The steady glow of the lamp within a sconce upon the wall touched off the small stone carving Galadriel held in one hand, the figures of an Elf man and maiden, standing together.
The carven lady stood with her back to her lover though she was half turning to him in a gesture of concerned devotion as her hand covered his own where it rested upon her shoulder. Her other hand was twined within his beside them, their fingers woven together. Her face was partially lifted to his, his own bending downward toward hers, the pair frozen eternally, never to share the tender kiss they both longed for.
Dear Amroth, and sweet little Nimrodel.
Fluidly, Galadriel replaced the carven image upon her bedside table, and straightened again where she sat upon the edge of her wide bed.
Such dark thoughts, she chided herself. Though their own sojourns upon this grieving land had ended bitterly for both of them, the dear children were together in the Blessed Realm, now. That was what mattered. But oh, would she for herself ever lay eyes upon the Blessed Realm again, and upon those she loved who dwelt there? Would the Valar ever forgive her willfulness?
With this thought, she could not help but draw in and release a trembling sigh at the deep and heavy weariness that lay ever upon her heart, and she shivered, her thin sleeping gown not enough to keep out the chill that laced itself through her blood.
At the sound, the bedclothes stirred softly behind her, and a moment later, she felt a warm hand upon her shoulder, running gently along the soft flesh of her arm.
“Alatariel,” Celeborn whispered in the soft tones that even now, stirred her blood. “What is it?
At his voice, Galadriel turned, and gazed plaintively upon her lord.
Celeborn, etched in silver light, lay turned toward her upon the pillows, watching her through eyes that were at once both piercing and gentle. His unbound hair rested about his chiseled face like a silver mane, and he smiled as her eyes found his. He wore naught but a loose pair of sleeping breeches, and as he lifted himself upon his elbow and leaned nearer to her, the muscles of his chest, and his flat corded stomach shifted softly beneath his skin like quiet ripples on the surface of a still pond. And for a moment, Galadriel forgot what it was that had woken her from an uneasy sleep.
“What troubles you?” he asked again, gently, his fingers continuing their soft caress.
“Our dear little Nimrodel,” she answered at last, ducking her eyes. “Calassë, for that is her name, though I knew it not before.”
At these quiet, troubled words, Celeborn sat up, and drew himself nearer to her, circling his muscled arms about her slender waist, and tucking his firm jaw against her loose hair, released a low, contented sigh.
At his touch, Galadriel’s form gradually relaxed, and she eased gratefully against him, feeling the gentle tightening of his arms about her, and the steady beating of his heart through the firm warmth of his chest pressed against her back. She turned her head slightly, sighing her thanks against his bare neck. How grateful she was for this beautiful, majestic lord, whose heart was in her keeping.
Before her people, she ever bore herself tirelessly, ever wise and unafraid. Even before Elrond and the grandchildren, she still retained a posture of ancient wisdom and power that often, of herself, she did not feel. Yet with Celeborn, her lord, her friend, and her lover, she knew she could speak her fears and her pains, and he would not fault her, nor think her weak.
“I can see nothing of her past,” Galadriel murmured sorrowfully. “All is darkness to me. Why can I not see? What blocks my sight? Would that I could see, for she has become as dear as a daughter to me.”
Galadriel sighed wearily again, to which Celeborn drew her closer, and smoothing the weight of her hair softly aside with one hand, he bent his head and brushed a lingering kiss upon the soft flesh of her throat.
“You are the strongest, wisest woman I have ever known,” he murmured. “In time, you will know. Why she seems not even the age of Lalaith, yet speaks of Gondolin as if she knows it. Perhaps she will remember, or perhaps it will be revealed to you. Somehow, the light will come.”
Galadriel breathed, “All I know now, is that she is frail and bruised, both her heart and her body. And that Elrohir has some part to play in her return to who she was before, though what part is his, I cannot yet see. How much misery she has been through-,”
“She is here, safe now,” Celeborn returned softly, lifting his head and nuzzling the tresses of her hair gently. “And she will not come to harm again. Elrohir will see to it.” A slight smile entered his voice as he added, “Maddening as the lad can be at times, his loyalties are strong.”
Galadriel sighed, and closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of her lord’s embrace. “Indeed,” she agreed quietly. “His heart is true and noble. The maiden who wins his love, will be blessed indeed.”
She smiled pertly at this thought, and lifting her face toward her lord’s, softly breathed, “As am I-,”
Her voice grew silent as Celeborn smiled, and drew near, the fragrant, musky scent of him washing over her as his hands cupped her face, and he kissed her, plying her parted lips with tender skill, as warm and as ardent as any youthful lover.
There was no further need for words.
“Do not let him go! Do not let Maeglin take Eärendil away!“
The wild scream, full of terror and grief brought Elrohir thrashing awake from his weary dreams upon a divan in the forechamber of his grandparent’s spacious flet. The book he had been reading before he had dropped to sleep, fell with a thump to the floor, but he barely noticed. For the sound of wild grief filled weeping followed swiftly upon the frightened cry. And he scrambled to his feet, stumbling through the silver darkness of the room and down a curved set of fluted steps to a doorway that led into a small room perched upon a lower branch. Calassë’s room, where beyond the door, the weeping, wild and fraught with grief, continued, unabated.
“Calassë,” he cried, bursting through the door, tumbling in his haste to his knees beside the bed where the maiden thrashed wildly from one side to the other. Her thin nightgown was knotted about her bare, slender legs, and her bedclothes rumpled and twisted about her as she sobbed in her dreams, her eyes dim and unseeing staring up at the ceiling, filled with hopeless, bitter tears.
“Lady Calassë, wake up!” he cried, catching her by her thin shoulders. The damp of her cold sweat moistened his hands even through the cloth of her sleeping gown as he jostled her. And at last, her weeping weakened, her eyes fluttered, and brightened, and came to rest upon him.
“Ai,” she breathed, glancing down at herself, at her sweat moistened nightdress, and the knotted sheets twisted and tortured about and beneath her.
“It was no more than a dream,” she gasped, clutching her knotted blanket against herself, and turning her eyes to his, deep and pleading as she studied his face where he knelt at her side. “Eärendil,” she breathed, then glanced away to the end of the bed where a small blanket lay woven through as if with the light of silver stars. Draped over the footboard, it had remained untouched in spite of her thrashing. The blanket she had been carrying when Haldir and his lady had found her, Elrohir remembered, the only clue as to who she could be. And without a word, sensing that the touch of it would bring her comfort, he reached for it.
The cloth was cool and soft to the touch, glitting softly as his fingers closed over it, recalling to his mind, the spark of stars in the night sky. And with a smile, he delivered into her hands, relishing the look of quiet gratitude in her eyes as she took it from him, and lifted her face to his.
“Eärendil, you are safe,” she sighed clutching the small blanket to herself with one hand and touching her other against his smooth jaw. At this, she fell forward, almost limply, her forehead against his shoulder as she muttered, “You are safe, Eärendil. I had feared Maeglin would kill you, for no more than being the son of Tuor, and not his own. Maeglin did not hurt you?”
“Maeglin did not hurt me,” Elrohir echoed, his hands trailing along her arms in a comforting gesture as her golden head sagged upon his shoulder. “The lord Tuor slew him during the attack upon Gondolin. Lady Idril and-, her son were saved.”
Calassë sighed at this, and then as before but more softly now, she began to weep again, straining closer to Elrohir for comfort. “Maeglin,” she muttered, her grief muted and low. “He died then?”
Elrohir nodded mutely, his brow furrowing. Calassë did not know it? Every child tutored on the fall of Gondolin knew that Tuor had cast his foe from the slopes of Amon Gwareth, and that Maeglin had perished in the flames of his own betrayal.
“Maeglin, Maeglin,” Calassë wept pitifully, burrowing weakly against Elrohir’s neck. He drew her closer, pressing his jaw against her brow, heedless of the hot tears that washed his flesh, and the cloth of his tunic. “I thought he loved me,” Calassë whimpered, “and I once thought that I loved him, and could never be happy if I could not possess him. Such a fool I was! He never loved me. What desires he possessed were lustful and vile, and set upon Lady Idril. And his heart was as stone. Yet if I were to have learned of all of this without you here beside me, of Gondolin’s fall, and of Maeglin’s death, treacherous as he was, I would weep forever, I think, as one with Lady Nienna. Only knowing that you, my Eärendil, are safe now, gives me cause to hope for a future with joy in it.”
“Ai, Calassë,” Elrohir heard himself breath softly. He touched a hand to her cool, sweat dampened tresses as she shuddered against him. What blindly maddening dreams was she yet enduring? None of this that she was speaking could be so! She had never known Maeglin, nor Eärendil. She had never been in Gondolin. She was far too young for any of this to possibly be near the truth. When would she remember?
“Until you are ready for the truth, I will be whomever you wish me to be, if only it will dry your tears,” he murmured, and his heart gave a fierce throb at the oath. For in spite of his grandmother’s charge that he not reveal his true identity until the maiden was ready, his heart still bore an odd pain. A strange sadness that simmered within him when his mind dwelt long upon the understanding that Calassë truly thought him to be another. And he uttered a hurried prayer to the Valar that her darkness would soon pass, and that when she knew him at last for who he was, she would forgive him his deception.
Her head lifted, and her weeping, reddened eyes focused upon his almost as if she sensed his thoughts and his doubts. And in her eyes, he perceived her forgiveness already.
“But my dear one,” she sniffed, her questioning eyes searching his. “Do not think that I wish you to be any other than who you are. One in whose veins flows the noble blood of both Elves and Men.” She sighed, her brow furrowed, as her searching eyes, wet with the remnants of her tears, shone in the silver darkness of her room. “I can see the light of the lady Idril in your eyes, and the strength of the lord Tuor in your face-,” she paused a long moment, her fingers brushing lightly over his jaw as she murmured softly in a thoughtful tone, “there is more, also-,”
Elrohir sighed low at her words and he trembled within and his heart quickened, though he remained submissive to her thorough yet gentle study of his features. At last she stirred within the circle of his arms and murmured, “And I am glad of what I see, for by it, you are you. And that is all I wish for you to be. No more or less.”
At these words, a soft brush of warm hope touched Elrohir’s heart, and he smiled. But Calassë did not. Her eyes fell, and she sighed a low, lonely breath.
“Forgive me,” she muttered, her voice fraught with a vein of consternation as she released him, and drew back, falling wearily against her pillows, “Would that I were not so weak and fearful as a child-,”
“Fear not, Calassë. There is no shame in your tears, for you have been through much pain,” Elrohir returned. “You are stronger than even I can know,” he added warmly, catching her hand up, and running his fingers lightly over her own.
At his touch, the first inklings of a smile began to tug at the corners of her soft mouth. And Elrohir sat back and smiled as her brightened countenance washed his heart with light. What power this frail maiden held over him, he marveled. Never had he felt so strong, and yet so weak in the same moment! And all this because of a maiden’s smile. What could such joyful confusion portend?
“My dear Nimrodel?” The voice of Elrohir’s grandmother, breathless and worried, sounded near the door, and his thoughts left him as he glanced up and stood quickly as she brushed through the door.
Galadriel was clad in a silken dressing robe that trailed in waves behind her as she flew through the doorway, her breath coming in swift gasps as she dropped upon the edge of the bed, catching Calassë’s hand that Elrohir had released, her face as fraught with worry as a mother’s would be.
“Ai, but you are Calassë now,” Galadriel soothed as she rubbed Calassë’s hand in a comforting gesture, turning to smile up into the eyes of her lord Celeborn, who had come behind, more slowly than his lady. “Dear Calassë, so like our Celebrian was.”
“How is she?” Celeborn queried in a gentle though drowsy voice, pausing in the doorway, running his fingers through his hair, and blinking heavy-eyed, his own robe cast sloppily about his broad shoulders.
Elrohir glanced at him, then turned his eyes away to hide a brief smirk. At another time, his naturally merry nature would have caused him to laugh outright at the mussed and rumpled sight of his sleepy grandfather, who at all other times, was so fastidious and precise.
But now, Elrohir’s concern for Calassë outweighed all other trivialities, and he sighed, somber faced again as Calassë, in the voice of a penitent child called out, “Adda?”
How easily the child-like pet name had slipped from her mouth, Elrohir mused as Celeborn’s eyes softened at the girl’s plaintive voice. He made his way into the room, and seated himself beside his wife upon the edge of the maiden’s bed.
“Adda, Nana, It was a nightmare,” Calassë sniffed. “Forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive, young one,” Celeborn said warmly, his voice reminding Elrohir of his own father’s when he woke in the night from the tortured remnants of a black dream to find Elrond’s patient smile above him.
“Indeed,” Galadriel agreed, her hold upon Calassë’s hand growing tighter. “We cannot think ill of you, now that you can speak of your pain. The evil that was done to you, is being drawn out of your wounded heart, like poison. You are healing.”
“But I cannot remember any-, any evil,” Calassë sighed plaintively. “I remembered nothing before the laughing stream, and the golden trees, and the fair lady Lothriel and her lord, Haldir who have become as a sister and as a brother to me. And not until dear Lord Eärendil came, could I remember anything else, save-,” her words died, as a thoughtful look came into her eyes.
“Save the name of Lord Glorfindel,” Galadriel soothed.
“In- indeed,” Calassë agreed as a distant, hopeful look crossed her face, and then faded. “But now, I do not remember why. Though I do remember faces, dear and beloved, as if through a mist. And I remember Gondolin, when the evil came on the eve of the Gates of Summer. And when Maeglin took Lady Idril, and her dear baby, Eärendil away. Beyond that, until the stream, and the trees, there is nothing.” Calassë glanced past Galadriel’s shoulder, toward Elrohir, and smiled softly. “But my sweet Eärendil has come safe in spite of my fears, and I am glad, now, and unafraid of what I do not know.”
At this, Galadriel sighed, but said nothing as she straightened the maiden’s nightgown, and drew her tortured coverlet over her again, as if Calassë were a mere Elfling. And Celeborn, his eyes filled with a look of mute sympathy, glanced over his shoulder at Elrohir where he stood in the doorway.
Elrohir swallowed, and offered a brave smirk in return, his heart warming at the soft look of gratitude upon Calassë’s face as Galadriel finished her task, and touched a hand once again to the maiden’s cheek. Calassë was in all intent, a child of these woods now, dear to his grandparents and to all of the Galadhrim as if she were born among them, Elrohir mused. And it was well that she was, for until she remembered herself, she had no other kin.
But then Elrohir’s thoughts froze as a faint premonition shivered through his veins. There was something in her face that reminded Elrohir of someone he knew. His mind wondered on it a long moment before a soft thought unsure and tentative, murmured to his thoughts, Ithilwen? And though he was yet uncertain, his mind caught swiftly hold upon the name. Was this lost maiden perhaps akin to Lady Ithilwen of Mirkwood? Elrohir drew in a deep breath at the thought as a soft lullaby slipped from Galadriel’s lips as she lulled the maiden to sleep like a child. And as Calassë smiled, her hair cast like a golden hallow across her pillow, her gaze growing dim and unfocused, Elrohir turned from the room, and made his way out.