Counsels in Rivendell - Part Six - Peace/Epilogue
One by one, the Elves of Rivendell were presented to the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel. A great deal of time had passed, even as the Eldar counted it, since Nîndorien had last seen the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien. She had not accompanied Arwen when the daughter of Elrond had removed to Lórien many years previously. As she curtseyed gracefully before them, she could hear the sound of Galadriel's voice in her head. "Arise, Lady of Gil-galad; you owe me no such honour. Later you and I shall talk, for I sense that you are still troubled." Surprised, Nîndorien raised her eyes and looked at the smiling Lady of Lothlórien. She returned the smile somewhat hesitantly, and moved to the side with Glorfindel and Erestor, thinking about Galadriel's words while watching Arwen greet her grandmother with joy.
That evening, there was a great celebration, and the singing and dancing continued late into the night. The music of Rivendell and Lothlórien rose harmoniously in the air, and the Elves were filled with the gladness of sundered kin reunited in celebration. When, at last, all had fallen silent, Nîndorien and Galadriel walked side by side beneath the trees. At first, neither spoke, content to savour the peacefulness of Lórien. Eventually, Nîndorien broke the silence.
"Lothlórien truly has become a beautiful sanctuary, my Lady."
"From one who has spent many years in the refuge of Imladris, that is praise indeed," said Galadriel, smiling. "It is a shame that you did not accompany Arwen when she came here, for I perceive that you love the fair Undomiel, and have given much of yourself to her," Galadriel paused and looked at her companion, before continuing, "but you had need to go to Mithlond, and speak with Círdan, your friend of old."
Nîndorien did not enquire as to how Galadriel knew of such matters, for she had long experience of the Lady's perceptive powers, and knew that she saw further and understood more deeply than most. "Yes, my Lady, I have loved her since she was an infant, and following the departure of her mother, I have endeavoured to aid her and support her."
"Even as another has aided and supported you." It was no question and Nîndorien looked at Galadriel sharply, before smiling tentatively. "Indeed, my Lady. Although, I acted out of loyalty and love for the Lord Elrond and his family, not to repay the aid I received from another. "
"I have no doubt that the Lord of the Golden Flower acted out of love and loyalty for the house of Ecthelion, even if other emotions have since swayed his motive. He expects no reward," said Galadriel gently. At this, Nîndorien could not conceal her surprise and looked at Galadriel with wonder. The Lady of Lórien laughed softly. "Do not fear for him, for his spirit burns with the strength of the slain who live again. He suffers a little, it is true, but his power is so great that he will not succumb to grief or longing. He was born in the bliss of Valinor; he has learned patience and understanding in the Halls of Mandos; he shall heal."
"Your words are comforting, my Lady, but there is another, more troubling matter that weighs on my mind. I believe you know of what I speak, but I-"
"Do not clearly understand it yourself?" asked Galadriel softly. Nîndorien remained silent while Galadriel continued. "You are making your peace with the Lord Glorfindel, which gladdens you, but your mind still dwells on another, as it always has and always will. Your sorrows have been heavy of late, and now a new fear has made itself known to you."
"I fear," said Nindorien slowly, barely daring to speak the words, "that he has not been released from the Halls of Mandos... that I shall go to the Blessed Realm and he will not be there... that I shall have to wait for another Age of Arda before I see him again... or that, worst of all, he shall never leave Mandos' care. I do not think that I could bear it, Lady Galadriel, even in the bliss of Valinor."
She turned to Galadriel, and her fear shone clearly on her face. Galadriel held her gaze for a moment, understanding Nîndorien's thoughts more clearly than her hesitant words. She spoke softly. "I do not have the words to allay your fears but the Mirror may show you what you desire to know. I cannot say what you might see in its depths, but you may find your answer there."
"My thanks, but I believe I would rather not know anything, than know the worst. At least I can live out my last few years in Middle Earth in the hope that my beloved waits at the journey's end. I could not enjoy this new-found peace, if I knew that the first and last desire of my heart is never to be fulfilled."
"As you wish," said Galadriel. "You speak with the wisdom of one who has waited in hope for years, and knows that, without hope, time weighs heavily." She paused for a moment, seemingly lost in her own thoughts, before proceeding. "But come now, I am sure that you are weary, for the journey from Rivendell is long and although you are stronger than you were, such a voyage still takes its toll."
"Particularly when one is accustomed to a soft bed every night!" said Nîndorien, in a lighter tone.
Galadriel laughed, a clear and resonant sound that seemed to fill the air. "Well, you shall sleep well tonight. Come, I will show you to your sleeping quarters."
She lead Nîndorien to where the Ladies of Rivendell lay in slumber. Nîndorien wished Galadriel good night, in hushed tones, before lying down on a talan beside Arwen, whose face looked peaceful in the moonlight. She was not accustomed to such accommodation and lay still for a while, looking at the stars through the shifting branches of the Mallorn tree. Galadriel's words passed through her mind just as sleep finally overtook her. "...without hope, time weighs heavily."
She could sense his presence, but she was surrounded by mists, and could not see him. Her heart seemed to stop when she felt his breath on the back of her neck, but it may have been nothing more significant than a soft gust of wind. She made to turn around, eager to see him.
"No, my love, do not seek for me yet." It was his voice, yet different to her ears, less substantial; like the sound of leaves rustling in the wind.
"Where are you?" she whispered tentatively.
He spoke again, and she could detect some amusement in his tone. "Why, I am beside you, as always. My thoughts have never strayed far from you."
"Will I see you again?"
Her last question was met with silence, but she had felt his presence and that was enough.
When Nîndorien awoke the next morning, she could not recall the details of her dream, but she knew that she had spoken with her beloved. Somehow her mind felt peaceful, far removed from the agitation she had felt when she unburdened herself to Galadriel. She wondered if Galadriel had contrived her dream in some way, for she was a great deal less troubled about the future, content to enjoy the peace of the present. Arwen joined her father in the company of Celebron and Galadriel, while Nîndorien spent the morning with Glorfindel. They walked far, beneath the mellyrn, delighting in the beauty of the trees of Lothlórien. Having walked for some time, they decided to sit for a while beside a swiftly running stream. Nîndorien was feeling pleasantly drowsy, and closed her eyes, listening to Glorfindel speaking of Glingal and Belthil, the trees of Gondolin, wrought by Turgon in the likeness of Laurelin and Telperion. Glorfindel's voice trailed off unexpectedly and Nîndorien's eyes shot open when she heard an unfamiliar voice. Glorfindel greeted the newcomer politely and asked him to sit with them for a while
"Thank you, my lord. Greetings, my lady." A tall fair-haired Elf, dressed in the cloak of Lothlórien and holding a longbow loosely by his side, stood before them. "I am Haldir, Warden of the Northern March." He bowed low, for he could see that they were of high birth. Both Nîndorien and Glorfindel bowed their heads in return.
"I could not help but hear your praise of the mellryn," he said in an apologetic tone. He placed his hand on the trunk of a nearby mallorn and smiled. "We are very proud of the trees of Lothlórien," he said. "It is said that the first seeds were a gift from King Gil-galad to the Lady Galadriel. If this is true, it was a most generous gift, for these trees have provided us with shelter for many years."
Nîndorien laughed. "Indeed the tales are true, Haldir of the Northern March." The Elf looked at her with surprise. "Although perhaps the gift might seem a little less generous, had it been known that the seeds would not take root west in Lindon, greatly vexing Gil-galad. They had come to him from Tar-Aldarion, King of Númenor. I believe that they originally flourished in Eressëa, and had been gifts from the Eldar of the land. Gil-galad sent the seeds to his kinswoman in the hope that she might have better luck. It is well for your people that he did, for he came quite close to throwing them into the Gulf of Lhûn, such was his frustration."
Glorfindel laughed at the surprised look on Haldir's face. "I apologise, my friend. It was quite remiss of us not to introduce ourselves. I am Lord Glorfindel of Rivendell, and my fair companion is the Lady Nîndorien, now of Rivendell, but formerly of Lindon."
Realisation flooded Haldir's face when he heard her name, and he bowed once more. "Then you know far more of such things than I, my Lady," he said humbly.
"I may know the history, but you are more blessed than I, having dwelled long in such a place," she replied. Soon, the three Elves sat comfortably by the stream, exchanging anecdotes and tales until the sun had all but disappeared. At last, they rose and parted with regret, for Haldir had to return to his post, and Glorfindel and Nîndorien knew that they had to return to Caras Galadhon, where, no doubt, they had been expected all afternoon to wait on Elrond and his daughter.
They spent seven days in Lothlórien before departing once more. As they left the shade of the trees, Nîndorien marvelled at how the procession had swelled in number. Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel and a great many of their household now accompanied them, and songs filled the air as they travelled south.
Nîndorien still travelled with Erestor and Glorfindel, and as they travelled through the plains of Rohan, the two Elf-lords soon began to discuss the politics of the Rohirrim. Over a fortnight had passed since they had departed Lothlórien, and Nîndorien was amused that they, who had lived for thousands of years, could not last a mere month without the conversation turning to politics. She glanced back, and at the rear of the procession she could see Arwen talking with her father. Elrond was smiling at his daughter and Nîndorien was pleased to see Arwen's happiness reflected in his face.
She rode in silence, paying little attention to Glorfindel and Erestor, when her gaze was drawn to two familiar figures riding towards them. She cried out joyfully and, to the surprise of her companions, she spurred her horse on and galloped ahead. Glorfindel glanced at Erestor, and was relieved to see that the other Elf-lord was equally confused. So engrossed had they been in their conversation, they had failed to notice the arrival of the sons of Elrond.
"Elladan! Elrohir! How wonderful to see you!" Still on horseback, the sons of Elrond embraced her, a joyful tangle of limbs and surprised horses. They were as delighted to see her as she was to see them, and immediately demanded that she ride with them to Edoras, once they had greeted their father and sister. "With pleasure," she replied. "I have had to endure political debate between the Lords Glorfindel and Erestor for many leagues now, and I would far rather hear your tales!" The twins laughed, for long ago they had been taught by their father's counsellors, and were well aware of their love of argument and debate.
They arrived in Edoras that same day, and Nîndorien sat long into the night with Elladan and Elrohir, listening to their account of the War of the Ring. The tales of such great deeds could not but lift her spirits. She marvelled at the bravery of the halflings, barely able to believe that such small beings had the ability and the determination to bring around the downfall of a Dark Lord, where mighty warriors had failed before them.
They spent two nights in Edoras, to rest and prepare for the last stage of their journey to Gondor. On the evening before their departure, Nîndorien sat with Glorfindel, Erestor and the sons of Elrond in the Golden Hall of Meduseld. They talked of the history of Rohan, but Nîndorien paid little heed to the words, preferring to absorb what she could from her surroundings. The very walls of the Golden Hall were steeped in tradition, and despite the relative youth of the civilisation of Rohan in the eyes of an Elf, they seemed ancient; for many generations had passed, in glorious sorrow and mournful splendour. The Rohirrim were intrigued by the Elves, having had little contact with them in the past. King Éomer had welcomed them warmly, and the sons of Elrond had spoken of him with such high regard that Nîndorien felt predisposed to like him. The Lady Éowyn was more difficult to understand. Her spirit was far removed from Nîndorien's, but the Elf-lady sought to comprehend her nonetheless. From the observations of Elladan and Elrohir, made when they had stopped at Edoras before travelling on the Paths of the Dead, Éowyn had looked upon Aragorn with great love and despaired when they parted. Nîndorien supposed that it was not surprising that a young woman born of such a passionate race would be impressed by Aragorn's royal bearing and mighty deeds. It seemed that the Lady had been touched by some coldness in the days of her uncle's incapacity, and so she had ridden to battle, seeking glory in death. She watched as the White Lady of Rohan laughed at her brother's side, and slowly came to recognise the stubborn strength that lay within the young woman. This wilfulness had been softened of late, Nîndorien thought, and the Lady had found wisdom in Minas Tirith. If the words of Elladan were true, and not just idle hearsay, Éowyn had also found love in the City of Gondor. She seemed to personify Nîndorien's image of the Rohirrim; young, proud and valiant.
Before retiring for the night, Nîndorien approached Éowyn. "Greetings, Lady of Rohan. I am Nîndorien of Rivendell, and I wished to make your acquaintance before I departed your fair land. I have heard great praise of your courage and achievements."
Éowyn looked at the Elf-lady with surprise, for she could see that, despite Nîndorien's youthful appearance, her eyes betrayed the sorrows and secrets of many lifetimes. "It is an honour to meet you, my Lady. Please, be seated." She indicated a carved wooden seat beside her and Nîndorien sat down.
"Are you kin of the Lord Elrond and his daughter?" Éowyn asked politely.
"Nay, although I have known them all their lives. I am simply a friend of the House of Elrond, and I have lived long in Rivendell. I have heard of your people, of course, but have never spoken with any of the Rohirrim. It seems that the tales of wondrous achievement in battle are not confined to the men of this kingdom."
Éowyn bowed her head humbly. "I say to you that any glory I receive from my deeds of battle should be shared with the brave hobbit, Meriadoc, for without his aid I would have undoubtedly failed."
Nîndorien smiled at the young woman's humility. "You deserve all the praise you receive, for you faced a great evil and defeated it with little thought for your own life."
"But I must admit that I rode to battle seeking a glorious death; my motives were not completely selfless."
"No deed can be absolutely altruistic. There are few who act without thought for themselves," said Nîndorien thoughtfully. "Every choice is rooted in a certain degree of selfishness, and until desperation takes over and deprives us of chice, we will act according to our own desire or necessity. Even an apparently selfless act can spring from the need to appease one's own conscience."
Éowyn contemplated Nîndorien's words until the Elf spoke again. "Here comes the Lord Glorfindel, " said Nîndorien, with a smile on her face and a gently mocking tone in her voice. "He comes to praise your great deed, but he also has reason to thank you personally." She laughed as Éowyn looked at her with surprise.
"Why should an Elf-lord thank me?" she wondered aloud.
"Because it was he who spoke the prophecy that the Witch-king would not be defeated by a mortal man, and although I have argued at length with him as to whether he actually intended to say 'human', he claims that his prophecy has been fulfilled. And he delights in being proven right, as you will presently learn!"
Glorfindel was already laughing by the time he reached the two ladies, for he had heard every word of what Nîndorien had said about him. "Greetings, Lady Éowyn." He pressed Éowyn's hand to his lips before asking innocently, "I hope that the Lady Nîndorien has not been misleading you about my character?"
Nîndorien laughed. "This is the curse of the Elves, my Lady, that we can hear each and every word of a conversation from a great distance, whether it is intended for our ears or not!"
"I do hope, dear lady, that you are not accusing me of eavesdropping?" asked Glorfindel, raising an eyebrow.
"No, indeed, for I can keep no secrets from you, even if I desired it!"
Éowyn watched the exchange with surprise, for she was unused to the nature of Elves; this playful banter seemed at odds with their usual solemn dignity. Glorfindel saw her confusion and said gently. "The Lady and I have known each other far longer than either of us care to admit. At this stage, we feel that we may take such liberties with each other."
Nîndorien suddenly became serious. "Indeed. We have witnessed birth, death, sorrow and joy together." She saw no need to further confuse the maiden of Rohan by adding that this included Nîndorien's birth and Glorfindel's death.
"I hope that I too have found someone of such worth, " said Éowyn, smiling as her thoughts turned in the direction of Gondor. "A beloved companion of humour and wisdom; a precious gift."
Nîndorien and Glorfindel looked at each other, realisation dawning on both of them simultaneously. Then Nîndorien smiled, and took hold of Glorfindel's hand. "A precious gift, indeed," she whispered, unwilling to correct Éowyn's misunderstanding of her relationship with Glorfindel. The Elf-lord smiled at her sadly, resignation in his eyes and said. "Ay, a precious gift, but hard-won, and not all live to receive it. Yet, they may dwell in the warmth and light of those who have experienced such happiness."
Shortly afterwards, Nîndorien retired to her lodgings for the evening. Glorfindel walked her to the door and just as he was about to turn away, Nîndorien grabbed his arm.
"I am sorry, my Lord."
Glorfindel looked at her with honest surprise. "Why are you sorry, dear Lady?" She remained silent. He sighed and kissed her forehead. "Do not apologise for love. Your heart is in the keeping of another; I would not wish to change that. Now rest, for we continue our journey tomorrow, and we still have many leagues to travel together, you and I."
The following day saw the departure of the Elves from Edoras, and the people of Rohan were sorry to see them go. The short time spent in the company of the Elves had filled their hearts and minds with light and joy. Éomer rode with them some of the way, before bidding them farewell. "I shall come to Minas Tirith in time, to bring my beloved uncle to his final resting place. Farewell!"
The Elves made slow progress to Minas Tirith, content to begin their day's travel after sunrise and equally happy to set up camp before the sun slid from view every evening. Eventually, the glimmering city of Minas Tirith could be seen in the distance. Elladan and Elrohir rode to the front of the procession and raised the banner of their father's household. Glorfindel and Erestor took their place behind the sons of Elrond while Nîndorien rode with the other Ladies of Rivendell. And so, on the eve of midsummer, the Lady Undomiel entered the City of Minas Tirith, preceded by many fair Elf-ladies and mighty Elf-lords of Rivendell and Lothlórien. The people of the City could not conceal their awe and witnessing such beauty rendered many of them speechless, although Nîndorien thought she could hear one woman's voice in the crowd. "Indeed, cousin, these are not the first of the Fair Folk I have seen. No, indeed. There is one I saw, who is a Prince of a great wood in the north. He is a dear friend of the King Elessar, they say."
Later that night, after they had been shown to their chambers, Arwen and Nîndorien sat in a cushioned window seat, looking out over the city. Nîndorien knew that Arwen would not sleep this night.
"How strange, that this shall be my home. I shall come to know its secrets, even as I know all the hidden places of Rivendell," Arwen said. She turned to Nîndorien, "My lady, you do not have to wait up with me. I can keep this vigil alone."
Nîndorien laughed. "Those are the very words your mother spoke on the eve of her wedding."
Arwen looked at her with surprise. "You kept vigil with Mother?"
"I did. In her case it had been centuries since she had first laid eyes on your father, and she spent much of the night walking through the corridors of Rivendell, knowing that it would become her home, even as Minas Tirith will become yours."
"Tell me of the first time she met Father," prompted Arwen.
"Has your father not told you all about it?" asked Nîndorien disbelievingly.
"He has, but he is not very good at capturing the romance of the moment. He simply says that he first saw my mother amidst the snows of Imladris, but said nothing until after the last Alliance."
"Which was over a thousand years later," added Nîndorien chuckling. "I do believe that Gil-galad and Erestor spent a great deal of time mocking him about his silence on the matter. Very well. I shall tell you the tale as I witnessed it." She sat in thought for a few moments, retrieving the memory from the hidden depths of her mind.
"It was after the winter's first snowfall, and Gil-galad and I had lately arrived in Imladris, for Gil-galad wished to see the work of your father. Your grandfather Celeborn was also there and, on one bitterly cold morning, we were walking in the forests of Imladris. Although it was cold, your father insisted on us seeing the grounds that day because the weather was set to worsen.
"Towards the end of the tour, when all our minds, except for your father's, were turning to the Hall of Fire and warmth, we stood for a while on the bridge over the stream that has since been named Nen Celebrían."
"I know that bridge!" cried Arwen delightedly.
Nîndorien smiled. "Well, as we stood there shivering, your father was proclaiming that Imladris could not be entered without his knowledge. He was waving his hands in the air enthusiastically. Celeborn whispered to Gil-galad and I that the cold weather had affected the Half-Elf's judgment, and he pointed to two shapes in the distance. We duly looked in that direction and saw two Elf-ladies riding serenely along the apparently impregnable path into Imladris. Your father had somehow failed to notice them amidst his wild gesticulations. They rode, side by side, on great white horses. They were unhooded, in spite of the cold, and their hair shone out like beacons, one golden, like the sun, and the other silver, like a star. Celeborn had sensed their coming before they had appeared, of course, and when they came into view, I recognised the fair-haired lady as none other than your grandmother, the Lady Galadriel. I did not know the other lady, for I had not yet met the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn. Your father finally noticed that he no longer had our undivided attention, and turned to the source of the distraction." Nîndorien struggled against the urge to laugh out loud. "At first, a look of pure shock spread across his face, that his defences had been breached, so to speak. He became speechless, a rare occurrence in those days. As we walked towards the ladies, it rapidly became obvious that your father's initial shock had given way to an altogether different expression. He looked upon your mother as though he had never seen an Elf-lady before. Of course, it must be said that there are few who could ever compare to such beauty, but he was clearly smitten from that moment on. I was not the only one who noticed his admiration. Gil-galad nudged me, nodding in the direction of the Lord Celeborn." Nîndorien could not contain her laughter as she recalled the look of appalled realisation on Lord Celeborn's face. "He became decidedly cooler towards your father for many years after that, but I think, after a millennium or so, he eventually adjusted to the idea!"
Arwen laughed. "Perhaps it was fear of my grandfather that prompted my father's long silence!"
"Perhaps, indeed! I think that it was Gil-galad's favourite explanation," said Nîndorien. "But the blessing of a father is always most desirable.".
"It is." Arwen bowed her head.
The rest of the night was spent in the telling of tales, the singing of songs and the passing of advice from Nîndorien to Arwen. At last, with the rising of the sun, they began to prepare for the wedding day of King Elessar to his Queen, the beautiful Arwen Undomiel.
Never had the people of Minas Tirith witnessed such a joyous occasion as the wedding day of their King and many had come from miles around to take part in the festivities. The music and laughter of Elves mingled with the joy and songs of Men. Nîndorien sat in comfortably in a corner, between Glorfindel and Erestor. The two Elf-lords had been drawn into a debate, concerning the effectiveness of the Stewardship system, with an elderly nobleman of the City. It was rare for them to face such an obstinate opponent, who stuck to his side so steadfastly. Nîndorien watched the protracted debate with amusement for a while. The combative nature of all three Lords meant that the argument had not ceased since the dessert plates had been cleared from the table. The Gondorian nobleman quite clearly saw no need for a King at all, considering that the last one had ridden off and deserted his kingdom. Nîndorien privately noted that opposition to the King did not preclude attendance at his wedding feast. As she looked around leisurely, watching the other wedding guests, she could hear Glorfindel's argumentative tone as he attempted to convince the nobleman that he had, in fact, known the last King of Gondor, and had tried to persuade him not to ride to Mordor, and that the present King was not to be judged on the misguided actions of his ancestors.
Nîndorien looked at the high table where the King and his new bride sat close together, laughing and talking with their dearest friends. She frowned as she counted only three hobbits, before she caught a glimpse of a fourth curly-haired head resting on the table. Apparently, the halflings had grown unaccustomed to the effects of ale during their travels. Nîndorien's gaze was then drawn to the Prince of Mirkwood and the Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain. They appeared to be bickering over the relative merits of the bow as against the axe but their argument rapidly descended into hearty companionable laughter, much to Nîndorien's surprise. It seemed that the Elf and Dwarf had put aside their differences and, although she hardly dared believe it, they seemed to be true friends. She caught Celeborn's eye, noting that he displayed a similar expression of disbelief but then, she recalled, he always had been distrustful of Dwarves. As she shook her head at the thought of such an unlikely pair, she looked towards Mithrandir, who sat robed in white, in silent discussion with Elrond and Galadriel. He wore the expression of one satisfied that he has reached his journey's end and a sense of peace hung about him that had been absent in the past. Most often, Nîndorien found her gaze returning to the newly married couple. Their joy was unmatched and Nîndorien wished them happiness from the bottom of her heart. Arwen looked at her, and smiled radiantly, in acknowledgement of Nindorian's unspoken blessing, before she turned back to her husband.
The debate between Glorfindel, Erestor and the nobleman still raged on, and Nîndorien raised her eyes in exasperation before allowing her mind to wander back in time. To her relief, she had more control over the direction of her thoughts and since the time spent in Lórien, she had been untroubled by grievous memories.
The sound of harps and flutes filled the air, as a soft sea breeze blew in over Lindon. Nîndorien sat beside her husband of a few hours, politely talking to the guests who had come to congratulate the High King and his new wife. Gil-galad's hand rested lightly on her knee and she could sense his desire. Laughing, she kissed his hand and arose to speak with Círdan who stood some distance away. As she spoke with her old friend, she could feel Gil-galad's frustration even though he seemed outwardly calm. She knew that his eyes followed her and, in truth, she rather enjoyed this sense of power. Having spoken with Círdan at length about his plans for Mithlond, she glanced at her husband and saw his eyebrows rise hopefully. She smiled sweetly in his direction before walking over to join Galadriel, who had travelled a great distance to wish her kinsman joy on his wedding day. Galadriel spoke fondly of her own wedding to Celeborn in Doriath. She did not require her famed perceptive powers to see how Nîndorien was teasing Gil-galad and, although no conspiratorial words passed between them, the two ladies laughed together for a while, drawing out their conversation while watching the High King becoming increasingly restless. Eventually, having spoken to a few more guests, Nîndorien could not ignore her own desire and she returned to her husband's side. He immediately put an arm around her waist and whispered in her ear, "You will not escape so easily this time, my love."
She laughed. "I do not intend to escape unless you are with me, my king," she whispered back, planting a soft kiss on his cheek. Perhaps they left their wedding feast rather early, but it was not held against them, and the music and dancing continued long after their exit...
Nîndorien'a mind returned to the present and she looked around at the happy faces. For the first time in many years she felt truly content. Elladan and Elrohir approached her with identical broad smiles, and sat on either side of her.
"Oiorillë, will you not sing? I am sure that our sister would be greatly honoured if you were to grace her wedding feast with a song," said Elladan, with a familiar wheedling tone in his voice. She laughed, for he had used that voice as a young Elfling, trying to persuade her to sing to them at their bedtime. Unsurprisingly, Elrohir spoke up in support of his brother.
"Please sing, Nîndorien, for we have not heard your voice since the day the Halflings arrived in Rivendell."
"I can rarely refuse you anything!" laughed Nîndorien as she rose. "I will indeed sing, on one condition." Their faces displayed similar expressions of concern. "I will sing, if you can persuade Glorfindel to accompany me on the harp."
The twins sighed, for Glorfindel was still engrossed in matters of great debate with Erestor and the Gondorian nobleman, and he was notoriously difficult to extricate from such situations. However, they tackled the problem with a single-mindedness usually reserved only for battle, and soon Glorfindel had no choice but to yield.
"I knew that I would regret teaching you two the art of debate," he grumbled. "You are a most incorrigible pair!"
Nîndorien took his arm and the pair moved to the centre of the great feast hall of Merethrond. Lindir surrendered his harp to Glorfindel and the hall fell silent in expectation. The two Elves had not discussed what they would sing, for spoken communication seemed unnecessary. Glorfindel began to play an air of celebration and, having listened to the first notes, Nîndorien began to add her voice to the music; singing ancient words of blessing and joy. Not all those present understood the words, but they could not mistake the meaning of the song and one by one all the faces in the room lit up with joy, like a host of stars. The Ringbearer sat in awe, his troubles forgotten as he cradled his injured hand close to his chest. The fourth hobbit, whom Nîndorien identified as the future Master of Buckland, sat up and took notice, his dazed expression clearing. The Sindarin Prince and the Dwarf ceased their playful squabbling and listened in silent admiration. In the very centre of the room, however, the face of the Evenstar was most apparent, shining with her full strength and beauty. As Nîndorien sang, she looked towards Glorfindel and could not mistake the emotion she saw there; sheer contented joy. She knew that her face glowed with the same expression and when they reached the end of the song, she paid no heed to the thunderous applause that swept towards them for it seemed to fall short of where they stood, a peaceful isle in the midst of a stormy sea.
"Thank you, my lord," she whispered, as he kissed her hand.
"Thank you, my lady."
How long the journey took, none could tell, for it was beyond the measurement of time they had reckoned it in Middle Earth. The ship was filled with light and song, and even though Nîndorien never thought she would weary of the sound, she often stood at the prow of the ship, frequently joined by Frodo. Bilbo generally stayed below deck in his cabin, saying that he did not have Brandybuck blood in his veins, and ships were a little foreign to him. When reminded of his journey by barrel, he merely laughed and said that, at the age of fifty, he had been ready for anything, but now that he had passed the Old Took, he believed he should be allowed a few eccentricities.
Nîndorien laughed as she listened to the old hobbit's protests, and moved up to the deck of the great white ship of Círdan. In her hand, she held a small white flower - simbelmynë. Glorfindel had given it to her in Edoras, on the return journey to Rivendell after the wedding of Elessar to Undomiel. "It is Uilos; Evermind," he had said. "It used to grow in Gondolin, ere its fall. It shall not wither. Keep it well, my Lady, as a reminder when you come to depart these shores," here he touched each of the petals in turn, "A reminder of love, of faith, of sacrifice, of hope, of loss and of peace."
Nîndorien had wept when she had parted from Glorfindel and the sons of Elrond, even though she believed that they would meet again on a distant shore. It had been a strange reversal of roles, departing Rivendell while Glorfindel, Elladan and Elrohir remained. She recalled looking back at the Last Homely House, as the company of Ringbearers began their final journey in Middle Earth. The Lord Glorfindel had stood, glowing white, an image of splendour and power, between the grave dark-haired sons of Elrond. That image would be engraved in her mind until they met again.She sighed and turned her thoughts to what lay ahead. She felt no trepidation or nervousness; simply a desire to reach the Blessed Realm and feel complete again.
As they neared the journey's end, mists hung about the ship, preventing even Elvish eyes from seeing what lay ahead. This did not dissuade Nîndorien from assuming her usual position at the front of the ship, and with the dawning of a new day, she was certain that shapes were beginning to emerge from the mists. She softly called to Frodo, and he came forward in the ship, and strained to see. After a while, he cried out for the unmistakable shape of land appeared ahead. He held aloft the phial of Galadriel, and its light pierced the mists. And so, the ship came into the Bay of Eldamar, a great light shining from its prow like a star of radiance and hope. They drew up to the harbour, and were amazed to see the throngs of people who waited at the harbourside. Nîndorien's eyes ever searched through the crowds, and she heeded not the joyful cries of Elrond and Galadriel when they saw Celebrían at the front of the crowd.
Then her eyes lit upon the face she most longed to behold. In the midst of the crowd stood Ereinion Gil-galad and in his face shone the light of Valinor. It seemed that the crowd parted and a path led straight to him. Nîndorien set out at a walk, her strides becoming swifter until she was running. All the faces in the crowd seemed to merge into one, and then disappear altogether, when he swept her up in his arms and kissed her. She pulled back and looked upon him, eyes drinking in every detail. He seemed different but she could not see any obvious change to the Ereinion Gil-galad she had known and loved in Middle Earth. His fair face, as she had remembered, was framed by nightblack hair and his dark eyes danced as they watched her, lit by an unseen source. She placed her fingers on his lips, tracing their outline, noting that, as always, they hovered between regal solemnity and captivating joy. He kissed her fingertips and she smiled, although her eyebrows drew together in confusion.
"It is strange, my king, for it is as though I am seeing you for the first time."
"You are," he replied simply as he kissed her again. Then, holding on to one another, they left the crowds far behind, and all that was lost was found.
The sources for this story were Tolkien's own works, including Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the Letters of JRRT
I would like to thank my online fanclub! Your comments have truly overwhelmed me!
Finally, I must thank four people: my flatmate/editor, a madly enthusiastic schoolfriend (cheers, Luinar!), and the other two who were in on the secret!