In An Age Before – Part 27

Chapter Thirty-three

Edhellond in Belfalas – The Second Age of the Sun

Having aught else for a destination, Helluin and Beinvír made their way north and then west along the coast, and by that path came at last to Edhellond, haven of the land of Belfalas. During their trek they oft spied a variety of craft upon the waters, fishing boats mostly, but rarely the greater ships of Númenor, and once even a Nandor vessel much like Aearben in which Helluin had sailed in S.A. 600. And as had that earlier vessel, this one too was headed into the west.

The coast grew busier once they passed the mouths of Anduin, for here were the long established fishing villages and lesser port towns that had grown up during the long reign of King Lenwe. Here too, ships of Númenor had been wont to call at times, proffering aid to the Men of the Hither Shores o'er the last 1200 years.

Now though, this seemed to be changing. More than once the two Elves heard comments from fisher folk giving voice to the growing resentment of the Dúnedain and their newfound quest for riches. This was shocking to Helluin and but reinforced her impressions from Umbar, and such additional proof left her saddened. The love of exploration of Veantur's time and the noble spirit of concern for their brothers of Falmandil's generation seemed to hath waned with the victory their might had achieved during the last war. And having brought about the downfall of a great enemy by their strength of arms, the new generation sought some reward in the following time of peace their fathers had bought.

When Helluin and Beinvír at last reached Edhellond, on 13 Urui, (August 13th), S.A. 1847, Helluin noted that much had changed since her last visit in 597. For one thing, in the past, never would they hath been at leave to wander the coast for well 'nigh three weeks without being greeted or questioned by soldiers of the king. Now, though the roads seemed safe and the laws maintained, no sign of the ruler's sovereignty had they seen. 'Twas as though the civility and peace of the people and their country continued by inertia alone, both having been so long accustomed to order. Indeed Lenwe had been a good king, ruling Elves and Men to peace for 'nigh on 6,000 years.

On this day, the two ellith came within two furlongs of the city gate ere a company of eight sentries challenged them. These were Nandor, dressed as in days of yore in dark green tunics and trousers, and cloaks of a shade lighter green. The familiar device of a cresting wave was emblazoned upon their belt buckles and cloak broaches. They bore swords as of old, yet now Helluin saw they wore Sindarin mail 'neath their tunics. Four also bore spears, the other four bows and quivers. The company leader wore a small silver broach in the shape of paired trees upon the left breast his cloak, a Noldorin motif.

"Declare thyselves, travelers," the captain asked, "ye who come'th thus unheralded to Edhellond." There was neither wariness nor hostility in his tone, Helluin noted, and indeed it seemed for once the question was merely a question. The captain looked them over carefully, noting her black armor and their weapons and nodding to himself.

"I am Helluin of the Host of Finwe," she answered, "also called Maeg-mórmenel. With me is Beinvír of the Laiquendi of Eriador. Indeed we art wanderers, having traveled far and long, and we seek rest for a time in thy lands."

"Thy names art known to us, Helluin and Beinvír," the captain said, "both from of old and from the present. I hath marked thy gear and thou art as tales say. Hast thou heard that King Lenwe at last took ship into the Blessed West and that a new lord and lady doth rule this land?"

"Indeed 'tis known to us, for word hast traveled upon the wind and by the whispers of trees, and tidings came to us in Greenwood ere we set out four months past," said Beinvír. "We hath heard that thou art now ruled by Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, who art known to us."

"Indeed so," the captain said, "and they hath told us ever to expect thee at some time, though they said not when. It seems they hath long accepted the inevitable eventuality of thy presence while knowing not its time. Nevertheless, thou hath the welcome of the lord and lady, and they hath left standing orders that thou should be conveyed to them upon thy arrival." Here he bowed to them and indicated they should follow his company towards the city.

Helluin found that little had changed in Edhellond o'er the last 1200 years, and she found that this comforted her. The wall and gate appeared just as they did in her memories. The wind still blew up the avenues from the harbor with a familiar whistled note. In the distance the tower of the citadel still rose above the pale limestone buildings she had seen on her first visit. If anything differed, 'twas that fewer folk now walked the curving streets.

Of course to Beinvír all was new and the Green Elf walked with wide eyes, her head swiveling to and fro, taking in all she could see. Here was the kingdom first established by her people ere any of the Quendi had found their way to Aman, and for the Nandor, Lenwe had been as Finwe was to Helluin's people, a founding father and first High King. He had raised Belfalas and Edhellond long ere Denethor had led her ancestors o'er the Ered Luin and into Beleriand to become the Laiquendi. Now at last she walked the streets of his ancient realm. Indeed, having lived in Eriador and journeyed to Lórinand, Greenwood, and now Belfalas, she was the first of her people to make her way to each of the existing Silvan Realms. Perhaps only Helluin, who had also set foot in Ossiriand in an Age before and had also met the Avari, could claim to be better traveled amongst the realms of the Moriquendi.

Soon enough they came to the tower that rose above the ancient keep and there at the door the sentries stood aside and the two spoke to the door warden declaring their names. As on her previous visit, the door warden requested her arms, and those of Beinvír as well, and they surrendered them with the usual dire warnings from Anguirél and the Sarchram. The door warden, still shuddering from the threats upon his life, held open the doors and bid them enter, announcing their names to the court within.

"Look carefully about thee as we walk to meet the lord and lady," Helluin whispered to Beinvír as they passed the threshold, "for King Lenwe crafted here a wonder of masonry depicting the sky as once it stood o'er Cuivienen which even I had not seen aforetime. 'Tis a marvel of our world."

But Beinvír needed no encouragement, for she had stopped still in mid-stride and stood frozen upon the dark floor staring upwards at the cunning craft of Belfalas. Far above, amidst arches and columns wrought in the forms of trees and branches, were set the stars of Varda and Aule in their first glory. Not only were their positions accurately depicted, as Helluin had noted aforetime, but too, colored glass had been implanted in some of the openings to color the sunlight to the hues of the kindled stars. After a time, Helluin gave her friend a soft nudge and nodded towards the dais at the far end of the hall and they resumed their stride.

Now Helluin noted that in the semi-circular apse 'neath the canopy there were now set side by side two thrones. Upon them, backed by the carved relief of waves cresting, sat Celeborn and Galadriel, and they rose to greet Helluin and Beinvír as they approached.

"Greetings and fair welcome to thee, my old friends," Celeborn said as a smile shaped his features. "I am thankful thou hath survived the war and art free again to travel as thou hast ever been wont to do. Much did I worry when thou left Imladris and Glorfindel knew not thy whereabouts when he met us upon the field."

"Hail and well met, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel," Helluin replied with a requisite bow of her head. "Thankful am I for thy welcome and glad am I to find thee both well."

"My thanks for thy welcome to thy wondrous hall," Beinvír said after bowing to the lord and lady. "I am sorry thou were worried by our leave taking. Surprised too were we to be called thus, yet none may but heed the summons of a Vala."

At her words Celeborn's eyes widened a fraction. Here was a matter for later discussion, for to be called thus to serve the Powers was very rare. Now he was curious.

Galadriel offered her welcome as well, and she they had not seen since ere the war. Indeed they had not seen her since leaving the couple with Oldbark at Laiquadol. She met the two ellith with a grin that could be described as a smirk, directed particularly at Helluin, whom she approached closely. They were now eye to eye with no disparity in height to be noticed.

"Greetings, Helluin and Beinvír," she said, "long indeed hath it been since last we shared company. To thee both I find owe many debts, not the least of which art thy efforts in the war that preserved the life of my husband, nor," and here she leaned close to whisper to Helluin, "I should say, for directing me thither to Laiquadol. I do note though, that my calculations were in error. I had intended to greet thee from a higher perspective rather than mere parity."

At Helluin's expression of consternation she chuckled and mirth lit her eyes with sincere joy. Somehow to the older Noldo, the princess seemed not only more rational than aforetime, but also possessed of a new found maturity and presence of mind. Was she actually poking fun at her previously held rivalry? Helluin could hardly believe it. For o'er 3,500 years Galadriel had resented her. Could that hath all changed with a mere increase in height? Yet Finarfin's daughter had ever been snippy in Aman, back when she was a handspan taller. Helluin shook her head in confusion. Now she was curious. Here too, it seemed, was a matter for later discussion.

That discussion proceeded o'er a private dinner in the royal family's dining room. There, about a cozy table of polished wood, Celeborn and Galadriel hosted Helluin and Beinvír. Attending also was their daughter, Celebrian. In the past Helluin had only met the younger princess and had never spent time in her company. Beinvír knew her only by sight from a brief introduction in Lórinand centuries before. Both travelers were curious about the daughter of the lord and lady. Indeed, all were curious about each other. It made for a lively meal and one far more enjoyable than that hosted in Umbar, though the fare was not nearly so grand.

"Helluin, ere aught else is spoken, I feel thou art due words of explanation from me," Galadriel said when they had been seated. Helluin gave the princess her attention and she continued. "From of old in Aman did I bear thee ill, and for no fault of thine, but rather such was born of my own jealousy. In my heart I believed that being a princess of the Noldor, none other, and particularly not a commoner so aloof, should incite so much the attentions of the host. I believed myself in conflict with thee, indeed in deficit to thy achievements, and in compensation, reveled in my greater height. To me such became disproportionately important, and when thou appeared increased thus so as to negate and then disadvantage me, I was wroth beyond reason." Here Galadriel paused and offered Helluin a smile, of equal parts chagrin and sympathy. For her part, Helluin merely gaped at the princess, even having heard aforetime her sentiments in Lórinand.

"Thou may think 'tis by my increase in height that I hath put aside my spat with thee, but such is far the lesser reason. Now as thou know, during the war Celeborn led a sortie against the Host of Sauron, passing with the Sindar of Lórinand to battle o'er the Caradhras Pass. I feared greatly for him, and when no word came year after year, even greater did my fear grow. It grew greater still when returned came the Nandor under Prince Amroth, citing their failure and the northward pursuit of my husband and Lord Elrond by the Glamhoth. In that time did I realize what was truly important, and finally let go of what was not.

Then in 1710 did I come at last to Imladris for the council, and in that time many tales did I hear of thy courageous stand against Sauron's forces...indeed to such acts as did preserve the lives of Celeborn and all those who found refuge at last in the Hidden Valley. So then in thanks did I hold thee and thy friend, and ever shalt I acknowledge my debt to thee. And this debt I do accept, without resentment and without reservation."

Helluin was struck speechless by Galadriel's words. Never in an Age had she expected such a turnabout. She was so shocked that when the Lady of Belfalas rose from her seat and came o'er to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, she sat frozen as one carven of stone. 'Twas long ere she could even manage to sputter, and longer still ere she could form words. Beinvír, Celeborn, and Celebrian sat watching with wide grins curling their lips. And so after well 'nigh 3,800 years of the sun, the antagonism between Helluin and Galadriel was laid at last to rest. Next, Celeborn sought to satisfy his curiosity.

"Beinvír, thou hath said a summons came unto thee and Helluin from the Valar in those days shortly following the war?" He asked, turning his attention to the Green Elf.

Beinvír swallowed the mouthful of wine she had taken and then composed her answer.

"Indeed so, Lord Celeborn," she said, "though 'twas but one Vala that doth appeared in a vision shared betwixt us." Here she glanced o'er at Helluin who had recovered for the most part from her exchange with Galadriel. Helluin nodded for her to continue while she sampled the breast of a braised squab marinated in yogurt and 31 spices.

"Thou shared a vision, truly?"

"'Twas the Lord Ulmo who came before us, and indeed we were visited by the same vision, for we saw it together," Beinvír said. "For my part, I was awestruck to silence, but Helluin spoke with the Blessed One, for He knew her from of old and had summoned her aforetime."

Celeborn raised his brows in amazement. Helluin had twice been called to errantry by the Vala Ulmo? To be called thus even once in a lifetime was a matter of legends from the Elder Days. The Lord of the Waters spoke but rarely to the Children of Iluvatar in the Hither Lands, and thence only to stay some great doom.

"To Avernien did He summon me to oppose the sons of Feanor and to buy time for the escape of Elwing and the Silmaril," Helluin stated as she chewed. At the surprised looks from Celeborn, Galadriel, and Celebrian, she added, "I am sure 'tis only my slaughter of Amrod and Amras that hath been recorded in the lore of those days. In all the days thou spent with Lord Elrond I am surprised he told thee not that tale." She shrugged. After a moment's silence, in which she gnawed the meat from the squab's drumstick, she added for Celebrian's benefit, "Too, I went thither afterwards in search of Maedhros and Maglor, to free the Peredhil and avenge the slain of Avernien. Strangely, I wound up aiding them in battle and agreeing to their custody of Elrond and Elros. Well did they discharge that trust...until they became again stupid following the War of Wrath."

Celebrian nodded to the dark Noldo and sat for a time in silent contemplation of how Helluin had long ago touched the life of her beloved. Beinvír resumed then her narrative.

"The Lord Ulmo commanded us to Mithlond seeking one Captain Mórfang of Númenor, and thence to sail for Tol Morwen. There we aided the search of Anguirél for the body of her brother, and afterwards conveyed his remains thither, unto the Vanyar of Aman."

If her earlier tidings had surprised the others, these words struck them dumb. 'Twas a space ere any spoke, but finally Celeborn broke the silence.

"Anguirél hast long been thy sword, Helluin, and therefore if gender doth a blade claim, I reckon her brother be none other than Anglachél. That sword I saw in days of yore, for that black blade came of Eol to Thingol, my lord, and later passed to Beleg and thence to Turin son of Hurin. Anglachél was a fell blade, or so said Melian, but none I know heard aught of intent or voice from that weapon."

"Anguirél too is a fell blade, possessed of a spirit and a voice," Helluin assured him.

The Lord of Belfalas nodded in acceptance of her statement. Such was not unheard of.

"Whyfore then would Ulmo command thee to bring forth the shards of Anglachél unto Aman?" Galadriel asked, for she felt a foreshadowing of the import of this matter.

"We believe that in our vision did Lord Ulmo confirm somewhat of that which hath ever been hidden," Beinvír claimed, "and that being the fate of even a single one of the Younger Kindred. Anglachél was to be reforged and returned to his master's hand, for at world's ending is to come a final battle and a reckoning. Upon that day Turin is to be champion."

Where aforetime the silences had been in reaction to surprise, now none spoke for their awe. And Helluin, recalling the sense of humor she'd discerned as mortal in an Age before, remembered the words of Tuor in Gondolin and recast them for Turin.

"'Tis dark work, but somebody hast to do it." She grinned and followed her words with a sip of wine.

"I wonder if Elrond knows aught of this?" Celebrian asked. "He would find it quite fascinating, I am sure."

"He hast become quite the loremaster," Celeborn added, nodding in agreement.

"'Tis true, and aforetime did he aid me with details to clarify the words of Lord Ulmo," Helluin said. "He hath absorbed great knowledge of history in his studies. Also a talented healer hast he become," she added, but she said no more of their battle afflictions. Little did Helluin relish spreading the account of her atrocities or Beinvír's near-fading.

"I hath always found him noble and wise," Beinvír said, "and he hath both a leader's strength and a father's compassion." She offered Celebrian a smile.

Her words of praise fairly made the younger princess glow. 'Twas obvious to all how highly Celebrian regarded Elrond. Galadriel smiled warmly at her daughter's reaction with love suffusing her eyes. Having seen her mostly haggard or cross, this expression was new to Helluin, who sat analyzing it and found it quite fitting to her fair features.

"Yes, a fine father he shalt make one day," Celeborn teased, bringing a blush to his daughter's face and a chuckle of his own in response.

"If ever he allows himself the opportunity," Galadriel added. At the questioning glances from Helluin and Beinvír she added, "At the White Council of 1710 was't he appointed Vice-Regent of Eriador atop being Lord of Imladris, and he feels now the weightier his responsibilities 'neath Gil-galad who hath himself never married. Elrond deems himself claimed first by his office and would see it settled ere he commits himself to marriage and a family."

"Bah," Helluin said, "ever shalt some cause for upset be found in Arda and 'naught that any of the Eldar can do shalt change that. Elrond shalt find himself ever unfinished of his task. In his own mind must he find a balance 'twixt his king and his beloved."

"I am sure he shalt come to just such a state...eventually," Celebrian said with a sigh. She glanced down uncertainly at her plate. "Gil-galad he regards as a father as much as a king and he is loath to disappoint him in any way. Indeed I understand this."

"I am sure Gil-galad would begrudge not his son such happiness," Helluin said.

"Hast Elrond stated what he thinks necessary for the ordering of his responsibilities?" Beinvír asked.

Celebrian looked up at them sadly. "He hast suggested 'naught less than the fall of Sauron, for only in this doth he sense peace and the security in which to raise a family."

"And yet well 'nigh all our folk were born in the time of Morgoth," Galadriel said, "and even unto Aman came danger and war and death."

"Aye, and in Arda Marred, ever shalt some discord arise," Helluin stated with certainty, "'tis its nature, presaged in the Ainur's Song. 'Tis true that peace may reign for a time, but security is an illusion at best...else worse, a delusion. 'Tis not a state absolute, but rather a quality found only in degrees."

"Perhaps with time his beliefs shalt change," Beinvír offered. She noted that none of the prior comments had served to ease at all the princess' sadness, and so she had tried a bit of optimistic sympathy. She was rewarded with a small smile from Celebrian.

"So do I hope," she replied, "for if all concerns of security were answered, yet still there is fate. One may be struck down unexpected even in the best guarded keep."

For Helluin and Beinvír, who had spent centuries wandering in and out of danger, a preoccupation with achieving the illusion of security in Arda seemed very strange indeed. Beinvír was more worried that the waiting would be worse for Celebrian's spirit than to enjoy her happiness in a home under siege. She recognized that Elrond's delay was postponing the present in favor of a hope for the future. It denied what was...their present love. She shook her head. For all his wisdom in lore and healing, she thought her friend Elrond favored a course fraught with folly.

Thereafter the diners conversed upon many topics and shared tidings of much that had passed in Middle Earth. Helluin and Beinvír appraised the monarchs of the mood of the Dúnedain of Umbar and indeed Celeborn and Galadriel were shocked that such a turn had come to pass. True they had marked the increased avariciousness of some captains, but the two travelers spoke of a dark path upon which the future leaders tread. 'Twas the first time known to them that Men of Westernesse had assaulted any of the Elder Children of Iluvatar, for in the past, ever had goodwill thrived between their kindreds.

Predictably Celeborn and Galadriel were upset. They were the rulers of a small seaside realm and Númenor ruled the waves. None were so mighty upon Belaeger. The notion of the might that had turned the tide of the last war standing against them was cause for quicker drinking and much worry for the future.

"They hath designs upon Anduin," Beinvír recalled from the dinner conversation at the table of Tindomul, "and at Pelargir would they establish a haven for their enrichment from the trade of the river."

"Yet for the time being, they withhold their hand from action," Helluin added, "for they see that in time thy influence upon the margins of thy realm shalt wane and their influence shalt peacefully replace it. They would both hath their cake and sup of it as well, obtaining their dominance o'er the river while retaining still for a while their friendship with the Eldar. Crafty and calculating do they deem their counsels, yet ever to their own gain they doth look."

"Alas, Anduin is subject to Belfalas more by tradition than aught else in these latter days," Celeborn admitted. "Scarcely art there even folk numerous enough to people the havens of Edhellond in these times. From Ethir Anduin upriver to Mindolluin's shadow art mostly the dwellings of Men. So it hast been since many of Lenwe's folk fled into the West during the war and in the years before and after."

Helluin and Beinvír nodded in understanding. Who could blame the Nandor of this country for fleeing the proximity of Sauron and his Black Land in time of war? Hosts of the enemy had marched past, and though they had been bound for the war in Eriador, still too easy it would hath seemed for them to simply turn south in the river's vale and march upon their homes. For millennia the people of Lenwe had known mostly peace. Only from the mariners of Cirdan and from Helluin herself long aforetime had they heard tell of the wars of Beleriand...and that lore had filled them with fear. Now Morgoth's Lieutenant had come in strength against the Eldar to their north. The days darkened, the years of terror of which they had heard were renewed, and in their collective imagination, their choices had been to flee Middle Earth or to endure the horrors Helluin had seen in the First Age. 'Twas little wonder they had left.

"They flee still do they not?" Helluin asked.

"A boatload now and a boatload then," Galadriel said, "and who can blame them? Sauron was not destroyed, only defeated. He shalt meditate ever upon conquest and yearn to promote our downfall. He is no doubt even now rebuilding his armies." Then her voice fell to a whisper and she added, "He hath still his One Ring. I am charged by the Council to continue in the care of one of the Three. And wherefore more unexpected for it to hide than upon the coast, so near seeming to his own realm and in a realm itself so weak? Yet here we hath come, knowing that the eyes of the Númenóreans and the folk of Anduin shalt be ever watchful...and here, if needs prove dire, we can'st escape by water to Lindon."

Helluin nodded. 'Twas a good ploy and well planned. Here the Elven Ring brought danger to but a few, and these least likely to perceive it or their added peril, for their existing peril was already great. And here, as Galadriel had said, escape was readily available.

"Yet now that which thy words report indeed leaves me uneasy," Galadriel said. Her voice broke Helluin from her musings and she harkened to the princess. "If we can no longer rely upon the goodwill of Númenor, our watch upon the Black Land is curtailed. The realm of Belfalas is in decline, and indeed shalt Men one day come to rule these lands. I would hath that stayed for yet a time, for these younger Men...Tindomul and his ilk, may prove untrustworthy at need.

I hate to dwell on doubts, Helluin, but those enamoured of wealth may fall the more easily to temptation, and ever was such weakness rewarded by Sauron. A boon he would reveal to those willing to accept it, and coming thence 'neath his sway in the taking, their loyalties fallen, then into his hands would their strength come. I trust not in these Men."

And into Sauron's hands hath come the Nine, came the Lady's words to Helluin's mind.

Helluin marked Galadriel's words. She could not help but agree. At that moment, she wouldn't hath trusted Tindomul further than she could throw him...about two fathoms, give or take. And what if he were offered a Ring? He or any of those amongst his people who so craved wealth and power? She nodded to Galadriel to signify her agreement.

"Would that I had the strength to hold the Vale of Anduin yet a while," Galadriel said, looking Helluin in the eyes, "and with such strength keep a watch upon Mordor, for Sauron's power shalt rise again and I would hath a warning of it ere his troops assail us."

"Indeed all the Noldor look to that time with foreboding, for the doom of continued war was made in the hour of Sauron's defeat," Helluin said. Her anger rose uncontrollably as she remembered that day. "I felt it as I stood in his camp 'nigh Tharbad watching the dust rise behind his fleeing horses, for I had hastened thither even as the battle waned, seeking him for to take his head. He fled from me and made good his escape. But for a horse or a handful of minutes I should hath engaged him in single combat, that craven wretch. All would I hath gladly put to right in that hour had I but been fated the chance. Yet such was't granted me not." Helluin gritted her teeth and sat with jaw clenched, grim of face. She fell into a brooding silence, blue fire flickering in her eyes.

About her the others sat silent in awe. Not only had Helluin dared to come 'nigh the Enemy who had long filled all their people with dread, but had actually charged after him intent on slaying him, Maia though he was. Not since the High King Fingolfin had smote upon the gates of Angband in challenge of Morgoth had such an account of reckless courage been heard. It was all Beinvír could do to keep from being sick.

Galadriel sighed. Here was the strength to hold back both Men and Sauron...for a time. Yet Helluin was not her subject to command. She was a wanderer, and if any held her allegiance in Middle Earth 'twas Gil-galad, the High King and right sovereign of their people. Long ere Galadriel's birth in Aman, Helluin had followed the Host of Finwe, and now, after three Ages of the world and four High Kings, even Gil-galad's claim o'er her was questionable. He had well 'nigh refused her service during the war and had excluded her from the White Council after it. Though Galadriel, Celeborn, Elrond, and Glorfindel had all beseeched him to change his decision and send for her, he had kept his own counsel. Yet Helluin had ever been the enemy of the evil ones, and in this her purposes had concurred with the rest of the Noldor. No, Helluin was not subject to command by the House of Finarfin so long as the House of Fingolfin ruled the Host of Finwe in Middle Earth, but perhaps she could be moved with an appeal. Galadriel turned to her husband and engaged him silently in conversation for a few moments. At last he nodded to her in agreement. Beinvír watched them with growing apprehension.

"Helluin," Galadriel called in a soft voice, waiting until the dark head harkened to her. "Hath thou some duty to our king or some destination of thine own on thy road ahead?"

To these questions, Helluin sighed and shook her head 'no'.

"Woulds't thou consider, for a span of time of thine own choosing, to keep watch upon the lands to the east?" At her words both Helluin and Beinvír looked at her sharply in surprise. Beinvír was about to protest, but ere she could do so, Galadriel spoke again. "I would cede to thee a fief; all the lands of Belfalas from Ethir Anduin to Mindolluin, west of Anduin and east of the Gilrain. Thou and thy friend would be Lord and Lady of the lands of Lebennin...a realm of thine own and not subject to Belfalas. We cannot hold well those lands and would see them passed on to one well suited to defending them against both Númenor and Mordor." Celeborn nodded in accord with his wife's words.

Helluin and Beinvír could only gape at Galadriel in disbelief. She smiled at their shock. Helluin choked. She took one look at the horrified expression on the Green Elf's face and began shaking her head 'no'.

"I understand thy reluctance," Galadriel said turning to address Beinvír, "and yet I would that thou consider a moment what I hath offered. The land is wide and the uplands forested and for the most part free. Ever hast the population concentrated about the coast and alongside the rivers and in the lands 'nigh to them where tillage and travel art easiest. Yet more, a land's rulers need not stay ever in their realm. Even we travel." Here she turned to Celeborn and smiled.

Beinvír made no answer, but calmed her breathing. The Lady was persuasive. In truth, the lands Galadriel referred to were unknown to her save from distant sight. Helluin had seen much of them but that was long ago. More than anything though, the Green Elf was viscerally repulsed by the idea of being tied to one country, responsible for its people, and living 'nigh the land of the Enemy. She looked at Helluin and found her still recovering from her shock and as yet unable to make any decision.

"Just promise me that thou shalt give my proposal consideration," Galadriel said. "In all honesty I can think of no other who could so effectively order this realm at this time. I pray thee, think upon it. I can ask of thee no more than that, I suppose."

To Beinvír's horror, a still dazed Helluin nodded 'yes' to the princess' request. Thereafter the meal was governed mostly by silence. At its end Helluin and Beinvír retreated to their guest quarters. As they passed from the door of the dining hall, they o'erheard Celebrian admonishing her mother with, "I cannot believe thou did that!"

"I pray thee, tell me not that thou art actually considering the Lady's plea?" Beinvír asked in their room later that night just to be sure. When Helluin hesitated to answer immediately, she groaned. Indeed 'twas an uncomfortable silence as ruled ere the Noldo spoke.

"In truth I hath not thought upon it, for too deep in shock am I still," Helluin admitted at last. She hauled off her boots and dropped them on the floor. Moving much like a machine, she stripped off her armor and laid it o'er a wooden form made for that purpose. "I doubt I shalt be able to think at all ere the morn. Hither I came believing she was wroth with me as ever aforetime and yet now she offers me a fief and a title? Me? Thou? Such a course goes against all I hath done all my life, and yet I can see the necessity of it, may the Valar preserve me."

Beinvír regarded her with mouth agape. Anything but a complete refusal was beyond her ability to digest. With a sigh she looked out the window into the night and listened to the waves rolling in the distance upon the shore. The sea unsettled her...perhaps it unsettled all, skewing their counsels and rendering the less stable their wits. She chewed her lip in uncertainty. After some moments she looked back at Helluin, who was now dressed only in her shift and was easing herself back onto the mattress as if it were a bed of coals, completely preoccupied with some internal dialog.

Oh this is not good...not good at all, Beinvír thought, and what horrors shalt the morn bring? Surely I shalt not rest for my fear and anticipation, and Helluin shalt not rest for her shock and indecision. Alas, we should hath stayed in Greenwood.

Indeed the night proved rest-less for both and the morn came all too quickly as 'tis wont to do at such times. Anor rose and brightened the room unmercifully. From the window came the sounds of a seaside city coming to life; the snap of canvas and the cries of gulls, sailors, and fish mongers. Beinvír raised herself on one arm and looked o'er at Helluin. The tall Noldo was lying flat on her back staring sightlessly at the ceiling, and the Green Elf noted that she was gritting her teeth and that her hands were clenched in fists. For her part, Helluin was still oblivious to the waking world. She was deeply enmeshed in conjectures and suppositions that had grown in the hours of darkness into a monstrous construct of projections in her head. Before her mind's eye played a tableau of scenarios hatched from answering Galadriel's offer either yea or nay. She was locked thus in phantasms of the future. Beinvír walked to the nightstand, and retrieving a ewer, returned to the bedside and dumped the contents o'er Helluin's head.

Helluin bolted upright, sputtering and blinking, and gasping for air. She swiped a hand across her eyes, flicking off the water, and then looked at her partner in surprise as if seeing her for the first time in weeks.

"Thou was't stuck," the Green Elf explained, "thy mind circling like a buzzard o'er a drought land ever searching for a well spring that exists not. Thy world was populated with but the dried carcasses of ideas and suspicions, I wager. No answer shalt thou find within that realm, my friend. Only by accepting a journey can'st thou come to its end."

Helluin blinked at her.

"Art thou saying that indeed I should accept Galadriel's offer?" Helluin asked.

"Nay, nay!" An alarmed Beinvír exclaimed. "I should beg thee to flee Edhellond at once and give no answer at all, for I greatly fear thou shalt be imprisoned by thy duties as were Celeborn and Galadriel in Eregion, or as is Gil-galad in Lindon and Elrond in Imladris, save that thou hast for a neighbor none other than Sauron. I can'st not think of a fate worse for thee. Reject that journey and escape its end!"

Helluin sat rubbing the dullness from her eyes with her fists and then shook herself vigorously like a wet hound. When she composed herself at last she glanced out the window ere returning her attention to her friend.

"Such as those thou mention make their own cage in the ordering of their realms. They create cities and courts therein to stifle themselves," Helluin reasoned, "and in no way art either necessary. 'Tis possible to manage a realm with neither court nor capitol, I deem. Indeed, I wonder if the subjects even need know that they art part of a realm at all?"

Oh My God, she's going to do it, Beinvír's mind shrieked, I recognize that reasonable at the start...she's convincing herself that such is possible. We shalt be here for centuries with Sauron upon the doorstep...I just know it. Oh joy!

"...for the purposes Galadriel stated, a realm needs but a vigilant army, and even that not extensive in size...merely sufficient to repel brigands and lay claim of sovereignty..."

Beinvír stood listening to Helluin as she continued her exercise in self-persuasion. Her notions of the necessities of a realm were...unconventional...or more likely perhaps, to speak charitably, uninformed.

Wherefore had fled the wits of Galadriel and Celeborn, Beinvír wondered, to turn o'er thus to one asocial wanderer no less than half their realm? Could they hath picked a more unlikely ruler than a commoner disregarded as a menace by the king and court of her own people? Could they expect a peaceful reign from the one reckoned most violent amongst all the Noldor? Beinvír had to wonder just what the princess had against the folk of Lebennin. Even she herself had more experience of governing, having been long tutored with anecdotes in the company of Dálindir, the abdicated King of the Laiquendi.

"...and in civil matters, thou shalt aid me with thy wisdom." Helluin fell silent at last.

"Huh?" Beinvír asked, drawn hence from her ruminations by her partner's silence. She found Helluin staring intently at her as if awaiting an answer. The Green Elf focused her wandering attention and with a sinking feeling asked, "Pray repeat thy question?"

To Be Continued

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