Title: The High Ground
Characters: Celebrían, Elrond, Elrohir, Elladan
Sources: Unfinished Tales, Silmarillion, LOTR Appendices
Warnings: Violence (everyone knows Celebrían's story, right?), some revisionism (because when it comes to most female Elves… or female anything... in M-e, I feel I kinda have to)
Summary: Who holds the mountains, holds Middle-earth… Celebrían has a role to play.
The light that lowered on the mountains shone clear and cool. Autumn was verging – and trouble.
"All along the Hithaeglir, rumor of our enemy runs," Elrond told his wife, as they sat in the study.
"I know it," said she. "I've word from Gildor and the Wandering Companies, and from our sons and the Rangers."
Silently they stared at the map of Middle-earth, at the Hithaeglir dividing it. And they remembered – when Imladris was an armed camp only, Lothlórien a beleaguered outpost of Lindon.
"Galadriel must know," Celebrían said finally, and stilled her husband with a look. "I will go."
And so, though the season for travel ran short, she prepared.
Elrond sought to stay her, though. "Rumor is rumor – little is likely to show itself before next summer."
"Perhaps," she replied. "But though patience be virtue, time spent waiting cedes too much to the Enemy. By then, it may be too late – as it was in Arnor when Evendim fell."
Elrond sighed, but he bowed to her words and burned the midnight oil. On the dawn of her departure, he presented a thick sheaf and said, "Since the threat seems more imminent to you, take our sons for safety."
"'Twas good of you to let father have his ambush," Elrohir told her later, as they rode together.
"My son, your mother is no warrior, but I know war," she answered. "Hence this journey. I fear an anvil!"
"Indeed," he sighed. For lurking evil made itself felt – sheep and goats pillaged from foothills shepherds, skirmishes between orcs and Rangers north of Imladris, and in the south, signs of companies passing.
Two fronts: ever the Enemy tried to make the mountains an anvil to break the South upon and cut Eriador off in one blow.
Who held the mountains, held Middle-earth…
She had always lived in the shadow of the mountains. East or west, she looked up to the cloud-wreathed heights.
Holly-locked Eregion had been busy, vital, thriving – but not undisturbed. For Annatar had come and seduced Celebrimbor. Then to forestall another Kin-slaying, her mother and her people had left. Her father had made his dislike of the Dwarves into a virtue: he would stay in Eregion and report to Lindon how it went.
Then Celebrían had looked with sadness on the mountains for the first time. "Grieve not – while Khazad-dûm stands fast, the mountains are our friends," Galadriel had said.
Her sons had called a halt on their second day out, and ridden ahead a little ways. Celebrían, reading her husband's missive while riding, watched them conferring with half an eye and wondered.
"What matter?" she asked when at length they returned.
"Nothing. A herd of deer passed recently."
She sighed. "I am not a hunter, but I am your mother – what troubles you, Elladan?"
"There were many of them, moving quickly," he allowed. "Something may have frightened them."
Something. "Then do as you see fit, for the safety of us all," she said. But she put away her reading.
Galadriel's words had been proven true. When the great betrayal had loosed the hell of war upon the land, Celebrían marched with Laurelindórenan's regiments as quartermaster and aide to her brother.
Khazad-dûm welcomed them; Dwarven mountaineers led them by tortuous paths, so that detachments could bypass the main force of friend and foe and strike from east above.
Sauron had ravaged Eregion, had spent his forces trying to dislodge Ereinion's captain, Elrond, from the Hithaeglir – to no avail. The mountains held, forcing two-fronted war upon Sauron.
The center could not win.
Nor could they, 'til Númenor's arrival assured Sauron's defeat.
"What says father of his concerns?" Elrohir asked when they had set camp that evening. Elladan passed the pot about the campfire where the escort's command had gathered.
"Little that you do not know," Celebrían answered. The twins exchanged mirror and knowing looks, while Erestor, who'd been with Elrond since the retreat from Eregion, frowned.
"Lothlórien is vulnerable," Elladan murmured.
"True. We do not control the mountain-chain," she said.
For there was only Moria where once was Khazad-dûm. On the eastern front, only Gondor, with the Hithaeglir open behind them.
The contest for the heights must come, and maybe soon...
After Sauron's defeat, she came with Galadriel to Imladris, where Celeborn still dwelt after the siege.
They found it still an armed camp. Master Elrond begged their pardon: "We've had no time to build much. Indeed," said he, smiling with captainly humor, "'Imladris' this is, but only lately the only one – with so great a host against us, we kept on the move."
And he'd showed them his plans to fulfill the Council's order – to make a fastness, strong and beautiful.
"Like you," he had said, and asked her to stay.
So she gave him her help and her heart.
As they journeyed, Celebrían pondered. They had Imladris – one point on the chain. They had lost Khazad-dûm. Gondor held Angrenost at the other end of the chain, but as an outpost only, and Lothlórien could not count on Eorl's people unless the Dunedain persuaded them.
The southern defense was weak. Worse than weak, Durin's Bane held Moria between Angrenost and Imladris.
And now there were signs of shadowed companies all along the mountains.
There is a price to pay for failure to keep to plans long-since laid…
"Ware!" The cry went up suddenly – and darkness fell with the evening light.
The assault was swift. Five orcs leapt at Elrohir, overbearing him and his horse.
Elladan hesitated but a moment. "Save the lady!" he cried, trying to force his way back to her.
But they were strung out on a narrow path, and the orcs came thick as flies.
Celebrían was no warrior, but she had a knife and she was Galadriel's daughter. "A Varda Elentari!" The star-queen's light gleamed upon her. The orcs quailed, but she was alone, her company losing.
She called her own order: "Scatter! Retreat and regroup!"
Then something struck her from behind. She knew no more.
When she woke, she was alone. Or so she thought. It took some time, between pain and disorientation, to realize the muted, raw sounds that reached her were a living voice – that of Siriel, her maid.
She knew her fate, then. Or thought she did.
When the orc-captain came to her, he was blunt: "I'm not to kill you 'til you talk to us. So – who are the bearers, and where are they?"
She knew then: Sauron was moving! Celebrían stared at him – and then turned her head.
"As you wish, then," the orc grunted. "At least I'll have fun!"
When she was young, she studied the intricate ways that fëa is bound to hröa.
So she knows both how they ravel. She'd seen how war cut through those bonds. Bloody, brutal tearing.
But she'd always seen before.
Every sense she has is screaming. Pain rips from every quarter, like a wolf-pack. Brutalized awareness runs thin as a wire, but refuses to break.
Because there are other bonds – because someone must know it is Sauron. She's split within– seeking escape, but clinging to a body being broken joint by joint.
So she screams til she can't – and says nothing, until...
… of a sudden, the orc is gone.
Blinded by blood in her eyes, she moans, flinches when hands touched her, 'til finally a voice cut through, harsh as she'd never heard it:
"Mother! Don't move, you'll tear something! Valar, where's the healer?!"
She wanted to say his name, to tell him: 'Tis Sauron kill me now! The two run together.
But there were no words. She had locked them so deep within to keep them from her captors, she couldn't make them come.
Her son was calling orders. Darkness was clotting thick behind blind eyes, and she reached for it...
The light was lowering on the mountains. The new moon was hanging in the sky. Autumn was turning – life was turning, even in Imladris.
A year had passed. In a year, Celebrían had passed from clinging to life by a thread, to gaunt and fevered illness.
It had taken six months for her to speak again. Her hands were destroyed beyond use. When finally she cold make herself speak, she had told her husband: "Sauron seeks the bearers!"
And like a lacewing that lives for a season, to give birth once only, purpose deserted her. Deadly listlessness had set in.
"Let me go, love," she begged Elrond, who would not hear of it.
"I cannot! There's much you could do..."
"How?" A twisted hand gestured wearily to a destroyed body. He couldn't answer, but couldn't surrender to her either.
And maybe...he was right. His words spoke to the spark that had made her stay in Imladris, made her march with her brother – that made her set out in haste that fateful day.
It hurt to reach for that spark, in every sinew.
But he had disturbed it, and so she finally said, "Then I shall seek healing – in Valinor…."
Celebrían was always a non-entity for me, there just so that Arwen could have a mother (and Elladan and Elrohir, but they're both at the same level of non-entity, mostly).
To me, it's exactly the type of thing I would want to explore as a fanfic writer because I read LOTR and the universe of Middle-earth that Tolkien created and the overwhelming lesson I take from it is the absolute necessity of a unified, concerted struggle against oppression.* The characters who fail hardest are the ones who give up and give in: Denethor, Grima, Saruman. Those who triumph are the ones who don't ever give up the fight, or who have put themselves in the hands of loyal others who can save them and the whole mission when an individual weakens (like Frodo, and to a degree, like Boromir).
Notably absent in most of this are any of the women, who barely make it to the level of characters half the time. I've written about Arwen and Aredhel to try to rectify this. It's Celebrían's turn. I was thinking a little more about the one or two lines where she appears, and how little sense her journey makes except to explain the absence of Arwen's mother in any text. I mean, here goes this woman with an escort down the mountains. Somehow, she's the only one captured and everyone else scatters? What's an escort for if not to try to protect the person they're escorting? So how'd that come about? Why choose to go to Lothlorien at all? Pleasure jaunt through territory that is falling under shadow? Really?
And the resolution was never particularly satisfying – the departure to Valinor reads like escapism. And that's pretty deeply written into the Elves. They get to go off, if they choose, to a place where Sauron can't get at them, apparently (anymore?) - leave the problems to other people.
So I wanted to find a way to make that decision not about escape, but about taking a hopeful path towards the goal of getting back in the fight.
Hope you enjoy!