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The Better Part of Valour

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Celeborn tries sitting up, then lies back down with a hand to his head and waits for the world to stop spinning. "That worked really well, I don’t think. Whose idiot idea was that anyway - draw him out and then attack with a counter blast?"

"Hush up and get this branch off me."

"I think my leg might be broken, but no matter, Your Highness's comfort will come first, as ever."

"Celeborn, just -- the branch, damn it! I’m pinned."

The sounds of bushes rustling precede a worried voice. "Grandmother? Grandfather? Are you all right?"

"We're fine, Elladan, don't worry..."

"Speak for yourself."

"I always do, Celeborn. Oh, thank you, my love, that's so much better. Elladan, how's Gandalf?"

"And Saruman."

"I'm really not too worried about Saruman, dear. I'm sure he's fine."

Galadriel clambers out from under the fallen tree, sits up and proceeds to tidy her hair. Elladan half slides, half falls down the slope into the newly made ditch and joins them."Grandfather? Your leg...."

"My leg’s fine, boy. Just ask your grandmother."

"Well it's still attached, Celeborn, it’ll heal. Not like poor Maitimo’s hand after Thangorodrim. What can you tell us, Elladan? What's happening back there?"

"Grandmother, what hit us?"

"Above standard energy burst, that's all. It's the sound that does it. No, I know you didn't precisely hear anything, darling, that's the whole point. It's beyond our hearing but can still fell trees and open up the earth. They used something similar back when they sunk Beleriand..."

"How could he know how to...?"

"Well, he's a Maia, Elladan." Celeborn has torn his cloak into strips and is strapping his leg. After sorting out her hair, Galadriel finally shuffles over to help him.

"He was there all along, hiding. Slippery enough not to go under with Morgoth - so much for eternal love and devotion. For all we know, he spied on Angband and sold the information to Eönwë and that’s why he was allowed to slink off into the shadows. Well he might have, Celeborn. We were on Balar with no way of knowing."

"I think Dan's more interested in the here and now," Celeborn suggests. "Ouch, woman, that's tight."

"It's meant to be. I've told you how he did it, Elladan, now can you tell me how effective he was."

"Well - Gandalf's gone."

"Gone?"

"Yes, I saw it happen. He seemed to shimmer and then just - vanish. There's nothing but a little pile of ash on the ground - well there was, it's probably gone now, the wind's getting up. The same blast took out Thranduil. He burst into flames, there was nothing anyone could do."

“Mithrandir," she murmurs, her face pale under the dirt stains. "And death by fire... I never much liked Thranduil, but that is a dreadful way to go."

"And Saruman?" Celeborn persists, taking her hand in his.

Elladan sits on the thicker part of the tree trunk. When the blast came from the depths of Dol Guldur, it levelled trees as well as elves; their surroundings look like the site of an insane tree-felling contest. He is still shaking slightly and would give a millennium of his immortal life for some pipeweed. "Oh, he's gone, he...."

"Saruman gone too?" Celeborn's face is grim.

"No, not actually gone, he just went back to see how widespread the damage was."

"So he survived."

"Like a cockroach, yes."

"That's not very charitable, darling."

"I don't feel very charitable. Gandalf is dead, Elrond was injured, and we three are sitting in a ditch while Sauron is free to wreak his will on Lórien and Mirkwood."

"Well at least we're alive and reasonably undamaged."

"What do we do next?" Elladan asks, trying to head them off before the casual bickering takes them down some unrelated bunny trail, as was wont to happen when his grandparents were left to their own devices. In his experience, they always had answers, though not necessarily of the conventional kind.

"How far were we flung from the entrance to Dol Guldur, boy?" Celeborn asks in return.

Elladan looks uncertain. "It took me a bit over an hour to find you?"

"Then we're too close." Celeborn pulls himself to his feet then takes Galadriel's hand and helps her up. "Come on. Time to practice the better part of valour here."

Elladan frowns. "What's the better part of valour, Grandfather?"

"In simple terms, run for your life and find a deep hole. Don't worry about your father, he'll be ahead of us on this. Come along, let's get out of here. We must go to ground and plan our next move."

Galadriel brushes down her clothes, shakes her skirts out, shrugs. “Go to ground? I don’t know about that, dear. From the look of things, we’ve already been there.”

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