An elf with a shattered soul is dying. Her torturer is gone, yet he haunts her, rendering healing impossible.
Then she hears the soothing tones of a flute. Can music mend a broken heart?
Eryn Lasgalen, Fourth Age
The lyre called to her again. It sat in the corner, forlorn and silent, begging to be touched and made to sing. Celegiel turned her back to it, stubbornly gazing into the woven screen that shielded her bed from the breeze.
Her windows were wide open, it was a warm summer evening. A gust of wind ruffled her hair and the lyre strings, producing a hum from the latter. Was it going to call to her vocally now, as well? She glared at the offending instrument, willing it to be quiet. It refused, and with a resigned sigh she went to crouch before it. She stroked its smooth, rounded frame, touched the inscription her father had carved: Create Emotion.
Gingerly picking it up, she plucked a scale. Father's voice came to her. "Never forget your daily scales, daughter. Practice makes perfect!" Thinking of Father almost had her drop it again.
With closed eyes, she began a lullaby, allowing the cascade of tones to soothe her, ease the tensions. Near the end she blinked away a lonely tear.
Celegiel jumped at the applause and strange voice, her heartbeat increasing. Turning around, she noticed a tall, copper-haired elf nimbly balancing on one of the branches that surrounded her treehouse.
How dared he! Her home was private, nobody was allowed up here, least of all an ellon, a male elf!
She glared at him and pointedly pulled the window shutters close. In the gloomy darkness of her room, she heard a slight rustle as the ellon climbed down.
Voices drifted to her from below.
"The elleth who lives there, who is she?"
"Ai, 'tis poor Celegiel Merenoriell."
Nosy elf! What business had he, questioning about her? And the one he talked with was Niphredil, of course, that meddlesome old healer.
"She seemed sad," said the ellon.
"Aye, she has not spoken to anyone in several moons. She has not long left, I fear." Niphredil sighed dramatically. "Something happened on her way here from Lothlórien." The healer lowered her voice, murmuring the rest.
Good. The ellon would not bother her again, not after he learned what had befallen her.
Celegiel lay down on her bed, eyes burning with unshed tears. Realizing she was still holding her lyre, she hugged it to her tightly.
She must have slumbered, for she woke to a slow, enchanting tune. A flute. And the melody was the lullaby she had played before.
The ellon again. He certainly was persistent!
Celegiel listened in silence, feeling the annoyance subside. He was talented, to be sure. She felt an urge to join, pluck harmonizing chords on her lyre and sing the words.
Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him!
Stoically Celegiel abstained. He would think she encouraged his unwanted attention. Instead she let the sweet tones lull her back to sleep.
The ellon did not give up. He came back next evening, and the evenings after that, every time playing different melodies. Sometimes he sang in a pleasant baritone. He chose old, familiar songs which brought back memories of happy times back home. Festivals, weddings, begetting days – Celegiel and her parents had entertained in all of those.
Celegiel found that she had begun to look forward to the evenings.
Then came one time when she could not resist. The ellon played the Song of Beren and Lúthien, her absolute favorite. The lyre was in her hands before she knew it, thrumming out the familiar chords, weaving an enchanting harmony together with the tender voice of his flute.
She sang the ending verses out loud, surprising even herself. It was strange to hear her own voice after such a long time.
And yet at last they met once more / And long ago they passed away / In the forest singing sorrowless.
In the silence afterwards, Celegiel was surprised to feel a slight quirk to her lips.
A knock on the window dissolved her smile.
"Can you not come out? It is a beautiful evening."
She hesitated. His endurance was intriguing, she had to admit as much.
Slowly she opened the shutter. The ellon was facing away from her, leaning against the wall of her house, one leg leisurely dangling over the edge of the platform it was built upon. Over his broad shoulders cascaded a mane of waist long hair, golden with a reddish tint, and in his hand she spotted the source of the bewitching music he had blessed her with: a small wooden flute, which he toyed with absentmindedly.
She turned her eyes to the small circle of sky framed by the foliaged canopy above. The stars were out and the air was pleasantly mild. It was indeed a beautiful night.
Her bare feet made no sound when she slunk out and sat beside him, copying his easy stance. He glanced at her, then returned his attention to the flute, twiddling it restlessly. He had big hands, strong. A warrior's hands.
"I am glad you came. I do not think we met?"
Celegiel did not reply. She observed the ellon's downturned face. His complexion was pale, almost translucent, the fair eyes framed by golden lashes.
She recognized him then, she had seen him with Thranduil, the Elvenking. He was a former servant of the palace, now a Woodland guard. Celegiel had a notion there was a scandal involved, important prisoners escaping during his watch or something of that ilk.
"You are Galion." Her voice was clear and it surprised her. It should have been rusty from lack of use.
His eyebrows rose in surprise and now he met her gaze.
"I am. We have met, then?"
"Nay." She did not elaborate, and he did not press the matter. Instead he put the flute to his lips and began a new tune. This time Celegiel joined in without hesitation.
"You sing beautifully," he said after they finished the last cadence. "You are a musician?"
"You know I am. I heard you asking about me." Her voice came out curt, cold even.
He blushed, his ears turning bright red all the way to their pointy tips.
"Forgive my impertinence, My Lady. It was not my intent to pry. The healer–"
"Aye," interrupted Celegiel. "Niphredil talks too much. Whatever she told you was probably true, however." She gave him a penetrating glare, daring him to return it. To her surprise he did, meeting her eye with open honesty.
"She said you lost your parents on your way here. That you came alone, unharmed, but…" He faltered, the gaze wavering. She almost felt sorry for him.
"But married, yes. You must have noticed this the first time we met. Why do you persist in coming? You behave like a would-be suitor, it is inappropriate."
He did not reply.
"Before you ask – nay, I did not consent to the marriage. Nevertheless, it happened, and although my spouse is dead now, I could never remarry even if I wanted to, as you well know."
His eyes were wide with surprise when they again met hers.
"Aye. Courtesy of your guard comrades."
A succession of emotions flickered over his face. Doubt and disbelief were followed by shocked realization and finally white-hot fury. The ellon was on his feet in one smooth motion, tense and dangerous, the relaxed minstrel becoming a fearsome warrior. He held the flute like a knife, ready to stab an invisible foe, the muscles on his arm bulging.
Celegiel felt something then, a tingle, the tiniest of flutters. He looked so protective, so strong.
"Orcs!" Galion hissed. "Orcs caught you?"
She nodded, expecting to read disgust or pity in his eyes, but there was only blistering anger.
"That lair we cleared last month, aye? I was there, killed two of them myself. Filthy abominations!" The ellon breathed hard a few times, then slowly regained his composure. He sat down, closer to her than before.
"You are not married. This does not count."
"A union is a union, however forcefully formed." Bile rose in her throat when she remembered just how forcefully it had been. Against the strength of an orc, her elven abilities had come to naught. She was a musician, not a fighter.
"But orcs are mortal, and wherever they go after their demise, it is not to the Halls of Mandos. You shall never meet him again, even in the afterlife."
She pondered this. He had a point, certainly. Did this mean her soul was free, that it could safely leave this broken body?
Her soul had been wanting to depart for many moons now, but she had forestalled it, anxious to avoid meeting her molester again. Yet, she had also been unwilling to stay among the living.
"Come, let us play something more. Get your lyre, I love hearing it." His calmness had returned. Again he leaned against the wall gracefully, lazily even, as if the intimidating warrior she had glimpsed before was a mere figment of her imagination.
She obeyed, and they spent a few more hours in blissful song and music.
When Celegiel was alone later that night, she turned her mind inwards, feeling her soul. It was still restless, still eager to leave but much less so than before. When had this changed?
She saw a face before her inner eye then, heard a beautiful flute tune.
Why was Galion so persevering? He had come every night, even before she had spoken a single word to him.
The next evening, after they had finished another piece in lovely harmony, she asked him about that.
"Your soul was calling to me," he said, shyly looking down at his hands, rolling the flute back and forth over his palm. "The first time I heard your lyre, and saw you… I felt it."
His answer surprised Celegiel.
"Play something," she said.
He obeyed, beginning the Song of Nimrodel, a delightful Woodland ballad. While he was occupied, Celegiel relaxed her breath and closed her eyes. Then she reached out to his soul. She found it almost immediately, surrounding him in a warm, rosy aura, homely and safe. It was beautiful.
A wave of tenderness engulfed her, and she felt her own soul settle down, once more finding rest in her heart.
When Galion had finished the song, she touched his hand.
"Do you really think I would be allowed another chance?"
"I know it."
"But I am torn. Ruined. I do not know when… if I could–" She broke off, feeling grief burn in her chest.
He put his other hand on hers, enclosing it.
"I shall wait for you until you are ready. And if this never happens, I am happy to stay your friend." He pressed a soft kiss on the back of her hand, sending a pleasant shiver through her body.
She knew then that she could heal. That this ellon's warm, patient soul, his music and his love – they had power to mend what was broken.
"Please, sing the Song of Beren and Lúthien."
As Galion complied, Celegiel lay down, resting her head in his lap, losing herself in those bright eyes. The enchanting melody seeped through her veins, reaching her very heart, restoring it.
Niphredil the Healer nodded happily from her vantage point below. She had been right to lead the ellon hither that evening; music had a healing power even greater than her own gifts.
The song ended, and she saw Celegiel pull Galion's face down to a tentative kiss. Niphredil knew for certain then; Celegiel's voice was back and her lyre would be silent no more. She would live.
This was written for a Wattpad contest, with a version of Galion I've used in several of my fics, particularly in my first one: Horse Lady of Rohan. Thanks to Raider-k for beta-reading it!
The songs and some names are copyright of J.R.R Tolkien. This is a work of fanfiction and I make no profit from it.