Chapter 15: Discussion
Celebrían was awake by the time Fae returned to the room they were temporarily sharing.
Awake, and concerned.
"Are you okay?" she blurted as soon as Fae stepped through the door, making the other woman pause and stare at her, one eye twinkling with amusement.
Stepping forward after half a second, Fae leaned down at the waist so she was staring right into the she-elf's eyes, a small smile curving her lips.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
Thoroughly distracted, Celebrían opened and closed her mouth a few times, trying to think of something to say. Before she could even begin to get her thoughts in order, the younger woman leaned back up and held out a hand for her to take.
With barely a thought, Celebrían took it, and privately marveled at the sheer heat that emanated from the woman.
It was like her hand had been wrapped in silk, if the silk had been laid out next to a roaring fire all day and wrapped around a steel glove.
Fae gently stepped around her as if she was dancing, ending with the other hand encircling her waist with the red-haired woman's eye twinkling down at her.
"Does it surprise you?" she murmured, her breath misting as her head tilted to the side, an odd little half-smile pulling at her lips.
Celebrían's cheeks warmed as she realized how close they'd just gotten, but mastered herself with some difficulty.
"Does what?" she asked, proud of herself for managing not to stutter.
Fae grinned and stepped away, her hand sliding gently along Celebrían's abdomen as she slid across the smooth floor, twirling around. To the elf, it looked as if she were dancing to a tune that only she could hear.
The silver-haired woman stood near the door, still confused, trying to ignore the way her skin tingled where Fae's fingers had slid across it.
Then, almost before she could blink, Fae had twisted back around and stared into her eyes, her own almost seeming to blaze with intensity. "Does it surprise you to learn that your mother can be challenged?"
"Wha— what do you mean?" Celebrían asked, even as the possible implications inherent in the question began to dawn on her.
For as long as Celebrían had been alive, her mother had been someone to admire, with, she was proud to admit, very good reason. Long before the the Realms of Gondor and Arnor had existed, before Númenor was sunk beneath the waves, Galadriel was born, when Two Trees still shone their light across the world.
Her skill, knowledge, power and beauty were matched by few, and surpassed by fewer. She was, arguably, the most powerful elf that remained East of the Sea.
And the question Fae had asked burned in her mind, with no answers forthcoming.
"I—" Celebrían asked, trying to think of something to say.
She was stopped from answering as Fae sighed and shook her head. "Nevermind. I'm sorry, I don't mean to upset you."
The silver-haired woman blinked a few times. "I'm not upset."
Fae grinned then, running a hand through her hair. "Oh goody. In that case, let's go out."
"Out… where?" she asked, suspicious of the impish look in the woman's eye.
"Dunno. What seems like a good spot to you? Any place in this pretty little city you've got that you care to show off?" she challenged, sounding amused.
"Little!?" Celebrían sputtered as Fae walked out the door with a laugh, leaving her with no choice but to follow, even as she huffed at the cheerful slight. Lothlórien may not have been quite as immense as the ancient elven cities, or even a few made by Men, but it was hardly little.
Fae snickered at her pout. Teasing was such fun, especially with a woman who got so easily flustered.
Even as Celebrían caught up, still miffed about her comment, Fae turned aside and hooked an arm through the she-elf's elbow, grinning all the while.
Remembering the many lessons on etiquette her mother had drilled into her, Celebrían lifted her chin and continued walking, almost managing to hide a smile as they walked down the stairs.
"Oh dear, is that manners I spy? Who would have thought you were capable of it?" Fae asked teasingly.
"I'll have you know that I am well versed in the courtly arts," she sniffed disdainfully, making Fae grin all the wider.
"So I see. Not many people I've ever met have the sort of dignity that you do," she mused. "Is that natural talent, or long practice?"
"Practice, I think," Celebrían replied, accepting the compliment with grace. "I am over five thousand years old, after all."
She was halted in her walking as Fae abruptly stopped walking, the tanned arm looped through her elbow making her stop too. The red-haired woman goggled at her with an open mouth.
"You're FIVE THOUSAND years old!?" she sputtered, pausing to look her up and down. Her surprise was short lived, however, and her jaw closed with a click. Only one thought came to mind, which she promptly gave voice to. "You look great!"
A trace of red made its way into her cheeks at the simple compliment, given that she hadn't been sure what to expect.
The immortality that all elves shared had been a dividing factor between their race and the race of men for as long as both had existed, and even today that had still not been resolved to anyone's satisfaction.
Fae's reaction was not one that she expected, even as her heart fluttered a little at the sincerity in the woman's voice.
For as insulated a community as Lothlórien, someone who spoke so frankly about so many things was an entirely new experience, to say the least.
"Hey," her companion said, poking her in the forehead. "Whatcha thinking about?"
Waving off the hand with a glare, Celebrían tried to refocus the conversation elsewhere. "Why is it so surprising to you that I've lived so long? Don't the elves from your world live long lives?"
"Hm, well. Not always. Longer than most humans did, to be sure," Fae replied, tapping a finger to her chin as she considered the question. "Most humans could manage seventy years on average, whereas the merish races tended to live at least over a hundred. High elves, usually managed about three hundred. The oldest elf I ever met was over four thousand years old, while the oldest known was pushing five, last I heard of him. There were a few other special cases that were even older, but for any elf to live longer than a thousand was very unusual."
Her audience was hanging on every word, Celebrían finding that her curiosity spiking with every word. To hear talk of such a place, one that seemed so alien, was utterly fascinating. "Here, all elves share a form of immortality. We do not and cannot die from old age, but are still susceptible to poison, magic or blade."
Fae nodded. "At least that's the same. I don't like the thought of hanging out with a bunch of un-killable snobs."
Snickering openly at her cry of outrage, Fae simply hooked her arm around Celebrían's elbow and started walking again, not giving her a chance to protest. "Oh, don't be mad, I'm just teasing. Now, tell me all about this strange world of yours, and we'll see what similarities we can come up with."
Distracted from her momentary burst of indignation, the silver-haired elf soon began to do just that, interest eclipsing her displeasure.
And so they walked through the woods and paths of Lothlórien, sharing stories and secrets. Finally, they arrived in a secluded area of the forest floor where someone had set up an actual lawn, complete with green grass and edged with beautiful flowers, somehow still in bloom despite the cold that ringed the place.
Dragging the elf behind her, she entered into the garden and immediately lay down with a sigh of contentment. "Ahh! So soft!"
And even as Celebrían hmphed and sat down daintily beside her, Fae idly noted those elves who were still observing them.
Some were peering out from shaded alcoves, others pretending to be occupied with different tasks. A few of the dumber ones were even hopping around on the tree branches above, pausing to glare down at them every once in a while.
It was almost cute, how stealthy they thought they were being.
Fae paused for a moment, sitting up, her smile stretching even wider and a strange look entering her eye. 'Eheh. So you wanna play, do ya~?'
"Um... Fae?" the woman beside her asked nervously, fiddling with her dress. "Why are you staring like that...?"
"Oops," she cringed, putting a hand over her face. "Sorry, got a bit excited for a moment."
"Well don't get excited again! It's not a very good look."
Spying an opportunity, Fae grinned and fluttered her eyelashes. "O-ho, so you've noticed my looks, have you?"
The silver-haired woman immediately turned scarlet. "I did not! Cease your frivolous accusations this instant!"
She responded by bursting into laughter.
The elves above were treated to the site of the daughter of their Lord and Lady smacking her friend on the head and arm in outrage. And even as she did so, the red-haired woman rolled around, mock-shielding herself with her arms, giggling like an errant schoolgirl.
To many of them, such a loss of composure was unbecoming.
Despite that, a few of the younger elves couldn't help but smile.
Fae finally managed to temper her amusement, catching both of the assaulting hands. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. It's just that teasing you is so fun."
Celebrían glared up at her, pouting, a look that Fae found absolutely adorable, even as she released her grip on the woman's arms. Slowly leaning back, she supported herself with both hands and took a deep breath, idly noting with some amusement the way the elf blushed again and gazed elsewhere as her rather substantial bosom rose and fell.
Such an easy mark.
"…Methinks it's time to acknowledge the elephant in the room," she said, smiling idly, seeming to all as if the humor of the past few hours was still present.
"Elephant?" the elf asked, confused at the term. "You mean oliphaunt?"
The immense, lumbering war-beasts of the Haradrim were something few books in the library of Lothlórien talked about, given their immense size and even greater rarity. To the Men of Gondor, they were better known as Mûmakil.
In fact, the only reason she knew of the term at all was because she'd read it in a book by a Hobbit, supposedly a great traveler. Grodo Boggins, or something.
"Is that what you call them here?" Fae asked, tilting her head in bemusement. "Huge, grey, long snout, big tusks?"
"That sounds right. But I don't know what you mean by 'in the room'. If one were around here, I think we would know it."
"Figure of speech, hun," she rolled her eyes, amused. "Something large and obtrusive that probably deserves to be discussed."
Celebrían's eyes widened in understanding. "Ah. That makes sense." She dusted a bit of grass off of her dress. "What is it that you want to discuss?"
Any feeling of pleasure or curiosity was immediately snuffed out at Fae's next word.
The red-haired woman leaned forward, an unusual intensity in her eye. "Tell me about Morgoth."
Every elf in earshot simultaneously shuddered, Celebrían especially, who closed her eyes and folded her arms around herself.
"Can we not? Please?" she asked in a small voice.
Fae scooted over and gently wrapped her arm around the elf's shoulder. "…That bad, huh?"
The woman slowly leaned into her. "Worse. So much worse." Her shivers began to increase.
Breathing deeply, Fae swelled her own magic, infusing it with comfort and caring, letting a blanket of positive emotions sweep through the clearing.
Celebrían's eyes popped open and she let out a startled moan at the feeling, warmth trailing across her skin. "A-ah! Fae, how are you…?"
The woman regarded her with a considering eye. "It's a technique I developed a while ago, helps to calm people down. Although it seems you're more sensitive to my magic than most people in my world. Not really surprising, considering the magic that's infusing this forest."
The feeling faded a little, making Celebrían mourn the loss. That had been comfortable.
And, to her shock, her reaction to the name of the First Enemy had been swept aside beneath the blanket of the technique. The feelings that it evoked in her were still there, but had retreated to the dark corners of her mind in the wake of Fae's magic.
Even as she struggled to ask the questions that formed at her lips, an elf fell out of the tree and landed a few feet from them with a thump, startling her out of that impulse.
"…Illaría? Where did you come from?" she asked, confused.
Fae recognized her too, the brunette she'd met on the edges of the city way back when.
The pretty, blue-eyed elf blushed at the attention she was receiving. The surge of magic from the strange woman had caught her off guard in the middle of a jump, making her miss her footing and leaving her scrabbling on the edge of a thin branch. She'd been on the verge of finding a better handhold when the blasted thing had finally given way, dropping her down into what was ostensibly a private conversation.
She grimaced. This probably wouldn't end well.
Fae cheerfully threw oil on the fire. "She's one of the ones who've been eavesdropping on us."
"Eavesdropping?" Celebrían cried, outraged, making every other elf present cringe. "Who would dare— Illaría! Explain yourself!"
Wincing at the tone, the younger woman hastened to do so. "Forgive me, my Lady. Lord Celeborn ordered us to follow you, to make sure you were safe and that nothing… um, happened."
She tried not to sound as if she were accusing the stranger of anything.
It didn't work.
"Happened!?" she shrieked furiously, incensed at what her father had ordered and all but declared. "How dare— he— I— that utter troglodyte! I'll rip his ears off!"
By now she'd actually gotten to her feet, pacing around and ranting without pause about the stupidity and pig-headedness of the ruling Lord of Lothlórien, all while the rest of the elves around the garden tried to make themselves as small as possible.
And while Fae found her loss of composure utterly hilarious, she knew that Celebrían wouldn't find it as funny once she'd calmed down.
On the next pass, the irate woman was stopped in her pacing by a hand that came up and took hold of hers.
With a gentle smile, Fae slowly tugged her back down until she was sitting in her original spot.
Massaging her back soothingly, the red-haired woman murmured in her ear. "Easy, sweetheart. No need to bite anyone's head off. They can't help it that they're getting stupid orders."
That Celebrían was getting so outraged on her behalf was unnecessary, but warmed her heart all the same.
Taking a deep breath, the silverette nodded once, still glaring at Illaría and snuggled closer to Fae, as if in defiance. "You can go. All of you."
The warning in her tone could not have been more clear.
Crestfallen, the younger elf bowed and was about to leave, when the stranger spoke up.
"Actually, the rest of you can go," she said mildly, surprising everyone present. She lifted a single finger and pointed at Illaría, who blinked in bemusement. "You stay. I have a few questions for you."
Celebrían was surprised, but didn't contradict her. The other elves almost made to protest, but a glare from the silver-eyed woman made it very clear that they shouldn't.
Illaría herself was more than a little caught off guard. Why had she been singled out? She began to get more than a little apprehensive.
Noticing her nervousness, Fae rolled her eye. "Oh, relax, I'm not going to eat you."
"I don't know, I'm almost tempted. Is that common, in your world?" Celebrían asked, feeling just a little bit vindictive.
"Occasionally," she replied. "Generally the sort of mad cults that pop up every now and then. Along with wood elves."
For a few seconds, both women raised an eyebrow, before the last part of the statement finally hit them.
"Wood elves eat flesh!?" Illaría shrieked. Celebrían looked nearly as shocked.
"Exclusively," she replied with a nod. "The Bosmer, as we call them, chose to live in the wild forests of Valenwood when they separated from the Altmer, the high elves. They made a pact with the forest god Y'ffre, promising the health of the trees in exchange for his patronage. As part of the pact, wood elves cannot consume, use, or harm any vegetation, ever, for any reason."
The pair of them contemplated that for a few seconds. All elves shared a love for the wilder places of the world, and forests especially. Yet even they could barely imagine such an idea. Fruit and vegetables were the mainstay for elvish cuisine.
"How can they live, if they eat nothing from the trees?" the younger elf asked, her sky-blue eyes alight with morbid curiosity.
"Because they eat everything but the trees. Among the conditions of the Green Pact was the Meat Mandate. To put it bluntly… when the Bosmer prepare for battle, they also prepare to feast."
Celebrían put a hand to her mouth, looking and feeling sick. Illaría seemed even worse, as she hunched over a little and seemed only a breath away from being sick.
Fae ignored them both and put a hand to her chin, looking up at the canopy contemplatively. "I've always had my suspicions about that. Perhaps an Aedra happened to split off the worst of themselves when they were making an avatar? Or it might have been Namira, clever old hag. Wouldn't put it past her to disguise herself and reshape an entire society to feed her disgusting cravings."
"Namira?" the silver-haired elf asked, managing to master her queasy stomach for the moment.
Fae waved her off. "Story for another day. I doubt you're ready to hear about the Divines and the Princes. Even I can barely keep my head on straight when I talk about them." She glanced their way, and a cheeky grin began to grow on her face. "Besides, you two look like you could use something to eat. Settle the nausea."
They both grimaced and held their stomachs.
"That... might be nice," Illaría said, but glanced at her lady. "But I wouldn't want to intrude."
Celebrían raised an eyebrow. "Any more than you already have?"
The younger woman winced. While her lady's tone have calmed since then, the rebuke was still loud and clear.
Fae, however, leaned over and butted her head into her friend's shoulder. "Be nice."
"You of all people, tell me to be nice?" she responded, raising an eyebrow. "Who are you and what have you done with Fae?"
Said woman broke out into giggles. "Haha! I'm rubbing off on you!"
Illaría said the one thing that came to mind as she watched the two women. "But... why do you want me along?"
Celebrían glanced at Fae, raising her eyebrow even higher. "I'm wondering that as well."
"As I said, I have questions," the redhead said. Noting the doubt that remained in her eyes, she simply smiled and pointed at Illaría. "Look at her, you can't stay mad at that babyface!"
The young elf flushed scarlet, pouting slightly. She was probably older than this infuriating woman by hundreds of years!
The elder of the two, meanwhile, simply rolled her eyes. "...As you wish." And, to the guard's surprise, she held out a hand for her to take, which she did, pulling the princess to her feet.
"Thank you," she said, a small smile on her face. "You've grown in the last century, Illaría. What trouble have you gotten into, lately?"
The younger woman nearly burst with happiness. She was forgiven!
Fae smiled at the sight of the brunette launching into a story of her adventures, her eyes twinkling with excitement. The two began to move away, walking towards the distant smell of fruit and pies.
Drawing herself up, she leapt to her feet and began to follow a few paces behind, idly listening to the conversation as her own thoughts drifted through her mind.
Company was what Celebrían needed right now, even if she didn't yet realize it. That was part of the reason the younger elf was with them, to provide a familiarity that Fae couldn't, and, as she listened to the two of them converse, she was happy to see that she'd made the right choice.
Distraction and good company, with a few decent meals and hot baths thrown in. That seemed like a start. If the elven woman did not improve without those, she may have to begin to think of more drastic measures, but for now was content to wait and see. Their discussions served a dual purpose, letting Fae absorb the knowledge her friend seemed to possess in spades, and letting Celebrían express herself to someone who would listen.
There was still plenty to learn and wonders to discover in this world, but this would serve as a start.
'But,' Fae idly mused, thinking of the subject that so far eluded her. 'I may have to look elsewhere for knowledge on this Morgoth character.'
She smiled. Mysteries were so fun, and this world was full of 'em!
A/N: M'kay. Couple of things here.
Forgive me for being so late. Distraction is one of my chiefest weaknesses.
That and college. Ick.
Hope you enjoyed.