Silraen watched the sun raising over the golden crowns of the Mallorn trees. The lands of Laurelindórean truly merited their name; it was the Valley of Singing Gold. A soft smile lighted her face when one of the sunrays caught in the golden hair of the one she held safely ensconced in her arms. She felt the warmth his body radiated and the slow steady heartbeat under her entwined hands.
They had not slept during the night but spoken long and seriously. Haldir had told her that he had received orders from his liege to depart the lands at first sunlight and that he did not know when he would return. He had spoken to her about the fears of Mithrandir and the shadow, he and his Galadhrim had felt themselves only so recently during their hunt over the Misty Mountains and he had explained to Silraen, that as much as it could be nothing, it could be also the worst they may discover together with the wizard...something that they both had believed defeated, when he had lain under her care more then one thousand years ago in the heaven of Imladris.
Silraen closed her eyes for an instant, willing back the memories of these days from the depths of her soul: They had been both in great pain then; she had suffered in her heart, for it had been close to breaking after the loss of both her parents and he had suffered in his body from an almost fatal wound left long untended and so putrid and festering that only his stubborn intent to deny the darkness of the defeated Deceiver another victory had kept him from Mandos' Halls. There had been days, when the Lord Elrond was tempted to ship them both off to Valěnor, with or without their consent. But they had defeated him together: She had healed his body, while he had healed her heart.
'T'is not the question I want to ask you,' he had said to her, 'that makes me uneasy. For my mind was made up already a very long time ago!'
Silraen opened her eyes and pushed her nose deep into the silken strands of his heavy golden crown. She tightened her grip on him and pulled him into an even firmer embrace. It was the moment! He had confessed that he had come to the Herbal Gardens with an intent and that his heart had fought a ferocious battle with his mind after the discussion with Galadriel and his mind had lost! In full knowledge of the situation and with him at the very brink of departure for an undetermined period of time, would she go or would she tarry? Would she hear his pledge and wait for him in Laurelindórean or would she return to Imladris and resume her old life with Elrond in the Houses of Healing? Could she bear to see him go not knowing when or if he would return and still accept his pledge or would she resent it, as so many of the ellyth did after a while, who had pledged themselves to one of his Galadhrim? He knew that some of them grew despondent and regretted their choice, pressuring their men folk to abandon the service and seek less strenuous occupation in the Elven realm. Others became weary and troubled in their hearts and suffered in spirit and not a few had left for the Undying Lands, finding departure easier then to wait till the day when their beloved would not return from the fences.
Silraen chuckled softly into his hair. 'How often have I seen you off to do your duty to these lands, my Captain?' She asked him slyly.
'More times then I can remember, Sprite!' Haldir replied good-naturedly. When he had heard her answer the night before, he had suddenly felt like a very young and very foolish elfling.
'T'is not the wedding band on yon finger that makes a difference, Haldir!' She had explained like a very patient school mistress confronted with a very dull youngling. 'How often have you told me that you had to go into harms way and how often have I seen you stitched together, patched up and wrapped in bandages and not in your finest state? Did I ever tell you not to go and did I ever nag you not to return to duty after you were restablished?'
He had shaken his head. She had always understood that she had chosen a warrior and that his way in life was often dangerous...but it was his and she had learned to accept it with good graces, even if she was afraid and feared that one day he might not return.
'I am not glad to see you go, Haldir.' She whispered in his ear. 'And I have a very nasty feeling about all this. And there is something lingering over these woods that does not bode well for the future. But should we live in fear, because of the dark or shall we take the time that is given to us and live it to its fullest?'
Haldir threw a furtive glance at the sun that had now risen to the point, where he could not tarry any longer. Gently he disentangled himself from Silraen's arms. They were both relatively old elves, not untried younglings with butterflies in their heads! Then he offered her his hand and pulled her up into his embrace. Softly his lips covered hers. He relished in this kiss and wished it would last forever, but Mithrandir was waiting.
Silraen cupped his check with her hand. When it was time for both of them to draw breath, she whispered. 'I shall be here, when you return, my Captain. I shall be waiting for you on this very spot.' Then she turned and entered his talan. His travel bag and cloak lay ready on the kitchen table. She crossed to Haldir's small study and fetched his sword, bow, quiver and sash. Then she hurried back to the terrace.
When he saw what she carried in her hands, he chuckled. His heart was much lighter then the other day. He stretched out his arms to make things a bit easier for her and watched with curiosity, when she wound the blood red sash expertly around his waist. The only female who had ever armed him before was Galadriel and he wondered, where Silraen had learned how to fix sword belt, blade, shoulder straps and quiver and who had told her of this ancient tradition from Doriath that had come with Celeborn to the Golden Wood. For only mother, wife or sister would arm a Galadhrim.
When she was finished he took her hands in his and kissed the tips of her fingers. 'Will my Sprite tell me, who thought her this, for there are no Galadhrim in Imladris and your guardians have different gear and tradition.'
She grinned and shook her head vigorously. She would not tell him, that her source of knowledge was Celebrian, who long ago had related how shocked the folk of Rivendell had been, when their Lady had come with Elrond's weapons into the courtyard of their house to arm her Lord. And even more had they been shocked, when his newly-wedded wife had accompanied him to the gates of the heaven to see him literally off.
Silraen gave Haldir a small nod. 'Now take your cloak and travel bag, Captain and then I shall deliver you to your temporary charge and see the two of you to the gates of Caras Galadhon!'
Haldir smiled and did as bidden.
Olorin glanced at Galadriel: Her fair face looked strained, as if she had had a very bad night. Under her eyes lay, almost imperceptible two dark shadows and her hands were tensely clasped behind her back. Celeborn spoke to him softly, but the Istar found it hard to concentrate on the words of the silver lord. The whole being of the Lady of the Golden Wood exhaled tension and unease. Rarely had he seen Artanis in such a foul mood. She had hardly acknowledged him, when they had arrived at the rising of the sun to see him and his travel companion off into the wild.
Only when she perceived her Captain from afar, strolling hand in hand with his dark-haired sprite through the empty streets of Caras Galadhon and towards their abode, her foul mood seemed to lift for an instant. She smiled and in her brief smile, Olorin read content and motherly pride, but also pain and sorrow. Celeborn was outwardly more composed, but his eyes flickered the very instant he saw the well-matched pair and he murmured some soft words to himself.
So it seemed, thought Olorin with a hint of cynicism, 'that the 'private matter' was settled and in a way, which both his hosts approved. He hoped that his not-so-willing travel companion of the other day would now show a bit more willingness and enthusiasm for their quest.
When the two finally reached the small clearing close to the city gates, the Captain went straight for the Lord Celeborn and placed his sprite's hand in his. Then he bowed to the Lady Galadriel and said some soft words, which the Istar in his form of an elderly human could not understand. The Lady embraced the broad shouldered warrior, then she laid her slender hand in a gesture of blessing upon his brow. Finally she took the hand of Silraen from Celeborn's and repeated the gesture, first kissing then blessing the dark-haired elleth. Olorin watched intently. Obviously he was intruding upon a very private moment here, a family moment. But before he had time to ponder the nature of the Captain's 'private matter' and the interesting traditions of Laurelindórean, the situation changed and became once again more formal and official.
Still holding the Rivendell elleth close to her, Galadriel walked over to him with Celeborn by her side. The Captain of the Galadhrim stayed back.
'Anelu I ven, Mithrandir! (1) I have seen great evil. It is still formless shadow, but its fiery eye is blazing and it calls upon fell creatures that where once dispersed and shattered. I have seen deep caverns and dwellings under a mountain. Beware, this is where the shadow hides and he is breeding monsters in the dark. Tread carefully, my old friend for should the shadow become aware that he has been detected by such as you, he will strike hard and swiftly and a great doom will come over these lands and our people.' Galadriel took hold of the Istar's frail hand. 'Beware, Mithrandir, for you are going into a great danger...I fear a danger that is far beyond the powers of your kin or mine. None is prepared to face the shadow, for most believe that he has left the confines of Arda and gone into the abyss from whence he hailed.'
Olorin bowed courteously to the Lady of the Golden Wood. 'I shall head thy council, wisest of all Elvenkind on Earth and thread carefully, for I no more then you wish to make the Shadow know that he has been perceived. And whence I return we shall sit in council and debate, what has to be done. The One lies still in hiding and many things that should not have been forgotten were lost. But if my suspicion comes true and I shall find, what I fear, then it will put all its strength of will and malice towards one single aim: It will try and return to its creator.'
Galadriel looked at Olorin pensively, then she turned and motioned Haldir to come to their side.
Silraen, who was still standing by the Lady' cast her eyes to the ground. What she had learned from her betrothed the night before had already been frightening. What she had learned now from Galadriel was simply terrifying. Memories of the darkest days of the last age welled up in her mind. When Haldir stood by his Lord and Lady she straightened and held up her head. No matter how frightened she was and what looming doom she saw in her mind, she would not deceive him and send him forth into peril, danger and darkness with a heavy heart. She would have her time to shake and tremble when he and Mithrandir were seen off and had left the confines of Caras Galadhon. She cast the Captain a glance. He had been left aside, when the Lady had spoken to Mithrandir, but she doubted, that it was Galadriel's purpose to leave him in the dark, concerning the full extent of the danger they were now going to face and she doubted that the Lord Celeborn would allow the one, who had called him adar for millennia to leave unarmed. She swallowed also her mouth had gone dry. The Lady had given the old wizard a warning, for she was afraid that he could do something foolhardy, something they all would probably bitterly regret. The dark expression in the wizards eyes confirmed Silraen's suspicion.
'Go now,' the Lord Celeborn said with a grave voice, putting his hand on Haldir's shoulder. 'For no one must know where you go. Too much curiosity at the actual state of affairs would be perilous both for you and for the Elvenfolk of this realm.' A silver sparkle lit his eyes for a short instant and Silraen saw how Haldir stiffened. Then a similar silver sparkle lightened his storm grey eyes and the Lord of the Woods gave a curt not. Without further words they saw them through the gates and watched in silence, as Mithrandir and the Captain of the Galadhrim disappeared in the thick woods that surrounded the Elven city of Caras Galadhon. When they could no longer be seen, Celeborn took her hand in his and pulled an arm around his Lady's shoulder, leading them back to the heart of the dwelling.
'Did you tell him, Love!' Galadriel asked darkly.
The Lord acknowledged with a silent nod.
(1) The road is very dangerous, Mithrandir !'