The journey through Rohan and Gondor was as uneventful as it had been when Arwen and Gandalf had made it alone. Snaga was silent for much of the time, thinking over and over of Galadwen, her face, her voice when she had been about to kill Arwen. She was my mother, Snaga thought, her emotions conflicting wildly. She was evil, she was insane, and she was my mother. I exist because of her. She made me. She made me, and I killed her.
But she was going to kill Arwen! Snaga blinked fiercely to shove the impending tears away. She was going to kill Arwen for no other reason than who her mother was, and I couldn’t let her do that. She looked at Arwen, riding beside her, her beautiful cousin who would have died without knowing who did it or why, and she thought she might be able to forgive herself.
“You’ll like Lothlorien,” Arwen said suddenly, turning to face her. “It’s beautiful – Elves call it the Golden Wood. And I know Galadriel will like you.” She smiled at Snaga. “I did run away from here, but only because I’d had enough of the formalities here.”
Snaga smiled back. She wanted to believe Arwen, wanted desperately to have her cousin’s words be true, but knew they couldn’t be. If there were formalities in this place, she would not know them. She would be the clumsy barbarian Elf, having to learn by ear the customs of her people. She hoped they would not stay for long.
That night, over dinner, Gandalf announced, “We are near to Lothlorien. I will see you to the border of Lady Galadriel’s realm, but then I must leave you both.” Snaga’s head snapped up in shock as the wizard continued. “I have spent too long away from my original quest as it is, and I should like to see it played out.”
“We can manage,” Arwen said. “Galadriel will give us an escort, if we need it.”
“Good,” Gandalf replied. He stared into their fire, apparently lost in his thoughts.
Arwen saw the apprehensive look on Snaga’s face. “Don’t worry,” she whispered, “I made the trip back to Rivendell from Lothlorien once by myself. The two of us can surely make it with an escort of Lorien Elves.” Snaga nodded, taking some comfort from Arwen’s words.
The next morning, they rose early and took down the camp. Snaga covered up the fire while Arwen packed and Gandalf took down their tent. Then they loaded up their two horses, obtained in Rohan, and rode for the Golden Wood.
At its borders, Gandalf pulled his horse to a halt. “Farewell,” he said, giving them each a smile. “I will see you both in Rivendell.”
“Namarie,” Arwen called after him as he rode away. Snaga echoed her cousin.
Then she turned to face Arwen. “Is this it?” she asked, nodding her head towards the woods rising in front of them.
Arwen smiled, a look of happy expectancy on her face. “That’s Lothlorien, up there.” She nudged the horse they shared forward. “Let’s go.”
Nervous as she was about entering Elven society, Snaga couldn’t help but be awed by the beauty of Lothlorien. The wood rose up around them to touch the sky, and it shimmered with a faint gold light. She relaxed as Arwen deftly guided their horse through the smooth paths, feasting her eyes on the beauty before her.
Arwen pulled the horse up. Snaga looked at her and started to ask, “What -“
“Shh,” Arwen whispered, leaning forward, her ears pricked. Then she sat back with a grin and called, “Haldir! It’s me, it’s Arwen! You can come out from behind the trees now.”
With what might almost have been a rueful smile, an Elf materialized from behind a huge mallorn. Snaga practically jumped, feeling annoyed that she had let her mind wander so much that she hadn’t been able to sense his presence. “Lady Galadriel was not expecting you back so soon,” he said.
“I was not expecting to be back so soon myself,” Arwen replied calmly, “but I am here. Is my grandmother – does she know we’re here?”
“She knows,” Haldir assured her. “Did you think she would not?”
Arwen straightened, suddenly seeming much more like the Elven princess she was. “My cousin and I must see her immediately.”
Haldir’s eyes widened. “Your cousin? Is that Galadwen’s -” He broke off. “Of course. Do you need an escort?”
Arwen shook her head. “I can find the way to Caras Galadhon on my own, but thank you.” She nudged the horse forward, and Haldir stepped aside to let them pass. “The Marchwarden of Lothlorien,” she explained once she and Snaga were out of earshot. “He does an excellent job, but he also slows up some of the ordinary travel – like what just happened with us.” Snaga giggled.
Arwen turned out to be an excellent guide. Snaga had questions about everything (“What are those huge trees called?”), and Arwen was more than happy to educate her cousin about Lothlorien and Elven customs. But even Snaga, who wanted to know as much as she could so as not to make a complete fool of herself, fell silent when Arwen pulled their horse to a halt and nodded ahead of them, where Caras Galadhon, the city in the trees, materialized before their eyes. “It’s so beautiful,” Snaga whispered.
She glanced at Arwen as she, too, let out a sigh. Arwen’s face was lit up from the inside, and a happy smile was on her face. Snaga felt herself smiling as well, if only because of the beauty of the city. “Come on,” Arwen said softly. She nudged the horse forward, and he trotted gently toward Caras Galadhon.