1. City of Trees
With the High Pass in front of him and Imladris behind, there were almost enough trees in view to satisfy Celeborn. The branch he sat on was a warm and growing thing, not cold unyielding stone. The rustling of the leaves around him spoke of life. Everything he saw burned bright gold, sun-gladdened yellow and flaming orange as the leaves ripened before they fell. Even the sun, slanting down through the branches, poured molten buttery light over the hills as they thrust their way up towards the pass. He was done with cities. Though part of him still mourned for lost Doriath, Ost-in-Edhil had been sheer folly.
Noldor and Dwarves. There is nothing to choose between them for misshaping nature to their purposes, he thought sourly.
Elrond had given them sanctuary and been kinder than he had been to Galadriel. When Galadriel proposed great works and pavement for Imladris, Elrond had simply smiled and thanked her, and, for all her plans, nothing had been done. She had cajoled in public and sniped in private, until there was no bearing it. He stood by every bitter word he had spat during their quarrels and follow her he would not. Still, here he sat, firmly treebound, but hoping a glimpse of gilt-silver would show her coming over the Pass. He was done with cities and her ambition - but their fates still entwined and he loved her.
"Lost in thought, cousin? A poor lookout you are, to be sure."
"Elves pass freely. There was no need to acknowledge you." Barely suppressing his startle reflex, Celeborn tossed the quip back at Oropher's son as soon as he became aware of him.
Thranduil laughed, a chuckle that started deep in his throat and spread until he shook with glee, his eyes moistened and his breath came in gasps.
"But I do not want to pass, for it is you I have come to see," he got out at last.
"And you have found me," Celeborn said with a grin, for he liked Thranduil and thought they had much in common. "Though I have no idea why you find me so amusing."
"Do you not? Why, I appreciate that your wit is no less than your lady's." Thranduil lightly stepped onto Celeborn's branch and sat down next to him.
Celeborn thinned his lips and looked away lest Oropher's son see the pain he feared showed in his eyes at the mention of his wife. "You have spoken to her?" he said at last, turning to face his friend.
Thranduil put a hand on Celeborn's arm and answered him only with a question. "Have you heard what she has done with that bit of forest she has claimed down by Anduin?"
"If she has razed all the trees and paved the land in marble, I do not wish to hear it."
Thranduil chuckled again and reached into his jerkin. Pulling out a flat cloth-wrapped package he tossed it into Celeborn's lap. "She sends you this."
Celeborn held the cloth for moment, hesitant to discover what lay inside. Carefully unwrapping it, he saw an unfamiliar plant: a pale gold, three-lobed leaf still attached to a short silver-barked stem shared with a clutch of sweet-smelling golden flowers. He brought the gift to his face and breathed in a delicate scent. It drifted light and lovely against his senses, but stirred no memories of his wife. "What is this?"
"Her own hands plucked it from a mallorn."
Celeborn's head came up sharply. "Mallorn," he repeated. He had heard laments for the golden trees of Gondolin, but he had never seen one. "There are no mallorns left in Middle-earth, for they too were drowned with lost Beleriand. How came she by this? Why send it to me?"
"She did not say, though I have heard that mallorns survive on Númenor." Thranduil's expression turned thoughtful, but amusement lurked in his eyes. "I believe she would like you to go and ask her. I think she misses you. She might even now agree with you and wish to cease the quarrel, but this is likely to be the only apology you will receive, for you are both stiff-necked and stubborn. Amusing to watch from a distance, I do not deny, but you have been apart… how long now?"
"A yén perhaps, or nearabout."
Thranduil raised his brow, met Celeborn's eyes with disbelief and was clearly ready to wait indefinitely.
"One yén, seventeen coronar, and forty-six days, if I had been bothered enough to count," Celeborn admitted at last, then gave his head one decisive shake. "Even if she has grown a mallorn or two, I know her. Nothing less than a marble-pillared city will content her or slake her ambitions. I told her, and I will tell you now, never …"
He did not continue for Thranduil was laughing again, great whoops that echoed back from the hills. Celeborn, puzzled and more than a little angry, glared at him till they subsided.
"Nay, nay. Be not wroth. Indeed you know her well. She has built a city - a city of mallorns with the buildings all of wood and high up in the trees. I have never seen the like nor thought to." Thranduil grasped Celeborn's shoulders. "A forest for you and pillars enough to satisfy her, now that they have had time to grow. Will you stay foolish and scorn this gift?"
Shrugging off Thranduil's hands, Celeborn raised the flowers to his face once more, breathing the enticing scent. Without her Ring, a city of trees would be indefensible. With her power backing him…
He breathed the scent of the flowers, lowered them and gave a rueful smile. "Am I so stiff-necked and unreasonable? I have battened on Elrond's hospitality for too long now. Mallorns, you say? Perhaps it is time to travel and see this wonder, for surely the trees cannot come to me." Memories he had long denied himself, of her beauty and her touch, flooded his senses. A city of trees and his beautiful, golden Galadriel awaited him.
Yén = 144 years
Coronar = 1 'sun round' or year
Appendix D, the calendars
As far as we know, Gil-Galad received mallorn seeds from Tar-Aldarion, but could not get them to grow in Lindon, and so gave them to Galadriel.
Unfinished Tales, Part 2, Ch 1, A Description of the Island of Númenor
I unapologetically offer this rather uncanonical version of events. The history of Celeborn and Galadriel is so muddled that when this idea hit me, I figured, what the heck, and wrote it up. The timeline is certainly long enough that if you feel that they also left Second Age Lorien and went elsewhere for awhile or if he went first to Imladris or she went first, or they went from Ost-in-Edhil to Lorien to Imladris or back and forth several times stopping at Belfalas or Lindon or wherever, there's plenty of time for it. I just liked the idea of her building a city of trees as a peace offering to her husband.
I also consider that it was a lot of Last Alliance machinations that estranged Thranduil from the Lorien leaders, so they could be more friendly earlier in the Age
It can be thought of as an AU, if that makes it easier.
Written for River Otter who wanted "The Golden Wood"
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