Written for the 4th anniversary of both HA and HASA - Happy Birthday, everyone!
"What is it, Dear?" Celeborn sounded worried.
His wife did not deign to answer. Her wrinkled nose reminded him of an angry hedgehog, and the sniffing (or rather puffing) sounds she made contributed to the impression.
"One of those echoes again?" he asked.
Eventually, she nodded, covering her eyes with a hand. "I have no idea what to do about it!" she explained for the umpteenth time. "Ever since I arrived back here… - well, not quite ever since, but… - well, that… wretched thing quit working shortly after I arrived here. It is just so - frustrating, you know?"
Celeborn realised that his beautiful Elf Lady was about to burst into tears, so he embraced her quickly. "I know," he said softly. "I know!"
He had had no idea that she had taken her famous mirror with her to Valinor. But he had, to tell the truth, been quite touched when, upon his belated arrival, he had found out. For even if the Lady Galadriel spoke seldom about it, he knew that she was missing Middle Earth, their home for centuries, sometimes as achingly as he did himself. And he also knew quite well that another reason for her obsession with the "wretched thing" was that in the long time of their separation after the War of the Ring, she had been missing him as well.
She had used the mirror in Valinor as she had done in Middle Earth, to convey the past, but also the present of places and people now beyond her reach. When the device had started to act utmost weirdly, that had hit both her pride and her composure particularly hard. - She had been famous for her mirror, all over Aman and elsewhere in Valinor, and in the beginning, even the Vanyar had admired her for her craftsmanship. That she (and everybody else for the record) seemed to be unable to fix the thing, however, had sort of undermined her reputation - apart from increasing her occasional fits of homesickness.
For even if at times the mirror showed Middle Earth as it was, or once had been, at other times the visions were blurry and confused as if Galadriel had tried to look in the future. She had done so rarely in the past, and not once since she had left Middle Earth. - Conveying the future, evaluating its possibilities, was complicated, even painful at times. With the mirror out of control, she did not dare. Besides, the weird visions were giving her headaches quite regularly even if she only tried to see what was presently going on "over at Rivendell".
At times it was, or so she had told him a while ago, as if she was suffering from double vision. The images seemed to show a Middle Earth as it might have been, or, in some cases, hopefully never would be. The mirror's versions of the real events were sometimes oddly contorted, mentioning persons that for sure had never existed (with a special emphasis on beautiful young ladies with dashing eyelashes and exceptional fighting skills), or... well... events that (hopefully) had never happened. - Celeborn thought that if he and any of his relatives and friends had spent as much time in bed with exhausting physical activities as the mirror sometimes suggested, Sauron would have won the war centuries ago, with or without his precious ring.
Carefully he asked: "Have you… well… asked the Valar about it?"
Galadriel nodded, tiredly. "I just returned. Nienna suggested that the echoes might be the contorted memories of houseless spirits, while Mandos claimed that this was impossible and that, if her suggestion was meant to imply that he did not keep his domain in order, he'd insist that she apologised." - "She started to cry and I left", she concluded, dryly. And then added: "Olorin, whom I met on my way back, however, suggested that the separation of the worlds might lead to interferences in the mirror."
"What sort of - interferences?" Celeborn asked.
His lady shrugged. "I do not know, and neither did he. - If it was something technical", she added, a tad aggressively, "I'd for sure have found out by now!"
"Of course you would, Dear", he reassured her. "And never mind that the Valar were of no help. I've always thought that their influence was greatly overestimated."
His offhand comment, he realised with some relief, served its purpose. She chuckled.
"I bet they are quarreling still", she agreed, weariness slowly waning from her face. She leaned against him, and for a while, there was a companionable silence.
"Actually, Beloved", he heard her mumble eventually, and realised with an inward sigh that the subject had not been dropped entirely for today, "I just think that Nienna's idea has something to it."
"What? These visions contorted memories of the houseless?" Celeborn involuntarily exclaimed. The last one he had seen had given him a headache for weeks. To think that he and Glorfindel… - he pushed these thoughts aside with vehemence.
"If that is the case, they are houseless for a reason!" he added icily.
"Most of them are", Galadriel replied impatiently, "But that is not my point. I thought that - well - the minds that cause these echoes might be human."
"Human?" exclaimed Celeborn, even more amazed than the first time. "But what would make you think so?"
She grimaced, but then gave him a thoughtful look. "I don't know. Henneth Annun seems to be a central motif here. The place was hold in high esteem by the Men of Gondor."
"It was considered a sacred place among my own people as well, once, long ago," Celeborn remarked, but apparently, that argument did not convince her.
"Second", she said. "Quite a lot of these visions and thoughts seem to deal with underwear."
"Underwear?" Celeborn repeated, developing a certain feeling of dizziness,
"Underwear and Legolas' hair-colour," she confirmed.
"But why should anyone ask for the hair-colour of Thranduil's youngest?" Celeborn wondered. "It's not as if he was unknown among the Eldar or anything…"
"See what I mean?" Galadriel answered. "And as for underwear… it seems to be a particularly human notion. Remember Imrahil of Dol Amroth?"
"How could I not?" her husband replied. "A most pleasant and amiable man. And after all, we were distantly related. - Thrice removed at least as it may be, as Master Baggins would say." He smiled a little, thinking of the old hobbit.
"And terribly obsessed with his underwear", Galadriel interrupted his thoughts. "He had many feats and admirable traits, but if worse came to worst, he was able to discuss the pros and cons of the fabrics for his breeches for hours."
Now it was Celeborn's turn to chuckle. "He would have made a fine tailor. And I heard once that all their southern Merchants feared negotiations when he was involved. So, do you mean it is human echoes that are disturbing the mirror? But how is that even possible? I'd say there were more humans around in Middle Earth than here, and back there, you did never encounter any problems of the sort."
Again, Galadriel shrugged. "I don't know, but… I've thought that - if humans die, they go beyond the circles of this world, and no one, not even Mandos, knows where they go. What if this place is closer to their destination than Middle Earth was?"
Thoughtfully, her husband weighed his head. "May well be. But what will you do about this theory now? Ask the Valar for help once more? - That is something they should be competent about. After all, it's their domain, and they should not be too pleased about someone invading uninvited - and be it only very weird echoes."
Galadriel pondered his suggestion for a moment, but then shook her head vigorously. "Not for a century or two. - And this will be the least amount of time to have Mandos and Nienna talk to each other again. I suppose we will just have to wait and - see."
"You may cast the mirror aside for a while," Celeborn suggested.
His wife sighed. "Ach, I don't know!" she said, eventually. Absentmindedly.
What is she up to? he thought with a tinge of alarm.
She looked up, her eyes glittering in a weird light. "Actually, I think that at least some of these visions were quite - entertaining!"
"Were they?" Celeborn asked, trying very hard not to think about which ones she meant.
She winked. "Oh yes. Especially the ones about hot-tub parties. And even some of those that distinctly lacked of underwear had something about them."
"Now, had they?" Celeborn repeated, trying not to feel queasy.
"But of course!" she exclaimed. "Do you know what? - I just realised that, in Middle Earth, it would have been four years already that the mirror isn't working as it should. And up to now, I had not even noticed how time passed. I guess I will just leave it as it is! Why bother the Valar with minor details?"
Suddenly almost sparkling with mirth, she took her husband (who was quite surprised but all the happier about her sudden mood-swing) by the elbow and dragged him forward.
"As for now, don't you think we should leave the mirror for something entirely different?" she asked, eyes twinkling.
Celeborn, following her, thought that this was decidedly the best idea she had had in a long while.