The news had come swiftly to Doriath, and Galadriel had felt her heart stop for a moment when she had heard it, her breath choking her.
Finrod and Beren were dead, slain in the darkness below Tol-in-Gaurhoth.
For a moment she had felt only shock, her mind blank and white.
Then the anger had come, hot and molten and blinding.
You will pay, Gorthaur, and dearly. You will pay for the life of my brother, I promise you that.
Then she had remembered Lúthien.
The last she had heard, her princess, her greatest friend and companion, had been under the guard of the sons of Fëanor, in Nargothrond.
She suspected Lúthien would not be kept confined for long.
She also thought she knew exactly where Lúthien would go first.
Which is why she was now pressed backwards against a tall rock wall, watching the bridge to the isle of werewolves from a distance. She could hear howls there, and anger coiled within her, crackling power in her palms.
Let me at him, she thought, and then, Lúthien, where are you?
Down on the wide, paved path that led to the bridge, Lúthien came, her hair whipped into her eyes by her preternatural speed, her elven fëa pushed back down further by the minute as the anger and grief burned through her. Her form began to flicker and shift at the edges, becoming more like the Maia part of herself by the moment.
She stepped onto the narrow stone span, staring up at the great fortress of Tol-in-Gaurhoth before her, a twisted ruin of Tol Sirion of old.
“Come forth!” she cried, her voice resounding unnaturally loud against the stones. “Come forth and meet your doom, or I will break down this fortress and destroy all left alive within it!”
For a moment nothing happened, and Lúthien felt the anger flare within her again, pain tearing at her. Dead. Beren is dead, and the dark one hiding within this fortress will answer for it…
Slowly, with a gust of cold air rushing inwards, whipping her ragged-cut hair and her clothes about her, the great doors began to open.
Galadriel drew to a halt as a wind blew from the isle, struggling for a moment to stay upright in its howling blast, before mastering herself and clinging to a pillar, dragging herself forwards.
This was no ordinary wind, she realised. With it came the taste of power, power of the kind she had only seen in Melian before. It was filled with dark and strange and ancient songs of the twilight and the nightshade, heavy shadows under stars, timeless and never-changing, completely unlike the power held by the glimmering clarity of the light of Aman. Galadriel had learned a little of it, from Melian, though not yet enough to keep her from fearing it. Yet, she realised, this was also quite unlike anything Melian had ever shown her. Melian had always stressed control, had always told her that though Galadriel held innate power within her, she must take care not to let it destroy her, swept up in a tide of uncontrolled Song.
The voice that she heard from within was rising, a whirling tide of music that no longer sounded even close to elven - instead shining with the terrible, alien majesty of the Ainur - lifting her hair about her. The very ground trembled and shook below her, as another voice rose up to meet it, a dark voice, rasping and unclean, making rage coil inside her. But it was too weak, Galadriel knew. It could never match the wrath of Lúthien, anger now awoken from slumber and never to rest until the princess had brought the fortress down to rubble, and perhaps not even then.
She tried to hurry, to get to Lúthien’s side. But even as she pulled herself forward against the roiling torrent of Song that now encircled the whole tower, the whole fortress, even the whole island like a whirlwind, she felt the ground shake and tremble, tilting and cracking in great jagged lines beneath her very feet.
She half dived and was half thrown into the scant shelter of a great standing stone - originally carved with the sigil of the house of Finarfin, before it had been crudely scored over by the image of a hideous werewolf with bulging, bulbous red-painted eyes, leering at her from the stone - before the very ground convulsed violently, throwing her to the ground.
She put forth her power then, in a desperate attempt to save herself from the rushing waters of the Sirion beside which she stood. Crouched behind her stone, she could not see the bridge, nor the tower. In truth she was almost afraid to look, merely watching the debris flying in all directions, broken pieces of masonry - some large enough to crush her whole body - crashing into the river, dust lifted in the whirling wind.
After a while the destruction began to slow, even as the Song quietened to a mere trickle. Cautiously, Galadriel got to her feet, curiosity and fear for Lúthien winning out once more.
She looked out over the bridge, and her breath caught in her throat.
The fortress of Tol-in-Gaurhoth was simply gone, the whole tower levelled to the ground leaving only a rising cloud of dust, rubble scattered everywhere. The bridge was gone too, the broken ends protruding over the swollen torrent of the Sirion. But above where the span had stretched, there was a glowing globe of light, too bright to look at, roiling with violet and blue threads of power, Song that had become manifest as pure energy. Within, though it hurt Galadriel’s eyes to look at, she could see a shadowed figure, and though that form was stretched beyond all normal proportions, twisting and deforming, changing shape even as she watched, she knew exactly who it was. Even from here, even while Lúthien was paying her no mind, Galadriel knew the touch of that brightfëa, the one that she had known so well, that had at times seemed almost like her own.
But however much they had talked and laughed together, wandered through the pillared halls of Menegroth and stolen glances and touches and more beneath the trees, Lúthien wasnot like her, Galadriel realised now. Yet also not so different, somehow. Galadriel could feel anger emanating from that form too bright to look at, a whole ocean of rage and grief and pain. It was too raw, too sharp. It almost made her turn back around and run, far away where the light could no longer hurt her eyes and the quiet darkness could swallow her up forever.
But she did not. For that was when she noticed the figure kneeling on the far side of the bridge, outlined in fading red like the glow of hot coals after a fire, fading but not yet gone, ready to flare and burn at the slightest gust of air.
Gorthaur. He who killed my brother.
She snarled, gritting her own teeth even as she felt Lúthien’s anger, her lust for revenge filling up her chest. Lúthien’s mind was wide open, her thoughts spilling free, and Galadriel felt herself lifted, born up by them. As she ever had been where Lúthien was concerned, she thought. Galadriel had never been quite able to draw herself away from the princess, when Lúthien was near, and had loved nothing better than to lose herself in the intricacies of her mind and body.
Galadriel watched as Lúthien bore down on the figure of the Maia. He fought with gritted teeth against invisible bonds, reverting to his spirit form even as he did so. His skin was black and grey ash, with lines of fire flaring beneath it, bursts of flame igniting at his eyes and mouth even as he struggled, pouring black smoke into the turbulent air.
Lúthien was winning, Galadriel saw, feeling for the presence of the dark Maia before her. Gorthaur was fighting though, he was strong still, his malevolence laid down into the very stones of this place for him to draw on, to push back against the shining presence that hung in the air above him. And Lúthien was burning through power, her anger boiling off, too fast… she wouldn’t last long like this, Galadriel knew, she would burn herself to nothing…
“Lúthien!” she screamed over the roaring of the river between them, the sound of the Song still ringing in her ears, making her own voice sound like the piping of a young bird, weak and frail by comparison. She gritted her teeth, putting forth her own power, opening her mind just as Melian had shown her - as she and Lúthien had practiced amongst the ringing stone vaults - and tried again.
At this, Lúthien faltered, almost losing her grip on the Maia, causing him to surge up to meet her. At the last moment, though, she descended in a glowing cascade, her sphere of light unspooling and bleeding into the shadow-stuff of her cloak, turning her all to burning blue and violet. She let her feet touch the ground gracefully, hitting the ground at a light-footed run, then seized the Maia by the throat, making him gasp.
Only then did she turn back to Galadriel. Her eyes almost made Galadriel recoil; they were like coals burning with a violet glow, incendiary and blinding and unlike anything Galadriel had seen, even in the depths of nightmare. And yet, she thought, they were beautiful enough to stop the heart.
“Go back, Galadriel.” Lúthien’s voice sent a great wrenching shudder up Galadriel’s whole body. She had expected it to rasp and grate, if she had expected anything, but it did not. It was mellifluous and horrifyingly sweet, almost cloying, drawing her in even as Lúthien’s words and the compulsion of her mind said otherwise.
“You’ve got to stop!” she shouted, desperately. “Lúthien, listen to me, you’ll - ”
“He killed Beren” said Lúthien, voice dropping several octaves until it was almost beyond human hearing, like the low, menacing vibration of an earthquake, the threatening rustling of forest trees ready to tear the ground apart.
“I know!” Galadriel wetted her lips; her own voice was drying up, and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to sing much more. “He killed my brother too, I want him dead as much as you do.” Gorthaur sneered at her at that, trying to speak, but Lúthien closed her hand tighter about his throat, choking off his voice.
“But listen to me, princess” urged Galadriel. “You’ll burn yourself out, you'll… you’re not strong enough. Your mother…”
“My mother would be merciful” said Lúthien, her voice returning to its usual pitch even as her eyes flared violet-white, spirals playing across them even as flower petals burst from the air around her like licking flames. “She would still her anger, let the Song go its way. But I am not her. I am half Quendi, Galadriel. I will have this.” She squeezed tighter, causing Gorthaur’s neck to bend at an angle that would have killed a more fragile being immediately. Lúthien turned to Galadriel once more then, a smile playing across her lips, even as tears bloomed in her eyes, falling to the ground in glowing, sparkling torrents, more tears than any of the Children could cry. “I am like you, in more ways than you know. You want this. I know you do, I see it within you. You want the immortal blood of your brother’s killer on your fine, clever hands, do you not?”
Galadriel opened her mouth, about to try to speak against Lúthien, but instead, she found a single word slipping from her lips, in a hushed whisper. “Yes.”
There was no way Lúthien could have heard her from this distance, and yet she seemed to have no problem understanding, for she smiled then. Slowly, Lúthien lifted up one hand, power pulsing and glowing at her fingertips. “Then come to me” she said, still holding Gorthaur immobile and silent with one hand. But then she began to sing, a slow, coiling Song this time, and from her raised hand, flowered vines began to unspool, twisting and winding through the air across the river. They glowed faintly purple, and gave off a heavy, floral scent, sweet and perfumed. The vines began to twist about Galadriel’s body, caressing her lovingly even as they gripped her tightly, wrapping around her limbs and cradling her off her feet. Then she was being lifted into the air, carried over the roaring waters of the Sirion far below.
The tendrils loosened when her feet were on solid ground on the other side, though not before they had given her a final lingering touch, like a lover’s last, gentle kiss.
Even as she stepped onto the broken remains of the bridge, beside Lúthien, she felt some of the immense power that roiled within her, letting it seep through into her own body, leaking through the air in its intensity. Galadriel thirsted for that brightness, she realised, she craved it. Perhaps she had ever since she had first seen Lúthien, winding the power of the Ainur with something of their own world, power of a type that was rooted in Arda itself, the woods and the water and the ground, that belonged to the Children alone. She let it into her now, let it fuel her, let her mind merge with Lúthien’s a little, cutting through her grief, turning the sorrow crushing her down into a strange mixture of elation and blinding fury.
Even then though, the Maia in Lúthien’s grip let out a gurgling, strangled laugh. “Ah, little golden one” he choked out. “So brave, so arrogant. So ripe for a fall. You burn so bright, but you are a mere candle to be snuffed out, like your snivelling brother was to me. But she will feed off you, she will promise love and power and she will drain your life away…”
“Stop” snarled Galadriel, placing a warning hand on Lúthien’s arm as the princess made to silence Gorthaur. “You will be silent.” At least she could give Findaráto that, she thought. To silence the voice that had sung him into his grave; that would quiet the pain that howled inside her chest, at least a little, surely. “You will never speak again, crawling slave of the cursed one. Go now and meet your end!”
Gorthaur was laughing mockingly, but the sound was cut off once more, even as Galadriel placed her hand over Lúthien’s upon his throat. The fiery skin did not burn her as she had expected. Rather, she felt certainty, righteousness, Lúthien’s thoughts moving in tandem with her own as their hands fused into one glowing mass.
The squeezed their fingers closed, letting the strength of their rage fill them, cutting through immortal sinew and spirit flesh, a gout of blood like blackest ink exploding onto them both as the fire within the Maia raged for a moment, before flickering and going out.
Snarling, Galadriel wiped blood off her face, looking down at the fallen body before them, a shape made of grey ash, a husk still holding its form.
She let out her breath. “Is he…”
“No” said Lúthien grimly, getting down on one knee. “We have killed his physical form only. Now we need to kill his spirit, the corrupted shard of the secret fire that was before Arda that lies within him.” Without a moment’s hesitation, her hands shot out, forming into claws and driving themselves deep into the Maia’s breast, before wrenching his chest open, ribcage springing apart with horrifying ease, as though a wolf were gutting a rabbit. Galadriel started for a moment, her eyes widening a little as she watched this, and saw Lúthien extract what lay within, where a heart should be; a cruel, burning red ember, glowing like blood, or a sword taken from the forge. Lúthien held it between her palms, floating in the air and never quite touching her skin.
Even as she watched, Lúthien began to sing once more, moving her hands around the glowing ember all the while. As she did so it began to change shape, growing and shrinking at Lúthien’s will, glowing and dying back like a flame pumped with a bellows. Lúthien smiled triumphantly.
“What are you… began Galadriel, faltering slightly..
"What am going to do with it?” Lúthien squeezed the thing casually, and Galadriel could have sworn she heard a high-pitched scream, somewhere in the back of her mind. "Why, let me show you.“
And before Galadriel could do anything, Lúthien was raising the thing to her mouth, biting into it, chewing and swallowing. Red covered her lips, like blood and yet unlike. She finished the last bite, swallowed, and licked her lips, before grinning wolfishly, red staining the places between her white teeth.
Galadriel’s eyes widened. "What did you…”
“His life force is mine” hissed Lúthien, her eyes contracting like dying stars, endless whirling black voids that Galadriel felt herself pulled towards, against her will. (Only was it against her will, truly? She realised that perhaps it was not.) Then Lúthien contorted her face, clenching both hands into fists before her as though making some great effort. When her eyes sprang open again, there was triumph gleaming there.
Lúthien opened her hands, and Galadriel caught her breath.
There, upon each palm, was a golden ring, shining brightly enough to make any jewel of Valinor look like a mere trinket. And though the gold was dark, emitting no light, Galadriel thought in that moment that the rings were fair enough to make a Silmaril seem drab by comparison.
Even as she felt her hand twitch at he side, her fingers longing to clasp that gold, to slip the ring upon her finger and let the power that she somehow knew was there fill her, she saw Lúthien clasp the rings back into her grip.
Galadriel was about to protest when Lúthien placed one on her own finger. The band began to glow with an internal fire, and Galadriel drew in her breath once more, a sharp inhalation at the sight of Lúthien wearing the ring, more resplendent, more powerful that Galadriel had ever seen her before. Opening her hand once more, she held the other ring out, offering it once more, and Galadriel knew that this time Lúthien would not draw back.
“I do not deny” said Galadriel, her hand lifting into the space between them, “that my heart has greatly desired this.”
Lúthien nodded. “Together, you and I could end this war. We could topple the dark one in his tower, release the captives. Cut the chains, free our people. And then, when we looked out over the new land that we had made, we could rule. That is what you wanted, is it not?”
Galadriel thought back to that night under the torches in Tirion, Fëanáro’s eyes blazing in the candlelight, the bright red naked swords, the promise of freedom. Of a new world, all her own. She frowned. “But we should have to start anew. After such a war as would destroy Angband, the lands would be ravaged, a plain of ash…”
Lúthien nodded slowly. “True. But destruction and creation are merely two faces of the same being, or so they say.”
Galadriel thought back to her dead brothers, fighting in futile hope. She thought of her parents, across the sea, and of blood on the sand in Alqualondë. She thought of gentle Celeborn, who loved her and whom she loved, but who would never know her truly, for she could never bring herself to tell him everything. It was a guilt that lay coiled beneath her heart, springing up sometimes. But Lúthien… she knew all, everything Galadriel’s heart had to give and more. And together they could fight this battle. They were strong.
“Together” said Lúthien, picking up her train of thought, “we could burn so, so bright. We could take these lands and wipe the darkness from them for good, reshape them for our own pleasure…” Galadriel’s hand was resting, open-palmed, atop Lúthien’s, holding the ring now, and Lúthien’s power began to grow again, glowing tendrils twining about them both, snaking around their hands, joining them. Soon they were enveloped in a glowing ball, which was rising off the ground, gravity growing weaker within, allowing their hair and clothes to lift around them.
“In place of a dark lord” said Lúthien, her voice strange, ancient and seeming to echo with all the voices of the world and all the beings who had ever lived in it, “we would be queens. And we shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the morning and the night. Fair as the sea and the sun and the snow upon the mountain. Dreadful as the storm and the lightning. Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love us and despair.”
Galadriel had felt herself falling into Lúthien’s eyes, almost, drowning and spiralling there, visions of what could be blazing in her mind, even as they hung suspended above the ground in their globe of light.
I am sorry, Celeborn. I am sorry mother, father, brothers. Perhaps things could have been different, in a another world. But this is what I must do. This is what I was born for.
Was I not always destined to be crowned in light?
Her hand closed upon the ring, tightly and convulsively.
“Yes” she said.
Lúthien’s mouth curved upwards into a smile, and tenderly, she placed the ring onto Galadriel’s finger.
Galadriel felt a shock of pleasure and exhilaration shake her whole body at that, remoulding her, binding her but also freeing her. She felt her fëa melding with Lúthien’s a little and absorbing the boundless ocean of raw, unbridled passion and power, and pure, endless fury, enough to reshape an entire world.
“There is one more thing, to make it complete. I must share that power I took from him with you” said Lúthien, as the tendrils of light twined them both closer to each other, twisting around Galadriel’s arms and legs, her chest and waist, whispering over the insides of her thighs, coming up about her neck and winding through her hair. It was a strangely exciting sensation. The glowing tendrils tightened about them both, drawing their faces closer together.
Their kiss was sudden, savage for a brief moment, before turning hungry, deep and passionate. Even as she felt Lúthien’s lips and tongue moving against hers, she could feel scorching heat like fire welling up from Lúthien’s throat, and she remembered Lúthien devouring that spirit, that shard of flame, chewing and swallowing with relish. Sure enough, she felt fire upon her own tongue, burning her, yes, but leaving her unharmed. She felt it run along her limbs, down her back and coil down low inside her, waiting to be released.
She felt, above all, strong.
They drew back, and Galadriel could taste Lúthien on her lips still, the intoxicating scent of ripe, heady flowers and night air now mixed with the burnt taste of ash mixed with blood.
She licked her lips, eager for more.
“Come” said Lúthien. “Let us go and look upon our new world.”