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Tales from Vairë's Loom  by Fiondil

Ensnared by Hope

Summary: Celeborn has a change of heart about a certain Dúnadan. Placed third in the Teitho contest 'Capture'.

****

Celeborn of Lothlórien looked on impassively as his lady courteously greeted this distant scion of Elros Eärendilion and listened to the Man’s weary reply. She then ordered a bath for their guest, bidding the Mortal to follow the ellon assigned to him. The Elf-lord felt a sudden rush of sympathy for Aragorn son of Arathorn as the Man nearly fell on his face as he attempted a bow toward his benefactors, his face pale and his eyes sunken with fatigue. Mallor, one of their household servants, surreptitiously held the Man up with a negligent hand. Galadriel smiled at Aragorn with that same indulgent smile she reserved for her grandchildren as Mallor led the Mortal away to his bath.

When they were alone, Galadriel made her way to their sleeping quarters, opening his wardrobe and examining various tunics, pulling them out and shoving them back in until she found what she was looking for: a tunic of white samite trimmed with silver-thread embroidery. She placed it on the bed and hunted about for appropriate leggings.

“Where is your second-best cloak?” she finally asked as she rummaged through a clothespress.

“Where it always is,” Celeborn replied, feeling more amused than anything as he observed his beloved. “You are making rather free with my wardrobe, Wife.”

Galadriel looked up and gave him a brittle smile. “Well, he cannot go about in those leathers that have seen better days. He needs to wear something appropriate while he is visiting. Arwen is here, after all.”

Celeborn frowned. “What are you about, Galadriel? What has Arwen to do with this Man?”

“Nothing, as far as I know. I do not think they have ever met, or at least she has never spoken of it. But he is our guest and he is Elros’ descendant. For those reasons alone we should treat him accordingly.”

“And I agree,” Celeborn said. Then he gave her a sardonic smile. “But do we need to honor him with my clothes?”

Galadriel flashed him a smile as she unfolded a pair of wool leggings. “These should do, I would think.”

Celeborn gave up and went down to his study, leaving his wife to order their lives as she saw fit while he busied himself with some accounts he had been putting off. He was in the midst of working out the border patrol schedule for the coming season when he heard voices coming from the next room. Getting up, he went to stand in the open archway leading into the main audience hall of their talan where he saw Aragorn, now dressed in borrowed finery, speaking with Galadriel.

The Elf-lord had to admit that the Man washed up well. His hair and beard had been neatly trimmed and the tunic fitted him well enough. Galadriel was pinning Celeborn’s cloak about Aragorn’s shoulders and then taking a filet of silver with a bright emerald gem and placing it on his head. Celeborn felt his breath catch in his throat and the blood rush from his head. It was like looking at Elros; the resemblance was uncanny.

Galadriel smiled at the Man. “There, now you look a very prince of the Elves.”

“Thank you, lady,” Aragorn said shyly, giving her a brief bow, placing his right fist over his heart in the elvish manner.

“Lothlórien is open to you, Dúnadan,” Galadriel said. “Go you and explore. I have ordered a pavilion set up by the fountain on the lawn below for your use. If there be anything you require, just tell Mallor; he will see to it.”

The Man thanked her again and gave her another bow before turning to leave, but stopped when he saw Celeborn. He looked at the Elf-lord somewhat hesitantly, as if unsure what he should do next. Celeborn gave him a gracious nod of his head, implicitly allowing the Man to take his leave, and Aragorn bowed in return, looking relieved, much to Celeborn’s amusement, before heading back down the stairs. Celeborn glanced at his wife and the two locked gazes. For a long moment they simply stared at one another across the intervening space.

“He could be Elros’ twin,” he finally said in a whisper.

Galadriel gave him a delicate shrug. “He is his descendant, after all,” she replied.

Now Celeborn felt a troubling in his heart and frowned slightly. “What have you seen?” he demanded.

She raised a delicate eyebrow. “I have seen nothing, Husband. Are you accusing me—”

“Nay, I am not accusing you of anything, Galadriel,” Celeborn said with an impatient huff. He went to a sideboard and poured some light yellow wine into two goblets, handing one to Galadriel. “I am just wondering why you are going to all this trouble over a Mortal, even one such as he.”

“I do it for Elrond’s sake.”

“Elrond! What has he to do with any of this?”

“Have you forgotten that our daughter’s husband raised this Mortal as his own son?”

“So Aragorn claims,” Celeborn replied.

“Do you doubt his word? Why would he lie about something like that? You know I can discern the truth of a matter. Aragorn is Isildur’s Heir and Elrond raised him in his own household. If I choose to honor this Mortal as I have, I do so because he deserves to be so honored.”

“And Arwen does not enter into it.” Celeborn made it a statement.

Galadriel gave him a searching look. “You have a rather suspicious nature, my lord.”

Celeborn’s smile was a bit brittle. “I have not survived these many ages without being suspicious, my lady. No, doubt me not. I trust that what Aragorn has told us about himself is true. I just do not trust your motives in all this. You are up to something, Galadriel. I can feel it.”

The Lady of the Golden Wood took a sip of her wine and gave him a smile that he knew all too well. “You should know by now, my love, that I am always up to something.” And with that rather outrageous statement, she left him, calling for her maidens to attend her in the weaving room. For a moment, Celeborn just stood there, then sighing, he returned to his own study to once again work on the patrol schedule.

****

Eventide approached and the silver lamps were lit. One of Celeborn’s body servants came to the study to remind him that he needed to ready himself for the night’s feast welcoming the Mortal. Celeborn nodded as he rose from his chair and stretched, easing the muscles of his back and neck before following the servant out. The audience hall had been transformed into a feast hall and the two wended their way past the trestles to the stairs leading to the upper chambers.

In a short amount of time, bathed and dressed in more formal garb, Celeborn joined Galadriel to greet their guest and formally welcome the Man to Lothlórien. He smiled as he saw Arwen descending from her chamber, dressed in soft grey with a girdle of silver leaves, her dark hair covered with a cap of silver lace netted with small gems, glittering white. She wore no jewelry save for a star-like white gem hanging from a silver chain that lay upon her breast. She gave her grandparents kisses in greeting.

“You look lovely, my child,” Celeborn said.

“As always,” Galadriel added. “Shall we?”

Celeborn offered his arms to the ladies with Galadriel on his left and Arwen on his right as they entered the feast hall where all were gathered. Aragorn was there, standing beside Mallor. Celeborn gestured for the Man to approach and he could not help noticing the way Aragorn stared at Arwen. That did not disturb him as much as the way Arwen was staring back. There was something in her expression that troubled the Elf-lord, some shadow of a memory that made him wince internally, wondering at the implications. He pushed it aside to address the Dúnadan.

“Lord Aragorn son of Arathorn, we formally welcome you to Lothlórien. Let me make you known to our granddaughter, Arwen.”

“There is no need to introduce us, my lord,” Arwen said, speaking more formally than was her wont. “Aragorn is known to me. We met many years ago, as Mortals count such things, in Imladris.” She smiled at the Man, who graced them with a shy smile of his own.

Celeborn glanced at Galadriel, standing calmly beside him, her expression giving nothing away. “I see,” he said, turning to Arwen. “Then we may dispense with the formalities and enjoy the feast.”

Aragorn bowed, stepping aside to allow the Elves to pass. Celeborn saw his wife and granddaughter seated, with Arwen on Galadriel’s left, which he could tell did not please her, leaving the place of honor on Celeborn’s right for the Mortal. “Come and sit beside me, Dúnadan, and tell me of your travels.”

Aragorn complied and Celeborn nodded to the house steward and the feasting began. Asking a few questions about Gondor and its present Ruling Steward, Celeborn listened to Aragorn speak of his time as a captain of Ecthelion’s guard, but all the while they were conversing, Celeborn could not help but notice how the Man would look down the table toward Arwen, his expression wistful. She, for her part, would smile at him, her expression equally wistful. Celeborn felt something dark and foreboding steal over him, but Galadriel appeared serene and calm and did not evince any concern in word or gesture. He was not sure what to make of it, but he suddenly found himself in the midst of a memory, a memory so long buried.

He remembered Lúthien presenting the Mortal Beren to Elu Thingol, and felt again the wonder of meeting one of the fabled Edain for the first time, no longer a rumor of the Noldor. Even now, so many long years later, he shivered at his kinsman’s words and felt the doom of the Noldor fall upon their fair realm of Doriath, though it would be many years before that doom was realized. All that had happened a long time ago and most of the principals were either dead or fled to the West, yet it felt as if it had occurred only the day before.

Could it be happening all over again? Could the past be meeting the present? He glanced at Aragorn, now speaking to Captain Haldir, seated on his right, about battle tactics. He still reminded Celeborn of Elros, but he could see something of Beren in the Man’s features as well. Beren and Lúthien. And his beloved granddaughter was of the same lineage through Elrond, Elros’ twin. He turned to Galadriel and she met his gaze and there was a light in her eyes that told him all that he needed to know and suddenly he felt anger and sorrow mixed and he was unsure which was the greater emotion: anger at his wife, anger at the Mortal, or sorrow for what he feared might come to pass.

His gaze settled on Arwen and his heart went out to her, and he vowed to speak to her, to sway her from this course he feared she was on. There could be no profit in loving a Mortal. To do so was to seal her doom, to sever her from her kith and kin for all time. He had to convince her not to fall in love.

He schooled his expression to one of bland disinterest, a trick he had learned long ago in the court of Doriath, and turned his attention to what Aragorn and Haldir were saying and joined in the discussion, giving nothing away of what he was truly feeling, although he suspected that Galadriel was well aware of his emotions through their bond.

Later, there was dancing and Celeborn watched as Aragorn shyly asked Arwen to partner him in the first pavane. It was the proper thing to do, Celeborn knew, however much he wished he could prevent it, for propriety demanded that the Mortal dance with either Arwen or Galadriel first before partnering with another. Once his own obligation to dance with his wife and granddaughter was met, Celeborn retired to his throne and watched as his people enjoyed themselves in merriment, sipping on wine. The sky was beginning to brighten to dawn when the feasting came to an end. Aragorn had made his excuses some time before, pleading fatigue, and indeed, he did look ready to pass out. Mallor had been at his side almost immediately to escort the Mortal to his pavilion. Celeborn could not help but notice how the Man’s gaze lingered on Arwen as he left.

Later, when the Elves also retired for a time, Celeborn remained in the feast hall and Galadriel joined him on the dais, goblet in hand. They were alone.

“Do not interfere, my husband,” she said to him without preamble. “Arwen’s choice is out of our hands. She has not yet declared her love for the Mortal, but she will in due time.”

“Then there is still time,” Celeborn retorted, but his wife gave him the slightest shake of her head.

“She has already chosen, though she knows it not. Naught that you say to her will change her mind.”

He gave her a searching look, his eyes narrowing. “You planned this to happen,” he said accusingly. “Or, you knew it would happen, which, I suppose, amounts to the same thing.”

“I suspected, but I did not know,” she responded with an imperious sniff.

“But you know now and have done naught to dissuade our granddaughter from committing this folly. She cannot love a Mortal.”

“Cannot or may not?” Galadriel countered. “Neither you nor I have the power to sway Arwen one way or another. She is an Elf grown and quite capable of making up her own mind.”

“Even if it means making Lúthien’s choice?” Celeborn retorted. “Would you lose our granddaughter?”

“Would you? Do you think I do not fear for her as much as you do? Yet, we may lose her just as easily by our disapproval of her choice as we may from the choice itself. If we badger her, try to convince her of her folly, then we could well drive her away from us. Is that what you want?”

“Of course not, but to stand idly by while she destroys herself….”

“Just as we stood by and watched Elu Thingol destroy his kingdom, though only Melian and I really understood that that is what was happening when he demanded a Silmaril as a brideprice for Lúthien. Some things we cannot change. You know this. You have seen what happens when you do try to change things. Too much goes awry and I believe that, in this instance, the union between the two Houses of Eärendil was foredoomed. There is a higher purpose at work here that you and I would do well not to oppose.”

Celeborn felt himself go cold. “Then what can we do?”

Galadriel raised an eyebrow. “Love her. What else can we do?”

Celeborn sat in silence, glaring at nothing in particular. Galadriel was right, he realized. Of course, she was always right, even when she was wrong. He almost grinned at that bit of sophistry but instead, he nodded, feeling suddenly weary. His wife put a hand on his arm and he looked at her, seeing the same weariness in her own eyes.

“Do not interfere, Celeborn. It will only bring more grief if you do.” Then she drained her goblet, setting it down on the step and made her way to their chambers, leaving him to himself. For a long moment, he sat there, not thinking. Dawn stole across the land and birds began singing. Servants were now coming back after a brief rest to clear the trestles. Celeborn sighed and stood up, placing his goblet next to his wife’s and making his way out and down to the floor of the Woods.  He spied the pavilion set up next to the fountain, its door flap closed. The Mortal no doubt slept and dreamt of a fair Elf-maiden and he wondered idly if Arwen was dreaming of a certain Mortal. Then he shook his head in disgust at his own prurience, and stalked away, deciding he needed to walk off some of his feelings of impotency.

****

Over the next several days, Celeborn kept a discrete eye on his granddaughter and the Mortal. He could not help but notice how their eyes lit up whenever they saw one another. He followed them at times through the trees as they wandered about Caras Galadhon. Galadriel knew what he was about, but said nothing, which, in its own way, was disturbing, for his wife was never afraid to voice her opinions. Arwen, he suspected, knew he was there as well, acting as a second chaperone, though he doubted the Mortal did. Mallor and his wife, Eirien, followed the couple as they wandered through the city, staying close enough for propriety’s sake but far enough away to give the two a modicum of privacy. Celeborn had no such scruples and heard every soft endearment spoken and saw every look that passed between them. Thus, he was on hand when he overheard Arwen mention estel and wondered what hope she spoke of. She said it twice and it suddenly dawned on him that she was using it as a proper name and referring to the Man standing next to her as they admired some swans floating in a mere.

“Did you never wonder at your name?” Arwen asked in a soft voice.

Aragorn grinned at her. “What child questions what he assumes is the norm? I remember once complaining to Ada how I hated my name, that it sounded stupid.” He suddenly laughed.

Arwen lifted an eyebrow. “And what is so funny?”

“Oh, nothing really,” the Dúnadan answered with a merry look. “The day I complained about my name I was working on a history project Erestor had assigned me, recording the names of the descendants of the Lords of Andúnië down to the present. I think that’s how the subject of my name came up, having to write down all those names of my ancestors.”

“But what was so amusing?” Arwen persisted.

“Oh, it’s just that in the midst of it all, it was pointed out to me that I had misspelled ‘Aragorn’. I had misspelled my own name and did not know it.”

Now they were both laughing in mirth, and Celeborn found himself smiling, seeing the Mortal in a different light. Yet, ultimately, it did not matter. Aragorn was still a Mortal, however noble his lineage and for Arwen to cleave to him—

“Would you care to join us, my Lord Celeborn?” Aragorn said suddenly, turning to look up into the tree where Celeborn was sitting, his expression one of amusement rather than anger or embarrassment. For a moment, Celeborn was tempted to just remain where he was but then realized how foolish that was. He’d been found out. Resisting a sigh he slipped effortlessly out of the tree to stand before his granddaughter and the Mortal. Arwen looked almost as amused as Aragorn.

“You told him,” he said, looking at Arwen.

Aragorn chuckled. “Nay, my lord. The Lady Arwen had no need to tell me anything. I was well aware of you… chaperoning us.”

Celeborn heard the slight hesitation in the Man’s voice and raised an eyebrow.

Aragorn gave him a slight bow. “Be not dismayed, my lord. I had very good teachers.”

“Indeed?” Celeborn said.

“He means my brothers,” Arwen interjected with a sly grin.

“And mine,” Aragorn added. “Or, at least, so I always thought them to be. And then there was Glorfindel.” He gave Celeborn a meaningful look and the Elf-lord nodded.

“Lord Glorfindel is well known to me,” he said. “And if he was one of your teachers, then I am not surprised that you sensed my presence.”

“Are you not going to apologize?” Arwen asked him with a disapproving look. Celeborn heard Galadriel and even Celebrían in her tone and forced himself not to cringe.

“Nay, Vanimelda,” Aragorn said with a laugh, giving Celeborn a sympathetic look. “Your grandfather does not need to apologize for being concerned for you.” Then he turned and began addressing their chaperones. “Thank you, Mallor, Eirien, but Lord Celeborn has been kind enough to join us. You need not continue watching over us.”

“My lord?” Mallor enquired, looking at Celeborn.

Celeborn nodded. “Go and attend to your other duties.”

Mallor bowed and Eirien curtsied and wandered away, holding hands and whispering to one another. Celeborn could just imagine what they were saying. He turned his attention to the Mortal.

“I do apologize, though. My actions were less than honorable.”

Aragorn dismissed his apology with a wave of a hand. “As I said, my lord, there is no need. I quite understand and even approve. You have every right to fear for your granddaughter.”

Celeborn gave him a searching look. There was no guile in the Man. His grey eyes were clear; he could see the light of stars shining through them and his breath caught in his throat at the implications.

“I watched my kinsman destroy our kingdom over a Mortal who had dared to fall in love with his daughter and there was naught I could do to stay him or save Doriath,” he said, his eyes unfocused as he relived that fatal day in his memory

“You wish to do now what you could not do then,” Aragorn stated.

Celeborn shook his head. “I do not know.” His eyes focused on the present and he gazed fondly on Arwen, giving her a smile which she returned. He held out his arms and she went to him without hesitation and he gave her a kiss on the brow. “I just do not want to lose you, my child. I have lost too much in the long years of defeat.”

“You may not lose Arwen at all, my lord,” Aragorn said, giving a sigh. “Even if we were to pledge our troth before you this very moment, it would mean little, for Elrond has stated that I will wed no man’s child until I am found worthy of it.”

“And by that he means becoming a king in truth and not just in name,” Celeborn said, nodding.

“So you see, my lord, as much as I love Arwen, I may well fail in winning her. Darkness rises in the east and there is no guarantee that we will ever defeat it or that I will survive the coming war and ascend to the throne of my ancestors. I am Isildur’s Heir, but I am not Isildur.”

“No, you are not. I think you are something more,” Celeborn said quietly, then he sighed and closed his eyes, rubbing the space between his brows. “Elrond has demanded a brideprice almost as impossible as the one Elu demanded of Beren.” He opened his eyes, giving Aragorn a measuring look. “Yet, I think in the end you will win what you seek, Aragorn son of Arathorn.”

“Is this a foretelling, my lord?” Aragorn asked.

“No, just the simple truth. I have lived too long not to know when Fate plays its hands in the doings of Elves and Mortals. Galadriel was right. There is a higher purpose behind all this, one that we would do well not to oppose.”

“I do not understand,” Aragorn said, looking troubled.

“Nor do I,” Arwen added, looking equally troubled as she went to stand beside Aragorn, who put his arm around her in a protective manner.

And standing there as they did, Celeborn saw another couple instead and knew with a certainty that he had already lost his beloved Arwen, just as they had lost Lúthien. He gave them a small smile, the sadness within him threatening to drown him. “It does not matter, my children. Suffice to say, I will not stand in your way.” With that he turned and walked away, needing to be alone.

He was not sure what he was feeling anymore. He lost himself again in memory, watching the interplay between Elu Thingol and Beren, seeing the look of horror on Melian’s face as the king named the brideprice and sealed Doriath’s doom. He recalled the pride and arrogance of the Mortal who laughed at Elu’s demands. Yet, in the end, he remembered the honest grief the king had felt when Beren had died and the unalloyed joy when he returned to life and with him, his beloved Lúthien.

It seemed as if history was repeating itself and Fate was weaving its spell upon them, closing the circle. Beren and Lúthien. Aragorn and Arwen. He did not understand and was not sure if he wanted to. Wise they called him, but he had no wisdom for this.

His thoughts wandered to Elrond. He had no doubt that his daughter’s husband loved Aragorn as a son and it suddenly occurred to him that Elrond must be caught in an impossible snare of love and dread: love for both children and dread for what the future might bring and with it a choice between hopes — hope that Aragorn would succeed in his quest for the throne for Arwen’s sake or hope that Aragorn would fail for the same reason. It was an intolerable choice and Celeborn knew that, either way, Elrond would lose.

The very thought of it weighed him down and as he came to the lawn below the mallorn that was his home and climbed the stairs to the talan, his heart was heavy. Reaching the main hall, he was unsurprised to see Galadriel sitting on her throne, apparently waiting for him, rather than being in the weaving room or attending to some other duty as Lady of the Golden Wood. He stopped and stared at her across the intervening space, feeling her sympathy through their bond.

“She has decided,” she said softly. It was not a question, but Celeborn nodded anyway and then something deep inside him threatened to erupt, feelings of loss and grief that he had buried long ago: Lúthien, Elu, Melian, Finrod, Celebrimbor, Gil-galad, Elendil, Isildur… the list went on and there seemed no end to it. Galadriel opened her arms and he was suddenly weeping, falling to his knees before her, placing his head in her lap, allowing her to cradle him. He felt hot tears dripping on his neck and in the midst of his own grief he felt wonder at the realization that Galadriel, too, was weeping, his White Lady whom he had never seen weep, not even when they had learned of Finrod’s death, not even when Doriath fell or Eregion, not even when their beloved daughter was taken so cruelly from them, forced to Sail. In all the ages he had known his wife, she had never wept… until now.

He raised his head, forcing her to sit up. He brushed a gentle hand across her cheek, wiping the tears, and the only thing he could think to say was a whispered, “I love you”. She smiled and leaned over to plant a light kiss on his brow, never speaking, but gently pushing his head down to her lap and cradling him once again, each drawing comfort from the other.

They stayed that way for some time.

****

The weeks passed and it was obvious to all the residents of Caras Galadhon that something momentous was occurring within their realm. The young Mortal was seen always in company with the Evenstar and rumors passed swiftly from one talan to the next. Neither Celeborn nor Galadriel deigned to respond to the whispers and ignored the looks that passed among their courtiers. They maintained a warm, cordial front, treating the Dúnadan as the honored guest that he was, with all respect, and their people had no choice but to do the same.

And in that time, Celeborn began to resign himself to what he could not change, as he had always done in the face of Fate, taking joy in one thing: that his beloved Arwen was genuinely happy, happier than he had seen her since that dreadful day when Celebrían had Sailed. Thus, on Midsummer’s Eve, when Arwen and Aragorn came to him and Galadriel, shyly holding hands, he knew before any words were spoken and smiled, opening his arms to them both.

“Welcome to the family, Estel,” he said warmly and he and the Mortal exchanged kisses as between kinsmen, while Galadriel and Arwen looked on.





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