When Celebrían arrived in Valinor, a weary and pale shadow of who she had been before her capture, she did not know what awaited her. Her parents had remained in Middle-Earth, as had Elrond and their children, and when her ship arrived in the harbor, she was surprised to see someone waiting on the dock.
The figure was golden-haired and not particularly tall, but with an erect posture and grace that made that fact rather unimportant. Something about them was very, very familiar, although Celebrían would have been hard pressed to remember exactly what.
As she watched, the figure turned and looked up, meeting Celebrían’s gaze with stormy blue eyes in a freckled face. There was that sense of familiarity again, thought Celebrían. Perhaps she could hope for an introduction, or a reintroduction, as it was.
They exchanged no words until Celebrían had come down off the boat and was safely ashore.
“I wondered if you would recognize me.”
“I was just going to ask if we knew one another,” said Celebrían. She was rewarded with a sideways glance and a quick smile before her receiver turned to face her completely.
“We do, or did, in a way. My name is Finduilas Faelivrin, although you would know me better as your late cousin Ereinion.”
Celebrían blinked once in shock and gave Finduilas another, closer look. Gil-galad’s hair had been raven-dark where Finduilas’ was deep gold, and his eyes had been greyer than they now appeared, but Finduilas had the same compact frame and the same easy smile playing across the corners of her lips.
“I suppose I would,” said Celebrían, surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here for you, of course,” said Finduilas. “I am, oddly enough, one of your closer family members currently residing in Aman. I’m here to take you home.”
“We were told what happened,” said Finduilas, her tone almost apologetic. “I’m sorry. It seems I could not get rid of Sauron for good.”
Celebrían’s hands twisted in the fabric of her dress, and her shoulders drew in close around her.
“It’s over for me, now, at least,” she said. There was a movement in the corner of Celebrían’s vision, not fast enough to set her heart galloping in her chest, and a moment later she felt Finduilas’ hand settle warm and steady on the small of her back, guiding her.
“You won’t be hurt again,” said Finduilas, and there were a thousand griefs just under the surface of her words.
“I live with my beloved,” Finduilas said after they’d walked in silence for a short time. “We’re quite happy to have you stay with us, if it’s alright by you. My father and the rest of our reembodied family live nearby.”
“I don’t know where else I would live,” said Celebrían. “So— yes. I would like to go with you.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” said Finduilas warmly. She was not very different from the Gil-galad that had lived in Arda, in Celebrían’s opinion at least, and it put her at ease. Elrond had trusted Gil-galad, deeply so, and Celebrían was prepared to put faith in his judgment.
Finduilas and Celebrían were picked up by a carriage that had been waiting in an apparently predetermined spot, and it wasn’t a particularly long ride to Finduilas’ home. The sun was lowering in the sky by that point, even so, and Celebrían stepped out before a pathway surrounded by gently whispering grass and flowering trees.
“Faelivrin?” called a voice from the near distance, and a door opened and closed. Celebrían took a half-step back behind Finduilas, whose arm around her waist tightened ever so slightly in reassurance.
“It’s alright,” Finduilas said out of the corner of her mouth. “That’s Gwindor. Yes, I’m back,” she added in a louder voice.
Gwindor came up the path at an almost-run, slowing to a walk as he approached and looked Celebrían over with some curiosity.
“You must be Celebrían,” he said, offering her a smile and his hand in greeting. She took it and shook— his grip was warm and firm, and his eyes were gentle where they met hers. “My name is Gwindor, son of Guilin. I was Finduilas’ betrothed, long ago.”
“He means we’re married,” said Finduilas, the corners of her mouth twitching into what threatened to be a grin.
“Yes, and I can still hardly believe it,” said Gwindor, who was wearing a similar expression. “Do come in. We’ve been expecting you for a short while now, so hopefully everything is set up to your liking.”
Celebrían nodded, and Gwindor did not press her for words. He simply turned and led the way back up the path to the door.
“Did you cook?” asked Finduilas when they entered. The house did indeed smell like food. Gwindor nodded.
“I thought our guest might be hungry,” he said, looking at Celebrían.
“Thank you, meleth,” said Finduilas. She slipped out of her boots at the door and untangled herself from Celebrían to accept a chaste kiss from Gwindor. Celebrían’s heart twisted in her chest— she missed Elrond so much already.
Finduilas seemed to pick up on the thought as soon as it had crossed Celebrían’s mind, and she stepped back almost guiltily.
You don’t have to, Celebrían wanted to say, but instead she simply followed her hosts into the dining room.
There were three places set at the table, and a few hot dishes resting in the middle on cheery woven mats, and Celebrían realized all of a sudden that she really was hungry. She’d been too tied up in knots to notice before, but the smell of hot cider and some kind of savory pie was both comforting and enticing enough to wake her appetite.
Gwindor was asking if she wanted cider. He’d gone into the kitchen to fetch mugs, all of which were slightly different and one of which bore the inscription Arda’s most functional dad.
“Yes, please,” said Celebrían, stifling a breath of purely surprised laughter at the mug. Finduilas met her gaze from across the table and smiled.
“It’s my father’s,” she explained.
“I like it,” said Celebrían. It was a little absurd, and the whole situation was more than somewhat surreal to her, but when Gwindor filled the mug in question with cider and gave the warm ceramic into Celebrían’s hands, she decided it wasn’t bad at all.
“How is my cooking?” asked Gwindor hopefully, once they’d all had a chance to eat. “It’s— neither of us are particularly specialized in food, but we’ll do our best to keep you well.”
“It’s good,” said Celebrían, who had been reassuring herself that she would not be allowed to starve even before Gwindor had made that assertion himself.
“Perhaps I’ll ask my father over one day to cook for you,” said Finduilas. “He’s much better than I.”
“Is he?” asked Celebrían, a spark of curiosity lighting itself inside her.
“Very much so,” said Finduilas. Celebrían nodded, considering, and went back to her food.
She asked for seconds, at which Gwindor near glowed with happiness and obliged her. When the three of them were properly sated, Gwindor set to clearing the table while Finduilas took it upon herself to show Finduilas upstairs.
“We set this guest room up for you,” she said, pushing open a cleanly painted door. Celebrían entered. The style wasn’t the sort of thing that one would have expected from the High King of the Noldor, but it wouldn’t have been out of place in Imladris. There was a balcony behind a pair of glass doors and pale curtains through which the light of dusk was just barely visible, and the headboard of the bed was pressed against one wall.
The sheets and pillows were powder-blue and pressed neatly, and a large, similarly-colored comforter was folded at the end of the bed.
“There are more blankets in the closet if you get cold,” said Finduilas.
“And we’re right down the hall if you need anything else,” put in Gwindor, who had come upstairs as well.
“Oh! I nearly forgot,” said Finduilas. “You can come see if some of my nightclothes fit you.” She briefly measured her height against Celebrían’s and nodded to herself.
Her clothes did, in fact, fit Celebrían well enough, and the bed was soft as the fading light outside. Celebrían pulled the heavy comforter over herself and closed her eyes.
And kept them closed.
And eventually gave up and opened them again.
Vigilance sat wide-awake in her mind even as she attempted to put it to bed, and she wasn’t having much luck at all. It was pitch-dark outside by then; Celebrían sighed and got out of bed. She’d forgotten, momentarily, that she was not at home in Imladris and could not simply do whatever she wanted in the house, but by the time the thought reached her, she was already down the stairs looking for something to occupy her mind.
To Celebrían’s surprise, there was a light in the sitting room. She peered around the doorway to see Gwindor sitting by himself in the warm half-darkness, and he glanced up and caught sight of her.
“Hello,” he said, lifting one hand from the couch cushion. He didn’t seem at all perturbed to see Celebrían awake— in fact, he almost seemed to be expecting her. He patted the space beside him as an invitation.
“This is real, by the way,” he said when Celebrían edged into the room. “If you needed to know that.”
Celebrían unstuck her tongue from the roof of her mouth to ask, “How?”
“How is this real?” asked Gwindor. “Or how did I know to tell you?” Celebrían’s expression must have answered for her, because Gwindor sighed, not entirely unhappily, and tucked his legs up beside him to face her.
“I spent a long time in Morgoth’s dungeons,” he said. “It’s difficult to know what’s true for some time after something like that. I wasn’t sure Finduilas was, when I first returned to her.”
Celebrían brought her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, staring at Gwindor with wide eyes.
“But she was,” said Gwindor, “and she is now, and it has been a long while since that torment. I’m alright— better than alright.” And he added, gently, that “you will be too, in time.”
“Hm,” said Celebrían. She could think of no better response. But Gwindor didn’t seem bothered at all, and they sat in companionable silence for some time.
“I can make tea if you like,” he offered at last. “I find it helps sometimes.”
“Do you have mint?” asked Celebrían.
“Sure we do,” said Gwindor. “Finduilas’ father grows more than he knows what to do with. If that’s your type of tea, we’d welcome your help.”
“And I will give it,” said Celebrían, forgetting her restless worries when Gwindor grinned.
“I’ll be right back,” he said, and Celebrían waited, listening to the sounds of dishes and water and Gwindor humming under his breath in the kitchen.
Gwindor returned balancing two mugs of tea and a small pot of honey, and placed them on the low table in front of the couch.
“It’s so nice having two hands again,” he said, stirring honey into his tea unhurriedly. He’d brought the Arda’s most functional dad mug out for Celebrían again, which did not escape her notice.
“I imagine it’d be difficult only to have one,” she said.
“It would have been easier without everything else that came with,” said Gwindor.
“I know,” said Celebrían, taking a sip of her tea and letting the scent wash over her.
“I know you do,” agreed Gwindor. “Celebrían— Finduilas and I have seen many things that are perhaps closer to your experiences than any of us would have hoped for.”
“I know,” said Celebrían again, more softly this time.
“We’ll do what we can to help you,” said Gwindor. “I happen to know that Finduilas is rather good at that sort of thing.”
Silence settled lightly over the room as Gwindor and Celebrían finished their respective mugs of tea.
“Will you be going to sleep?” asked Gwindor.
“I will be trying,” said Celebrían, honestly enough.
“That’s all one can do sometimes,” said Gwindor. He picked up the dishes and was out and back in the room once more.
“I wish you well, then, Celebrían,” he said. “Goodnight.”
And even if it was not quite a good night, it was better for the company and the tea, and Celebrían slept until the rising of the sun.
She was glad she’d decided to accept Finduilas’ offer of heart and home— she fit easily enough into the former High King’s household and schedule.
Celebrían was introduced to Finduilas’ father, Orodreth, who was rather reserved but nonetheless courteous and kind.
“How is my daughter treating you?” he asked, sitting with Celebrían in the shade of one of the fruit trees. “She can be somewhat of a mother hen, I’m told, but know that she’ll stop at nothing to give you anything you might need.”
“So Elrond has said,” said Celebrían, surprising herself a little with her openness. “And he loved her for it. I—” she stopped to consider her answer— “I am sure I will too.” That had made Orodreth smile, and Celebrían was glad that her extended family seemed to be very agreeable thus far.
Mostly, though, Celebrían stayed by herself or with her hosts. She tried going on walks alone, but the unfamiliar area and quiet peace made her feel oddly exposed, as if violence lurked in every tranquil corner. She slept sometimes when the sun was bright and warm as it shone through the windows of her room, but nighttime remained a realm of shadows and memory.
Gwindor was up at night sometimes, and once it was Finduilas, but not always, and Celebrían found herself frustrated and exhausted in a hundred different ways.
Fear, thought Celebrían, was a persistent enemy, and she had not the weaponry to fight it alone.
On the fifth such disturbed night in a row, when even the gentle rustling of the wind in the backyard cherry trees sounded like the harsh cry of orc-horns and the ringing of cruel laughter, Celebrían pulled the covers up to her chin and cried.
She was tired, tired in body and tired of fear, and she dared not wake Finduilas or Gwindor. Even if she did, she wasn’t sure what she could possibly ask them for— confirmation that there were no Orcs in Valinor? To check under her bed and in the closet for monsters? The very idea was laughable. And so she muffled sobs in one of the smaller pillows and despaired of ever finding a measure of peace, and had almost exhausted her tears when there was a noise in the hall.
Celebrían froze and fell silent at once. She picked up the soft thud of a door closing, the creak of footsteps, a match flaring, footsteps again, growing closer and closer—
The knock at her door was very gentle, but it sent a spike of adrenaline racing through Celebrían’s body nonetheless.
“It’s Finduilas,” said a soft voice through the wood. “May I enter?”
“You may,” said Celebrían as loudly as she dared. The handle clicked and turned, and the light of a small lantern shone in through the doorway.
The lantern was placed hastily on top of the dresser as Finduilas pushed the door closed again and hurried to Celebrían’s side. Celebrían sat up against the pillows, shifted so that she was on top of the covers, felt the bed dip underneath as Finduilas alighted beside her.
“Oh, Celebrían,” said Finduilas. She opened her arms and let Celebrían lean into her, brushing her fingers through silver-gold curls with practiced care.
“You haven’t been sleeping much, have you?” Finduilas asked when she pulled away. Celebrían shook her head, and Finduilas rubbed her shoulder gently.
“Ai,” she said. “How come? I should have asked sooner.”
“I am afraid,” admitted Celebrían. Finduilas hummed softly to herself for a moment, then met Celebrían’s eyes.
“I understand,” she said, with surprising conviction. “I used to wake to the screams of my people as I was too late to save them, and the distant roaring of dragons, and Elrond crying out for my aid, and all manner of terrible things. At a certain point I felt it was almost a waste of time to try and sleep at all.” She gave a rueful huff of breath, then shook her head.
“But of course, not sleeping didn’t help,” she said. “Quite the opposite. What is it that you fear?”
“It’s—” Celebrían took a shaky breath in and let it out slowly, regaining her composure. “It’s awfully stupid, really. I know there’s nothing here that truly poses me a danger, but sometimes I hear things, and I am always too vigilant, and this all seems so unguarded against attack…”
“My dear Celebrían,” said Finduilas, taking her hand. Her voice was gentle as anything, but there was a steel-hard spark in her eyes that promised the strength to back up her words. “I was— am— Ereinion Gil-galad, former High King of the Noldor, and if anything dares to hurt you now, it will have to go through me.”
She grinned ever so slightly and added, “Oh, and Gwindor too, I daresay. It isn’t stupid to feel like that, you know. It’s partly for that reason that I had a new spear made. Which, incidentally, I can and will use in your defense if it is needed.”
Celebrían, to her surprise, found herself giving a watery smile in return.
“Thank you,” she said. “That is… well, it’s comforting.”
“As it should be,” said Finduilas. There was more than a trace of warm humor in her speech as she said, “after all, I watched over your husband for an Age and more, and Sauron had to come kill me himself. And Gwindor—” here the look on her face took on a glow of loving pride— “did you ever hear that he frightened Morgoth?”
“I did not,” said Celebrían, who was beginning to pick up some of Finduilas’ infectious energy.
“It was put into song once, in Nargothrond,” said Finduilas, “and I don’t doubt it, myself. That was a long time ago. A lot of things happened back then.”
“Tell me about them?” asked Celebrían. Finduilas shifted into a more comfortable position on the side of the bed and pushed back the covers for Celebrían to slip under again.
“Sure,” she said, smiling. “There’s plenty of— well. I’m sure Gwindor won’t mind if I tell you of how we fell in for one another…”
He did not. In fact, he arrived to tell part of it himself, and by the time he and Finduilas said their goodnights and left Celebrían’s room, all traces of fear had been chased out by laughter and love.
That night, Celebrían slept well.