A/N – One shot story, in which Celeborn meets his illustrious father-in-law for the first time. Not a direct sequel to my other story 'Descent Into Eternity', but somewhat in the same mould.

Thanks to Acacea and Nol for comments, and of course, Marnie – without whom no Celeborn story is ever inspired.

Eloquent Remembrance

By Sphinx

*********

The royal page bent low, and whispered discreetly. "Sire?"

Finarfin exchanged laughing words with his son, and Finrod departed immediately, a wry look on his face. The High King of the Noldor turned to the young messenger, a raised eyebrow questioning wordlessly.

"The Lady Artanis and the Lord Celeborn have arrived, aranya. They head towards the hall as we speak." The young elf said.

Finrafin nodded, and dismissed him with a slight smile. The boy had done exactly what was required of him.

However, next time Finarfin would be sure to request him not to plan the schedule so precisely on time. Barely had he a moment to think about the long awaited meeting, that Finarfin's eyebrows creased on seeing a ripple in the crowd near the vaulted entrance.

They had entered.

Clad in a mirrored array of white and silver, with the sheen of the light falling on them as the dawn touched the icy mountainside, the erstwhile Lord and Lady of Lorinand stepped into the throng. Her hair flowed to her hips, held back with braids as ornate as the thousands of frescoes that covered the ceiling glimmering with scattered gems. His breath caught in his throat, and not for the first time. Bewitching was she, so utterly captivating, light as the song that rides on the crest of the wave.  Immortal beauty. And yet she glowed with mortal magic, some doomed radiance that she had borne for too long, and now did not know how to remove. There was something to her that had not been there before, a special meaning to the slight smile, a happier step in her stride. What….   His gaze shifted, reluctant.

It was the hair that Finarfin saw first, hair that he had seen before, in an age past but not forgotten. Mithril hued strands, cascading with an unreal radiance over shoulder and back, too bright to withhold for long, too tangible to ignore. Pale, pale skin, the very white of a dove's unblemished wings. He was surprisingly tall, well over the many of the Elves in the room, his build slender and his gait firm. His face was astonishingly arresting, for while the male of the Eldar were renowned for beauty, seldom were there any who possessed such an interesting blend of features as this one. Arched cheekbones framed an unforgettable face in which the ages of the world were mirrored in all their sadness and glory – like the shore that could help but touch the sea.

So this was Celeborn. Prince of Doriath. Lord of Harlindon, Eregion and Lothlòrien. Vanquisher of Dol Guldur. Mightiest of the Sindar to have remained on Middle-earth.

There was something about his beauty that made his reputation as a warrior hard to believe.

Had she chosen only for physical charms, as many rumoured? Or perhaps the political unions of Sindar and Noldor had something to do with it? Or had they both defied convention by betraying norms of race and reason?  Finarfin did not know.

They moved towards him almost immediately, murmuring polite greetings to other lords and ladies. He could see Elrond's head incline in their direction, but while they responded with genuine smiles, they did not stop the journey to where Finarfin sat. Closer with each step, images of white and gold and silver, straight and proud as swords newly made in the forge. The crowd's dulled whispering was not noticed by the High King and his hand tightened on the rim of the throne. He was surprised. It was a gesture of nervousness he would not have ordinarily permitted.

Artanis' voice resounded in his mind.

Remember who he is.

They were before him now, heads bowing in expected allegiance.

"High King Arafinwë……greetings, Atar…." He had expected her to speak first.

Finarfin rose slowly and moved forward, an imposing figure clothed in the shades of the sea, a sharp contrast to the vibrant gold of his hair. He neared the Elf lady, and bending slightly, kissed her forehead. "Welcome, daughter….."

She smiled in response. Her companion stood a little removed, his hands folded in front of him, eyes intensely aware of all that occurred at every moment. The unadorned silver head bowed again when Finarfin's gaze fell on him.

"My lord."

It was ridiculous in its simplicity – no flattering greeting or eloquent praise, that many would recite when being faced with the fathers of their wives for the first time, especially when the father happened to be King.

Finarfin's eyebrow rose, and he turned and said quietly, "Come."

It was not a request, and neither interpreted it as such. With one swift movement Celeborn turned on his heel, and followed the older Elf.

But they did not move far. Indeed, they did not even exit the great Hall. An open balcony jutted out, one similar to many others in the same place, a small enclosure of white marble and tiny, radiant lamps, through which the two Elves could still see the goings-on in the hall.

Finarfin stepped outside, and a gentle breeze immediately ruffled Celeborn's hair. The balcony overlooked the immense gardens, and vines of night jasmine had grown along its columns, the scent of the flowers distinctly pleasurable in the crisp night. 

Finarfin turned to Celeborn. "So that we will not be disturbed." 

"I gathered that much, sir." replied the other.

The slender Elf boy returned once more, this time bearing two silver glasses. He bowed to Celeborn.

"Wine?" Finarfin offered, and Celeborn took the glass, murmuring his thanks.

Finarfin took his own, and dismissed the page with a glance. He cleared his throat, and turned to the other with a neutral smile.

"I had a conversation prepared."

"Indeed?" Celeborn took a sip of the drink.

"Suddenly it seems to be most irrelevant."

"I see."

"I give you the honour of starting."

"Me?" Celeborn's eyes narrowed, but just barely. "Pray tell, my lord," he asked "What would you have me say?"

"You could start with an explanation." Finarfin said smoothly.

"An explanation would require me to have undertaken action." The younger Elf's eyes met Finarfin's. His chin tilted in careful defence.

A golden eyebrow arched. "And have you not done enough?"

"Nothing that I think I need to explain myself for."

The High King met the Sinda's clouded gaze freely. This was no time for games with words. "Tell me, Celeborn of the Trees," He spoke carefully, more unsure about the other than he would ordinarily like to be. "What right had you to deter the name that I bestowed on my daughter?

Celeborn blinked. Even that seemed to be a graceful movement, and for a moment Finarfin simply marveled at the seeming ease with which the younger Elf carried himself. "She is a noble woman, and you named as you thought rightly. But sometimes there is more than nobility, hir nîn, more to her than the pride and dignity that she wears with such flair. They are a part of her, as much as your given name is. The liberty was mine – for it was scarce so beautiful a name for such a lady. Altáriel ….."

The word resounded in the air with an echo that the High King wondered at – softly rounded syllables spoken in a voice that hung somewhere between deep and calm, like the moment in time where the fading morn met the young night. There was no tutelage to the tone, no carefully tended instruction on what stress to lay on the letters, no harsh randomness. 

Celeborn's voice lay between light and dark, between land and sea. The name flowed like a river that danced over stones, quietly ecstatic, its intonation poetic and its meaning irresistible.

A slight smile pulled at Celeborn's lips. "I gave it, my lord, and she accepted it."

No, Finarfin thought, mystified. He could not blame his daughter for choosing the name, if the Elf that gave it spoke it like that. 

"Yet a name is but a name….It is no destiny." Finarfin felt Celeborn's eyes rest on his turned face.

"Yet destiny is so often lived by name, is it not?"

"More by blood, my lord, than by name."

"Are they so different, blood and destiny?"

Celeborn smiled. "One is ours whether we like it or not, and the other is a choice."

"And was your choice the correct one?" Finarfin's head tilted to one side, and heavy hair fell like a river over a richly clad shoulder.

Celeborn shrugged, slender shoulders moving fluidly for one so tall. "There are things we cannot give up, things that we know are tainted with the bitterness that comes to all things finite – but things we still cannot bring ourselves to walk away from. To do that would render us no different from any of the Younger Children. Memory remembers them, even if the heart does not want to for fear of pain." His hand rested on the cold marble, idly tracing patterns on the stone, and he set the wineglass aside. "Strange is the fate of this world, for the choices that we are forced to make to soothe one cry of anguish will be the cause for another."

"Yet you were not certain whether you would indeed sail West?"

"That question is somewhat negated by my presence here."

"But you almost did not come." Finarfin turned to the gardens below, huge, sprawling stretches of green foliage lit by the twinkling lamps and adorned with sparkling fountains.

That half smile graced the younger Elf's face again. "My lord, if I were to recount my life in terms of what I could have done and what I almost did not do, I would be less intelligent than a dwarf."

"Yet---"

"I am here, lord." Quiet, firm finality laced Celeborn's voice, as if he were closing the topic once and for all.

"She required your presence here much earlier." Finarfin said coldly, unwilling to let go so easily of the matter.

"Our choices were few."

"Yet was it not your duty? You speak with all the confidence of a brash elfling, assuming some things and disregarding those that you do not wish to turn your mind to, but answer me in this – were you not bound to protect her from the moment you placed the ring on her finger?"

The other Elf's eyes darkened. Impossibly blue they were now, the only splash of colour in a pale face.

"You are a great leader, lord," Celeborn's words were a soft murmur, yet is seemed that ice fell from every word, sharp and deadly. He moved closer to Finarfin, and the light fell on him as he stepped out of the shadow. "And the hallmark of a leader is not what he can command his troops to do, but what he can inspire them to. Their victory and their folly are yours, but their minds are not. Think not that I claimed your daughter to make her my slave, so that I may command her to do my will. Her decisions were her own. I had part in them, yes – but it was her heart that decided it, her hand that requested it, her word that upheld it."

Isìl appeared that moment from underneath a cloud, and in that light Celeborn was no more a creature of the twilight but akin to a pale tree lit by the searching rays of the sun. He had been at home in the dying dusk, all meres of dim shadow and dust, perfect in the surroundings which he simply seemed to belong to without any effort. Now he bathed in soft light, and appeared blindingly white even in that dimness – and Finarfin realized why his son in law had been rumoured to prefer the preferred the eve to the morn. The moon bowed to his radiance, coldly luminous.

Celeborn drew himself up straighter, if that were possible, the arch of his back eloquent. "Her decision was to leave. Mine was to stay. However much pain our parting caused, it was borne of mutual consent. I gave no word of following because I had none. Middle-earth's blood rests heavy on us, my lord……she has seen much and so have I. Let not rumours dictate to you my reasons for remaining."

"I did not leave my wife. Why did you?"

"I did not leave her." For the first time, Celeborn's deferentially soft voice flared into harshness. "She left me."

"She stayed for you."

"And she left because she could stay no more. A decision, my lord - one that has nothing to do with your affairs."

"She is my daughter."

"And you left her as well."

The sudden coldness with which Celeborn spoke was not as rude as it was frightening. His words – indeed, his frankness- shocked Finarfin. There was none who could bring the matter up even in Aman, and everyone knew that the very mention of his daughter's exile would cause the soft-spoken King to blaze like an angry thunderstorm, relentless and cruel.

"You would do well not to voice a remark like that ever again, my lord Celeborn."

"Then it is you, not I, who needs to be able to hear the truth."

"Truth?" Finarfin asked quietly, the tone of his voice in no way matched to the state of his mind. "Truth? The truth I have faced is the quiet weeping of my wife in the deepest hours of the night. Of the possibility of never seeing those beloved again – brother or father or children. Of seeing the weary anguish of those returned from Mandos, again and again, numbers of which only seemed to increase with every passing yen. Of the trust that Tirion's people put in me to lead them after I abandoned the march.  " His words were raw, baring hidden wounds that had not yet healed. "Tell me, Celeborn of Doriath, tell me now of the truth you have had to bear…."

Finarfin's voice dissolved in his throat, dry as dust. An uncanny display of real emotion, one that he had not planned on making. But as the meeting progressed, the more Finarfin laid aside old conventions of polite conversation. The other was solemn, and spoke only after a lengthy pause.

"Do you know what it is like, Lord Arafinwë?" murmured Celeborn, more to himself that to his companion. "Do you know what it is like to watch the world build and fall, not once, not twice, but thrice? To withstand waves of evil and darkness, ever present and strengthening under the murky cloud of shadow – and to know that you will only have to face it again, even if the land has changed and the course of the rivers bent? 

He raised heavy eyes to the Noldo king's. "Death. The price we all paid for existence in those lands. That is my truth, lord – the only truth I have ever known, the only certainty that I recognized with the passing of the unnumbered years."

For the first time, Finarfin noticed the lines on his son-in-law's face, signs of millennia that refused to be forgotten. Elves did not age, nor sicken, but the returned could not mask the weariness anymore, could not hide the marring that ran in their blood.

Visions arose once more, and the elder Elf's eyes closed. The blood of war, the steady, pulsating drum of fighting feet, the stench of death, the amnesia of victory. He had ridden into that battle childless, his memory of them all he had left – no heir, no promise of return. Artanis had been there, as he had expected her to be, changed but not completely, same but so different. Galadriel now, with mist and shadow clinging to her like the dew clung to the last rays of the cool dawn, with hair still so golden and face still so fair. Veiled pools of blue had rested on him, a voice too deep to be feminine, and she had said so much while voicing little.

Finarfin would not care to tell the elf standing before him that the last image he had had of his daughter at that time was of her in the arms of someone whose hair shone with the light of the moon.

How much he had despised his daughter's lover then.

"Tell me, Celeborn…..tell me what sort of husband you have been." Finarfin asked, his voice calm, a visible attempt at steering emotion into control.

For the first time, Celeborn looked visibly surprised. A slight pause. Then, with a tilt of the head that sent waves of pale hair cascading down his shoulder, he said. "Your question perturbs me."

What was this Elf? Had he no propriety, no respect? Finarfin's ire increased.

"You avoid my question. I would advise you to answer it."

"In the interests of our first meeting, I would not dishonour you by refusing to reply." Celeborn's voice lowered, dangerously polite. "But neither would I dishonour my wife by answering it."

"I am her father." Finarfin's fist clenched involuntarily around the marble railing.

"Believe me, my lord, there has been no moment where I have forgotten that."

"Have you been so inadequate?"

There it was. The bait – swinging dangerously in front of the blue eyed, radiant Elf in front of him, bait that was sure to incense even the mildest into fury. The Noldor were skilled in the art of hunting, merciless to unsuspecting prey, cunning with their traps. Speech was no less of a weapon, and Finarfin had learned it well. As the Falathrim lured the shyest oyster shells open with their songs and tools, so did he try to pry the smooth calmness from his daughter's husband.

But Celeborn did the most surprising thing.

He laughed. 

"Indeed, lord…."

Then Celeborn turned and he looked intently through the archway, out into the room, searching for one who was unmistakable in a gathering of people. Almost at once, her head lifted and she looked directly at him – as if both had known where the other was. A quiet smile grew on the younger lord's face, and he spoke, not removing his gaze from his wife's. 

"We captured each other, and didn't escape. We'd both lost too much to have the courage to do that. You ask me what sort of husband I was, do you not? I will not judge myself, sir. I have spent too long doing that."

Celeborn broke the contact and turned to the elder lord, sipping the wine in his hands. Finarfin felt the intensity of her eyes on him then, but he refused to meet them. "If Artanis had returned with me--"

"But she did not." The other cut in with quiet ferocity. His eyes traveled from the rim of the wineglass to the older elf lord's bitter gaze. "She remained, my lord, out of a duty unfulfilled and desire unquenched."

"Her affection for you was no reason, then?"

"I was only her lover. She could have chosen any….." Celeborn bit back an amused smile at Finarfin's start of surprise. "She was not mine to command."

"You acknowledge her strength of will freely…..Yet are not angered by it like so many were…." This Elf was turning out to be more of a complexity than Finarfin had ever thought. "Why are you such a contradiction, lord Celeborn? And what made my daughter choose you – you over hundreds of Amanyar kin who would but prostrate themselves at her feet for one glimpse of her hair? What caused her to overlook your darkness, your marring that would inevitably stain the blood of your child? What, grandson of Elmo, what made her descend from her altar?"

Finarfin's words were honest enough, and he asked them with a reluctant sincerity and vague cynicism. She had had Aman at her beck and call – one toss of her radiant head and one smile from her would send them all into lovesick heaven.

Celeborn paused, and stared at Finarfin intently, as if trying to gauge what an appropriate answer would be. He was not one to needle constantly with clever words, harsh though he was – and the elder Elf knew that he had asked a question that perhaps required some thought from the luminous Sinda, if he wanted an honest response. But finally Celeborn's gaze lowered, and a grim smile settled softly on his lips as he responded in a voice that could only be described as cold.

 "I was Moriquendi, she Dispossessed. A suitable match, was it not?"

Silence descended on them like a determined fog, quick and palpable. But it was no peaceful quietude like the intellectuals of Tirion enjoyed in their libraries, rather an ominous hush of noise, waiting to erupt once more into a volcano of louder, harsher words. Celeborn's utterance hung in the air, a sword over each of their heads – fatal to one who would not know how to counter its onslaught. 

Later on, Finarfin never quite knew with clarity what emotion he felt at that moment. Insult? Perhaps. But as was with the case with all bitter truth, insult hid behind the veils of pride, lurking in the dim shadow. Shock? Certainly. This was no quiet mannered Avari, no shy Teler prince who was only too glad to latch onto the skirts of a powerful wife and be content.

When he finally spoke, the High King's voice was carefully controlled. "You seem determined to anger me. Why?"

"If truth angers you, lord……" Eyes that were the very colour of the night heaven glowed in the rays of the nearby lamps. His tone was neutral, much like Finarfin's own, for both had thrust and wounded with words. "I would say again that you would have to learn to hear it. Painful, is it not?"

"There is a fine line between frank truth and rudeness. You tread it with practiced ease."

"I learnt the art from the best."

"And yet you are rumoured to be quiet in the company of others."  Only a practiced listener, and someone who was very familiar with his ways, would have detected the faint sarcasm in Finarfin's tone.

"I am not so anxious as to want to hear my voice all the time." A hidden chuckle of laughter crept beneath his words.

Was he impossible to rile? Finarfin did not know. He was frankly astonished at the composure that Celeborn displayed in the face of pointed insult. Perhaps the rumours were not true – the rumours of a volatile temperament that was rarely kept hidden. He stood there with his quiet smile, a shining cascade of icy silver, refusing to be drawn into argument that he would not be able to win. Or perhaps, Finarfin realized, that was precisely why he was being so resolute.

"She would have returned with me, if not for you." Finarfin's was low.  "She would have returned, and no more harm would have come to her! But, no….." His voice strained. "You had other plans. For she was quite possibly your only escape in the confines of that land."

"Do not blame me for choices made by another, my lord," Celeborn retorted. Slender fingers clutched the stem of the wine glass – the only outward sign that he was perturbed. "Intended I was, but marriage was a distant affair.  To bind her to me in irrevocable vow at that time, to restrict her flight and her desire – I would not allow it. I loved her, yes…. But I did not own her, and no speculation will I tolerate on our union, no misjudged assumption will I allow."

"Do not harbour the bitterness, Lord Arafinwë…." Celeborn's voice was strangely serene, but his face glowed in the rays of the scattered lamps. "Do not salvage rumour and purify it with reason." There was a curious gentleness to him now that seemed inherent, almost like a second skin and befitting his demeanor, and thus Finarfin realized that the words spoken by the Sinda lord were not in defence of actions long buried, but were the truth.

"She wept," continued Celeborn softly. "She wept for your abandonment, for she felt that you did not care enough to follow. Only once…..but she wept." He turned quiet eyes on the High King, and Finarfin realized exactly how much Celeborn struggled to tell him this. "And I told her that it could not be so. That you would never willingly abandon your children to an unknown fate in an unknown land, that there would be some reason for your decision." The breeze shuffled through his hair, and it streamed behind him like a silver wave. "She has lived three ages of Middle-earth believing that she would never see you again. Evil tore at her soul, and I could not prevent it. The ones that time affects worst are the ones who are not willing to allow its presence in their lives. She did not, I did. I would have kept her with me as long as I yet breathed, and I could not."

He sighed deeply, his eyes fixed on some unknown point in the lavish gardens below, unseeing, obscured by the veil of a past that he would not allow himself to forget.

"Your anger is not unfounded, my lord," He said, and now his tones held a weary tiredness that did not sit well with him, but suited his words frighteningly well. "My part in her deeds is not small, and neither is hers in mine. We have lived together and apart for too long, too many years in separate places and under different trees, and our relations beheld as rebelliously scandalizing for all."

"And yet you did nothing to rectify that."

"Rectify?" Celeborn's voice shook with barely disguised laughter "What situation was there, lord, for us to rectify it?"

"You were lovers, for all and sundry to look upon and comment, and yet neither of you – for all your supposed wisdom-" His voice began to lower in coldness. "- neither of you did anything to clear your names of the taint!"

"You would think," Celeborn murmured after a lengthy pause, more to himself than to his companion. "That the lords and ladies of Middle-earth had more to worry about than the love of a prince of the house of Elwë and a princess of the house of Finwë."

Admittedly, and only later, could Finarfin begin to appreciate the subtlety that Celeborn had acquired amidst the frank straightforwardness. In one sentence, one cold uttering of words, he had lain his heritage before Finarfin, reminding him in the kindest possible way of his bloodline, and of his status in comparison to Artanis.

And he was quite sure that it had taken her a long enough time to realize it as well. Indeed, the Nerwen that he remembered would not have understood her love for a lesser Elf without some turmoil.

The arguments had been bitter. But perhaps he had not found the right word…..argument implied a contest on both sides, a willful battle of words. That was how Artanis would have fought. But this new Galadriel……cold silence she emanated in the face of his rage, not defending and not accusing. Her pride was no less, that he could still believe with utmost certainty, but there was some part of her that had diminished along with her many lands – like a warrior forced to carry on after the bitter aftermath of many defeats, unblessed with peaceful oblivion. Her tongue was still as sharp as ever. But in the end he had sighed and withdrawn, unable to understand completely what had become of his daughter and somewhat unwilling to accept her choices.

You could do better, Artanis, than a Moriquendi refugee.

Her gaze had darkened like the storm that invaded the heavens.

Be careful, if you decide to say that to him. He is not so pious as to withhold judgment. He might just tell you what he thinks of you in return.

He retuned to the present moment, only to find the younger lord's unnervingly bright depths fixed on him, almost studying him but remaining silent. Finarfin was amused.

"Well then, young one" Finarfin said gently. "You are indeed blessed by the Valar to have mastered your will and strength in the most treacherous of lands--"

Did he imagine it, or did the other let out a faint snort? 

"You are most kind to see the situation in that manner, lord---" Celeborn was deferentially polite once more, the very image of detachment. But there was something in his voice, something that led Finarfin to believe that all was not quite right with what he had just said.

"And so--" Finarfin continued, his eyes piercingly intent. "Your trial at the Máhanaxar would have been successful, I presume?"

"Less of a trial, and more of a series of relentless questions, sir, each more determined than the other to know the details of my life."

"But the Valar must know---"

"Did they not already, before I was questioned?" Unmistakable sarcasm tinged his calm voice. "Did not the lords of Arda know what a mere elf was left doing on Middle-earth? Why then, the questioning? Was it because they wished to hear me say it myself?"

Finarfin frowned. "The experience was not fruitful, then?"

"Ah, not at all. It was most fruitful for them."

"And for you?"

Celeborn's eyes darkened. "That is a subject I would not tarnish this meeting with."

"I know they can sometimes be harsh with the returned," Finarfin pressed on, regardless of the whispered warnings in his mind that said that it was no business of his. "It was the same with my daughter, but they mean well, Celeborn---"

"Do not, my lord!" Celeborn blazed with sudden ire. Then immediately, even as he realized his outward burst of emotion, the dark blue gaze froze once more, again becoming remote, inaccessible and so terribly ageless. "The Valar…."He continued softly, all trace of anger gone and only polite coldness left in his voice. "The Valar left us to our devices long ago. In our hope that they would remember, that they would acknowledge the existence of those other than their precious exiles – we were failed. Four Ages of that land did I see, many war trumpets and gleaming swords and rivers of blood, but only once did they come. Only once did they step from their mighty thrones to sink the world as we knew it in water and flame."

Celeborn's words ended in the same tone, but Finarfin needed no perception to hear the icy bitterness that crept in toward the end – perhaps the first real display of uncontrolled emotion that he had seen all evening. The other Elf's face was drawn, all beginnings of mirth or pleasantry wiped clean, and he stood still, radiating waves of growing anger.

"The Valar love all of Illuvatar's children, Celeborn." Finarfin said gently, attempting to calm the troubled air.

"Tell that to the screams of Doriath as it crumbled, or to the bodies that lay lifeless in Sirion. Tell it to Hithlum besieged and Gondolin burning. Tell it to Nargothrond overthrown and Balar overrun. Tell those who lay dying that the Valar heard their cries and still loved them. Tell Eluchil, Earendil and the line of the Halfelven that their doom was in their choice. Sing of the glory of the Valar, lord! Sing of their patience and mercy as they watched a land drown in the waves of the sea, glory lost and honour forgotten. Praise their passivity, and the love that they had for the children they would not save!"

Words hung in the air, hard fury beneath every utterance. The intensity of their gazes alone was enough to shatter the hardiest glass.

It was Finarfin who spoke first. "Your eyes are unmasked, Celeborn. You need not speak."

A pause, after which Celeborn replied in a low voice. "My eyes sometimes are traitors, lord. They speak when they should not."

"And do you? Do you speak when you should not?"

"Too frequently."

Finarfin stepped closer, now but an arm's length from the younger lord, a softness in his voice that Celeborn had not heard before. "Then speak now, for to withhold would bring naught but sorrow. Grief that is past should not be allowed to stain the promise of the future. For there is more grief to come – there always is. To hold on to it, to subdue what has already occurred, and to choke your tears in fruitless lament can bring no release from it. Is it what you seek, young one? Do you come to Aman in desperation, fleeing from the sorrow that never left you on Middle earth?" The High King's mouth curved into a slight smile, and the glimmer of radiance was not lost on Celeborn.. "You are wise, I have heard –my daughter does not call a person wise for nothing – so you must relinquish, Prince of Doriath. Relinquish a past that sings of glory and blood, awash in meres of twilight and the blessings of the stars. Time stands still here, unknown and ignored, a force that this land is blissfully unaware of. But you must reconcile to this stasis. Do you come to heal, or do you come to forget?"

Finarfin sighed, a troubled frown creasing his ageless face.

"Answer that question well, Tyelpornë, and your wisdom will be justified. "

Celeborn made no answer and stood still, eyes thinly veiled. Silence descended on them like mist that embraced the earth after the rain, static as a picture captured in one brief glimpse of timelessness. Two heads lowered in thought, quietly intent. 

Eyes traveled over silver rims to meet. There was no abrasive questioning, no steadfast defence, no searing intensity. A meeting long postponed had occurred – a journey brought full circle by fate, and like so many others, unpredictable in the end. The High King and the Sinda prince, not beloved yet, but the seeds of a mutual respect had perhaps been sown. Eternity was a long time to live in enmity, and questions past were questions answered – some satisfactory, some not. In the end, neither knew the other completely. They would remain the father and the son-in-law, understanding much and saying little.   

"You are her father, my lord….." Celeborn said, his voice soft, yet clear.

Finarfin smiled slightly, and murmured after a small pause. "And you are her husband, Celeborn of Doriath."

*********

On the other side of the room at a convenient position from where the meeting on the balcony was visible, a silver haired maiden caught the arm of her companion. Soft chuckles emanated from time to time, and a smile was ever present on her face. Her partner stood by her, amused, his stern eyes bright in an ageless face.

"Do you think they have insulted each other enough?" she asked.

"They have not had that much time together, have they?" he replied.

Her eyebrow rose. "More time than is safe, I deem."

"They still stand alive and breathing, gwilwileth. I think your mother should be more than pleased with that result."

She grinned wryly, and settled against him when he placed a strong arm around her. Their eyes did not move from a focused place "My mother had some rather…..interesting….speculations as to how this meeting would go."

"She predicted a confrontation?"

"I believe her exact words were 'Let the fittest survive'."

He pretended to be shocked. "Surely it was not so dreaded by both of them?"

 "For all his kindness, my grandfather is horribly intimidating to those who have not seen him." She shrugged gracefully. "I only hope that I will not have to go and rescue my father from his clutches."

Elrond looked into Celebrìan's twinkling eyes, and a slight smile spread on his lips.

"Ah, but you may perhaps be mistaken, my dear….." He turned her around in his arms, and tilted her chin up. "Your father can be sufficiently frightening when he chooses to be."

***********

aranya – King (Q)

gwilwileth – Butterfly (S)

Tyelpornë –  Quenya form of 'Celeborn'

Atar – father

hir nîn – my lord (S)

Altáriel – Quenya form of 'Galadriel'

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Thank you for reading!