In spite of the thoughts of the menace of Dol Guldur weighing ever upon his mind, Elrohir’s heart was light, his lips curled up in a twisted smile as he sat upon a low stone, twining spliced feathers to an arrow shaft, a small bundle of finished arrows resting beside him. But his thoughts were not on his work. Rather, he was recalling the way Calassë had bidden him farewell minutes before, as she moved down the path away from him, her arm linked girlishly through the arm of Lady Lothriel, a basket swinging over her free arm as the two ladies tripped lightly over a footbridge, and skipped blithely over a rill, and down beyond it, her visage vanishing from his sight like the bright beam of the sun, snuffed suddenly out.
“Your thoughts seem to lead you upon pleasant paths,” a gentle voice sounded at his shoulder, and Elrohir turned to meet the eyes of his grandmother as she studied his face, a small smile playing at her lips as her eyes narrowed with bright, secret thoughts, and he wondered how wistful his countenance appeared to her as she seated herself lightly beside him upon the stone.
“Calassë has gone with Lady Lothriel to gather berries in the glen,” he returned. “She is happy. Thus, I am as well.”
“She has healed well, both her heart and her body, in the short time she has been here,” Galadriel murmured warmly. “It is surprising is it not, how deeply one can grow to care for another so quickly?”
Elrohir drew in a deep breath as Galadriel glanced askance at him, her smile tugging upward.
He opened his mouth to speak, though no words came out. To this, Galadriel’s smile only broadened. “From the moment I first came to Doriath and met your grandfather’s eyes as he stood near the throne of his kinsman, King Thingol, I felt something. His beauty and regal bearing captured my gaze, and stopped the breath in my throat. Yet I felt also, a strange and tender kinship with him, a familiarity that whispered to my mind that I had known him before. As if our souls had been calling to one other. My heart was lost to him that day, though I did not know it, then.”
Galadriel smiled at the cherished memory, her eyes moist. “We met often, he and I, beneath the misty trees, and we would walk alone together, and speak of many things. But it was not until many seasons later, on a fair, golden day when we walked hand in hand, as we had grown to do, that suddenly, I understood, at last.” Galadriel sighed softly. “We had never spoken of love before that day. Yet, when he turned me to him, when he touched my face, and declared at last that he loved me, it seemed so natural a thing. As if we had been lovers for ages. I confessed my love for him as well, and we plighted our troth in that hour. He kissed me there, under the trees of Doriath-,” Galadriel sighed dreamily like a young maiden and smiled. “And it was then that he called me Alatáriel*, Galadriel as our kin now say it, and since that day, I have favored that name above all others that I have been given.”
“Maiden crowned with a radiant garland,” Elrohir breathed softly, his lips curled in a soft smile at the well loved story before he glanced down, the sinews of his jaw growing taut beneath his warmly tanned skin.
“I have felt kinship with Calassë from our first meeting,” he admitted, his voice soft in his. “And she has only grown dearer to me these last days-,”
Galadriel lowered her eyes and nodded thoughtfully, somberly at this. “She has spoken to you of the memories that have returned, that have troubled her? She spoke not at all to me.”
Elrohir nodded, his lips pursed as he studied the ground at his feet, setting the arrow he had been fashioning aside, unfinished as he clasped his hands, and bent his head in quiet misery.
“That is good,” Galadriel sighed, reaching out and encircling her slender white through the crook of his arm. “It has been painful for her, and for you to hear, for you share her pain. But you have given her the comfort she sorely needed. Glad indeed am I, that you have come. No other could have given her such healing as you.”
“Except perhaps, for Lord Glorfindel,” Elrohir sighed, lifting his head somewhat. “Had he come, surely she would have remembered who she was, instead of recalling only half forgotten memories that have been changed with time.”
“She remembers more clearly, my dear one, than perhaps you may wish to think,” Galadriel murmured gently, to which Elrohir sighed, lifted his shoulders, and let them fall again.
“She says she once lived in Gondolin,” he sighed dejectedly. “She speaks of how her father fell in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, how her mother died of grief-,” Elrohir glanced swiftly at Galadriel, studying her deep, wise eyes. “She speaks of the Hidden City. Of the Lady Idril, of my grandfather, of Maeglin who betrayed them all, as if she knew each of them, intimately. But none of this could be so!”
“Indeed?” Galadriel breathed softly. “And why do you think that what she speaks of, could not be so, my cherished grandson?”
Elrohir swallowed sharply and shook his head. “Were her words true, she would have been taken during the Fall of Gondolin! I cannot endure to think of her suffering in such a wretched state since the Second Age, Grandmother!” Elrohir gestured wildly with his free arm.
Galadriel did not speak, though her eyes drooped. And she nodded sorrowfully.
“Perhaps her father fell in the Last Alliance. Or perchance, the Battle of the Five Armies, of which I took part, with the Elves of Mirkwood.” Elrohir gulped desperately, raking lean, trembling fingers through his dark hair. “And I wonder. For her features resemble somewhat, those of the lady, Ithilwen who dwells now with kin in Imladris, though her parents dwell in King Thranduil’s realm. Her father could have fallen in either of those great battles, for Calassë cannot remember her own age. She could be younger than a century, for as youthful as she appears-,”
“I do not think that she is,” Galadriel murmured thoughtfully. “I can see nothing of dear Calassë’s past, or kin, but my heart is beginning to tell me that her memories are clearer than we may wish to think they are.”
“She is not of Gondolin, Grandmother,” Elrohir grumbled softly, setting his jaw tightly. “She could not be! Among the memories she claims to possess but which could not truly be, she is certain that she was once my grandfather’s nurse! Yet I have read of the history of Gondolin, and of its fall. It is mentioned, briefly that Eärendil had a nurse who was lost in the Fall-, nothing else is mentioned of her, nothing of her kin, nor how she died, though surely it was terrible. And it is written in the histories that she was called Meleth.”
“It is also written in the histories that I was called Nerwen,” Galadriel added gently. “Such was the name my mother gave me. And Artanis I was called by my father.” A soft flush of color darkened Galadriel’s cheeks. “Though they are ever mine, yet I do not give them as my name. For I favor the name your grandfather gave me.”
Elrohir frowned softly. He could hear his heart pounding in his throat as a strange premonition drew across his heart. “Calassë and my grandfather’s nurse, Meleth, are not the same maiden, Grandmother! I cannot believe it.”
Galadriel sighed softly at this, and leaning toward him, pressed a soft kiss to his taut cheek. “It is perhaps more difficult for you to face the memories of her past, than it is, for her. Yet as painful as your caring for her may become-,” Galadriel sighed as Elrohir shifted wordlessly at this, and turned his eyes toward her, studying their blue depths, fathomless as the ocean. “She needs you, Elrohir. She needs your strength.”
With that, the Lady of the Golden Wood stood, and with graceful ease, glided away, casting him a tender smile over her shoulder before she slipped away, and into the trees.
Elrohir sighed softly before he caught up the unfinished arrow, his fingers absently performing their task before he finished his work, and set the shaft aside, then bent his head as if in weary thought. Long he sat thusly, his head bent, his hands clasped, musing over his grandmother’s words before footsteps interrupted him, and a pair of male voices came at him along the path.
He lifted his head. Rumil and Orophin came striding near, grinning over some shared joke and he stood as they approached him.
“Ho, my lord,” Rumil called out merrily as the brothers stopped upon the path before him, and traded a look that said well enough that he was the subject of their amusement. “How do you fare?”
“Well enough,” Elrohir returned quietly.
Orophin cocked a brow at this, trading a bemused look with his brother. “Indeed? You look positively besotted, my lord. No witty words from you today?” he chuckled softly. “Surely you are either unwell, or the absence of our fair Calassë, for she is not beside you as she so often is, has left you rudderless and lost.”
“Calassë?” he asked almost absently, to which the brothers both chuckled heartily.
“Indeed it is so, my brother!” Rumil hissed merrily, nudging Orophin. “As you have said! He has been struck a fatal blow, I fear. And soon his bachelorhood will pass into memory, to be mourned by those of us who have not yet fallen victim to the love of a maiden!”
“True enough,” Orophin returned with a twisted grin. “But surely the poor man is not beyond hope?” He approached Elrohir and clapped a companionable hand upon the other Elf’s shoulder. “Surely there is something we can do for you, my lord?”
Elrohir shook himself at this, and drew back, blinking his eyes as if returning suddenly to his wits. “Indeed, there is!” he returned.
“Ah, that is well!” Orophin returned smiling, though his grin faded to a look of question as Elrohir stooped, and gather up the bundle of arrows he had been fashioning, and shoved them raspy and brittle, into Orophin’s arms. “Carry these for me, to the armory. I have a task of great import, which I must see quickly to.”
Orophin stared at him, wordless over the pile of arrow shafts, before Rumil chuckled. “He means, dear brother, that he must seek out Lady Calassë.” And to this, Orophin’s grin returned.
But before his teasing tone could return however, Elrohir had turned away from them. “Fare well, this fine day, my friends,” he called over his shoulder before he broke into a swift run, his feet taking him down the path, up and over the rill where Calassë had disappeared minutes before arm in arm with Lothriel.
The path dipped and turned through the trees, laced with striations of light and shadow until it ended at the crest of a low rill, and dropped down into a fair, sunlit clearing.
Well ordered rows of berry bushes littered the grassy space, their branches dripping with ripe fruit. The cheerful voices of many women echoed up toward him as they busily picked the ripe berries, dropping them by handfuls, into the baskets they carried over an arm.
Calassë stood in the center of the clearing her back to him, a basket over one arm as she plucked the small ripe fruit from the bush she stood before. Her golden hair hung loose about the slender curves of her shoulders in a trailing cloud of gold, and as she turned to trade brief pleasantries with a maiden near to her, a slim, pert smile graced the warm curve of her mouth. She was adorned in a plain, workaday gown of soft doe brown, the sleeves rolled to her elbows, exposing the smooth white flesh of her slender, delicate forearms. Elrohir sighed softly, unable to deny the warm stirring that moved within him. For she was as beautiful as if she was adorned in the fairest gown.
Several of the nearest maidens noted him, and Elrohir good naturedly returned their bright smiles and waving hands, though his eyes quickly returned again to Calassë, whose fair eyes raised to an approaching friend.
“My lady, Lothriel!” she laughed at Haldir’s lady who drew near, hefting a heavy basket loaded with ripe fruit.
“You know your lord would chide you, my lady, for straining yourself as you are,” Calassë chided teasingly, her merry voice carrying easily to Elrohir.
To this, Lothriel rolled her eyes petulantly. “My lord, Haldir, over worries himself, though he strives most admirably not to,” she returned, touching a hand to her yet narrow abdomen. “I am doing nothing over strenuous. If my beloved wishes to scold me, then I shall have to silence him with kisses, and remind him in sundry ways that I am not a weakling simply because I carry his child within me!”
Calassë giggled quietly at this, her fair face coloring in what Elrohir felt was a most alluring shade at the lady’s cheerfully brazen words.
Lothriel smiled teasingly at this, and put a gentle hand about the girl’s shoulders, squeezing companionable, their girlishly whispered words too quiet now for Elrohir to hear, though he noted, the warm flush did not leave Calassë’s smiling face, nor did the dancing light fade from her eyes.
After a brief moment, Lothriel gave the maiden a final squeeze, and stepped away, hefting her burdened basket down the rows of fruit laden bushes, leaving Calassë alone. And Elrohir took this as his opportunity, descending the low rill to the floor of the small dell, and drawing nearer toward the golden haired maiden, his tread silent and light beneath the soft leather soles of his boots.
She did not turn, and pausing a space behind her, Elrohir calmed his swiftly beating heart before he opened his mouth, and softly murmured, “La-, Lady Meleth?”
Calassë paused, her hand poised lightly before the bush where she was about to pluck another berry. And slowly, her movements excruciatingly graceful, she turned. Her eyes found his, and she smiled, washing Elrohir’s soul in warm sunlight even as his mind reeled at the heavy weight of his sudden understanding.
“Yes, my dear lord, Eärendil?” she asked gently, the soft sapphire of her eyes finding him as a warm flush once again crept into her lovely face. “What is it?”
*From Unfinished Tales, Part Two: The Second Age, “The History of Galadriel and Celeborn”
“Later in this essay it is said that though called Nerwen (“man-maiden”) by her mother and Artanis (“noble woman”) by her father, the name she chose to be her Sindarin name was Galadriel, `for it was the most beautiful of her names, and had been given to her by her lover, Celeborn, of the Teleri, whom she wedded later in Beleriand.'”
~Quenya and Telerin form of the name was Alatáriel~