Chapter 19: The Lady of Light
The Lady of Light
I wake up on the outside platform of our dormitory, my head against the back wall as the fire crackles wildly before my eyes. Fili stands on the balcony, the only other person still out here; I feign sleep a little while longer, trying my best to make sense of what has just happened.
The Lord of silver fountains,The Prince of carven stone.
There it is again. I sit upright, pulling the blankets over Kili's sleeping form as I do so, and find that this time I have the strangest feeling; I feel like I should go inside, as though there's something there waiting for me.
"You oughten be awake at this time of night," Fili muses, turning with his pipe in mouth and following a step after me; I give him a quick nod, entranced, and head inside.
"Lavender?" he calls after me, but I am already gone.
The King beneath the mountain,Shall come into his hold...
I should head through the halls, I think, and find myself drifting through the corridors of the Elven palace, barely taking in the beauty of their ivory walls and voile-draped columns. Despite having only walked them once, I find that I can easily navigate the pathways and alcoves.
The bells will ring in gladness,At the mountain Lord's return.
Out onto the courtyard, out into the starlight. Up the marble staircase and through the driftwood archways, my fingers stroking at the white and crimson crystals intricately embedded in the high walls.
But all shall fail in sadness,And the lake will shine and burn.
Through this doorway, I think; yes, this is where I want to go. I open up the door to reveal a podium etched into the edge of the cliff face, and a tall, elegant figure stood in its centre, a river of silver-gold hair flowing down her back. She stands facing away from me in a dress of white satin, and when she turns to face me I almost gasp aloud at her beauty. She flashes me a radiant smile, her light eyes crinkling in the corners, and purses her rosebud lips.
"Hello," I say in a near whisper.
"Hello, Alice," she says in the voice that I heard singing, "I am Galadriel."
I need no more explanation than that; her very presence is enough to let me know that she is utterly wholesome, and I can trust her completely. I find myself smiling back at her, my entire being heightened by her very presence.
"How do you know my name?" I ask her, and she smiles.
"I see much," she tells me, but this time the words do not come from her perfect mouth; they come, instead, from within my own head. I jolt a little at the surprise of it and she says aloud, "do not be afraid." The contrast of the words coming from her mouth and not from within my skull shocks me somewhat. "I see so much," she repeats, "and yet, here I understand so little. You have traveled far, Alice."
I nod, and she extends her hand to me. "Come."
I do as I am told without question, basking in the light of her ethereal presence; she almost seems to glow. I stop a little short of her, almost afraid to approach her slender form, and she steps closer to me with her silver head lowered to accommodate my minuscule height. I feel like an insect beside her.
"You know, then," I say carefully, "about my... travelling?"
She nods and asks me to tell her everything about my experiences so far, and I do so briskly; the two of us talk for a long time. She stands still as a statue through the entire ordeal, a pristine smile etched onto her perfect features. After a long time she says,
"I believe you might be able to attain a certain level of control over this condition of yours."
"Condition?" I ask, attempting a wispy laugh, "you make it sound like an affliction."
Galadriel turns her fact to the moonlight. "I am not yet decided whether it is a gift or a curse. Regardless, you must learn to control it."
I frown. "How can I do that?"
"Practice focusing your mind," she says. Well, that's helpful. I look to her for explanation. "Concentration is the key, I believe... focus your mind on specific details when you travel. That is all the advice I can offer. This gift of yours is more powerful than you realise; do not let it take control of you."
"Do you have any idea what's causing the travelling in the first place?"
"I cannot say that I do," Galadriel breathes, "but I have heard rumors from the east; perhaps the answers lie there."
I nod, a little disappointed. "...Oh."
"Do not despair; these things take time. Until then, I need you to be prepared... I have had a satchel readied for you," the lady of light continues, "clothing, food, other essentials; they have been placed in your quarters. You should keep them close... I fear you may need them."
"W...What do you mean?"
Galadriel reaches out and takes hold of my hands. "You will be safe here; my daughter's love is a good man, and a righteous one. He would not let any harm come to you. But there are others out there in the wider world who would sooner see you killed than help you, men more dangerous than even Orcs and Goblins. Think of your own life, and keep it safe. I would suggest you stay here in Rivendell with my people... but from what I can read of you, not even I would be able to turn you towards abandoning Thorin Oakenshield's party; your loyalty is admirable, even at such an early stage. But know this; the road ahead shall not be easy. I fear that there is a traitor in your midst. One who would mislead you, who would bring you to harm. The one you would least expect to hurt you in such a way... be careful who you trust, Alice, daughter of the Other-world."
She touches her graceful fingers to my face, and her skin feels like cashmere. I close my eyes, lost in the feeling and terrified by her words. The feather-light touch leaves my face and I open my eyes to find that Lady Galadriel is gone. I walk back to the dormitory, repeating all of Galadriel's words over and over in my mind; think of your own life. a traitor in your midst.
"Lavender," Fili says, taking hold of my shoulders as we meet in the hallway. "I was just coming to find you; where did you disappear off to?"
"I just went for a little walk," I tell him. He shrugs and leads the two of us back towards the dormitories, and I find myself sat out on the balcony with Fili. He lights his pipe again, offers me a whiff and rolls his eyes as I decline.
"Needed to clear my head... it's beautiful, this place."
"I suppose it is," he says, before quickly adding, "for Elven architecture, at least."
I smile up at him. "Why do you hate the Elves?"
Like a child at a recital he decrees, "they abandoned our people at the Battle of Azanulbizar in Nanduhirion-"
"That's not what I asked," I say to him with a smirk. "Those are your uncle's words... why do you hate the Elves?"
Fili ponders for a moment. "Perhaps is the Elves had stepped up that day, I would have grown up dressed in purple silk rather than rags, with a crown on my head instead of a blacksmith's tie. Instead of huts of mud I would have played surrounded by pillars of silver, and the toys Bifur made for Kili and I would have been of gold rather than wood."
"A child doesn't need golden toys," I tell him, smiling again; he returns the gesture and folds his legs beneath him.
"No, I suppose not. But they would have broken a lot less easily... more than enough reason to hold a rancorous attitude towards them. Here, take a look at this." He removes one of his gloves and shows me the back of his short hand; there is a marking there, an unintelligible squiggle accompanied by a series of hap-dash lines.
"What is it?" I ask, confused, and he laughs.
"I've often asked myself the same; a failed attempt at a tattoo from childhood. Kili and I managed to get hold of some ink and a pricking needle when we were very young back in Ered Luin... we were great admirers of our uncle Dwalin, you see. I allowed my little brother, in my foolishness, to adorn me with this masterpiece. It was supposed to be in Angerthas runes, but looks more like the haphazard scribble of a deranged goblin-child."
I find myself laughing manically; Fili hushes me for worry of waking up his brother, still sleeping in the corner of the balcony, but I know that there's no way that is going to happen; he's probably still eating his KFC.
"What is it supposed to say?" I ask, rubbing my thumb over the ink work.
"'Brother'," he tells me, quite proudly; I feel my heart grow a little heavier with longing. "Spelt 'Khâzash' in Khuzdul, but it does, in fact, say 'Chasa'... Kili was never all that good as spelling in his youth- nor now, come to think of it- and our mother found us before Kili could etch the remaining 'sh' into my skin, though I doubt he would have even been able to spell those two letters right. One day I'll get my revenge by hailing some obscenity into the skin of his wrist for the rest of time."
"I bet mother Dwarf was impressed," I murmur with a roll of my eyes; Fili grimaces.
"Hardly. She sent us to Uncle Thorin; our father was dead by this time, may his beard forever remain uncut. Thorin scalded me terribly and simply confined Kili to the house and away from swords training for the week... he was always the favorite. He is the baby of the family, It has always been his job to be the favorite. I do worry sometimes," Fili confesses. "I see my dear brother gallivanting around, in all his youth and his excitable nature, and I fear for him."
Fili smiles. "Because he is my little brother, of course. It is my job to worry about him. I promised our mother I would watch over him, keep him as safe as I can. Don't let him know I have told you this- he would probably die of embarrassment- but he carries a small token from home; cherishes it. A gift from from our mother, Dis. She is quite the woman, our mother."
"I bet she is," I smile. "I'd love to meet her."
"I imagine you will, once this is all over... god help you. Without a beard on your chin, I doubt she would so much as look your way, Lavender... she is very traditional. Upholds ancient Dwarrow morals to the highest degree. I suppose you might win her over... eventually." Fili comes to the end of his pipe and clears his throat. "To bed, then," he suggests, "it will be a long journey ahead. If we are to leave tomorrow, we shall all need to be well-rested... goodnight, Lavender."
Once he is gone, I blow out the candles and drift over to Kili. I curl myself up beside him, back under the blanket; he murmurs a little in his sleep as I close my eyes and prepare to dream of home. I remember Galadriel's suggestion and try my hardest to stay faithful to it.
Focus your mind.
Kili, I think, as he is the one and only stable thing which I have found in both words.
AN: Fili banter is just so fun to write. Wrongly-spelt tattoos and gold toys... dat Dwarf childhood.
Until next time, you wonderful wizardlings!