2. The Choice
Rúmil bowed low. “You wish to see me?” he inquired.
She smiled and patted the bench beside her. “Come, penneth, sit. There is no need for formalities. There are none to see.”
The young elf sat beside the beautiful elleth. He would be smitten with desire for her, if he preferred ellyth. His mother was beautiful as all elves were, but Galadriel was awe-inspiring. Rúmil knew her past and yet the light of Aman still shown brightly within her. She always made him feel better.
“Tomorrow is your begetting day and I was not certain what to get you.” She sent him a sideways glance.
“There is no need for anything, my lady,” Rúmil replied.
“Oh, but there is. Tell me what is it that you want more than anything?” She did not actually need to ask for she already knew the answer, but she wished to hear Rúmil speak the words, if he would.
“I have everything I need or want.” The young elf kept his eyes down, hoping she would not see the lie in them.
“You are not being honest. Tell me what you truly desire.”
“What I want has too high a cost attached to it.”
Galadriel used two fingers to raise Rúmil’s chin and force eye contact. “Do you no longer wish to see Arda?” she asked, reading the truth in his eyes. “I give you a choice, Rúmil. For your begetting day you may either look into my mirror, or see all Arda has to offer.”
Rúmil stared at her in disbelief. At some point during her offer, she had stood and now looked down at him. He did not know what to say. He knew that few were ever granted a chance to look into the mirror, but…
“You are most generous,” he began, “but I cannot accept either gift.” The Lady of Light raised an eyebrow. “Not that I do not want to, it is just that I cannot,” Rúmil quickly added, fearing he offended her.
“They are both gifts I am in a position to give,” she countered. “Would you tell me why you refuse them?” She was not at all angry. She had expected this but wanted to hear Rúmil’s reasons. She had a feeling they were misguided.
“I do not wish to look into your mirror for I fear what it might show me. I know that you have no control over the images, and the images are not always…pleasant. And as much as I desire to see all of Arda, Haldir has attached a price I am not certain I am willing to pay.”
Galadriel’s gentle laughter filled the glade. “I can understand not wishing to look in the mirror. I do not like to do so even when I know I must. Now, you are past your majority. How could Haldir stop you from exploring the world? You do not need his permission.”
“As my brother, no I do not. But as my superior, I do. I would need a leave of absence, which only he can give me. He refuses, unless I give up rank and position. If I do that, I will have nothing to come back to. I do not understand why he is so difficult.” Tear laden eyes looked up at Galadriel. Her heart nearly broke, for she new much about the truth of the situation, but Haldir’s reasons were his own to share.
“Haldir is not the lord of this realm. He is not the only one who can give you leave.” Galadriel smiled down at the young elf. Taking his hand, she pulled him to his feet so they could see eye to eye, although she stood some inches taller. “You must choose one of my gifts. Which will it be?”
Realization began to spread across Rúmil’s face as he processed her words. He could have whichever gift he chose. His handsome face exploded into a smile. “I am honored that you would allow me to look into your mirror, but I truly wish to see the world beyond the woods. I wish to see more than Imladris and the Greenwood.”
“So it shall be, with no strings or cost attached, penneth.” Rúmil threw himself into her arms repeating his thanks, nearly knocking her over. She laughed with him. Pulling out of the embrace she spoke. “However, I will not have you wander blindly. You will not be alone. You will go with one who knows nearly as much about the places and races of Arda as the Valar themselves.” He watched as she beckoned to the shadows.
Out stepped a tall, handsome ellon with flowing wheat-golden hair that rivaled Lord Glorfindel’s famed locks. His face was noble with high cheeks, straight nose, and narrow rose-petal lips. His dark sapphire eyes were ageless, but filled with wisdom and knowledge that comes from watching millennia pass. He was dressed in a unique blend of casual elegance. His leggings were dark slate, and he wore a light blue silk tunic opened to his chest, revealing bits of a gold rope chain. Rúmil found himself wondering what lay just beyond his sight. Catching himself, he quickly placed his hand on his chest and bowed in silent greeting. Peeking through his own sliver mane, the warrior noticed that hidden beneath the sleeveless, midnight blue over-robe was a sword with a well-worn hilt. He had never seen this elf before, but found himself drawn in like a moth to the flame. His very core told him he was in the presence of a prince.
Galadriel introduced them. “Rúmil, may I present m...Gildor Inglorian.” She caught herself. “He has not been to these woods in nearly two hundred years. He leads the wandering company and has agreed to take you on his travels. There is much you will learn from him if you are willing.” There was an unreadable sparkle in the lady’s eyes as she said this and it made Gildor wonder what he had agreed to.
“H îr nin, I am honored you are willing to take me on your travels. I greatly desire to learn more of this world and will be a devoted and eager student.” Rúmil stood with a shy smile on his face. The older ellon was by far the most stunning elf he had ever seen. Both Thranduil and Glorfindel paled in comparison.
Gildor’s smoldering expression softened, a small smile playing on his lips as he returned the greeting. “Lady Galadriel spoke highly of you and your desire. I am glad to assist you. I am told you are the finest tracker in the land and a keen archer. I have need of such skills and will see that your skills do not go lax.” Rúmil now noticed a twinkle in the elf-lord’s eyes, which spoke of adventure. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have only just arrived this morning and would like to return to the border to meet the rest of my company.” He moved forward and placed a kiss on Galadriel’s cheek.
“Hannon le,” she whispered. “He will show you Arda as you have not seen her before.” Gildor eyed her as she spoke her cryptic words for his ears alone.
Gildor turned to Rúmil with a smile and a small bow. “ I will speak with you about our travels a bit later, penneth.” He turned, and taking the steps two at a time, he vanished, leaving a rather dazed guardian behind.
Galadriel’s laugh brought Rúmil from his thoughts. His blush made his Lady giggle more. “He is quite a specimen, is he not?” she said. “I am always saddened that he has not found a suitable mate with which to share his love of Arda. I fear that he will grow bored and sail. Well, perhaps he will find that special ellon.” She took Rúmil’s arm and led him from the garden. “I am sure there is much that you wish to do before tomorrow..”
Rúmil stopped dead in his tracks. Galadriel eyed him silently. “What am I to tell Haldir?” he asked. “He will not be pleased. He will think that I went over his head and he will be furious. If I leave he will surely tell me not to return.”
Galadriel caressed his cheek then pulled him into an embrace. “Peace, pendithen. I will make certain he understands that this little plan is all mine.” She winked. “He will be upset, but I will tell you a little secret *if* you promise not to tell.” Rúmil nodded. “There is one that will help ease the sting. And if you would prefer, I will announce my gift at the festival. He need not know about this little discussion or your choice.”
Having reached the place were their paths split, Rúmil leaned in and kissed his Lady’s cheek. “Hannen le,” he said as he took the path to his talan.
From a landing a few feet above, the Lord of the Golden Wood watched. “Need I be jealous, meleth?” He called to his wife.
She giggled and climbed the stairs giving her husband a warm embrace. “Never.”