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The Very Lands by Tyelca

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For the Behind the Scenes challenge; I have to admit here I used the Simlfic prompt generator on this site for inspiration. Out came Celeborn as a character, during the time period of Unbodied, Sauron escapes the Downfall of Nûmenor, returning to Mordor

This is also more of a character study than anything else; I enjoyed writing Celeborn, since he's a character that doesn't get that much screentime in Tolkien's novels and was therefore open to interpretation.

The earth shakes and trembles. The ground is breaking, uprooting trees and scaring away the animals. The rivers rise and flood their shores. Is there any place safe for them to go? Celeborn does not know. There is certainly no sanctuary where he could seek comfort as he dances around the destruction. And although, after time passes, earthquakes will subside and the trees can regrow, Celeborn could not shake the feeling something terrible had just happened. Something irreversible. Natural disasters were not uncommon in the world; they occurred from time to time and he and his people had learned to deal with them like they dealt with everything else: quickly and with care. Yet no earthquake before had ever been so intense or long-lasting.

Waiting, now and then moving positions to remain unscathed, Celeborn outlasts the quake. The ground calms again and only when he is absolutely certain it is over does he dare to stand up and go look for his people.

His body is in safety; Celeborn has suffered no injury and his natural swiftness saved him from any he might have received. He makes his way through the paths that had been clear only yesterday, but were now barely accessible because of the debris that covered them. The first Eldar he sees he does not recognize by face alone, but he is glad to see others have survived the sudden disturbance in the earth. The same relief sharpens their features in the early morning light. They stay together as they make their way to the heart of the realm, where most people should have been. But when they arrive in Caras Galadhon the vast mellyrn trees are void of any Elves. Random objects are lying about; Celeborn glances up, and sees the many houses and halls are completely destroyed. He notices his own palace, where he made so many good memories in such a short time.

Thoughts of his wife fight to make themselves known, to overwhelm his other mental functions, but Celeborn forces the panic down. This is not the first time he’d lost her in times of distress; she proved time and time again she can handle herself, perhaps better than he.

He looks around, keen eyes searching for any signs of life. They find none; what they do find, however, was a light track of footprints; if Celeborn were to believe his eyes, he would swear a large number of people had recently passed this way. No single Eldar would ever leave such obvious imprints on the ground, but a multitude might have. Celeborn calls his companions and points to the track. Their opinion matches his; they will follow the trail and see where it leads. Of course, were it but yesterday Celeborn would easily have been able to tell the way, but now the entire forest is different.

The needless destruction of the forest, of the ancient trees, Celeborn feels like an ache in his heart. He has seen such demolition before and fervently wished he would never see it again, but his prayers went unanswered.

He and his companions make their way carefully through the underbrush and though their progress is slow, Celeborn dares not speed them up for fear of missing some vital clue concerning the rest of his people. And his wife.

He is more concerned about her than anyone else currently in residing Lothlórien; he knows it is unfair. But at the same time he feels an immense joy that Celebrían is with her fiance. He had not approved of the match at first but his daughter is headstrong and did not ask for his blessing; one day she simply informed him and her mother she was going to marry. She truly was her mother’s daughter.

In the end it is not him who spots them first; one of the young hunters he’d met earlier suddenly shouts, catching Celeborn’s attention. His youth was obvious; no one who had survived the First Age would have given their position away like that. The fear of the Enemy being near remains even now ingrained in their customs.

For now it doesn’t matter, though, for between the trees the faces of countless Eldar become visible. Celeborn can not suppress a relieved laugh at the sight of so many in safety. He nonetheless scans the crowd, looking for the specific face he longs to see most of all. When at first he does not spot her distinctive golden locks, his worry grows again, but finally he sees her. A burden he wasn’t aware he carried falls off his shoulder; Celeborn feels much lighter now. His people are in safety and so is his wife; but they are pale and in their faces Celeborn sees his own terror from before reflected. Something horrible had happened.

The time is early in the morning, after dawn but before sun reaches her zenith. The sky is a bright blue and not a single cloud marrs the vast expanse; the many fallen trunks allowed for great holes in the canopy of leaves through which the heavens can now be seen. Nature is at peace once again. Yet the sky is too bright, the clouds are too absent; the sun seems further away than the day before and something is very wrong.

All apart, these phenomena would not have been enough to account for the fear Celeborn experiences; the unadulterated terror that courses through his veins and that he cannot explain. Not even together would these signs have earned anything more that a cursory glance and perhaps a short discussion. But it isn’t only what Celeborn can see; it is what he remembered.

Nearly all of those who’d followed him and his wife here were survivors of the First Age. And being a survivor meant they’d survived the final sinking of Beleriand as tremors wrecked the remains of what had once been a vast continent. It had been earthquakes like this one that in the end tore the land asunder. The Host of the Valar, with all its Valinorian Eldar in its ranks, always pressed forward; what they left in their wake had not been a concern. Then the impact of the Great Black Dragon had sealed Beleriand’s fate.

Celeborn had thought, hoped, prayed those days of endless destruction were gone. After more than three millenia without any sign of the Valar he had even allowed himself to believe it. Without his consent Celeborn turns his eyes west, where he is certain the source of destruction was located. For who else but increasingly arrogant Nûmenor would have dared attract the Valar’s wrath? For all its maritime power and established colonies, Nûmenor is but a young country that has nonetheless forgotten its history. Perhaps it was even their ignorance that led them to this stupidity; Celeborn has heard tales of how their King had taken the Gorthaur as his royal adviser.

After preventing his dominion over Middle-Earth only a short time ago, Celeborn still cannot understand how the Nûmenorian King could even have considered taking the Gorthaur on in his staff and at first Celeborn had not believed the tales. But when the Nûmenorian colonies and emissaries became more and more aggressive, and he heard whispers of a temple erected in Morgoth’s honor, he could no longer deny it. Inside, in the privacy of his mind, Celeborn had actually been glad with that development, for it meant the mainland was, for a time at least, freed from the Gorthaur’s evil presence, but soon that satisfaction turned to dread.

For it was not only Nûmenor itself the fiend had affected; the effects were felt even in fair Lothlórien, a place he’d believed to be a safe haven with the last war against the Darkness still so fresh in memory.

But Lothlórien would be rebuild; in time, the trees would stand higher than ever before and the holes in the canopy of leaves would be mended. It will be hard work, but Celeborn looks forward to raising the land again, watching it grow and develop itself in new ways. There is a beauty in there; and Celeborn promises the destroyed land around him he will defend it from any threat it may face. The darkness does not hold his heart and he will not allow it to claim that which his heart has embraced.

A hand touches his own and raises him from his thoughts; warm fingers intertwine with his as his wife presses herself close. “It’s happening again,” she whispers in her mother tongue. Celeborn understands her words anyway and holds her tight in response. “It won’t,” he promises her. “We won’t have to run again.”

“Since when did you become blessed with foresight?” his wife quips through her worry. Celeborn lets out a short chuckle. “I didn’t; I just stated a fact.” It is a light moment amidst the ruins. They both need it; these little moments between them that keep them grounded in this world when Celeborn feels that little itching in his heart that urges him to just leave the darkness behind and go into the everlasting light in the West. He knows his wife sometimes experiences something similar; they need each other to remind them now is not yet the time. Middle-Earth still needs them, and Celeborn has long ago promised his daughter he will not leave before she does; he intends to keep that promise.

“We shall weather the storm, no matter how hard the wind blows?” she asks and her question implies so more than the words she speaks aloud. “No matter if it blows away the very lands around us,” Celeborn says. Dryly he adds, “And that, I believe, is a trait that runs in your family.” He is rewarded with a resounding slap against his cheek, but his beautiful wife is smiling again and in this moment, to him that is all that matters.

The very lands around them, indeed. Celeborn will make sure of it.

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