As a long whistle repeated through the settlement, Celeborn rose and grabbed the sword he always nearby since they'd fled Doriath. He glanced around, waiting for a signal that would indicate from which direction the threat approached. The sound of two short whistles and one long one told him the intruders were following the River Sirion down to the settlement. Celeborn strode swiftly northward, armed men gathering to him as he moved. The sentries would already have arrows aimed at the incomers, but the bowmen would stay hidden. A visible show of force was more effective at deterring simple raiders, and if the newcomers were, by chance, friendly, a voice of authority would be needed to allow them entrance. Either way, better to have the matter outside the bounds of the settlement, Celeborn thought.
Celeborn lowered his guard somewhat as the strangers drew closer. An Edain, he observed, with distaste, but then forced himself to look more objectively. A well-born Man, if I have not mistaken the quality of the robes beneath the grime covering them, and behind him, is that… a golden-haired elf maiden, he realized, with surprise. Also high-born.
Celeborn signaled the men around him to ease their stance, even as he himself tensed. An elf maid and an Edain—he had not seen the like since Beren and Lúthien, which seemed to him an ill-omen. Beren cannot be said to be responsible for our downfall, but I cannot help the feeling that his arrival planted the seed of Doriath's destruction. Then came Túrin and all the ills that followed him, and Húrin…the very herald of our doom. Celeborn studied the features of the approaching Edain. He is not unlike Húrin in his appearance… Younger, yes, and less grim, but there is a hint of that bloodline, I am certain. Celeborn reflexively raised his sword, creating a swell of tension in the men around him.
"Hail, and well met!" Called the Edain, with a broad wave.
Celeborn doubted they were yet more than a smear of bodies to the Edain, but was certain that the elf maiden had clear sight of them. Still, he could not convince himself to relax his sword. It seemed the elf maiden liked the look of them, all the same, though, for the newcomers quickened their pace and was soon well within speaking range. Well within bowshot, as well, Celeborn assured himself. Though wise enough to stay beyond the sword's reach…
"Hail, and well met!" the Edain repeated, with an attempt at a friendly, if apprehensive, smile. "I am Tuor, son of Huor of the House of Hador, and this is my lady-wife, Idril Celebrindal, daughter of Turgon, King of Gondolin."
Celeborn lowered his sword, at last, for now that the name had been spoken, it was easy to see that the elf-maiden did indeed come from Fingolfin's line. "Hail, and well met, Tuor, son of Huor," he replied. "I am Celeborn of Doriath, husband to the Lady Galadriel, daughter of Finarfin." Tuor glanced at Idril, who smiled hopefully, then turned his attention back to Celeborn, who added, "Rare it is for anyone to venture forth from Gondolin in these dark days. What brings you hither, may I inquire?"
A shadow fell across Tuor's face as he answered, "The days are indeed grim; darker, mayhap, than even you previously knew, for Gondolin has fallen." He paused as a soft murmur rippled through the line of men behind Celeborn.
Celeborn raised a hand to silence the men, then replied, "That IS dire news, that had not yet reached our ears."
Tuor dipped his head wearily. "I do not doubt it, for we are the vanguard of those who have survived the sack of our great city." He waved a hand behind him. "Our people are weary and badly in need of safe harbor, and so having heard that the remnants of the once great city of Doriath had settled here, we turned our march this way."
"Your people follow quite slowly, for they are well beyond the notice of our sentries…" Celeborn stated, cautiously.
Tuor raised his head and straightened his shoulder, before responding, "Our people have suffered greatly, and thus they move slowly indeed, yet that is not fully the cause for their delay. They are wary, also, for it is well known that the people of Elu Thingol have no great love of Noldor, despite the kinship between my dear lady and yours. We have little strength to further endure any battle that might ensue between us and you, should we not be welcome."
Celeborn nodded his comprehension. The remnant of Gondolin wished to join itself with the remnant of Doriath, but they would not push their way into the Havens. It was for the people of Doriath to decide their fate, to leave to wonder in wilderness or provide them the safe harbor of which they sought. "Rest here while I carry the grim tidings to my Lady Galadriel and the lady Elwing, grandaughter of Elu Thingol," Celeborn offered. "I will have food and drink brought to you while you wait." Tuor nodded, understanding the offer for the command that it truly was. "Treat them kindly and with respect until my return, not forgetting their kinship to my Lady," Celeborn instructed a handful of men, before turning to lead the rest back to the settlement.
Galadriel waited, graceful and serene, to greet him as he returned. "You bring grim tidings?" she guessed, as he leaned in to kiss her lightly.
Celeborn gave a quick nod, but simply nodded his head in the direction of Elwing's dwellings, before gently guiding his wife in that direction. "Fetch as many Lords as can be quickly gathered," he ordered the man nearest him, as they moved.
"My lady," he bade, as Elwing rose to greet them. "I bring grim tidings of Gondolin, and urgent question that must be debated, but let us wait a moment for the Lords to gather."
Elwing nodded and resumed her seat. She hadn't long to wait, though, for the Lords hustled in one after another, some more out of breath than others.
"My Lords," Celeborn greeted. "Tidings have reached from none other than Tuor, son of Huor of the House of Hador, and his lady wife, Idril Celebrindal, daughter of Turgon of Gondolin," he stated, trying to keep his distaste of the coupling from his tone. He could tell from the rippling murmur, though, that it was a distaste shared by many. Galadriel, though, merely tilted her head curiously, indicated silently that he should continue. "The great hidden city has fallen, it seems." An even greater murmur rumbled around the table.
"Are we threatened here?"
The questions flew from every direction, all seemingly spoken at once. Celeborn merely raised a hand, demanding silence. "The details of Gondolin's fall have not been discussed at length, for Tuor and the Lady Idril have more immediate concerns at hand," he announced, ominously. The surrounding voices fell silent, as all eyes focused on him. "The remnants of that great city have arrived before doorstep, but have pledged to come no further without our invitation to do so."
The murmuring began again, but soon an individual voice broke through the din. "Noldor, from the line of Finwe, and thus kin of Sons of Feanor, given safe harbor here, amongst the very people the Sons of Feanor drove from our own great city, as it fell with much death and ruin inflicted by their own hands. Can that be endured? Is it not too much to expect?" it said, and a flurry of voices shouted their agreement.
"Indeed! Would it not be inviting the wolf in to dine on the sheep should we allow them to stay?"
"We should drive them away! Our own have suffered enough at the hands of the Noldor? We owe them naught! Let them find their way, far from our own women and children!"
The din rose as the tide of voices against the remnant of Gondolin swelled. Celeborn listened wordlessly, his eyes fixed upon his Lady. He could not raise his voice against the remnant, for they were her kin, and she was his heart. Yet, he could not bring himself to argue on behalf of the remnant, for his own pain at the hands of Feanorians was too near still. And were they not also Noldor? Galadriel's eyes met his only a moment, before she fixed them upon Elwing. His Lady would offer no sage words of wisdom or pleas for her kin, he knew. Nor, he understood, did she despise him for his silence, for she understood. The people of Doriath had become as much her kin as were the Noldor. The people of Doriath loved her. Yet in this moment, in this decision, she was an outsider. She was a Noldo, and this was a decision for the Sindar to make, for ill or for good.
It was young Elwing who finally silenced the shouts. Standing, she gestured for silence, then waited patiently for the murmurs to settle. "We cannot turn them away," she stated, simply and firmly.
The din began to grow again at her words, and Celeborn moved to stand nearer to her. She was young yet, too young to have responsibility for such decisions foisted upon her slender shoulders, but she was Dior's daughter, and thus his queen. He did not forget it, even if others might in the heat of the moment. "Let her speak," he commanded, his voice soft, by allowing no challenge.
Elwing nodded, gratefully, then began, "It was not so long ago that we fled, weary and frightened, seeking safe harbor anywhere. And we found it here. How then can we deny it to these refugees?" Murmurs of dissent sounded, but Celeborn's stern gaze kept them from rising back into a din. "It is true that they are Noldor, and thus kin of the Sons of Feanor, but are they not also kin to our Lady Galadriel? And has she not suffered all our miseries and woes along side us? Equally, are they not among those who were betrayed by the very same Sons of Feanor and left to endure the hardship and loss of the crossing of the Helcaraxe? Indeed, was not Elenwe, wife of Turgon, mother of Idril Celebrindal, among those who died along the way due to that very treachery? How can we then abandon them? Would we not only resemble those we despise should we refuse them? Nay, I will not allow it! We are Sindarin! We are a good and noble people! For the sake of Elu Thingol and all the great people of Doriath, I will not see us made less by that which we have survived. We will allow the refugees of Gondolin safe harbor, and in doing so, we will only grow stronger." Allowing for no dissent, Elwing commanded, "My Lords, please, arrange for food and shelter to be prepared for our new friends." She turned then to Celeborn. "My Lord, would you go with the Lady Galadriel to inform Tuor, son of Huor, and the Lady Idril Celebrindal, of this decision?" She turned to Galadriel. "You will wish to greet your themselves, I am certain." She returned the smile Galadriel gave her, before finishing. "You may all go NOW."
Celeborn hung back as the Lords departed, some at a hesitant stumble, others striding away in haste. There would be much grumbling under the breath and behind closed doors, but Elwing had acquitted herself well, he thought. There would be no open dissent, barring aggression from the refugees. Pray, let that not occur.
Galadriel rose as the last of the Lords departed, and Celeborn took her arm. "Let us give your kin the bright tidings," he stated, hopefully.
"The tidings are indeed bright," she assured. "For I foresee a great destiny arising from the uniting of the remnants of these two fallen cities. A destiny that will affect the tides of the world beyond what even Feanor imagined."
Celeborn smiled. He could not himself imagine what greatness might come from joining the tattered remnants of once great, now fallen, cities. Still, despite his earlier misgivings, Celeborn's heart soared with gladness. They would provide safe harbor to these people, and come what may, be it fair or foul, the Sindarin would remain a good and noble people. It was enough…for the moment.