Wreath Of Steel And Silver
By Kielle (kielle@subreality.com)

DISCLAIMER: Characters and settings all belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. No harm meant, no profit intended. Please ask before archiving. Feedback is adored!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Galadriel is not one of my favorite characters but she's been whining for a story ever since I recently re-read the Silmarillion. I had to tweak facts a little to get her where I wanted her, but what the hell -- it was worth the effort for the imagery.

Let me repeat that: the facts in this story have been tweaked. This is a slight A/U -- a very minor "what if." I've had some complaints that this tale is not pure canon, to which my answer is: well, duh. Tell me it's not an interesting thought, eh...

DEDICATION: For CocoaJava and Kitarra, my betareaders on this round; and to Judy on Henneth-Annun for tossing me some useful facts. Also to Tom, who apparently lent me his muse FrodoFigment. o.O If you know me well enough, you can still spot Jessie's insidious influence...

RATING: PG-13 for a little gore.

She hadn't touched the Mirror for years.

Used it? Yes. The pure cold stream from the heart of the hollow below Caras Galadon, the silver basin on its finely carved pedestal; these formed the Mirror which bore her name, and both served her well.

But she never touched the Mirror itself. Poured the crystalline water from the silver ewer, yes. Breathed across the rippling surface to wake visions, yes. Gazed into the depths or guided others to do the same, yes and yes.

But to touch the Mirror itself...

She always bade onlookers to leave the water undisturbed. No elf would dare disregard her warning, and no visitor (though there were precious few of those) ever thought to ask why. Touch the water? It would disturb the visions, of course. Break the surface, break the portents. It was obvious logic, and none ever questioned it.

They were right. And they were wrong. To touch the Mirror, to grasp what should only be seen...

The Mirror showed many things: some good, some evil, some fair, some terrible. But a mirror is still a mirror, and a reflection still a reflection...even if it reflected distant places and remote times. You cannot see the back of your head in a mirror -- or your own heart.

But if you reached into the Mirror, it reached back into you.

She herself had only dared to do so twice during the Mirror's existence: once when it was new and she'd sought to test its abilities, and once again when Lothlorien shone brightest. Countless brief years of the Sun had flickered past since then. She had not kept count, for she'd never planned to make such a mistake again.

And yet...

And yet here she stood before the silver basin, alone, the handle of the elegant pitcher cold in her hands. For the third time. Chances came in threes, after all -- three stones, three rings...

The Fellowship was gone, away down the Silverlode in three swift white boats. They guarded the last hope of Middle-Earth, and she had done everything in her considerable power to see that hope safely on its way. If they succeeded, Lothlorien would be lost. If they failed, all was lost. Either way, her deeds on their behalf would serve as her final selfless gesture to the world.

Surely, at last, this would be enough to wash the blood from her hands.

As graceful as ever, Galadriel dipped water from the spring and poured it slowly, almost musingly, into the Mirror. The silvery fall was smooth as glass, unshaken by the trembling she kept firmly locked away from her arm. Everything must be perfect, everything must be normal. The Mirror must not suspect--

She frowned and banished that thought. No. The Mirror had no will of its own. She had created it with her own hands, patiently working by moonlight, singing softly to coax delicate tendrils of power into the pure metal. It was, indeed, a mirror. It reflected what was in the past, future, and heart. It did not judge. It did not punish. It simply reflected


and a reflection could not lie. A reflection was not an implacable accusation of


wrongdoings unless those wrongdoings wore heavily upon the heart of the


one who braved the Mirror's depths.

The water was still now, serenely reflecting the starry sky despite late afternoon in the Golden Wood. She found that she was still holding the ewer; carefully, she set it aside in its proper place with only the faintest clink of silver on stone. Then she stepped forward, as she had countless times before, to gaze into her Mirror...

Blood. She had never seen so much blood. She had never truly seen blood at all, except perhaps a scraped knee at play or a slipped tool at the forge. It was such a bright color, almost cheerful really...but it was gushing from someone she had laughed with over many a fine meal, blood streaming down her dagger, dripping into her hand, and she could not pull away because she had felt the grate of bone as she had reflexively slammed the blade up into his throat, and if it grated like that again on the way out she knew she might scream--

The Mirror lay silent and silver before its mistress, undisturbed by this horror. Galadriel's gaze was turned inward. She did not need the Mirror to show her this. This, she remembered. This, she had seen with her own eyes.

It was a long terrible story she never cared to recall. She had not been to blame. She was merely (if such a word applied to a woman who had walked in the light of the Trees) the daughter of the half-brother of the man who swore a terrible oath. An oath which had led to exile, betrayal, war, and death...all woven into a terrible curse called down upon those so blinded by vengeance that they had slain their own kin.

The sea had run red with the blood of elven innocents at the port of Alqualondë.

--she couldn't move, she couldn't look away as the light died from her cousin's beautiful eyes, and then the knife was jerked from her hand as he (Telemél, his name was Telemél) collapsed gurgling into her arms and the blood jetted across her shoulder and splattered over her breasts and she did scream, and it didn't matter because everyone, everyone, everyone was screaming--

Galadriel's radiant golden hair clouded her face as her grip went white on the edge of the basin. She should not have been there. Her father had been helpless to break his word to his half-brother, however, and his children would not let him walk into exile alone.

It was merest luck that his host had fallen behind, and thus escaped the curse. Unfortunately, his children were fond of the sons of his brother Fingolfin. Artanis -- for she was not Galadriel then -- and Orodreth rode ahead to laugh and sport with their cousins. Children of an idyllic land where murder had only been invented days before, they had run headlong into a terrible battle against their own kindred.

Finarfin's only daughter was as tall as a man and strong from years at the family forge, yet she was no soldier. She'd carried no sword. But on the sands of Alqualondë, in confusion and in self-defense, she had drawn her dagger...

--she knew this was wrong, this had to be wrong, yet she'd heard someone cry out that the Teleri had started it -- that the sea-people had attacked the Noldor -- but how? Why? The Teleri were not wearing armor, and few bore swords, which meant...but that could not be, it simply could not, because if her kin had struck the first blow (for what? why?!) then she had not killed (murdered) one of her mother's kin in self-defense after all (murdered!) and oh, oh, but oh the, the blood on her knife (murderer!), the blood on her hands (MURDERER!), the blood would never wash clean, never, never, never--

And then Orodreth was there, pulling her aside, pulling her away, protecting her, and she saw that his sword was bright and clean. No blood. No blood on her brother's sword, no blood on his hands, no blood on his soul.

Unlike her own.

The Mirror still lay as serene as the Moon himself. With an effort Galadriel resurfaced from millennia-deep memories and regarded the unruffled silver disc before her. She had never told her brothers that the blood smeared across her body was her own fault, but she knew. She knew. And she could not forget, could never forget...

Could never forgive.

Her lips pursed in thought. She uncurled her hands from the edges of the pedestal and shook them, carefully; little cramps had set in as she'd gripped the marble tight enough to leave mottled impressions on her skin.

This would be the third time. Her third chance. And yes, chances came in threes -- three stones, three rings, three swift white boats swept away towards destiny...

"Let us see, shall we?" Galadriel murmured. "Let us see if I have finally done enough to earn forgiveness."

And, without a ripple, she slid both of her hands into the cold clear water.

For a long moment the Lady of the Wood stood there, quietly, sunlight glowing in her golden mane and warming her cream gown as she gazed unseeingly away. The silver bottom of the flat basin felt icy against her palms; the water lapped gently, almost soothingly around her wrists.

Then she looked down.

The Mirror did not pass judgment nor grant absolution. At heart it was a mirror...just a mirror. It reflected. It reflected considerably more than an ordinary mirror, of course, but it showed the truth. And deeper. If you reached into the Mirror, it reached back into you.

And if only you could truly forgive yourself...

Galadriel withdrew her hands and dried them carefully against her sleeves. Then, as calm and as regal as a queen, she walked away.

Behind her, the water of the Mirror gleamed red with the blood of an innocent.

.-= FINIS =-.

Afternote: Ah hah. Did the water's change signify Galadriel's continued
taint, or was the blood washed away at last? I don't know. Do you...?