One Geek To Rule Them All

Chapter 22

Previously:

At the hill's foot they found Aragorn, standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Devin looked at him she knew that he beheld things as they once had been many years ago in this same place, when he and Arwen first pledged their love for each other; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Devin and Frodo could not see. Arwen vanimelda, namárië! he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at them and smiled.

"Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth," he said, "and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!" and taking their hands in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as a living man.Devin stole one last sad glance back at the beautifully crowned hill, knowing what would eventually become of it. Once Frodo destroyed the One Ring, all the other Rings would become powerless, including Nenya. With the ring gone the magic and beauty of Lórien would fade along with the extraordinary mallorn trees, all except the one that Sam would grow in Hobbiton, and it would gradually become depopulated, until by the time Arwen came there to die in the Fourth Age, when it would be deserted and in ruin.

Chapter 22:

The sun was sinking behind the mountains, and the shadows were deepening in the woods, when they went on again. Their paths now went into thickets were the dusk had already gathered. Night came beneath the trees as they walked, and the Elves uncovered their silver lamps.Suddenly they came out into the open again and found themselves under a pale evening sky pricked by a few early stars. There was a wide treeless space before them, running in a great circle and bending away on either hand. Beyond it was a deep fosse lost in soft shadow, but the grass upon its brink was green, as if it glowed still in memory of the sun that had gone. Upon the further side there rose to a great height a green wall encircling a green hill thronged with mallorn-trees taller than any they had yet seen in all the land. Their height could not be guessed, but they stood up in the twilight like living towers. In their many-tiered branches and amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights were gleaming, green and gold and silver. Haldir turned towards the Company.

"Welcome to Caras Galadon!" he said. "Here is the city of the Galadrim where dwell the Lord Celeborn and Galadriel the Lady of Lórien. But we cannot enter here, for the gates do not look northward. We must go round to the southern side, and the way is not short, for the city is great."

There was a road paved with white stone running on the outer brink of the fosse. Along this they went westward, with the city ever climbing up like a green cloud upon their left; and as the night deepened more lights sprang forth, until all the hill seemed afire with stars. They came at last to a white bridge, and crossing found the great gates of the city: they faced south-west, set between the ends of the encircling wall that here overlapped, and they were tall and strong, and hung with many lamps.Haldir knocked and spoke, and the gates opened soundlessly; but of guards Devin could see no sign. The travelers passed within, and the gates shut behind them. They were in a deep lane between the ends of the wall, and passing quickly through it they entered the City of Trees. No folk could they see, nor hear any feet upon the paths; but there were many voices, about them, and in the air above. Far away up on the hill they could hear the sound of singing falling from on high like soft rain upon leaves.They went along many paths and climbed many stairs, until they came to the high places and saw before them amid a wide lawn a fountain shimmering. It was lit by silver lamps that swung from the boughs of trees, and it fell into a basin of silver, from which a white stream spilled. Upon the south side of the lawn there stood the mightiest of all the trees; its great smooth bole gleamed like grey silk, and up it towered, until its first branches, far above, opened their huge limbs under shadowy clouds of leaves. Beside it a broad white ladder stood, and at its foot three Elves were seated. They sprang up as the travellers approached, and Devin saw that they were tall and clad in grey mail, and from their shoulders hung long white cloaks.

"Here dwell Celeborn and Galadriel." Said Haldir. "It is their wish that you should ascend and speak with them." One of the Elf-wardens then blew a clear note on a small horn, and it was answered three times from far above. "I will go first." Said Haldir. "Let Frodo come next and with him Legolas. The others may follow as they wish. It is a long climb for those not accustomed to such stairs, but you may rest upon the way."

As he climbed slowly up Frodo passed many flets: some on one side, some on another, and some set about the bole of the tree, so that the ladder passed through them. At great height above the ground he came to a wide talan, like the deck of a great ship. On it was built a house, so large that almost it would have served for a hall of Men upon the earth. He entered behind Haldir, and found that he was in a chamber of oval shape, in the midst of which grew the trunk of the great mallorn, now tapering towards its crown, and yet making still a pillar of wide girth.The chamber was filled with a soft light; its walls were green and silver and its roof of gold. Many Elves were seated there. On two chairs beneath the bole of the tree and canopied by a bow there sat, side by side, Celeborn and Galadriel. They stood up to greet theirs guests, after the manner of Elves, even those who were accounted mighty kings. Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord; and they were grave and beautiful. They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was of deep gold, and the hair of the Lord was of silver long and bright; but no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory.Haldir led Frodo before them, and the Lord welcomed him in his own tongue. The Lady Galadriel said no word but looked long upon his face.

"Sit now beside my chair, Frodo of the Shire!" said Celeborn. "When all have come we will speak together." Each of the companions he greeted courteously by name as they entered. "Welcome Aragorn son of Arathorn!" he said. It is eighty and thirty years of the world outside since you came to this land; and those years lie heavy on you. But the end is near, for good or ill. Here lay aside your burden for awhile!"Welcome son of Thranduil! Too seldom do my kindred journey hither from the North."Welcome Gimli son of Glóin! It is long indeed since we saw one of Durin's folk in Caras Galadon. But today we have broken our long law. May it be a sign that though the world is now dark better days are at hand, and that friendship shall be renewed between our peoples." Gimli bowed low. Next came the rest of the hobbits. Then came Boromir. And last but not least came the girls, who entered together at the same, for Kitty did not mix well with stairs (in fact she viewed them as something of a hated enemy), and she was so out of breath that she needed the support of a friend to stand up straight. "Welcome Devin Gladwin! Welcome Katherine Larson! We rarely receive visitors from the outside world, but rarer still are visitors from another world entirely." The girls were a little surprised to hear that particular cat was out of the bag, but it served to prove how much Elrond trusted the Lord and Lady for him to have revealed such sensitive information.When all the guests were seated before his chair the Lord looked at them again. "Here there are ten." He said. "Eleven were to set out: so said the messages. But maybe there has been some change of counsel that we have not heard. Elrond is far away, and darkness gathers between us, and all this year the shadows have grown longer." At this Devin bowed her head mournfully.

"Nay, there was no change of counsel." Said the Lady Galadriel, speaking for the first time. Her voice was clear and musical but deeper than woman's wont. "Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlórien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet and of his mind are hidden from me."

"Alas!" said Aragorn. "Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape." At these words all the Elves in the hall cried aloud in grief and amazement.

"These are evil tidings," said Celeborn, "the most evil that have been spoken here in long years full of grievous deeds." He turned to Haldir. "Why has nothing of this been told to me before?" he asked in the Elven-tongue.

"We have not spoken to Haldir of our deeds or our purpose." Said Legolas. "At first we were weary and danger was too close behind; and afterwards we almost forgot our grief for a time, as we walked in gladness on the fair paths of Lórien."

"Yet our grief is great and our loss cannot be mended." Said Frodo. "Gandalf was our guide, and he led us through Moria; and when our escape seemed beyond hope he saved us, and he fell."

"Tell us now the full tale!" said Celeborn.Then Aragorn recounted all that happened upon the pass of Caradhras, and in the days that followed; and he spoke of Balin and his book, and the fight in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and the fire, and the narrow bridge, and the coming of the Terror.

"An evil of the Ancient World it seemed, such as I have never seen before." Said Aragorn. "It was both a shadow and a flame, strong and terrible."

"It was a Balrog of Morgorth," said Legolas; "of all elf-banes the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower."

"Indeed I saw upon the bridge that which haunts our darkest dreams, I saw Durin's Bane." Said Gimli in a low voice, and dread was in his eyes.

"Alas!" said Celeborn. "We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. But had I known that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria again, I would have forbidden you to pass the northern borders, you and all that went with you. And if it were possible, one would say that at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into folly, going needlessly into the net of Moria." At this Devin tensed guiltily and kept her eyes cast downwards.

"He would be rash indeed that said such a thing." Said Galadriel gravely, and something in the Lady's voice made Devin look up again. "Needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life. Those that followed him knew not his mind and cannot report his full purpose. But however it may be with the guide, the followers are blameless." As she spoke, Galadriel held Devin's gaze directly, as if peering through the two blue-violet windows into her soul. And Devin knew that even though she spoke as if she were addressing her husband, and her words were no different than that of the book, the Lady was speaking directly to her without blame or fault. And for that Devin had not the words to express how grateful she was. "Do not repent of your welcome to the Dwarf." Galadriel released Devin's gaze and continued. "If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look their ancient home, though it be an abode of dragons?"Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dûm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone." She looked upon Gimli who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he suddenly looked into the heart of an enemy and saw love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer.He rose clumsily and bowed in dwarf-fashion, saying:

"Yet more fair is the living land of Lórien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!" There was silence. At length Celeborn spoke again.

"I did not know your plight was so evil." He said. "Let Gimli forget my harsh words: I spoke in the trouble of my heart. I will do what I can to aid you, each according to his wish and need, but especially that one of the little folk who bears the burden."

"Your quest if known to us." Said Galadriel, looking at Frodo. "But we will not here speak of it more openly. Yet not in vain will it prove, maybe, that you came to this land seeking aid, as Gandalf himself plainly purposed. For the Lord of the Galadrim is accounted the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth, and a giver of gifts beyond the power of kings. He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through the ages we have fought the long defeat."I it was who summoned the White Council. And if my designs had not gone amiss, it would have been governed by Gandalf the Grey, and mayhap things would have gone otherwise. But even now there is hope left. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be. But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope still remains while the Company is true." And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her gaze. Sam quickly blushed and hung his head. A rosy glow also began to bloom on Devin's cheeks, and she soon lowered her eyes to the floor, but she managed to keep her chin up for the most part. Kitty furrowed her brow, suddenly looking very troubled.At length the Lady Galadriel released them from her eyes, and she smiled. "Do not let your hearts be troubled." She said. "Tonight you shall sleep in peace." Then they sighed and suddenly felt weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.

"Go now!" said Celeborn. You are worn with sorrow and much toil. Even if your Quest did not concern us closely, you should still find refuge in this City, until you were healed and refreshed. Now you shall rest, and we will not speak of your further road for a while."

That night the Company slept upon the ground, much to the satisfaction of the hobbits. The Elves spread for them a pavilion among the trees near the fountain, one that had a dividing curtain that could be raised and lowered so that the girls might finally be able to enjoy a semblance of privacy again, and on both sides of it they laid soft couches; then speaking words of peace with fair elvish voices they left them. For a little while the travellers talked of their night before in the tree-tops, and of their day's journey, and of the Lord and Lady; for they had not yet the heart to look further back.

"What did you blush for, Sam?" said Pippin. "You soon broke down. Anyone would have thought you had a guilty conscience. I hope it was nothing worse than a wicked plot to steal one of my blankets."

"I never thought no such thing." Said Sam, in no mood for jest. "If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn't got nothing on, and I didn't like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with—with a bit of garden of my own." Devin and Kitty were pretty sure he had been about to say 'Rosie Cotton' too before he caught himself.

"That's funny." Said Merry. "Almost exactly what I felt myself; only, only well, I don't I'll say any more." He ended lamely.All of them, it seemed, had fared alike: each had felt that they had been offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something they greatly desired: clear before their mind it lay, and to get it they had only to turn aside from the road and leave the Quest and the war against Sauron to others.

"And it seemed to me, too," said Gimli, "that my choice would remain secret and known only to myself."

"To me it seemed exceedingly strange." Said Boromir. "Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give. It need not be said that I refused to listen. The Men of Minas Tirith are true to their word." But what he thought that the Lady had offered him Boromir did not tell.

"Come to think of it, Devin blushed too." Said Pippin. "What was that about?"

"Oh, that was just her shy face." Said Kitty dismissively.

"Yes, that's right. Although I expected it, it was still a little disconcerting to have my thoughts read so freely." Devin said with a nod as her cheeks flushed a little again at the memory, though she wouldn't go into to detail as to why or what she was offered.

"Yeah, that was pretty invasive. And don't bother asking me about any more it either, because my lips are sealed. I think my privacy's been invaded enough for one evening." Said Kitty with a frown. It felt kind of like they had undergone the mental equivalent of a full-body cavity search.And as for Frodo, he would not speak, though Boromir pressed him with questions.

"She held you long in her gaze, Ring-bearer." He said.

"Yes," said Frodo; "but whatever came into my mind then I will keep there."

"Yeah, lay off him will, ya?" Said Kitty with a frown. "He doesn't have to talk about it if he doesn't want to. It's not like anyone else is, including you."

"Well, have a care!" said Boromir to Frodo. "I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes."

"Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!" said Aragorn sternly. "You know not what you say. There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself. Then let him beware! But tonight I shall sleep without fear for the first time since I left Rivendell. And may I sleep deep, and forget for a while my grief! I am weary in body and in heart." He cast himself down upon his couch and fell at once into a long sleep.

"Amen to that!" said Kitty. "Come on, Devin. Let's hit the sack."

"Good night, everyone." Devin said as they moved to their side if the tent and lowered the divider before lying down on their couches to drift off to sleep. The others soon did the same, and no sound or dream disturbed their slumber. When they woke they found that the light of day was broad upon the lawn before the pavilion, and the fountain rose and fell in the glittering sun.

After a filling breakfast, the two girls went off on their own and did not stop until they felt that they had found a place where they could speak at ease without being overheard by anyone else. They wanted to rehash the events of the previous evening in greater depth and discuss several worries and concerns that had been growing in their minds.

"So, what did she offer you?" Kitty asked first.

"It seemed she was trying to tempt me to turn away from the Quest to destroy the Ring, asking me why I would choose to continue suffering by trying to save people whose fates were beyond my control, and what I would do if the two of us could return to our world, where you could get more medicine before you run out…" Devin answered, looking down. "… or if would prefer to stay here if you could somehow be cured, and how far I would be willing to go to do it."

"… Sounds like almost exactly what I heard." Said Kitty with a frown, furrowing her brow. "But… I'm sorry, Devin, but… my medicine actually ran out the day before we left the Mines. Galadriel asked me if I would be able to endure going through that hell again, or if I would try to use the ring to cure myself." At this Devin's eyes widened in horror.

"What?" she asked, taking Kitty's hands in her own. "But, Kitty, you…"

"The really scary thing is I might actually do it." Kitty admitted. "I want to stay here—I don't want to go back! How can I possibly be happy back in that boring world stuck working a boring job to pay for a mortgage and all that crap after all this? I never realized just how much I truly needed to get out of that world until we came to this one! All this time, I've never felt like I fit in, and now I know why—I was homesick for somewhere I'd never been before—for this place! Devin, aren't you the same? You don't really want to leave, right?" she said anxiously, squeezing her friend's hands. They were both on the verge of tears now.

"No… no, I don't want to leave…" Devin finally admitted to herself out loud. "I want to stay here with everyone, with you… b-but we can't, Kitty. It's not our world, and you need more medicine. So far you've been coasting on what's left in your bloodstream, but it's already been a few days, so when that runs out… I never want to see you hurt like that again." She said sadly and earnestly as her tears started to fall.

"Yeah, I wanted to die…" said Kitty morosely. "But if you make me go back there, I really will. Even with the medicine stabilizing my moods, I won't be happy. The monotony of that world will kill me."

"What about your family?" Devin asked. Kitty let out a bitter laugh.

"They won't miss me. Nobody back there will. And I won't miss them! You're the only one I need, Devin. You're my family!" She said, pulling her close and embracing her tightly. "I really can't go back there! Please, don't make me. Obviously I can't use the Ring—I know that would never work—but even if it hurts, all I want is to stay here with you and live in this world… and with our new friends." Devin let out a soft sob as she returned Kitty's hug, tightening her grip on her.

"All right, I understand… We'll stay here, in this world, together." She promised. The two friends held each other tightly and cried together. They were each other's life-lines. They would never let go. They would never abandon each other. They would do whatever it took to survive, and they would do it together, just like always.

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