Chapter Thirteen: Something More
A month passed, and with it came the first chill of late fall. Plans for the construction of a tower in the Pass of Sirion were nearly complete. Finrod and Thingol had reached an agreement that was mutually beneficial. Doriath would supply architects and access to all of their land's plentiful natural resources, and the Noldor would provide labor and the rest of the construction materials. The Noldor would have full control of the fortress, and there would be no ambassador from Doriath present, but the tower had to always be in the keeping of a child of the house of Finarfin and therefore a blood relative of Elu Thingol, and they had to provide aid to the Sindar if it was needed. Aegnor, Angrod, and Orodreth left with a few other members of their race to carry news of this message to the other leaders among the Noldor: Fingolfin, Turgon, and Maglor. They had only good news upon their return, and that workers were ready when needed.
Finrod wanted to leave as soon as possible to begin work on the tower. If they began immediately, the lower levels could be constructed in time to provide them with shelter for the winter and give them time to finish their designs. He wanted Galadriel to accompany himself and their brothers to the pass, but she wasn't so sure she wanted to leave Doriath for as long as their stay promised to be.
In the month that had gone by since their return from the battle, Galadriel's initial anger over learning where Celeborn's heart truly lied had faded into a numb acceptance and a determination to not lose the friend she found in him when first arriving in Thingol's kingdom. She even found herself considering his brother once – Uncómien, as Galathil appeared to harbor feelings for the daughter of one of Thingol's advisors – but that idea soon left her. Uncómien was very handsome and made her laugh like none other could, but if Celeborn was too young for her, Uncómien was half his age, and besides, there was something about him that just… wasn't Celeborn. No matter how much she wished it, he, or anyone else, would never take his brother's place in her heart.
Celeborn and Galadriel's friendship was impaired by the awkwardness that exists when two people are in love and all can see it but them, but they managed to make the other believe there was nothing wrong. They remained close and were often seen together. Lúthien remained true to her vow to not interfere with their relationship, and she reminded everyone close to them – Daeron, Finrod, Celeborn's brothers – to do the same. The young, headstrong Uncómien was the most difficult to convince, but her powers of persuasion eventually silenced him. Not even he could refuse Lúthien.
Galadriel was a bit angry at Lúthien initially for pushing her to come clean about her feelings for Celeborn, but these emotions soon faded. She could see that Lúthien was very sorry, and there was no way she could have known that Celeborn had unexpectedly fallen in love with his savior while they were away from Doriath. Besides, her friendship with Lúthien, just like her friendship with Celeborn, was too valuable to lose over a misunderstanding.
Everyone in Doriath was interested in the battle, but there was one person who was more interested in a certain aspect of it than anyone else: Uncómien and the attack on Celeborn. By all others, even Celeborn, it was dismissed as just a terrible coincidence; there was no way they could have known Orcs were in the area and that it could have happened to anyone else. Uncómien did not believe it. He believed that the Orcs had a target, and that their target was Celeborn. But why? Uncómien did not know, but he planned to find out.
Uncómien was doing target practice one sunless afternoon when the two other soldiers on patrol with him, Galathil and Atarus, decided to join him. Shooting arrows at targets, however, was not the true intention of the newcomers. Galathil had grown concerned about his young brother lately, and he wanted to rid Uncómien of his obsession over the attack on Celeborn. It had upset Galathil as well, but should they not be grateful that their brother lived rather than angry that it happened, when it could have happened to anyone and it would be far worse for the armies if he did not go at all?
"Mae govannen, Galathil." Uncómien was fitting an arrow to the string of his bow when he saw Galathil and Atarus approaching. Galathil had a look of urgency on his face, and Uncómien guessed his intentions. It was not a topic he wanted to discuss.
"We need to talk, Uncómien," Galathil said.
Uncómien let the arrow fly. It sailed through the air and hit the center of a target on a post fifty feet away. "How do you like the border patrol, Atarus?"
Atarus was the new recruit, having joined the squad only a few short weeks ago. Having the attention suddenly shifted to him made him uncomfortable, and he stammered, "I… I am proud to do my duty to Doriath, Liutenant Uncómien, my lord."
"Uncómien," Galathil said sternly.
The young lieutenant pulled another arrow from his quiver and twirled it between his fingers. "Yes?" he said innocently.
"This is important, brother," Galathil pressed. "Your obsession over Celeborn's accident-"
"Celeborn has had far too many 'accidents' in his day." Uncómien shot the arrow at the target, and it split the shaft of the first arrow in two.
"Excellent shot, my lord," Atarus said.
"Thank you, recruit."
"You're being unreasonable," Galathil continued. "How could the Orcs have known it was Celeborn and attacked only because of that?"
Uncómien pointed his next arrow at his brother before fitting it to the string. "Precisely what I would like to know." He released the arrow, and it hit the target just above the first two arrows.
Galathil could see that this was going nowhere. "If you will not yield to my advice, at least tell me why you believe this."
Uncómien stared his brother down for a moment, then lowered his bow. "Atarus."
The recruit snapped to attention. "Yes, Lieutenant?"
"Please fetch the arrows," said Uncómien. "One arrow missed the target and is some distance away. Take your time."
"Yes, Lieutenant!" Pleased to be recognized by the border patrol's second-in-command, Atarus set to his task with a smile on his face.
"You didn't really miss the target, did you?" Galathil asked when Atarus was a safe distance away. He didn't believe it; Uncómien was too good of a shot.
"No, but Irisun did two days ago, and we never found the arrow," Uncómien replied. "It should keep him occupied."
Galathil could not help smiling a little at his brother's deception, but the smile faded when he got to the point. "Tell me what is on your mind."
Uncómien sighed and picked his bow up again. "I think someone's trying to kill Celeborn."
Galathil could not believe his ears. "Why?"
"Jealousy, power struggle, a grudge against our father, his proximity to the king, believe me, Galathil, there are many reasons."
"You don't think…" Galathil almost couldn't bring himself to the thought. "You don't think the Noldor are behind it, are you?"
Uncómien reached for another arrow. "No," he said. "In fact, if it weren't for them, I think he would be dead." He fitted the arrow to the string of his bow and pulled his arm back. "I think someone has been trying to kill him for thirty years."
He fired the arrow. "Lúthien agrees with me. How is it a coincidence that an arrow touched by the hand of Enemy found his eyes? I doubt Morgoth would take the time to personally give every single arrow his blessing."
"But who would do such a thing?" Galathil asked. "Who would betray his captain and country?"
"I think it was Aranesen," Uncómien said without hesitation. "No one else hates Celeborn so much."
Uncómien's youthful brashness was beginning to make Galathil angry. "No one else hates you so much," he corrected.
"He left Celeborn for dead!" Uncómien scowled. "I should have killed him, the treacherous coward."
"Brother, you have to learn to let things go," said Galathil. "This is not going to help Celeborn."
Uncómien glared at his brother, then slung his bow over his shoulder. "You may be my older brother, but out here, I outrank you," he hissed. "And a commanding officer is not pleased when his subordinates lose faith. I only hope you believe me before it's too late."
Galathil was not the only one having difficulty convincing a fiery younger sibling to be reasonable. Back in Menegroth, Orodreth was having little success with persuading Galadriel to go to Tol Sirion with the rest of their party. She insisted that she would better off remaining in Doriath, that there was more for her to do and learn, but her brothers wanted them all to stay together. Normally Finrod would take care of it, since Galadriel listened to him the most, but since he could not be torn away from his duties, the task fell to Orodreth.
He could not understand how Finrod did it.
After a good hour of searching the palace for his sister, Orodreth found her reading with Lúthien in the library. When Orodreth said he needed to speak with Galadriel, Lúthien volunteered to leave and did so before Orodreth or Galadriel could say otherwise. Galadriel immediately guessed what Orodreth was going to tell her and informed him that he was wasting his time. She had every intention of staying in Menegroth, and it was going to take some strong persuasion to change her mind.
Where does she get it from? The rest of us are far less headstrong, Orodreth thought as he searched for a way to convince Galadriel to go with them. Maybe she was really Fëanor's daughter and Finarfin and Eärwen adopted her. "We need you with us," he said. "We must all stay together."
"I would be of little use to you there," Galadriel argued. "Finrod will not let me work, and there will be more than enough of you acting as administrators. I would only get in the way."
"Our people are fond of you," Orodreth replied. "Your presence will inspire them."
Galadriel had to admit that he had a point with that one; she and her siblings were celebrities among the Noldor, and if she was there, others would want to be there, too. However, the Noldor had also been frustrating her lately. They cared only for battles and land and building cities and establishing kingdoms and getting their precious Silmarils back from Morgoth. She cared about these things, too, but also about diplomacy and relationships, both political and personal. Galadriel was able to find peace with the Sindar. She was not ready to leave the first place in Beleriand that felt like home.
"I cannot bring myself to leave Doriath," she said. "This place… there is just something about it that brings me serenity. I do not want to let it go."
"But we cannot stay here, and we do not want to leave you with these strangers."
"They are not strangers!" Galadriel insisted. "They are our kinsmen!"
"Nevertheless, we barely know them," said Orodreth. "Furthermore…" He paused and glanced around the room, as if to make certain they were alone. When he continued, his voice was a whisper. "Alqualondë will not remain unknown to Elu Thingol and his people forever, and when they do find out, we shall certainly be banished from Doriath. Would it not be better to depart while we are still on good terms with them?"
Alqualondë. Galadriel had almost forgotten about what might happen to them if the Sindar found out about the Kinslaying. Though she and her brothers fought against it, she would not blame Thingol if he renounced them along with all the other Noldor. Orodreth was right; it would be better to leave like this.
"Very well," she said. "I will leave with you. You have my word."
Orodreth breathed a sigh of relief. That was less painful than it could have been. He hated to resort to Alqualondë, but he saw no alternative. "We leave at dawn," he said. "You are doing the right thing."
Galadriel began to make her way to the door.
"Where are you going?" her brother asked.
She placed her hand on the door handle, then looked over her shoulder. Tears sparkled in her eyes. "To say good-bye."
Galadriel was so distracted that she was not paying attention to where she was going, and consequently, five steps out of the library, she collided with the one person in Doriath who could not have seen her coming.
"Oh, Celeborn, I am so sorry," she said as she picked herself up. "Please forgive me." She took his arm and helped him up as well.
"Of course; there was no harm done," Celeborn replied. "Where are you going in such a hurry?"
She'd half hoped to find him, and now that she'd succeeded, she figured she may as well tell him now that she was leaving. "Nowhere," she answered. "And you?"
She hadn't let go of his arm. He wasn't complaining.
"Outside," he answered. "The chill in the air is quite refreshing. Care to join me?"
"I would like that." Then an idea came to her, a way to make their good-bye meaningful. "But first I must go by my room and take care of something."
"Quite all right," said Celeborn. "It's on the way."
Celeborn took her to a balcony near the top of the cliff. Sunset was well underway, and the sight of the brilliant darkening sky over the tops of Doriath's trees was breathtaking. Dark clouds were also moving in; they would be above the city by dark. "It's so beautiful," Galadriel said, moving toward the edge of the balcony.
He was a half step behind. "I do not imagine that it would compare with a Valinorean sunset, but this is one of the finest viewpoints in Doriath. When I could still see, I would come here whenever I was in Menegroth at dusk to gaze upon the sky."
I had already left Valinor before the first sunset, Galadriel thought sadly. Her memory of the first sunset was not a good one: Arien left them in icy darkness in a forgotten, forsaken corner of the world. She would die before she went there again. Thinking about leaving Valinor reminded her that she would soon be leaving Doriath, and it would be best to say what she needed to say and be done with it.
"This may be the last sunset I see in Doriath," she said. "My brothers are leaving for Tol Sirion tomorrow, and I will be going with them."
Celeborn looked almost as though he'd been hit. "Leaving?" he repeated. "I have heard nothing of you going with them. When will you return?"
"The decision was made only a few moments ago," Galadriel answered. "And… I do not know if we will return."
"I asked when you will return."
Her heart gave a lurch. She wanted desperately to tell him the truth, about why she was really leaving, why she would likely not return, and her true feelings for him, but she dared not. There was too much to lose. "I honestly do not know, Celeborn. That is all I can say."
His hand found hers and gripped it tightly. Desperation was frozen on his face. "Please return for me," he begged. "Please."
Why do you torment me like this? she thought. You vile, innocent, horrible, beautiful creature.
How could she deny him?
"I did not want to leave at all," she confessed. "Orodreth convinced me, though, and gave him my word. I cannot yield. If I can return, though, I swear that I will." The role Alqualondë played in the argument to leave Doriath, which had been so persuading when Orodreth presented it, was fading. It came down to running away, and her pride would not let her do that.
"Yes," she said. "I will stay over the winter and until affairs can be put in order; four, maybe five months at most." There was nowhere in Beleriand she would rather be than in Doriath, and nowhere in Doriath she would rather be than where she was right now. She gently pulled her hands away from his and reached into her pocket for the object she'd retrieved from her room. It was time.
"I will miss you," he admitted quietly.
"And I will miss you," she said. If only you knew how much! "Until I return, I will give you something to help you remember me."
"I don't need anything to help me remember you," he said.
"Take this anyway," she said, and slipped the object into his hand.
He began feeling what he gave her. It was soft, silky, and slightly warm; either in its own right or due to being held by her. Strange, he thought, this feels just like...
And then it hit him.
It was a lock of her hair.
"Galadriel…" he said, awestruck by the gift. "Do… do you mean this?"
"Of course I do," she said. "After all, what better way to aid your memory than a piece of that which you named me after?"
"This… this is too great an honor," he stammered, thinking back to his conversation with Finrod on the ship about Galadriel and her hair. "I cannot accept it."
"You would deny this gift?" she asked, unable to hide her surprise. Fëanor, the greatest of the Noldor, would have been content with just one strand, and she was offering this blind Sinda an entire lock. She could practically hear Fëanor's screams of frustration all the way from the Halls of Mandos.
"If it is truly your will for me to take it…"
"This is not something I would give lightly," she said. "I will not force it upon you if you do not want-"
"No, no, no," he interrupted. "Forgive me. My surprise was too great to conceal."
"Then you will take it?"
He smiled. "I will keep it with me for the rest of my days. My only regret is that I have nothing to offer you that can equal what you have given me."
"I expect nothing from you, my lord." All I desire from you has been given to another.
"Are you sure?" he asked, reaching toward his head and taking a section of his own silver hair between his thumb and forefinger. "I do not think it would be too much trouble for me to find someone who could help me with this…"
"The only thing I would ask of you is that you think of me at least once while we are apart."
"It will be difficult for me to think of anything else," he replied. Inside his head, Finrod's voice repeated the same line: I believe my sister is in love with you. Dare he wish it?
He felt her head on his shoulder, then her arms around his waist. He returned the embrace, then sighed as he reconciled himself to the fact that their relationship would never be anything more than what it was. Her friendship was dear to him, and he was not going to risk losing that for an impossible chance at something more.
"Are you all right?" she asked, letting go of him.
"Of course I am," he said. "Why would I not be?"
The next thing he knew, the warm, delicate skin of her palm was pressed against his cheek. "There is something you are not telling me," she said, and let her hand fall to his shoulder.
As if controlled by another force, his hand found her face as well. His touch was so light she could barely feel it, and her heart rate began to accelerate against her will. He traced every line, curve, and contour, from her hairline to her chin and from ear to ear. He felt the smoothness of her skin and the imagined the face it made over a frame certainly crafted by the Valar. His fingers passed over her ears, her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, her lips… and then suddenly he pulled his hand away and stepped back.
"Celeborn?" she said cautiously.
He turned his head away from her voice. "Forgive me," he said. "You are just more beautiful than I imagined." He spoke again before she had the chance to reply. "You should rest. You have a long journey tomorrow."
She could take no more of this. She had tried to abandon her love for him, to hold him only as a friend and nothing more, but he had taken her intentions and was now dangling them in front of her. "Yes, I should leave," she snapped. "Navarië would be most displeased if she suspected you were being unfaithful to her!"
He turned his head toward her again, and his face bore the last expression she thought it would: confusion. "Navar- who?"
"You cannot fool me!" she said. "Turgon's precious Healer, who saved your life after the battle. Daeron said you told him yourself that you are in love with her!"
He wanted to say something, but could think of nothing. First he had to make sense of her words.
She turned to leave and began to walk back toward the palace.
She was at the doorway before he understood.
She turned around and glared at him. "What?" she spat.
"What exactly did Daeron tell you?"
Tears stung her eyes. "Have you not already caused me enough pain, Celeborn?"
"He said you are in love with the woman who saved your life."
Finally, it all made perfect sense: her behavior, Lúthien and Daeron's sudden lack of interest in their relationship, Finrod's actions on the ship coming back from the battle… if he wasn't so afraid of losing her, he might have rejoiced. "I have never deceived you, Galadriel, though it may appear otherwise with the partial stories of others," he began. "And I will not deceive you now. It is true, I am in love with the woman who saved my life. But that woman is not Navarië."
He set down the white staff he carried throughout his waking hours and stepped away from the edge of the balcony, abandoning his only references of where he was and where he was going. "The woman I love is the one who rushed to my aid at great personal risk and remained by my side through my darkest hour," he continued. He never walked anywhere without his staff, and he was having trouble maintaining his balance as he approached her. "The hands of a skilled healer closed my wounds, but it was in knowing that you were there for me that I found the will to live. You are the woman who saved my life, and I love you."
He lost his balance on his next step and fell, but he did not hit the floor. Galadriel rushed forward and managed to drop to her knees and catch him just before impact. "I'm so sorry, Celeborn," she said. "Please forgive me!"
"Only if you say you love me, too."
"I can do better than that."
She took his face in her hands and slowly brought it toward hers. She entwined her fingers in his silky hair and then kissed him, softly and sensually. "I love you," she whispered as she slowly pulled away. "I will never stop loving you."
She more than loved him. The moment their lips touched, Galadriel knew that one day, no matter how long it took or how many tears were shed in the process, she would marry the blind prince of Doriath. Celeborn would be her husband, no matter what objections her friends of family had. She would make sure of it.
But now was not the time to make known her plans to marry him. There would be a time, but for now, she was content just to love him.
No, I'm joking. I guess now would be a good time to say that the story's a little over half finished. So I'm sorry; there's still a lot more you'll have to put up with.
I wanted to have this up yesterday for a friend's birthday, but real life (I'm horribly sick) and writer's block 2 paragraphs from the end interfered. On the plus side, this is the longest chapter yet and Uncómien was in it! I love him, he's so precocious. And Celeborn totally reminded me of my boyfriend in this chapter. Maybe it's time to go to the doctor.
Cheesecake for my reviewers: Jestana, tigersmeleth and Tuxedo Elf!