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A New Purpose
Galadriel watched him with satisfaction. Celeborn gleamed with power: an elf in harmony with the land, as she had not seen him in long centuries. There was a look of Elu about him, she realised, secure in the rightness of who he was and what he was doing.
He scowled at her. ‘You would be a lot less annoying company if you refrained from looking smug and made a point of being wrong occasionally,’ he informed her.
‘I have often been wrong,’ she admitted. ‘Spectacularly wrong at times,’ she added thoughtfully. ‘But you have usually been there to save me from the consequences of my folly.’
The look in his eyes melted her will as only he could do. ‘We could both say that.’ He admired the play of the starlight on her spring-bright hair. ‘We make a good team.’
‘So you would agree that there was some point to the flight of the Noldor,’ she said provocatively. ‘If only to bring me to Doriath so that we might meet.’
‘I would have waited for you throughout all the ages of Arda,’ he said. ‘For there could never have been another to fill my heart as you do.’ His grin was feral and intense. ‘You had no need to bear the Doom of the Valar for me.’
‘Foolishness, my lord.’ She raised her hand to brush the backs of her fingers along the line of his jaw. ‘I was needed – and you know it. Our daughter was needed – and our granddaughter. Without them…’ she drew a ragged breath as she realised the enormous number of threads that had twisted together to produce the fine mithril wire of hope that had seen the fall of Sauron and the elves’ surrender of their birthplace to the Secondborn.
His hand pressed comfortingly in the small of her back. ‘And all that happened has brought us here,’ he said.
Galadriel fixed her gaze on the sapling mallorn in front of her, already more than twice the height of an elf. ‘We have always been driven onwards,’ she mused. ‘Lothlórien was the closest we came to a home – and our rule there was by default after Amroth…’ She stopped. ‘Do you think this will last?’ she asked.
‘I think so,’ he told her. ‘This place is meant for us – can you not feel it?’
‘I thought I felt it before,’ she sighed. ‘In Harlindon, in Ost-in-Edhil. In Belfalas and Lothlórien. But nothing endured.’
He drew her closer and enclosed her in his embrace. ‘This is different,’ he insisted. He grinned ironically. ‘This home comes with the approval of the Valar. We have been granted sanctuary.’
‘And when Elu returns?’
‘Will he come back to us?’ Celeborn looked up at the starlit sky. ‘It has been a long time – I do not think we can count on it.’
‘Would you follow where he led?’ Galadriel’s voice was very quiet and even.
Her husband did not speak, watching instead as Ithil glided between the treetops. ‘No,’ he said finally. ‘Too many centuries have passed. He will have my love and loyalty always, but I am my own elf now.’ He dropped his chin to meet her eyes. ‘I would happily spend seasons visiting him – as we will visit your parents – but I could not be the ellon I was then.’
She leaned back so she could study his face, but she remained silent. He combed his fingers through her hair. ‘So much time passed,’ he murmured. ‘So many lost.’
Galadriel gathered herself again. ‘And so much gained,’ she insisted. ‘And we are here now.’
‘I cannot deny it.’
Enough time had been spent brooding on what could not be changed. ‘Shall we establish a home in these trees?’ she asked. ‘Or wait a few centuries until these mellyrn are mature enough to offer us shelter?’
Celeborn dropped a kiss on her hair and patted her on the back – rather, she thought, as if she were a dog – before looking at her speculatively. ‘I have always rather wanted to dwell in a beech,’ he said.
‘Well – they are big enough,’ she shrugged, refusing to react. ‘Have you any particular beech in mind? Perhaps we should seek out our tree of choice before the Galadhrim begin to crowd in and we are left to wait for the mellyrn.’
‘Oh no!’ His clasp tightened and he smiled. ‘You do not catch me out like that, my lady. This is a home we will share, where we will dwell until the world is remade – and we will make our decisions together.’
‘Your uncle is itching to pack his bags and venture west,’ Elrond murmured in Celebrían’s ear. ‘I think only Amarië’s fondness for her garden is holding him here.’
His wife grinned at him mischievously. ‘If he would only ask,’ she said. ‘Amarië is beginning to despair. She has given him every opening she can think of – and still he insists on suffering in noble silence.’
Elrond digested her words. ‘You mean she would be willing to seek a new place to dwell?’
‘It is only a place.’ Celebrían’s eyes sparked. ‘Remaining indefinitely in one situation – becomes stale, like bread left too long in the sun. I think Finrod fears that, because Amarië would not follow him before, she will refuse to go with him now – or perhaps worse, that she will allow him to draw her away from her home and be miserable.’
‘Will you let me take you from what you know?’ Elrond’s voice was heated and the brush of his fingers against her bare skin was a delicious torment.
‘I might,’ she said thoughtfully, collapsing into giggles as his teasing fingers found her most sensitive spots. ‘If you are very fortunate.’
‘I would not go either…’ He paused briefly, ignoring her inarticulate murmur of protest. ‘Not if I thought it might lose me you.’
‘We have already been parted too long.’ She twined her fingers in his hair to draw him closer. ‘I do not care where we live – as long as we are together.’
‘You exaggerate.’ His breath was warm in her ear.
‘But not by much.’ Elrond was inwardly serene, Celebrían thought, at peace with himself as he had not been since the days before the Redhorn… Since their family had been complete in the tranquil beauty of Imladris. Yet, even then, he had shielded, deep inside himself, long-buried scars of ancient hurts that could never be eased while Arda endured – hurts now increased by the loss of their beloved daughter.
‘Glorfindel is sending threats,’ he informed her, resting his cheek on her shoulder and drawing her back to hold her against his lean body. ‘If we do not travel soon, he will instruct our sons to swaddle us up in rolls of cloth and carry us west willy-nilly.’
‘He would do it, too,’ Celebrían laughed. ‘You had better heed him, my lord.’
‘It is not only I who have been threatened…’
‘I do not need to be told.’ She pressed her lips to his hair. ‘As soon as they had you incapacitated, I would have our sons fasten you across my saddle bows and ride off with you.’ She laughed as he lifted his head and looked at her in consternation. ‘You would not need to worry – I would free you as soon as we were well on our way,’ she added. ‘As long as you promised me you would not turn back.’
‘You would conspire against me!’
‘For your own good, my heart.’ She drew him to her. ‘For your own good.’ She hesitated. ‘You cannot control everything, Elrond. We have done all we can to ensure the success of this venture. Our sons have the wisdom needed to smooth any remaining hiccups – and Amarië will manage Finrod. It is time for us to seek our true home in these lands.’
Finrod laughed as Elladan clasped his hands behind his head and stretched until his joints cracked. ‘Too much mannish blood,’ he teased. ‘You would never hear that in a full-blooded elf.’
‘Well – you can blame yourself,’ Elrohir retorted. ‘If it had not been for you, we would never have been born.’
‘That is a disconcerting thought.’ Finrod inspected Elrond’s twin sons. ‘I suppose it should make me consider myself in some ways responsible for your line.’ They were elves, these heirs of Beren, he thought. For all their descent from Beren and Tuor, there was almost nothing of their human heritage to be seen in them – except, on occasion, more awareness than usual of the wearing of time. And that, he thought, was more to do with experience than ancestry.
‘You have convinced Finarfin?’ Elrohir enquired.
‘My wife deserves the credit,’ his uncle admitted. ‘It seems that she has only to express a desire to dwell west of the Pelori for my atar to decide that it is a good idea for us to establish a modest presence.’
‘Modest?’ Elladan raised a dark eyebrow in an expression very reminiscent of his adar.
‘Modest.’ Finrod grinned. ‘A few score people, totalling no more than a hundred or two, dwelling in harmony with the forest. No prospecting, no mining, no cutting healthy trees. Elves supporting themselves in a simple rural manner.’
‘That will last until the first nugget of gold is found,’ Elrohir predicted cynically. ‘Or a vein of mithril is spotted in the rock wall of some remote cavern.’
‘I am not sure Finarfin altogether understands the reasons Wood Elves live as they do,’ Elladan said doubtfully. ‘Or what the Noldor would need to do to make a settlement harmonise with the forest. It is not as if the farmers and foresters of his realm do not live in accord with the song of the land. It is just a different way of looking at who accommodates to what.’
‘Really?’ Finrod shrugged. ‘Well, it is up to you to see that I do understand the implications, my nephews. Since it is, I find, to be my task to build up this western extension to the High King’s realm.’
‘Take some Wood Elves with you to act as advisors,’ Elrohir suggested. ‘There are many who would relish the opportunity to tell the Noldor what to do.’
Elladan grinned. ‘But you would want to watch who you hired.’ He laughed. ‘I can picture some who would take enormous pleasure in making you live the simplest life possible – and then you would travel to visit Thranduil or seek out Daeradar and find them living a life of luxury among the trees.’
‘And choose your settlers with care.’ Elrohir leaned on the balustrade of the wide terrace. ‘When we first journeyed west, we took those we thought would work well together – but we were not altogether right.’
‘That is because we took an all-male party.’ Elladan shrugged. ‘I have said it before, I know. We looked on it as a reconnaissance mission – and those who dwelt west of the mountains took us as a threat and waited until we proved ourselves before they began to emerge from the trees. It was, in truth, not until Lady Laerwen expressed her approval of us that we began to be treated as friends.’ He looked speculatively at Finrod. ‘Send your people – male and female – west to learn from the elves who already call your paper realm home. Have them … educated in the ways of the forest. Learn to listen.’
Finrod tilted his head to one side as he inspected the younger elves. ‘You have a point,’ he agreed. ‘I found in Beleriand that it was only too easy to drive people into considering you to be an enemy. This…’ he waved an arm vaguely towards the west, ‘does not require us to protect ourselves against an external threat. There is no need for defences.’ He paused. ‘I am told that none dwell where we would settle.’
‘Do not count on that,’ Elrohir said dryly. ‘Wood Elves are very good at remaining unseen when they wish. If you want my advice, you will go to Thranduil’s wife and ask her for her aid. It might seem beneath the dignity of the High King’s son, but it will be better in the long run.’
‘The Lady has been consulted.’ Finrod smiled at the twins. ‘We are not stupid,’ he pointed out. ‘But you are right – to journey from her court to the lands allotted would be far wiser than to appear to take what is not ours. Best to cause as little offence as possible’
Elladan grinned at his brother and shook his head disbelievingly. ‘And to think we thought life in the Blessed Realm would be boring,’ he said.
Losgael watched as Galadriel worked at her loom. ‘I would never have expected to see the Noldor princess making cloth,’ she said, ‘like an ordinary elleth – not before I had a chance to come to know you better.’
‘I would not have expected to see an obstinately simple Sinda spend long hours in discussion with a Vala.’ Galadriel looked up and smiled. ‘We spend too much time fitting people into the moulds we expect them to fill.’
‘Perhaps.’ The Lady was very skilled, Losgael thought critically, and worked remarkably swiftly – but she received the credit for far more than could possibly be the work of her own hands. Some, at least, of the shimmering grey cloth folded in neat piles on the shelves, must be the work of those industrious maidens who passed their hours in the weaving rooms. But then, no-one expected all the medicines and salves that came from Elrond’s workrooms to be the work of his hands alone – and cooks, too – and engineers and builders and farmers – received the credit for many products that relied on the labour of others. It was just the way it was. It was not as if Galadriel believed in her own myth.
‘How is your great-grandson?’ Galadriel asked.
Losgael’s face softened. If there was one way guaranteed to reduce her to mindless adoration, it was mention of the elfling who brightened her existence. ‘Growing so fast it is almost impossible to keep track of him,’ she said. ‘Goerfér has taken him fishing – although both will doubtless return wet and muddy without any evidence of their attempts to catch fish to cook for supper.’
‘My grandsons are bringing their children to visit soon.’ Galadriel removed the pinafore she wore to keep her gown relatively fluff-free. ‘Ellanthir is about Haladion’s age – perhaps they should spend some time together.’ She indicated the open doorway and followed Losgael out into the quiet afternoon. ‘Why did you really want to see me?’
She needed to listen hard, Losgael thought, to hear the sounds of industry among the immense trees, but it was there. The forest was being harvested – discreetly, it was true – for the benefit of the elves who lived there and there were more and more talans of silvered wood among the branches of the welcoming trees. ‘I am feeling the need to… spread my wings,’ she admitted. ‘Goerfér finds his work with the patrols enough – he is learning to know the wider forest, but I am feeling confined.’ She felt almost guilty voicing the complaint. The forest had seemed all she could ever want when they had reached it – pure and prolific and, above all, theirs, to make of it what they would, but, as they established themselves, she had been reminded that she was not accustomed to remaining in one place for too long.
‘So what do you want to do?’ Galadriel sounded serene. ‘Are you called to spend time in Oromë’s Halls? Or do you merely wish to wander a while – and return here once your wanderlust is sated?’
‘Do you not mind?’ Losgael looked at her suspiciously.
Galadriel’s quick grin made her look a great deal less regal – and a great deal more understanding. ‘I envy you the opportunity,’ she said. ‘There are times when the demands of juggling family and other responsibilities are tiresome – times when I remember those quiet months before all this started and wish my lord and I could go back to them.’
A slow smile spread across her friend’s face. ‘Come with us,’ she suggested. ‘There are plenty to whom you can delegate the task of managing the Galadhrim. Come and let the starlight sing in your fëa and listen to the melody of new trees.’
The dappled sunlight danced on the fresh grass and the breeze stirred the leaves to whisper of distant places. ‘That sounds a very tempting idea,’ Galadriel said.
The night was a creation that always made him realise what the elves owed to the Star-Kindler. He wondered that Fëanor had never realised that, no matter how great his genius, he could never do anything that would begin to challenge the Vala’s achievement. But then perhaps he had never meant to do so. Occasionally – just occasionally – Celeborn wondered what the world would have been like had Finwë’s son not been perverted by Melkor, but instead remained pure of heart. So much would never have happened – the Trees would still light the Blessed Realm, while, east of the sea, elves would have dwelt through the ages in starlight. Would that have been better?
Yet evil had already crept into the world even then. From its very creation, the false note had been a part of the music. Something that had to be rejected – something against which all must strive. And, despite the chaining of Morgoth, despite the defeat of Sauron, its shadow still stained the lands of his birth. It had no longer been his battle, but, at times, he still felt guilty for abandoning the fight to the Secondborn. They were so vulnerable – so young. How could they defy evil without the hard-earned experience of the elves to support them? But this was their time – and the elves, despite their longing to remain, had proved redundant, permitted only to fade into myth or take ship to seek their own place.
‘Have we reached the end?’ he asked suddenly. ‘Achieved our goal, so that there is nothing left to do?’
Bórdain dangled his fingers into the narrow stream of water that meandered past the roots on which he sprawled, watching as the silver fish darted back and forth like living stars. ‘Nothing is ever finished,’ he said. ‘Everything that happens is the start of something more.’
‘A circle?’ Celeborn pondered. ‘Or an endless ribbon?’
‘Both?’ Bórdain lifted his head. ‘Or neither? Like a thousand thousand fractured streams coming together to make a river – that then flows to the sea, only to evaporate to cloud and fall as rain over the mountains to run again to the ocean.’
Celeborn smiled. ‘Unchanging, yet in constant flux,’ he suggested.
‘Yes.’ Bórdain looked doubtful. ‘I suppose.’ He sat up, folding his long legs under him. ‘But we do not repeat the same path – we take what we are and move on different trails.’
‘You spend too much time in conversation with Lord Oromë.’ Celeborn shook his head. ‘You are becoming a mystic.’
Bórdain’s eyes gleamed silver in the moonlight. ‘I do not think Lord Oromë is very introspective,’ he said. ‘He prefers the simplicity of the hunt.’
‘Prefers it, perhaps.’ Celeborn considered what he had seen of the Vala. ‘But simplicity in one of the Powers is not to be compared to the simplicity of … a forest breeze.’
‘He looks on the Wood Elves as his to protect, I think,’ Bórdain offered. ‘As Ulmo cares for the Teleri, and Aulë enjoys teaching the Noldor.’
Celeborn frowned. ‘I see little advantage in being taken under the wing of a Vala at this late date.’ He reflected. ‘Or, indeed, at any other time. It seems to me far wiser to offer them the courtesies due to them – and protect ourselves.’
‘Time is not the same to them,’ Bórdain remarked. ‘I do not think Oromë is aware of the ages that have passed since he led the elves westwards. Or,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘why there might be some who resent the Valar’s detachment. All is… is one great now.’
Celeborn relaxed in the tranquil song of the night. ‘I am glad I am an elf,’ he said.
Haladion slapped at the water with open palms and laughed as the clear droplets splashed his face.
‘Do not fall in the water and go swimming with the fish,’ Goerfér recommended. ‘Your naneth will be most irritated if I bring you home damaged – and will probably refuse to let me bring you out to play again.’
‘Fishes,’ Haladion said, ignoring the rest of the comment. ‘Fishes.’
Celeborn laughed. ‘You have your great grandfather’s listening skills,’ he said. ‘Not to mention his ability to focus on an unconsidered detail.’
‘Thank you, cousin.’ Goerfér looked down his nose at the elf lord. ‘I like you, too.’
Celeborn leaned on a low willow branch and watched the elfling play. ‘You are happy to leave him?’ he asked.
‘We will not be gone long,’ his cousin said optimistically. ‘What are a few seasons?’
‘I did not think I would ever want to leave this place when first we saw it.’ Celeborn looked around him at the great trees and rippling water. But I find I am restless.’
Goerfér laughed. ‘That is only natural,’ he declared. ‘What did you expect? To find a place where you would be happy to vegetate for ever? Curiosity is a natural state for elves, my friend! What lies over the next hill or beyond the next decision? If we were meant to sit in eternal contemplation, we would have been created with roots! There is always something more to see – and other things to do.’
‘And what do you think might come next?’
‘If I knew that, cousin, what would be the point of looking?’ Goerfér’s bright eyes turned westward. ‘I just know that there is more – more to find and to see. Maybe Elu is out there somewhere – or maybe Lenwë wanders in the forests.’
‘It does not occur to you that it is necessary to pause sometimes and build, so that we can offer a safe haven to those who do not wish to wander?’
‘Why should it?’ Goerfér grinned. ‘That is why we have lords like you, my friend. When it comes to meetings and paperwork and negotiating between people who cannot organise themselves, you earn your keep. But that does not mean you cannot be spared for a while. Just tell one of your very efficient aides to take over. You will not be missed.’
‘I am unsure whether I have been complimented or insulted.’ Celeborn raised an eyebrow.
‘Good.’ Goerfér paddled into the water with the elfling, a couple of sticks in his hand. ‘Let us keep it that way. Watch,’ he told his great grandson. ‘See which one goes furthest. You take one and we will release them at the same time and see the water carry them away.’
Celeborn watched as the two improvised vessels bobbed their way downstream. Much as it pained him to admit it, he thought, Goerfér was right. As was Bórdain. He felt a surge of relief wash over him. Not only had he found a home and a task that suited him. He was also part of a developing world – where new challenges and fresh interests would present themselves whether he wanted them or not. One of the stick boats swirled in a little eddy and was sucked below the surface before re-emerging undamaged. Different – but the same. Like him. He smiled. ‘I have no idea how it might have happened,’ he commented, ‘but I think that you might have developed an element of sense over the ages.’
Goerfér shook back his damp hair. ‘I might learn slowly,’ he said mildly, ‘but I am an elf – I do learn.’
The broad river that divided the valley flowed so easily in the tranquil afternoon that it appeared to be motionless, a still expanse of molten silver, fringed with the reflections of willow and alder.
Galadriel sat on the sun-warmed rock, her eyes unfocused as she combed through her long hair. She looked at peace, as Celeborn had rarely seen her. For all her superficial serenity, she had always been prepared, he thought, for the sting that came in the tail of all their experiences. He had been surprised, at times, that she had remained unbroken, but every challenge had only strengthened her obstinacy and made her more determined. It was only here that he had realised fully how much it had taken from her. It was one of the things that made him glad that he had finally made the decision to take ship. That and – he had to admit it – the realisation that this forest so far from his place of birth felt more like home than he had ever expected.
‘Bórdain would say that this is the completion of a journey started long ago.’ Galadriel smiled at him.
‘Would he?’ Her husband considered. ‘I think he would say that no journey is ever complete.’ He rose from his place in the shade and stretched languorously before joining her in her observation of the deceptively easy-tempered water.
‘It makes all we have been and done sound so straightforward. But are not the twists and turns an essential part of who we are?’ Celeborn drew his wife to him. ‘It has been a simple journey for some – a line between two points – but for others…’ He remembered the starlit peace of Doriath, Sirion overlooking the sea, Lindon and all the other places where they had dwelt for a time, only to be driven forth to build again and lose what they had built.
Galadriel turned slightly so that she could return his embrace. Not for her to receive without giving, he thought in amusement.
‘You are happy?’ she asked.
‘What would you do if I were not?’ His eyes met hers.
She blinked. ‘I would think of something.’ She lifted her chin determinedly.
He laughed. ‘There is no need. I am happy – as I never thought to be.’
‘Good,’ she said, returning her gaze to the water. ‘People have the wrong idea about life here,’ she added absently. ‘It seems like this,’ she indicated the water, ‘motionless. Constant and unchanging. But, beneath the surface, it moves irresistibly forward.’
‘But it can be persuaded to flow down other courses,’ Celeborn said. ‘There is no need to abandon ourselves to something we cannot control. We have choice.’
‘And you have chosen?’
‘I have chosen,’ he said gravely. ‘The future rather than the past.’
Galadriel looked at him meditatively. ‘Accepting the one does not obliterate the other. Everything that was is still part of us – everything that is no more lives still in our hearts.’
He squeezed her hand and raised it to press a gentle kiss to her wrist. ‘Tell me, my heart,’ he said, have you thought of the value of a planting a grove of walnut trees? And increasing the number of hives? The tree blossom is plentiful and more honey would be welcome in increasing the supplies of mead.’
‘If you think it would be a good idea,’ she agreed. He had healed, she thought. Against all his expectations, he had healed and found that life in the Blessed Realm was not a stagnant pool, reft from the flowing life of Arda to fester under an unfamiliar sun, but part of it still. She tilted her head to inspect his relaxed grace as he took his ease in this place where he belonged. At last, against all the odds, he was at home. They were both home.
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