Celebrían was busy in the huge blue-tiled kitchen, humming the song that set virtue into pastry cheerfully to herself, when Elrond came unexpectedly through the open doors into the kitchen from the sunlit courtyard. She jumped and knocked over a bowl of raisins, sending them showering across the dark wood of the table.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you!” he said, hurrying to help her pick them up.
“I think I’m not quite used to you being here yet,” she told him ruefully, collecting raisins. “Not that I’m not happy that you are, at long last,” and to reinforce the point, she leant over the raisins and kissed his cheek. He turned into the kiss, and kissed her back on the lips.
“I’ve arrived with so many guests in tow,” he said. “It’s not too tiring for you, having them here?”
“Tithen and I are enjoying having people to cook for, for a change,” she said. “And the hobbits are flatteringly enthusiastic about our cooking, particularly Bilbo. Don’t worry so much! I am much better now, truly.”
“You’re sure? I know your wound is healed long ago, but you came here for rest.”
“A good while ago now; I am feeling much better. Having a few guests around will not tax my strength. It was no surprise that you would bring friends, when you finally came into the west — though I must admit, I was surprised some of them were so small! But we always kept an open house in Imladris after all, it has sometimes seemed a little quiet here by comparison. My uncle Finrod and I designed this place so there would be plenty of room for visitors.” She put the last raisin back into the bowl, and hesitated. “Do you like it?”
“Of course I do. Didn’t I say so? I have just been exploring the orchard. There are trees there I’ve never met before. You will have to introduce me to them,” He smiled at her. “And we both grew up with tales of Finrod the great city-builder of Nargothrond. Now you have designed a house with him, and we live in it! It’s wonderful.”
She smiled back, dotting raisins onto pastries. “His first sketches were of a house more like his summer-house here. You know, the place where my mother is staying now. I lived there when I first arrived, once I had been to the Gardens of Lórien. What a confusing name that is! I have to make a great effort to make sure I always say Lothlórien when I speak of my father, otherwise conversations can get terribly confusing and sometimes it takes ages to sort them all out again. Oh dear, I’m babbling. It’s because I’m pleased to see you. I have all these words saved up for you and I’m trying to get them all out at once. Not that I was ever short of words, of course.”
“Go on! I like it.”
“Anyway, the first sketches. They were very classically Noldor, all tall lacy arches with lots of Finrod’s elaborate stone carvings. It is a lovely style, of course, but quite a change from either Lothlórien or Imladris. But none of the sketches seemed quite right. I couldn’t quite see you in any of them, for some reason. I think I drove poor Finrod to despair, being unhappy with all his ideas, scribbling on his sketches and quite unable to decide between them at the same time. But he said it was a challenge and kept on trying out new thoughts. Then he drew this one, and it reminded me of Belfalas. Our house there when I was young looked out across the sea, too, and it was low and white, like this one. You always said that, one day, we would live by the sea again, like you used to do in Lindon. This house looks as though it belongs here, by the strand, and being so low, the wind flows over it, it doesn’t whistle through it, even when the storms come rolling in from the sea.”
“I thought when I first saw it that it was good luck you made it so suitable for the hobbits. They don’t like heights.”
“No, Bilbo has told me! I suppose I was remembering the times when we had dwarvish guests, in part. Not expecting any here, of course, but still, to make a house just for Elves seemed not quite right for you... Of course, I wanted to stay here in Avallónë, so that I could look out east and think of you and Arwen and the boys, and perhaps see you coming, one day, when the ship came at last. Of course, when it did, we were all up in the orchard, busy picking the apples, and someone had to come running up from the quay to find me! I did wonder though, when I saw it built, if it was too different, and I should have chosen something more like our house in Imladris.”
He smiled at her, that beautiful dear smile that lit up his face. “Imladris was built for Northern rains and mist. And for defence, of course. We don’t need a defensible river-bridge here. We have the ocean.”
“And we’re at peace at long last,” she said, dividing pastry.
“So we are,” he said “That seems so unexpected. I keep remembering it and being surprised all over again. Peace has been a distant hope for so long... I am so thankful to the hobbits for peace in Middle-earth. I hope that here, they’ll be able to heal and enjoy the ease that Frodo could not find at home.”
“Does peace make up for having to leave home?” she asked.
Elrond looked at her with a half-smile. “This is my home, with you. Or it will be, once I’ve found out where everything is kept, and our people are all settled in Tol Eressëa or in Tirion... Do you still miss Lothlórien?”
“The trees of Lothlórien in the autumn when the leaves turn golden, the scent of sage and rosemary and the waves upon the shores of Belfalas in the spring... Imladris all year round, but particularly in the summer, when the sun shone on the pine trees and the smell of them came down to the house, and the nights were warm and we sang in the valley under the stars ... Yes, of course I do. I miss them all so much. But Arwen most of all.”
He put an arm around her waist, comforting.
“I’m all over flour!” she protested, but she rested her head on his shoulder anyway.
“And so am I, now...” he said, smiling at her. “Arwen was very happy, when I saw her last. And she will have children of her own to love, and a whole people growing back to joy and light at last, and so many new friends. They are rebuilding Osgiliath — you knew the city when you lived in Belfalas, didn’t you? Osgiliath fell to the enemy and was ruined in the war, I’m afraid, but they will build it anew now. She will enjoy helping Minas Tirith flower again.”
“For a while,” Celebrían said, and sighed.
“As with all the Edain,” Elrond said. “I’m trying to take joy in them, and not dwell overmuch on the ending. It’s what they do. Think of Bilbo and the joy he takes in life, even in old age.”
“I know... Perhaps Arwen’s children will be like little Araglas. Remember how he was always singing when he was young? And his mother, too, when she was very small and used to bring us flowers and snails she’d found, with such complete delight. They were beautiful children, the Edain. I remember them with love, all of them. It’s only that I never thought... I never thought our daughter would have children we would never see.”
Elrond, still standing close beside her, looked crushed. Looking at his face, she managed not to say, I didn’t think she would go with them and be lost forever. But he saw it in her mind, anyway.
“It will be hard for her, at the end,” he said “But then she’ll go beyond the world, and Aragorn will be there.” Or I hope so, anyway, both were trying not to think, for who knew, in truth, what came to Men, in the end? They had both had long enough with the Edain to know that even Men did not know what came to them afterwards, and that they were often afraid.
Elrond said, “He will look after her, and she’ll look after him. You’d have loved Aragorn dearly. I wish you could have met him.”
“Is he much like our first Aragorn?” she asked, and remembered in time to not think, I hope he will be more long-lived. To stay safely far from the words he died so young.
“He looks a little like him. He’s tougher, though, and not as rash. And he is a scholar and a poet, as much as he is a warrior. I can’t see Arwen’s Aragorn having anything but a long life and a happy one.”
“And no doubt your brother Elros will be there to greet them, too, when they get there,” she said, trying to sound sure, because she had almost convinced herself she was. “Finrod says he heard a tale that Men will return at the breaking of the world. There’s that to hope for.”
She picked up the pastry and turned over each small piece, delicately turning the shapes on the top, ready for the oven. “I keep wondering, if I had known, if I could have stayed, somehow. If I could have been with her these last years, known her new husband, gone to her wedding. Said my goodbyes. But it’s far too late now.”
“I do not think it was possible,” Elrond said gravely. “You were terribly ill. She knew that you were safe and able to seek healing.”
“Yes. At least she didn’t have to worry about me. And perhaps Elladan and Elrohir... No, I can’t bear to think about that, just now. Perhaps later.” She pushed him gently away, picked up the tray of pastries and took them over to the oven. The fire had heated it through, and all was ready for them. She made a small business of placing them in just the right spot, so that she could give him a calm smile when she turned back towards him.
“Thank you for welcoming Maglor,” Elrond said, changing the subject to something less close, less painful. “Not everyone would have done that.”
Celebrían had to smile at that. As if Elrond had ever been likely to leave Maglor in Middle-earth, if he could possibly manage to bring him along. Maglor might have carried off Elrond as a child — and that was still troubling to think of — but there was no question that they were dear friends now.
She remembered how Elrond had insisted they ride all the way to Lindon, when Elladan and Elrohir were just old enough to ride so far, supposedly to visit Círdan. But the time when they had left their escort behind and ridden up the coast — we don’t need an escort in Lindon, it’s quite safe, Elrond had said, very firmly — to ‘accidentally’ come across an old friend who must only be referred to as Lark, in front of the boys, had clearly been even more important to him than visiting his old friend Círdan.
“I thought you might bring him,” she said now. “I would have welcomed him for your sake anyway, but the look on my mother’s face was a joy to see! Not that I don’t love her dearly. But just occasionally I can’t resist doing things she’ll disapprove of, just to make the point that I can if I want to.”
There was a mischief to Elrond’s answering smile that reminded her of Elrohir. “I know the feeling. Your mother is unparallelled as an ally in war, but rather a terrifying mother-in-law. But I think she is coming around to him. She asked after him almost warmly yesterday. You’ll have to find another way to scandalise her than embracing her disgraceful cousins.”
“I’ll see what I can come up with!” Strange, the things that came back most easily in memory. She had remembered Elrond’s serious face and his kind one, but had rarely recalled how much she liked it when he laughed.
Elrond looked at her, still with that slightly mischievous expression. “Maglor asked me to speak with the Valar, and request the release of his brothers from the Halls of Mandos. And his father, too.”
She laughed with surprise. “Well, that would certainly scandalise my mother. Are you going to do it?”
“I am not sure. I wondered what you thought.”
“You’re the one who knows all these great heroes and fought in all the battles. Why ask me? I only sing songs to pastry and to crying children...”
He folded his arms around her again, there in the middle of her kitchen. “You kept my heart, and gave me a home. And you taught me to be a healer, not just one more warrior.”
She kissed him on the nose. “And that makes me a counsellor, does it?”
“It makes you wise. And you’ve been living here in Aman,too. You know your grandfather Finarfin as a person: I only knew him as High King and commander of the Noldor host, when I was one of Gil-galad’s very junior lieutenants. Your opinion is as useful as anyone else’s, and much more important.”
“I’m glad to hear you still think so. But still, I have never met them.”
“I never knew the Sons of Fëanor either. Well, apart from Maedhros. I’m not that old! I never met Fingolfin or Fingon either... and certainly not Fëanor!” Elrond’s eyes were sparkling with amusement. “If Fëanor was a pastry, would you want to take him out of the oven?”
“I should take my pastries out, anyway, or they will be burned and Bilbo and Gandalf will be disappointed. They need precise timing, pastries. Let me think of Fëanor as a pastry once I have set them to cool.”
She hummed the song that set the crispness in the topping on her pastries quietly as she took each pastry in turn and set them to cool on the rack, while she thought about it.
She turned back to Elrond, leaning on the kitchen table. “So, on to considering the house of Fëanor as pastries! My grandfather has not spoken of them much. He has talked to me of his brother Fingolfin and his children, and his sister Lalwen though: he spoke very fondly of them and wished that he could introduce us. He said they were a great loss to Tirion. Then there is great aunt Anairë. She was very kind to me when I first arrived here, and she speaks of Fingolfin all the time: she had a thousand questions about Middle-earth for me, and was eager to hear all about you too, as one of her son’s family.”
She thought about Anairë, the things that she had said, and had not said, and the way her eyes had brightened as she had spoken of her husband. “I think she regrets not going with him, although she doesn’t say so in so many words. I have not heard her speak of Fëanor though, and only rarely of his sons. I think she may share my mother’s views of them.”
“It seems Fëanor had few friends,” Elrond observed.
“Or they don’t speak of him now. I’m not sure that they would, to me. They know my father came from Doriath, of course, and that my mother always disliked him, so it may be simple politeness. People here don’t always know that we welcomed everyone in Imladris, and paid no heed to old grudges, or that my mother lived in Eregion for a while... Who else is there? Oh yes, his wife, of course. My grandmother Eärwen is friends with Maglor’s mother, Nerdanel. I have met her a few times, visiting with Eärwen, but neither Eärwen nor Nerdanel mentioned her husband or her sons at all... I wondered whether to speak to her of Maglor, but she did not ask, and I could not think how to bring it up. I didn’t want to cause offense. She seemed rather fierce. We did not speak of Middle-earth.”
She thought for a while, then shook her head. “You know, the more I think of it, Fëanor and his sons do not seem like the pastries that everyone asks for, that we all regret when there are none left. Are you sure that even Maglor truly likes them, and it’s not just that they remind him of his childhood?”
Elrond shrugged, looking unusually unsure. “He was close to his brother Maedhros, when I knew them both. I don’t know about the rest. But then, from what he told me later, he would have surrendered, at the end of the war, if it had not been for Maedhros. It was Maedhros who led him to steal the Silmarils...” Elrond shook his head. “I don’t know. I loved Maedhros too, and so did Elros, though of course we knew he was not well; he needed help. But I never got the chance to speak to him afterwards.”
Celebrían looked at him in concern. “Is it not safest to leave them where they are? They aren’t in the oven, where they might burn. They are safe enough in the larder, where they can do no harm, and take no hurt.”
Elrond nodded. “I suppose they are, though...I can’t think it quite fair. Or not fair to Maedhros as I knew him, anyway. But then, not all things are fair, in Arda Marred.”
“They aren’t. But that’s not a reason not to try to make them so. And this Maedhros became a friend of yours, like Maglor? I wouldn’t want to say you shouldn’t want to help a friend. Not that you would ever listen to me if I said such a horrible thing.”
Elrond was frowning at the pastries. He touched one with a careful fingertip.
“Let that alone, it needs to cool properly,” she said, and then looked at him more closely. “There’s something more that’s bothering you, isn’t there? What is it?”
Elrond took his finger away from the pastries obediently. “I’m not sure it is fair to lay all this out to worry you,” he said, with that helpless, uneasy look she remembered so well from that last year in Middle-earth, when every word she heard had seemed to be overlaid with fearful shadows.
But they were in Aman, and all the wars were over. And Celebrían felt entirely better, now. Well, almost entirely. “Tell me! Come, I’m not a little child. Something about Maglor’s brothers. What is the trouble?”
Elrond sighed. “You remember that old story of the Dunedain? The one about the Last Battle and the breaking of the world?”
“Yes,” she said “Finrod talked about it too. The breaking of the world when, perhaps, Men will return to fight in the last battle against Morgoth, or perhaps they return anyway to rebuild the broken world anew, like the Dwarves. I hope it’s true. And I hope we survive the breaking, too, not only Men and Dwarves.”
“That’s the tale. There are several versions that I know of, that we had recorded in the library at Imladris. I left that for Elladan and Elrohir: they’ll have more need of written records than we do, since so many of those who remember are gone into the West... The tales all contradict one another to some extent, as you’d expect. But there are versions that mention the return of Fëanor from the Halls of Mandos at the end of time, to fight in the last battle.”
“I wonder where the Dunedain picked that up from? I remember hearing that somewhere, but I assumed it was some garbled rumour about the War of Wrath.”
“I think it’s more than rumour. It was an old tradition of the House of Bëor, preserved among the Northmen who didn’t go to Numenor. Very early, I think, from the language. I don’t know how they knew of Fëanor at all, but there he is... And there’s something about it that speaks to me. Not a true foreseeing, quite. Only a... shadow on my mind. A weight that hangs about it it that some old lie of the Enemy would not have.”
“So Fëanor comes from the Halls of Mandos to fight in the final battle, and presumably his sons with him, if the story’s true. We know that many aren’t. That suggests you should trust the judgement of the Valar, and leave him where he is, shouldn’t you? But I see you think there must be more to it than that?”
“Well, that is what is concerning me a little. It doesn’t say what side he would fight on.”
“Oh!” Celebrían’s eyes widened.
“I don’t know when the Dagor Dagorath will come,” Elrond said, reflectively. “It seems to be a very distant dark shadow, from here, like the faintest hint of a stormcloud in the distance, far beyond the hills. But if it comes at last, if the Enemy returns, here we’ll still be to face him, at the end of all things. We are part of the world, breaking, even here in Aman. And it seems to me that Fëanor, and his sons, have very little reason at present to fight on behalf of Manwë, and for the Valar. Still less to do what one hopeful story suggests, and gather up the Silmarils, from sky and earth and sea, and give them to Yavanna to renew the world.”
“But surely... surely they wouldn’t fight for Morgoth? Not Maglor?” She looked out reflexively through the small arched window that brought light in from the front of the house, where Maglor and Finrod were sitting and talking.
“I’ve seen his Oath work on him,” Elrond said. “Both of them; Maedhros, too. Very long ago. I was very young. But it was powerful, then, with Morgoth still in the world. Morgoth was using it, I am sure of that, and perhaps others could use it, too. That’s why I have never called on Maglor for help, even when I desperately needed every sword. He would have come, if I’d asked — I am sure he would have come — and his sword is worth a good deal. But I didn’t want to risk Sauron making use of him somehow.”
“But it was undone! Wasn’t the Oath of Fëanor undone? Manwë and Varda denied it, as the witnesses, my mother said. She said the House of Fëanor only followed their oath out of pride and greed anyway.”
“They named Manwë and Varda in witness, yes. But they called the name of Ilúvatar and they named the Everlasting Darkness, too. Manwë can perhaps speak for Ilúvatar, but nobody speaks for the Darkness. I am not sure that pride was all of it. In fact, I’m not sure that your mother even thinks that, now. We have all learned a little more about things of power and oaths and pride, since Sauron returned... I don’t think Fëanor’s Oath was undone. It sleeps very deep, with Morgoth gone beyond the world. I can see barely any trace of it when I look for it in Maglor’s mind, but I am not sure that anyone now alive can undo it. It was Fëanor who made it. I think it might need to be Fëanor who unmakes it, if anyone can.”
“And the dead in the Halls of Mandos can neither make, nor unmake,” Celebrían said. A feeling of terrible dread was sweeping through her, as though the ground beneath her feet that had been so solid was starting to crumble.
“If Fëanor returned to fight for darkness, my mother will go out to face him. You know she will.”
“Yes,” Elrond said, making an uncomfortable face. “That had occurred to me, too.”
“What have you brought into our home?” she asked him in distress. “Something like an orc, but worse...” Celebrían put her hands over her mouth.
“I’m sorry,” Elrond said, concerned. “I shouldn’t have troubled you with this. Come, sit down. I’ll make you some tea.”
“You won’t,” she said, and with an effort, pulled her hands down. They were shaking a little. She had never been strong, not like her mother, even before the orcs had captured her. “This is my kitchen. I will make some tea. I will.” She picked up the kettle, filled it, almost without a tremor, and put it on the stove. Then she found the teapot. The familiar ritual of making tea was comforting.
Elrond had gone still and calm again, the way he did when he was upset. “I don’t think he is like an orc. Please don’t worry about that. We are quite safe here; I won’t let any harm come to you again.”
“Safe now, or so you think. But not forever.” She set the teapot and cups carefully on the small table by the courtyard door, and sat down. Elrond joined her. “I suppose I knew that, really, but this brings it home.” she said, pouring tea into delicate white cups. She added sugar generously to hers. “You would say that we can’t fence the world out forever. There’s truth to that, even in Aman: even the fences of the Valar are not eternal. So what’s to be done?”
Elrond looked at her, cup in hand. “Remember that first White Council, in Imladris, after the fall of Eregion, when the Numenoreans had come to rescue us at last, and we’d just finished hunting Sauron out of Eriador? You asked if we would invite Durin of Khazad-dûm, Thrar of the Blue Hills and Ciryatur of Númenor to join us in our council.”
She wrapped her hands around her cup and took a careful sip. “My father looked at me as if I had grown two heads, Gil-galad frowned, and I didn’t dare say anything more.”
“Yes, and I thought, one day, when I’m not filthy, wounded and living in a tent, I’m going to ask the shining lady Celebrían to marry me...” He smiled back, though still with worry in his eyes. “Anyway, in the end, we did finally have that council. The one where everyone was there, not just the Great and Wise. They all came: the Dwarves, the Sindar, Noldor, Falathrim and Silvan elves, the Edain of Gondor and the North, Gandalf and the hobbits, too. Quite by accident, or so it seemed, they all turned up at once in Imladris. I think perhaps Ilúvatar got tired of waiting for us all to talk again. That was where Frodo offered to take the Ring to the fire. And I thought, this is just what Gil-galad did in the end too, bringing them all together. If we had tried harder to build up strength and friendship together all along, instead of going our own ways and hoping that the peace would never end, we would have been the stronger for it. It’s what Aragorn and Arwen are doing now.”
“And you think that it would be best to try to make Fëanor and his sons into friends now, in time of peace, instead of waiting?”
“Maglor is our friend. But if Fëanor really is like your mother, I’d prefer not to meet him for the first time on the field of battle. Or count on peace until the peace runs out. I’d like to be sure he wants to unmake his Oath, rather than gamble that Morgoth, returning, has forgotten it. This time, it should not be as it was with Isildur.... Surely, seeing what it did to his sons, any father would unmake it, if the choice was offered?” His voice dropped. “I would dearly like to see Maedhros again, free of it.”
“I want to say, surely the Valar have thought of all this,” she said. “But you think they may not?”
“I think the Valar might be waiting for us to choose. Does that sound unlikely? I don’t know. But when Thangorodrim fell, I thought the Valar would know they must help Maedhros and Maglor. I thought they would go home and be healed, and all would be well. It all seemed so clear to me, when I was young. But the Valar demanded judgement. They didn’t offer hope or mercy.”
“You think that was unfair? My father would not agree. It’s not as though the sons of Fëanor had offered anyone much mercy themselves, as I understand it.”
“It was fair, but I don’t think it was kind. Perhaps one could even say it was not wise... I’ve long regretted that we didn’t go to Eönwë when he took the Silmarils, Elros and I together, to tell him what the Sons of Fëanor had become and how, and what they would be bound to do. He understood it, when he saw them. He pitied them then: that’s why he let them go. But that was too late for Maedhros, not to mention the poor guards he slew.” Elrond’s face was full of remembered distress. Celebrían put her cup down, and put an arm around him. It was good to feel that she could comfort him a little, for once.
Elrond said “I’ve wondered if that was one of the reasons they did not try to tell us if we were Elves or Men, nor our children, either. They asked us to choose.”
“A horrible choice!” she said, making a face.
“Yes, but at least it was our own. They said yes, when I asked if I could bring Maglor with me. I only had to decide to ask. And take responsibility for the consequences, of course.”
She looked down into her teacup. “I thought it was all over forever. All the war and the danger, gone for good. I thought...”
A vision of the filthy cave where the orcs had chained her came back into her mind, inescapable. The shape of it lay black upon her mind: the darkness, fear and pain. Their hands on her, dragging her down into darkness. The doubt, whether anyone would be able to find her, or if she would lie there for years, until she had forgotten starlight and could remember nothing but the orcs.
Elrond could see it too, and he made a small, hurt noise that made her want to cry. But crying would make Elrond comfort her yet again, and that would probably mean he would never tell her anything difficult or dangerous ever again. That was not what she wanted.
Instead, she got up, went and got the pastries and put them carefully upon a plate, one of the nice dark blue plates, each pastry spaced neatly from the next in a pattern of tiny stars, until the image went away. There were two pastries left over that did not fit the pattern, and so she gave one to Elrond, and ate the other herself. It tasted very good, and eating it, she quite forgot about chains, starvation and the smell of orcs as they beat her. She could shut those memories behind her. They had no power over her any more.
“It never can be quite over, can it?” she said to Elrond, once she had got hold of her emotions again. “Not for us. Arwen will go on, but Arda is marred and here we are, bound to it. In all its beauty and its terror and darkness.”
“I hoped you wouldn’t have to think of the terror again. I’m sorry. I should not have mentioned any of this.”
“No!” she said. “You should. You should! The beauty is all the brighter for it. The pastries taste better too. You can’t have stars at the same time as sunlight.”
Elrond’s face lit up with delight. “You really are feeling better!”
“I am. I’m glad you told me. I don’t want you to worry and hide it from me. That would be far worse than being held by a dark memory that can be brushed aside.”
Elrond smiled at her. “It’s not too urgent a worry, not by the standards of recent times. I’m only thinking of it now because I spoke of Maedhros, and then Maglor mentioned his father. And because ... because the end of the world suddenly seems more important than it did. I’m glad I can talk about it with you.”
“Have you not spoken of this with Maglor, then?”
“We have talked about his oath, of course. I had to be sure what I was asking of the Valar. But not about his father, only that he asked me if I would speak to the Valar for him. I said I’d think about it. I trust Maglor with your safety, absolutely, and with mine; please don’t worry about that. I even trust him with the Silmaril my father carries, at least in the absence of the Enemy and his creatures. But trusting his opinion of his brothers and his father is another matter. Anyway, he knows far less than you about anything that has happened here in Aman since he left.”
He thought for a moment. “Those words; ‘your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity, though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you.’ Between the two of us, our families and our people, that is most of those they slew, apart from servants of the Enemy... I asked Maglor, to make sure I had the wording right. It did say ‘little pity’.”
“Little isn’t the same as none at all.” Celebrían pointed out.
“Nor it is. Didn’t I say you were wise, my heart? Wise, and kind.”
Celebrían thought for a moment, and shook her head. “I hope for both, but still, I am not quite ready to entreat for Fëanor and his sons. I am my father’s daughter, after all, even if I never knew Doriath. Perhaps you could wait a little, to ask the Valar about them? Let me get to know Maglor first.”
“Of course,” Elrond said, smiling. “The pastries have waited a good while in the larder, they can wait a while longer yet.”
A thought came to her “Perhaps you could ask about Fingolfin first, for poor great-aunt Anairë? If Maglor is here, and my mother too, surely there can be no objection to his return. Everyone seems to agree he is the kind of pastry that they like!”
In the last of the golden autumn sun in the white-walled courtyard, Celebrían’s slim figure stood poised, sword in hand, and opposite her, dark against the brilliant light, Maglor. For a brief moment they stood, then Maglor’s weapon moved. Celebrían barely caught it with her own as it came too near her throat.
Elrond blinked and took an alarmed step forward, and then Celebrían laughed. The swords against the light resolved into woven willow-wands as Maglor stepped back.
“It has been a very long time since I practiced,” Celebrían said.
“You used to say you didn’t like to,” Elrond said, surprised.
“Well, it’s different doing it for fun. And a willow-wand only stings, at worst!”
“He used to make us practice with blunted steel and full-weight war-shields,” Elrond said, and laughed. “I feel you’re getting off lightly.”
“If you can tell me honestly that it wasn’t worth it, later, I’ll add it to the list of my apologies,” Maglor said wryly. “But this was Celebrían’s idea, not mine!”
“And very kind of you, to play such a game,” she said. “ I can see you haven’t let your skills become as rusty as mine are.”
“He didn’t let you win at least once?” Elrond said, and gave Maglor a considering look. “He used to do that. The only problem was you could never be quite sure if you had really won or not.”
“She is much older than you were!” Maglor protested, laughing. “She doesn’t blunder into the walls and become discouraged... Anyway, you can’t really complain about that. You beat Maedhros once.”
“Twice!” Elrond said, out of long-ago habit, and laughed too.
“Twice!” Maglor acknowledged. “Maedhros never let anyone win in his life; if you beat him, you beat him fair. And he was definitely better than I was.”
“It’s almost supper-time and the light is going,” Celebrían said, putting down her sword of willow. “I must just make sure that Tithen and Fingaeril have everything ready. Finrod and my mother will be here with Frodo soon.”
“I’ll go up into the orchard,” Maglor said, putting his willow-sword with Celebrían’s.
“Are you hiding from Galadriel?” Elrond asked, a little taken aback. “You spoke with her on the ship.”
Maglor shook his head. “No. I am in my no doubt very antique way, adhering to the protocol of old Tirion. I have apologised to Galadriel. It is her decision, whether she wishes to see me now, or in twelve years, or not until the ending of the world.” He shrugged. “I suspect they don’t observe it now, and in any case it was hardly designed for this, but still, I thought she would appreciate the gesture. Anyway, she is here to see you and her daughter, there's no need to make an awkwardness if she doesn't wish to eat with me. I'll take my harp and sing the stars out among the trees; you'll hear where I am, if you want me. Or if she does. ”
“Come in for a moment before you go,” Celebrían said,touching his arm. “I’ll make you a sandwich, and you can take some of my pastries with you.”