3. Haste To The Wedding
Glorfindel helped Elrond finish planting the rest of the beech saplings. They looked small and frail in their ring, but Elrond decided that the grove would be lovely when the trees grew up. He admired the ring from his window and tried not to worry about what had become of Thranduil.
Galadriel and Celebrían were engrossed in the final touches for the wedding. One morning, Elrond found that his library had been transformed into a scriptorium. All of his scribes and much of the kitchen staff were busily copying romantic poetry onto small scrolls to be distributed to all the guests. The musicians Galadriel had selected met in the Hall of Fire every evening to rehearse. Mírdan delivered Celebrían's wedding band to Elrond in a blue velvet pouch, which Elrond hung on a cord around his neck for safe keeping. One evening, he found himself staring at his plain silver betrothal ring and imagining a gold ring carved with flowers and vines in its place.
A week before the wedding, Elrond had just managed to steal a free hour from entertaining the growing throngs of wedding guests in his household to look over a new text that one of the other master healers in the house had just written on counteracting poisons. Some of the ideas were refinements of experiments made on the battlefield in the last days of the war, and Elrond was excited to learn what advances had been made to those techniques in the relative leisure of peacetime. He was so engrossed in the text that at first he did not hear the knock on his door.
When it came again, louder, Elrond blew out a breath of frustration and looked up. Deciding that a severe poisoning was unlikely to occur before the wedding, he turned the corners of his mouth up and faced the door. "Come in."
The door opened, and Celeborn walked into the reading chamber, carrying a covered basket and a folded blanket over his arm. Elrond's smile immediately became more genuine. "Lord Celeborn," he said, rising to his feet, "what may I do for you?"
"First, you may dispense with the Lord,' Elrond. We will be kin in a week, and we are in your house. Second, it is drawing on midday, and I would invite you to come and take your meal outside with me." Celeborn indicated the basket over his arm. "It is a lovely day."
"I would like that," Elrond said. "Shall I call Celebrían and Galadriel to join us?"
"No." Celeborn linked an arm through Elrond's. "This is in fact a ritual meal. Only the bridegroom and the father of the bride need be present."
Elrond suppressed a groan at the thought of being confronted with yet more wedding-related ritual and went outside with Celeborn. They crossed a bridge over the little stream that ran behind the house, and Elrond realized, with some relief, that this particular ritual would not entail a complex public event. Celeborn selected a spot underneath a willow tree on the far bank of the stream and spread the blanket for their picnic. Elrond opened the basket and found small crocks containing a variety of cold meats, vegetables and sauces left over from the previous night's dinner, as well as a bottle of wine. "This is wonderful," he said.
"I am glad you think so," Celeborn replied. "Come, pour the wine, and we will drink to the imminent creation of a new family in this marred world."
Elrond poured a generous splash of wine into the two ceramic goblets he found in the basket and handed one to Celeborn. "You are correct," he said. "I had not thought about it much before, but we will become a family, Celebrían and I." He smiled at the idea. "I think I will enjoy living in a family again. I have been too long without."
Celeborn raised an eyebrow. "I do not think that you are as lacking in family as you believe. But it is undeniably true that your family will increase after you are wed. Galadriel and I approve most heartily of our daughter's choice of husband, and we look forward with joy to welcoming you as a son. Let us drink to the increase of family."
"Agreed." Both Elves drank deeply. Celeborn set his goblet aside and turned to look directly at Elrond.
"And now," he said pleasantly, but with a wicked gleam in his eye, "I have something very important to say to you, who are about to wed my daughter. Lord Elrond of Imladris, I am rich in years and experience. There are those who count me among the Wise. I was familiar with Celebrimbor, the greatest Elvish smith of the latter days, and I observed as he made his greatest creations under the tutelage of him whose name we do not speak. I am well acquainted with the power of the Ring which my lady wife bears, and I am also acquainted with the greater power of that which you bear. And I say to you now that all that power will be as naught should I hear that my daughter has taken harm by your hand. Do we understand each other?"
Elrond gulped. "Yes, sir."
Celeborn's pleasant smile never wavered. "Good. I am glad to hear that. Please pass me the basket. I am eager to see what your cooking staff have provided for us to eat."
Shaken, Elrond fumbled behind him for the basket. "That was the ritual?" he asked.
"Indeed it was. It is not part of the prescribed wedding ceremony, but should you have a daughter yourself one day, you will discover that the power of this rite is no less for its unwritten status."
"But you could not have heard such a speech yourself. Unless I am mistaken, you never had opportunity to meet Lord Finarfin prior to your marriage."
Celeborn laughed a little. "I heard an equally vehement speech from my lady's oldest brother, Finrod Felagund. Judging by the forcefulness of his delivery, I have no desire ever to offend his father."
"I cannot imagine Lady Galadriel ever coming to harm by your hand."
"Of course not. She is quite capable of defending herself. Were I to make the attempt, there would be little left of me for Finarfin to punish, should he hear of it across the Sea."
"I suppose that Celebrían will prove to be her mother's daughter in that respect." Elrond opened a crock and offered it to Celeborn. "Cold chicken with herb sauce. That is perfect for such a lovely day as this."
The day remained lovely, but that night, a storm rolled across the valley, and the rain continued intermittently for three days. When it finally stopped, the Bruinen had become a swollen, rushing flood. King Valandil of Arnor and his party found themselves trapped on the western bank, unable to locate the ford. They blew loudly on their horns to announce their presence. The foresters who heard them carried word back to Elrond, who rode down to the river. Though he had long since established his mastery of the land around Imladris, it took all the power and skill he possessed to calm the flood so that Valandil's party could cross.
Valandil bowed to Elrond as one Lord greeting another, then swiftly embraced him. "Thank you for that timely rescue. I could not bear to miss my foster-father's wedding, but I had begun to fear that I would wait many days before the river went down. But I see that I will not have to miss seeing your joy in your bride after all."
Elrond snorted. "Do you think I would leave any of my wedding guests stranded at the river? What sort of a host do you take me for?"
Valandil simply laughed at that. "You should post a guard at this spot for the next few days; there will be at least one more party of guests coming by this road. We passed a company in the woods where they had taken shelter from the rain."
Elrond stood back and eyed the bedraggled King of Arnor. "And you did not think to join them?"
"I chose to give up the immediate, dubious shelter of the forest for the prospect of better shelter with you."
"Then come along to the house now. I would most certainly be remiss as a host if I were to keep you wet and muddy on the river bank any longer." Elrond mounted his horse and escorted Valandil to the house and the guest rooms prepared for him. Then he called Glorfindel to his side and asked that a guard be set at the Bruinen to receive the last guest.
The day before the wedding, Imladris was in chaos. Galadriel stood at the center of a maelstrom of activity, directing Elves bearing flowers, candles and drapery, all in attractive shades of blue. Celebrían had spent much of the morning closeted with the seamstresses, who were putting the final details on her wedding gown. Elrond had completely given up the pretense of working on anything unrelated to the ceremony. He had just finished giving Valandil and his party a complete tour of Imladris when a page trotted up and knelt before him. "Lady Galadriel requests your presence on the ceremony porch."
Elrond gave a tight little smile. "I will be there shortly. Valandil, I must apologize for breaking this short, but —"
Valandil nodded. "I understand. From what I have seen of your bride's mother, she will not be denied. Go to her. I will find my own way from here."
Elrond strode through the corridors and came to the porch. The blue flowers surrounding it had taken root and were blooming brightly. The wedding canopy had been raised, and Celebrían, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Erestor stood beneath it, all dressed in everyday work clothes. Galadriel beckoned to Elrond.
"Good. You are here. Let us rehearse the ceremony, so that it will go smoothly tomorrow evening." She motioned Celebrían to stand at her side at the far end of the porch. "Celebrían will start here, with me. Elrond, you will start on the other side of the room. Erestor will stand in for your father for this rehearsal."
Celebrían frowned. "Mother, Elrond has chosen no one to stand for his father. I do not understand. Elrond, I thought you had decided to walk alone."
Elrond shrugged, equally puzzled. "I thought I had decided that, too."
"Nonsense." Galadriel's voice was firm. "I know your thoughts, Elrond, and it is important to you that someone stand at your side in your father's place. Someone will stand there tomorrow evening. Now, the musicians will begin to play. . . "
Celeborn mimed playing a harp, and the others walked through the motions of the wedding ceremony according to Galadriel's directions. Elrond looked a question at Erestor, but Erestor only shrugged. One glance at Celeborn told Elrond that he would not reveal Galadriel's secret. Elrond sighed and hoped that this mysterious father figure would arrive before the real ceremony.
An hour after the rehearsal had concluded, the guard Elrond had set at the Bruinen dashed up the hill to the house. "Lord Elrond!" he cried. "King Thranduil waits on the far side of the river. There is a company of Elves with him. They are dressed in gray, and their banners bear the image of a great silver ship."
"Círdan!" Elrond hurried down to the river, with Celebrían in tow. Galadriel and Celeborn followed close on their heels. This time, the river submitted more easily to Elrond's commands and quieted swiftly. Even before the ford was completely exposed, Thranduil galloped across, his eyes shining with excitement. "Lord Celeborn!" he cried. "I have brought the father of the bridegroom!"
"What?" Elrond had only a moment to be shocked, and then Círdan rode across the ford, dismounted and pulled Elrond into his arms.
"It is good to see you again, Elrond. My congratulations to you on your marriage."
"Thank you. I. . . Círdan, I do not understand. I had invited you as an honored guest. You do not need to stand up with me."
Círdan raised his eyebrows at Elrond. "Do you wish me not to stand with you, then?"
"Oh, no," Elrond said quickly. "I wish very much that you would stand at my side. You gave my parents safe haven in Sirion. My earliest memories are of playing with Elros and my mother in your drawing room. And you were ever at Gil-galad's side. How could I not wish for you to stand with me at my wedding?"
"Well then," Círdan said, "I will stand with you and give you away to your lovely bride."
Tears stung the corners of Elrond's eyes. He turned around to find Celebrían staring in delighted shock. Thranduil sat on his horse looking tremendously pleased with himself. Celeborn and Galadriel smiled radiantly at Elrond. "You arranged this," Elrond said slowly. "You sent Thranduil to ask Círdan to . . . "
"You had other business to occupy your time," Thranduil said. "Lord Celeborn did not want to wait until Círdan had already arrived to ask this of him. I could be spared for such messenger duty."
"The first night that we spoke about this problem, I knew what your heart truly desired," Galadriel said. "You desired someone to stand with you who loved you not merely as friend or Lord, but as the youth who grew to be the Lord of Imladris. And you felt that you had no right to make such a request."
"I thought that it was impossible. Those who had had a hand in raising me are dead or gone. I am fully grown, a Lord in my own right. I am responsible for the fortunes of this valley and those that dwell in it. I —"
"Elrond. Dear child." Círdan laid a hand on Elrond's shoulder. "The little boy who played in my drawing room has grown into as fine and honorable a Lord as I could ever have desired. But that does not mean that you have surrendered your right to be loved and cared for by your oldest friends. You need never hesitate before asking my assistance, especially in such a matter as this. There are still those in the world who love you and would not see you in distress. Should you be in need, you have only to call one of us, and we will aid you if we can."
"I suppose it was foolish of me," Elrond admitted. "I felt that, after asking you to come so far, a further request to stand with me would be too much of an imposition. I could not bear to ask it of you."
"That much was clear," Celeborn said. "And that is why Galadriel and I decided to ask on your behalf."
"I am glad that you did so. Thank you both." Elrond smiled, and Círdan squeezed his shoulder.
"Now that we have revealed all our secrets, may we proceed to the house? You are correct in one thing, Elrond. It has been a long journey, and there remain still some tasks before the wedding."
"Of course. The house is this way." Elrond took Celebrían's hand, and together they led the small party up the hill.
"Turn around," Círdan said the next evening in Elrond's suite. "Let me look at you." Elrond had just donned his wedding garb for the first time. The feast would begin in a few minutes, followed by the ceremony just before sunset. The new trousers fitted Elrond perfectly, and the crisp blue tabard set off the soft white sleeves of his shirt. He pulled a flowing blue cloak around his shoulders and fastened it with a silver clip, then stood before Círdan for inspection.
"You are almost perfect," Círdan said. "Here is what will complete the picture." He opened a box he had brought with him and withdrew a delicate silver fillet set with a diamond flanked by two sapphires. This he bound around Elrond's brow, then stood back to admire the effect. "It is similar to one that your father owned, and it is part of the collection of jewels that is your wedding gift."
"It is lovely," Elrond said, looking at his image in the mirror. "I cannot thank you enough, Círdan, both for the jewel and for your presence here." Círdan smiled.
"It is no more than I ought to do, to ensure your happiness on your wedding day. Do you have your bride's ring?"
Elrond picked up the blue velvet pouch from the night table and tied it to his belt. "Do you have Celebrían's bridal gift?" he asked. The exchange of familial gifts would take place before the feast, in the presence of all the guests, both mortal and not, as only the Elves would witness the wedding ceremony itself. Círdan had assured Elrond that, despite the last-minute nature of his participation, he had indeed managed to find a bridal gift for Celebrían, though he refused to show it to Elrond or even tell him what it was.
"It is in my belt pouch," Círdan said. "You will see it soon enough. Come, now. Your guests await you at your wedding banquet."
The dining hall of Imladris was swathed in pale blue, from the candles in the wall sconces to the tablecloths and the floral garlands and centerpieces arranged on the tables. Guests filled the hall, making gracious conversation. At Elrond's entrance, they let out a great cheer. Escorted by Círdan, Elrond made his way to his place at the high table and stood as the guests moved to their places. All turned expectantly to the doors once more. Two musicians blew a fanfare on their horns, and Galadriel and Celeborn entered the hall, turning to usher in the bride.
Celebrían wore a long, sky-blue gown, which fit closely down to her elbows and hips, then flared gracefully out to end in a short train. Tiny glass beads sewn all over the dress caught the light and shone, and a crown of blue flowers and silver ribbon was on her head. Elrond applauded along with the guests as Celebrían's parents escorted her to the high table, where she took her place beside him.
The guests fell silent as Galadriel reached into a pocket in her sleeve and produced a filigreed silver collar set with a single sapphire. Círdan held Elrond's hair aside as she clasped the collar around his neck. Then she smiled at him and kissed him on both cheeks. "Welcome to our family, Elrond," she said. "You are as a son to us."
Then it was Círdan's turn. He slipped his hand into his belt pouch and winked at Celebrían. "Your gift is incomplete, my dear," he said. "But there is a story to tell that will perhaps make up for that defect. You see, when I set out from Mithlond, I did not know that I would be standing at this table tonight. I had brought a chest of jewels with me as a wedding gift, but I had nothing specifically intended for a bride. When I encountered Thranduil of Greenwood on the road and heard your parents' request from him, I was so appalled at your bridegroom's reluctance to ask for help that I did not even think about a bridal gift for several days. However, when we were forced to take shelter under the trees during the recent storm, I remembered that detail.
"Part of your wedding gift was to be a pouch of loose pearls from the Gray Havens. I took these pearls and distributed them to my companions along with pins and needles from the embroidery of one of the ladies. We passed the time of the storm boring holes in the pearls and stringing them on embroidery thread. Unfortunately, there was no time to finish the necklace, nor any clasp with which to do so. And thus it is that you have as your bridal gift a single unfinished strand of pearls, as improvised as your bridegroom's family, and likewise created especially to welcome you." He pulled the strand of pearls from his belt pouch and moved behind Celebrían to tie it around her throat.
"There are fine smiths in this house," he said. "Have one of them put a clasp on this after the wedding." Celebrían briefly touched the pearls, then turned a radiant smile on Círdan.
"Thank you," she said, "for everything. See how happy Elrond is."
Indeed, Elrond felt as though his heart would leap from his chest at any moment for joy. The wedding banquet which Celebrían and Galadriel had designed was delicious, but he paid little attention to the food, concentrating instead on the sea of guests who had gathered to witness this moment. He was conscious of Celebrían seated at his right hand and Círdan seated at his left and thought that his world was almost complete.
When the feast was over, the Elves withdrew to the porch. Beneath the wedding canopy, Galadriel and Círdan joined the hands of Elrond and Celebrían and began to chant the ancient blessings. The sun had just set, and the first stars were appearing in the east as Elrond stripped off his betrothal ring and returned it to Celebrían. When he had received her betrothal ring in turn, he placed it carefully in the velvet pouch at his belt and withdrew the gold marriage ring. As he placed it on her finger, he caught a glimpse of the star of Eärendil glimmering in the eastern sky and gave her hand an extra squeeze. In turn, Celebrían slid the gold ring engraved with flowers and vines over his finger, then took both of his hands in hers.
"Now we are a family," she said softly. "We are a family not just by blood, but also by choice and by love. That is the best kind to have."
As Elrond took Celebrían in his arms and kissed her, his last coherent thought was that he agreed with whole heart.
Many thanks to all who have enjoyed this story. I especially enjoyed hearing about people's own experiences with the Wedding Machine and the attendant craziness. The Wedding Machine is a strange beast, transforming people into alternate-universe versions of themselves and making them do things they'd never dream of doing in real life. I enjoyed the opportunity both to imagine Galadriel as the mother of the bride and to show Thranduil being something other than a wet blanket.
The songs that Thranduil learned from Anárion are all real, dating from the mid to late 17th century. You may find them, and many others in a similar vein, in The Catch Club; or, Merry Companions, a 1762 compilation of naughty catches for three and four voices, reprinted in 1965. They are also available on The Art of the Bawdy Song, a recording by the Baltimore Consort on the Dorian label.
That's all I have to say for now. Again, many thanks for reading, and I will see you later.