Galadriel, the Lady of the Golden Wood, was sitting by the window of her flet and musing when the knock came on her door. It startled her out of her memories, and she got quickly to her feet and opened the door. One of the patrol Elves stood outside, his pale face touched with the barest hint of a flush. He had probably run here from his post. “What news do you bring?” Galadriel asked.
He bowed his head and replied, “Lady, your granddaughters are in the city.”
A smile turned up the corners of Galadriel’s mouth. She had been wondering when they would get here. “Thank you,” she said. “I will come down to see them immediately.” The patrol Elf bowed again and left her.
Galadwen’s daughter was returning… Galadriel could remember as clearly as though it were happening at that very moment her younger daughter standing before her and Celeborn as they interrogated her mercilessly. It had been so hard to pass sentence on Galadwen for trying to seduce Elrond, but it had had to be done. Galadwen’s large blue eyes had widened in shock when she heard her punishment – exile from Lothlorien – but then they had hardened. Her law had clenched, and she had turned and left her parents without saying a word. The last thing Galadriel had heard from her daughter’s mouth had been words spoken in anger and hate as they were drawn out of her: “Yes, I did go to Lord Elrond last night. Does it please you to know that, Mother?”
And now Galadwen’s child had come back, completing the circle. Galadriel wondered if she could be strong enough to greet this unexpected granddaughter as she deserved, wondered if she could ever look at her without remembering Galadwen. But I must try, she thought.
She closed her eyes and passed a hand over her face, making herself as calm as she could be. Then, opening her eyes, the Lady of Lorien walked out of her room and down to the roots of the mallorn, where her kin were waiting for her.
Snaga accepted the arm of an Elf to help her down from Arwen’s horse. Arwen herself was also dismounting with help, although Snaga could see the faint lines of annoyance on her face – Arwen was perfectly capable of dismounting from a horse and resented it when people assumed otherwise. But where Snaga would normally have found humor in that situation, now she was full of apprehension. She refused to clutch at Arwen’s hand as they walked toward the steps leading up to the house nestled in the mallorn tree, and she could see, as though through the eyes of one of the gathered Elves, every stain and tear on the dress she had borrowed from Arwen.
It was all very well to promise, in the bowels of her dungeon in Dol Guldur, that she would come to her grandmother. Actually doing it was another thing. And Snaga had not counted on the mildly interested and blandly scornful eyes fastened on her with every step she took. Just come, Grandmother, she thought nervously.
And then a figure in a shining white gown came into view on the steps that curled around the mallorn, and all rational thought was wiped from Snaga’s mind. She knew instinctively that this was Galadriel, and she felt the impulse to kneel and bow her head before such obvious majesty. She forgot about taking cues from Arwen on proper behavior; she could not move anyway. Nothing was more important at the moment than to just look at her grandmother coming toward her.
Arwen, who knew the protocol, bowed her head. Galadriel smiled faintly – much as Arwen hated proper behavior, she knew when to use it. But Galadwen’s daughter – for Galadriel had not learned her name – stayed standing, her eyes wide, a look of astonishment and reverence on her face. Galadriel was reminded forcibly of Celebrian and Galadwen – Celebrian, like Arwen, knew when to be proper. But Galadwen had never taken to that, had always done what she wanted to do. A single tear stabbed at Galadriel’s eye, but she blinked it away and stepped from the stairs. “Welcome, Undomiel,” she said softly. She had not expected Arwen to accept the flowery name that the Lorien Elves had given her, but she did. No resentment was on her face when she lifted it. “And welcome to you as well, Aglarfin,” Galadriel added, turning to Snaga. She saw her brow furrow in confusion, but she too accepted the name and met Galadriel’s eyes. “Come.” She turned and beckoned them both to follow. They did, Arwen taking the lead and Snaga following.
Galadriel led them both into her flet and closed the door behind her. Then she turned to face her granddaughters. Arwen instantly dropped her formal pose and ran to hug Galadriel, who opened her arms and returned the embrace with a smile. When Arwen let go of her grandmother, she turned to Snaga. “Galadriel,” she said – she had never thought it quite right to simply say “Grandmother” – “this is my cousin, Snaga. Snaga, Galadriel.” Arwen held out her hand to Snaga, inviting her closer.
Snaga took a few tentative steps toward Arwen. She was acutely aware of the awkwardness of the situation. She had no idea how to behave toward her grandmother, no idea how to greet her. She didn’t even know her. Snaga made an attempt at a curtsey. “Thank you for – for allowing me to come,” she managed, her tongue stumbling over the polite words she had never had to speak in Mordor.
Galadriel could feel her unsureness. She knew that Snaga’s carefully spoken words were her version of an overture of friendship. Now it was her turn. She walked over to Snaga and took her hands, looking steadily into her blue eyes. “I am thrilled to have you here with us,” she said gently. “Truly thrilled.”
Snaga swallowed down a sudden lump in her throat. She tried on a smile and found that her face worked well enough to produce one. Behind Galadriel, she could see Arwen’s face light up with jubilance. Her own smile widened, and Galadriel pulled her second granddaughter into a hug. Snaga hugged her back, closing her eyes and swallowing to keep her emotions from leaking out of her eyes.
Finally she let go – but only because she could no longer breathe. She looked back at Galadriel and felt a surge of affection. This was her grandmother. This was an Elf who wanted her here, who was willing to love her, no matter what her past was.
Snaga gave in to her impulse and hugged Galadriel again.
This time, when she released her, she felt no awkwardness. She should always have been living here, and this was not a visit, this was a homecoming. There were suddenly a million things Snaga wanted to know, and she asked the first question that came into her mind. “You called me Aglarfin, outside,” she said. “What does it mean?”
Galadriel smiled and touched Snaga’s golden hair. “In Sindarin,” she replied, “it means `shining hair.'” Snaga smiled back.
It was Arwen who broke the silence, saying, “Galadriel, I’m starving. Can we have something to eat?” I sound very much like Bilbo, she thought with a bit of embarrassment. Traveling with a hobbit must have worn off on me.
Galadriel, though, laughed and answered, “Of course. Come along, both of you, and we’ll get you something. And all the Lothlorien Elves can stare in awe at the both of you.”
“Not again!” Arwen complained, dramatically overdoing her sigh of resignation. Snaga giggled, a relatively unfamiliar sound to her, and followed her grandmother and cousin out of the flet.
The feast Galadriel eventually held for both of them was not as bad as Snaga had feared it would be. In the first place, Arwen had lectured her on the rudiments of proper manners, so she knew the basics of what she was expected to do. But in the second place, Galadriel, with incredible foresight, had seated Snaga beside herself, and not many Elves would simply stare at their Lady’s dinner partner, as Snaga felt sure they would have it she had been anywhere but on Galadriel’s right hand. And Galadriel had not divulged her name to the Elves, naming her only Aglarfin, an acceptable Elven name.
On the whole, then, Snaga was feeling much more optimistic than she would have otherwise when she crawled sleepily into the bed in the flet that she and Arwen were to share. Maybe this won’t be so bad, she thought hopefully, settling herself into the soft sheets.
Something collided with her legs. Snaga gasped and jerked upright, her hand reaching for her dagger, which she’d put beside her bed, before she heard a voice she knew whisper frantically, “Snaga, it’s me, it’s Arwen!”
Snaga dropped the dagger instantly. “Arwen! I’m – I’m sorry,” she whispered, blushing in the dark.
“We’ll have to cure you of that,” Arwen remarked, her voice somewhat shaken but regaining its lightness. “The only people you’ll have to be afraid of here are the Elves who are bent on ceremony, and they won’t attack you with weapons.”
“What will they use?” Snaga asked, hoping to get Arwen talking and to have her forget what had just happened.
Arwen made a face. “Protocol.”
Snaga giggled. “Tell me,” she suggested, sleepiness drifting away at the prospect of a late-night chat with her cousin. “In fact, why don’t you pull your bed over next to mine so you don’t have to sit up while I lie down?”
“I’ll do that.” Arwen got off Snaga’s bed, and Snaga quickly pushed her dagger fully under her bed, where she couldn’t get at it and frighten innocent friends. Meanwhile, Arwen was pushing her heavy bed as best she could. “I’m doing better at this than I thought I would,” she said in mild astonishment. “I suppose it’s travel.”
“And holding off all the Orcs on the parapet of Dol Guldur,” Snaga added.
“That too,” Arwen laughed. She gave one more shove, and the bed thudded into Snaga’s. “Now, you wanted to know about the well-cultivated Elven weapon of protocol.”
Snaga couldn’t help but laugh at Arwen’s mock-serious tone. “I do,” she answered.
“Very well, then. The first thing you should know is…”