"Excuse me Aragorn, I have a slight problem," said Coralie hesitantly as she sat with them on the green sward overlooking the City of the Galadrim.
"Lady?" he enquired.
"I’m hungry, I’m thirsty and I have to go, all at once!" she cried, for once feeling quite embarrassed by the predicament she was in.
Laughing, Aragorn scooped her up into his arms.
"Well that is easily remedied Lady, but we shall tackle each problem one at a time."
"And I shall have food and water ready upon your return," said Legolas as they left.
Shortly after, Aragorn was spied by the hobbits carrying Coralie, who promptly chased after him across the grass as he once again placed her within the circle of Legolas’ arms.
"Just a little at a time, Lady. It has been quite a while since you have had anything of substance in your stomach," said Legolas as he filled a cup.
"Coralie! You’re awake!" cried Frodo and Sam together as they jumped in front of her. Merry and Pippin came to a screeching halt behind.
"Coralie’s awake! Coralie’s awake!" they chanted in unison as they capered about in front of her. Finally exhausted by their madcap posturing, they flung themselves down on the grass at her feet. She couldn’t help but laugh at their antics.
"Seems that they are glad to see you Lady," laughed Legolas.
"Oh Coralie! That’s a nasty bruise you have on your forehead," chimed Pippin. Coralie’s hand strayed to her forehead, and touched the bruise gingerly.
"Ouch! I bet that hurts!" exclaimed Merry.
"Yes it does. I do have a bit of a headache," she replied.
"It’s a beautiful purple colour though. Brings out your eyes!" added Pippin with a laugh.
"Oh Pippin!" cried Frodo. "That’s not going to help her feel better!"
"Trust a Took to say something like that! Especially to a girl!" admonished Sam.
"But purple suits her! Boromir thought so too!" Pippin was defending himself.
"Pippin! If you….." Merry was suddenly interrupted.
"I think that is enough excitement for the lady for one day, Gentlemen," said Aragorn rising from the grass abruptly. "I’m sure her headache will only get worse with all this shouting. Come be off with you!" he commanded, herding them away as Gimli and Boromir strode over.
"Well! I’m just glad to see her eyes open at last!" said Gimli kneeling before Coralie. "Lady, it was a long battle to save you, and I’m more than a little pleased to see that we did indeed prevail." He took her hand in his and smiled.
"How long have I been asleep?" she asked.
"About two days at the very least," said Boromir as he stood behind Gimli. "And I too, am happy to see you awake. The world would have been a poorer place without your presence to grace it, Lady." He tilted his head to one side and smiled down at her.
Haldir met up with Frodo and Sam after Aragorn had led them away. Sam stood a little behind Frodo rubbing his eyes with a puzzled expression.
"It’s sunlight and bright day, right enough," he said. "I thought that Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning."
"You feel the power of the Lady of the Galadrim, said Haldir, understanding the meaning behind Sam’s words. "Would it please you to climb up Cerin Amroth?"
Nodding assent, they followed him as he stepped lightly up the grass-covered slope. Frodo felt the amaranthine beauty of Lothlórien envelop him, whispering of endless summer, while the little flowers nodded to him as he passed by. When he had gone and passed again into the outer world, still Frodo the wanderer from the Shire would walk there, upon the grass among elanor and niphredil in fair Lothlórien.
Entering the circle of white trees, the South Wind blew upon Cerin Amroth and sighed among the branches. Frodo stood still for a moment and caught the far off cry of lonesome sea-birds soaring on the up draughts of breezes, as they wheeled above great seas, and ancient shorelines that had had long ago been washed away. As he prepared to climb up behind Haldir, he placed his hand upon the smooth surface of the tree, beside the ladder. The texture of the tree, spoke of the life deep within, and for the first time in his life, Frodo knew that a tree was indeed a living thing.
Stepping out onto the flet, Haldir took his hand and turned him southwards.
"Look this way first!"
A hill of many green trees, like unto a city of lush towers greeted his view. It seemed to him, that the very light and the power that held sway over the land of the Galadrim, emanated from that one central place. Suddenly, wishing for the wings of a dove, he longed to fly away to rest amongst its tender green arms. Looking eastwards, the land of Lothlórien ran gently down to the ever- flowing Anduin, the Great River. His eyes looked over beyond the river, to where all the light seemed to go out, and again he was back again in the world he knew. Far beyond that, the land lay under a shadow, which not even the bright sunlight of Lothlórien could penetrate.
"There lies the fastness of Southern Mirkwood," said Haldir. "It is clad in a forest of dark fir, where the trees strive one against another and their branches rot and whither. In the midst upon a stony height stands Dol Guldur, where long the hidden Enemy had his dwelling. We fear that now it is inhabited again, and with power sevenfold. A black cloud lies often over it of late. In this high place you may see the two powers that are opposed one to another; and ever they strive now in thought, but whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered. Not yet." He turned and climbed swiftly down, and they followed him.
Frodo found Aragorn at the base of the hill, as Sam went on ahead. A light was in his eyes as he stood still and silent, and in his hand he held a small golden bloom of elanor. As Frodo looked upon him, he knew him to be clothed in the reverie of some sweet memory. Tall and fair he appeared as though all the years of care that had been chiseled upon his features, fell away at the fair remembrance that now shone upon his countenance.
"Arwen vanimelda, namárië!" Becoming aware of Frodo’s presence, he smiled warmly at him. "Here my heart dwells forever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we must still tread, you and I. Come with me!" Together they walked down the green sward of Cerin Amroth, and Aragorn never returned there as a living man.
Rejoining the others on the grass, the sun began to sink behind the mountains, and long shadows crept from under the leafy branches of the tall trees.
"I thought I’d instructed you to leave the lady in peace?" enquired Aragorn, as he spied the hobbits sprawled about the grass in front of her.
"It’s alright Aragorn," said Coralie smiling up at him. "They seem to have calmed down a bit now and the colour of my bruised forehead is no longer the chief subject."
"We found other things to discuss Aragorn. And we have been nice and quiet. Honest!" said Pippin looking up at him with all the endearance he could muster.
"Indeed, they have been on their best behaviour Aragorn," said Legolas. "But, to keep them away from the lady is as vain as trying to prevent moths from seeking the very source of the flame that so enchants them."
"Or perhaps, one could liken them more as flies to honey!" snorked Gimli.
"Hey! I’m no fly!" interjected Pippin.
"Perhaps not, but never a truer analogy regarding the lady and honey was ever spoken," said Boromir, his eyes gleaming in the fading light.
Coralie felt the blush rise up her throat to fan its way across her cheeks.
"Ahem," coughed Aragorn spying Haldir’s approach. "I think we had best be on our way."
"Ah! I see i titheniel is now awake," said Haldir as he gently bowed before her. "I am Haldir, Lady. It has been my honour to bear you some ways into our fair land. May I say that never have we been graced with such a comely visitor from beyond our realm before, and if we had but known that the daughters of men were as fair as yourself, the invitation would have been extended long ago." Again he bowed, this time with a low sweep of his hand.
"Oh my!" said Pippin and Merry together, taking the very words out of Coralie’s mouth. They all laughed as they made to stand up.
"And what do you think you are doing?" asked Legolas with a disapproving air, noting Coralie’s weak attempt to rise.
"Getting up of course," she said.
"You shall do no such thing!" and even before he had finished speaking, Coralie found herself once again in the secure arms of Legolas as he held her near.
"Am I never to walk on my own two feet again?" she asked gazing up at Legolas as he carried her along beneath the silver lamps that now shone down from the trees above.
Legolas smiled softly down at her. "Not until I have deemed you are fit to try Titheniel, and in the meantime you will have to be content to let me carry you in my arms."
"Oh! You are spoiling me Legolas. I could get used to this and then what good will I be to anyone?" sighed Coralie.
"Titheniel, you have done more good than you realise already," Legolas replied.
Coralie looked up at him trying to understand the meaning that lay behind his words.
"Why is everyone calling me Tith.? Tithen….?"
"Titheniel? Why, that is what I have dubbed you. It means little maiden," laughed Legolas softly.
"Little maiden? Why I am hardly that Legolas. I’m not some little girl! I’m a woman. Besides, I am tall enough and come up to your shoulder."
Suddenly her eyes met his and she found herself falling as it were into a deep well of time, the endless ripples of long ages beyond her reckoning washed over her soul, and she knew fully that he spoke the truth.
Presently their path brought them before two great gates, upon which Haldir knocked and spoke. The gates opened soundlessly at his word, though no guards could be seen. The city of the trees was before them. No folk could they see, though many fair voices in song fell down as soft rain upon the Company from above. Following after Haldir, they wound their way along many paths, and climbed many stairs, until they came at last to a broad lawn. A sparkling fountain graced the centre, its waters reflecting the silver lamps that hung low on trees about it, as it fell into a silver basin, before flowing down as a white stream. The mightiest of trees stood upon the south side, towering above them, where it opened its branches amid a cloud of leaves. Three Elves clad in mail, with long white cloaks were seated at its base beside a broad white ladder, and sprang up as the Company approached.
"Here dwell Celeborn and Galadriel," said Haldir. "It is their wish that you should ascend and speak with them."
Standing at once, one of the Elf wardens blew a single clear note into a silvery horn. It was answered three times from above.
"I will go first," said Haldir. "Let Frodo come next and then Legolas. The others may follow as they wish. It is a long climb for those that are not accustomed to such stairs, but you may rest on the way."
After they had ascended some way, Coralie looked down over the side and caught her breath at the steep drop; she unknowingly increased her grip around Legolas’ neck.
"Gimli was right," he laughed. "You do have some strength!"
"Actually, I think I am rather glad that you are carrying me at the moment," she replied.
"Believe me Lady, I am well aware of that," he responded with a smile.
Climbing up slowly, Frodo passed many flets. A wide talan , like the deck of a great ship greeted him almost at the top of the tree. A house so large that it would have served as a great hall of Men upon the earth, was built upon it. Frodo followed behind Haldir as he entered it, and found that he was standing in an oval shaped chamber. Through the centre, the mighty mallorn tree, now tapering towards its crown, stood as a living pillar as its centerpiece. Soft light emanated throughout the chamber as it lightly danced on the golden roof and walls, of silver and green. Many Elves were seated there. On two great chairs, canopied by a living bough, were seated Celeborn and Galadriel, the Lord and Lady of the Galadrim. They stood up to greet Frodo, as was their manner in greeting guests. Clad wholly in white, with golden hair, they seemed both tall and beautiful to Frodo, with an air of gravity about their countenances, that bespoke the importance of his mission beyond any explanation he would have gladly given. The keen depths of their eyes, announced the long ages they had spent in Middle Earth, whilst their features showed no outward sign.
Celeborn greeted Frodo in his own tongue, whilst the Lady Galadriel said no word, but looked long upon his face.
"Sit now beside my chair, Frodo of the Shire!" said Celeborn. "When all have come we will speak together."
"Welcome son of Thranduil! Too seldom do my kindred journey hither from the North! I see that you have i titheniel with you. You also are welcome, Lady. Come Legolas, we have a chair for her here," directed Celeborn as Legolas sat her down.
As each of the Company entered, he greeted them courteously by their name.
"Welcome Aragorn son of Arathorn!" he said. "It is eight and thirty years of the world outside since you came to this land; and those years lie heavy on you. But the end is near, for good or ill. Here lay aside your burden for a while!"
"Welcome Gimli son of Glóin! It is long indeed since we saw one of Durin’s folk in Caras Galadon. But today we have broken our long law. May it be a sign that though the world is now dark better days are at hand, and that friendship shall be renewed between our peoples." Gimli bowed low before taking a seat.
When all were seated before his chair, the Lord of the Galadrim looked at them again.
"Here there are but nine, though there should have been ten. One of your company has been replaced by i titheniel. Tell me where is Gandalf? Was there some change of counsel? Although I cannot understand the wisdom in sending a maiden in his place."
Coralie cast down her eyes at the mention of Gandalf’s name.
"Nay, there was no change of counsel," said the Lady Galadriel, as her eyes fell upon Coralie where they remained for a long time before at last she spoke again. Her voice deep with music, more than a woman’s wont, spoke clear and firm.
"Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlórien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet are hidden from me."
"Alas!" said Aragorn. "Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape.
At these words, all the Elves in the hall cried aloud in grief and amazement. Coralie stifled a sob as it caught in her throat.
"These are evil tidings," said Celeborn, "the most evil that have spoken here in long years full of grievous deeds." he turned to Haldir. "Why has nothing of this been told to me before?" he asked in the Elven-tongue.
"We have not spoken to Haldir of our deeds or our purpose. At first we were weary and danger was too close behind. I Titheniel, was dangerously ill with poison from an Orc’s blade, and we feared for her life; and afterwards we almost forgot our grief for a time, as we walked with gladness on the fair paths of Lothlórien."
"Yet our grief is great and our loss cannot be mended," said Frodo. "Gandalf was our guide, and he led us through Moria; and when our escape seemed beyond hope he saved us, and he fell."
"Tell us now the full tale!" said Celeborn.
Aragorn then recounted all that had befallen them, from the evil way that cruel Caradhras had defeated them, to the meeting with Coralie as they were descending, then the days that followed, of Balin’s last days and the finding of his tomb within the Chamber of Mazarbul, how they had fled across the bridge, and of Gandalf’s fall with the Balrog.
"A Balrog of Morgoth," said Legolas; "Of all elf-banes the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower."
"Indeed I saw upon the bridge that which haunts our darkest dreams, I saw Durin’s Bane," said Gimli in a low voice, and dread was in his eyes.
"Alas!" said Celeborn. "We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. But had I known that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria again, I would have forbidden you to pass our northern borders, you and all that went with you. And if it were possible, one would say that at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into folly, going needlessly into the net of Moria."
"He would be rash indeed that said that thing," said Galadriel gravely. "Needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life. Those that followed him knew not his mind and cannot report his full purpose. But however it may be with the guide, the followers are blameless. Do not repent of your welcome to the Dwarf. If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons? Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many pillared halls of Khazad-dûm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone." She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. Looking up to meet her eyes, as he heard the names spoken in his own tongue, Gimli was surprised to see love and understanding in the heart of a former enemy, rather than disregard and hatred.
Bowing in dwarf fashion he addressed the Lady; "Yet more fair is the living land of Lórien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!"
Silence followed, until at last Celeborn spoke again.
"I did not know your plight was so evil," he said. "Let Gimli forget my harsh words: I spoke in the trouble of my heart. I will do what I can to aid you, each according to his or her wish or need, but especially that one of the little folk who bears the burden."
"Your quest is known to us," said Galadriel, looking at Frodo. "But we will not here speak of it more openly. Yet not in vain will it prove, maybe, that you came to this land seeking aid, as Gandalf himself plainly purposed. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be. But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true."
Holding each one in turn with her eyes, she looked searchingly at them. From amongst them all, only Aragorn and Legolas could withstand her glance. Sam blushed and hung his head. Releasing them from her eyes, Galadriel smiled.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled," she said. "Tonight you shall sleep in peace."
As though released from a long interrogation, each of the Company sighed and felt suddenly weary.
"Go now!" said Celeborn. "You are worn with sorrow and much toil. Even if your Quest did not concern us closely, you should have refuge in this City, until you were healed and refreshed. Now you will rest, and we will not speak of your further road for a while."
"I will have a place prepared for the Lady, and shall send for her when it is ready," said Galadriel as she smiled at Coralie. "I should like to speak with her some more."
Taking their leave of the Lord and the Lady of the Galadrim, the Company wove a descending path down the mighty mallorn-tree, with Legolas once more bearing Coralie in his arms.
"Third floor; kitchenware, home furnishings, manchester…. Second Floor; mens wear, sporting goods, electronic equipment…. First floor; ladies wear, lingerie, cosmetics……."
"What are you talking about?" asked Legolas with an amused smile.
Coralie laughed. "I’m pretending that we are going floor to floor in a big department store, (like a market Legolas) and these are the sorts of goods you can buy on each one."
"Really?" he replied. "What was on the first floor again? I think we are low enough now."
"Um….That was ladies wear, cosmetics, lingerie."
"Lingerie?" queried Legolas. "What is that exactly?"
"It’s ladies underwear," Coralie said matter of factly, until she looked up and caught the twinkle in his eye. "Oh you!" she exclaimed while she gave him a playful slap.
"Well I’m glad to see you at least have some of your spirit back, Lady," he laughed.
Glad at last to be on the ground, the Company fell upon the soft couches that the Elves had lain out in pavilions at the base of the trees round about. Together they talked about all that had befallen them since entering Lothlórien, for to look further back would have been too disheartening.
"What did you blush for, Sam?" said Pippin. "You soon broke down. Anyone would have thought you had a guilty conscience, I hope it was nothing worse than a wicked plot to steal one of my blankets."
"I never thought no such thing," answered Sam, in no mood for jest. "If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with – with a bit of a garden of my own."
"That’s funny," said Merry. "Almost exactly what I felt myself; only, only well, I don’t think I’ll say anymore," he ended lamely.
"What about you Coralie?" asked Pippin still incessantly curious. "What did the Lady say to you? You would seem to be the most strangest of our group, being a lady from the future and all. I bet she was very interested in you!"
Legolas had seated Coralie on a couch, where she sat still wrapped in her blanket beside him. She looked rather uncomfortable at first and looked down at her fingers, which she fidgeted with for some time.
"Well?" said Pippin pressing for information.
"Just girl stuff," answered Coralie a little nervously.
"Girl stuff! What sort of answer is that?" came Pippin’s retort.
"It obviously means `mind your own business’, Peregrine Took," stated Merry, suddenly annoyed with his friend.
"And I would agree with Master Merry, Pippin. Perhaps the ladies did indeed discuss matters that only concern themselves and it would be improper for us to press the matter further," said Legolas firmly.
"To me it seemed exceedingly strange," said Boromir. "Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give. It need not be said that I refused to listen. The Men of Minas Tirith are true to their word." Then turning to Frodo he continued. "She held you long in her gaze, Ring-Bearer. What did she say to you?"
But of what passed between himself and the Lady Galadriel, Frodo would not say.
"Whatever came into my mind, I will keep there," he replied.
"Well, have a care!" said Boromir. "I do not feel sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes."
"Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!" said Aragorn sternly. "You know not what you say. There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself. Then let him beware!"
From above the sound of fair Elvish voices wafted down in mournful melody, and they knew by the very tone, that it was a lament for Gandalf, whom they called Mithrandir.
"A lament for Gandalf," spoke Legolas.
"What do they say about him?" asked Merry.
"I have not the heart to tell you. For me the grief is still too near," he answered sadly.
It was Frodo who first put something of his sorrow into song as the lamentation of the Elves grew in his heart.
When evening in the Shire was grey
His footsteps on the Hill were heard;
Before the dawn he went away
On journey long without a word.
From Wilderland to Western shore,
From northern waste to southern hill,
Through dragon-lair and hidden door
And darkling woods he walked at will.
With Dwarf and Hobbit, Elves and Men,
With mortal and immortal folk,
With bird on bough and beast in den,
In their own secret tongues he spoke.
A deadly sword, a healing hand
A back that bent beneath its load;
A trumpet-voice, a burning brand,
A weary pilgrim on the road.
A lord of wisdom throned he sat,
Swift in anger, quick to laugh;
An old man in a battered hat
Who leaned upon a thorny staff.
He stood upon the bridge alone
And Fire and Shadow both defied;
His staff was broken on the stone,
In Khazad-dûm his wisdom died.
"Why, you’ll be beating Mr. Bilbo next!" said Sam.
"No, I am afraid not," said Frodo. "But that is the best I can do yet."
"Well, Mr Frodo, if you do have another go, I hope you’ll say a word about his fireworks," said Sam. "Something like this:
The finest rockets ever seen:
They burst in stars of blue and green,
Or after thunder golden showers
Came falling like a rain of flowers.
Though that doesn’t do them justice by a long road."
"No, I’ll leave that to you, Sam. Or perhaps to Bilbo. But – well, I can’t talk of it any more. I can’t bear to think of bringing the news to him."
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is a music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
Startled, Sam and Frodo looked over at Coralie along with the others. She was standing upright, sans blanket with her eyes looking afar into some distant space and time. Legolas stood up beside her and lightly placed his hand on her shoulder.
"She is fey!" said Boromir to Aragorn, who now held fast a grim expression upon his face.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted:
They fell with faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from our sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the night.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.
For a moment there was silence as each contemplated the verses Coralie had just spoken. The music from the Elves still fell softly upon their sorrow, making their anguish all the more keener still. In spite of Legolas’ gentle hand, Coralie stood adamant as if she had been carved from stone. Then, as though cut from living crystal, with a voice fashioned from the oldest griefs, high and clear she broke into song;
Oh Danny boy,
The pipes are calling
From glen to glen,
And down the mountain side
The summer’s gone,
And all the flowers dying
`Tis you, `tis you must go
And I must bide.
But come ye back
When summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed
And white with snow
`Tis I’ll be here
Or in shadow
Oh Danny boy,
Oh Danny boy,
I love you so.
But when ye you come
And all the roses falling
And I am dead,
As dead I well may be
Go out and find
The place where I am lying
And kneel and say
An Ave there for me.
And I will hear,
Tho’ soft you tread
And then my grave
Will warm and sweeter be
For you shall bend
And tell me
That you love me
And I will sleep in peace
Until you come to me.
And while she painted the air with her voice, every song of mourning from above, every soft spoken word, every imagination cast itself upon her canvass of woe. There was singing within her song, of young men’s voices raised with bravado and patriotic fervour, as ships pulled away from quays. And sweethearts, mothers, daughters, grim and fierce with love: bidding them farewell with jealous duty. Boys who should have been in school, tasting the mud, the blood and tears of combat, the glory of youth cut down. Valour and self-sacrifice, laying down one’s life for a brother, a comrade, the noise of battle and the mercy of silence. Fathers bent over with grief at sons who had gone before them, too soon, too early, young desperate lives lost beyond the measure of their worth.
For a moment, silence more profound than the grave itself, descended upon the Company, save the soft wash of tears that fell from every eye.
She fell, then into her grief, and lay upon the ground sobbing, and none could comfort her, until Galadriel herself came and spoke softly to her as Legolas held her in his arms. Then he with Aragorn, carrying her pack, followed Galadriel to the chamber she had prepared for i titheniel.