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Unearthing the Past
Elrohir brushed dry earth away gently from the item that had drawn his attention. It did not move. It had not, in fact, moved in an age or more. At least, not until recently.
‘How did it get here?’ Elladan crouched, watching as his brother’s movements revealed more of the golden gleam.
‘They buried it, I suspect,’ Elrohir said sadly. ‘Baggage you would not want to carry as you ran – too heavy, too attractive to the carrion that pursues refugees. They buried it and hoped to return for it later. In safer times.’
‘That, my dear brother, is obvious,’ Elladan sniffed. ‘Gold and mithril and jewels are the last things you need to lug with you when you are escaping Annatar’s hordes. But what are they doing here for us to find?’ He looked keenly round the deserted valley. The stream had dwindled down to a summer trickle, the grass had dried to straw and the local creatures were clearly finding it hard to get enough to eat. Claw marks widened the entrance to the raided burrows and sandy soil was scattered across the dry turf. ‘Foxes?’ he asked.
‘These would have been kept in a small chest,’ Elrohir commented, looking at stains on the light earth, ‘but time has rotted that away, leaving only the contents to be found.’
His brother took the golden torc and inspected it. ‘Elven work.’
Elrohir’s careful fingers picked another jewelled ring from the soil, and blew away enough dust to expose the edge of a beautifully wrought brooch-pin. ‘Are you surprised?’ he asked.
‘Old, too.’ Elladan drew up the front of his tunic to act as a bag and examined the pin before placing it safely. ‘Older than Ost-in-Edhil, I would say.’ The pieces of jewellery made a strangely impressive collection, he thought. One that spoke – to him, at least – more of the long and painful history of the elves than of the intrinsic value of the pieces. ‘Do you think we have any chance of finding out who left these here?’
‘Some of these pieces came from Beleriand, I would say.’ Elrohir admired a twisted bangle. ‘Out of Doriath, even, or Nargothrond!’
‘Should we gather everything we can find? Take it all back to Imladris?’ Elladan looked doubtfully at the slightly damper earth revealed as the surface was brushed away. ‘Or cover it over again?’
His brother sat back on his heels. ‘Why would we do that?’ He sounded curious.
Elladan shrugged. ‘I doubt this was a time many would want to remember. Those who survived might not want to be reminded of those who did not make it to safety.’
‘Or would be delighted to retrieve mementoes of the distant past.’
‘Perhaps,’ his twin allowed. ‘Is there anything to indicate to whom these – these memories belong?’
Elrohir shook his head. ‘Not to me.’
‘Daernaneth, I think.’
‘You are probably right.’ Elrohir extended his investigations beyond the shadow that marked the limits of the box that had decayed into little more than memory. ‘She would know what best to do with these remnants of a different time, too.’
‘In a way,’ his brother observed, looking round the quiet vale, where yellowed grass and tired trees had replaced all signs of those who used to dwell there, ‘it is easier to deal with bones. Those we can just bless and rebury.’
‘I hate spending too much time among these ruins,’ Elrohir told him. ‘Even the wind in the trees here sings of betrayal and death.’
‘You are too imaginative.’ Elladan grinned. ‘There are no such things as ghosts.’
‘No?’ Elrohir asked dryly. ‘I will leave you here alone tonight then.’
‘There do not have to be ghosts to make a place haunted. There is a memory of sadness about this place.’
‘Come, my brother,’ Elrohir said with sudden resolution. ‘Wrap up what we have found – we will head for the Redhorn and Lothlórien.’
‘Ah.’ Galadriel touched a finger to the heavy torc, running it over the twisted golden rope to the ruby-eyed boar’s head at one end. ‘It is very distinctive,’ she said sadly. ‘Made as a wedding gift for the Silvan husband of an elleth of the Noldor – intended to impress the ellon with the power and wealth of the family who did not, in truth, wish their daughter to ally herself with one whom they considered of inferior race. He accepted it and wore it for her sake – but I think he always considered it a shackle.’
Elrohir gazed at his daernaneth with fascination. ‘It was only a thing,’ he said. ‘But to know the story behind its creation…’ He picked up the neck-ring. ‘I can understand it feeling like a burden – in more ways than one,’ he added. ‘It is weighty.’
‘He died in the battles for Eregion,’ Galadriel sighed. ‘Fighting beside his adar and brothers by marriage. His wife and children fled the fighting – they were among those who reached Elrond’s forces and sought refuge in what became Imladris.’
Her grandsons turned identically intent looks on her. ‘You know her,’ she informed them. She picked up the wide bracelet, delicately engraved and studded with amethysts. ‘I remember her wearing this at her daughter’s naming day.’ She gazed at the collection of pieces. ‘She will be glad to see them again,’ she decided. ‘At first I doubt she could have borne it, but enough time has passed for her to want to remember and speak of her husband and other kin.’
‘Whose are they, Daernaneth?’ Elladan demanded. ‘Do not make us work it out!’
Galadriel smiled. ‘It should not be difficult,’ she said mildly. ‘You have listened to enough of her stories of her children’s youth – and of the time before that, when she was growing up in my brother’s realm.’
‘Mothwen?’ Elrohir said incredulously.
‘But she seems so … ordinary!’ Elladan protested. ‘So obsessed with tedious matters like … like clean linen. And mending. And flowers for the halls.’
Galadriel laughed. ‘And cannot being part of history and being ordinary go together, my foolish ones?’ Her fingers brushed the group of items on the table. ‘These and the history that comes with them – are only one small part of a long life. That is not all there is to know. On their own, they offer so minute a part of the picture, that seeing them would be unable to offer any real understanding, either of her family or the time itself.’ She frowned at her grandsons. ‘Take back this part of her past – and ask her to tell you what she will of the rest.’
‘It is very odd,’ Elrohir remarked, ‘that, in all of Hollin, we should come across these items.’
His daernaneth shrugged. ‘There must be dozens – hundreds – of other caches, buried once among the roots of friendly trees. Family treasures discarded in the hope of preserving life itself. Thousands of stories – of hope and desperation, of despair and unexpected salvation.’
Elladan’s grey eyes were bright. ‘Including yours?’
‘You know some of the tale,’ Galadriel told him. ‘But you were too young to know much that you would understand now.’
‘You will tell us,’ Elrohir asked, ‘now that we wish to learn?’
‘If you wish,’ his daernaneth conceded. She watched as Elladan carefully folded a cloth round the assortment of pieces. ‘The past is not hidden intentionally,’ she said conversationally. ‘It disappears, little by little, until suddenly you find that it has been buried by what has followed it – and it has to be unearthed and taken out and examined before it is forgotten entirely.’
Elrohir put an arm round Galadriel’s waist and stretched over to kiss her cheek affectionately. ‘Then let us dig, Daernaneth.’
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