The seasons flew like geese, rising and returning; the leaf-loam piled in deep drifts in the dark glens where the axes of Men did not penetrate. These places were fewer and fewer each year.

Thaliell danced with the children of Men and let them put flowers and berries in her hair. She sipped milk from the plates their mothers left out for her and plaited their ponies' manes and tails. She slept in stable-rafters now, for the winters were colder than those endless summer nights that misted her memory, when the stars and moon were bright and her people feasted on sawn logs in woodland glades. She had been the Queen of the Elves once, she used to tell one golden-haired lass who crept out to find her in the dell behind the Woodmen's village. Almost Thaliell believed it.

In time, for time was all she had, the girl-children no longer sat upon her knee, for they had grown large, or she very small. She slipped into thickets and hid from the wars that swept across the north, where the trees were felled for the smithy's forge and the army's engines. Each year she traveled a little farther south, flitting from glade to glade and hollow to riverbank, dwelling in fox-holes.

One autumn shed stole boldly across the great bridge over the River to the smaller forest to the south. She had a vague recollection that she should not enter it, but Men feared it more: a small misty island of beeches and birches, untouched, full of fogs and hanging mists that echoed with strange voices. She did not mind them or the faerie-lights that sometimes flickered high up in the tree-tops. They reminded her of... of something, like torches, like lamps, like starlight from a time when stars were brighter and had names in other than mortal tongues.

She came at length to rising knoll of white birches and a mound strewn with yellow flowers like the sun. There she made her home, on that hallowed spot where no mortal foot had ever trod (save two, and they had long ago passed beyond the confines of this world). She called herself Elanor, after the flowers that grew there, and was content for many centuries. But at last, when all the world was changed again, even the power of the last Queen of Elves and Men waned, and its girdle of memory ceased to shelter that hallowed place.

The copse of gnarled, ancient birches was cleared. Rolling fields of grain and scattered settlements sprouted where trees and glades had been. Circles of stones rose up, marking the turn of seasons with mortal precision. Lichen covered the stones. The weather turned cold and wet. The rich loam blew away, until only stony soil and sheep-cropped grass covered the dells and mounds that Men had once erected to bury their dead.

One mound was different, although only a few bards remembered it. There, some said, a brave harper might sleep and be gifted with song or madness. There, others said, a Faerie Queen might snatch a pretty child or man away under the hill. There, still others said, a mighty King of Men had once been buried, who had once wed the Queen of the Elves and returned after a thousand years.

She no longer heard them. But on a midsummer's night, dancing under the stars, a wee sprite who did not remember her name might for a moment imagine the standing stones of Men to be the boles of great-girthed silver trees with golden leaves.


"Do you see now wherefore your coming is to us as the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy. Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlórien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten." ~ Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring