For many an hour the two companions had roamed Caras Galadhon in pursuit of information about strange events, that may have brought upon Silraen's Captain sudden, mysterious orders from his Lady. But now, with the sun settling behind the line of the Mallorn trees and their feet right sore, they had to admit utter defeat. Nothing special had been mentioned; even Rumil's wife Anysse, who habitually heard the herb grow was unaware of any dangers to the Golden Wood, that may necessitate immediate attention from its Captain. She had told Celebrian and Silraen about the hunt after a bunch of marauding yrch which had preceded their arrival and taken Haldir together with her husband, her brother-in-law and a great group of wardens deep into the Misty Mountains for weeks on end. But the yrch had been destroyed and while some of the casualties were still in the care of the healers, the burned-down village close to the Dwarven halls of Khazad-Dum was no longer topic for chit-chat or wild speculations.
'Perhaps her mirror has shown something to our Lady and she wanted to partake her vision with him!' Anysse had speculated over a cup of hot mint tea, only to dismiss the thought hardly an instant later. Celebrian was of the same opinion: Her mother would not bother Haldir over a vision, if this vision did not directly concern the safety of the forest realm.
'Perhaps she wanted to investigate if you made some progress!' Orophin had chuckled mischievously, pointing a long, slender finger at Silraen. ' She's a rather solid bet on you two getting finally settled before Midsummer Eve....and our Lady hates to loose bets with me, for it always costs her dearly.' The evil sprite had even shown his small pocket book with a listing of elves engaged in the nasty little game and Silraen had stormed from his talan in a fit of rage that would have frightened a dragon.
Aeglironion the notoriously chatty and well-informed hoof-smith of the guards had only shrugged his broad shoulders and offered the two curious ellyth a cool mug of apple wine and some fatherly advice to try and get hold of Haldir's second-in-command Aiglironion, who'd be the one best informed about the Captain's intentions or possible orders for the wardens and Aiglironion had been unavailable for further enquiries, since he had left to the Southern fences of Lothlorien already eight days earlier, as his surprised wife informed her Lady's daughter and Elrond's apothecary. And with a tiny little sting in her voice Allassiel told them, that this ride to the borders and absence of her beloved were tightly linked to a certain arrival in Laurelindórean. Then she had hushed the two companions rather hurriedly from her talan, telling them, that with her spouse absent on duty, all the laborious tasks of the household were upon her!
Celebrian and Silraen, sobered by their lengthy hunt and exhausted from climbing up and down the endless staircases of Caras Galadhon finally came to the conclusion that the last spot to retrieve perhaps some concise intelligence would be the tavern of the 'Blooming Appletree' were Haldir's wardens took their meals or lazed around during their spare moments.
When the two ellyth reached finally the tavern that wound itself around the trunk of an enormous tree with intricately carved pillars that all depicted apple blossoms and apple leaves, they realized immediately that they had made the right decision. The tavern was not only filled up to the last seat: At a small table in a cosy corner, the immediately identified Lord Celeborn's silver mane and the broad shoulders of the object of their curiosity. The two ellon sat in companionable silence. Each sipped from a small glass, while their empty plates stood abandoned in the middle of their table.
'Here you are.' Celebrian muttered.
'So it was probably nothing strange.' Silraen replied with a sigh of relief.
'Still to be seen.' The other elleth replied, getting hold of the maid Tari and explaining to her that they would take the same brew as the two lazy ellon in the corner. Then she pushed Silraen through the crowd of rowdy wardens over to her father's and Haldir's table.
The Lord of Lothlorien beamed and padded the empty chair next to his. 'Join us, Ladies!' He offered good-naturedly.
Haldir caught Silraen's eyes and gave her a sheepish smile. 'I am sorry, Love!' He muttered. Then he stood and offered her the other empty chair. 'T'was not my intent to give you insult, but....'
She gave him a happy smile, stood on her toe tips and blew a kiss on his cheek.' Do not worry; Haldir.' She whispered softly into his ear. 'No offence taken. The cake and the strawberries were delicious.'
He took her hand gently into his and held it for a long while, ignoring Celeborn as well as the boisterous Celebrian, who was pouring questions on the poor Lord of Lothlorien without taking her breath. 'I must talk to you, Silraen.' He replied.' Have you already plans made for tonight?'
She shook her head. It was a silly question: Whenever she dwelt in Lothlorien, her evenings and nights were his. Too few were the moments they could share with each other and too long were the days in between, when she and Haldir pursued their solitary destinies in Rivendell and Lothlorien.
He caressed her cheek with his free hand, caring neither for the boisterous wardens in the tavern, nor for Celeborn and Celebrian, who seemed to engage in some kind of argument. 'I had to go with him.' He explained in a low voice. 'T'was no silly game, Silraen.'
Silraen put her hand over his and leaned into his touch.' I knew, Haldir. I am not upset with you. Will you tell me why she called you? I had a bad feeling, when I saw her messenger.'
Olorin had finally found the 'Blooming Appletree'. Galadriel's indications of the wardens' tavern had been quite vague and it had taken some time to find the place. In the end he simply followed a group of elves clad in grey and dark green, hoping that they would go for a drink and not for the fences of Laurelindórean.
It was, as she had foretold: His soon-to-be companion of misfortune sat together with that Sinda Prince from Doriath, Elrond's terribly boisterous spouse Celebrian and a dark-haired Fay, that could only be 'the private matter' the Captain of the Galadhrim needed to settle, before he could leave Laurelindórean.
Olorin took quick counsel with himself: He could either impose upon them and join them at their table and risk a delay in the Captain's 'private matters' or turn away and leave them alone and pack his small travelling bag to be ready in the morning. He gave a deep sigh; his travelling bag was ready. He did not need time to prepare. After their coming to Arda and Curumo leaving together with Morinehtar and Romestamo for the east, Aiwendil had made himself a home on the Western edge of the Great Greenwood, near the Gladden Fields on the Great River Anduin and hardly one hundred miles on bird's wings from Thranduil's capital on the Amon Lanc.
The brown wizard had given this abode the name Rhosgobel and it was not only equipped with all creature comforts but also well fenced. Having been close friends with Olorin in Valěnor, Aiwendil had invited him to live in Rhosgobel and pursue their mission from this very convenient base camp. But Olorin had refused Aiwendil's proposition. He preferred to roam the North and the West of Middle-earth free and unattached, learning about its inhabitants, their traditions and their lore and so after more then two hundred and fifty years he still had nothing more to care for, then his staff, his well-worn travel cloak and his small travelling bag over the shoulder.
He slipped into the shadow of a tree, approaching the table of four on tip-toe: Celebrian and the Lord Celeborn were engaged in deep discussion. The spouse of Elrond fired questions at the speed of Galadhrim arrows, while Galadriel's husband nodded and sipped some honey coloured brew. T'was a bit one-sided, but they appeared both rather happy. Olorin turned his attention to the Captain and the dark-haired elleth. Even his sharp ears would not allow him to listen in on their conversation: He looked at her with yearning in his storm-grey eyes and she smiled at him with utter happiness. They seemed both deeply in love with each other and completely absorbed in a small world of their own. The Istar crept closer. A soft touch of his hand, a gentle squeeze of his fingers, an occasional nod or a smile. It looked as if the 'private matters' Artanis had spoken of where well under way. He chuckled! If he'd leave them alone now, the occasion to tell his future travel companion of his desire to leave right in the morning would be lost. Better to make it quick, interrupt them now and give the Captain and the Maiden a last peaceful night together.
With determination and billowing grey robes, Olorin stepped out from the shadows and into the red evening sun.