So violently did her hands shake that twice she needed to put the pitcher down on the ground before she could calm herself enough to continue. She had seen injured elves before, even her own sons and her husband, but something about seeing Erestor so limp and so frightfully weak was horrifying. Even before she knew him to be Valar, he always appeared so strong, like an old tree that weathers the wind and the rain and stays standing long after all else had been uprooted. Now he lay dying in the house, and she felt there was nothing she could do to help.
But she would try. She had promised. How many times had he made promises to her? How many prayers had he said on her behalf? The numbers were staggering, and likely there were uncountable times she did not even know of.
He had asked her to pray, she promised she would. Soon after she was ushered out of the room by Orophin as Elrond grimaced and cursed, and Glorfindel stood nearby looking utterly helpless. Celebrian pushed past, entering the room with a kettle of steaming water, and then the door was closed, the discussion within the room muffled by the clatter of instruments being prepared and used.
Galadriel wandered aimlessly around the house, always returning to the door, trying to listen to what was happening. It was all in vain, and eventually she went to her room, thinking that she could do nothing and would retire for the night.
“What are you doing?” she asked when she found her husband at the window. It was open and he had his face turned up toward the stars.
He closed his eyes, as if deep in thought, and then turned back around. “I was saying a prayer for Erestor. I think he needs as many as he can get.”
She was silent for a moment, and then gave him an uneasy smile and went to the closet to select a nightgown. “I heard nothing. How can anyone hear you if you do not speak?”
“I spoke with my mind and with my heart,” answered Celeborn, turning around now so that he had his palms on the windowsill and was leaning back on them. “Illuvatar does not need to ‘hear’ me as others do; he knows everything I do and think.”
“Everything? That seems a bit extreme.”
Celeborn sounded a bit taken aback. “He would not be the One if he did not know everything that was going on. Someone or something has to have an idea of everything that is occurring. If not, there would be only chaos. Well,” he said, not hearing a confirmation from Galadriel, “it is what I believe, at least.”
Galadriel looked at the thin cotton gown in her hands and hung it back on the hanger she had taken it from. Walking deeper into the closet, she saw a glint of metal, and bent down in hopes it was what she thought it was. Indeed, it was still there, her mirror, which she took outside without further word to her husband and looked into now, in hopes it might aid her in some way.
~ ~ ~
“Tis your begetting day next week,” said Erestor.
“So it is,” replied Artanis coyly. “Why do you bring it up?”
“No reason,” he answered playfully back. “For, you must be much too old for parties now.”
“Indeed, I would think so!” she laughed, but secretly, she hoped he might have made plans for one.
Erestor nodded as he took hold of her hand and proceded to walk with her through the garden of their home. “Perhaps we should have a cake, though. Nothing fancy,” he added.
“Oh, no,” she agreed, but there was a hint of longing that she hoped he picked up on when she said, “Nothing with ribbons or flowers decorating it. Plain and simple.”
“That would leave me to think of a suitable gift,” mused Erestor. “Then again, a lady your age has nearly all she needs, so what use would a gift be to you now?”
“Precisely,” she said quickly, a little too quickly. She hoped he did not notice, and then again, she hoped he did. “Who wants silly parties and cakes and gifts? Afterall, this is five hundred, not fifty! It would be nothing more than silliness,” she concluded.
“Without a doubt.” Erestor paused at the bottom of the steps and squeezed her hand. “I just recalled that I left the rake out, and it looks like rain. Go ahead, I shall be in soon,” he promised.
Artanis climbed the rest of the steps and reached for the doorknob as she took off her wide-brimmed sunhat. It was quite dark inside, and she did not recall drawing the curtains, but as she stepped into the room to remedy the situation, she was caught offguard by someone who jumped at her from behind the kitchen table.
Shrieiking first in surprise and then delight, Artanis embraced all of the well-wishers as they approached. The curtains were drawn back to let in the light, and as she turned to the door leading outside, she saw Erestor standing on the porch with a satisfied smile on his face. Running out to him, she practically leaped into his arms.
“You planned this!” she scolded him with a grin. “I suppose there is a cake, too.”
“Big one, with roses and ribbons and everything,” confirmed Erestor as he embraced her. “Now, to disappoint you further,” he said with a wink, “I present to you, your begetting day gift.”
“All this, and a present, too?” laughed Artanis as she was hastily led around the house to where the barn was.
Erestor left that to be a mystery as he walked her up the pathway and opened the barndoor. “See if you can find your gift,” he said, letting go of her hand.
Her smile grew as she carefully walked from pen to stall, searching for a bow or bright colored paper covering a gift box. Eventually, she did find her bow- around the neck of her gift. “Oh, Erestor! Oh, he is perfect!” she squeeked as she lifted the latch and entered the pen. “Oh, I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him!” Her arms were wrapped around the goat’s neck as the goat nibbled on her silver-golden hair.
“Perhaps I should mention that ‘him’ is a ‘her’,” he laughed. “But, I am glad to make you happy.”
The scene changed, from Valinor to Doriath. Years had past, times had changed. Instead of the cheerful elf dressed in bright clothing and always with a smile, she saw a frowning ellon wearing drab grey robes that seemed to mirror his mood. He had just said something, which she did not hear, but the rest of the conversation was clear.
“How can you allow this to happen?” demanded Oropher, pacing through the room. It appeared to be a library of some sort, perhaps the archives from the shelves that reached floor to ceiling. Erestor stood behind a desk, with no one else in the room to witness the argument that was to follow.
“It is what she wants. It what will make her happy,” stressed Erestor. “More than anything right now, I want her to be happy.”
“You are foolish, Erestor. Is her marriage to Celeborn going to make YOU happy? I can answer that for you. It will not,” said Oropher.
“Yes, it will,” insisted Erestor. “She is not happy with me, and I am unhappy to see her unhappy.”
“You make no sense, boy,” Oropher scolded. “Does she know your true feelings?”
“Did you actually sit the girl down and tell her that you are in love with her?”
“Thousands upon thousands of times,” Erestor told him.
“And have you told her that you offered your soul for her life?” Oropher saw Erestor flinch, and pressed the issue. “You never did, did you?”
“She need not know,” Erestor said quietly.
Oropher rubbed the bridge of his nose with a sigh of exasperation. “Erestor, Erestor, you fool. Tell her-“
“-what you have done for her-“
“-that she was supposed to be killed-“
“-but you bargained with the other Valar to save her life! Erestor, you have to learn, if you want something, you need to take a stand!” Oropher’s voice rose up louder and louder, and then all was quiet. He sighed again, and looked Erestor square in the eye. “Tell her what you did. Tell her you still love her.”
“I can not. I do not wish for her to feel there is a debt hanging around her neck. She owes me nothing.”
“She owes you everything!” countered Oropher, slamming the palm of his hand against the wall. “You gave her everything you had and more.”
“Maybe that is why I can say nothing to her; I have no more to give,” Erestor sadly replied. His image disappated into the water, which began to churn and bubble up, frothy and red.
Galadriel stepped back, but her eyes stayed locked on the basin. “Show me... show me something else,” she demanded as the water rose, sloshing ove the side, spilling like blood onto the ground. “What are you doing? What are you showing me?”
“You do not know?” Galadriel turned around, and behind her stood a being so radient, despite her being shrouded in black. “He is dying,” she said, tears sliding down her cheeks where millions had already fallen.
“He can not die!” shouted Galadriel in anguish. “He says he is a Vala; like Melkor, they can not be killed!”
“Oh, yes, we can be,” she was corrected. “We more certainly can be, if our Father wills it. In the case of Ress, it would be his Grandfather, but all the same, He lets everyone call Him Father. He likes it.” Another tear dripped down her cheek, and Galadriel realized who was speaking to her. “Do you say it is impossible for him to die because of what he is, or because of what he is to you?”
Galadriel’s eyes were questioning. “I do not know what you mean.”
“You do love him, do you not?” questioned Nienna.
Stepping back, Galadriel frowned. “No, I do not love him. I have told him that. He thought I did, and maybe I even thought I did, a long time ago when we were... together. That is not the case now, even if it was then.”
“So you have stopped loving him? Why? What did he do?” Nienna was patient with her words, waiting for the elleth to answer.
“He did nothing, I just... we had nothing,” was the best Galadriel could come up with. “He was not meant to be with me, and I was not meant to be with him. We parted, perhaps not as well as we might have, and...” Galadriel lifted her hands before her with a sigh. “Even if I had loved him, I would not now. I have my husband, Celeborn. I love him.”
“Is he the only one you love, then? Do you not love your children?”
“Of course I love my children,” scoffed Galadriel. “How could one not love their children?”
“And their spouses? Do you love them as well?” continued Nienna.
Galadriel thought on this for a moment, having an idea where things were going. “Next you will ask me if I love my brothers’ children. Then you will have me say yes, that I do. And do I love their spouses, you will ask. Well... I would say yes regarding Gildor’s, and no with Glorfindel’s. Because I can not- Erestor is... I can not love him, we were once togheter and now we are not, it is that simple.”
“How can you claim not to love him when you do not even know what love is about?” asked Nienna. “Love is not based upon conditions, as you seem to think. You have both been through many changes, but when you think of Ress, of Erestor, do you hate him?”
“No, I never hated him. If anything, he had a right to hate me,” Galadriel reasoned, bowing her head.
Nienna tilted Galadriel’s chin back up. “Do you loathe him? Dislike him? Despise him? Wish him to disappear and never again contact you?”
“No, no, none of those things,” said Galadriel as she shook her head. “I would never wish him away.”
“Then I think some part of you, does love him. On some level, you care about him. You wish him well and want him happy, just as all he ever wanted for you was your happiness.”
Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. “A little, then. Perhaps I do love him a little.”
With a sad smile, Nienna leaned forward and kissed Galadriel upon the brow. “He needs your love, whatever love you can give him,” she said solemnly, but her words were hopeful. “Tell my Father why you want Ress to stay. There is always a chance He has not made up His mind yet.” Closing in further still, Nienna added, “Your mirror will not help you to save him; only your heart and soul can do that.”
Galadriel was embraced by the silently crying Vala, and she closed her eyes, trying to search herself for the answers, for the courage and will to do what she should have done earlier. What she hoped it was not too late for her to do.
Upon opening her eyes, she found Nienna was no longer there, and perhaps never had been. Walking slowly to the mirror, she looked down into it to find a placid bowl of water. The ground beneath the basin was not bloody, nor was it even wet. She reached both hands down into the water, cupping her hands.
Bowing her head, she brought the cool water up to her face and cleansed it, washing away her tears. Wiping away the excess with her hands, she knelt down and folded her hands. For a while, she had no idea where to begin, and so just started by speaking from her heart and letting her soul speak the words. “Dear Eru, it... it’s me, Galadriel... I... I wanted to talk to You...”
- - -
“He should be dead.” Elrond finally said. Orophin had already left the room, and Erestor was now resting. The sheets needed to be changed and the elf who was covered with them was himself in need of a bit of cleaning up. Glorfindel did not answer, and Celebrian only repositioned a small knife that had yet to be cleaned of blood back on the table further so that it would not fall onto the floor. “It is nothing short of a miracle that he is alive.”
“You are an excellent healer,” said Glorfindel, his eyes never leaving Erestor’s body. “The best, Elrond, and I owe you for what you have done.”
“Nonsense, on both counts,” declared Elrond from the rocking chair he was resting in. He rubbed his head and then stripped off the bloodied shirt he had on. “I am not as skilled as many are, and even they would have had difficulties if not utter failure in such a case. And second, Glorfindel, we are all family, there is no need for anyone to owe anyone else.”
Glorfindel took hold of Erestor’s hand, feeling the week pulsing at his wrist. “Then I thank you, and you have my eternal gratitude.”
“I still think there was a higher power involved in this than I,” said Elrond in a very tired voice.