fun while it lasted

@arrogantemu asked me for: an encounter between Luthien and Galadriel after the former returns from death - and as a mortal, no less? I think that they’d have a lot to talk about, especially if Galadriel was there in Doriath to watch the whole incident play out.

The moon is starting to set when Lúthien steps out of the dancing and drops down next to you on the grass, a little out of breath, her eyes shining. The musicians are still playing: laughter and song drift past them, as the dancers touch hands, circle, weave past each other, swift and joyful.

“Cousin,” she says, smiling.

“Lúthien – “ you start, and then – find that you have no more words to return, your own smile wavering.

Mortality sits upon Lúthien lightly, as yet. A child of Valinor, where the dead return to life, your cousin’s rebirth is less strange to you than to the Grey-elves around you – and yet for all that, your cousin still carries with her the terrible quality of a miracle; an act of the gods, walking before you in the flesh.

You close your eyes for a moment; when you reopen them, Lúthien is giving you a look of sympathy.

“Have you told Thingol?” you ask.

“He hasn’t actually asked,” Lúthien says, tilting her head to one side, looking a little amused. “It’s not as if I’ve tried to hide that I’m leaving. I mean, I don’t think he could lock me up in Hirilorn again, even if he tried.”

You had been there, a few days ago, when she first stepped back into the Thousand Caves, Beren walking beside her, both of them strong and healthy and alive. Once the first rush of shock had passed, Thingol’s desperate relief at his daughter’s return had been painful to witness: his stilted, faltering attempts at kindness to her husband almost as much so.

It wasn’t even that Lúthien had been angry with him. She had simply watched him, remote and unmoved, as if her father no longer had the power to touch her emotions at all; and Thingol’s pride had seemed to fall in on itself a little further, every time he looked at her.

“You could stay,” you say; and then press on, as Lúthien starts to speak, pity crossing her features. “No, Lúthien, I know what happened – but your father isn’t everyone. We all missed you. And – and weren’t you happy, here, before?”

Because - you will always be, in some ways, an outsider to Doriath. Amanya, a word from the language your uncle has forbidden, light in your eyes and gold in your hair, raised in a land with no true darkness and no threat always on its borders. And yet –

You love this land. You love the beauty of the Thousand Caves; the brightness of the stars; the song of nightingales that drifts through the forests. You met Celeborn here, and would have loved it only for that; but you would never have stayed – you, who came to Middle-earth in search of your own kingdom, and instead lingered for years within the Girdle – if you had not loved it so well.

(It will always be with you: if you had been there, in Nargothrond – but the thought is of little use.)

Lúthien - sighs, and leans forward. Her embrace is warm, as she pulls you against her; as you raise your arms to return the gesture, you feel her heartbeat, her pulse racing against yours, mortal-quick. You turn your head to feel her cheek against yours.

Then she pulls back.

“I can’t,” she says, simply. “And you know I can’t, cousin.”

“You – “

“You were there,” she says. “Galadriel. You stood by and did nothing to help, no more than anyone else did – don’t tell me you tried. If arguing with Father didn’t work you could have found something that did. You don’t – I know you don’t stop trying just because something’s difficult, cousin, you crossed the Grinding Ice and found your way here, you fought against your own family when they made themselves Kinslayers, you could have found a way.

“But you didn’t. I lived here my whole life, cousin, and there was no-one who would take my part when it mattered, no-one at all. And so I can’t stay. And you know that.”

You close your eyes, again.

“Yes,” you say. “I understand.”

You love Doriath. And –

Swords; and light; and blood that runs over stone. You cannot see what you would avert: only the knowledge, of violence and death; and the terrible certainty that it is, already, too late.

There is pity, still, in Lúthien’s gaze; but nothing, nothing at all, like mercy. And you understand – all too well - why Melian turned away.