Characters: Elrond, Celebrian, Celeborn, Galadriel
Summary: Elrond must gather his courage to face one of the most difficult conversations in his life.
Disclaimer: Everything that's Tolkien's Not mine. Clear 'nough?
A/N: Yet another story written for an SNWCG challenge – this time the Bravery Challenge. Is anyone else starting to see a pattern in my stories? LOL, I think I've yet to write a single one that wasn't originally for a challenge the SNWCG. Ah well, perhaps that shall change in time… This is something of a prequel/companion piece to another of my stories, "Lift the Wings" (though it's not in the least necessary to have read it). A bit more humorous than that one, though – hopefully ;-)
Maybe it would have been easier if he were a wood elf. An illogical - not to mention quite irrelevant - thought, yes, but still… at least then the trees might offer him better solace, and perhaps even some good company while he waited. As it was, he was left with only himself for company - and the quality of said company was fast degenerating.
Rising restlessly from the stone bench he had been seated on, Elrond aimlessly wandered around the small glade. For a moment he wondered whether what he was doing could be considered pacing, but after a brief pause he decided that, no, he was most definitely not pacing. He was merely stretching his legs. After all, he must have been sitting on that bench for all of five minutes, and one could only sit still so long before… Alright, maybe he was pacing. But he certainly had more than enough reason for it, so it wasn't too great a threat to his dignity.
Besides, it wasn't as if there was anyone around to see him. Though, come to think of it, that was actually a contributing factor in his nervousness, so it didn't help all that much.
Not for the first time, he wondered what could be keeping Celeborn. A glance at the sun's position, obtained through a small break in the heavy foliage above, solved that question. Elrond was early, and Celeborn was being kept by the necessity that the Lord of Lothlorien be present to greet the group of delegates visiting from Mirkwood. If he judged the time correctly, their meeting would last at least another ten minutes. Elrond swallowed, attempting to suppress the queasy feeling that rose in his stomach at the thought of having at least fifteen minutes of waiting left before their agreed-upon meeting time. And that was only if no other pressing matters arose between now and then to delay Celeborn.
Perhaps this wasn't the best time after all. Last night he'd been so sure that he could afford to delay this discussion no longer… But that was before he'd known that the Mirkwood delegates would be arriving today. What if the stress of the day's events had put Celeborn in a bad mood? Worse, what if the delegates had brought bad news? What if something terrible had happened, and Celeborn wasn't able to meet with him at all today?
Perhaps more to the point, even if Celeborn was in a good mood, what if he himself couldn't keep up his courage long enough to see this conversation through? I wonder what he would do if he arrived to find only a note informing him that I was going to Harad to think things over for a few… decades?
No. No. He would see this through. He had promised… He had to. Even if it killed him. Actually, when he found out what this was all about, Celeborn probably would.
The rate of his pacing increased.
Foresight was an incredibly useless thing. Well, perhaps not quite useless; he was fair enough to acknowledge that his emotions just might be affecting his judgment at the moment. All the same, it was incredibly frustrating. Why was it that foresight seemed most determined to desert him entirely at times when he most wished he could be sure of what the future held?
He had no sense at all of the likely outcome of his upcoming interview with Lord Celeborn, aside from a gut-churning feeling of apprehension. And that was more likely influenced by his awareness of the audacity of his request than by any evidence of foresight. Eru, he certainly hoped so.
He had spoken with Lady Celebrian last night, and she had assured him that, despite her father's reputation as a fierce warrior, he was unlikely to kill a visiting lord, whatever impertinent audaciousness he might be presented with. Maim, perhaps, but surely not kill. She had been laughing when she said it, certainly, but he was not sure it was such an amusing joke as she seemed to think it. After all, Celeborn adored his only child, and she was bound to be somewhat biased in her assessment of his possible murderous tendencies.
A sharp sound sent his hands instinctively reaching for weapons, before the embarrassing realization that the Lord of Imladris had just been frightened by a squirrel's chattering sank in. Though he felt silly for the wish, he began to regret the fact that it was considered entirely unnecessary for visiting lords to walk about Lothlorien constantly armed.
At the moment he would truly have appreciated the reassurance of possessing the means to defend himself. Not against rampaging squirrels, of course, but against prospectively raging elven lords. Then again, since harming Celeborn, even in self-defense, was most definitely not an option, it was just as well he did approach this meeting weaponless.
With a sigh, he realized that his wandering footsteps had once again brought him back to the stone bench at the center of the glade. He resumed his seat with an air of resignation. Noting with a mixture of relief and trepidation the distance the sun had moved, he resolved to wait there for his doom - cleverly disguised as an elven lord - to arrive.
A moment later, he was on his feet again, turning to face a new noise. This, he knew, was no squirrel. He could feel his heartbeat speeding up, and he swallowed hard, hoping his voice would not betray him.
"My Lord," he greeted the older elf respectfully.
"Greetings, Elrond. I apologize for my tardiness - I hope I have not kept you waiting too long?"
Thankfully, Celeborn seemed not to notice his nervousness.
"Not at all. Nothing wrong, I hope?" Please, please don't let there be anything wrong. He seems in a good enough mood…
"No, nothing is wrong. The Mirkwood emissaries were merely somewhat later in arriving than expected."
"Ah, and how go matters in Mirkwood?"
"Well enough. It seems there have been a few minor disturbances near the borders by spiders and orcs, but nothing of particular concern." Celeborn paused. Then, seeing Elrond did not appear to have any pressing interest in pursuing his inquiries further, he continued. "But enough of our neighbors. You said there was something you wished to discuss with me?"
Despite the encouragement of the inquiring note in Celeborn's voice, Elrond felt a pang of panic shoot through him as the safety of formal politeness deserted him.
Celeborn fought hard not to smile, keeping a much-practiced expression of pleasant neutrality on his face. Elrond certainly was nervous. Clearly, this was not to be merely a friendly discussion between the lords of two of the great elven realms.
It seemed equally unlikely, however, that Elrond intended to ask his advice or assistance. They were on excellent terms, both personally and politically, and in all the years he had known him, Elrond had never exhibited such hesitation in requesting either formal aid or more personal advice from one with longer experience in governing a realm than he. Besides, he had been here several days already, surely he would have mentioned something before now if there was any trouble. Hmm…
Elrond was visibly drawing together his courage to reveal the reason for asking to meet with him. This promised to be a very interesting conversation indeed.
Elrond took a deep breath to steady himself, before answering Celeborn's question. "I wish to speak with you regarding… regarding the Lady Celebrian."
Celeborn's eyebrows rose. "Indeed?"
Elrond's heart sank. That carefully neutral tone certainly didn't provide any encouragement. Nevertheless, he forged ahead. "Yes, my lord. We have known each other for some time now, and she… I… That is, we…" he gulped, all his carefully prepared speeches and convincing arguments disintegrating in the face of the real situation. Finally, he cut straight to the point. "I wish to ask for her hand in marriage."
Ah? That was it? He studied Celeborn's face, watching for some expression, any indication of what he was thinking. It could mean anything. What was one supposed to respond to 'Ah'?!
Mercifully, Celeborn at last continued. "I have been wondering for some time when you would come to me. I must say, I was beginning to suspect you intended to simply elope with her. I am quite pleased to see otherwise - had my daughter chosen to run off with you, it might have put something of a damper on our diplomatic relationship."
At last, Celeborn allowed his façade to crack, and there was a definite sparkle of amusement in his eyes. Elrond's growing panic was slowly being replaced by utter bewilderment.
"Elrond." Celeborn's smile was kind - it appeared dismemberment was, at least, not in his immediate future. "I have known you for a long time. I have seen you prove yourself, first as a warrior, then as a loyal friend and ally, a wise leader and compassionate healer. From the day you first met our daughter, Galadriel and I have often watched you with her. I think we began to suspect even before either of you did what the end result would be. You have most likely heard me joke about never meeting an elf worthy of my daughter, and I have certainly been known to make some comments that weren't quite entirely joking. I hardly need tell you just how much she means to me."
Elrond stared at the forest floor, shoulders slumping slightly. So this was the way it was going to be, then. Celeborn would attempt to soften the blow by first telling him how he respected him, and liked him, before informing him that those things still didn't outweigh the fact that he was nowhere near qualifying as a potential husband for Celebrian. Still, there was no way in Arda he was going to give in without a fight.
Straightening, he met Celeborn's eyes. "Sir, I am fully aware of how much Celebrian means to you. But if you have watched us, surely you must know how much she means to me as well. I am very conscious of my failings and inadequacies. I cannot claim to believe that I would make a perfect husband. But I can promise you this, my lord: I love her, and I would do everything in my power to protect and care for her, whatever the Valar may have in store for us in the future."
He faltered then, words failing him. It seemed like such a pathetic effort… but he didn't know what more to say. With resigned despair, he reflected that he would most likely think of at least half a dozen convincing arguments or brilliant declarations that would make Celeborn pause for thought… the moment this conversation came to an end. Amazing thing, hindsight.
But now, Celeborn looked quite… pleased? Satisfied? Eru, he really was not used to feeling constantly five steps behind in a conversation…
Finally, Celeborn nodded. "You have spoken well for yourself, Elrond. I had come to a decision some time ago, but as it is, what you have said only serves as further confirmation. My fond, fatherly opinion may be that Celebrian is worth far more than any potential suitors can imagine. But the truth is, you I would trust her with. And I think she will be far happier with you than she could be with anyone else. It is meant to be, and who am I to argue with the Valar?"
Elrond simply stared at him for a moment.
"Then… I - we have your permission?"
After a few more seconds had passed, Celeborn finally laughed. "Are you going to pass on the news, then, or do I have to tell her myself?"
Elrond paused a moment in the open doorway, the smile which seemed to have become etched permanently onto his face widening still further.
Celebrian sat at the table across the room, pulled near the window to take advantage of the dying sunlight. Before her were several sheets of paper, covered in varying amounts of her neat, precise script. The quill she had been using was now only loosely grasped in her hand, as she stared at the no-doubt fascinating white wall opposite her, a thoughtful frown furrowing her brow.
As he stepped into the room, the scholar in Elrond prompted him to save the carefully-written papers from their impending ignominious fate.
"When one is about to attempt to solve the whole of Arda's problems through thought alone, it is usually wise to first set aside one's pen, to avoid finding one's notes reduced to one large ink blot."
Celebrian started, but recovered quickly.
"Ah, is that the voice of experience I hear?" All traces of frowning disappeared as she rose to greet him, her face lighting up in a bright smile.
"Now do you really expect me to admit such a thing aloud, even to my future wife?" His teasing tone matched her own.
She laughed, before the full significance of his last words registered, and he suddenly found himself the recipient of a very intent gaze. "You spoke with him, then?"
"I promised I would, didn't I?"
"You did." A brief smile accompanied the acknowledgement, before she returned with single-minded persistency to her interrogation. "And?"
"And you were right - not only did he not kill me for my sheer impudence, he didn't even seem inclined to threaten me with severe bodily harm. As a matter of fact, it would appear he and your mother have been expecting this for some time." His voice took on a note of reproach. "You might have told me they knew beforehand, instead of letting me go off thinking I was about to face the most dangerous battle of my life."
"What, and spoiled your chance to bravely risk life and limb for my sake?" Her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Truly, Elrond, I had no more idea that they had expected your proposal than you did. But then, I don't suppose we've been so subtle that the idea of our being in love will come as too much of a shock to anyone." She gave an impatient sigh as she yet again directed the conversation to the all-important question. "Now stop trying to distract me, and tell me exactly what it is he said! It can't be anything too terrible, or you wouldn't be standing here teasing me like this."
Elrond laughed, happily relenting without further urging. "He said yes, meleth. We have both their permission and their blessing."
Abruptly, Elrond found himself the recipient of an exuberant embrace, as Celebrian's delight and relief made itself clear. Startled for only half a second, it didn't take him long to respond, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close.
Trying for what they both knew was a totally false manner of dignity and casual confidence, she still couldn't suppress a grin as she finally pulled away slightly, a hint of sheepishness vying with the joy on her face. "Well of course he did. I did tell you he would, didn't I?"
"You did," Elrond replied solemnly. "But why is it that I have this strange suspicion you were trying even harder to convince yourself than you were to convince me?"
"I have no idea. You know I have always loved your imaginative nature, Elrond, but really, there are times…" She shook her head with a resigned sigh.
They faced each other with matching sad, serious expressions for all of ten seconds before Celebrian's twinkling eyes betrayed her. They burst into laughter simultaneously, overwhelmed with relief and happiness, finally able to let go of all their pent-up worries and fears. Suddenly the future looked much simpler - not to mention wonderfully exciting. Finally they could rest assured that they would face it together.
"So then, I take it I was correct as to the nature of this 'meeting' Elrond requested with you?"
Celeborn chuckled as he crossed the room to join his wife on the balcony where she was watching the fading sunset. "You were correct, meleth? As I recall, you were not alone in your suspicions…" He moved on quickly at the amused glare she sent him. "Be that as it may, yes, he did want to ask our approval of a marriage between him and Celebrian."
Galadriel smiled. "I do hope you didn't frighten him too badly with lectures regarding exactly what would happen if he were ever to treat our daughter with anything less than the highest regard."
"Oh, that was hardly necessary. I think he'd worked himself into quite a thorough enough state of apprehension before I even showed up."
"I don't think he's called me 'my lord' that many times in one conversation since the day we first met." Celeborn smiled fondly. "And even then, I don't think he was anywhere near as intimidated as he was today. Respectful, certainly, but not intimidated. As a matter of fact, that was one of the things which first drew me to him - his confidence and composure, even young as he was and surrounded by powerful lords and renowned warriors."
"He will make our daughter a good husband."
"Hmm, your foresight tells you that?"
"Call it rather a mother's intuition."
"Whatever the cause, I agree. We couldn't have asked for a better man if we'd made the match ourselves."
"Who is to say I didn't?" She gave him a sideways glance. "You would be surprised at the number of things the Lady of Laurelindorinan can arrange without it being made known that she has arranged it."
Celeborn scrutinized her face for a minute. "Sometimes, meleth, I'm not sure whether I should be amused or frightened by your capabilities. You didn't really…" He shook his head, laughing. "Never mind - I'm quite sure I don't want to know the answer to that."
"Most likely not."
She sent him a smile that managed to be both smug and rather mysterious. There was no question where their daughter had inherited her mischievous sense of humor. Some things were most definitely best left alone. At any rate, all that mattered in the end was that things had worked out so well after all. He might never have admitted it aloud, but the matter had been weighing on his mind nearly as much as it had on Elrond's, if not with quite the same foreboding. It was a considerable relief to have things settled at last.
Or not. After all, there was till a wedding to plan… He was quite sure that the marriage ceremony of the only daughter of the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien to the Lord of Imladris would be a thing to remember. He resisted the urge to groan at the thought of all the planning and preparation ahead. He wondered if it was too late to insist that the engagement last at least a century or two… Probably.
Somehow, he couldn't find it in himself to be too upset or apprehensive. As he leaned against the balustrade next to his wife, the sigh he gave was one of contentment.
(Note: I had Galadriel refer to herself as "Lady of Laurelindorinan." In TTT, when Treebeard is discussing Lothlorien with Merry and Pippin, he says that the elves used to call it Laurelindorinan, "Valley of Singing Gold." Considering this takes place several millennia before LOTR, I thought it was logical that Galadriel might call it that.)
Thanks for taking the time to read - I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are very, very much appreciated. Not only are they an encouragement, they help me a lot in improving my writing, and in motivating me to keep on doing it ;-)