Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings or any characters and/or places thereof
Author's Note: By request of my writing partner, Galadriel, this story is AU, so as to include Celebrían and have her not yet gone to the Havens. And all the calculations in this story that Estel does in his head were done in my head, so it is possible.
'. . .in italics. . .'means thoughts
'. . .in bold. . .'means Galadriel speaking into someone's mind
". . .regular. . ." means normal speech
I hummed quietly, then wrapped my fingers in my hair and tugged at it a bit, then scratched my nose, then tried doing number problems in my head--two twos is four, four fours is sixteen, sixteen sixteens is two hundred fifty-six. None of this calmed my nerves at all. I was jumping from one foot to the other, thinking how nice it would be to take a long run right about then, perhaps even to climb a few non-mallorn trees, if there were any about, but of course there were not. By this point I had frankly come to believe that the Lady Galadriel had only summoned me up into the mallorn tree to test whether or not I was frightened of heights. I wasn't.
Bored, I took a smooth stone from my pocket. It was ordinary, quite; grey, ovular and rather slim, though not at all rough. It was a river-stone, which I had picked up on my travels, noting its use. Many similar stones I had, under the tutelage of my elder brothers, learned to skip clean across small ponds. Though I was nowhere near as good at it as they, I could still keep the stone in the air when kicking it from foot to foot. This is precisely what I was doing when a miscalculated kick sent my toy-stone spinning. My heart leapt into my throat: my stone collided with the Lady's shin.
Unsure of what to do, I dropped down on one knee and muttered, respectfully, "Most very sorry, my Lady." My thoughts raced as a line of sweat broke out on my brow. Sure, it was only a stone, but then, considering why I was in Lothlorien in the first place, that stone might have been responsible for my having my head chopped off. Elladan and Elrohir always told such stories about the Lady and her temper; often I laughed, but now my throat was stuck. What was she going to do to me? 'Oh, Elbereth, please, please let her have mercy, please, I promise to be good. . .'
"Estel," said the Lady in a high, almost musical voice, "Might I have a word with you?"
I got to my feet, trying hard to neither shake or look at my little grey stone. "Yes, of course, Lady," I choked out with all the courage I could muster. Perhaps you question now my lack of eloquence? I was thirteen years old, travel-weary, and in a foreign place, hardly able to keep my gaze from wandering to the trees, so majestic and mighty as they stood. The plain idea of living in flets amazed me, having less-than-much worldly experience.
"Estel--" my, but she did address me quite directly!-- "I mean to speak with you about your life in the Elvish community, Imladris in particular, of course."
"Oh," I sighed with relief, my fear evaporating. I was unsure of what this concerned, but Elladan and Elrohir spoke often of then enmity between Lady Galadriel and Lord Elrond, and I supposed she aimed to insult him somehow about the manner in which he had raised me. On this note I decided I should be on my best behaviour and not argue, spit, or speak in slang terms--another valuable lesson from my brothers. "I thought--oh." 'Hush up!' I shouted mentally at myself.
"When Elrond and Celebrían, my daughter, took you in, they entrusted you with a certain integrity. . ." the Lady began, and it was all I could do to bite back a groan. All my life I had heard similar speeches, lectures on my 'integrity', my 'morality', and all sorts of other things that Glorfindel, Erestor, Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían seemed to think themselves true masters of. To be fair, the Lady Celebrían was easiest on me, lecturing only when I was in trouble and truly deserved it. Her lectures were the easiest, quiet and calm, speaking not at me but to me. She was gentle, and guided with such a hand as any would allow sway them for love of the Lady. Not like Glorfindel, who always seemed to need to mention himself and the Balrog. I had heard that story so many times that the fright had dimmed, then vanished. Erestor was all right, only he always acted as though this could only be expected of a mortal. Lord Elrond was fine to begin with, but got himself worked into a fervor, and would be preaching before long.
With this in mind, and managing through my best efforts not to roll my eyes, I could hardly help but think, 'Oh, not this propaganda again!' The response to which came, quietly but blatantly in my mind, 'I am choosing to ignore that comment.' Elladan and Elrohir spoke often of 'unnatural powers' that their grandmother possessed, but never had they warned me of this! It took me fully off my guard, and I reeled backwards, jumping in fright away from the Lady. It took all my self-control not to shout or run from her. 'Oh, I hope she does not know how scared I am!' "Sorry?" I ventured in a very small voice.
'You would be surprised at what else I can see. . .' "Apology accepted."
For years I have wondered whether or not she meant to addle my thoughts exactly as she did by thought-speaking then speaking normally. Decades later, when I had grown accustom to the ways of the Lady of the Wood, I would look back at my scared, shivering, teenaged self and laugh, though I would never stop blushing at the memory, and I would never know what her intentions truly were. "Lady, please, might we speak. . .in the normal manner?"
'If you wish to,' she replied, laughing such a full laugh it rang in my ears for many seconds later. I could feel my innards shrinking, in that fearing way that innards have. Some hidden part of me, the part that I am constantly and never aware of, where I know just what my body needs and cannot take, brought to my attention that I was on the verge of tears. Surely, it can be understood that I was a terrified child. Having been raised in the Elvish community, I was viewed as a child, as Elves age quite slowly. No one had taught me quite yet how to be an adult, and the rag-tag lessons that I had conjured for myself I had gone more than awry. At any rate, through terror swelled shame, and I hoped that the Lady could not see my fear.
"I am sorry, Estel," she said in a careful voice, "that was but an introduction to what you will be experiencing in years to come." It did not occur to me then, but Galadriel had many plans for me, quite a few of which would involve time spent in her woods. "I know it seems frightening now--" this was a major understatement "--but you will develop a tolerance for it. Someone once told me that Men and Elves could never exist in the same place and at the same time. You are no Elf, young edan, but I sense something great in you."
To say that I was flattered by this would be misleading. Comforted, perhaps, would be a better word, for then I felt worthwhile. However, I with my curiosity had to go and open my big mouth and say, "Thank you, Lady, but. . .I thought you were mad at me?"
"No, child! I am not angry. I only wish to make you understand that there are some morals and mental characteristics I have seen in you that most Men do not have."
Even there, had I stopped, I might have gotten out of such a difficult situation, but again I acted without thought. "You are not even angry that I ran away from Imladris?"
Everything seemed to freeze in that instant, and the Lady asked very slowly in a dangerous tone I had heard Elrond take many times, ". . .you ran away from Imladris?" And then, I cannot explain why, but I began to laugh, and I covered my face, blood rushing to my cheeks. I had been so sure she knew, so afraid of what she would do to me, and in light of what had happened. . .the humor cannot be placed in words, but if you ever experience such a thing, you will understand. It was funny! "Why?" the Lady cut in, seething angry. "That is all I ask. Why?"
And it was then that the meaning of her earlier words struck me. She knew my head, she had seen my mind. I was angry then, though I had no right to be. The emotions held back for too long were biting at the surface, fighting to be free. A minor lapse of self-restraint, and I exploded, "Why don't you see for yourself, you pervasive Elf WITCH!"
What happened then I shall never forget, for the horror of it was deeper than any, save that of a Nazgul, I have ever experienced else. She seemed suddenly quite terrible, as a monster king of pure stone, radiant beautiful. "DON'T YOU DARE EVER SPEAK TO ME IN THAT TONE OF VOICE AGAIN!"
That struck me somewhere deep inside, a breed of terror before then unknown to me, and I shrank away, looking frantically for a place to hide from her. There was nowhere. The closest thing to a hiding spot I could see was a corner, and so I rushed to it, gasping and crying, ashamed. In the corner I folded myself into a small ball, wishing I could just disappear. All those pent-up feelings were springing loose now. I was shaking terribly, clawing at my arms, hands, shoulders, and hair, wishing I could just evaporate. I was ashamed, and that made me want to stop crying, but I could not, and because I could not my shame deepened, and I only cried harder. Soon enough I was hysterical, and just wanted to die right then and there, and I thought to myself, 'All she asked was why.' And while I highly suspected that she did not understand at all, a part of me almost hoped that she did. Hoped she wasn't judging me too harshly.
TBC! Don't worry, all your questions will be answered. . .all in good time. . .