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Across Deeper Waters

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Once I knew what it was to leave across parting waters. Only now do I know what it is to remain behind.

Tonight is not like the nights that were before.

I make my bed on the grass of Lórien, soft as feathers on a young bird’s skin. I push my fingers through the dew-cool blades into the earth where life is growing and diminishing, entwining with time. Time has the rhythm of the moon, of silvery light and tides; it does not come to rest, it does not wait, it does not turn back.

The high rack of branches arches against the darkened skies and closes my path to the past, to the one who left.

When she was born, water loved her.

I washed her clean in the narrow-flowing Glanduin and the water wrote songs of dawn and morrow on her. It told of a world where winter was but a distant premonition and summer a cup newly raised to the lips, blessed by Varda and sanctified by Yavanna. The water drew the pattern of her life on her soft skin. But in that image, in the midst of the light, I saw a dark and sharp shadow. I pressed her into my arms and pushed my fingers into her hair, softer than feathers on a young bird’s skin.

Not all shadows grow and crouch after their prey, and not all images drawn on water come true. Yet I wished then to enclose her back inside my body, to take my shimmering daughter away from the mists and darkness of the world.

But time does not wait, it does not turn back. It has the rhythm of the moon, and what grows and diminishes in time, does not come to rest.

When she grew, earth loved her.

Like slender stalks rising from the soil, she danced in the wind on the grass, her laughter filling it with day and sun. The earth opened into the morning and sighed around the frail Elf-child. It grew green ferns for her carpet, dark, lush leaves for her cover. I took her hands and saw the lost light of the Trees in her hair. We were one, yet two.

Above everything the high rack of branches rose against the lightened skies, closing us inside that moment.

The shadows of the woods were white, they were green, and they did not have the shape of fear. But they, too, were children of time, and their stability was like that of the seasons: the very next day may reveal a summer different and older than that of today.

When she made Imladris her home, wind loved her.

I pressed my daughter’s hand into another, marked with wisdom, which enclosed around it as a sign of an unbreakable union:

In these halls we shall live and love, until the world is different and the last ships are leaving the Havens.

Already were shadows moving black under trees, over grass. They hunted relentlessly, opening their depths before unsuspecting victims like jagged fissures in the landscape. But the wind wrapped itself around her, around them, flowing clear and pure, washing evil away. A strong protection slumbered in Imladris. When it was time for me to leave her, I knew the wind would carry her song to my ears across Middle-earth, and I left smiling.

Only the still surface of the Mirror was hidden from the wind’s reach, when I looked into it.

The moon has the rhythm of time, and time the rhythm of the moon. What achieves fullness must diminish.

A night came when the Mirror turned stormy and black. I stood by it and the water spilled on me dark, blood-coloured. Vainly I pushed my hand into the Mirror to protect my daughter; I knew it was too late. The shadow had caught its prey, the image drawn on water come true. I felt the pain and shame in my body as if they were scalding my own flesh, and I bent down, I fell. The sharp blades of grass cut deep into me, and I cried out for her, my child who was being torn away.

The earth moved and the wind wept that dark night.

When a wounded messenger arrived from the Redhorn Pass, I turned my face away. The image was clear before me. She might rest over the autumn and winter in Imladris, but she was already turned towards the West. A spirit will not live in a broken body, and its escape cannot be stopped any more than the moon can be ordered to remain full on the night sky.

All light must diminish on these mortal shores. Only in Valinor is the light different.

Once I knew what it was to leave across parting waters. Only now do I know what it is to remain behind.

The earth remembers her. I feel its stirrings against my fingertips. I feel the time turn foreign, different, and run away. The grass under me is soft as feathers on a young bird’s skin, but its greenness is thinner and wearier than it was before. Leaves grow more slowly, reluctantly. The water asks for her, but she has passed across deeper waters and the echoes do not reach hither from there. The earth asks for her, but her footsteps are gone. The wind asks for her, and she answers not.

The song has ceased. I hear it no longer. My own voice swims into the webs of the night, translucent, deprived of light.

*Huinë utúlië, Celebrían, vanimelda, vanwa!
Lasselanta usúyanë mornië cemenanna.

Herein begins the autumn of Lórien.


Huinë utúlië, Celebrían, vanimelda, vanwa!
Lasselanta usúyanë mornië cemenanna.
= A shadow has come, Celebrían, beautiful and lost!
Autumn has breathed darkness upon earth.

Author's note:
I've found surprisingly few stories that explore the relationship between Galadriel and Celebrían, or Galadriel's reactions to her daughter's decision to leave Middle-earth. This is my short take on the subject.

The Elvish sentences are based on Helge Fauskanger's Quenya course (available at

Thank you for reading.