A/N: Merry Christmas to everyone (to those who do not celebrate Christmas: Happy Random Day In December When Steelbadger Posts A Bunch Of Things For Once)!
In the UK, we will sadly be unable to see much of our families at this time, and I'm sure many people in other countries will be experiencing something similar. I can't really do much about that, I'm afraid, but I can drop a whole bunch of words. Hopefully they brighten the days of at least a few people. As a gift to you all, I've produced a few chapters for a Christmas Day bonanza. This story and Harry Potter and the Elves Most Fabulous are getting updates, while the regular update to Toppling Heroes has been bumped up to two chapters instead of one. Like I said, it's not much, but I imagine more than a few people out there are feeling rather lonely at the moment, so far from their families (I know I'm missing mine). I can't bring you your family, but I can invite you into my worlds (such as they are), and you can abide a time with me there.
The Shadow of Angmar
Chapter 32: Soon to Meet the Light With Steel
The three peaks of Khazad-dûm drew ever closer. With each battle, and every march, they grew larger in Harry's mind. Now, after months of campaigning, they grew large in his sight too. Cruel Barazinbar, mightiest of all the peaks of the Misty Mountains, loomed large upon the horizon, flanked by Zirakzigil and Bundushathûr. Harry could remember the first time he had ever seen them; how Zirakzigil had sparkled in the moonlight, and its beauty had drawn him and his then companions into the darkness.
Of those who had sought to delve into that dark pit, only half of them had survived. Brave, proud Flói, and steadfast Thórir had died, and their bodies had been left to moulder and rot within the Halls of their ancestors. Frór had survived, but his mind had been left broken. Years later, when Harry's travels had taken him to Iron Hills, he had discovered Frór to be little more than a shadow of what he had once been. Gone was the proud prince of Durin's folk, dutiful and valiant. In his place Harry had found a frail old Dwarf, aged far beyond his years, who jumped at every shadow and feared fire beyond all things.
A gulf of years had opened up between Harry and those old friends, an ocean every bit as wide and impassable as that which girdled Middle-earth. Frór had been interred in a tomb that was befitting of one from the line of Durin himself, but even that was beginning to show its age. The last time Harry had seen it it was weatherbeaten, and the runes inscribed upon it were almost unreadable. All too soon, to Harry's mind, it would return to the bones of the earth from which it had been raised.
Harry hoped that there, at least, his old friend might find peace.
"What weighs upon your mind?"
Upon silent feet, Daewen had come to stand at his side. Her gaze followed Harry's own, and came to rest upon the mountains that were perhaps only two days' march hence.
"It will not be long before we reach Khazad-dûm," said Harry.
Though he did not look, Harry heard the faintest whisper of hair as his companion nodded. "The long-awaited conclusion of this war," she said. She turned her gaze behind them, towards the camp where Dwarves, Men and even Elves mingled rowdily.
Harry could hear upon the wind a war of sorts being waged, as Men and Dwarves competed over who among them could think up the bawdiest song. There were even a few Elves laughing along, though none of them participated.
"You are worried by what we might find there?"
"I know all too well what it is we will find in that black pit." Shadow and flame. Darkness and malice. "What worries me is that even now, I am not sure I have the power to stand against it, and if I do not think I have that power what chance does that give everyone else?"
He paused for a moment.
"I have lost friends here before. I do not wish to lose any more."
"I do not know that I can offer much to quell those fears," said Daewen as a frown ghosted over her features, "but I think you misjudge yourself. Look about you. Dwarves, Men and Elves, all come together to wage a common war. Even if we should lose in the battle to come, it will be long years before Goblins are able to once more reach the numbers necessary to threaten the peoples that live to the east and west. Even you had not the power to do that alone, and yet with those you have gathered here, it was done. When last you entered Moria, you did so with but a few companions. Now you have an army, and your power has surely grown beyond anything you could have imagined then."
"Perhaps," said Harry, but the words sounded hollow even to him. His power had grown, of that there could be no doubt, but he had felt the power of the Balrog. No matter how strong a river's flow might become, it could not hope to sweep aside a sea.
At that moment, a young Dwarf ran up to them both, his heavy breaths hanging in the air behind him. "Darjûn," he said urgently. It was clear that the Dwarf was one of those who had come from Ironhaunt. "Another wizard has come to the camp, and seeks to speak with you."
Harry frowned, and turned his gaze towards the camp. He had been so caught up in his own worries that he had not noticed the recent arrival. Now that he turned his senses to the task, he could feel them. The warmth, like a warm fire, was unmistakable. Gandalf.
It was not often that Harry and Gandalf crossed paths, for they both wandered widely across the lands of Middle-earth. That Gandalf should seek him out on the eve of a battle spoke to some great necessity.
"Thank you," Harry said to the Dwarf. He then turned to Daewen. "It seems that Mithrandir has come to seek me out, though to what purpose I cannot say."
"I thought he was far to the south," said Daewen. "I wonder what business could have brought him so far north?"
There was no denying the curiosity that Harry knew they both shared. "Come, let us find out."
The walk to the Thráin's tent was not a long one, but it required them to pass through much of the camp which took longer than one might have supposed. The tents were packed closely in what was a relatively small patch of flat ground in the sheltered lee of the mountain.
When they entered, Gandalf was exactly as Harry remembered him from their few short interactions. It had been something of a rude surprise the first time Harry had met him. Where Saruman's bearing, manner and dress all spoke to the power he wielded, both politically and magically, Gandalf looked like little more than a haggard wanderer. It was only his weather beaten pointy hat, and the gnarled staff which he carried with him everywhere he went that marked him as anything more than an old man.
At least, that was the impression Harry had had of him until he had met his eyes. They were a keen blue, as bright as a summer sky. They shone with the warmth of youth, and yet they held an age and wisdom that might have brought Harry to believe that they were older than the mountains themselves. If he was right about the truth of the Istari, then that might just be the truth.
"Ah, Harry," he said as he looked up from the fire. "It has been too long, has it not?" His gaze turned to Daewen. "Daewen too. It is good to see that you are both well."
"Gandalf," said Harry a little warily. Gandalf was perhaps even more of a wanderer than Harry himself, and it was seldom that he travelled anywhere for a purely social purpose. Cheery though his greeting may be, there was sure to be some greater purpose to their meeting. "What brings you here. I thought your efforts were still focused in Umbar?"
The tent seemed to grow just a little darker, a little quieter, like a cloud blocking the sun before moving on once more. Gandalf's bushy eyebrows furrowed, and Harry could see the sadness which flickered in his eyes.
"The young Prince was deposed," said Gandalf. "Beheaded by his own uncle before a cheering crowd. It will not be long at all before the fleets are ready to sail once more."
That certainly explained why Gandalf was no longer in the south. Daewen looked understandably troubled by the news.
"What of Gondor?" Harry asked, concerned. "Surely they will have need of allies if the corsairs are to threaten their coasts once more. Belfalas might be strong, but Harondor has long been contested. If Umbar finds common cause with Harad then there is little chance that Gondor will be able to hold those lands."
"Beregond is a wise ruler, and a strong warrior," said Gandalf. "He has made an alliance with the Green-men who have long held Calenardhon. He knows of the threat. No, after I returned to the north, I heard word of the growing darkness which has spread across Mirkwood."
"The Necromancer," Daewen supplied.
Harry nodded. "He has spread his influence from Dol Guldur, and much of southern Mirkwood is now a dangerous thicket. It is said that spiders the size of Men breed thick in its depths. Only the Beornings are willing to live in the shadow of the wood now."
"So I have heard," said Gandalf as he nodded. "When I returned north, I spoke with Saruman, and he told me of what you have been doing here. I suggested that it was time to purge Dol Guldur too. Too long has the Enemy had it as a ready bolt-hole for use in his schemes."
Harry well knew what Saruman's answer to that suggestion would have been. His intelligence and wisdom was undeniable, but he was cautious too. He would surely not countenance a war to unseat the Necromancer based merely upon the possibility that they might be a ready ally to the Enemy.
"But he said no," said Harry.
"He did not feel it to be prudent," Gandalf agreed. "I believe he has his own agents in the area, attempting to gain information on just who this Necromancer is."
One person immediately came to mind. "Radagast?"
Gandalf smiled fondly. "Among others, I am sure."
If Radagast was the one tasked with keeping an eye on Dol Guldur then it certainly suggested that Saruman did not place much stock in the rumours which surrounded the shadowy Necromancer. While he might never say it out loud, it was clear that Saruman believed Radagast to be the least of their order.
"In that case, I am still not sure you answered my question," said Harry, growing tired of Gandalf's equivocating.
A low chuckle told Harry that Gandalf knew exactly what he was doing. The look that passed between Harry and Daewen then only served to bring Gandalf more mirth.
"It seems I am not as subtle as I would like to imagine," he said with a wry look. "Despite Saruman's insistence that the Necromancer is surely little more than some mean conjuror, I resolved to investigate. Little passes beneath the White Wizard's sight, however, and as I was leaving he asked if I would go a little out of my way, and bear a message to you."
"Indeed," said Gandalf. "It seems you have been wandering."
Harry frowned, not understanding. "I have been wandering for many years."
"But usually, you take your body with you, do you not?" Gandalf asked, his blue eyes piercing. "I find it to be a most useful contrivance. It does not do to leave it behind."
"How is that possible?" Daewen asked, eyes wide. "There are stories that the Lady of the Golden Wood may send her senses forth, but I know of no others with that ability."
"There are some," said Gandalf vaguely, but his inquisitive gaze remained fixed upon Harry.
"Saruman felt my… wandering?" he said, realising that Gandalf was talking about his night-time flight on the night of the Battle of the Cliff. "Was his the voice I heard? It did not sound like him — In fact, now that I think on it, it felt more like—"
"The Lady Galadriel, yes," said Gandalf, nodding as he glanced towards Daewen as if to acknowledge her earlier words on she who was called the Mistress of Magic by some. "It was she who reached out to you when you drifted too close to peril, but she sent word of it to Saruman. It seems you have greatly worried both of them."
"But not you?" Harry could not help asking.
"I have every faith in you," said Gandalf simply. "None of us, not even I, not the Lady of the Golden Wood, not even Saruman know your purpose here, but I do not doubt that you have it. Your abilities are strange, and yet familiar too. I do not think it is for me to place demands upon you. I suspect you place enough of them upon yourself as it is."
"That's his message?" Harry asked, not believing it for a second. "To be careful?"
"No! No, certainly not all of it, at the least." Gandalf leaned forward and met Harry's eyes. "No, instead, he wished to know if there was something more to the sudden appearance of that ability. It is not something that is alien to us; there are those among the Wise who can reach out to other minds as you did, but the manner of your discovery is puzzling. How is it that you can do this thing, seemingly without knowing what it is you are doing?"
"What are you asking?"
"There is a weapon of the enemy," said Gandalf, his voice becoming utterly serious. "It is not an item with which I am familiar, but Saruman has long sought it. If we can but find it, and deprive the Enemy of its power, it would be a great boon to us in our struggle."
"The One Ring," said Harry, knowing immediately of that which Gandalf spoke. It was not spoken of often, even among the Wise, but Harry remembered, once, learning of the history of Celebrimbor and the Rings of Power. "Surely it is long lost. Swept out to see, or buried deep in the earth?"
"Would that we might have been so lucky," said Daewen as she shook her head sadly.
"Many have argued for that possibility," said Gandalf, his tone did not so much as hint at his own thoughts on the matter. "Yet if it could be found, it would represent an opportunity greater than any before in this war."
"This war is almost done, Gandalf," said Harry. "If the Ring has stayed undiscovered all these years, it seems unlikely that we would be able to uncover it in the few days we have before the final battle for Khazad-dûm is joined."
But Gandalf shook his head and said: "I meant the greater war, of which this is but one small struggle. I know you seldom concern yourself with the White Council and its comings and goings, but even you must know that it is a war which we are losing."
"Are we?" Harry asked. "Gondor is stronger now than it has been in a generation. Their enemies to the south will soon renew their attacks, yes, but the North is secure at least."
"Is it?" The tone in which Gandalf asked his question gave Harry pause.
"You think it is not?"
"I think there is a festering boil that grows near the very heart of the North's strength," said Gandalf.
Silence fell between them when Gandalf made his grim pronouncement. Daewen looked worried by his words.
It wasn't difficult to understand what it was to which Gandalf referred. "Dol Guldur, then," said Harry. "But we have wandered off track once more. You did not travel all this way to speak cryptic warnings to me on the eve of battle. Why are you really here, Gandalf?"
Gandalf smiled warmly. "Well, wandering is our prerogative, I think."
Harry was about to make a comment to Daewen on the endless obfuscations of wizards, but was stopped in his tracks when Gandalf held up a hand.
"But as you say, there is a purpose to my presence here. Saruman was worried that your sudden heightened ability to travel across the land without the burden of a body might have been caused by something. I believe he feared it might even have been the One. After all, you were camped not far from the Gladden at the time, were you not?"
"Only by the most loose of measures," said Daewen, shaking her head. "We are closer now to the Gladden than we were then."
Nodding, Harry agreed with her. "Regardless of that, Saruman can sleep easy knowing that I came into possession of nothing which might have increased my powers. Or did he perhaps hope that I had found something? Certainly, for the battles to come I do not think such a powerful weapon would be unwelcome."
"In truth, I cannot be sure," said Gandalf with a thoughtful nod. "I would caution you against those thoughts, however. The Ring belongs to Sauron, and he alone has the ability to bend it to his will."
Perhaps, once, it would have been a strange notion: the thought that so small a thing could possess such a power, but Harry had travelled far and wide across the lands of Middle-earth, and he knew that more than just the Ring had something like a mind of their own.
There were trees which hated all those who moved beneath their boughs, and rustled in windless air, their anger and rage leaking from them into the very ground on which they stood. Even Barazinbar, mighty upon the horizon, was evidence of it. It was a peak as cruel and capricious as any Orc. Storms could whip up out of nowhere to assault an unwary traveller. Avalanches would fall from undisturbed higher slopes without warning, and bury the narrow narrow Redhorn pass in many feet of snow.
"Then I shall keep an eye out, and I shall be cautious," said Harry eventually. He might be old, far older than he had any right to be, but he knew he was little more than a child before the Wise. That they invited him to meetings of the White Council was a perpetual puzzle to Harry.
"Good. Good," said Gandalf, nodding to himself.
Despite his seemingly relaxed manner, Harry could see that the seemingly innocuous discussion had quelled some deep worries.
"In that case," Gandalf continued as he pulled out a well-worn pipe. "Perhaps you can tell me how you have been. It has been more than twenty years, has it not?"
Soon, the air was slowly filling with the smell of halfling pipe-weed as Harry and Daewen told Gandalf of the battles and trials they had experienced so far in the war. It would be late indeed when finally Harry went to his bed, his thoughts still preoccupied with the looming image of a great mountain, glowering down upon him from the slowly nearing horizon.
"The Galadhrim are on the march!" said Elladan to the commanders of Thráin's host, gathered atop a bluff which overlooked Azanulbizar.
Little had changed in the valley since last Harry had camped there. The still waters of Kheled-zâram reflected a cloud blue sky, and the last of the winter snows clung still to the edges of the valley. That beauty would soon be marred, for the topic of their council was the battle which was to come.
The sudden arrival of Elladan, who had been commanding the scouts in their search for Orcish trickery caused some surprise among those who were gathered there.
"The Golden Wood marches to war?" asked King Haleth, his eyes, still sharp in his old age turned in the direction of the woods, which shone like new fire in the late spring sun.
"Now they march," muttered Náin to Nari who was beside him.
It spoke to the depth of the friendships which had been forged throughout the war that nothing more was said. Instead, Thráin asked the obvious question.
"When do they arrive, and what are their numbers?"
"No more than a day," said Elladan. There was a light of happiness in his eyes, no doubt looking forward to the chance to see more of his kin than the scant few who had come with the sons of Elrond to join the Dwarves' cause. "As for their numbers, they look to be near two thousand strong."
While it did not represent the full strength of Lothlórien, it was certainly a mighty host. Once, perhaps, it would have been little more than an expeditionary force, but those days were long gone.
That fact did not go unnoticed among Thráin's gathered captains. None among them could remember the last time such great numbers had marched forth from the Golden Wood.
"Who leads them?" Harry asked.
"With such great numbers? I would not be surprised if it is Lord Celeborn himself who leads," said Elladan.
That possibility soothed many of the worries which had been growing within Harry as they neared what all hoped would be the final battle of the war. The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood were wise beyond his ken, and while he knew they were not infallible, they seldom wasted their knowledge and power upon a hopeless cause.
"The Gyldedene has long been an ally to the Riddermark," said Haleth, a smile spreading upon his face. "Seldom do they come forth, but in our hour of darkest need, they always are there. This is auspicious news indeed."
"This is no dark hour in need of the charity of Elves!" Gráni grumbled, though there was little heat in his words. "The coming battle will at last return light to the Halls of Durin which have so long suffered under the name of Moria."
"Dark hour or no, we have seen how effective the Elves have been in our war," said Thráin firmly. "I would never turn away two thousands more of them. That is a force great enough to launch a true ambush upon our enemies."
"Aye, if we can conceal them upon the mountainside, and lure the Orcs to our lines we could trap them between the cliffs on one side, and Kheled-zâram on the other," said Náin. He beat his fist upon the camp table, rattling the cups, quills and pots arrayed there. "We could smash them once and for all."
Throughout their campaigns it had proven a common concern. Dwarves, whilst stout of heart and body were not nearly so mobile as the agile, and far more lightly armoured Elves. The hundred or so Elves who had joined the sons of Elrond in joining Thráin's war were not numerous enough to form any kind of true flanking force.
The men of the Riddermark, though, were stout, and upon their horses they could easily outmanoeuvre their Goblin foes. Seldom did their enemies have any kind of cavalry of their own, the wargs of Gundabad had never been all that numerous, and most had fled into the wilds when the battle had started to go ill.
However, after months on the campaign trail, more than half of Haleth's men had died or become injured. They had not the constitution of the Elves, and lacked the familiarity of Dwarves with their mountain homes. Many of the horses had broken their legs upon the rough scree of the mountainsides, and now, at the end of the campaign, the full account for the mounted contingent was less than one hundred men. Those who had not died or been injured fought on foot, but it meant that latterly, many of the more recent battles had not seen a conclusive victory.
The Goblins would rise from their dark holes, like some fell fungus, to launch their attacks. Then, as the army marshalled itself, and started to fight back their foes would melt away once more, like late snow upon a summer hilltop.
It was only in their dens, and the lost holds of the Dwarves, where they could be brought to proper battle. Even then, however, they seldom fought long beyond the point at which it was clear they had no hope. For that reason, the captains of the host had elected to seek one final battle, which would end it all.
They swept down the mountains, from north to south. Every Goblin bolthole they found was either garrisoned, or collapsed. The Goblins of the Misty Mountains were left nowhere to go but south, to the one great stronghold they still had. Khazad-dûm. How great their numbers might be, after all the Misty Mountains had been emptied into those endless halls, none really knew.
Perhaps that was the reason for the aid which was coming to them from Lothlórien.
The arrival of Celeborn's host, for it was indeed Celeborn who rode at the head of the long column of Elves, was much different to the arrival of Elladan and Elrohir's force at the beginning of the war.
Every one of the captains of Thráin's host, and many more besides, stood ready to meet them. Gandalf too was there, gazing upon the unusual gathering as he puffed thoughtfully upon his pipe. Unlike before, there was no muttering to be heard, and though the Dwarves' expressions were guarded, there were few scowls to be found among them.
The Elves who had fought with them for nearly a year had proved themselves time and time again, and there were now few indeed who had not gained at least a grudging respect for them. Some few had even become friends.
A host of Elves on the march was something Harry had never seen, though he had often heard stories. The great hosts which had met the forces of Morgoth in battle in the First Age when the world was yet done lived on still in the stories and songs which were oft recounted by the Elves of Imladris.
Fluttering banners, shining silver woven into the very fabric so that they glowed in the sun, and rippling fire played across them with the wind. Elvish harps, which filled the air with a music which was at the same time beautiful and terrifying. Shining armour, glinting in the light like a million jewels, and finally, the high, pure voices of the Elves themselves raised in song, supported by the powerful tones of many trumpets.
Foes had fled before them in their splendor, and even the dark clouds of Morgoth's sorcery retreated at their approach.
Hosts of Elves in the fading days were far reduced from the glory days of Gondolin, Doriath and Nargothrond, the great realms of Beleriand of old. The number of Elves who had fought at the cursed Fen of Serech in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad was said to be greater than all the Men, Women and Children who now lived in Minas Tirith, the greatest city of Men that yet remained in Middle-earth. The thunderous music of their glorious march had shaken the very mountains. More than half of their number had died that day, and most of those who did survive did not do so for long when Morgoth's victorious hosts descended upon Beleriand.
Those days were long gone, but in this small host, there was yet a faint memory of that glory.
Celeborn, resplendent in the finest Elvish plate Harry had ever seen rode at the fore atop a shining Elvish steed. At his side rode three captains of the Galadhrim, and behind them walked the army in three narrow columns. Each was five abreast, and more than one hundred deep, and each one wore long, loose cloaks in the autumn colours familiar to their people. Beneath the cloaks, flashes of silvered metal could be seen, but the sight was not nearly so grand as what once had been.
Still, the sight of them brought a lightness to Harry's heart as a small measure of the weight which had been heavy upon him was lifted.
As Celeborn approached, his head held high and proud, he for a moment met Harry's gaze, and a familiar understanding passed between them. There were surely things he wished to discuss.
"The Lord of the Golden Wood marches forth to war!" said Thráin, his voice strong and certain. "Old allies together at last to reclaim that which was lost."
"It has been too long since the Galadhrim knew the friendship of the Dwarves of Khazad-dum," said Celeborn as his horse came to a stop without any need of visible command from its rider. "Once, my people and yours forged an alliance which stood against the darkness which attacked the very heart of our world. That alliance has not been forgotten by me, or by the Lady of the Golden Wood. If you would allow it, we would fight by your side, as we once did your fathers' fathers'."
"Come, then," said Thráin, as he turned to lead the new arrivals away to the war-table.
Celeborn turned his gaze momentarily back to the captains who accompanied them, and upon his wordless command, they each went to the head of one of the columns and started to command them in the native Silvan tongue common to most of the Elves who lived in Lothlórien. With a precision Men could not hope to match, the columns broke up, each Elf focused on some specific task.
Harry joined Celeborn as they both walked the short distance to the place where Thráin held his councils.
"It seems you possess an Istar's talent for finding yourself at the centre of events," said Celeborn lightly.
Unsure how to respond to that, Harry replied: "No more than Lord Celeborn the Wise, I am sure. The Galadhrim have ventured forth from Lothlórien ever more of late, I am told."
"And it will surely become more frequent still, if tales out of the North are to be believed," said Celeborn, his words accompanied by a significant look. "Gundabad reclaimed by the Dwarves, and a treasure beyond anything seen in Middle-earth since the Valar themselves resided here, if rumours are true."
That, at least, went some way to explaining Celeborn's presence. Not only was he bringing a force to aid the Dwarves in their war, but he wished to continue his march north to see the White Tree of Gundabad, which bloomed still in the darkness of its cave.
Before he could ask just what it was that the tales said, they were joined by Elladan and Elrohir. Their delight at the arrival of their mother's father was clear as they bounded up with the kind of energy only an Elf could muster.
A warm smile spread across Celeborn's face at the arrival of his two grandsons, though Harry could see the lingering solemnity which hid still behind that joy. "It is good to see you all well," he said, nodding his head to Harry also. "I knew, of course, that no great harm had befallen any of you, but it still is a gift to find you well. I know that your mother and father have wondered at how you might be faring. It has been too long since word was sent to Imladris of the war."
"There has been much and more to do," said Elrohir, though he appeared contrite, well aware of the gentle note of admonishment in Celeborn's tone. "Many of the battles since that one have been minor indeed. Barely more than skirmishes in truth."
"And yet your mother misses you, even so," said Celeborn. "But I did not travel this far at the head of an army to remonstrate with the wayward children of my beloved daughter. Your actions in this war have done us all proud. To see the allegiance which you have built between our people, and the Dwarves is a thing which I had never dared hope to see. I must warn you, however, that I have been asked— nay, I have been commanded to see you safely to the Golden Wood once this war is completed."
"Is it the Lady Galadriel who wishes to see us?" asked Elladan as his brother laughed happily.
"Not she," said Celeborn, a slim smile upon his face as he shared in the twins' mirth, "but instead someone altogether more compelling in their persuasion."
"Who is it, then, who can command Lord Celeborn the Wise with such authority?"
"It is Arwen, of course," said Celeborn shaking his head. "It was all we could promise that would keep her from joining us on this march. It seems she has found herself lonely in your absence." He looked around a moment, looking for someone. "I hope that Daewen, too, is well? I do not see her here."
"She is currently commanding the watch over the Valley," said Elladan, pointing to a distant point on the mountainside where the Elves maintained their vigil.
Harry, of course, could see no sign of there being anything but loose scree upon that slope, but Celeborn's sharp eyes pierced the distance with ease. He smiled and nodded, satisfied.
"You also have been asked to return with me," he said to Harry. "The request is not only from Arwen, but from the Lady herself. She wished to warn you of the dangers of venturing too far from your body." He waited for a second before his gaze turned shrewd and he said: "But as those warnings are likely to fall upon deaf ears, she also wished to extend to you an offer of some limited tutelage in the art."
Elrohir laughed, glad that any ire would surely be directed in Harry's direction when they finally did return to Lothlórien. "It seems the Lady has made an apprentice of you," he said, looking altogether pleased with himself. "Woe betide the Man that rejects Galadriel and Arwen both. I have seen your courage first-hand, but only the truly foolhardy would attempt to fight that battle."
Before Harry could come up with a response, they reached Thráin's tent, and the large table which was covered in maps of the valley, with known Orc bolt-holes marked in red. As the topic of conversation turned to their plans for the battle ahead, Harry knew he wasn't paying full attention.
Just what did Lady Galadriel know or suspect about his abilities? Even Saruman had often been content to leave Harry to his own devices as he probed his own abilities. When Harry had tried to ask him direct questions, he would often be met only with the vaguest of answers, accompanied by more questions.
If Galadriel could give him some guidance on just what his abilities were, and how it was they came about, perhaps he might have some more substantial understanding of just what was expected of him in Middle-earth.
A/N: The Gyldedene is 'Golden Valley' in Old English, mirroring the 'Dwimordene' name which the Rohirrim had for Lothlórien in canon, but altered due to a somewhat closer relationship between the two nations (Dwimordene means 'Haunted Valley').
I planned to be able to get this written up in plenty of time for Christmas, but the surprise addition of a Harry/Fleur short story to my slate rather robbed me of a lot of the time I had available this month for writing. I got there in the end, though, so I hope you enjoy. If you're still looking for something to pass the time, why not take a look at Autumn Leaves, my new Harry/Fleur short (20k) story. It's not a crossover. Weird, right?
I want to thank each and every one of you, readers and reviewers, for all the support you've given this story. You're awesome, and I'll see you all next year! Have a good one.