In the houses that stretched along the road above the harbour of Alqualondë, towards the home of Master Elrond and his wife, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation. The Winter Solstice was approaching when the Wood Elves, who currently lived in these houses, would celebrate as they always did. But this year there was more anticipation that usual. For, once the days of echuir* arrived, a party would set off to explore the new lands they now knew were theirs by right. Soon they would celebrate under their own trees again.
When Tindómë, and her husband-brother Haldir, returned from their journey to The Halls of Waiting they were not only accompanied by the newly reborn Queen Ferveren but came with news of the vast forests they had passed through. And now, along with the approach of the night that marked the begetting of the next spring, almost everyone had begun to think about that upcoming venture.
*Echuir – the season of stirring – beginning in February.
Haldir returned to Lady Galadriel’s household, after a short time with his brothers, to report on his adventures in Tindómë’s company.
Her Ladyship welcomed him with some eagerness and encouraged him to describe the whole trip to her, almost day by day, here and there asking for further details.
He recounted the way the earth had shaken one night, and how calmly Tindómë had taken this. The way in which the lands before them had opened up and they realised that there were whole mountain ranges that no-one seemed to have known about. He told her of the accident during the storm, which had left Tindómë bleeding and unconscious, and the shock he had felt to see her blood travel up the stream against all he knew of water and rivers.
Her Ladyship nodded, but did not seem surprised. Nor was she surprised to hear that a cleft had opened in the rock, where the blood had touched it, and they had discovered a valley that Tindómë said was a ‘New Imladris’. Her Ladyship only asked what Master Elrond had said when told of it. Haldir admitted that he had left that to Tindómë as he had felt it his part to return to Her Ladyship as soon as possible. This earned him a smile and the comment that his swift return was much appreciated.
When his narrative came to the point where, after traversing yet more mountains, they had ridden in the Wild Hunt, Her Ladyship looked rather wistful.
“Ah… my Lord Celeborn would delight in such an opportunity,” she said.
“Tindómë rode with Lord Tulkas and learnt much from him of the lands there in the West,” Haldir said, continuing his tale, “and that evening we found Mandos Halls.”
The opening of the portal, using Tindómë’s blood, left Her Ladyship unsurprised. Haldir realised that she was well aware of the power within his brother-wife and felt embarrassed that he had thought Tindómë more nuisance than anything else.
At Haldir’s recounting of the judgement of Lord Námo on the vampire, Spike, Lady Galadriel nodded and declared it to be as astute as she would have expected. When he repeated Tindómë’s words, when she understood what Lord Námo required for Spike’s fëa to cross the portal – “There is no-one I trust more to hit his heart,” Her Ladyship simply nodded again.
She was very interested in Haldir’s impression of Queen Ferveren, and even more in his further descriptions of the lands he had seen when he had explored with Cambasion, and when riding with Lord Oromë’s Hunt, and also those they had seen as they returned to, and through, the Pelori.
His narrative finally reached its conclusion with a description of the reunion of the Woodland Queen and her son, and the way she had been greeted as they made their way from village to village.
“So much has been learnt,” Her Ladyship said, “and so much of it about yourself and your family.”
He thought about her words but, before he could formulate a reply, she continued.
“The very words you use, your tone of voice, and your facial expressions tell me, my dear and much valued Marchwarden, that you have a much better understanding of the worth of your brother-wife than you had before the two of you were forced together. And it is clear, too, that you feel more confident about your own future.”
Haldir would not have said, before, that he had been in any way wanting for confidence; and yet Her Ladyship was right. Since his rebirth, here in the West, he had been lost and lacking in purpose. In fact his only purpose had been to persuade his brothers to recognise the error of their ways and return to a life as close as possible to that which they had led in the Golden Woods.
“I would like to explore the lands we now know are there,” he finally answered. “I would take warriors and travel, map, learn all there is to learn.”
“I see no reason why you should not lead such expeditions,” Lady Galadriel said. “I can think of no-one better suited.”
And Haldir was content.
Now it was nearing the winter solstice and Haldir was preparing to accompany Her Ladyship to Alqualondë. Ostensibly she was visiting her daughter, and son by marriage, but, in reality, she wanted to discuss many things with both Legolas and his mother.
Haldir was actually looking forward to the Silvan celebrations – something he would not have expected a year or two earlier. But, even more, he was looking forward to being a senior part of the expedition that would soon set off into the interior again; the trees might be many leagues away, but he fancied he could hear them calling him.
Queen Ferveren sat on a veranda of Elrond and Celebrían’s house, watching the ever changing play of sunlight on the sea, discussing the upcoming celebrations with Celebrían. Elrond’s wife was, of course, her hostess, but it was clear that Ferveren would be at the centre of the mid-winter celebrations this time.
The two ellyth found they had more in common now than when they had lived in Middle Earth, and were happily sorting out the relevant protocol for the celebration.
She hoped she would be able to relate as easily to Celebrían’s mother, because Ferveren knew that the ease with which the Sindar and Silvan elves could move into the homelands, meant for them for so long, would depend on that relationship. For Galadriel, as a princess of the Noldor, could either try to use her connections to claim seniority over those new lands, or use them to prevent friction with the Noldor.
Ferveren had met Galadriel and Celebrían, of course, in that previous life. Not that there had ever been a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing between Imladris and Ferveren’s home forest. Lothlórien was more easily reached from either but, although Celeborn was distant kin to Oropher and therefore, of course, to Thranduil, Thranduil had never been comfortable spending much time in the presence of the Noldorin princess Galadriel.
Lord Námo’s way of releasing Ferveren from his Halls had given her time to slowly reacclimatise to being Queen. And now, as the guest of Elrond and Celebrían, she had time to pause, again, and make new friends.
Tindómë she already counted both as a friend and almost a daughter. It was interesting to see that Celebrían treated The Key in much the same way. Celebrían had also taken Legolas under her wing, when he arrived here, and treated him rather as if he was one of her own sons. For this Ferveren would have liked her immediately, anyway, but in fact she found that Celebrían was someone she valued simply for herself.
They shared, too, the worries of having beloved family members who remained in Middle Earth, whose presence they missed, and of whose arrival they had no sure expectation. Something they both, also, had in common with Celebrían’s mother.
This time, Ferveren thought, the Lady of the Great Greenwood and the Lady of the Galadhrim were equals. Equals who must work together to make sure they could move into the lands always meant for them without undue interference from those Elves who had always lived here. That Galadriel was going to come here, to Alqualondë, for their first meeting on this side of the Great Sea certainly confirmed that they were equals – and hopefully allies.
Reassured by Elrond that Gimli was certainly healthy enough to travel, and should remain so until they could be sure that any snow in the mountains would be melting by the time they reached them, Legolas was more than happy to stay in Alqualondë to celebrate mid-winter.
Preparations were well underway for the celebrations; and for Legolas they would be even more joyous this year because of the presence of his mother.
He was looking forward to the longest night. To asking his mother for the first dance, after lighting the bonfire down on the sea strand as had become their current tradition, and then to continuing his rivalry with Galanthir to see who could lose all their ribbons first.
After it, though, he knew that thought would have to be given to just how many, and who, would set off with him to explore the new lands.
“What if Rhîwen arrives in a ship whilst you are far inland?” Ithilienne asked her brother.
“She will not,” Haldirin said, with some certainty. “Her letter said that she is not yet ready to sail without any of her family, and so I will enjoy the exploration, and seeing where we will live, but even so I will be able to keep my promise to be waiting for her at the quayside. She is still trying to persuade her grandfather to sail. It is such a pity that he does not know that his wife awaits him.”
“Hmm….” said his sister.
She had that look. Haldirin wondered what she was thinking about as she gazed through the window at the sea.
Then she shook her head and said “Well, if you have miscalculated I will greet her for you. For Legolas and I think it better for me to stay here, for now, and continue learning what I can from Lady Celebrían and others.”
‘And get to know his mother better, too,’ thought Haldirin, but he didn’t say so.
“I will go, of course,” Tharhîwon said to his lover. “Gimli will need someone to help with those things he finds difficult, and it is not always meet and right that it should be Legolas. There are times when his infirmities bother him and he would prefer Legolas not to be reminded, for he knows Legolas is less prepared for his death than he is himself.”
Nithdur smiled and nodded, but said nothing, waiting for Tharhîwon to continue.
“But I am less unsettled by signs of his mortality; Adar led me to fear it not. And as I am Gimli’s apprentice I am sure he would want to explain to me anything he sees of interest…”
“You will tell me all about it on your return,” Nithdur said. “I will stay here to complete Legolas’ commissions so that they are ready for the Queen when the time comes.”
He was working on a set of tooled leather trunks. Leather had to be carefully chosen, then dyed and shaped, intricately patterned, and stretched over the wooden bases; he hoped to have a set of saddle-bags completed in time for Legolas to give them to his mother as a Solstice gift, but the whole ensemble would take many, many, months to finish.
He enjoyed every minute of such work – staying behind would be no hardship and, he thought as he slid his hand down over Tharhîwon’s hip and ghosted it over his bossan, there would be others to enjoy bodily pleasures with… and almost certainly a joyful and vigorous reunion with Thar when the expedition returned.
bossan - Silvan, the plant known as the lesser bulrush, and slang for penis (you can see why if you look at a picture of the plant…)
Gimli was looking forward to the celebration of mid-winter more than he usually did. To dwarves the length of the daylight was less important than the time of the first snowmelt in the mountains, when the rivers through their caverns would begin to flow with increased vigour, and care had to be taken to keep the channels clear.
They certainly didn’t celebrate with… well his father might have termed it debauchery, but Gimli thought of it more as elvish abandonment or, occasionally, ‘those shenanigans.’ Both of ‘the lads’ were popular and, despite it not being his way of celebrating anything, Gimli was quietly proud of both Legolas and Tharhîwon’s abilities in this ‘hunt’.
And if one of his lads would spend much of the following day in a bed with the wee lass, whilst the other one was much more likely to spend it in a bed with the leather-worker, well it was their own affair – or affairs. Actually Gimli liked Nithdur. He was a good craftsman; he had made Gimli a most practical tool belt that was also a thing of beauty. And, contrary to what some believed, dwarves appreciated beauty.
Also, contrary to what some believed, dwarves were not so straight-laced that he disapproved of what was clearly a satisfying and enjoyable physical relationship (if his ears were anything to go by) between his younger lad and the other ellon. It was, after all, not unlike the sort of thing young dwarves sometimes got up to. And that, he thought, would have surprised a good many people too.
From what he knew of elves, which was by now a good deal, if Tharhîwon and Nithdur moved on to other lovers they would remain firm friends; and that would make for a good working relationship over the centuries to come. Yes, all in all Gimli was happy about the directions the love lives of both his lads were taking.
But the main reason he was looking forward to the celebrations with more enthusiasm than usual was nothing to do with that. Not even because Lady Galadriel was to attend them. No; for once Gimli was looking forward to the turning of the season, and the lengthening of days, because then they could begin to prepare for that more dwarven day of note when the snow melt would allow passage through the mountains, and they could begin what was likely to be his last great adventure.
“Will your brother not want to ensure that the Galadhrim take control of the best of the new land?” asked Galanthir.
“Honestly I think not,” Orophin answered. “At least not in the way that you mean. From my conversation with him, before he returned to Her Ladyship, I believe there is land he believes would suit the Galadhrim well. But it is not the land your queen thinks would best suit those from the Great Greenwood.”
“My queen?” asked Galanthir. “Are you not one of us now?”
A good question. Orophin paused to consider it. Ferveren was definitely Lithôniel’s queen, and Orophin was no longer bound in fealty to Lady Galadriel.
“I am of the Ithilrim,” he finally answered. “If Legolas and his mother decide to have one land between them, then I would live in that land and acknowledge her my queen. But, as yet, my fealty lies only with Legolas.”
Galanthir nodded. “In truth,” he said, “I think Legolas has the taste for leading his own folk now. Even if the queen stays with us at first, when His Majesty comes I think they will not expect our lord to return to the role of princeling.”
‘When King Thranduil comes?’ thought Orophin, ‘I am not sure it is that certain…’ But he kept the thought to himself.
“Both Haldir and Tindómë seem to think there is land aplenty,” he said aloud. “And we shall see for ourselves soon enough, for I cannot imagine you staying here when such a venture is afoot – and Lithôniel and I will travel with Tindómë and Rumil. Legolas knows better than to question my wife once she has made her mind up on this!”
“Master Elrond says that, although he would very much like to see Imladris Eden*, he thinks it better that he leaves this expedition entirely to Legolas.”
“And Haldir,” Tindómë’s husband interrupted her.
“And Haldir. But mainly Legolas.”
This time he smiled. “I think you are right, meleth. Should my brother try to take over he will, most certainly, find the Lord of the Ithilrim can be as regal as he needs to be. But Haldir will be, in part, the guide on this expedition. And probably in large part, for even you would have to admit he has a better sense of direction, and distance, than you do.”
“Fair point. But he had so better make sure we revisit the glade where we danced naked while Nessa was there invisibly admiring his physique. Then you can either emulate him or just snigger at the mental image, melethron-nín.”
“From what you have both said, meleth, I think once we are over the second range of mountains, and amongst the trees we will come to know, all of us may feel we need to shed our clothes and dance naked amongst them… or more.”
“Cool, “said Tindómë. “I bet Nessa will lurk around to watch that!”
*Author’s note – ‘Eden’ really is the Sindarin for ‘new, begun again’.
Galanthir was looking forward to the expedition getting started. He had no doubts that he would be part of it; he had ridden so many patrols with Legolas over the years but, more importantly, they were the best of friends.
Only a short while ago he might have been a little worried about leaving his young, re-embodied, sister here for the year or two, or three, that they would be away. But their parents had been on board the ship that had arrived whilst Tindómë and Haldir had been away and so the timing was perfect.
Tindómë might say the Valar had a hand in this but Galanthir had been brought up to think of them as distant and irrelevant and, even though he was now living in Valinor, he hadn’t really changed his attitude. Although… a chance to ride with Lord Oromë’s Hunt, now that was the sort of contact with the Valar he would enjoy!
In the meantime there was another hunt to look forward to and, this time, he would almost certainly win the yéni-long wager with Legolas as the Lord of the Ithilrim was likely to be a little distracted…
And here we leave the Ithilrim of Alqualondë, along with their hosts, Lady Galadriel and her Marchwarden, and one dwarf; preparing for the mid-winter celebrations before the start of the next phase of their life in this new world. But that phase, dear reader, is not for this story, but remains to be told at another time.
This really is almost the prologue to the next story - but it may be a little while before I get to it!
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