When Haldir finally reached the tavern, he saw to his great surprise that Celeborn, instead of doing his job and taking care of Lothlorien's security, had decided for a late lunch...or rather an early evening meal.
Knowing the Lord's profound dislike with the habitual administrative drudgeries of a large force of men-at-arms, the Captain felt a quick bout of culpability: Already twice this year ...no, in fact three times, if he included Silraen's ongoing visit to the forest realm, poor Celeborn had been obliged to do his job! And all this terrible inconvenience only because he - a grown ellon of almost five thousand years of age was incapable to ask a grown elleth of about four and a half thousand years of age, if she could imagine to share his life and talan for good.
He decided to go over to his foster-father, drink a mug of ale with him and make some amends, telling the elder elf, that he had finally decided to make his pledge to Silraen and ask her in marriage. Haldir frowned: His beautiful sprite would not be terribly enchanted, when she would learn immediately after his pledge that before they could make things happen and bind, he'd have to leave her for an undetermined duration of time.
No! He hesitated for a moment, before he continued on his way to Celeborn's table: He'd first tell her about Galadriel's orders and then ask her! It was only fair play to give her the choice to say 'yes' or 'nay' in full knowledge of the cause. It would be bad taste to first lure her and then instantly deceive her! Haldir gave the maid of the 'Blooming Apple a signal, that he'd take the same as his lord, then sat down in front of his foster-father.
'How's going, Adar?' He asked. There was a hint of guilt in his voice.
Celeborn put down his spoon and smiled. 'Just the elf, I was looking for. I've turned Caras Galadhon upside down to find you, son. But you had disappeared from the surface of Arda and I decided to wait here and sit it out with this nice stew and some ale. You want some?'
'I already told the maid to bring me lunch.' Haldir replied good-naturedly. 'You are kept busy by my wardens?'
Celeborn made a dismissive sign with his hand.' T'is nothing, son. Just some reports from the fences, some wardens, who try to negotiate their schedules and an unannounced visitor to the realm. Do not worry and enjoy your free time.'
The maid placed a steaming bowl and a huge, ice-cold mug in front of the Captain of the Galadhrim.
Haldir gave her a smile and pulled some coins from his pocket. 'You get another mug for my adar and the bill is on me tonight. What's on for dessert?'
The maid pulled a small piece of parchment. 'I still have apple cake, but you must decide immediately if you want some and there is blackberry pie and fresh strawberries left.'
Haldir gave Celeborn an encouraging look.
'The cake, son.' The Lord of Laurelindórean replied matter-of-factly, 'and if the bill's on you, I'll take a sip of apple brandy right away with the dessert.'
Haldir nodded. 'The same for me, Tari! And some cheese and fresh bread, if you please.'
The maid took notes, gave him a kindly tap on the shoulder and hurried over to a group of freshly arrived wardens, who argued loudly over something and seemed tremendously thirsty.
'So how are things going, Haldir!' Celeborn took a spoon full of stew and bit heartily into the crusty bread.
'Well....until Galadriel decided to spoil my afternoon, Adar?' He tucked in and relished the tasty rabbit, fresh vegetables and brown beer. ' I was set in my mind, had everything prepared and lured Silraen almost from her duties, when the Lady sent me an urgent messenger and requested my immediate attention! What do you think of that dotty wizard Mithrandir?'
Celeborn gave a deep sigh. 'The night is still long, Haldir. There's time to track down your lady, fall to your knees and swear that such a thing will never ever happen again in all the ages of Arda to come...and believe me, she'll love the show. I did it once with your naneth in Doriath....it worked! That Mithrandir fellow...I doubt, he's what he pretends to be. I have an odd feeling about him and Cirdan has been particularly tight lipped recently. I do not think that he's of the second-born, Haldir. He has something about him...' The Lord of Lothlorien frowned and searched for the right words, '.....it reminds me of that nasty feeling I had, when your naneth turned up with the blasted ring of Celebrimbor's. Mithrandir has a strange aura of magic around him. No simple Elven magic, like yours or mine....t'is something unhealthy and rather too powerful for a simple first-born. Already when he and his friends arrived in Mithlond, I did not believe that they were simply on some kind of emissary mission from Ingwe. Why should the High King of all Eldar suddenly take an interest in us and send emissaries into Middle-earth? We all made it sufficiently clear, that we did not intend to sail to the Undying Lands. And I can hardly believe that he would have send five elderly humans. Have you ever heard of humans in Valėnor, apart Elrond's sire? That is nonsense. There is more to these five then meets the eye. What does Galadriel want?'
Haldir winced inwardly. His Lady had bidden him to keep his tongue and not reveal what she had asked of him and he had promised her to remain silent until further notice. He looked at his mug and then at Celeborn. Did his Lady's command apply to her spouse, too?
'I am in a dilemma.' He answered the Lord of Lothlorien truthfully. ' It was requested of me to not say a word to anybody.'
Celeborn chewed and swallowed.' Then you must keep your tongue and take your own council, Haldir. If she does not wish anybody to know, this may include me until she decides for herself to tell or not to tell. What about Silraen?'
Haldir looked at his stew thoughtfully. What about Silraen? He would not betray his Lady's trust, if he'd ask his foster-father some manly advice. Silraen and his intents concerning the beautiful elleth had nothing to do with Mithrandir's project to investigate the mystery of the Amon Lanc and the rather strange behaviour of his bunch of marauding yrch. So ....
'Do you think it is correct to ask an elleth if she'd be your wife, if you had to tell her in the same line, that unfortunately before you could truly commit yourself and make things official you were obliged to leave her for an undetermined duration of time and throw yourself into unknown dangers?' He took his mug, turned it thoughtfully between his hands and looked at Celeborn.
'You do not go, because this is your pleasure, Haldir! She has known for a while that you have certain duties to this realm and a job. It is not as if she is completely unaware that you are the Captain of Laurelindórean.'
Haldir chuckled. A typical answer from Celeborn; full of common sense. But was common sense just the thing to figure out matters of the heart?
'Adar, Silraen is not one of my wardens, who either obeys orders or takes leave from the service.'
The Lord of Lothlorien smiled, finished his meal and sat back comfortably. 'No, she is not. I am perfectly aware of the differences between an elleth and a warden and not so heartless, as you may think. But take this issue from both sides: You can continue playing games with her, say nothing and simply disappear one bright summer morning without telling her, what you should have told her ages ago. And you can trust, that she will accept this cowardice of yours and wait for you...to continue this endless game, where you both have left, before you went away. This is the easy solution, the easy way out. You can tell yourself, that you have your duties to Lothlorien and that you swore an oath to do our biding and you may even convince yourself, that this was the right choice. But deep in your heart you will always know, that it was just a lie, an easy way out. The other solution is to be frank with Silraen: tell her, what you can without betraying my Lady's trust. Explain to her, why you have to leave. Give her good reasons. Reasons she can understand! If -after such a long time of knowing you, she still has doubts concerning her heart and mind, she will tell you. You take a certain risk: she may refuse what you propose and return to Imladris with Celebrian. You will perhaps leave these lands with a very heavy heart....but at least, you will go and know that you have done the right thing and made the proper choice. It would be pretty unfair to deceive her. She merits better, Haldir.'
Haldir nodded. Celeborn basically confirmed, what he had been thinking. He would talk to her and tell her the truth; the truth of his duties as much as the truth of his heart. Then he would go with Mithrandir to find out, what troubled the borders of their lands and the Amon Lanc.
After she had dismissed Celeborn's Captain, Olorin left his hiding place in Galadriel's garden and joined her on her bench.
'Now, I think, this went rather well.' He told her, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. 'Hopefully, Haldir is willing to leave immediately. I have the bad feeling that with each day that passes, the dark shadow is gathering strength. The yrch you told me about were certainly drawn by him. He will call ever more of their kind from their hiding places and guide them towards these lands. The Greenwood elves with whom I discussed spoke also about other strange creatures been drawn towards the hill and its surroundings. Also Thranduil was in no mood to discuss with me, I got hold of his youngest son for a while. He related that while hunting with his brothers to the south of the Amon Lanc, they have found curiously large spider webs in a cavern from where earlier on a tunnel led into the hill. He spoke to me of the abandoned city of King Durin and the Dwarven mines he had explored in his early youth and of the stench that now emanated from this tunnel system.'
Galadriel frowned. Her wardens never ventured so far into the Wilderlands on the other side of the Anduin, but some had spoken of terrible howls, brought over the waters of the river by Northern winds. Neither wolf nor hound, did they say, but something dark and unearthly. They had never seen the sources of these noises, but the Lady remembered the werewolves of Sauron in Angband and their fearsome leader Drauglin. 'Alas,' she said softly,' it was never known, if Huan killed them all or if some escaped into the wild and survived the sundering of Beleriand. They may have mated with lesser wolves and created a new, dark tribe that is now travelling towards the shadow.' She turned the ring on her finger and closed her eyes.' I have questioned my mirror for days at end and all it will show me is darkness. It is impossible to tell, if the spirit of the great Deceiver has returned from the abyss of nothingness, or if one of the Nine is trying to make himself an abode of shadows. And if it is one of them, he will soon call out to his eight brethren and try to gather them. Did you take council with the Lord Saruman, my friend?'
Olorin shook his head. After their landing in the Heavens of Mithlond Curumo, together with Morinehtar and Romestamo had made his way to the east. He had not known of his destiny for more then two hundred years now and he did not know, how to find his old friend.
Galadriel seemed to read his thoughts. 'So he has still not returned from his eastward quest?'
Olorin gave a deep sigh. When they had come to Cirdan's Heavens and after revealing themselves officially to the shipwright of Mithlond, something most curious had happened; something that not even the Valar may have expected.
Cirdan wise of many ages had taken Olorin aside and wordlessly slipped a trinket into his hand. Then he had left the five of Valėnor to their own devices, disappearing from everybodys sight until the five were decided to set out upon their quest. And once more the shipwright took aside Olorin. After a long deep look into the grey wizard's eyes he bade him farewell and told him, that he knew wisdom and greatness when he saw it!
Olorin had been surprised at this inhabitually behaviour and also at the rather un-courteous attitude of the Elven lord towards the leader of their group Curumo and his blatant ignoring of Morinehtar and Romestamo. Only to Aiwendil he bade his farewells, telling the brown wizard that he should chose his friends wisely and consider well with whom his loyalties lay.
Curumo had been tremendously upset about the unruly Elven lord, when they rode from Mithlond and he and Olorin had parted their ways in an icy silence, for Olorin would not tell the white wizard, what the Lord of Mithlond had pushed into his hand, right after their landing!
'What is it Mithrandir!' The Lady Galadriel asked softly, opening her eyes. I can feel that something troubles you. Alas my powers are not enough to tell the reason of your distress.'
Olorin stood up and went over to the Lady's Mirror. He stared into the empty basin, fighting with his own conscience, if or not he should open himself to the grand-daughter of Finwe. For two centuries and a half he had carried in his heart the burden of the spiteful parting with his friend Curumo and the terrible feeling of guilt over Cirdan's present. The earthly form of his spirit had many advantages, but also some inconveniences: While he had dwelt in the gardens of Lothlorien on Valėnor, he had been free of such feelings. A mighty spirit he had been, second only to the Valar themselves. But now, clothed in flesh he was no longer free and felt all the urges, pleasures and fears of flesh and blood as would the humblest of the second-born of Iluvatar. He gave a deep sigh, then he fingered from under his grey robes a small but solid necklace of silver and held its pendant up, so that the Lady of the Golden Wood could see.
When Galadriel overcame her initial shook to see the third Elven ring -the Ring of Fire- dangling from Olorin's chain, the Maiar explained to her, how Cirdan had given it to him and how Curumo had resented the secrecy of his dealings with the shipwright and his unwillingness to reveal the Elven lords gift.
The Lady of Lothlorien smiled and walked over to Olorin's side, taking his rugged hand in hers and padding it gently. 'T'was Cirdan's to give, my old friend and it is nobody's business to whom he wanted to entrust his ring. The Shipwright is very wise and he can see deep into the hearts of elves and men. I am convinced that he had his very own reason to entrust you with Narya. You know the craft of Celebrimbor and Narya the Kindler shall give thee hope in thy quest and hope to all those who will stand by your side. Do not despair, for I heard from Cirdan, that while the first of your order is great in wisdom and lore, he as you feels urges and pleasures and fears. But as thou overcomest thy grief, he shall overcome his and he will understand that Cirdan had only one ring to gift and not five.'
Olorin took her fragile, slender hand into his and blew a chaste kiss on its palm. 'Wise is the Lady of Lothlorien and wise are her councils. I shall hearken to you, my dear and go with peace of mind on this quest and whence we know, with whom we have dealings on the borders of the great Greenwood, I shall ask of my friend Aiwendil to send the birds of the heavens after Curumo and we shall all take council together, with him as our guide.' He gave a courteous bow to Galadriel.' And now, with your leave, I will go and seek out your Captain and tell him, that I wish to leave these lands as soon as possible.'
The Lady smiled at her guest.' You will find him most certainly with my dear husband and I believe, the best place to look for the two is in the tavern of the 'Blooming Appletree', for I feel that before he can go from this lands, Haldir has still a private matter to settle and he will ask my Lord Celeborn's advice.'