A White Wizard in the Golden Wood
by Daughter of Kings & Evermind
Awareness of his
earthly surroundings returned slowly, and with it came pain. The
stinging, throbbing ache of the wounds he had taken in the long battle.
The muscle-cramping bite of intense cold as the wind swirled the snow
about him. And beyond the physical pain, something more: an agony of
the heart. He had failed. For all the long years since the drowning of
Númenor, he had walked the paths of Middle Earth, seeking the
destroy Sauron, had toiled on even after his companions had lost
interest or been distracted, until by events that he set in motion, the
One Ring had been found. And then he, himself, had betrayed it by his
own mouth to Saruman, had nearly thrown away everything for which he
had striven so long. Worse, in his blundering, he had left Frodo
unguarded and unaware of his own danger until it was almost too late.
The little Hobbit would bear the mark of the Witch-King’s blade
forever, because he had failed.
The Balrog, he had thought, had been his opportunity to redeem
himself. Not only to protect the Ringbearer, but to destroy the foul
beast of Morgoth, cleanse the world of the creature’s taint. It had
been worth the death of his earthly body to ensure his success. Or so
he had thought. But it was not to end there. The Ringbearer lived, but
the Ring still existed, and all of Arda hung in the balance. His task
was not complete. And so he had been sent back to finish it.
Olórin sought inside himself for the strength to get to his
feet, to take the first step of the long journey before him.
“Seek for him in the Hithaeglir,” she had said, “and when you find him,
bring him to the Golden Wood.” Gwaihir, Lord of the Winds, dipped a
wing and started another circle, soaring gracefully along the currents
high above the mountain range. The circle took him over the pass of
Caradhras and along the western slope of Celebdil and then, as he
crossed east over the range, he saw the prone figure near the peak.
Gwaihir swept his wings back and dove toward the peak, spreading them
just short of landing to hover momentarily. Swiftly, yet gently, he
raked his talons through the snow, scooping up the body of his friend.
One powerful flap pulled him back up into the air, and he began the
long spiraling glide of his descent into Lórien.
Celeborn stood silent and watched as the grey elven boats of the
Fellowship moved out into the swift-flowing Celebrant. With elven sight
he watched until they rounded the turn and the grey boats were
swallowed by the unchanging stream. He thought he saw a single hand
raised in farewell. Only as the stern of the last boat vanished did
Celeborn become aware that his own hands were clenched at his sides.
Silently, the elf lord sank to his knees in the grass of the river bank
and bowed his head into his hands. With the passing of the Fellowship
from Lórien, the doom of the Eldar was assured. He had never
that he would stand by and watch that day arrive. But circumstances
change all things. Even the Eldar change, he thought, though for them
it is a grief and not a blessing. Galadriel called it the long defeat.
She was wiser than he.
He felt her touch upon his shoulder, and he let his hands fall to the
earth, suddenly intensely interested in the pale niphredil starring the
grass. How had he never noticed before the flawless symmetry of those
tiny miracles? But somehow, even the little star flowers now seemed
diminished. The grass, too, was fading, the river grey now, rather than
the silver which had earnt it the name of Celebrant. Even the sunlight
seemed pale, here on the borders of the mortal world. He remembered the
fear and awe of that first rising, as Arien the fire-golden blazed
forth. He remembered thinking that light like hers must surely banish
“Why do you weep, Lord of the Trees?” Galadriel whispered, and her
voice was soft and sad.
“I weep for many things.” he answered, and knew it to be true, though
he had not considered it until now. He was surprised to feel the tears
upon his face. “I weep for the passing of the world that was, and for
the grief of the world which may never come. I weep for Frodo, and for
Lórien, and for the passing of Mithrandir. For if he has fallen
who shall stand?”
“Who indeed?” she answered, “But Mithrandir is not fallen. This I
tell you now, for I know him of old. He is not among the living, even
as Sauron is not, and so he cannot die. I tell you this now only as a
sign of hope, for I know not where he now walks, in Middle Earth or
without. But surely if he has any power by which to make it so, he will
Celeborn was silent, and though he found no comfort in her words,
he no longer felt the need for despair. He arose, and looked into her
eyes, eyes that were deep and ripleless as some unfathomable well. Even
now at times, Celeborn thought that he could still see the glow of
Valinor about her, the golden light which marked her as the last of the
High Elves from across the sea. Valinor... Celeborn had never seen it,
even in the days when it was still in the visible world. Nor had he
ever wanted to. He was a creature of the dark forests, before ever the
Feanorians came thither from the West. Less high than her perhaps, but
blessed with the ignorance of the Avari. Silently, gently, Celeborn
bent his head to kiss her. He let the tears fall.
Galadriel stood upon the highest flet of Caras Galadhon, and looked out
over her realm. Lothlórien, the Dreamflower, heart of Elvendom
earth. She raised her white arms, and even in the twilight of the tree
shadows, bright Earendil gleamed upon the ring about her finger.
Strange... for so long Nenya had held such a power over her. The desire
to use the silver ring, to heal all hurts, to challenge Sauron for the
mastery had grown only stronger with every passing day.
And then, when Frodo had stood and offered her the One Ring... if she
had accepted that gift... none could have stood against her. Sauron
would have been cast into the void, utterly destroyed, and she herself
raised higher than Varda Tintalle. And yet... she had forsaken that
chance. Given back the gift in folly, or perhaps, in the ultimate
realisation that nothing can endure forver. And now, strangely, she
stood there as she had every day at the waning of the sun, and felt
nothing. Nenya and all her powers held no lure nor desire for her now.
Galadriel twisted the silver ring between her fingers. A pretty jewel
now, nothing more. A precious toy wrought by Celebrimbor long ago,
never meant as a tool of conquest.
'I passed the test...' Her own words to Frodo came back to her, and
Galadriel smiled sadly. He had no
understanding at all of what a test it had been. The long defeat, she
had said, but truly the defeat had begun before even she had risen to
the fight. Galadriel looked high and far, out over Lothlorien that she
loved. With elven sight
she looked, and descried high above, the dark shape of an eagle flying
swiftly, his great wings cutting off the stars, his talons cradling the
tiny shape of a man.
Gwaihir Windlord descended on the green glade of the fountain, and the
Lord and Lady were there before him. Before alighting, the great eagle
opened his talons, allowing the figure of an old, old man to slip
gently onto the lawn. His hair and beard were white, his back was bent
as with the weight of many years. He was naked, yet it seemed to the
eyes of Galadriel that he was robed in a white flame which burned, but
could never again consume. He stood bare, save for the ring upon his
left hand. Piercingly bright that ring shone, and the stone upon it was
as a red flame. Narya, the kindler reborn.
Even as Celeborn bowed to the shining figure that stood before them and
whispered, “Hail, Lord,” that figure stumbled, and his light dimmed.
Celeborn moved quickly to support him, as Galadriel stepped forward to
robe Mithrandir in white. At her signal, other elves came into the
glade, carrying a litter to bear the Wizard and herbs to heal him.
“Rest now, Mithrandir. You have been sorely tested, and there are
yet more trials ahead, but for now, take rest and be healed. There will
be time later for councils and for deeds.”