Footsteps in Time Part 1

My Fanfiction  ~*~*~  My Livejournal  ~*~*~  Main Page ~*~*~  My Links  ~*~*~  Email

'Footsteps in Time'

 

Part 1

Balar

The sea lay moondark under the stars, the ebb and flow of the waves strongest on this the harbour side of Círdan's house. Galadriel impatiently pushed her hair back behind her ears and stared out into the darkness.

Nothing.

The night lay serene despite the low wind that seemed to blow wherever one was on Balar. It was filled with ordinary sounds: frogs, night-stirring creatures, the sea. Nothing to explain the instinct that had driven her from sleep and sent her outdoors in search of fresh air and answers.

She had woken like this before, to the footsteps of history marching across her life. She had watched brothers suffer and die, felt the loss of friends. There had been births, too, nameless but potent, some filled with menace, one a small, bright star of hope. But this time there had been nothing, just deep, nameless foreboding and a sense of events too close, too harsh.

"Your wrap. Anyone abroad at this hour would be shocked to find you dressed like this."

His voice was low and deep, melodic with laughter, at one with her heartbeat, with the breath flowing in and out. She had felt him before she heard him. Confident hands draped a light, woolen wrap around her before moving to rest easily on her shoulders as Celeborn stood behind her looking out towards the sleeping dark of the shore.

"What happened?" he asked finally as she kept silent. She moved closer, and he brought his arms round to circle her waist. She rested her hands on his forearms and leaned her head back against him with a sigh.

"Don't know," she admitted. "It was - I woke as though someone had called me."

"No faces?" he asked carefully. "No voices?" Celeborn had held her more than once through the aftermath of faces and voices. One such vision had been instrumental in bringing them here. This, though, seemed different. He held her closer, resting his cheek against her hair as Galadriel shook her head slowly.

"Nothing. Not like the other times, no." She had told him about Fingon's death weeks before news reached them of the defeat that had taken the High King's life and passed the crown to yet another of her kin, this time an absentee king in a hidden city. She had passed the days after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears calmly, but with sad, quiet eyes; she had become accustomed to loss.

"I'll make you some tea if you like?" he offered, although he made no move to release her. Mîrant's herbal tea usually helped her to relax after one of those incidents when worlds met and time and space entwined.

"Not yet." Her eyes were still on the shore, her face lifted to the cool, salt air. Celeborn never tried to understand her gift; it was outside of his terms of reference. He knew horses and trees, how to listen, how to command. He had learned about swords as well as bows, he could chart a path from the stars, he understood the needs of the land. He had his strengths, she had hers. There was no more need for him to understand her Sight than for her to determine the tension of a bow.

So it had been from the day of their first meeting, a sense of completion, unshakeable, undeniable.

~*~*~*~*~

Doriath

Rumour of the wonders of Menegroth, of gardens made from precious gems and of coloured lights dancing on filigreed stone, were a constant source of umbrage to newly-arrived Noldorin princes denied entry into the Guarded Realm within the Great Mother's girdle of protection. The insult was only exacerbated by Elu Thingol's demand that the Noldor content themselves with the unpopulated portions of Beleriand. The King, they were informed by his envoys, was lord of all the land, and his people's needs came before those of the interlopers who had arrived loudly, bringing the new sky-lights in their wake.

Of all those who had crossed the sea into Exile, both amongst the followers of Feanor and of Fingolfin, he decreed that only his brother Olwë's grandchildren were to be allowed entrance into his fabled domain

Awe-inspiring to look upon though it might be, living there was probably another matter entirely as Artanis discovered on her very first visit. The approach was through deep forest protected by a girdle of shimmering, misty otherness that came and went on the corner of vision as she and Finrod passed through it. Strange, hidden pathways led to a great, stony hill beyond a swift-flowing river, where huge doors stood wide and incongruous.

Within lay a world part fantasy, part nightmare to guests raised under another sky in an open city amongst the pristine beauty of Aman. Colour was everywhere. Twinkling lamps on delicate brackets lit mosaics and jewelled copies of the birds, flowers and forest creatures of the world beyond. Painted murals and carvings adorned the walls, the floors were set with small white pebbles, while doorways hid behind gossamer hangings woven in unlikely shades.

And there were people everywhere; Sindar, Silvan, staring, whispering in their soft, bird-like tongue, smiling behind polite hands.

"Do they have nothing better to do?" Finrod had asked their guide angrily on that first visit, resenting being stared at as though he and his sister were some strangely exotic new species. The guide had looked at him in amazement.

"They have not seen your like before," he had explained in the careful Quenya he had learned in his dealings with Fëanor's sons. "They wonder if your hair is dyed and if so with what - we do not have its like here." He said this in a tone that suggested he had his own questions on this matter. Brother and sister exchanged eloquent glances and Artanis made a mental note to tie up her hair at the first opportunity.

The King held court in his Pavilion, a structure that excelled for bejeweled, brightly-hued extravagance. Courtiers lined the walls or perched like birds on narrow stone benches, the hum of many voices forming a backdrop that somehow complimented the surroundings. Elu Thingol himself was a figure of imposing authority, tall and muscular, with dark silver hair, grey eyes and an air of unquestioned importance. He wore more jewellery than either of them had ever seen on one person. When they bowed their heads in a manner suitable when greeting a kinsman there was a low gasp from the assembled courtiers, and it occurred to Artanis that there had been no-one before them to dispute his supremacy. No-one but Morgoth.

They were greeted though not offered seats and had then to endure a litany of questions: about their parents, their grandparents, about the strange lights in the sky which had superceded the soft star-glow to which the people of Beleriand were accustomed, about the Princes they journeyed with and those who had arrived ahead of them with drawn swords and a blazing hatred for the Dark One.

They were still making their careful answers when a sudden stir amongst the courtiers followed by utter silence alerted them to the arrival of the Maia. She moved like a shadow across the sun, small, dark-haired, graceful as flowing water. She seemed to glide up the three steps to Thingol's throne, where she took her place on the seat that had stood conspicuously vacant beside his. The newcomers needed no-one to tell them that this was Melian, Queen of Doriath.

She drew her mantle about her, settled folds of cloth, then looked at them out of unlikely moss green eyes. "Far they come, yes," she said in a light, clear voice that seemed to move and dip on the air of the cavern before falling away behind the stillness. "Far they come and further still to go."

Brother and sister felt 'something' pass over them; a touch, light as a child's finger to a butterfly wing, brushed the fire within. Finrod jerked, startled, but Artanis kept still, permitting rather than fighting the invasion. She had walked in forests with Yavanna and recognised strength beyond her ability to resist. The touch withdrew, then returned to her.

"New," the silvery voice said, etched bright with interest. "Different to those born here. The light of the Great Ones has shone on them. They smell Other."

Watching under her lashes, Artanis saw Thingol give the fey creature a sidelong, almost uneasy look. So, she thought, there is one thing in this kingdom over which he has no control. One person he cannot predict. The green eyes returned to her as though she had spoken aloud. Bird-curious, the exquisite head tilted to the side.

"You will stay," the Maia stated categorically. "We will talk. You are not like our Children, you are Other. You will tell me of the Undying lands, and of your king, and of the sky-lights you brought here."

"Lady, those were not ours to bring," Finrod broke in, concerned for his sister. "Those were set in the heavens by the Mighty and are none of our doing."

The moss-hued eyes moved slowly to him and narrowed, and the siblings instinctively drew closer together.

"It is the custom that the Queen be addressed as Daurnana," Thingol interrupted sharply. Turning to the Maia he said almost placatingly, "They have told me the sky lights were signs from the Shining Ones, a means to expose the works of the Enemy."

Melian looked up at him, her face warming into an adoring smile. "The Night Walkers cannot come where we are, my King," she said confidently. "We have no need of the Lights. Let them do what they will, Doriath is safe. I have said it, and it is so."

 

~*~*~*~*~

The sun rose and set; the years it measured turned. Melian, sensing in Artanis the seeds of true power, was amused to take the Aman-born for a student, teaching her how to look deep, how to spin webs of energy, how to reach out to the fabric of Arda itself. In one thing only was Melian constant; other than her near-obsession with Thingol her attention waxed and waned, much like the moon for which she slowly developed a grudging fondness. Sensing the Maia's interest was fey and unpredictable, knowing that in time she would no longer retain it and would find herself discarded, Artanis stayed and learned all she could.

The caverns of Menegroth were works of wonder, but Artanis had been born in a place of open spaces, cool breezes, clear skies. The weight of rock above her head oppressed. Some days the sense of confinement was almost more than she could bear, but for a guest to walk alone in the forest was frowned upon. Melian gave her tinkling laugh and said she might wander off and become lost, whereas Thingol, more blunt and to the point, stated that in the absence of her brothers she was his responsibility, and as such she would remain where he could be certain of her welfare.

Outside, below the walkway to the bridge, she found a flat rock that overlooked the rushing river. There she went to sit when the walls of Menegroth seemed to be squeezing closed around her. She had no friends amongst the courtiers; Menegroth was a conservative and inward-looking society - as, she supposed, had been parts of Tirion - and she sat in their midst like a rare exotic bird with her golden plumage. Feeling isolated, she sought her own company at those times when there was no need for her to dance attendance on Melian. She soon learnt to revel in private space away from the incessant twittering of voices pitched higher than was the norm to her ears.

"Like a garland of light."

The voice wrapped around her with the soft warmth of the cloak Aegnor had sent her, woven by Nandor from the fleece of small black and white creatures that grazed on the hills about his new holding. She turned her head slowly, and it was as though she knew what she would see before she saw him. Hair like polished silver, a confident smile, a cloak of forest green edged with sea-blue. And tall - she was tall herself and therefore valued this. Their eyes met, and it was as though they had always known one another.

"Your hair," he explained. "It looks as though someone wove it from sunlight."

From anyone else it would have been hyperbole, but she knew it was no more than his thought and smiled. He approached and she made space for him. He sat down beside her on her rock and looked around.

"Caves are new to you," he said, knowing. "You miss the forest."

"And the water," she admitted. "There was water flowing beneath my bedroom window at home. I miss its voice."

"Tell me of home," he insisted. "Is it very different to here? Are you sorry you left?"

She smiled at him, at the silver hair, the blue eyes, the strength, at the aura of calm that surrounded him, so unlike her; a balance to her lack of inner order. "Home is behind me," she told him. "I came here to make a new one."

"Not in Menegroth though," he observed, reaching a cautious finger to touch a tress more lightly than the Maia had touched her fea. "But we can begin here. My name is Celeborn, Elu Thingol is my grandfather's brother."

"Hello, Celeborn the Wise," she responded nodding, her smile in her eyes. "Yes, we begin here."

~*~*~*~*~

Time passed, but not as before. Life became full, almost complete. Artanis studied what and when Melian chose to teach her, and the rest of her time was spent with Celeborn. Kin to the King and a distant cousin to Artanis herself, there could be no objection to her exploring the forest beyond the confines of Menegroth in his company, and explore they did.

He showed her trickling streams dancing over steps of natural stone, led her down secret paths to the groves and thickets dear to his heart. She met those of his friends and kindred who lived above ground, secure within the Great Mother's girdle. They rode, he taught her to climb trees so that he could show her Doriath from on high, they swam in cool, rushing water. There were kisses, and more than kisses; heated, hungry embraces, release offered by willing fingers, hands and mouths. They abstained only from the last, the final union; it would happen in its own time, when the tide of their loving drew them to the next wave's crest. This final joining was sacred, entwining hrondo and fea and not to be approached lightly.

Her brothers visited often, keeping watch over her welfare, uncertain of this Sindarin Prince from whom she seemed inseparable. Then came the final visit, with Elu Thingol demanding to know the truth of rumours brought to him by Círdan of the Falas of the true reasons for the return of the Noldor. Angrod it was who answered him, offering the full tale which Artanis had avoided when Melian had casually asked why the New Elves had chosen to leave the Undying Lands for the imperfections of Ennor. Melian lacked curiosity to pursue the topic, her dragonfly favour easily diverted elsewhere, but Thingol was not so easily turned aside from matters relating to his brother's welfare. When the truth finally lay exposed his rage was immense, causing even Melian to quail at its force.

The upshot was clear and uncompromising: the tongue of the Exiles would be heard no more within the boundaries of Beleriand, and none of the Aman-born, including his blood kin, would ever again set foot within Doriath for fear that the blood-lust of the Noldor might contaminate his people.

"We can go to Finrod," Celeborn told Artanis as she began packing her few possessions. "Nargothrond is an easy ride from Doriath and anyway, he is the one nearest to your heart. He has his doubts about me, but in time he will see that our place is together."

"He is delving a cavern home to rival this one," she told him, carefully wrapping a collection of tiny glass figurines - a gift from Luthien to mark Thingol's latest festival, the turning of the year. "Aegnor would be the better choice - high lands, a wide sky, the scent of growing things on the air."

There was no discussion; if she had to leave, so would he. Had their situations been reversed, she would have done the same.

"It is a hard thing, to be told to give up your mother tongue," she said quietly, folding delicate cloth with careful hands. "Even our names reflect its use. What would he have us do? Take new names, cast off those gifted by our parents?"

"Nerwen, Man-maiden," Celeborn responded teasingly, collecting slippers in pairs and placing them in a woven bag. "Over-tall though quite attractive in a very Noldorin way." He ducked the threatened blow, laughing. "Alatáriel is who you have been to me since we met. Or Galadriel, as my niece Nimloth calls you. It fits you, I think - gives you dignity."

She snorted and elbowed him inelegantly. The last born, the only girl in a tribe of boys, dignity was still a thing she needed to remind herself of.

~*~*~*~*~

Despite the ban, Artanis was not required to leave Menegroth. Her interests threatened, Melian waited until Elu Thingol's rage had subsided and then, with sweet words and tender looks, pleaded to be allowed to keep her student. With a practicality normally foreign to her, she pointed out that Eärwen's children had taken no part in the shedding of inappropriate blood. Furthermore, had they borne arms at all it would have been in defense of their mother's people. Her reasoning was unusually clear and succinct, including a reminder that, as a female, Artanis would have been unarmed. Melian had no idea if this held true for the New Elves from beyond the sea, but it was a telling argument and she pressed it home ruthlessly, all loving smiles and sensual touches.

Predictably, Elu Thingol relented. After a long night of searing eroticism, he emerged from his chambers to declare that Artanis, daughter of Finarfin, would after all be permitted to remain in Doriath. Later that day his great-nephew pleased him by offering the news that, to honour his decree, the Noldor Princess had decided that henceforth she would be known by a new, Sindarin name: Galadriel.

~*~*~*~*~

While the years passed calmly under the trees, beyond Doriath the world continued in turmoil. The great dragon Glaurung came forth with fire and terror, but he was still young, weak enough to be driven back to Angband to heal and grow. An uneasy peace ensued, giving the Noldor time for pursuits other than warfare. For Galadriel life went on as before, although she now travelled regularly beyond the boundaries of Doriath to visit with her forbidden kin. Celeborn seldom shared these excursions, not wishing to intrude on time shared with her brothers and old friends. When she returned, bearing small, cunningly crafted gifts for his family and the convoluted gossip of the Noldorin factions, it was notable that it took several days before her grasp on Sindarin was once more fluent. Celeborn, who knew that amongst the Noldor Princes the High Tongue was spoken freely, ached for her need to cast off something so much a part of who she was.

Once Finrod settled in Nargothrond, a short journey from Doriath, her visits became frequent. In truth she exchanged one cave dwelling for another, but the ride exhilarated her and the wind blew in her face unhindered by trees. Also, those dwelling in Nargothrond were more Noldor than Sindar, and many were old acquaintances, allowing her to take her ease and be once more the Artanis of childhood. The adventure she had craved and had thought to find on the far shore had proved illusory; she was more confined than she had ever been in the years in Tirion.

After one such visit she retuned full of excitement at a tale her brother had told her and which she had at first dismissed as Finrod teasing her as had been his wont when they were children.

"Long haired, bearded, with speech that is strange to the ear. Their bodies are covered with fine hairs, he said," she told Celeborn, her eyes shining. "We heard talk of how one day there would be a new race, the Secondborn, short lived and fragile but dear to the One. This must surely be them."

"Where will they live? And who will care for them? Their needs are outside of our knowledge - how could we guide such beings?" Celeborn asked with the typical Sindarin urge to nurture young, growing things.

She blinked. "I imagine they will care for one another? As to where they will live - he wants them to settle hereabouts - they will be safer than in the wild." As ever, she was the final word in Noldor practicality. She smiled wickedly. "He even sent an envoy here to the king, asking his wisdom in this matter. That should butter him up sufficiently." She lay back with her head in his lap and toyed with a lock of his hair, her eyes wistful. "I would love to see them. They sound - fascinating."

Celeborn tapped her nose lightly. "Be careful, you grow more like the Daurnana by the day - curious as ten squirrels. Perhaps we will go and look for them some time, then. Easy enough if they settle near Doriath."

"They couldn't pass the Girdle, of course," she mused, her thoughts running along where they might live, how their settlements might look, what their customs could be like. "No member of the Secondborn could set foot in Doriath."

As she spoke she shuddered, the skin crawling on her body and he looked down at her in alarm. Her sea-blue eyes closed briefly, and when they opened they held a shadow. "Perhaps some will come here," she said more quietly. "But there is the whisper of great events attached to that thought."

"Leave it then," he told her briskly. The more time she spent with Melian, the more frequent these unsettling moments of precognition became. "When the time comes is time enough. Let it be. Come, sit up and kiss me. I have been three long months without you."

Laughing and stretching, she wriggled with exaggerated sensuality, making them both smile. Direct and open, to play the coquette was never her way. She sat up and took his face between her long, cool hands. "Celeborn the Wise, indeed," she said, leaning forward to place a light kiss on his lips. "Very well - I will leave it. The future will arrive when it does - no point in living it in advance."

"None at all," he agreed. "I can find better things for us to do with the here and now. Come, I will show you."

~*~*~*~*~

The future came as it always does, but it did not find Galadriel waiting for it in Doriath. Three hundred and twenty years after Fingolfin set foot on the shore of Middle-earth and his host greeted the first rising of the moon with trumpet calls, Elu Thingol called his brother's grandson to have private discourse with him and his closest advisors. Melian was notably absent, engaged in pursuits the nature of which were unclear even to her lord. Whatever they were, they kept her busy and uninvolved in the discussion.

After, Celeborn did as he had done almost from the day they met: he went in search of Galadriel to share his news and hear her opinion.

"But - you say no-one lives there? There must be a reason for that surely, some fault in the place itself."

Celeborn shook his head. They were sitting outside on 'their' rock, watching the trees reflected in the water, autumn leaves staining the crystal clarity with bright, warm shades. This was Galadriel's favourite time of the year; she loved the colours and the crispness in the air. "No-one has ever travelled far enough south to find out. For all we know, there might be Nandor living there. Perhaps," with a sidelong smile at her, knowing what would pique her interest, "Perhaps your brother's Secondborn have found their way there."

She gave an unladylike snort at the transparent attempt. "Perhaps. Perhaps horses with horns. Perhaps chickens the size of eagles? Seriously - why? Why do this?"

Celeborn looked out over the forest and then, his voice low, said, "Because Elu Thingol is old and wise and knows that the current peace is no more than a respite, that once the firedrake has its full strength the Enemy will come upon us all with warfare. His main interest lies with your kindred, certainly, but his eye will surely turn this way again. Doriath stands strong and guarded, but the Great Mother is Maiar. Morgoth - Morgoth was one of the Shining Ones. The King wishes a haven beyond the battlefields should the need arise."

While he spoke Galadriel felt the air around them to make certain that no-one gifted sensed the import of his words. Melian was not the only one who disliked the outside world and saw no need for Doriath to look beyond the borders she had set down. She said nothing of this to Celeborn, however. When he had finished, all she asked was, "How many of us, and when do we leave?"

~*~*~*~*~

Melian was predictably furious although she vented her anger with care, not wishing a confrontation with her lord. To please him she had made his forest secure from all danger, even going so far as to place a girdle of mists and forgetfulness around it to assuage his fear of discovery by the Dark One who ruled in the north. She saw no need for a southern lair, suspecting that in time Thingol might feel its lure and be tempted to leave this place - and her.

"She says I cannot go. It is unfitting for an unattached female and the king's guest to travel with colonists and warriors." Galadriel informed Celeborn dryly at the end of a recital of Melian's objections. "For the rest, I think the King will withstand her, though your numbers might be reduced. My presence though..." Her face was worried, eyes darkened to sea green, her mouth severe.

"Your brother would give his permission, surely?" Celeborn asked, looking up from the inadequate map he was studying. "Nothing more would be necessary."

It was unthinkable to either that she remain here while he left on a mission that could take hundreds of years to complete, with at least as much time before he could justify a return to Menegroth to offer his personal report.

"I... have no idea," she admitted honestly. Finrod was glad she was safe in Doriath and had no part in the risks faced daily by the Noldor in a mainly hostile world. Her brothers were also, she knew, relieved that she was taking no part in the eternal politics that wove through their lives. However, none of them approved her closeness to Thingol's kinsman, and there were regular comments about 'finding a suitable match amongst our own kind' when she ventured out on one of her visits. It was never discussed, but she knew that Celeborn, too, faced resistance to his choice of a landless Exile.

They sat quietly for a while, as quiet as it was possible to be in Doriath. Cave dwelling meant little privacy, day and night the sounds of voices and footsteps were a fact of life. Finally he said, "Well, I suppose if we were bound, no-one could say much more?"

She quirked an eyebrow at him. "As in - together for eternity, before witnesses?"

He put the map aside and turned to her quizzically. "How would that be for you?"

"Well, I always assumed we would eventually - I just never gave it much thought before," she confessed, trying to get a final look at the diagram of lines and open spaces. Far too many open spaces she suspected, designating the unknown.

"But the idea doesn't - displease you?" Light blue eyes studied her, serious now, waiting.

Her eyes met his, equally serious, then she moved into his ever-welcoming arms chuckling softly. "If you truly deserved the title of Celeborn the Wise you would know the answer to that without asking. No, it does not displease me. Not at all. I have been waiting all my life for you to ask."

~*~*~*~*~

They exchanged rings with the King and Queen of Doriath as witness. Galadriel's brothers were all present; Elu Thingol had given permission for them to enter the Guarded Realm for the occasion. Both the laws of the Noldor and the customs of the Sindar required that the bride's kindred be present and honoured. The ceremony took place in the Pavilion itself before the assembled nobility of Doriath under a canopy of flowers. Melian left while the promises were still being exchanged. Her pupil had rejected her, and in the strange depths of her unknowable mind it was already as though Galadriel had never been.

Music played, dancing commenced. As soon as it was decent to do so, Celeborn collected his wife and together they took leave of her brothers who would travel back through the forest once the King's health had been drunk.

"Pass by Nargothrond when you leave," Finrod insisted, all golden hair and warm smiles, his arm around his sister's shoulders but his eyes on her mate. His brothers, having loudly toasted the new addition to the family, added their voices to his. They would pause at Nargothrond, too, before continuing on to their own lands. "Who can tell when next we will all have a chance to meet? Times are uncertain, and your journey takes you far from these lands."

Galadriel was quiet as they traversed passageways to reach her rooms, further from the main living area, more private and their usual choice when they wished to spend time alone. There was no point in finding new accommodation - they would spend only the first few weeks of their marriage in Doriath before taking to the road. When the door curtain fell closed behind them, he looked at her seriously.

"What?" he asked.

Her eyes met his. "I felt - I felt I might never see him again," she said in a small, thin voice. "All of them. Probably no more than the fear of us being so far apart, I know, but..."

"A few hundred years are as nothing to our kind," he told her gently, eager to avoid premonitions of gloom on this of all nights. "You mistake fear of separation for loss, nothing more. They will be here when you return - and perhaps a few young ones with hair of Vanyar gold, too." He would not be sorry to get her away from Melian's influence. Her instincts had taken a morbid turn of late.

She shook her head sadly, her eyes shadowed. "Their lines end here, I think. I can feel it on my skin, I..."

"Not tonight," he interrupted firmly, lifting her into his arms and carrying her to the bed. They were of similar height, he stumbled, almost dropping her, and they fell together laughing. " The future can follow in its own time," he told her, leaning over as she lay in her wedding finery, her hair spread out across the pillows like silver-shot gold silk. "This time belongs to us."

Their union was all either of them had imagined it could be, soft touches and tender kisses, worshipping one another with mouths, eyes, the gift of touch. And finally a joining that was more natural than breath, more obviously right than anything either of them had ever dreamed possible. They drowned in one another, came up for air laughing with joy, sank back down into passion's sea. Their hearts had been one from the day they first met beside the river, and now body and soul followed suit.

Very much later, lying drowsing in his arms, Galadriel murmured, "We should have done this long ago. This was not one of your better ideas, Celeborn the Wise. It was your best."

 

~*~*~*~*~

Part Two

~*~*~*~*~