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Ripe for Change  by Bodkin

Reasons

Celeborn stood, leaning on the slender top of the long trunk, gazing with absorption as the cool splendour of the starlit night faded to a clear steely grey, waiting until the sun kissed the drifts of high cloud with pink and the sky revealed its depth of endless blue.

He reminded himself too often, he admitted, how much he missed Elbereth’s stars under which he grew, but the day had its beauty too, and its clarity revealed in glorious detail the perfection of Yavanna’s creations.   Before him the freshly-opened leaves gleamed with a sharp greenness that promised growth and strength, and the trees welcomed the energy provided by Arien’s bright light.  And he, too, found that, deep within him, he expanded under its warmth, stretching like a cat relishing its touch on its fur.

Not just the different forest, then, he noted.  He had needed to be needed.  To be provided with a purpose that was greater than the mechanics of day-to-day living.  A mission.  He smiled narrowly.  He hoped that the task he had found himself would be less selfish in nature than that the sons of Fëanor had brought with them as they imposed their patronising dominion on a land that needed them not.  He stopped and reproved himself.  It would.  Seeking a home where those exiled from Arda could live independently, following the customs of their kin, was not selfish.  He would step on no toes in his quest, but work with those to whom this Blessed Realm was home.  And in finding what he sought, he would find himself.

The branch swayed gently beneath his feet and the broadening leaves rustled in the morning’s gentle breeze.  He drew a deep breath – the air was lively with the energy of spring and he could almost feel it tingling in his blood.  He had thought it foolish to talk of healing here for him, when being here was in itself a wound, but it would appear that he was learning better there too. 

And she was coming: her fëa easy and warm, free of the scars that had marred it, relieved of the nails that had pulled at its fabric and misshapen it, released from the burden that had atrophied it.  He smiled and turned to the agile elleth, bearing in one hand something wrapped in a white cloth, and raised an enquiring eyebrow.

‘You must eat,’ she observed and handed him a flatbread folded round some flaked fish and dressed with a few chopped stalks of wild garlic.

‘And that is another thing,’ he remarked quietly, easing himself down to sit comfortably on the supple branch.  ‘There is no evidence of farming – yet there is flour in the stores; no evidence of spinning or weaving – yet cloth is used.’

‘It is not necessarily anything of which to be suspicious.’  Galadriel sounded amused as she relaxed into a cradle of thin branches that linked beneath her.  ‘They trade – there are villages beyond the forest where they have these things in plenty.’

‘What is there here that would be desired beyond the forest’s bounds?’

‘Oh come, my lord,’ she closed her eyes and turned her face to the dappled sunlight.  ‘You know what the forest produces in plenty.  There are medicines concealed in its depths that are worth any weight of flour.  Spices that will not grow in the open.  Truffles worth a king’s ransom to those wealthy enough to buy them.  And deerskin – and furs that are valued in exchange for wool or linen.’  She tilted her head and looked at her husband.  ‘You are talking to the wrong people, Celeborn.’

He chewed on the food she had brought and considered.  ‘Yet they complain of a lack of leadership.’

‘Goerfér complains of it,’ she corrected him.  ‘He is right – in a way.  The people here,’ he hesitated, ‘they live in small groups; they are nomadic; they travel a land that is owned by none – they are good candidates for exploitation.  They look to no lord – have no-one to fight their case.  But they do not seem unhappy on the whole.’  She thought about what she had seen over their few weeks wandering to the shore of this wide lake of sweet water.  ‘Some – like Bórdain – want little.  The forest provides for them: clothes, food, shelter – it is all here.  Others, Goerfér among them, seem to me to be seeking more.’

‘Who is right?’  He smiled and paused in his eating.

‘Neither.  Both.’ She shrugged.  ‘It is a matter of opinion.  What do you think?’ 

‘I think it will take me longer to decide what I think,’ he said. 

‘Well, there is no rush,’ she told him comfortably.

‘How long, do you think, before our daughter sends out a search party?’

Her eyes narrowed.  ‘She would not dare!’

Celeborn put back his head and laughed.  ‘I will give her no more than another month,’ he wagered.  ‘She will find someone prepared to risk our wrath, mark my words.  She clearly thinks we are in no condition to care for ourselves.’

‘I have no desire to be supervised like a naughty elfling,’ Galadriel declared.  ‘I will not have it.’

‘See if you can stop it, my love.’  Celeborn made no attempt to conceal his amusement.  ‘There are some things you cannot fight, even if you would.  She will send someone to seek us out because she loves us and is worried about us.  Would you deter her?’

Galadriel frowned at him, before finally surrendering.  ‘No,’ she sighed. ‘But I hope she refrains from persuading poor Elrond to follow us.  He will be most reluctant to interfere.’

‘Not Elrond,’ Celeborn speculated.  ‘Nor our grandsons.  Neither Glorfindel nor Thranduil – they are all still in too much need of rest.  Thranduil’s son, perhaps.’

‘No,’ Galadriel decided.  ‘He is too young.  He might find us, but Celebrían would know that he is too polite to influence two wily old foxes like us.  Someone who could match us.  My brother, perhaps.’

‘Which one?’

‘Which one do you think would be prepared to head off on such a quest?’

‘Finrod?’

Galadriel smiled.  ‘He is most likely, I think,’ she concluded.  ‘Not that he will be any more successful – but I will not bite off his head.’

‘His wife will be grateful,’ Celeborn said dryly, ‘to know that you are marginally less dangerous than Morgoth.’

‘That,’ Galadriel said, ‘was unfair – and I am afraid I will have to make you pay for that comment.’

‘Promises,’ Celeborn murmured provocatively, meeting her eyes so they stared at each other like two cats.

She moved fractionally before him, but he was expecting it and leapt from his branch to a thicker one a good deal lower, pausing only to check that Galadriel was prepared to chase him before heading ever lower through the canopy until he reached a grassy bank studded with the tiny pink flowers of wild thyme, where he stopped and turned on his pursuer.  He tackled her, pulling her to the ground and rolling her onto her back while pinning her arms above her head and allowing his silver hair to trail teasingly across her face.

Galadriel laughed up at him.  ‘I could escape in a moment,’ she declared.

‘If you wanted to,’ he said, his voice intense.

‘If I wanted to,’ she agreed, suddenly breathless, raising her head to allow her lips to meet his.  ‘But I do not.  I never have.’

‘Good,’ he said with satisfaction and lowered his mouth to hers.

***

‘He is not listening to me,’ Goerfér followed Losgael as she methodically sought the small white bulbs she intended to add to the fish stew.

‘Give him time,’ she said patiently.  ‘Let him see for himself what we lack here.  He is an intelligent elf – and he will not respond well to being herded.  Allow him to relax and learn to hear the forest.’

‘But I cannot guarantee that he will hear what we do.’  Goerfér obediently took the flat basket.  ‘He is not used to these woods.   Surely it is folly not to show him where to look.’

‘Did you send the boats out?’ His wife straightened up and looked at him wearily.  ‘We need to dry more fish this year – last winter ate into our stores – and the catches have not been good so far.’

‘Colodcoe has taken two or three people to the stream – he seems to think it is more promising.’

‘What do you think?’ Losgael asked rather impatiently.  ‘You have centuries of experience of this – take some decisions for yourself.’

Goerfér hunched his shoulders moodily.  ‘It is as good as anywhere.  And the trees promise well for the autumn.’

‘They promised well last year, too,’ Losgael said grimly.  ‘But the nuts were small and bitter and many fell early.’

‘I do not understand it. We had a good summer.’

‘Some seasons are like that – and it was dry at the wrong time.’  Goerfér’s wife straightened up and stared into the green canopy.  But this is more than a bad harvest: more than a reduction in the number of fish in the lake.’ She looked sharply at the disconsolate elf.  ‘Is it not, my husband?’

‘Why do you say that?’

‘More are being released from Námo’s halls,’ Losgael said flatly.  ‘It is putting more of a strain on the ability of the forest to give – and the forest creatures are withdrawing from us in their need to protect themselves.  It used to be that we could wander whichever paths took us for weeks without seeing any others among the trees, but now the wood is full of voices.  If nothing is done, we will soon be driven to seek other homes.  The balance is upset.’

‘Yet Celeborn sees nothing,’ Goerfér complained.

‘Why should he?’ Losgael snapped.  ‘He does not know these woods!  How should he be able to tell on a fortnight’s acquaintance that they are – less than they used to be?  It has taken several yeni of slow change for us to become concerned and still we do not know what to do – yet you expect him to understand in a moment?’

Goerfér drew a deep breath.  ‘I will talk to him,’ he suggested.  ‘Tell him what we see – perhaps he will have some ideas.’

‘We will both do it,’ Losgael said firmly.  ‘In fact, we will choose a time when we can all speak at length – and share what we have seen.  I was not sure at first, but I find I have some trust in your cousin and his lady to do what they must.  They may not be able to help us – but they will do what they can, and they will tell us the truth.’

For a few minutes, Goerfér trailed his wife, wiping the small bulbs as she handed him her gleanings, until finally she decided that she had harvested enough from the glade’s abundance.

‘I wish Nifredil had not agreed to follow Lómin into the high hills,’ Goerfér said suddenly.  ‘It is not the same without her.’

‘You know why they went,’ Losgael sighed.  ‘And if we do not do something, Pelthaes will be next.  That alone should be enough to make us determined to succeed.’

***

Elrond turned the page of his book and made an heroic effort to conceal his amusement as he pretended not to notice Celebrían’s foot-tapping impatience.  He would have to go over the text again, he realised, for he could not remember a word he had read since she came into his study, but it was worth it just to see how long it would take for her to tire of waiting for him to surrender and ask her the nature of the problem.   It would not, he thought, take long.  As her parents’ absence extended from days to weeks, Celebrían’s anxiety had been increasing visibly.  Why she had settled on this day for it to overflow, he knew not, but she clearly felt that some invisible boundary had been passed.

Even as he lowered his book to the table, his wife’s cool hands slipped over his eyes.  ‘You are not reading,’ she accused him.  ‘You have been gazing at the same page while the sun has made its way across your desk.  You just do not want to listen to what I have to say.’

Laughing, Elrond raised his hands to pull hers down, kissing each palm as he released them.  ‘You have found me out,’ he agreed, turning to look at her and drawing her down to sit on his lap.  ‘You waited longer than I thought you would before challenging me,’ he admitted.

His beautiful silver-haired wife rested her head on his shoulder, twisting his narrow braids round her fingers in a way that made his throat tighten in recollection of the youngsters who had, in their time, sat in his arms doing the same thing. 

‘I am worried,’ she said in a soft voice, as if she was almost afraid to voice the concern for fear of making it worse.

Elrond sighed.  He could not see either Celeborn or Galadriel appreciating his interference in their affairs.  ‘They will be fine, my love,’ he said.  ‘They are old enough and wily enough to know their limitations – they will come back, refreshed, when they are ready.’

‘Not my parents!’  Celebrían raised her head in some surprise and her liquid grey eyes met his.  ‘I think that Adar is taking on too much – he is worn as thin as a fine silk – but Naneth is right in saying that he needs time among forests as ancient as he is.’  She thoughtfully combed her husband’s hair back with her fingers and tucked it behind his ear.  ‘Our sons.’ 

‘Ah.’

‘You have seen it, I know.’  Celebrían looked at him intently.  ‘Adar and Glorfindel are among the most powerful elves the Third Age knew.  Thranduil, too, in his own way.  And they are bad enough.  But our sons are – ragged.’  She smiled wryly.  ‘To continue the image – their silk is brittle and crumbling, as if it has spent too many centuries being burned by sun and chilled by frost.  They are so close to fading that I do not know if they will be able to come back to us.’

Elrond drew her head down again and began to caress her long tresses.  ‘Do you remember when Legolas arrived?’ he asked meditatively.  ‘He depended on Gimli to hold him together.  I think that without the dwarf’s presence, even the Blessed Realm would not have been enough to keep him whole.  He had stayed far beyond the time when the song of the sea drew him west – for love of Estel, and Arwen, and those others among mortals for whom he cared.  But he survived those early difficult years and learned to live again among us, even when Gimli . . .’

‘You are sure that our sons will have enough of a reason to stay with us?’ Celebrían’s eyes filled with tears.

Elrond’s long fingers cupped her chin and lifted her face.  ‘They have their naneth,’ he said simply.  ‘They have yearned to be reunited with you – and now they are.  Why should they not be happy to be here?’

‘What is there for them to do?’  Her voice shook slightly.  ‘They look around them as if they are strangers in a strange land – a land where everything is in some way less to them than the land they have left.  As if they have nothing in common with the elves around them and do not wish to develop any affinity with them.’

‘Do you remember how you felt when you first arrived?’ Elrond asked.  ‘It is – disorienting.  You have left a world you understood – and arrived in a place where many things you knew are no longer true.  And yet it looks the same – at first glance the white towers could be seen in Minas Tirith, the arched walkways are reminiscent of Imladris, the groves of trees as dignified as any in Lothlórien.  Elladan and Elrohir feel that they are the same, but all around them has changed – and what they have striven to protect has been forgotten.’  Celebrían began to relax as his skilled fingers eased her tension.  ‘They will have all the time they need – and the company of those who understand them without words.  What are they doing now?’

‘Sitting by the stream,’ she said.  ‘Hunched in middle of a black cloud of their own making and refusing to let the sun in.’

‘Let us gather a picnic,’ Elrond suggested.  ‘As we did when they were elflings and just go and sit with them among the trees until the stars dust the sky.’

Celebrían clutched at his arm. ‘They will be all right?’ she asked, desperate for reassurance.

Closing his eyes, Elrond kept his voice even.  ‘They will be all right.’  After all, he sighed, nothing his sons were enduring now could be worse than their agony after they lost their naneth.  They had survived on rage for so long that he had begun to despair, but – he reined in his memory of those terrible years – they had learned to live again then and they would now.

‘We will join them,’ he said, ‘and remind them that, for all they have lost their home, they have also regained their family.  We can afford them the time they need, my love. And they are your sons – there is too much joy inside them for this mood to endure overlong.’

‘It hurts to see them shadows of themselves,’ the twins’ naneth told him.  ‘I just wish it were as easy to heal their sorrows as it was when they were elflings, when all that was required was a magic kiss and a quick cuddle.’

Elrond laughed.  ‘You could try it,’ he suggested.  ‘You might be surprised at how effective their naneth’s touch could be.’  He ran his fingers through her hair.  ‘I know it did wonders for me,’ he murmured, his voice warm with recollection.

The sparkle of mischief in her eyes almost persuaded him that there were other things he could be doing that would enhance the beauty of the day, but he restrained himself.  His sons’ needs outweighed his desires.  And spending a few sunny hours with the family he had feared lost had a joy of its own.

***

Bórdain’s work-hardened hand stroked the narrow nose somewhat tentatively as Bregedur pushed insistently against him.  The horse seemed willing to move the acquaintance forward slowly, realising that the elf, for all his constant appearances in the small flower-filled meadow, was a little nervous.

‘You are a beautiful one,’ the elf murmured.  ‘Not that Danwedh is any less so, mind.  But you . . .’ he stretched up to smooth the forelock.  ‘I know not why,’ he mused.  ‘Maybe it is she who rides you – she is bright, with the gleam of Elwë’s Trees in her eyes – and she knows Oromë.   Should I hope that she will lead us to another place?’  Bregedur nudged him.  Bórdain sighed.  ‘Perhaps it is too much to wish for that.  We are those who would not follow: maybe it is more than we have a right to ask.’

Bregedur lipped the elf’s green tunic thoughtfully.

‘And he,’ Bórdain said, cupping the horse’s chin and easing the cloth free, ‘he shines like Olwë, like Elwë, strong and true.  He will see what we need, will he not?  It may be that it is he for whom we have been waiting here.’

‘But I am not Elu,’ Celeborn said softly.  Danwedh whickered in greeting and came to welcome his elf.  ‘I have not come out of Arda to inspire a people to follow me they know not where – I serve those who would look to me.’  He glanced from the horse whose nose he was scratching to the somewhat shadowy figure that had withdrawn behind Bregedur.  ‘I will take none where they do not wish to go.’

‘We wish to go,’ Bórdain affirmed.  ‘Not all among us, perhaps.  But, somewhere in these lands, a place awaits us – but it is not here.’

‘This forest seems to me filled with beauty,’ Celeborn commented.

Bórdain looked around him.  The freshly-dressed branches of the sturdy oaks overhung the cropped grass of the clearing, where small blossoms of gold and purple studded the green.  A small stream trickled over slabs of water-worn rock towards the broad expanse of the lake and its song competed with the voices of the multitude of small birds hidden in the canopy.  ‘There are too many here,’ he said simply, ‘in this place of waiting.  It is time to move on and leave this land for those who follow us.’

‘As simple as that?’ Celeborn asked.

‘Goerfér would make it more complicated,’ Bórdain admitted.  ‘But, in truth, that is all there is to know.’  He emerged from behind the horse to watch the elf-lord’s reaction.  ‘I have been too long among these trees – I am called west,’ he said.  ‘Beyond the mountains, whence none return.  Long ago,’ he murmured, ‘when the world was young, I was not ready to heed the call to leave the beauty of Arda and cross the wide sea, but now the yearning fills me – and I must seek what none can guarantee.  My bones ache with my need for it,’ he sighed, ‘and the song of a deep forest of ancient trees fills my ears.  It waits for us, my lord,’ he said with certainty.

A surge of excitement tightened Celeborn’s belly.  The words rang true in his heart, as moments of foresight sometimes did.  Was this what he had been awaiting?  The call – not to lead – he lacked the arrogance required to take upon himself the mantle of elvendom’s great leaders – but to enable an exodus?   ‘What prevents those who wish to go from seeking this place?’ he asked simply.

‘Some go,’ Bórdain shrugged. ‘Goerfér’s daughter, last year, was among those who decided they would wait no longer.’  His fingers teased through Bregedur’s mane absently as he sought the words to explain something he had never attempted to put into words.  ‘But there is more required than just inhabiting the land as we do here – it must be seen to be ours.  We will not be dispossessed at the whim of Finwë’s people or displaced at the command of the Valar and move ever on.  This place . . .’  He stopped, unable to describe what was no more than a feeling.

‘The place where we are meant to be.  Where we were always meant to be,’ Celeborn suggested.

‘Home,’ Bórdain said.

***

‘No.’

Celebrían continued to gaze hopefully at her naneth’s brother, with the look that her sons had long decried as so irresistible it was unfair.  It was a weapon that was getting plenty of work, she thought ruefully.  She was bringing it into play to coax the twins into eating, to persuade them to join her under the trees, to meet again friends from whom they had been long sundered – and now she was employing it in an attempt to persuade Finrod Felagund, whose gallant loyalty had taken him into the heart of Morgoth’s power, to seek his sister and her husband and to ensure that they were well and happy in their quest for peace in the forests of the Blessed Realm.

‘It is unnecessary,’ Finrod told her.  ‘Any hostile creature would steer well clear of Artanis when she is in one of her moods, believe me.’

Elrond turned away to admire the fall of water tumbling cleverly down the rocks between the budding roses.  The garden was beautifully planned, he thought, and encouraged to flower with an artistry that was remarkably pleasing as each colour and leaf shape and fragrance showed off its neighbours.  Nothing was out of place: nothing too tall, or too vivid, or too unkempt.  If the manicured perfection of Valinor made him, on occasion, want to run wild and immerse himself in mud and rampant greenery, how must it feel to those – like Celeborn, like Thranduil, for Arda’s sake – who saw themselves as part of the natural world rather than its masters?

‘But she is not herself,’ Celebrían sighed.

‘And all the more dangerous for that,’ her uncle replied firmly.

‘Yet it is my adar about whom I am most worried.’  Celebrían lowered her silver head to inspect her tightly linked fingers, before glancing swiftly back at Finrod.

Amarië smiled.  ‘She will win,’ she murmured for Elrond’s ears alone.  ‘He will be unable to deny her much longer.’

‘I hope you do not mind.’  Elrond’s grey eyes met Amarië’s gentle gaze.  ‘Celebrían’s concern has been concentrated on who would best influence her parents – I do not believe she has thought to ask if you object to her sending Finrod on such a quest.’

‘It will do him good.’  Amarië’s expression of affectionate amusement as she looked at her husband eased Elrond’s disquiet.  ‘He has spent too long here with too little to do – he will enjoy a few weeks travelling with a purpose in mind.  Even if, I think, his arrival will prove unwelcome to his sister.’

‘Galadriel asked me to hold Celebrían off for a month – two, if possible,’ Elrond confessed.  ‘She was perfectly well aware that – despite the distraction of our sons – her daughter would be too anxious to let her adar be for too long.  And she suggested Finrod as the best candidate to follow them – the Lady leaves little to chance.’  He tilted his head to watch the Vanya.  ‘Why do you not go with him?  If Galadriel is the greatest danger you are likely to face, it should be a pleasant journey.’

‘If I were to go, Finrod would not be free,’ Amarië pointed out.  ‘No, I am happy for him to wander at his leisure – I will be here when he returns.’

Elrond appraised her with an understanding that made her flush.  ‘You are very patient,’ he remarked.  ‘Finrod is fortunate.’

The elf in question threw up his hands.  ‘Right!  Fine, I will go,’ he surrendered.  ‘I do not see the need for it – your adar is as tough and resistant as bramble roots if he has coped with my sister for so long.  The last thing he will appreciate is one of Artanis’s brothers turning up to spoil his idyll in the woods.’

‘He must be used to it,’ Celebrían smiled winningly.  ‘It will not be the first time that one of my uncles has sought them out.’

‘Celebrían!’ Finrod exclaimed.

His niece laughed.  ‘I have heard stories,’ she told him.  ‘Rumour has it that you were not best pleased when my naneth chose to encourage my adar’s attentions.’

Finrod looked guilty.  ‘Look at it from our side, Celebrían,’ he requested.  ‘It did not appear an ideal match.  Even now, I am surprised it turned out as well as it did.’

‘You under-estimated my adar,’ his niece said.  ‘Many have done so – and just as many have found themselves to be wrong.’  She slipped her arm into his.  ‘I am glad that you will seek them out,’ she sighed.  ‘It is one less thing to worry about.’

The golden-haired elf patted her hand gently.  ‘Your sons will be fine,’ he assured her.  ‘Give them time.’

***

Losgael looked anxiously at the sky.  Rain was not far away and the afternoon sunshine had a heavy feel to it.  The fish on the drying lines would have to be taken in and yet again their efforts to prepare for winter would be thwarted.

‘They could be smoked,’ Galadriel suggested.  ‘If you have enough chipped wood available.’

‘It rains when we need sun,’ Losgael complained, ‘and the sun shines incessantly when the forest needs rain to plump up its fruits.’

‘It often does,’ the Lady of the Golden Wood sighed ruefully.  ‘And bad season follows bad with an infuriating inevitability.  It is easy to forget that good seasons tend to come in series, too.’

‘This is the fifth bad year in succession,’ Losgael admitted distractedly.  ‘I do not know how many more we can endure.’  She glanced at the fish.  ‘How could we set up a smoking room now?’

‘We could improvise with canvas, I think,’ Galadriel considered.  ‘I have seen it done.’  She smiled.  ‘Fish was never more than an addition to our diet in Lothlórien – and it was always eaten fresh – but we lived for a time by the coast, where it was preserved in many ways.  Smoking, drying – salting.  Pickled in vinegar or soused in brine.’

‘We have neither vinegar nor salt enough,’ Losgael sounded dejected.  ‘Smoke – we have wood in plenty.  We could try that.’  She looked up as the patter of rain sounded on the leaves like applause.  ‘We cannot waste the forest’s gifts.’

Galadriel sighed and pulled her cloak more closely round her.

A grin brightened Losgael’s face.  ‘Your Noldor roots are showing, my lady,’ she remarked.

‘The rain falls on the Noldor just as it does on the Sindar and the Silvan,’ Galadriel retorted.  ‘And I have endured far worse than this – but why invent roofs and then stand in the wet?  There is work in plenty that needs to be carried out under shelter.’

‘Not as much here as in the enclaves of lords and ladies,’ Losgael pointed out.  ‘We have no weaving rooms or libraries, potteries or smithies – those who dwell in the forest with us work with their hands to keep us in food and bring in enough that we can trade with the villages beyond the trees.’

‘What would you do, then, were you to move beyond reach of those who make what you do not?’ Galadriel asked apparently idly. 

‘Bórdain can tell you of living in a world that had none of those things,’ Losgael retaliated.  ‘Where elves lived as simply as the deer – using what was there.’

‘I have lived long and seen much.’ Galadriel tilted her head and watched rain gather on the leaves and drip to the forest floor.  ‘Elves are not inclined to live as the creatures of the forest do – we are curious and inventive and we bring about change, whether we mean to or not.’  She looked mildly at Losgael.  ‘Would you return to wandering naked among the trees?  Grazing on nuts and berries?  Would you eat your meat raw?  Even those who advocate the simple life of the Silvan, I find, prefer to wear garments spun from plant fibres and woven into cloth – that is then cut and sewn to be comfortable.  They eat from bowls carved from wood and drink from cups of horn.  They use fire to cook their food and provide warmth.  They ferment fruits to create wines – and preserve the summer’s bounty to feed them in lean times.’  She sighed.  ‘And trade is part of that.  Not all of us have the same skills – or access to the same things.  To exchange what you have in plenty for what you want seems to me to be eminently sensible – and to remove the possibility is something that needs to be considered carefully.’

Losgael closed her eyes.  ‘If we spent too much time thinking of the difficulties, we would never achieve anything,’ she said.

‘Yet planning increases the chance of success,’ Galadriel smiled.  ‘The more aspects of a situation you work out, the fewer the chances that disaster will strike.  Establishing a new home is difficult at best – but it is not impossible.’

‘We yearn to move west,’ Losgael admitted.  ‘We creep across the mountains in small numbers – a few here, a few there – seeking the place that sings in our hearts.  But many more linger here as Námo releases increasing numbers from his halls – some wait in the desperate hope of reunion with one lost to death, others are reluctant to leave a place that has given them sanctuary, others are not yet prepared to take the risk of facing the unknown.  I fear trying to build a home from scratch, where none can offer help we need.  You are right: it is not easy to be self-sufficient.  We want no rulers to dominate us – no outsiders to take command and bid us come and go.  We do not wish to approach the rulers of the elves of the Blessed Realm and ask them for their intervention – we are a proud people – but we need one who is willing to aid us – and I think that someone is your husband.’

***

‘You will do it?’  Galadriel relaxed on the gently swaying branch and watched the moon shine on the water.  The rain had passed – lasting just long enough to make Losgael’s task impossible – and the evening gleamed with a pearlescent beauty.

She could feel Celeborn’s response in his stillness and the tightening of his muscles.  He drew a deep breath.  ‘Would you mind?’ he asked.

She turned to look at him.  Alertness had replaced weary resignation in his bearing and she could almost see his relish for the task before him.  He was still too thin, but his frightening pallor had been warmed by the sun and rain and he was encouragingly there, as he had not been in the months since his arrival.  ‘Why should I mind?’  Her smile gleamed in the cool light.  ‘It seems to me that – barring the sudden appearance of Elu – you are the best person to guide these people to the place they seek.’

‘And I have the connections necessary to smooth our path,’ her husband bragged.  ‘I know someone who is quite closely related to the Noldor’s High King – that might prove helpful.’

‘It might,’ she allowed, suppressing a grin.  ‘You should have little difficulty in finding an ear among the powerful.  Maybe even two.’

‘It will take time.’

‘It always does.’

‘Perhaps,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘I will take Goerfér with us – he will never believe that the delays required for diplomacy are inevitable unless he sees it himself.’

‘I would rather take Bórdain,’ Galadriel sighed.

‘He would never agree to come.’  Celeborn buried his hands in her hair, enjoying the feeling of its living warmth.  ‘He would be diminished away from the trees – the silence would be physically painful for him.’

She was scheming, he thought.  He could see it in her as she leaned into his touch; feel it in her distraction.   ‘Think twice,’ he murmured, ‘before you do something – is it right?  Is it necessary?  Or is it one of those things that is best left to itself?  You are too inclined to meddle with matters that are better without interference.’

Galadriel turned indignantly.  ‘You are a fine one to talk, my lord,’ she informed him.  ‘Is your intervention not interference?  If I should refrain from doing, should not you do the same?’

‘Different,’ he murmured.  ‘From the general to the specific.  Bórdain has lived long and seen much – on both sides of the sea.  What you wish to do – would it improve his life?’

‘He longs to see Oromë,’ she said.  ‘And Nahar.  I do not see that it would be unreasonable to ask.  The Lord of the Hunt would only agree if he thought it would be beneficial.’

‘Oromë would be flattered,’ Celeborn observed, ‘yet his attentions would be oppressive.  It would be best to leave any such meeting to chance.  Believe me.’

‘It may be so,’ Galadriel conceded.  ‘I suspect Oromë will hear the longing in Bórdain’s heart.  In his own time.’  She took her husband’s hand and linked her fingers with his.  ‘Will you seek out new realms with these children of Arda?’ she asked softly. 

The silver-haired elf hesitated.  ‘The thought makes my bones sing,’ he said.  ‘But I have made you wait long enough for my arrival as it is.  Why should I feel I have the right to expect you to follow me?’  His grasp on her hand tightened.  ‘You spent an age longing for your home.  Should I take you from it?’

Her other hand came to cover his.  ‘Folly,’ she said comfortably.  ‘I yearned for the healing of the Blessed Realm.  I am here: I am healed.  You came beyond all expectation – I am fulfilled.  I would follow you anywhere, my love.  To leave the ancient realms of the elves and dwell in the forest – with you – would be a joy beyond my deserts.’ 

‘As you are beyond my deserts, my lady of light.’

‘That is not how you have phrased it at times,’ she teased him.  ‘I seem to remember your having asked whatever had you done to deserve me – more than once or twice, too.  Did you ever come up with an answer?’ 

‘This is not the moment to recall my cries of frustration,’ he reproved.  ‘I am being sincere.’

Galadriel inspected him seriously.  ‘This task you have taken is a necessary one, my lord.  There are many – not just these few here – who need a place of their own.  Can you imagine Thranduil settling happily among the white towers and dwelling among the Noldor?  Elrond, too, needs to be his own elf – he is kind and tolerant and endures well the life of Finarfin’s grandson, but he should have his own lands.  Although the requirements of elf lords are irrelevant, really – it is the need of their peoples that should be filled.  The elves of Lasgalen; the elves of Lothlórien; those of Imladris – they must have their own place, a place where they can be free to grow as they wish.’

‘Then we will work to provide that, my lady.  Together.’





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