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Galadriel stretched over to the blanket rolled up away from the water’s edge and pulled out a shift of fine white linen.
‘I suppose you did not bring anything I could wear?’ Celeborn asked hopefully.
‘After all those words on travelling light?’ Galadriel returned. ‘Surely one change of underwear should be enough for you, my lord.’ She grinned at him mischievously. ‘I am sure your clothing will be dry by tomorrow.’
He turned and trapped her hands as she attempted to shake out her simple garment. ‘Of course, I could simply drop this in the water,’ he threatened. ‘If I am to be discovered here without clothing, then it would be only fair for my wife to share my embarrassment.’
‘We have blankets, my lord,’ she laughed, ‘and the sun has been warm. I am sure we can cover you – and it is unlikely that we will be bothered tonight. I am sure that whoever lives nearby has realised that we are in no condition to be introduced to anyone at the moment.’
‘I thought you said the trees would warn us of the presence of others,’ he complained, releasing her to pull the shift over her head.
She gathered her hair and pulled it free from the neck before braiding it swiftly and tying the end with a thong of damp leather. ‘They did,’ she smirked, ‘but your head was underwater and you were too busy wallowing to listen.’
Before he could grab her, she sprang up and gathered their drying clothes to take them back to their camp. ‘I will leave you the blanket,’ she said, looking over her shoulder and grinning. ‘Do not be too long, my love. I am intending to risk your cooking talents tonight – I have only just washed the scent of the fire from my hair.’
‘So have I,’ he said plaintively, causing her to turn in surprise. ‘You would not want to get me smoky again, would you?’ He tossed his head and ran his fingers through his gleaming tresses teasingly.
‘There is always lembas,’ she told him, smiling at his performance.
He grinned as he watched her disappear between the trees. There was something different about his lady when she shed her formal gowns and her court manners – it reminded him of a moth breaking free of a pupa that was too confining to become instead a creature free to fly. He had almost forgotten what fun it could be to play in the forest, unburdened by any responsibilities. Stretching, he leaned his head back and allowed the light of the stars to caress his cheeks, as subtly as it had done in Doriath before ever the sun had risen.
It had not been perfect then, he reminded himself sternly. It was too easy to allow the past to take on a romantic gleam. They had endured their troubles, suffered their losses, defended themselves against a creeping shadow. Not all the woes of Arda had arrived in the stolen swan ships of the Teleri or announced their presence with the song of silver trumpets.
He bent to grab the blanket, gathering it and slinging it easily over his shoulder. Galadriel would not wish to be found naked in the woods, he knew, but it was a matter of indifference to him – if anyone chose to seek him out here, they would have to accept what they found. As he turned to follow his wife, he paused, caught by the beauty of starlight on water and the song of the trees. He could learn to live here, he acknowledged – if only he were left long enough for this tentative recognition to grow into familiarity.
The leaves stirred and a soft breeze caressed his skin like the silken touch of an approving hand as he moved beside the stream to the grove they had chosen for their temporary home. Galadriel was nowhere to be seen – and she had held to her refusal to perfume her hair with the scent of wood smoke. He looked up, his eyes inexorably drawn to the white of her shift and the glint of her hair in her chosen tree.
‘Join me,’ she suggested provocatively.
‘I have better things to do with my time,’ he sniffed as he turned towards their packs, sparing her, meanwhile, a sidelong glance. ‘Do not think you can tempt me with your hair of moon-kissed gold and your long bare legs. I am immune to your wiles.’
‘Alas,’ she teased him. ‘My naneth warned me about elves like you!’ A prickly case of last season’s beechmast struck him on the top of his head. ‘I have more,’ she told him smugly. ‘My resting place was clearly stocked by a squirrel that knew I would have need of ammunition.’
He grinned, extracting a package of lembas as he ducked another missile. ‘You are asking for trouble, my lady,’ he warned. ‘You are out of practice when it comes to a chase through the tree tops.’
‘No more than you are, my lord,’ she considered, ‘and you disregard the fact that I might not be intending to escape you altogether.’
‘How do you know that Thranduil and I did not spend the last centuries racing each other through the canopy?’ he asked seriously. ‘Or we might have passed endless nights of entertainment pursuing our errant grandsons through the trees.’
His response left her momentarily speechless, as the vision passed before her of the two powerful and dignified leaders of the last elven realms of Arda flinging themselves through the trees like over-excited elflings, before she collapsed against the tree trunk in helpless giggles. ‘You might, indeed,’ she agreed as soon as she could control her voice sufficiently. ‘I apologise for overlooking the likelihood of that.’
‘So you should.’ His voice came from behind her as he arrived, a wine skin bundled with the lembas in a pouch formed of the soft grey cloth. He handed them over and draped the blanket round them both as he sat and drew her close to him. He pressed his cheek briefly to her head before leaning back and releasing a sigh.
She allowed herself a very gentle probe to sense his mood. He was still trying too hard, she reflected, but he was better than he had been. She thought there were moments now – whole hours sometimes – when he forgot to mourn the trees of his youth in the pleasure he took in acquainting himself with this new forest – and, if only the elves of Aman would keep their distance, he might well begin to settle without even realising it.
‘Do you remember,’ she asked, ‘the first time you took me in your arms like this?’
‘M’mm.’ She could feel his amusement. ‘I was not entirely certain that you would not hit me – and then you rested your head on my shoulder and I realised that I would live to fight another day.’
‘I had no idea,’ she returned haughtily, ‘that you considered approaching me to be some test of your courage!’
‘Oh, it was, my lady,’ he assured her. ‘Most definitely. An elf of less boldness than I would never have dared it. He would have been far too worried about those rather large swords carried by all your kin – and the use to which they might be put.’ His hold tightened as Galadriel shifted, but she only rested her hand gently on his arm. ‘And the newly-arrived lords of the Noldor all seemed to be only too anxious to pick quarrels with us Sindar.’
Much as it pained him, he could recognise in himself now something of the challenge that had so offended him in those cocksure princes of the Noldor: the defiance that looked at the new world to which they were confined and pretended assurance even as it spoke of superiority. He would have to be careful, thought ruefully, not to cause similar offence to those who might see themselves condemned for their presence in the land to which they were born. He did not want those native to Aman to look on him as he had responded to Orodreth – only to find, years later, that he was actually an elf worth knowing and worthy of respect.
Ironic, he decided, that it had taken him more than three ages to realise that much of the behaviour that had so incensed him had been bluster – and that he was on the verge of returning the compliment.
Galadriel stroked his arm, emanating a feeling of calm and acceptance that soothed him despite his knowledge that she was attempting to affect his mood. ‘Do you want some wine?’ she asked.
‘No, not really.’ He relaxed and permitted the tranquillity of the forest to fill him. ‘I would prefer simply to sit here with you and watch the stars.’
‘Then let it be so, my love,’ his wife told him comfortably.
Morning came with shafts of golden light from a fire-bright sky. Galadriel remained motionless, reluctant to rouse Celeborn from his easy dreams, but she watched the sky with resignation. If it meant anything, she knew, a sky like that was a harbinger of rain and she would soon be doing her best to huddle in the shelter of the trees to avoid it. The only good thing she could see about it was that her lord would find her reluctance to get wet highly amusing. She grinned – she supposed that would, by itself, make the experience worthwhile. And at least she did not have to concern herself about possible damage to the fabric of her clothing – her simple exploring-the-forest tunics and breeches could not be spoiled by anything as simple as rain. In fact, she thought nothing short of immersion in orc blood would prove irreparable. And that was unlikely to be a problem. She shifted slightly. How long would he sleep? Pleasant as it was to recline in the treetops in his arms, she wanted to be moving. She glanced over her shoulder to see him as peaceful as she could remember him, cheek pressed against the smooth grey bark, eyes unfocused, his breathing steady with the rhythm pulsing through the tree. He looked as if he was listening to it, she smiled, and tuning himself to its song.
The soft whistle came unexpectedly. Galadriel’s eyes narrowed. It should not be possible for someone to approach their resting place so closely without her having been aware of him.
‘My lord!’ A quiet voice shivered the leaves about them.
Celeborn’s body tensed, moving instantly from repose to readiness with the wariness of a warrior.
‘My lord?’ The light tone became enquiring. ‘Are you here?’
‘Goerfér?’ Celeborn murmured incredulously. ‘Goerfér?’
He moved so swiftly that Galadriel was left rocking uncertainly on the branch as he leapt to the ground barely touching any footholds on the way. She leaned over in time to see her controlled husband grasp a tall russet-haired figure in his arms with the ferocious hug of old comrades, divided for centuries and unexpectedly reunited.
‘It is good to see you,’ the stranger said, his voice buoyant with laughter, ‘but do I really have to see quite so much of you?’ He looked round and grabbed the clothes from the bushes where they were drying. ‘Cover yourself, my friend.’
Celeborn grinned. ‘It is nothing that you have not seen before, you prude,’ he complained, swiftly sorting out the least damp garments and donning them. ‘I cannot believe I am seeing you! What are you doing here?’
‘What do you think I am doing?’ the other elf enquired. ‘Working as a dancing master? I am living my life, old friend – among trees that have never seen Morgoth’s abominations.’ He looked the silver-haired elf up and down. ‘You?’
‘Settling in,’ Celeborn told him briefly.
‘Alone?’ Goerfér raised an eyebrow and glanced up at the tree from which Celeborn had tumbled so precipitately.
Goerfér’s lips curled into a grin. ‘I am sorry to have intruded, then, my friend. Perhaps I should have waited for an invitation.’
‘No need.’ Galadriel descended with considerably more dignity. ‘I am delighted to meet my lord’s old friends.’
The steel-grey eyes looked her over appreciatively enough to bring a warning to her face. ‘My lady,’ he said politely.
‘And I think you must be a very old friend indeed,’ she continued, ‘for yours is a name I do not recognise.’
‘We were ellyn together,’ Celeborn interjected, ‘and danced beneath the stars.’
‘Until I took an arrow,’ Goerfér added amiably.
‘Have you been among these trees long?’ Galadriel asked hurriedly, as Celeborn’s eyes darkened.
‘I wander,’ he shrugged. ‘Long enough, I suppose. I found the light – unnatural – at first, but in time one grows accustomed. The trees enjoy it – their song is louder in its warmth and they grow strong and free.’
‘Are there many of us here?’ Celeborn sounded hopeful, but wary. He had placed too much hope in the possible presence of generations of those lost to the fight – hope that had been denied when he arrived on the white shores.
‘Here and there,’ his friend shrugged. ‘We do not feel the need to build cities or gather for protection. And the woods are wide, my friend.’
‘So not Elu, then,’ the silver-haired elf said softly.
Goerfér looked at him compassionately. ‘Not yet,’ he admitted. ‘Although I think that many of us wander in hope. Time runs differently in the Halls, Celeborn, and we return when we are healed. Elu needs longer than most to learn to bear his losses.’ He flicked a mischievous glance at Galadriel. ‘But you have not yet introduced me to your lady,’ he said. ‘And hers is a face I do not know.’
Both stiffened slightly. This was an explanation they had almost never had to make in all their long years together. They had been watched, disapproved of, envied and condemned by more elves than they could remember, but this was, Galadriel thought, perhaps the first time she had met a friend who had died before Arien rose and possibly the first time she had encountered one who knew nothing of her.
Celeborn drew a breath, then released it. To do any explanation justice would take weeks and he had no desire to go into that much detail. ‘Galadriel,’ he said simply, ‘this is Goerfér – a cousin and friend of my youth. Cousin, this is Galadriel – who has been my wife since the First Age.’ Then, thinking his description a little terse, he added, ‘She is granddaughter to both Olwë and Finwë.’ Let him make of that what he will, he thought.
‘You have children?’ Goerfér asked.
‘A daughter,’ Celeborn said briefly. ‘Wed to Elrond – who is Lúthien’s great-grandson.’
Goerfér digested that. ‘I am of the opinion that there is a lot more to know, my friend,’ he said amiably. ‘But I have come to invite you to share a meal with us. Will you join us?’
‘A fair number of things happen over the passage of some fifty yeni,’ Celeborn pointed out. ‘Too many to explain in the passage of a single hour.’
‘Who is meant by ‘us’?’ Galadriel enquired.
He shrugged. ‘One or two from the westward march. A few from Doriath. Some of those who chose not to follow Oromë’s lead.’ He smiled infectiously. ‘Some whose birth in these lands brought us joy.’
‘You have young ones?’ Celeborn was surprised. ‘However did you manage to find an elleth undiscriminating enough to choose you?’
Goerfér laughed. ‘I could ask you the same question, my friend, but clearly you convinced your lady not only to overlook your obvious flaws, but to remain with you over enough years to learn those you keep hidden.’
Seizing the opportunity offered by Goerfér’s light-hearted teasing of her husband, Galadriel dressed swiftly and rebraided her hair into a long tail. She had no objection to meeting new people, although she felt that Celeborn really needed to spend longer enjoying the silence of the forest, but she had no intention of meeting them half-dressed and dishevelled. And, in truth, Goerfér scarcely noticed her withdrawal. Why should he? He had found someone he had long since lost to time – he was bound to want to spend time in Celeborn’s company.
‘When did you realise it was me?’ her lord asked curiously. ‘We have spent a week or two heading south in the forest – have we been under observation all the time?’
His cousin smiled slightly. ‘Of course,’ he shrugged. ‘We prefer to avoid visitors where possible – but there are not many silver-haired princelings of Elu’s kin among them. ‘You have not changed so much that you are unrecognisable, so we thought to welcome you.’ His smile widened. ‘Wander with us for a while, my friend.’
It was less surprising, now she saw them, Galadriel thought, to find that these elves had been nearby and yet unobserved. They were – almost shadowy. They took her back – back beyond several thousand years of experience and life and change, to a time when the world had, perhaps, been different. It made her realise how few of these elves – those who had walked the forests in the beginning, to whom light was an intrusion, had been left dwelling in the remnants of the Great Forests of Arda. Darker and slighter than those who grouped round Celeborn, they watched cautiously from the shelter of the trees, clearly uncertain and reluctant to trust these strangers. She remained motionless, as one would who wished to encourage the approach of a wild creature, observing them from the corner of her eye. They had not yet unlearned their distrust: although their faces gleamed with the clarity of the reborn, their eyes were still wary. She sighed. It would seem that the Blessed Realm still contained work for those who would have elves see their similarities rather than their differences.
‘As far as I know,’ a voice like birdsong said behind her, ‘Finwë had no children when he followed Oromë west – and when Lord Olwë led his part of our people on, leaving us forsaken, he, too, was unwed.’ Galadriel turned to look at an elleth with the moon-bright hair of her naneth’s kin. ‘That would make you, would it not, one of the Exiles who brought their ruin to the shores of Arda?’
‘Losgael!’ Goerfér detached himself from his cousin and approached swiftly. ‘This is Celeborn’s lady.’ His tone said that awkward questions were not to be asked. Galadriel was to be accepted among them for her husband’s sake.
‘I am not unaccustomed to such reactions,’ Galadriel said mildly. ‘And the accusations are, after all, true.’ Her eyes met Losgael’s unflinchingly. ‘Although they stung considerably more before the first age wound to its end – by which time I felt I had earned a place in those lands.’
‘The Noldor did not bring the Shadow, Losgael,’ Goerfér said. ‘They followed it to that realm in their desire to defeat it.’
The silver-grey eyes remained challenging, but Losgael said nothing, waiting until he was drawn back to rejoin the laughter around Celeborn.
‘You speak as one who knew some, at least, of my cousins. You dwelt not in Doriath?’ Galadriel asked.
Losgael’s lips tightened. ‘You would not know the answer to that question?’ she challenged. ‘Were those of lesser rank too insignificant to notice?’
‘There were few I would not have been able to name,’ Galadriel told her, ‘then. More than two ages ago. Since those days – I have known many; known them and lost them and come to know others. But I do not think you were of Doriath.’
‘I was not,’ Losgael conceded grudgingly. ‘I dwelt in lands appropriated by your cousins.’ She met Galadriel’s eyes. ‘In Himlad. Where they swaggered like the lords they felt themselves to be, as the Sindar cared for the land.’ Her lip curled. ‘And they did not even realise that we disdained them.’
‘Curufin?’ Galadriel asked, unsurprised. ‘He was always arrogant. He thought he could take what he wanted in Valinor, just because he wanted it – and he did not change for the better after Fëanor’s death.’
‘His brother was no better.’ Losgael leaned back against a tree. She snorted. ‘He thought he could compel Lúthien to do his bidding.’
‘But he learned different,’ Galadriel observed, the quiet satisfaction in her voice making Losgael smile. ‘And everyone knew that she had beaten him in a game he forced her to play.’ She hesitated. ‘I felt sorry for my cousins in a way – it was never easy being the sons of Fëanor, and it grew more difficult as the number of them increased. But they did little to make themselves more endearing. I dwelt mostly in Doriath or with my brother, Finrod, in Nargothrond – I do not believe that his people made themselves so much disliked.’
‘No,’ Losgael admitted. ‘And he was much admired among the Edain.’
‘What kept you in Himlad?’ Galadriel asked curiously. ‘The lands were cold and much was barren.’
‘But the song of the waters was loud and their purity refreshed the spirit.’ Losgael sighed. ‘And we would not be driven away. Not by the Exiles, nor by Morgoth. And many of us paid with our lives.’
Galadriel looked at her thoughtfully. ‘You have wandered these forests for how long now?’ she enquired.
Losgael shrugged. ‘Twenty yeni? I do not know. Some time.’
‘And still you miss the home of your birth?’
‘How old were you when you crossed the Ice? How many yeni did you spend across the sea?’ Eyes of silver-grey focused on the daughter of Finarfin. ‘Did you ever stop wishing that you could come home?’
‘I hoped it would grow easier for him,’ Galadriel said softly. ‘This is Elvenhome, after all. I hoped that the passage of years and the love of his family would soften his yearning for forests he can no longer roam.’
She closed her eyes briefly. ‘Those of my kin who have returned from Mandos’s Halls have not found it easy,’ she admitted. ‘They look at those who remained and feel both guilt and anger – guilt for what they did in following Fëanor, but anger, too, that they and those with them suffered pain and loss and death, while their kin here in the Blessed Realm knew none of it. And those who remained often fail to see why they should be tolerant of others’ differences.’ She looked at Losgael. ‘Few things are as simple as they might seem at first glance,’ she observed. ‘One of the first things I learned on landing here was that the Blessed Realm might offer healing I needed, but that it was no longer my home – and that it had not been for a long time. But it will be again,’ she said indomitably, ‘in time, when we have found our place in these lands.’
Losgael inspected her as surreptitiously as she could. ‘Have you wandered with the Laiquendi before?’ she asked more mildly.
‘I have,’ Galadriel said, smiling slightly. ‘A long time ago. It was an enjoyable period.’
The fair hair hid Losgael’s face, but she sniffed doubtfully.
‘We had just bonded,’ Galadriel decided to open out a little more than she would normally have considered. ‘And our kin were less than pleased with us both, so we took the opportunity to learn more of the ways of the Laiquendi. They welcomed us whole-heartedly.’
‘I am worried,’ Celebrían announced.
‘About what?’ Elrond asked somewhat absently, knowing the answer he would receive.
His silver-haired wife tapped her toe impatiently at his denseness. ‘My parents,’ she told him. ‘They are not themselves. I am not sure that it is wise for them to disappear into the forest without anyone to keep an eye on them.’
Elrond looked up from his book and smiled. ‘It would be a brave elf who would follow where your parents told him not,’ he said. ‘Foolhardy, even.’
She returned his smile reluctantly. ‘True,’ she acknowledged, ‘but sometimes even my parents can be wrong.’
‘Who would you send?’ Elrond enquired. ‘Our sons? They have not yet recovered from their weariness enough for me to want to place any responsibility on their shoulders. Glorfindel would be brave enough to face them – he confronted a Balrog, after all.’
‘Are you saying that my parents are comparable to a Balrog?’ she asked haughtily, suppressing the twinkle in her eyes.
Elrond laughed softly. ‘Far worse, my beloved: far, far worse. There are, after all, two of them.’ He extended a hand to draw her closer to him. ‘But Glorfindel, too, is worn almost to the point that I can see through him. It would not be fair.’
Celebrían removed the book from her husband’s grasp and sat in his lap. ‘I thought perhaps that Naneth’s brother might be a suitable guardian for them.’
‘Finrod?’ Elrond slipped his arms round his wife’s waist. ‘He would be better than most,’ he admitted. ‘Harder for them to send away and harder for them to ignore – but truly they are best left alone, my love. They will come to no harm among the trees of the Blessed Realm.’
‘Then I shall continue to be troubled about them,’ she told him.
‘I doubt they will be alone for long,’ Elrond assured her.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
‘There have been uncounted thousands of elves from Arda slain since Cuiviénen,’ Elrond pointed out. ‘Many will have been rehoused and resumed lives in Aman – yet where are they? Some of the Sindar dwell contentedly here – a few among the Silvan have settled in groves of ancient oak and beech, but there are many who must live apart in the green depths of the forests. Your adar will draw them to him as bees to honey.’ He smiled. ‘They will be able to wallow in memories of the earliest days, when the stars lit the glades and the Noldor were noted only for their absence.’
‘I hope Naneth does not become too exasperated,’ Celebrían said anxiously.
‘And your Adar may well learn that the world changed – and that he changed with it,’ her husband said softly. ‘He will, I think, return happier and more settled, with a better understanding of what the Blessed Realm holds for him.’
Celebrían rested her head on Elrond’s shoulder and slid one pale hand beneath his hair to cup his neck. ‘Have you found content here?’ she asked cautiously.
‘Content and more than content,’ he murmured into her crown of hair. ‘And now our sons have joined us, I have all I can expect to receive.’
She stretched up to place a kiss on the point where his jaw met his ear. ‘You expect too little, Elrond Eärendilion, and you are worth far more.’
‘I have back my staunchest supporter,’ he breathed, seeking her mouth. ‘How could I deserve more than that?’
‘She is not what I expected,’ Goerfér told him.
Celeborn lifted an eyebrow with unmistakable hauteur.
‘Do not get on your high horse,’ his old friend shrugged. ‘You must have spent centuries dealing with those who could not abide the thought of a Prince of Elu’s house in the claws of a Noldor princess.’
‘Watch your choice of words,’ Celeborn warned. ‘I will not tolerate any disrespect – not even from you, cousin.’
‘So how many fights have you had over her?’
Celeborn grinned wolfishly.
Goerfér smiled reluctantly. ‘Enough to prove that only a fool would insult your wife in your hearing, I take it.’ He paused. ‘Of course, if I were not a fool, I would not have been in Mandos’s Halls in the first place. What in Arda made you choose her, Celeborn? You must have known it would outrage both your kindreds.’
‘How does choice come into it?’ Celeborn asked softly. ‘We belong together – we neither of us wished for it at first, but there are things that you cannot fight – and the recognition of one fëa for another is one of them.’
‘She will have taken on more than she realised,’ Goerfér conceded. ‘I suppose we should be grateful to her for that.’ He turned to watch Galadriel. ‘And she is not what I expected – she seems far easier here in the forest among us simple folk than I would have expected.’
‘Simple!’ Celeborn snorted. ‘Pretending artlessness is a form of arrogance as great as any other, cousin.’ He gave the other a hard stare. ‘You know a lot about us for one who went to the Halls of Mandos before ever Galadriel left Aman, Goerfér. For a naïve elf of the forest, you are remarkably well-informed.’
With a wave of his hand, Goerfér dismissed the comment. ‘Will you stay with us a while? We are going south and west, I think – there is a lake that is calling me. We could fish and swim and enjoy the trees.’
‘You lead this group, then?’
Goerfér shrugged. ‘No-one leads us, my friend. We roam as the mood takes us. Some will follow me – others will head in a different direction. As long as the forest provides food enough and space, we have no need of rulers or places of refuge.’ He shot a sidelong glance at his cousin. ‘It is a very restful way of life. No politics, no planning, no direction, no command structure – no enemies. Just elves in harmony with the song of the forest. It will not suit you at all.’
‘You think I cannot just sit in a tree and be an elf?’
His cousin laughed. ‘At times it bores me rigid, Celeborn, and I have never had a sense of responsibility or spent long yeni serving my people. But for a while – it will do you good to abandon your cares and just be.’
Galadriel watched the conversation with pleasure. She had been doubtful when these elves from the past had first arrived, feeling that their presence would disrupt her design for her husband’s healing time in the forest, but Goerfér’s familiarity had woken in Celeborn memories of his youth and he had become less guarded. And any opening in the shield that surrounded him would, she knew, allow the music of the Blessed Realm in to heal his spirit.
It was interesting, too, to be able to hold back and watch as these shy elves crept closer to her husband. She had almost forgotten over recent centuries how much mystique they had invested in the silver-haired scions of Elu’s kin – a power Celeborn endured rather than welcomed. Once she would have challenged him for the attention, but, she acknowledged wryly, there were advantages to added millennia. She found that she now agreed with her lord. The obligations of power outweighed the benefits: she had been obliged to make too many hard decisions to court authority – and she knew enough to know that it would find her without her volition.
‘Shall we go with them?’ Her husband’s voice penetrated her thoughts. ‘Or would my lady prefer to continue alone along the path we chose?’
She smiled at him, noting that his eyes seemed less shadowed. ‘A path through the woods should meander, my lord, to take in other views. I see no reason why we should not divert our footsteps if that is our desire.’
A pattering of raindrops on the leaves seemed almost like applause. Galadriel looked up and sighed. The rain presaged by the bright dawn had set in and the dullness that had crept over the sky made it look as if the rest of the day would be wet.
Celeborn laughed and raised a hand to brush a drop from her cheek. ‘The forest welcomes the water, my love,’ he said. ‘It has been dry for too long.’
She drew a sharp breath and her face softened. ‘Much too long,’ she agreed. ‘I hope it will be a long rain – a soft rain and a greening one.’
Despite the company, Celeborn drew her to him, ignoring the looks his unexpected informality earned him, and he held her close. ‘It will,’ he promised. ‘It will.’
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