Celebrían, my daughter. Can you hear me?
Celebrían opened her eyes slightly. It was dark, but she could feel the soft mattress and pillows underneath her, and knew she was no longer in the cave. No longer a prisoner. She was beyond tired, unable and unwilling to move, but she was safe. Celebrían knew she should have been relieved, but she felt nothing. Her soul was tattered, her heart and mind exhausted. She had not the strength to be happy for her freedom, angry at the creature that had almost killed her, sad and worried for her daughter and best friend.
A cool, damp breeze fluttered the light curtains, brushing gently over her cheeks and forehead. Celebrían closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, then gasping as pain lanced across her chest. She rolled onto her side, minding her wounded shoulder, and fought to catch her breath. She was supposed to be safe now.
But if she was safe, then why did she still hurt so?
Celebrían. Speak, my love. Are you well?
“Who speaks?” Celebrían cried, bewildered.
You do not know me?
There was deep pain in the words, and Celebrían forced herself to sit up, ignoring the pain and soreness that raged through her body mercilessly. With some of her senses restored, she recognized the voice echoing through her thoughts.
“Naneth,” Celebrían whispered, glancing desperately towards the balcony doorway. “Naneth, I am sorry. I. . .I cannot think clearly.”
Lay back, Celebrían. You need rest.
“Why am I alone?” Celebrían whispered as she rested back against the pillows, glancing anxiously around the dark and quiet bedchamber that had once offered so much peace and comfort. A jolt of fear passed through her. “It is so dark. . .”
Panic flooded her instantly. The shadows were numerous, and each one could hide. . .her. Celebrían blinked, seeing Thuringwethil materialize in her mind, feeling the agony of her blade, hearing her icy voice. She knew someone had told her the woman was dead, that she was safe, but when she closed her eyes, she saw those burning yellow eyes.
I am the woman of secret shadow, the servant of Sauron. I am Thuringwethil. . .
Please, just kill me. Please don’t turn me into a vampire. . .
Celebrían, you have to calm down. Thuringwethil is dead. She cannot hurt you any longer. . .
Everything around Celebrían had gone hazy. Her once familiar bedchamber had faded away, transforming before her eyes into a warm, shadowy forest clearing laced with low mist. A dark form lay still between the roots of a large moss-covered tree. Dull yellow eyes glistened wetly through heavily burned flesh, and a low moan escaped between cracked, oozing lips. Celebrían’s blood turned cold. Everyone had reassured her that the creature was dead.
If Thuringwethil was dead, why was she staring at her now?
“Celebrían. . .” she hissed, raising her head slightly. “I can sense you, Celebrían. You will never be safe from me.” She clenched her teeth, baring her fangs. “Every day you live, you will see me. Every night your dreams will be filled with blood and death.” Blood slowly trickled from her mouth, but fire had returned to her eyes. “You will never find happiness.”
It was only a vision. Somewhere deep inside, Celebrían knew that. However, in the fog of pain and confusion, she practically went mad with panic. The forest faded, the bedchamber refocusing, as if returning from a dream. She could hear herself screaming, feel herself thrash around to the point where she became hopelessly tangled in the sheets, and dimly realized that she was no longer alone, but she didn’t calm until she heard Elrond shout her name.
“Celebrían, beloved, it is a dream,” Elrond was saying desperately. “Only a dream. You are safe in Rivendell.”
“She’s alive, Elrond!” Celebrían cried, ignoring the pain and dampness from her shoulder. “I saw her! Thuringwethil is alive!”
“Thuringwethil is dead,” a firm voice Celebrían recognized as Glorfindel’s said. “We saw her burn.”
“We’re all protecting you, Naneth,” Elrohir added quietly. “Nothing can touch you here.”
My daughter, do not frighten me so.
Galadriel’s voice sounded pained and deeply worried. The panic was fading from Celebrían’s forethoughts, giving her a chance to calm down further. As Elrond helped her to sit up, she noticed that the bedchamber was rather crowded. Elrond and Glorfindel stood closest, and behind them were Celeborn, Elladan, Elrohir, and Gandalf. Erestor waited in the corridor beyond, a nervous look on his face. Celebrían blinked, focusing on Elrond’s face.
“What time is it?” she asked softly, raising her hand and seeing it tremble before her eyes.
“Just after dusk, Naneth,” Elladan replied. “You’ve been asleep for five days.”
Five days. She had barely noticed the passage of time. Celebrían sank back onto the pillows, feeling the suffocating weight of exhaustion throughout her body. Elrond was doing something with her shoulder, and she could dimly see blood staining the cloth at the corner of her eye, but the pain was mercifully dull. She knew it shouldn’t be, but she also knew she was just too tired to care. She had not the strength to worry about such trivial things as pulled stitches.
“You need rest,” Celeborn said suddenly, love in his warm gray eyes. “Rest without nightmares. You need to regain your strength.”
“She said she’ll haunt my dreams,” Celebrían replied weakly, too afraid to surrender herself to sleep for fear of seeing the merciless yellow eyes again. “She said all I will ever feel is pain.”
Ignore your dreams, my daughter. They are simply the haunting of bad memories, and nothing more. Rest now. Sleep the dreamless sleep of recovery.
A slight burden had eased off her heart, and Celebrían breathed a soft sigh of relief. Her mother, the White Lady of Lórien, was powerful enough to keep the dreams at bay, and Celebrían knew if there were no dreams, she could sleep in peace.
“Sleep well, Milady,” Gandalf said. “Fear the outside world no longer.”
* * * * * *
Arwen stood gingerly, sighing in deep relief when she felt only a bit of soreness in her legs. Faye, whose arm Arwen grasped for balance and support, smiled in delight as Arwen took a few small steps forward.
“Do you feel pain?” Galadriel, who stood nearby, asked.
“Some soreness,” Arwen replied, turning to face her grandmother. “I think I am ready to go back to Rivendell.”
Arwen had been in Lórien for almost two months recovering from her injuries. Her arm had been taken out of its splint a week before, having healed much faster, and now her legs were healed enough to support her weight without agonizing pain. Pain that, unfortunately, Arwen had felt many times over the last few weeks in her eagerness and impatience to heal. She had stopped trying to force her legs to bear her only because Faye had threatened to tie her to the bed.
And knowing Faye as well as she did, Arwen took the threat seriously. The day Faye had carried out her threat to suspend Elladan and Elrohir from a tree by their bootstraps was still quite easy to picture, though actually pulling off the threat had eventually led to one of the most severe arguments Arwen had ever witnessed between Faye and Celebrían.
“Never before have I seen you so impatient, my child,” Faye chided gently. “You need another week, at least, before you are fit to ride back to Rivendell.”
Arwen scowled at Faye, but there was no mirth in her guardian’s eyes. Faye was deeply serious, and Arwen knew it was useless to argue. Faye had always been fiercely overprotective of her, though it had taken many years for Arwen to realize just how much effort she extended to keep a sharp eye on her. In her younger years, when she spotted Faye watching her from the shadows as she played in the stream or climbed her favorite trees, she thought nothing of it. But as Arwen grew older, and began taking bigger risks, she had grown to realize that the moments when Faye lost sight of her were scarce. She had also begun to notice that small problems she faced, particularly with older Elves, were mysteriously settled the next day. The situation with Elladan and Elrohir had just been the most noticeable of them all.
“Faye, what were you thinking?!”
Arwen jerked her gaze away from her embroidery, startled by the tone of her mother’s voice. She was sitting on the window seat in her room, and the tears she had shed after facing another round of merciless teasing from her brothers had long since dried. Celebrían sounded absolutely furious, and Arwen immediately dropped her work and headed to the source of the shouting. Faye and Celebrían were standing in Elrond’s study, and Celebrían’s cheeks were flushed red with fury. Faye’s gaze was firm and hard, seemingly unaffected by Celebrían’s words. Arwen was confused. What was going on?
“Elladan and Elrohir deserved the punishment,” Faye replied icily, a low growl marring the tone of her voice. From the angle, Arwen couldn’t quite see Faye’s mouth, but she had a feeling her fangs were showing. “They had been warned to cease teasing Arwen.”
“You should have brought them to me or Elrond!” Celebrían snapped. “What you did was out of bounds!”
“They weren’t hurt. They returned to the archery range already.”
“You suspended them to a tree branch by their boots!!”
Arwen coughed, muffling a snort of laughter. So Faye had gone through with the threat. She wished she could have seen the looks on her brothers’ faces when Faye jumped them.
“They should not have treated Arwen like a child.” Faye’s tone had softened slightly. “She has almost reached her two-hundredth year.”
Instead of calming, as Arwen expected, Celebrían grew more furious.
“I know my daughter’s age, Faye! I am her mother!!” There was a dead silence, and Arwen swallowed nervously. “You seem to have forgotten that you are merely a guest here. You have no right to judge the behavior of my children, and never will you have the right to punish them for wrongdoing!”
There was a longer period of silence. Arwen could hear someone approaching from further down the corridor, but was too focused on the argument within the study to see who was coming.
“If you had dealt with the problem the first time I mentioned it, I would not have had to take action,” Faye said flatly, crossing her arms. “Elladan and Elrohir are great warriors. I admire their courage and skill. But they needed to be taught that calling Arwen a child at this point in her life was unprovoked.”
Celebrían’s face had gone white. Arwen grimaced, knowing full well Faye had gone one step too far. Still, she was shocked when Celebrían gritted her teeth and slapped Faye with all the strength she could muster. Faye’s head jerked to the side, but she did not stumble or wince.
“Leave my sight,” Celebrían hissed. “Do not touch my children again.”
Arwen quickly retreated, ducking behind a pillar as Faye appeared in the corridor moments later, pushing the door shut behind her with her heel. Her cheek was red from the strike, her face strangely emotionless. Arwen couldn’t tell what Faye was thinking.
“Faye, you can’t leave,” she said, approaching Faye and throwing her arms around her. “I agree with you. Elladan and Elrohir deserved what you did to them.”
Faye smiled slightly, gently pushing her back and brushing Arwen’s cheek with her fingertips.
“I respect and love Celebrían as much as I do you, Arwen,” she said. “Things need to settle between us, and that will not happen if I remain here.”
“Where will you go?” Arwen asked, grasping her wrists.
“Mirkwood,” Faye replied, gently releasing Arwen’s grip. “I won’t be gone long, my child.”
“But what will I do if Elladan and Elrohir tease me again?” Arwen asked desperately.
Faye did not say anything. Giving her one last sad smile, she turned and walked away. Arwen watched her disappear down the corridor, then turned back to the door to Elrond’s study. Glorfindel had appeared, and seemed deeply confused. Celebrían stood with him. She approached and grasped Arwen’s shoulders.
“I’m sorry you overheard us, my Undomiel,” she said.
“Most of Rivendell overheard you, Lady Celebrían,” Glorfindel commented.
Arwen could not think of anything to say. She turned back to where Faye had disappeared, a heavy feeling settling in her heart.
“Come back,” she whispered, remembering the last few times Faye had left without warning. “Come back soon.”
Arwen snapped out of her reverie. Faye still stood next to her, a concerned look on her face. Arwen shook her head.
“I fare well,” she assured. “I was just thinking.”
“About Celebrían?” Galadriel asked.
Arwen nodded. Faye grasped her shoulder comfortingly.
“It won’t be much longer,” she said. “We’ll be heading home soon enough.”
Arwen looked at Faye, the powerful woman who had been with her most of her life. Looking back, she did not know what she would have done without her.
She didn’t know what she would ever do without her.