Olorin smiled. He had not wished first to go to Arda to vie with Sauron, but somehow the idea of having Artanis , the Man-Maid and granddaughter of Finwe and Olwe as his chief partner-in-crime had made his departure from the Undying Lands more pleasant.
Already when he had known her young and ambitious and radiant in Valěnor, she had been the sprite. But now, after many trials and errors in the lands of Arda, she seemed even more mischievous and lively. He had always loved her dearly and he had regretted her leaving of the Undying Lands in such a brawl with his mighty masters. But she had been and still was the most independent-minded free-bird he had ever known.
He pushed his fist into his mouth not to chuckle aloud and betray his presence in her secret garden. It was very entertaining to observe her careful taunting of that straight-laced and honourable warrior, who seemed to be willing to carry all the burdens of Arda on his broad shoulders, if this would be his Lady's command.
Olorin tried to remember his mother and father...a couple of rather simple Sylvan elves, who had had the bad idea to cross the wrong borders at the wrong moment to find themselves entangled in the web of Sauron's dark creatures. They had hardly spent a century in the Halls of Waiting before Namo saw it fit to release them to the peace and beauty of Valěnor. Not even the pits of Angband had made them have a cause with their destiny!
But their son seemed to be a rather more complicate species of the Elven kind. He was clever and hardy and he had not lost his heart and soul in the millennia of struggle and strife against the darkness of Morgoth. But he also had a strange and rather powerful brand of Elvish magic, which was not very common in those who had not seen the light of the Trees...and he seemed to be pretty much aware of the mischief of Sauron, since he had taken the fair form of Annatar to deceive Celebrimbor and the Elven smiths of Eregion. Rather uncommon with a soldier, even if that soldier was the highest-ranking warden of Laurelindórean!
Olorin listened carefully to the ongoing discussion between Artanis and the brave captain of this Sinda prince from Doriath....Teleporno, or Celeborn, as he preferred to be called.
Thinking back to Valěnor, the Istar had never ever thought that the Man-Maid Nerwen from the House of Finwe would be able to give her heart to some simple Moriquendi, whose only attributes in life where a certain amount of common sense and a rather sharp blade, when it came to trouble and strife. But he obviously completed Artanis and he had made her less wild and more...compassionate with lesser beings.
Olorin watched Celeborn's Captain with great curiosity: He looked solid like a rock, with his broad shoulders and strong frame and he seemed to have a mind to match his body. Normally an average elf, who'd been born under such terrible circumstances and spend his first years of life in such precarity and danger would have gone straight for the Heavens and taken the first ship to the Undying Lands. But this one had seen the Fall of Doriath, the War of Wrath, the Sundering of Beleriand, the destruction of Eregion, the War of the Last Alliance and Eru knows what else in his long life and he was still in Arda ...and rather bellicose, when it came to the dark remainders of Sauron's rule. He had seen the same drive in that half-elven Lord of Imladris -Elrond, also that one appeared to be a bit more settled down and less on the edge of his blade. Elrond had spoken well of Celeborn's Captain! Likewise minds recognize each other!
A broad grin gave Olorin, whose earthly form was that of an aged, frail, grey-haired and grey bearded human male a rather roughish appearance. There was still another small test to pass, but he felt confident that Artanis could manipulate this honourable warrior into his perfectly foolish plan. Celeborn's Captain seemed exactly the right travel companion for this little quest...perhaps not an excessively willing companion and most certainly not one with a very nice temper, but....exactly the elf he needed!
Haldir's eyes met those of Galadriel. He felt terribly awkward. It was not his character to cry on a motherly shoulder.
The Lady of the Golden Wood tucked a strand of his golden hair gently behind his ear. 'You must never think that it is a sign of weakness to cry, fair child! Memories can break you, Haldir....For how long did you try to hunt down your demons by the sword?'
Celeborn's Captain shock his head. He had lost the count of his years of service already a long time ago.
'Would you like me to tell you?' Galadriel asked with a sad smile.
Haldir shock his head.
'How often have you been seriously wounded, my fair child? I do not speak of an occasional spent arrow or a slash from a blade...I speak about those times, when you were but a step from the gates to the Halls of Mandos?'
He shrugged his shoulders. He had lost count of this, too. 'Well,' He replied wryly,' I presume often enough to have you mention it, Naneth.'
Then he looked up straight into her eyes. 'Wouldn't it be easier to tell me straightforward what this is all about?' He had spoken respectfully, notwithstanding the brashness of his words. 'Basically our discussion began with you telling me that Mithrandir has come to our lands and also I admit that I like the old wizard rather well, he is a bit of a troublemaker and never comes on friendly visits without a cause!'
'My dear Haldir, this is all about a very touchy subject.....very touchy indeed!' She gave him a hard look. 'Mithrandir came indeed into Laurelindórean in order to ask for our help. He wants me to give him our best soldier for an undetermined duration of time in order to send him straight into harms way...'
'What?' The Captain was surprised. 'Mithrandir -so much he knew- had come from Valěnor some centuries ago, arriving with a brace of other elderly men in Cirdan's Heaven. He had suspected, that Mithrandir and the other four were elves or some kind of Elvish folk, perhaps special envoys of Ingwe, the leader of the Vanyar and High King of all Eldar, who resided in Taniquetil, ruling their kindred from beneath Manwe, the High King of Arda and that they had gone into Arda on business of his.
'What would such a gentle and kind-natured trickster and meddler in the affairs of elves need a soldier for, My Lady? Has he lost some ancient scrolls in Elrond's library or has his favourite white steed gone astray somewhere in the remnants of Elendil's old kingdom?'
'Haldir!' Galadriel chuckled, 'Be serious! This is no laughing matter!'
Olorin chuckled softly in his place of hiding. Celeborn's Captain had a kind of humour, notwithstanding Elrond's warnings about Haldir's excessive seriousness and extreme sense of duty.
Very few of Middle-earth's inhabitants knew who they really were; they did not share their identities and purposes except with a selected few like Galadriel or Cirdan of Mithlond. Most thought they were just Elves or some kind of Wise Men and during the last centuries they had attracted but few questions due to their gentle nature and dislike of direct interference with other people's internal affairs and policies.
They were meant to not use their natural power as Maiar in fighting Sauron, but to use their great wisdom to persuade Elves and Men of Middle-earth to take the course of action which would achieve their own goals, rather than trying to dominate them with their own.
Olorin had the curious feeling that besides that half-elven Elrond, who had a particularly bright mind and perceptiveness beyond average and to whom he would be obliged to reveal himself sometime soon, there would be probably another elf suspicious enough to see behind his grey-haired and fragile human 'mask'. Artanis had been pushed into a rather tight corner - to his great surprise. Now the Man-Maid was obliged to give some answers before she could reveal to this soldier what was expected of him!
Haldir rose to his full height looking down at the Lady of the Wood. 'Naneth, either you now tell me straightforward about this touchy subject and get over with it, or I will drag you from your garden and back to that picnic basket I left with Silraen and you can accompany us for some lunch in the forest! First you send me a most formal messenger, commanding the Captain of Laurelindórean to report immediately to you. Then you try to get me into a good mood with questions about my love life and finally you make me pass a test of knowledge concerning the Rings of Power and the great Deceiver ...and all this just to tell me that some elderly wizard with a rather curious taste in scrolls, meddling and ambiguous talk has decided to pay a visit to this realm, because he needs some travel companion with soldierly competences. If it would have been only this, why did he not take Elladan and Elrohir. They are quite capable wielding a sword or using a bow, have a rather developed taste for adventures and troublemaking and are hardly overburdened with duties in their father's realm....and they have much more easy-going tempers then I have...!'
'Sit, Haldir!' Galadriel padded the cushion next to hers. There was mischief in her eyes. She had not expected this discussion to be so difficult!
She was pretty much aware of his quick mind and powers of deduction and she had known him long enough to be aware of his natural suspiciousness. She had had no doubts that yrch transgressing the protective powers of Nenya would give him goose bumps, but she had not expected to be obliged to reveal more then necessary to him.
Although Celeborn had always loved his foster-son dearly, he had never been a tremendously cuddly foster-father. From the very moment Haldir had overcome his exhaustion and wound after Orophin had found him and given him into her husband's keeping in Eregion, Celeborn -completely unfamiliar with elflings and their needs, but already keen for a long time to have a son - had taken Haldir's education into his very own hands and moulded the young one into a perfect little warrior, giving him bow and arrow and a little sword as playthings, putting him on the back of some small pony for 'recreation' and teaching him discipline and obedience. In the world of Celeborn of Doriath there had never been much time for light-hearted distraction and merrymaking! When she had returned from her lengthy visit of Amdir's realm it had almost been to late to interfere and Haldir had been so attached to her husband, that she had simply let it be, only meddling in their 'affairs', when she felt that Celeborn truly went to far with someone so young and fragile.
Until this very afternoon she had never truly measured the influence of her dear husband upon her foster-son! She had been convinced that discipline and obedience, which were second nature to the Captain would prevail once again over his quick mind and lively spirit!
'Sit!' She repeated and Haldir obeyed, as expected. 'Now, what do you want to know, before we get down to the issue?'
'You tell me what Mithrandir is hiding under his pointy hat!' Haldir replied rather reasonable. He had a strange kind of gut feeling, that he would not like the answer very much.
'Some time ago our friend wandered through the forestlands of King Thranduil and came across a strange rumour. Rumour is perhaps even too strong a word...it was more like a lore, a story you tell children at night to frighten them. It was the story of a shadow that has befallen the Amon Lanc. When he went to Thranduil's capital to see for himself, he came across our kin in a very depressed mood. Many were talking about moving away from the Amon Lanc and further northward and even cousin Thranduil seemed no longer in his right spirit and was thinking of giving up the place, calling his home no longer by its name but simply saying, that their place had fallen under the spell of the deadly nightshade. '
The Captain nodded. He had heard of this rumour some time ago from wardens of Thranduil, whom he befriended. And while chasing the marauding yrch they had taken a shortcut on the Old Forest Road where he and his wardens had all had a very nasty feeling that only lifted after crossing behind the rain shadow of the Misty Mountains.
When he thought of it properly: They had not been chasing those yrch into that direction. It was, as if....the creatures had been on the run to a very specific place they considered a safe heaven!
'Why did Mithrandir not ask Thranduil for help?' Haldir asked Galadriel.
It was rather curious to get yourself some assistance from Laurelindórean, when the issue was with the Great Greenwood, more so when Thranduil was not known for his particular fondness of other elves meddling in his internal affairs and least of all, when that other elf was Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien!
'Thranduil seemed not in his right mind!' Galadriel murmured softly. '...as if he was fading...as if all his folks on and around the Amon Lanc were fading! He would not hearken to Mithrandir's plea for help, saying that he needed all his wardens to see to the safety of his people and determine what was going on!'
'I suppose that our friend Mithrandir has already an idea, My Lady!' Haldir gave a deep sigh, '...or else he would not ask for me to help him. He needs someone who understands those yrch and goblin, when they babble between themselves?'
The Lady shook her head. 'No, fair child! He needs someone with memories of the past. He needs your memories of a particular night and of a very peculiar presence. Although he is very wise and knowledgeable, he fears that he may not be able to see clear in this specific case.'
Haldir paled. 'No!' He whispered softly. 'This is impossible! This cannot be! Naneth, I saw it with my own eyes, Celeborn has seen it and Elrond and I do not know how many other survivors of that battle. He is no more, he was destroyed!'
Galadriel smiled. 'Perhaps! She replied simply,' But the One Ring was not destroyed, only lost.'
'It could be one of the Nine, My Lady, a shadow of evil and malice whose un-dead existence is bound to the One Ring. Their arsenal of deadly armaments was not confined to physical weapons only, they were surrounded by an aura of terror, which affected all but the most powerful living creatures and their breath was poisonous. Their cries caused terror and despair and their Lord, the Black Easterling was most notorious for his practice of black sorcery!'
The Lady nodded. 'It could be, Haldir! And this would be already bad enough, if one of the Nine tried to sneak into the Great Greenwood or Laurelindórean to bring despair and fear to Elvenkind. Will you go with Mithrandir in order to find out what is happening? Will you lend him your memories and your sword?'
Celeborn's Captain simply nodded.' If this is your biding, My Lady, then I must go with him. Alas I have the feeling that it is utter madness and it would be better, if old Mithrandir stayed safely in Lothlorien and let me search after this rumour with a company of stout and battle-hardened wardens!'
'So be it!'
Olorin gave a satisfied grin. He had obtained what he wanted and all the better, if Celeborn's Captain believed him still to be just a wise, elderly man with some curious knowledge of lore and magic. This would make their quest most certainly much more enjoyable...even if he feared, that their final discovery would not give great reason for merrymaking!