In An Age Before - Part 14

Chapter Twenty

Lindórinand (Lórinand) - The Second Age of the Sun

For the first time, Helluin approached the mellyrn forest other than from Khazad-dum, and her welcome was somewhat less warm than what she'd become accustomed to. Indeed, having heard a company moving stealthily to surround them for some time, Helluin finally bid Beinvír halt so she could announce them. Ere she could do so, they were greeted with two-dozen drawn bows and the grim eyes of the Tawarwaith staring down the shafts of their arrows at them.Helluin groaned in exasperation. Beside her, Beinvír gulped.

"Greet now thy kin," Helluin muttered.

"Who art ye that come'th unsummoned, hither unto the realm of Lórinand," the company's leader asked, "speak ere we shoot thee."

"I am Helluin, Hunter of King Lenwin and Gôrgbu of Drúwaith Iaur," Helluin said with a straight face, "and with me come'th Beinvír of the Galadrim¹ of Eriador. I hath the leave of thy lord to walk in these lands, and for my fiend shalt I vouch before his throne." ¹(Galadrim, Green Elves, Sindarin.Close equivalent of Laiquendi, Quenya. Corrected in the LoTR rev ed as Galadhrim. For this story, I will use the corrected name only for the people of Lórien, once that name comes into use.)

"Thou hast been long away, Helluin of the Host of Finwe, and much hath come to pass ere last thou walked 'neath the mellyrn," the company leader said grimly. "King Lenwin rules here no longer. Hunter and Gôrgbu thou may be, still must thou be taken before our Lord Amdír for his judgment. Thy voucher for thy friend is for naught. Now surrender thy arms and come thither."

"Guess they weren't impressed with thy titles," Beinvír whispered to Helluin as she handed over her bow, quiver, short sword, and knife.

"What hath become of King Lenwin and Lady Calenwen?" Helluin asked a border guard as she handed over her own bow and quiver.

"They art gone forever," was the terse reply. Another guard stepped forward to take her sword.

"Draw my blade and I shalt gladly bath in thy blood," Anguirel said. The guard gasped in horror at the black sword's malevolence and his hand shook as he gingerly held the scabbard at arm's length after Helluin handed it to him.

"What say the Cirth upon thy weapon," a third asked as he reached to take the Sarchram. He neither spoke nor read Quenya. "Be it a charm of Valinor, or some pretty frill of the Noldor perhaps?" He asked with a touch of sarcasm.

"It says in Quenya of Tirion, 'One ring that flies to find them. One ring to send them all unto the Void and in its darkness bind them.' A pretty trifle indeed," Helluin told him.

"Deliver thyself to me," the Grave Wing offered in its cold voice, "and I shalt spare thy fëa Mandos' Halls 'til world's ending."

The Nando dropped the ring as if it had burned his hand. Seeing this, Helluin mirthlessly asked, "Surely thou fear'st not the cold of the Void, while'st here under thy golden trees? From the windows of the house of Nienna I hath seen the Void and there was naught there to fear." Helluin regarded him with an intensity that made him cringe.

Thereafter the guard wouldn't touch the ring, but trembled in terror as he carried it thickly swaddled in a cloak whose folds he suspended from a short length of rope. His precautions gave Helluin grim delight; some small recompense for their treatment.

The border guards led the two travelers northwest through the forest, and crossing Celebrant, they passed into Egladil, or the Naith. A half-mile north of its banks they came upon the site where the Nandorin city had been of old. The telain there were deserted and the paths o'ergrown. Soon after, to Helluin's surprise, they came to a new city, more compact and closer to the Hill of the Great Tree.

This city had been itself built upon a hill and it was circular, surrounded by a fosse, or dry moat, and within that by a dike upon which rose an encircling palisade. Now rather than being built of wood or stone as in other places, this palisade was a continuous impassible hedge, tall, dense, thick, and thorny. The wall it formed o'erlapped at its ends to form a short corridor behind the only gates, and these faced just west of due south. To cross the fosse, one walked o'er a bridge that joined the corridor with a paved, encircling path. This ran from south to north along the outer edge of the fosse on the western side of the city. A single small stream ran out through a deep cutting in the southeast.

Within the hedge wall stood countless large mellyrn trees, a dense enclosed tract of forest. No doubt all the branches were filled with aldar opélille and rope walks.

Helluin took all this in with a warrior's eye. 'Twas a more defensible position, but nothing in comparison to the fortifications she had seen elsewhere. Indeed 'twas feeble construction compared to Ost-In-Edhil or Lindon. On the other hand, the hill was covered with elevated shooting positions and filled with many archers. It would not be taken easily, save by fire or a long siege. For all this, it was a welcome sight. The sooner to come before the new king and straighten things out, the better, Helluin thought. And at least the air rang with song as evening fell and the lamps were lit, for many voices rose to greet the stars. Ere they passed across the bridge o'er the fosse, the leader of the guard company brought them to a halt.

"'Tis Caras Galadon, city of Lórinand and of King Amdír," he said with pride. "Thou shalt come before him this eve after we sup." Helluin nodded to him.

"I am impressed that so much hath been achieved since last I came hither. Thy city's trees art mighty, and I hath been absent but 250 years," Helluin said. "Tell me, I pray thee, how long hath passed since King Amdír began his reign?"

"Our prior lord, King Lenwin was slain in 1187 of this Age, and thence for some years were our people bereft of lord. Down Anduin passed Lady Calenwen in the following year, seeking the realm of Belfalas, to bear thither tidings to King Lenwe and beseech him for passage into the West. In 1203 came Lord Amdír and his son Amroth from the people of King Oropher in Greenwood. Lord Amdír was known to us aforetime when he came hither with the company from Eregion. He was well liked by all and liked well our lands. After several years amongst us, the people beseeched him to take the throne and govern our realm. He hath done much for us since."

"And in his time was Caras Galadon built?" Beinvír asked, looking in wonder at the trees within the palisade.

"Indeed so. In 1209 did we begin abuilding. By 1225 most of our labor was done save the growth of the olvar, and they hath thrived indeed with water and light and song. Great was our fortune that dwelt here such mighty trees, and hedges so quick of growth once given Anar's light after the digging of the fosse. By Yavanna we art truly blessed."

Helluin and Beinvír both nodded in agreement. The city was little more than 150 years old, yet its trees had surely stood long aforetime, for their life's tale and growth bespoke many hundreds of years. But the hedge had matured admirably in the light newly made available when the land was cleared for the fosse and the path beyond it. With these tidings and impressions, they crossed the bridge and passed within the gate.

The company made their way uphill towards the center of Caras Galadon by a footpath well worn in the soil and partially paved with natural stones. 'Neath the trees the air was cool and it seemed a breeze continuously rustled the golden leaves where only intermittent breaths had blown in the forest outside the city. The air itself carried the mingled scents of many kinds of flowers joining the notes of many songs to sweeten the evening with sound and smell. Here and there lamps winked on amidst the boughs, showing forth from telain at many different levels. Ere they had covered half the distance to the city's center they could see a growing luminosity well above the ground.

When they had neared the hill's crown, the company of border guards stopped 'neath a great tree where a platform had been built barely off the ground above the exposed roots on one side of the trunk. 'Twas overhung by a sloping awning that rustled in the breezes and was lit within by many lamps. Tables were set there, and benches, and there were places for many to be seated and to dine. Here the company delivered Helluin and Beinvír, and set their weapons into a cabinet to one side. Then, taking seats, the company was offered a varied fare by servers who came thither from a kitchen in the rear.

Helluin and Beinvír had been seated far apart, and they were provided with bread and cheese, ripe fruit, and roasted meats on skewers marinated in a flavorful glaze of many spices. There was pale chilled ale and a full-bodied red wine. They were allowed to eat and drink their fill as did the company, but Helluin drank only sparingly though she ate with gusto while keeping an eye on her friend.

Beinvír had been constantly looking about, trying to ingest every available image and commit all to memory. To her the city was strange; more comfortable than a city of stone could ever be, but far removed from the camps 'neath the stars to which her people were accustomed. 'Twas a welcome yet subtly disturbing blend of what was, and was not, to her, a familiar life for Silvan Elves. Here, though they were still surrounded by nature, they were far from being a wandering company; they made nature "do things", ordering it according to their plans. They imposed their will on their surroundings rather than accepting them as they were. And the Lórinandrim were far less stealthy than her people, though still more so than the Sindar or Noldor. She would know their presence, had known it long before the guards had appeared, (indeed even Helluin had), and she could as easily vanish from their sight and remain undiscovered. She was tempted to leave now, had been tempted to do so when they'd demanded her weapons, but she didn't want to jeopardize Helluin's "mission" and she wanted to see more.

"Art thy borders constantly in jeopardy?" She asked the guard seated beside her.

He was a young Elf, perhaps younger than she herself, dark-haired and slender, of average height, and he finished swallowing a portion of meat ere he answered.

"Alas, yes," he said, shaking his head sadly, "since ere I was born hath Lórinand's borders been at risk from many foes. Oh, 'tis not the siege of open war; nay, 'tis rather a permanent threat of incursion, for the most part by Yrch and Easterling Men. I fear it shalt always be thus."

"How horrible," Beinvír said, "in a land of such beauty to be ever unable to enjoy it freely and at ease. I should find it tiresome ere long."

"Indeed 'tis tiresome as thou doth say, yet what is there for it but to preserver? I know 'naught of any other way. Indeed few of us do anymore. Is it not thus also in thy land?"

"Nay, 'tis not," Beinvír said with certainty, "or at least it hath been otherwise for many ennin¹. Enemies art few and but poorly ordered, and they pose little threat. My people go mostly about the land in companies, lingering when it suits them, traveling as their fancy calls them, and tarrying never in one place more than a season or two. We wander as is our wont, and hath ever been our way, even ere the breaking of the old lands to the west." ¹(ennin, a unit of 144 years of the sun.Sindarin)

"But doth thou not miss a home?" He asked in surprise.

"Nay, Eriador is my home, nearly all of it, or the good parts at least, such as I favor. I should not build something at no need ere I be tied to it and thence be obligated to defend it. I should then soon come to resent it and burn it myself."

"Thy ways doth seem very strange to me," he admitted, looking at her curiously.

"And thine to me," Beinvír replied, taking a sip of wine ere she continued. "Doth thou not wish to see many lands?"

"Nay, Lórinand is my home. Indeed I should be uncomfortable elsewhere were I to go thither...and I should miss my people."

Beinvír sat chewing a mouthful of bread and cheese. She had come to the conclusion that the Lórinandrim were city folk, as much as ever were those of Ost-In-Edhil. Yet the Lórinandrim too were Nandor. For some reason it seemed improper to her.

"Dost thou know of my friend, Helluin?" Beinvír asked.

"I am sorry, but I find thy friend terrifying and strange. Her gaze make'th me uncomfortable and she ever comes and goes through many years. I hath heard that first she appeared from Khazad-dum, 'nigh on a thousand years ago, upsetting the late king with many fell tidings. I know she is wise after her people, but I understand her not."

"She is much as art my people; a houseless wanderer of many lands with many friends in many places. She is also a warrior as thou art but as my people art not. She is wise yet oft confused, brave yet also fallible, dour and outrageously funny, and in her company I hath seen many wonders."

"But does she not scare thee?"

"Nay, I fear her not, for she hath ever sought to protect and support me. She hast become dear to me and I find I love her. I understand that many of her kindred feel great disquiet o'er her battle rage, and many deem her a dark force in their midst. Yet is not the dark of night as necessary as the light of day, and doth not Ithil shine with Holy Light in its manner as surely as doth Anor? In Helluin lives a spirit to confront the enemy with ferocity such as to make him quail, and this as much as bright swords I deem necessary. The dark days ahead shalt prove me right, even as did the dark days of yore. No enemy so fierce had the soldiery of Morgoth, nor shalt the minions of Sauron. Yet I worry greatly for her when her travels take her into danger. And she hath seen such as I shalt never see, indeed such as no longer exists to be seen, and done such as even those of the Amanyar dared not."

"Indeed so? I hath thought all the Noldor were such as she," he said, muttering in addition, "though in truth the only other such I hath seen behaved far more strangely."

Beinvír felt something amiss in his words, something that set off an alarm within her. Yet 'twas something she could lay not a finger upon with certainty. She filed away the thought for later contemplation. And she would have to discuss it with Helluin. In reply, Beinvír chose to refer to physical rather than behavioral characteristics.

"Nay. Of all the Noldor, she alone hath blue eyes."

Even as she finished that sentence the company leader came with two guards to take her and Helluin before the king. Straightaway they left the dining pavilion and made their way uphill towards the great light at the city's center. Soon it became clear that this light emanated from a talan high in the massive branches of the central mallorn. There was set a hall of white wood, and to Helluin it bore a close resemblance to that of King Lenwin in the old city. Unlike that older hall though, rather than walking a rope to reach this one, they climbed a stair that wound 'round the trunk in a spiral of many steps, passing smaller telain at several levels where were gathered many Elves. From these, rope walks led off into space, into the darkness between telain in adjacent trees where yet more of the host of Lórinand dwelt.

The climb took some time, but finally they reached the top. There upon the high talan stood the Hall of King Amdír, ringed all about with many lamps; indeed, Helluin thought, 'twas bright as day. The doors stood open, and from within came many voices raised in song, and yet more speaking one to another or in groups. Here was the king's court, yet 'twas also the scene of merriment and lore telling, not business only as in Lindon or Ost-In-Edhil. The less formal atmosphere was typical of the Nandor, and King Lenwe's hall in Belfalas came to mind. Here many threads of thought flowed through many conversations, all proceeding at once, yet if propriety required, all would cease and attend to their king. Just such befell as a herald announced the company to the court. This was done in a formal manner following the single peal of a silver bell.

"My Lord King Amdír and all thou lords and ladies, here in honor of the law art brought before this court, two found wayward upon the southern border. They declare themselves thusly, Helluin of the Host of Finwe, and Beinvír of the Galadrim of Eriador."

Here the guards ushered Helluin and Beinvír forward, through the throng that parted for their passage, and towards a figure seated on a high-backed chair carved of white wood washed in gold, almost indistinguishable, in Helluin's opinion, from that of King Lenwin. The throne was set on a low dais of a single step, and as in the old city, 'twas ringed by the seats of the king's counselors. King Amdír was older than Lenwin had been, and he was a Sinda rather than a native Nando. Like most of the Teleri, indeed like most of the Eldar, he was dark haired and grey eyed, but there was a fugitive light in his eyes as there was not amongst the Nandor, and this trait was as much felt as seen. Helluin had known such aforetime amongst the refugees of Doriath. Amdír, she suspected, had come of that realm, or perhaps his parents had, for that background conferred a light, not of the Trees, but of the power of Melian the Maia that had long suffused that land. 'Twas the legacy of the Imperishable Flame, yes, but come through a different source than Helluin's people had sought in the West. Now when she and Beinvír stood before his throne, Amdír rose to greet them as was the custom.

The two travelers bowed to the Lord of Lórinand as etiquette dictated, and he nodded to them in acknowledgment of their obeisance. When they looked up he held their eyes, speaking thus in silence mind to mind.

Welcome thou to the renewed Land of the Singers. Helluin, 'tis long since last I saw thee in Lindon at thy landfall with the Men of Númenor. I recall thee, for who would not, though I doubt thou marked me amidst the throng at the feast of Gil-galad. I honor thee and would beseech thy counsel in a matter arisen of late.

Beinvír, glad is my heart to meet again one of the Laiquendi. To Doriath came many of thy people long ago, and there were they welcomed by King Elwe Singollo and Melian the Queen. I welcome thee now, for who am I, the lesser king of a lesser realm, to do aught but as did they aforetime?

Then Beinvír bowed her head in respect at his fair words answering:

And I am most honored by thy gracious welcome to thy realm, I who art but the younger daughter of a wandering people. Ever thankful art my folk of thy people's succor in their time of need and fear. Glad I am to hath come hither to thy beautiful land.

And Helluin answered the king, saying:

My thanks too for thy welcome, O King.Long indeed it hath been since that day in Lindon and many paths hath we each walked since. Whatsoever aid of counsel I can give shalt be thine, even as I was honored to aid in Avernien, the people of Doriath long ago.

Then to all at the court, King Amdír proclaimed, "The welcome of Lórinand do I extend henceforth; to Beinvír, thy long-sundered kin out of Eriador, and to Helluin, who hath served this realm with honor aforetime. In friendship they hath leave to come and to go, and to follow their hearts so long as their deeds break not the law. This is my judgment." Around them, many murmured in accord.

The court went back to its music and its conversations, but chairs were brought for Helluin and Beinvír and they sat before the dais to share tidings and hold converse with the king and his counselors. Wine and seeded cakes were served.

Helluin noted that amongst Amdír's counselors sat one younger but like unto the king in face; Prince Amroth, the King's Heir, she realized, handsome as his father but perhaps more emotional, more a servant of his heart. She nodded to him in greeting and saw him gulp self-consciously. She offered him a smile. Amongst the other counselors were many she had seen aforetime attending King Lenwin, and she met the eyes of each, acknowledging each in turn. Beinvír smiled at them and they at her as though charmed, and this too Helluin noted with a grin, especially the long looks given her friend by Prince Amroth who returned again and again to her eyes. The king cleared his throat ceremonially to draw their attention ere he spoke.

"I hath a matter in particular which begs for thy counsel," King Amdír said to Helluin, "and indeed thy appearance is timely. I host other guests of less friendly disposition, whom, alas, I am forced to restrain. Indeed these art known to thee as to me, though to me less than thou." He seemed quite nervous and indecisive, wringing his hands and swallowing theatrically.

Helluin cocked her head in question, while Amdír simply seemed uncomfortable.

"Who art these prisoners thou hath had to restrain?" She asked, more than curious now.

"Indeed they art not prisoners, not truly," he said with a sigh, "say rather they art guests who hath become unmanageable. A once noble couple undone; she striding hither and thither about the land in a frenzy, seeking out every stream within the wood; he following with failing patience and fraying temper, and both ranging too oft near the borders for prudence. I had but little choice save to confine them upon a high talan near at hand, and curtail their coming and going ere some sense was made of their tale. That tale is very odd, and indeed thou art named amidmost in it. In truth, Helluin, I know not what to do."

Helluin had listened to his discourse and began to suspect that she knew of whom he spoke. She could scarce constrain her snickering. Beinvír's eyes flicked back and forth between her friend and the king in confusion.

Helluin leaned over and whispered, "'Tis no doubt Galadriel...she hath cracked at last. Poor Celeborn." Beinvír gasped and Amdír shook his head sadly.

"Indeed 'tis just so," he confessed. "Celeborn was for a time my lord, and Galadriel...." Here he simply threw up his hands. "I feel much as a child locking his parents in their chamber, but their folk hath become gossipmongers, and they refused not to endanger themselves. Gil-galad would be wroth if peril befell them, Celebrimbor as well, for he is enamoured of the Lady. I insisted on their restriction and they, (or she at least), hath taken to reviling me for it at every visit. Atop this, (as it were not enough already), their daughter, Celebrian, accompanied them hither in their exile from Eregion and now sees me as an arch villain. Indeed she refuses to attend my court. I hath come at last to my wit's end, Helluin. What shalt I do?"

Amdír presented himself so lost and plaintive in his turmoil that Helluin could no longer retain control of her mirth, and she guffawed aloud to the shock of all nearby. 'Twas some moments ere she mastered herself, and then, wiping tears from her eyes and schooling her features, she apologized and gave her counsel, after which the king was much relieved.

"Thy pardon I beg, O King. Indeed I am not fey, merely amused at a jest run far out of control." Here again Helluin had to stifle an outburst lest her demeanor degenerate into hysterics. "Thou remember the feast of Gil-galad in Lindon and the audience held before it, when with the Dúnedain of Númenor I came to the High King with tidings? Indeed at that very audience was I accosted by Galadriel; she was wroth with me for the crime of rendering the less her advantage o'er me in height. Whither came her preoccupation with such, and with me in particular, I know not, save that 'tis a long held affectation. Indeed I fell to temptation and fabricated thence a tale; (a tale she came wholly to believe it seems), blaming my crime upon a stream enchanted that doth run in thy land. Were she to drink of it, (I told her in confidence), she should increase her stature in all respects."

By now the king and most of his counselors had wholly lost their dignity and sat with mouths gaping, though as yet none laughed. Only Beinvír giggled, familiar already with the tale from Helluin's explanation of Galadriel's behavior in Ost-In-Edhil.

"But thou hast made of thy princess a buffoon," said one in shock.

"Thou hath lied to one of a royal house and caused her to endanger herself upon a fool's quest," accused another.

"Surely she shalt be wroth with thee forever," Amroth said nervously.

"By what glamour or enchantment dids't thou convince her of thy increase in height?" An elder counselor asked, failing not to perceive more truly than his fellows that indeed a mystery lay afoot. Helluin had known this ellon¹ aforetime from King Lenwin's court. ¹(ellon, generic term for a male Elf.Sindarin)

Helluin groaned. Were she to confess the true source of her secret, most of the Lórinandrim would run thither to Oldbark's hall 'nigh Laiquadol and he would have no peace. The Onod would be wroth with her and Helluin indeed feared his wrath far more than Galadriel's. He shalt surely send Huorns for me, she thought, and never again shalt I be safe 'neath branch or leaf. I should be forced into refuge in Khazad-dum, or yet further still, to Númenor perhaps. All around, many eyes bored into her in anticipation of learning some great and hidden secret of their realm.

"Come now, Helluin, for months I hath been saddled with the profits of thy humor," King Amdír said, "is there indeed a stream in the forest of Lórinand such as hast the virtue to increase stature? If so, then I should know of it. Thou spent many decades exploring these lands 'tis said."

Helluin had expected such a question and now formulated a response based on plausible deniability. She couldn't lie outright and indeed she sympathized with the king's plight.

"Nay, O King, none of which I know. Such was only a location bethought long ago in a moment's fancy when the whole charade seemed but a folly quick to pass. Indeed I deemed all memory of my words would die ere the morn in the face of other tidings of greater import." Like thy smirking o'er my newfound love for a mortal Man, Princess Artanis, Helluin thought.

King Amdír nodded to Helluin, having detected no lie in her eyes, and if he were a bit disappointed, was willing to put it from his mind to deal with his difficult guests. Not so his counselor, who alone amongst them seemed to notice that Helluin had not truly answered his question. Helluin regarded the vulturine gleam in his eyes and wondered if he couldn't be convinced to take a fall from a rope walk later that night. She had decided to ignore him, and indeed the topic might have finished, had not one long familiar to her come in from duty on the northern border and learned of her appearance. He, desiring to see again his friend, came thither to the court and at that moment presented himself at the dais with a bow to his lord. Helluin perceived his arrival at her back, not his identity.

"Ahhh, Haldir, my friend, welcome," King Amdír said, "here is Helluin whom thou hast long known, and Beinvír her friend, newly welcomed to our realm. Come, bring thyself a chair; rest thy feet and join us."

Of course etiquette dictated that Helluin and Beinvír rise from their seats to welcome the new arrival to their company. Just in time, Helluin thought in amazement as she stood and constructed a smile of greeting, he hath not seen me since ere last I went to Greenwood for a draught. Oh well.

"Hail and well met, Haldir, noble guardian of the northern border," Helluin said, extending her forearm and clasping his in a warrior's greeting, "'tis good to find thee safe." Keep it simple and short or I shalt brain thee, she commanded silently as she gave his forearm a vigorous squeeze. Haldir's eyes widened at her demand and the pressure on his arm, then slid upwards noting that she now o'ertopped him by more than a handswidth. He choked once and then gulped ere he stifled his shock and amazement, but he stuttered unaccountably when he spoke.

"Uh, h-hail, and umm w-well met, Helluin of the Host of Finwe. 'Tis good to see thee returned in such...fine health?" Helluin rolled her eyes, (thankful her back was to the others), hearing him in her mind's ear saying, was that okay? And whyfore art thou now taller than when last we met? I thought the rantings of Galadriel but the words of one too long sundered from the West, or perhaps acutely sea longing-sick, but...

Enough! Now greet Beinvír and then sit down...thank you, Helluin said silently.

"Greetings, Beinvír, and welcome to the realm of Lórinand," Haldir managed to say. He was so off balance from the whole exchange that when Beinvír offered her hand, he lifted it without thinking and gallantly kissed her knuckles. This brought him a cold look from Amroth that confused him further. And if that wasn't enough, from Helluin he heard...

Now sit thee down already and speak not further of this topic, or so help me...

"Well, Haldir, we find that Helluin hath the key to unlock the mysterious behavior of Galadriel and Celeborn," Amdír began. "It doth seem the Lady believes herself losing her advantage in height o'er Helluin and seeks after a stream enchanted for to equalize the matter." Helluin gave Haldir a warning glance, a hint of fire flickering in her eyes.

Haldir looked at his lord in amazement after hearing his words, then at the circle of hungry faces yearning for a secret and hoping to partake of such a fair magic. Indeed one old counselor looked very nearly feral. Last he looked to Helluin beside him, upon whom he felt a dangerous mood growing. Now indeed the brave warrior wished himself far afield upon the north marches where naught but Orch companies threatened.

"The key I find bizarre enough to fit the lock, and both suited to a door through which the wits hath fled. I hath long examined the north, my lord, and others the west, east, and south. Naught of an enchanted stream hath any found in this realm." Haldir shrugged as if dismissing the notion.

"Thy words carry weight, Haldir," the king said, "for where Helluin spent some decades surveying these lands, thou and thy brothers hath spent centuries and more. If thou know'st no enchanted stream than none do. I shalt put it from my mind henceforth."

Haldir nodded to his lord and then asked, "for thy guest's madness hath thou discerned the cure? Their behavior and assertions hath much gossip whelped..."

"Bah! 'Tis but delusion atop a quest of fools; there is naught for it," Amdír said with a wave of his hand. "Helluin shalt go to them with explanations on the morrow and then all shalt be well." Here he looked pointedly at Helluin. She nodded her acquiescence to him, reminded of naught but the very same mannerisms in Gil-galad.

"Of course, O King," she said, and clenched her jaw. T'would be a morning in hell.

That morning came all too soon for her liking, and just as Anar topped the horizon a guard led Helluin up the stairs of an adjoining mallorn and to a walled talan set in the upper branches. 'Twas pleasant enough, she thought, with an admirable view, but there stood a pair of guards at the stairhead and a lock upon the door. From within came a crash, perhaps not the first of the day. Her guard winced. Helluin rolled her eyes.

"I hath come hither by order of the king," Helluin stated blandly, "to Udûn in the trees."

The guards snickered and one undid the lock. The other made ready to curtail any attempt at escape. The door was opened quickly and Helluin thrust inside ere it was shut and hurriedly relocked. She could hear the guards tittering through the slab of wood. Looking about the talan, she noted that it was indeed well appointed if one disregarded the broken crockery, spilt food, and clothing flung about. A partial height wall subdivided the space, and from beyond it came voices raised in passion. She could just see the crowns of two heads, one with hair of silver, the other silver-gold.

"Thy concern hast long fled all proportion and hast become an obsession!" Celeborn.

"I am not obsessed! I am seeking the treasure she said lay hidden here, and I shalt find it if I must search every inch of this land and tear every tree limb from limb!" Galadriel.

"Whyfore? So thou can'st again claim thy primacy in height o'er her? Hast this not gone too far? Thy fixation with her hast bought our confinement! I cannot stand being cooped thus, like a capon awaiting the cook pot! Why thy lifelong contestation with Helluin? That I hath never understood...why Artanis? Why?"Celeborn (yelling).

For long moments there was blessed silence, then another crash. Helluin flinched and her eyes lit on the remains of a handheld harp lying broken on the floor nearby.

"Because the princes of the Noldor very nearly swooned in her presence! Nay, at the mere mention of her name did the hearts of the Amanyar flutter like crows in their death spasms and the most eloquent amongst them fall tongue-tied as robins choking on worms! And she a commoner, anti-social and cold, the breaker of more hearts than now beat in all the Blessed Realm!" Galadriel (screaming).

"Then this is but a fit of jealousy run out of control?" Celeborn (incredulous).

"Jealously! Jealousy! Imagine thou, centuries of watching my brothers drooling o'er her, Finrod breathless, cousin Turgon sculpting likeness after likeness, and not just they! My own father and mother befriended her...Uncle Fingolfin as well. Feanor made his first gems blue as her eyes! After Nerdanel left he tramped the countryside in her footsteps writing her sheaves of verse in his new letters. Maglor endlessly sang songs, yet neither dared approach her for lack of courage...seeing it very nearly drove me mad.

And did it cease after we came to the Hither Shores? Nay! Nay! To escape her was half my reason for accepting exile, but then she came too. 'Twas no escaping. I swear; she was my own curse from the Valar!" Galadriel (panting in agitation) continued, "In popularity should there hath been none but Aredhel and myself amongst our host. Only in two things did I find solace; that she had millennia to establish herself ere I was born, and that I stood above her by half a head."

"Still I doth see it not, Artanis. All that 'twas 2,000 years ago and more! Aredhel hath long passed away, and Helluin strays abroad for centuries. Wherefore comes this rivalry, truly, whither this grand and lifelong animosity?" Celeborn (exasperated).

Silence again, grown so heavy it could crush a horse. Helluin dared not breathe. Indeed she was very nearly struck dumb by what she had heard. Never in her wildest dreams had she realized the impact of her presence on the princess. Never in her weirdest nightmares had she imagined the devotion of her potential suitors. Feanor?!? She began wildly searching the room for someplace to hide should Celeborn or Galadriel come hither, but there was no place to conceal herself and so she hunkered down into a shadow and froze 'neath her cloak as Beinvír had taught her. A moment later, Galadriel took up again her rant, though now in a subdued flood of cathartic self-exposition.

"I...I hath been wroth with her well 'nigh all my life, at first for want of attention from those she ignored...I wanted hate her for it. Worse yet...I couldn't...for I...found myself craving her...wanting for her attention, her friendship, just like all the others. It seemed to me that everything she did she excelled at, and whether with ease or not it appeared so...and she seemed not impressed at all. How I came to envy her. Yet she merely trudged endlessly about the land, sleeping amidst rocks or 'neath trees, or camping in the houses of the Valar with equal comfort. She woulds't come thence to Tirion, smudged, with twigs in her hair, dressed like an Avari, and still all loved her!

But later she grew enamoured of the Trees. Naught of us but approached them in awe, even the Vanyar, and yet she...she would stand disrobed 'neath the fall of their Mingled Lights, alight herself and unharmed by that which we dared not, for fear that Holy Light would smite us as with fire. Thou hast surely heard the Silmarils suffered not the touch of the unclean? Think now of their most pure source! No sight hath ever I seen in any Age to arouse me so thoroughly in all ways save that, and no image might I conjure to displace it. And so I am torn and cannot mend. I envy that born 'neath me yet rose above, love that I hath hated for no reason save my own weakness, and desire such as desires none." Galadriel (miserable, here actually commencing to sob).

Helluin was so thunderstruck by her words that she literally blacked out for a heartbeat and crashed against the door. Her only conceivable recovery was to kick the door again making even a greater noise and then call out, "Anyone home? 'Tis Helluin, come hither by order of the king."

From beyond the partition came the sound of a gasp, choking, and then stumbling feet, accompanied by an exclamation from Celeborn of, "Thy timing... surely thou doth jest!"

"Celeborn?" Helluin asked with convincing innocence. "Art thou and Galadriel decent?"

She was answered at once by the flight of a flagon directed with admirable precision at her head. Indeed she barely ducked in time to avoid it and hear Galadriel screaming:

"You? You! Why hast thou come hither? Hath Amdír ordered thee to torment me? That knave! He hath imprisoned us and summoned thee, obviously hoping to cheat me of my rightful due! Well, I shalt not stand for it! I shan't!" Her eyes had been locked on Helluin's from the first moment, and now Galadriel rounded the partition, demanding imperiously, "Thou shalt reveal the secret of thy stream to me and no other, or I shalt exile thee to Mordor myself! Celeborn, seize her!"

Helluin noted that the princess was in a shocking state of agitation, wild of eye and hair, indeed as one who had just run for her life. Her movements were awkward and angular in her haste, and an expression of mania shaped her face. For the first time in Helluin's recall, Galadriel's eyes were flaring with a ril of silver light and she could almost see steam arising from the princess' brow.Additionally, Helluin marked that she now wore an eagle-shaped pendant of silver that bore a green stone, eerily familiar. Galadriel came striding forth towards her with purpose.

Celeborn, appearing frustrated and haggard, stepped around the partition in Galadriel's wake and glowered at Helluin. He relished not the notion of grappling her at his wife's command, thus to follow lunacy with madness. Indeed the old and upsetting reports of Helluin Maeg-mormenel had always made him nervous. Long had he been convinced that her civility as but thinly veneered o'er a propensity to unrestrained slaughter. With much relief he noticed that Helluin wasn't armed.

In two more strides Galadriel was almost nose to nose with her tormentor; indeed she would have been save that she now stood just o'er three inches shorter. Noticing this, she withdrew a step to diminish the perception of the disparity, though she had calmed not at all. Helluin was watching her carefully, indeed expecting the pummeling to begin at any moment. Instead of fisticuffs, 'twas Celeborn, who with his last harried effort at diplomacy, proffered a solution.

"Helluin, if thou hast some secret, I beseech thee, tell it now ere all propriety flee," he begged. "Thou hast besmirched our reputations, and our domestic tranquility hath degenerated to that of a Yrch lair. I fear Lord Amdír's patience grows as threadbare as my own. I pray thee, for the sake of my marriage and my sanity, share what thou know."

There was really aught else she could do, with Galadriel seething not a foot away and Celeborn standing 'nigh in an attitude of such pathetic suspense. Still, the walls had ears, the trees had eyes, and every Elf in Lórinand had no doubt become possessed of a ravishing desire to know the outcome of their conversation. Helluin beckoned him over so she could meet their eyes together and speak in silence, mind to mind.

The stream of which I spoke doth indeed exist, but to protect it I hath dissembled of its locale. I shalt require thee both to accompany me into the wilderness for some time, Helluin said to them sternly. The contact was wearying, so agitated was Galadriel and so nervous was Celeborn. Thou must come thither alone and in secret, and thou can'st never reveal to any what thou learn, upon pain of death. Seeing the blind hope in their eyes, and knowing they'd promise anything at that moment, she added, a very, very slow and excruciating death, with such torment as would make Morgoth himself jealous. Doth thou agree? Of course they both immediately nodded vigorously in assent.

Can'st thou conceive to act rationally for a time so that I may achieve thy release?

Again, both nodded in agreement. Galadriel would probably do anything at this point, Helluin thought, and Celeborn, anything simply to be free.

Then await me hither, and pray exhibit some levity to make the more convincing thy rehabilitation, Helluin suggested. Perhaps thou could laugh or sing a song?

At this they both scowled and gritted their teeth but still nodded their agreement, as Helluin had managed to make her suggestions with a straight face. Nodding to them, she turned and rapped upon the door, calling out to the guards, "I am done. I hath need to leave." A last glance back revealed Celeborn looking sadly at the remains of his harp.

Almost immediately the door cracked open and the guards looked in, unable to hide the gleam of anticipation in their eyes. Helluin was sure the two had set their ears to the door as soon as she had entered and had memorized every spoken phrase for the gratification of their gossiping. Still she had to commend them for their restraint, for neither asked a single question. Nor did the guard who had accompanied her up, and had stayed with his fellows on the stairs, ask aught of her the entire time they made their way back to King Amdír's hall. There she was quickly granted an audience, and she noted that the king was as nervous as Celeborn had been.

"Say thou hast achieved some measure of success, I pray thee," he said, sipping nervously from a cup of wine.He poured her a cup as well and thrust it into her hand ere she even took her seat.

"I hath had a measure of success indeed, O King," Helluin reported, amazed at the grand sigh of relief he produced, "and thy guests hath promised to conduct themselves with dignity befitting their station as guests. No more shalt they roam the land like thirsty beasts, nor promenade themselves 'nigh the borders. I am certain their word is good, and they were indeed much calmer ere I left." As I am certain thy guards shalt report, she thought,indeed thou shalt no doubt hear every word. She sighed no less dramatically than the king, as if commiserating with him in spirit ere she resumed. "I should be made more credible in their eyes if thou would see fit to release them from thy custody and into my company for a while. Beinvír and I shalt be vigilant and note any backsliding."

For show, the king sat contemplating her proposal for some moments as they sipped their wine. In truth, there was little he would rather do than convey the responsibility for them unto Helluin for the duration. Indeed happier yet would he be if she somehow contrived to lead them hence, far, far away. For her part, Helluin knew a pause of protocol when she experienced one and endured it in silence. She could almost hear Amdír counting down the passing moments to accumulate what he deemed a proper period of thought for a decision of such gravity. He is a good king, she thought charitably, knowledgeable about the importance of appearances.

"Thy tidings bring me great relief, Helluin," Amdír gravely said at last, though unable to wholly hide his rejoicing in the outcome. "I was right to entrust this diplomacy to thee. Now that I hath carefully considered thy proposal, I see not why such should not be. I shalt order their release immediately." He offered Helluin a smile that she returned.

"A small request I would make of thee, O King," Helluin said. At his nod, she continued."I beseech thee to wait yet a while ere thou release them, for I should attend to my friend whom I left ere dawn, and then both of us should attend to breaking our fast. I know thy guests hath been provided fare on which to sup ere I came to them, and I should not force them to wait on us while we dine."

King Amdír nodded in agreement. Helluin had solved a problem for him. He saw no reason to deprive her or Beinvír of their morning meal. His guests knew not of his decision and would not until their release. Delaying that an hour mattered not.

"Go thou then to thy friend and take thy meal, Helluin. Again, thou hast my thanks."

To Be Continued

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