Celebrian strolled down the path to the herbal gardens of Laurelindórean. She felt relaxed, having shared a cosy lunch with a bunch of childhood friends and very much at ease, since all her habitual duties and obligations including her beloved but nevertheless rather demanding husband Elrond had been left behind in Imladris.
From time to time it did her a world of good to leave behind the turbulent Heaven, where hospitality was freely given to elves, men and dwarves. Elrond did not only keep an excessively open house, but also an open table and it was expected that she would preside with her spouse over all the meals, which habitually were followed by lengthy social gatherings in the Hall of Fire or merrymaking in their extensive gardens.
Although she thoroughly enjoyed company and meeting new faces, it became occasionally very stressful to be always there for others and hardly have a private life of your own. Then she retreated for a while to her childhood home of Laurelindórean and her undemanding family, who allowed her to pursue her own interests and never imposed upon her time.
When Silraen had answered a call for assistance from Anysse the Herb Mistress of Lothlorien, which was probably nothing less then a hidden plea from her foster-brother, who yearned for his lady-love and tried to hide this yearning behind some silly excuse, that was more then transparent to all those who knew about this rather amusing never-ending courtship, Celebrian had decided on the spot to bid Elrond good bye, discourage her merry brood of three to spoil the fun by joining themselves to the journey and picked up her ever-ready travel bag to accompany her husbands apothecary.
She chuckled softly: Elrond would be mad with rage, when Haldir finally won his day and made Silraen stay with him in Lothlorien. She smiled at the image of a dark-haired Elven lord whose natural colours were enhanced by bright red cheeks and some swelling veins on his temples. These -she had decided long ago- were definitively neither Elven nor Maiar heritage but pure and simple human, for Elrond was the one and only specimen of their kind she had ever seen with such special features.
It was always very funny, when he threw one of his fits of temper, which were so much in contradiction with his habitual settled and calm appearance. She had some kind of a gut-feeling that the time for her husband's great show would come very soon: Over the last few days she had observed the apothecary and her foster-brother with great amusement. He was chasing her like a hardly grown elfling and she was running from him like a frightened hare, but they ended up always together and then would disappear for hours in the depths of the forest only to return dishevelled and with slightly un-orderly garb.
She also knew that Orophin had been secretly stocking up his impressive wine cellar with some nice bottles from Dorwinion and her father- although hardly fond of the Naugrim- had send a elf of confidence to Khazad-Dum with a small pouch full of the most wonderful moonstones she had ever seen. She had tried to nag Celeborn, but he was inhabitually tight-lipped and had only waved away her questions with some non-committal remarks about the fine weather and how sad it was that Arwen had not found the time to accompany her to Lothlorien.
When she finally arrived in the Herb Garden, she found it desperately empty of Anysse's girls, as she had expected. So once again, Haldir had won in their little game and mischievously dragged Silraen from her work!
She let her eyes wander over the place lazily and already prepared to return to Caras Galadhon and her friends, when she suddenly realized, that the garden was not altogether empty: Silraen almost perfectly blended in with the environment. Between the dark green dress, her dark hair and the spot of grass on which she sat , she would have been invisible if it would not have been for the pale blue and white cloth on her lap. Elrond's apothecary sat like a statue under a blooming elder tree, staring at a wicker basket and looking entirely lost.
Celebrian felt a sudden rush of anger: Her thoughtless bully of a foster-brother had probably messed it up once more, forgetting their daily rendezvous over some boring report from his fences or the complaints of one of his obnoxious wardens concerning their working shifts.
Ever since she had known Haldir, he had been a terrible spoil-sport! At a glimpse of her father's eye he would abandon whatever he did, bow and run back to his duty like possessed! She loved him dearly, but he had always been the greatest bore in their family, only outmatched by Celeborn himself. And Adar did not count, for he was rather unique; he had been born a spoil-sport!
Celebrian gathered her skirt and accelerated. She had to find out what that great bully had done to poor Silraen. Already after her foster-brother's last visit to Imladris, the apothecary had been in a foul mood for weeks...Silraen the gay sprite had been brooding for days on end over some completely useless herb lore from the long-lost realm of Elendil, which was so full of faults that Elrond seemed to keep it only for matters of completeness in his library!
She snorted and took a small stone wall like a racing horse, carelessly stomping on several innocent seedlings that asked nothing of Elvenkind and only wanted to grow in peace. Haldir would get a piece of her sisterly mind if her suspicions were confirmed. Why couldn't he simply get down to his knees and ask Silraen to be his till time would ended! They were made for each other! Everybody knew it. Even her father, who was not the most perceptive ellon in the lands of Arda!
Celebrian's run came to an impromptu halt, when Silraen stood up and put the cotton cloth back over the forsaken wicker basket.
'Would you care for some strawberries and almond cake?' The desperate elleth asked in a voice that proved that her foster-brother was nothing but a little monster with a curved blade and a heart made of stone.
'Dear! What did he do this time? What did my awful brother do to you?' Celebrian gathered her breath and took both Silraen's arms in a fierce deadlock.
The apothecary looked at her master's spouse with surprise. Something or someone had deeply upset the Lady of Rivendell. She had come down to the gardens in a run, as if all the minions of Sauron were at her heels.
'Celebrian! My Lady! What happened? Has someone been disrespectful with you? Did this nasty sprite Orophin pull one of his horrible tricks?'
Silraen had been so absorbed by her thoughts of Haldir and his sudden disappearance together with the soldier and had been pondering what could have befallen the realm of Lothlorien to make the Lord or the Lady interrupt their afternoon in such a manner, that she not even listened to Celebrian's outbreak.
When they had entered these lands together, everything had been as usual...even the Captain's mischievous grin on the borders. It had been an established tradition for ages that the Lord Celeborn would leave his Captain alone, while she dwelled in Lothlorien. Everybody seemed to find entertainment in their never-ending courtship and nobody interfered. Some -she had heard- were even placing bets on when the Captain of the Galadhrim would finally win over Lord Elrond's apothecary. Although their kin could be terribly serious and to the point when need arose, the were -first and foremost- sprite and children of the light!
'What did my brother do to you, this time!' Celebrian took a deep breath, lifted the cotton cloth and picked a blood-red strawberry to calm her emotions.
'He left with a messenger, My Lady!' Silraen replied matter-of-factly, picking the two goblets and the wine bottle and serving Celebrian and herself a good shot of nice red Dorwinion.
'He came and after a while a messenger came and then he went away without a word, leaving me with our lunch and no explanation. I do not think he meant any harm, Celebrian. It was just pretty strange and I had a very bad feeling about this messenger and Haldir.'
Celebrian gathered her skirts and glad down into the soft grass. Although lunch had been rather generous, she looked with yarning in her eyes on the almond cake. Haldir was a bore, but he had a hand for cakes and tasty morsels! Wonder, if you need to fed that solid carcass of his; she doubted that he lived on spring water and lembas only.
Silraen sat down beside the Lady of Rivendell and took herself a tasty fresh strawberry. They were truly delicious. Once upon a time and when she had been in a fey mood, she had told Haldir that if not for his good character and pleasant being, she'd be rather capable to live with him just for his skills as a cook.
She bit the strawberry and smiled: These First-Age ellons seemed all to be quite capable to look after themselves and take care of a homely talan! If there were more of them left, every reasonable elleth in Arda would try to get hold of one of them and bind them with chains of iron! Clean houses, washed and mended cloths, good food on your table and ....no complaints or remarks, when you followed your own tastes and destiny. Compared to their younger brethren, who had not lived through the dark years they were quite the catch.
'I believe that Haldir had a very good reason to disappear without a word.' She told Celebrian demurely. 'He's the most considerate ellon, I have ever met, you know.'
Celebrian broke off another piece of cake and took a healthy bit. Haldir was most certainly a bore, but Elrond's cooks could always take a lesson with him on making delicious cakes! 'My brother considerate! Silraen, please. He is not. He is obsessed with his job, obsessed with Lothlorien and obsessed with each and every whim of my father. They are monsters! Have you ever seen Elrond being considerate...or Glorfindel...or Erestor? They are all mad.'
Silraen chuckled and her gloomy mood lifted considerably. Celebrian had a dry sense of humour and when it came to make an audience bark with laughter, you could always count on her. She had always loved the spouse of Elrond, for she was clever, easy-going and unpretentious....and most of all, she had her heart in the right place. She had never understood how some of the guests of Elrond's heaven could believe that Celebrian was just a spoiled and hare-brained elleth with noble origins and pretty clothes. She grinned.
'They are all mad, My Lady. You are right. And I presume that I must make Haldir pay for this 'insult', even if it is definitively no fault of his....'
'You must, dear! What was this Manish saying? Beat your wife at least once a day! If you do not know why, she most certainly will! I believe, there is some wisdom in these words and...my brother enjoys it, when you are mad at him.'
The Lady of Rivendell took another bit of the cake and another sip of the fine Dorwinion.' Alas, I doubt it is really his fault: You said, a messenger arrived! Naneth would never spoil your free time with him without a pretty good reason. She's the first, who'd like nothing better then my stiff-necked brother finally settled with a clever and good-natured elleth. There is something going on in this realm, Silraen. And I am convinced, that you and I must find out.' Celebrian looked at the diminished bottle of Dorwinion and the empty wicker basket. 'And since we have finished this nice lunch, I believe that you and I should embark upon a quest. As I see, your students are gone and nobody is waiting for you. Come! Put aside your grief and follow me into the heart of Elvendom on Earth. We shall inquire with my very best sources and we shall be much the wiser when the day ends.'
Silraen pushed some stray crumps of cake from her robes and covered the empty basket with its cotton cloth: Celebrian was right! Someone was hiding something from them. Only determined action and a thorough enquiry with trustworthy sources would shed light on the mystery. And with the wine bottle empty, her afternoon free and Haldir nowhere in sight, what else could she do then follow her Lady's bidding.
'You are right, Celebrian!' She replied with determination. 'T'is pretty strange and....I do not like this. We will find out together.'
Slightly inebriate, but in a wonderful mood, the two ellyth left the herbals gardens of Lothlorien on their quest for truth and answers.