I, Eldarion Telcontar, Second King of Gondor in the Fourth Age of Middle Earth, do hereby set down the “Lay of Celebriel” at the request of my beloved late mother, Queen Arwen Undomiel. For this is what she said to me long ago:
“She was my dearest friend, with the exception of Elrond my father in the days before our estrangement. I would have the memory of her kept by my descendants lest her tale be forgotten. For it was she who gave me comfort when I was denied all others and kept my spirits from sinking into total despair in the days before I married King Elessar.”
And though I know not where my beloved mother’s last resting place may be, I dedicate this to her, this story that she told me. And though I knew her not, I will treasure this story of Celebriel for my mother’s sake, and I and my descendants will not forget her.
She was named Celebriel Laurelin for Laurelindorinan, which the elves now call Lothlorien, where the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel had come to dwell. She had been conceived during the last days of the assault of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves upon Mordor, and Galadriel had felt the first movements of the babe in her womb at the same moment that Gil-galad and Elendil the Tall had perished upon Mount Orodruin.
Though she wished that this child might be a son she was glad still at the birth of another daughter, for Celebrian her firstborn was betrothed to Elrond Half-Elven and would someday depart to make her dwelling there with him.
When the War, at last, was over, at Elrond’s request, the christening feast was held at his great house at Imladris. There were many of the Elven great were present, and also a few of the house of Isildur, Elendil’s son, for in those days the Last Alliance was still Fresh in the minds of men, and Elendil’s heirs were not sundered from the Elder. Far and wide had they come to attend the solemnities, for the birth of this Elf-child was seen as a symbol of great hope, a sign that the Dark Days were surely over and that peace would once more reign in Middle Earth.
But there was not all rejoicing. Instead of the gold of the Lady, or the Silver of the Lord, the baby was born with tresses of fiery red. Instead of sea-grey, the baby’s eyes were the green of the spring leaves. Though some declared this a miracle, to others it was a sign that the flames would rise once more from Amon Amarth, and that the Enemy would rise and war would again inflict itself on Middle Earth.
The child grew quickly, a marvel of dignity and grace. When Celebrian her sister went to Imladris to be wed, Celebriel attended her. Many who saw her were enamored of her, not the least Glorfindel of the Noldor who dwelt in the house of Elrond. So taken with her was he that he spent much time with her in the following days, teaching her to ride a horse without the aid of saddle or bridle, and at her request teaching her to use a bow and arrows that he made for her himself.
As she grew older her skill with these greatly increased, and she learned also how to use a sword and javelin. Indeed anything that she was determined to master she did. She could ride as well as she could weave, and play upon a harp as skillfully as she could throw a javelin. If at times it seemed that she showed less interest in the more feminine pursuits than was proper, Galadriel did not redress her. She knew that there were times when the feminine things held her interest and that her daughter could even be vain of her personal appearance.
There was yet another thing that made Galadriel hold her peace. Celebriel bore an uncanny resemblance to her own brother, Finrod the Felagund, who had fallen defending the life of Beren One-hand. It was first she, then Celeborn, who had noticed this, and as Celebriel grew older the resemblance became stronger, if not uncanny. Though Celebriel’s hair was fiery red where Finrod’s had been golden, the semblance in her face was striking. It also seemed that his skill in arms was also being passed to her daughter. This troubled Galadriel greatly, but she would not speak of it.
If it had been her choice, she would not have wished this upon her daughter, but still, it was there. “She is like him, but not like unto him,” she would say to herself. “Truly in temperament, she is often more like him than Celeborn or myself. If this is indeed the path she has chosen for herself, it is not for her or her father to say her nay. But may Varda grant that her fate will not be that of his.”
One day she showed Celebriel a sword that had been his, saying, “This have I kept that belonged to Finrod my brother. It was wrought in Gondolin long ago, and someday I will give it to you. But I do not give it to you now, that will come on the day when you are worthy of it.” Celebriel took the blade in her hand and said, “This I will cherish in the name of he who once bore it. I will myself someday worthy of it, and will be proud to bear it for the sake of he whom it had belonged to.”
With much practice and patience, Celebriel grew proficient in the use of arms and begged the Lord and Lady for permission to ride with the patrols that kept watch upon the borders of Lorien. Though loath to do so, they granted this, but would not allow her out on more serious forays. She did not wish to contest their wishes but vowed to herself that she would find a way to circumvent this if the need arose. For the moment she contented herself with spending as much time out as she was allowed and sometimes returned only with reluctance.
Her other great love was learning, and she set herself to learn everything that she could. She learned the lore of the peoples of Middle Earth, and how to speak the all the languages of Elves, Men, and also the dwarves. She also learned to write these in the runic and Feanorian letters, though the mastery was hard and slow. She learned from her mother the arts of healing, and she spent many hours learning the uses of the various herbs. She would apply herself so hard that often her mother would take her by the hand, saying, “Do not press yourself so hard. Go out and ride, or walk in the woods, there will be plenty of time for lessons.” And Celebriel would ride happily once more to the borders.
The years passed by in this fashion, and she knew not but what it was to be happy. She grew up knowing nothing but boundless love and had the sweetness of nature of one who knew not what sorrow and bitterness were. She was beloved in all of Lorien for herself, and not because she was the daughter of Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel. She felt that life had truly blessed her and she wished only that it would go on forever as it was.
Glorfindel of Imladris came to dwell for a time in Lorien and in him, she found a friend who could be counted upon for help if the attention of the Lord or the Lady could not be spared. He once again became her teacher and helped her hone her skills. Whatever she wished for it seemed that he would magically produce.When she said one day that she wished for a golden peregrine falcon the next day Glorfindel presented her with one. Then, as if he read her mind, he presented her with a poniard that had a haft of silver in which was inlaid a flower of bronze set with a topaz in the middle.
She found his attention a puzzle, and wondered why he would shower her with gifts—and what the Lord and Lady thought of it. If she questioned him as to why he would merely say that she took so much pleasure in the things he gave her that it was a joy to fulfill her every wish. “That is only half an answer,” she would tell him, but try though she may he would say no more. All she could do was to let the matter lie, but never was she content with the answer he would give her.
Outside of these things, there was no trouble in her world. But as time passed she began to feel something that troubled her, something that she could not quite put a name to, only feel that it was there. There were times when she would see a cloud pass across her mother’s face and knew somehow that she felt it, too. One day she could keep her peace no longer. She and her mother had watched the sunset, and she had seen the shadow flicker across her mother’s face. She slipped her hand into Galadriel’s and said softly, “I feel it too. What is it, Mother?”
“I am not sure, child,” Galadriel said to her, “Tell me what it was that you felt.”
Celebriel stared off into the distance. “I am not sure,” she said slowly, “At times it has felt like someone is looking for me whom it must not let find me. Something is there for a fleeting moment and then is gone. But it feels as if it is searching for my very will, and would not let go of me if it found what it sought. It is like a waking nightmare, brief as it is, and I am glad when it has passed. What it is I truly do not know.”
Galadriel held her close and thought to herself, “It is my ring, he is searching for my ring. I wore it whilst I carried her in my womb, and when I brought her into the world. The knowledge of it has not yet wakened inside her but someday she will know she is the child of Nenya as much as my own. Someday she will even know my thoughts, for its power is growing within her.”
“Let us hope it is nothing,” she soothed as she stroked her daughter’s fiery mane. But this troubles me and I like it not. When next this happens you must tell me of it. Promise me this and do not forget what I have told you.” Celebriel nodded solemnly.
The next day she spent riding in the woods, away from the city, her mother’s words far from her mind. But that evening she summoned into the presence of her mother.“ We will walk together in the twilight,” Galadriel said, “and watch the stars of Elbereth come out.” She dismissed her maidens, and she and Celebriel walked out of the city and under the trees of Cerin Amroth. They sat beneath a tall mallorn tree and Celebriel pillowed her head in her mother’s lap. Galadriel combed her hair with a golden comb and sang to her a song that her mother had sung to her in the days when she dwelt in the blessed realm of the Valar.
She finished her song and for a moment both were silent, still caught up in the magic of the song. Galadriel was the first to speak and break the spell. “Your sister now has three children, none of whom you have seen,” she said, “Many times she has asked that you come to see her in Imladris and each time you have refused. She has asked again that you come to dwell with her for a time, and I have told her that I will ask you. It would please me very much if you did this, my daughter.”
Celebriel sat up. “There is more you do not say, Mother,” she said to her, half in anger, “It is because of yesterday that you say this to me. Because of what I told you, you would send me away from Lorien. Why do you not say that instead? And I will tell now that I do not wish to leave.”
“If there is peril in the south,” Galadriel said sharply, “there may also be danger in the north. Remember you so little of what I have taught you that you do not realize that it may be so? There may yet be a time when travel between the north and the south may be much more hazardous for it bodes in my heart that a shadow may rise that is now only asleep. ”Her voice softened a little. “I say only to you that your sister misses you. Greatly loved of her were you when you were young. I ask only that you go to visit her. Soon you will be of an age when where you dwell and what you do must be yours to decide. I do not ask that you leave Lorien forever, only to visit Imladris for a little while. Will you not do this for your sister’s sake?”
Celebriel sighed and knew that she was defeated. “You command me though you say you do not. If you wish me to go to Imladris then I must do as you ask. But I will say this to you; I go only for a little while, and only as long as I please. The woods of Laurelindorinan are my home and my namesake. I will not abide being away from them for any longer than I must.”
“Do not let your displeasure mar what may prove to you a joy in the end,” Galadriel told her, “In Imladris, Elrond will be your teacher if you so wish. He is wise in the ways of both Elves and men. Many things have his eyes seen through the long years and there is much that you can learn from him.” She stood up and beckoned to her daughter, “Come now, we will go back to the city. Mayhap in the morning things will not seem so ill.”
“About that, I do not know,” Celebriel thought rebelliously while she followed her mother back to Caras Amroth.
The next day she received a piece of news that helped to lighten her heart a little. She had not seen Glorfindel since the previous day, but he came to her in the late afternoon. “I hear you grieve at the thought of leaving Lothlorien,” he told her, “I thought that perhaps I could help lift your spirits. I find that I am growing homesick for Imladris; therefore I shall accompany you on your journey. And if that is not enough to cheer you,” he smiled, “I have a gift for that you that most surely will please you.”
“Your generosity spoils me,” she said and managed to return his smile, “And what pray tell is this gift that you have for me?”
“Ah,” he replied, “I will not tell you, but I will show it to you instead. But first I must bind your eyes.” He wrapped a silk scarf gently over her eyes so that she could not see, and took her by the hand. “You must follow where I lead, and there will you see it.”
She could not tell where they were going, not at first, but soon she could smell straw and the scent of horse. It was then that they stopped, and he unbound her eyes. “Behold, my gift to you,” he said, “Look now and tell me if your heart still grieves.”
For a moment she could not speak, only stare. Then she put her arms about him and hugged him. “Oh thrice blessed Glorfindel—the best and truest of friends. You have read my heart’s desire, how ever did you know? This truly is the best of gifts!”
In a stall near the one that housed his white stallion stood a slender dapple-grey mare. She had tiny erect ears, and her dainty grey muzzle had just a flush of pink in it. Her dark luminous eyes surveyed calmly all that was going on, and she did not flinch or start when Celebriel threw her arms around her slender grey neck. She even nuzzled the hands that stroked her velvety nose, then whickered softly as if to show her approval of whom she had been presented to.
“She is a foal out of Asfaloth,” Glorfindel said as Celebriel ran her hands over the mare’s flanks and back, “I have taken the liberty of giving her a name—Ariel. I hope you approve. You may ride her without saddle or bridle, for her gaits are as smooth as her sire’s. Treasure her for she and her offspring will serve you faithfully.”
“I will treasure her always,” she said, “as much for the giver as the gift herself. I say to you, were there naught else you had given me, this gift alone would earn my eternal friendship as well as my eternal gratitude.”
“I am glad to have your friendship as well as your gratitude,” he told her, “the friendship of the Lady Celebriel is worth much to me, and happy indeed am I that I have it.”
That evening they rode together and Celebriel pondered his words. Once again she felt that there was a hidden meaning to them that she did not understand. “Someday,” she said to herself, “ Someday I will guess the meaning of his riddles.” But for the time being she would put the matter out of her mind, she decided, for there was enough to occupy her at the moment.
She spent the following days resigning herself to the fact that she must go to Imladris whether she willed it or not. Her mother and her maidens were sewing her new garments for her journey north, including clothes for riding. She was not clad in grey or white, but a dark green such as the wood elves might wear. She was spared a lady’s riding habit and mannish garments out of dark green wool were made for her instead. With these went a pair of high brown boots which color matched the trim of her cloak.
Though she knew it not, her masculine attire made her resemblance to her mother’s brother all the more pronounced. Galadriel said nothing of it, but more than ever she wished that she could shelter her daughter from all harm, knowing, however, no good would come of the trying. She knew the day was not far off when Celebriel would want to shake off the yoke of her parents. And knowledge of the ring, that soon would come, too. “All too soon,” thought Galadriel.
“She is going to want her independence soon,” she thought to herself, “And we will have to grant it to her though it pains us. No good will it do to try and keep her a child.She will learn to live with her link to the ring, how to shut her mind to he who attempts to find it. Oh, how I wish I could protect her, but the time will come when she must do so herself. But I will miss her, my last baby, more than I miss her sister, and not because I love her sister less.