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Son of Gondor

by Lineawen

Chapter 45

As they descended into the valley, the sun began to sink behind the mountains, and the shadows deepened in the woods, so that their path took them into thickets where deep dusk had already gathered. When they had come out into the open again, they saw above them a pale evening sky dusted with a few early stars. Before them lay a wide treeless space, beyond which was a deep fosse, lost in soft shadow; the grass on the brink of the moat still glowed green with the memory of the sun that had gone. Upon the further side rose a green earthen wall of great height that encircled a high hill thronged with mallorn-trees, taller than any they had yet seen. Their height could not be guessed, but they stood up in the twilight like living towers.

"Welcome to Caras Galadhon!" said Haldir as he turned to the Company. "Here is the city of the Galadhrim. But we cannot enter here, for the gates do not look northward. We must go round to the southern side, and the way is not short, for the city is great."

He led them along a road paved with white stone that ran along the outer brink of the moat. As they walked, Boromir gazed at the city that climbed up on his left like a green cloud; as the evening deepened, he saw lights springing up above him until all the hill seemed on fire with stars.

What kind of city is this? he wondered in dismay. I see no stone here, no walls to speak of, no towers! Rivendell was strange to me, with its houses built around trees and open to the air, but at least there they had proper foundations of rock and stone. What kind of people are these Elves, that live in the trees like birds? What kind of aid can they offer my people?

They came at last to a white bridge and the great gates of the city. The gates faced southwest, set between the ends of the encircling wall, and they were tall and strong, and hung with many lamps. Haldir knocked and spoke, and the gates opened soundlessly; of guards they could see no sign. The travellers passed within and the gates shut behind them with a faint clatter. Boromir felt a thrill of apprehension at the sound of the gate closing behind him.

They passed through a deep lane between the ends of the wall and entered the City of the Trees. There was the sound of many voices about them and in the air above, and far away up on the hill they could hear the sound of singing falling from on high like soft rain upon the leaves. They went along many paths and climbed many stairs, until they came to the high places and saw before them a fountain shimmering in the middle of a wide lawn. The fountain was lit by silver lamps that swung from the boughs of trees, and the water fell into a basin of silver, from which a white stream spilled.

The Company looked up in awe as they saw beyond the fountain many great trees, with smooth boles that gleamed like grey silk, towering up, up until branches far above opened their huge limbs under shadowy clouds of leaves. Upon the south side of the lawn there stood the mightiest of all the trees. A broad stairway lay among the great roots at its base; by the stairway stood three mail-clad Elves. They sprang up as the travellers approached, and one of the Elf-wardens blew a clear note on a small horn, which was answered three times from far above.

"We are expected," said Haldir to the Company. "I will go first. It is a long climb for those not accustomed to such stairs, but you may rest upon the way."

As they climbed slowly up they passed many flets in other trees: some on one side, some on another and some set about the boles of the trees so that the stairs passed through them. Elves stood here and there on these flets and on balconies that overlooked the stair on which the Companions were climbing, and others passed them on the stairway as they ascended. Boromir soon lost count of the steps as they wound their way round and round the great tree trunk.

Darkness descended upon them as they passed on up, and night was about them before they had gone even halfway. In the arched roof of the stairway, and among the branches and the ever-moving leaves of the trees, countless lights and lamps were gleaming, blue and gold and silver.

Boromir came last in line, stepping slowly and carefully, looking about him as he climbed. His wounded hand ached, and he realized he was gripping the strap of his shield tightly; he made a conscious effort to loosen his grip. It was all so very unfamiliar and unsettling for him to be in this strange place! He felt unsafe, so he took refuge in his old habit of keeping watch, guarding his back. Foolish and overcautious, perhaps; but it brought him a little comfort.

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Haldir led them at last onto a tiered flet within a vaulted chamber near the top of the mallorn tree. Before them was a flight of stairs, flanked by hanging basins and lamps set in tall stands; at the top of the stairs, two tall guards stood at attention. Boromir looked around carefully. Behind them, the flet circled around a wide opening; looking down, Boromir saw that they were at a great height above the ground. He shaded his eyes against the glare of the lights in the trees and look back along their path. You must relax! he chided himself. What do you fear here?

A slight sound from Haldir alerted Boromir, and he turned to see two Elves descending the stairs; there was no doubt in his mind that these two were the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim. Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord. The hair of the Lady was of deep gold, and the hair of the Lord was of silver; no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes. Their glance was keen, yet profound; after a moment, Boromir looked away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the others of the Company were standing quietly at attention. He felt uneasy, and shifted his weight on his feet, then stood still, waiting.

Celeborn courteously greeted each one of the Companions by name, but his look was grave.

"The enemy knows you have entered our land," he said. "What hope you had in secrecy is now gone." He paused. "Eight there are here, yet nine there were set out from Rivendell. Tell me, where is Gandalf? For I much desire to speak with him. I can no longer see him from afar."

The Lady Galadriel spoke for the first time. Her voice was low-pitched and she spoke quietly, but Boromir could hear every word clearly, as if she spoke close to his ear. "Gandalf the Grey did not pass the borders of this land. He has fallen into shadow."

Aragorn nodded sadly. "He remained in Moria and did not escape."

"He was taken by both shadow and flame -- a Balrog of Morgoth!" exclaimed Legolas, angrily. "For we went needlessly into the net of Moria."

"Alas!" said Celeborn; "We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. But had I known that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria again, I would have forbidden you to pass the northern borders, you and all that went with you!"

Even from where he stood, Boromir could hear Gimli's heavy sigh of sorrow.

"Needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life," said Galadriel. "Those that followed him knew not his mind and cannot report his full purpose. But however it may be with the guide, the followers are blameless. Do not repent of your welcome to the Dwarf. If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlorien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?"

She turned to look at Gimli and her gaze was kind. "Do not let the great emptiness of Khazad-dum fill your heart, Gimli son of Gloin. For the world has grown full of peril, and in all lands love is now mingled with grief."

There was silence. Boromir felt a pang of sorrow at the thought of his own grief: his father's need, his people's struggle, his separation from Faramir, his own desire for a weapon to end the war once and for all...

At length, Celeborn spoke again. "What now becomes of this Fellowship? Without Gandalf, hope is lost." He paused and his look was troubled. "I did not know that your plight was so evil; let Gimli forget my harsh words. I will do what I can to aid you, each according to his wish and need, but especially that one of the little folk who bears the burden."

"Your quest is known to us," said Galadriel, looking at Frodo. "But we will not here speak of it more openly. Do not fear, for even now there is hope left. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be. But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the company is true."

And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. Boromir felt her eyes upon him and he looked up; her gaze was stern and piercing. He blinked in surprise, but could not turn away. He suddenly felt trapped, pinned down. Words came into his mind and he listened, fear growing in his heart as she spoke inside his head. He swallowed hard and tried to concentrate, to understand what it was she was telling him and showing him. He frowned, and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. No...this cannot be...

Boromir shuddered and drew in a sharp breath, but he could not hold back the gasping sob that welled up from deep inside him. He bowed his head; with an effort he stilled his ragged breathing. When he looked up again, she was still gazing at him, but her look was not as sharp. What did he see there? Pity? Why pity?

As Galadriel turned her glance away, Boromir sighed and felt suddenly weary, as if he had been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly. But words had been spoken, and he had heard them, and he was dismayed.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled," said Galadriel at last, smiling softly. "Go now, and rest, for you are weary with sorrow and much toil. Tonight you will sleep in peace."

"Even if your Quest did not concern us closely," added Celeborn, "you should have refuge in this City, until you were healed and refreshed. Now you shall rest, and we will not speak of your further road for a while."

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The Elves spread for them a pavilion among the trees near the fountain at the foot of the great tree, and in it they laid soft couches for the weary travellers, and brought them food and drink to refresh themselves. As they ate, they talked quietly amongst themselves of their night before in the treetops and of their day's journey and of the Lord and Lady.

Boromir ate with the others, but he was silent and did not share in the conversation. He kept a tight rein on his thoughts, for fear there would be someone else looking; for fear his face would reveal his anxiety, reveal what he had heard and seen.

I must be alone for awhile, Boromir thought desperately. He set down his plate and walked away from the pavilion. Finding a bench on the edge of the hill that overlooked a tree-filled hollow, he sat with his back to the pavilion. Boromir stared out into the trees below, but he saw nothing. Tears brimmed in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks, but he was not aware of them. At last, he covered his face with his hands and gave himself up to despair.