. Aragorn, Frodo and Sam were in one of the smaller boats, Boromir, Merry and Pippin in the other.
We were ready to go too soon.
We said good-bye to Haldir and the other elves and climbed into the boats.
Within a few short moments the river carried us out of sight of the golden woods.
But when the river swept us around a bend, we almost collided with a great white barge shaped like a swan. I felt tears stinging in the corners of my eyes. I had forgotten that Celeborn and Galadriel would meet the fellowship on the river to bid their farewells.
Out boats were towed back to the shore, and on the lawns of Egladil a parting feats was held in our honour. And although Galadriel was just as beautiful as she had been on the first evening, and just as joyful as she had been the morning she had invited me to the breakfast in her garden, somehow she had changed, almost as if she was not as tall as she had been, somehow distant, almost intangible.
Her time in Middle-earth was almost over, I thought.
She is ready to go home, to Aman.
At that thought, the Lady lifted her head and looked at me with her clear turquoise eyes; she smiled at me softly and inclined her head in agreement.
After the feast, Celeborn walked with Boromir and Aragorn to the edge of the river, discussing once more the dangers of the countries that lay beyond the rivers.
They returned shortly, their faces grave and serious.
It was time to say farewell.
Galadriel offered a great goblet with water from her spring to each member of the fellowship in turn, and then she drank from it and afterwards passed it to the Lord Celeborn.
She called it the cup of farewell.
The draught of this water was as sweet as it had been at her spring, and it lifted my heart. I had felt happy and at home in Lórien. If it had been possible at all, I should have liked to stay.
Galadriel had brought gifts of farewell for us, just as it had been described in the books, and as I had seen it in the movies. But she had every member of the fellowship come to her alone, so the others could not hear the words that went with each gift.
To Aragorn she gave a scabbard for Andúril. It was beautifully crafted, and even to the most unobservant eye the elvish blessing worked into it had to be apparent. But she also gave him a silver eagle brooch with a great green jewel, and though I was not close enough to understand what she said to Aragorn, I knew what it was. The Elessar, the elfstone, the stone from whence the coming king of Gondor would take his name.
Boromir received a golden belt, but his hands were trembling when he fastened it.
To Legolas she gave a beautiful bow and a quiver filled with white arrows. His face was solemn, but his eyes were filled with pleasure as he bowed deeply to the lady in the wood.
Merry and Pippin got small silver belts, and Sam a small wooden box, but I could not remember what was inside it. Something to do with his garden, I thought, but I wasn't sure.
To Frodo she gave a phial filled with the light of Eärendil, the elves' most beloved star.
I knew he would need it sorely, and a cold shiver ran down my spine. I hoped that my road would not lead into Mordor.
Then it was my turn to go to the Lady. She took my hands and held them. After what seemed to me a long time, she stroked my head with her right. "Do not despair, Lothíriel," she said. "Remember what I told you the other morning."
Then she handed me a small book bound in brown leather. "This notebook contains some of the lore and laws of the Galadhrim. There is room on each side for comments. Maybe there will come a time when you have need of such wisdom."
I thanked her, gratified beyond bounds, but confused at the choice of the present.
The last member of the fellowship to go to the Lady was Gimli.
She bent down to him, a friendly smile on her lips, talking to him in a low voice.
Gimli bent his head in awe of the Lady and answered softly.
At his words she smiled and straightened up.
"Hear, all ye Elves," she called out, and the gathered Elves turned their heads to their Queen and the dwarf. "Let none say that Dwarves are grasping and ungracious! Where all his companions have received precious gifts, Gimli, son of Glóin, declines, content with the blessing of his few days under golden trees."
Then she looked down at the dwarf, her face alight with a smile of joy and kindness.
"But surely, Gimli, elf-friend, there is something you desire that I could give you! Name it, I bid you, you shall not be the only guest leaving without a gift."
This time, Gimli answered loud enough that I could understand what he was saying. He was blushing hotly, and his usually firm and gruff voice was soft and stammering.
"There is nothing, really," he paused, visibly gathering his courage. "Nothing, but – no, that I could not – unless I might be permitted to ask, nay, to name – a single strand of your golden hair, for it is to gold of the earth as the stars in the sky to jewels found in mines. But… I know I may not, I could not ever ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire, and I would never disobey my Lady." He bowed deeply and then tried to walk back to us. But the Lady Galadriel halted him with a soft touch of her hand on his shoulder.
The elves all around us were stirring, whispering and murmuring among themselves, astonishment almost touchable in the air. But Celeborn smiled, lost in memories, as he looked at the dwarf, who seemed to wish to be able to vanish into thin air, so embarrassed was the fierce and sturdy mountain-dweller.
"And again I say, ye Elves listen! Here is a dwarf with as much skill of tongue as of hands! For none have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous. And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak. But pray, dear friend Gimli, what would you do with such a gift? Please, tell me!"
"Treasure it," the dwarf blurted out. "Treasure it in memory of your kind words at our first meeting. And should I ever return to the smithies of my home under the mountain, I will set it into imperishable crystal. It shall be an heirloom of my house and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days."
And even as the dwarf spoke, Galadriel took a small silver knife from her belt and cut off the tiniest of the thousands of braids into which her hair had be woven for today. Then she secured the open end of the braid with a thin silver ribbon, and curled up the braid with nimble fingers. When she laid it carefully into Gimli's hands, it looked as if she handed him a golden brooch with an intricate elvish design. But when the sun hit the braid, it gleamed in the light like something alive and warm and did not look like anything ever made from dead and cold metal.
"And these words shall go with the gift," Galadriel added, her voice dark and deep.
"Caught between light and darkness, as we are, all foretelling is now in vain. But if hope should not fail, this will be true for Gimli son of Glóin: your hands shall flow over with gold, and yet gold shall never have dominion over your heart."
Gimli, by now beyond blushing, bowed so low that his red beard touched the grass. With trembling hands he wrapped his precious gift in a silken kerchief and put it securely in his belt pouch. When he turned back to us, I could see that he was crying, and he did not even try to hide his tears.
The Lady Galadriel and the Lord Celeborn then bid us farewell and escorted us back to our boats. We climbed in and slid out onto the river.
From my position in the boat I could see the Lady as she stood on the bank of the Silverlode, looking after us, and it seemed to me that there were silvery trails of tears on her cheeks, too.
As the strong currents gripped our boats and carried them away towards the Anduin, the voice of Galadriel drifted to us from the Egladil.
She sang an ancient song of farewell in Quenya, a prayer to Varda, goddess of stars; a sung blessing to speed our journey and grant us safety.
The dark, beautiful voice of the Lady in the Wood accompanied us for a long time after the last glimpse of the golden woods of Lórien had disappeared in the silvery mists of the horizon.
Sometimes I still remember her song in my dreams.
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.