The Guardian of the Walls

I looked for him, but did not find him.

I called to him, but he did not answer me.

The guards who walk through the city beat me and wounded me,

The guardians of the walls tore off my cloak. (Song of Songs 4:7-8)

When Aredhel set off from Gondolin to find her cousin Celegorm, she did not know if she intended to tear his clothes off or beat him senseless. Or both, in no particular order.

She had learned how to curse his name while crossing the Grinding Ice without even the supplies that were on the ships he had burned, and had done so since at every opportunity. Almost as often as she made love to him in her dreams, or remembered the sweetness of his touch long ago in Valinor, before the ships burned, before the blood of Alqualonde reddened her sword.

Her old friend Galadriel had been telling her for years to visit him and to speak with him, which Aredhel had never done in Middle-earth.

"I am not going to marry him," Aredhel said. "Or forgive him."

"I am not telling you to do either," Galadriel answered. "Just talk to him."

She had not wanted to, had resisted for many years. But life in Gondolin was dull and bounded beyond belief. The Noldor had come to Beleriand for adventure and battle, and here she was, more imprisoned than she had been in her father's house. She needed something else. She needed Celegorm, although she could not say what for.

It was a hard journey, and she drew her memories around her for comfort as she traveled. She began by remembering the first time she had ever killed an auroch with her bare hands. She had hunted many times before that with a bow, of course, since she had begun riding with Celegorm as a little girl. But when Celegorm hunted it was body against body, a golden lion taking his prey. Aredhel liked to watch him as he moved, the muscles in his legs and chest, the untamable vigor in his movements.

That day as she hunted with her hands alone Celegorm stood at a distance. Aredhel knew that with one throw of his knife he could down any animal. She also knew that he would not interfere in her kill unless she were in grave danger, and perhaps not even then . She felt his eyes on her body, and she moved in strength for him.

The auroch ran, but she ran faster. It turned to gore her, and she evaded it. A leap, and she was astride it. The animal bucked beneath her like a lover. Aredhel threw back her head and shouted a laugh. Then, one sharp open-handed blow to the neck, and it was down. She jumped aside just in time to avoid being crushed by the body as it fell.

Celegorm did come close then, smiling proudly, knife outstretched, and they cut open the dead beast. They worked in silence, sharing only glances and brief, seemingly accidental touches. Two lions appeared in the grasses. Aredhel was not in the least bit afraid. Celegorm walked over to them, knelt, and patted the ground twice with a pawlike hand. Then he growled, and roared. One of the lions growled in answer.

"Come on," Celegorm shouted to Aredhel, "They've invited us home."

They hacked off as much of their kill as they could carry, and brought it with them as they followed the lions back to their cave.

In the cave they gave most of the meat to the lions and built a fire to roast the remaining haunch for themselves. Over dinner Celegorm conversed with their hosts in grunts and roars, while Aredhel stroked the male lion's mane. After they had eaten, as the fire burned to its embers, the two lions curled up together, paw on paw, neck on neck. They pressed against each other, purring. Aredhel crossed the cave to climb into the familiar comfort of her cousin's lap.

His arms closed gently around her, as if she were the child he had first befriended all those years ago. But that was not the embrace she wanted. She wiggled against him, trying to feel his erection as she fiddled with the lacings of his shirt. His arms tightened, and she felt his breath hard against her face. She licked his chest. The taste of him was salt and blood and fire. He slid his hands under her shirt to cup her breast, his fingers closing on her nipple as her tongue lapped against his. Then she reached into his leggings to caress the hardness she knew would be there. It was long, and smooth, and she stroked the length of it with a long, slow touch. Then she slipped off his lap, knelt beside him, and bent to take him in her mouth.

He smelled of lion-musk and wine, and the smell intoxicated her. She bent to swallow him further, caressing him with her lips and tongue. He moaned, and twitched inside her mouth. Then he grabbed her hair and pulled her up, lifting her back on top of him. His face was contorted with pleasure. He reached down into her leggings to touch her, sliding his fingers into her and against her. She bit his neck and sighed into it. Her hand wrapped itself again around his throbbing erection as she stroked the tip with her thumb. He growled, thrust once, and erupted over her hand and thigh. As she released her grip he continued pleasuring her with his hands until she sighed as well, and collapsed against his chest, his fingers still inside her.

"Did you like that?' he asked after a time, with a satisfied leer.

"I don't know," she smirked. "Let's do it again so I can tell."

"My beautiful woman," he murmured into her hair, massaging her inside as he spoke. Even after she was finished she liked the intimacy of feeling his probing in hidden places. "I have something else to put in here you'd like better," he added suggestively.

"But then we'd be bonded," Aredhel said. This was an old argument. "Why do you want to bond?"

"Because I love you," Celegorm answered, as he always did.

"Poor you," she said, and kissed him.

They met often like this, in caves and in the grass, to hunt and to touch. Always he asked her to bond with him, and always she refused. After his family was exiled to Formenos they could meet only rarely, when she could evade her father who had strictly forbidden it. Then Celegorm's pleas became more urgent, as they lay together in the tall grass that covered them. He begged her to elope with him, swearing that whatever her father would do, she would be an honoured lady among the Feanorians. Besides, if they were wed they could lie together fully every night in a proper bed, and they could make babies.

"I don't want to be an honoured lady," she said. "And I don't want babies."

What she really did not want, she reflected, was to be like her father, wed without passion, bound without desire. Mother spoke often of their love, but it looked like a love that empties the soul, leaving it flat and colourless. Anyone could tell they had grown apart. It was only their vow, and the love they claimed for each other, that kept them together. 'Feanorians only give the heart once' was what Celegorm said to her, as if it were some kind of family creed. She would better the Feanorians, and not love at all. Still, as she thought this she held Celegorm close, feeling his hard chest against hers and his golden hair surrounding her, and hoping she would never have to let him go.

She remembered that feeling and those embraces as she rode from Gondolin, and they kept her going, even after the guardians of the gates of Doriath turned her aside. They sent her and her companions into the dark wood, saying that she and Celegorm alike had slain their kin and would find no welcome beyond these gates.

It was only the truth. She had said she did not love him, would not wed him, would not bear his children. But when she saw him fighting in Alqualonde, Elves falling on all sides, all she could think of was the danger to him. She ran to her friend's side, sword outstretched. Her skill as a hunter was great, and the enemy was only another kind of prey. They fought together, side to side, back to back, until the battle was over and Teleri lay dead all around.

Aredhel had looked at her blood-reddened sword. The blood reminded her not of the many animals she had slain, but, strangely, of the blood she had refused her cousin: the blood of the first full coupling, the blood of childbirth. She was bound to him now by a bond of guilt, sealed by blood, more irrevocable than a marriage. If she had ever thought not to follow him into exile, that freedom was now gone. She turned to him, and he turned aside, ashamed. Then he went to join his brothers, and she did not see him again.

When she had been turned aside from Doriath Aredhel rode north, towards Himlad. She lost her companions in the shadows, and could not find them. Fell creatures of Ungoliant found her, but she feared them no more than the lions of Valinor.

After many troubles Aredhel found Himlad, but Celegorm was not there. She sent messengers but they could not reach him, or he did not choose to answer. As the year lengthened, and Celegorm did not return, she became restless. So she took to riding further abroad, seeking new paths and untrodden glades and caves that reminded her of home. Perhaps she would find Celegorm there. Or learn to forget him.

It was there that Eol found her, wandering in the darkness of the trees of Nan Elmoth. She was lost, and tired, but that was not what made her accept his welcome and follow him into his house. Nor was it his dark star-lit beauty. It was something in his eyes that reminded her of a hunter she once knew.

Eol brought out tea and tea-cakes and sat her down, and waited for her to speak. Aredhel was so relieved to have someone to tell that before long she had told him everything about her journeys, about the friend she had not let herself fully love, and the comrade at whose side she had fought and slain. Then she told the last part of the story, about the betrayer who had abandoned her to die.

She had stood on the shores of Araman, watching the distant ships as they burned. The light was red beneath the clouds, and she knew that she and all her people had been betrayed. Celegorm had not stopped the burning. Nor, as she found out later, had he even stood aside.

Aredhel's brother Fingon had knelt by the shores, his face in his hands. They had all been betrayed, but Aredhel knew that he was the only one who had suffered a betrayal as personal as hers. "I hope they all die in the flames," she said to him.

"Even Celegorm?" Fingon asked, not looking up.

"Especially Celegorm."

The rest of the tale was known, but she told it anyway. Fingon had publicly forgiven the Feanorians after the Helcaraxe, and their father Fingolfin, now the High King, had followed. Aredhel had not, so she had come with her other brother Turgon to found the secret city of Gondolin.

"Your brother Fingon is a fool," Eol said at last, "and his forgiveness will doubtless lead to his death."

Aredhel stared at him. Eol looked back with kindness but no mercy.

"Turgon is wise, for he builds walls. As do you. Anger is the guardian of the walls of the heart. When we are unguarded the betrayer returns, and the Valar cannot protect us from a second betrayal."

"What of me, then?" Aredhel asked. "I have slain your kin and mine. Why do you let me into your home? And what will you have of me, now that I am here?"

"This," Eol said, and kissed her on the lips. She did not respond, but she did not pull away.

"If Celegorm was not willing to stand by you he should not have asked to wed you," Eol said. "Remain with me, and I swear that nothing but death will take me from your side. I will not keep you in a prison, and you may roam free as you like. Only do not leave your walls unguarded, and do not return to the sons of Feanor."

It seemed right to Aredhel. At least, it made sense, and she could not explain what about it felt wrong. So she let herself return Eol's kisses, and then his embraces. As she stayed with him she found him to be brave, and loyal, and he never objected when she wandered alone. There were no witnesses to be had in the forest, so their oath was their only wedding. They spent their first months of marriage journeying by moonlight, moving only at night. In the near-complete darkness of the forest under the stars it was easier for Aredhel not to remember her golden lion, and the light of Valinor that she would never see again.



Yes, Celegorm really was blond. See: for a complete discussion of Elven hair.

'Laws and Customs of the Eldar' is often understood to state that sex automatically equals marriage among Elves (at least, among those who follow these laws). But then you have to define what sex is. Aredhel seems quite sure of her own interpretation, but she isn't necessarily correct.