Eyes sharper than an eagle’s lingered on the horizon as the king’s company rode forth towards the Hidden Caves of Nargothrond. A great figure clad in grey and silver rode at the head of the column under the banner of the wingéd-moon. For this was the army of Doriath, riding in answer to the tidings of Celegorm and Curufin.
Much as he wished to doubt it the king feared that despite the duplicity of the Sons of Fëanor, their tidings were true at least in part. That Lúthien was captive in Nargothrond he had little doubt, but he hoped that his beloved nephew was still alive against all hope. The messengers that the brothers had sent had been imprecise and insulting, saying only that Finrod had been discovered and now lay dead in the company of his daughter’s unwanted suitor and that Celegorm proposed to marry her himself.
Almost, he thought wryly, making Beren appear a good match. While Thingol was himself not fond of the men his nephew found so intriguing he felt no enmity for them. His greatest dislike was founded in the doom that followed them and thus forbid their presence in his realm. And of course, in Beren’s insulting desire to wed his daughter.
Still, no man however, unkempt and mortal was as dreadful a match as one of the kin-slaying sons of Fëanor. Sometimes he wondered why a noble and honorable elf couldn’t have fallen in love with his daughter. Still, at least Beren would die and be gone forever beyond the circles of the world. Celegorm would surely manage to annoy him even from the halls of Mandos.
The king’s thoughts scattered as his eyes caught the flash of steel in the distance. Likely it was Beleg and his scouts returning with news of his daughter and his kinsmen.
Beleg brought his horse to a stop before the king and bowed refusing to meet his eyes.
“My king,” he began softly, “Your daughter has escaped from Nargothrond and neither Celegorm nor Curufin have any power left among the people that realm.”
“Glad tidings,” said the king, “Perforce I must ask, if this is true whence comes this air of sorrow as though some great evil is upon us.”
“Orodreth is king in Nargothrond.”
“Then Finrod is fallen indeed,” said Mablung from where he rode at the king’s right hand, “For never would Orodreth take the crown unless his king was surely dead.”
“How” asked Thingol his voice soft and pained.
Something unreadable passed behind Beleg’s eyes.
“A werewolf of Gorthaur. Felagund’s company were not dead as the Fëanorians would have had us believe. The Abhorred one captured them alive.”
The king’s stern eyes grew sorrowful.
“If he had them alive, he would not have killed them until he learned their purpose in his lands. It is unlikely that he did not see that King Felagund was no mere elf.”
Thus far Celeborn had remained silent but now he spoke, thinking of his wife whose last brother was now lost to her.
“Lord Celeborn guesses aright,” continued Beleg, “for the king struggled mightily with Gorthaur and it was with difficulty that that servant of evil saw through the disguises that he had woven about them.”
Thingol closed his eyes.
“He knew then who it was he had within his grasp? How long did he have my kinsmen at his mercy?”
“From what we learned of those who escaped that place, from iavas (harvest/early autumn) to firith (late autumn).”
“And how was it that others escaped Tol-in-Gaurhoth but not Finrod Felagund?”
“Your daughter sire,” said Beleg slowly, “she came the isle and with the aid of Huan of Valinor she was victorious over Gorthaur, Tol Sirion is free. From what the prisoners say she was in time to save Beren.”
“And how is it that a mortal survived when even the King of Nargothrond could not? Would not Gorthaur keep one such as Felagund alive as long as he might?” asked Mablung the grimness in his voice betraying the stern realism of his question.
“Your nephew,” said Beleg meeting his king’s eyes for the first time, “he broke his chains and killed the wolf that was meant to destroy Beren. Not even Finrod the beloved could kill a werewolf unarmed and weary as he was without mortal injury. And thus he died in the dark but a little before Lúthien arrived.”
“A sorrowful thing it is,” said the king softly, “that one born in the light of Eldamar should thus perish in the dark.”
He had sent Beren forth on an errand meant to encompass his death, and yet Beren lived and his niece’s child was dead because of it. Not for the first time nor yet the last did Thingol bitterly regret the quest he had set the man.
“Where is my daughter now,” he asked wearily, “Surely she does not mean to go back to Nargothrond rather than return to her home?”
Beleg’s face become even more grim if such was possible.
“Such is the second half of the ill-tidings that I bear. The princess has not been seen since she threw down the towers of Tol-in-Gaurhoth and raised a cairn above her cousin. If I dared to guess, she has gone with Beren to aid him in winning her bride-price.”
“My Lúthien in Angband…” sighed the king and all trace of composure fled, “My kinsmen lies dead and my daughter hastens on to fulfill the thrice-cursed quest I gave her love. There is no more for us to do here. Let us begone from this place of ill-tidings.”
It was with weary and bowed heads that the high-hearted army of Doriath returned to their own kingdom.
And many things were said between the king and his councilors upon that journey.
There before the gates of Menegroth stood two queenly figures, Melian the Maia and Galadriel of Tirion. And Celeborn’s heart was much distraught to think of the pain it would bring his brave-hearted wife to know that the last of her brothers was slain. Of his own sorrow he gave little heed, despite his grief that his friend too was gone.
As the cavalcade drew near, she who had been called Artanis turned to the Queen of Doriath.
“Perhaps I did not see aright; my brother’s Sight might have been clearer than mine. The time he spoke of may yet be far in the future.”
Melian, lady of the Nightingales looked into her niece’s eyes, “And you would believe that you saw but a trick of the Enemy’s? Nay, child for Morgoth could not conceive that a Lord of the Eldar such as your brother might lay down his life that one of the Atani might live. Morgoth understands the oath of Fëanor, but such an oath as Finrod swore was of love rather than hate and that is far beyond the understanding of Bauglir and Gorthaur.”
“Still I pray that my husband brings me better tidings than those that mine own power has brought forth.”
And then Celeborn was there beside her, wrapping his arms around her frozen form. When at last she looked into his eyes, she saw truly that her hope had been in vain and she stood now alone of all the children of Finarfin.
“At least tell me that I saw wrongly,” she said softly lifting her eyes to her husband, “tell me he died swiftly as did mine uncles and brothers.”
She had not thought it possible for Celeborn’s eyes to be more grieved than they were already.
“Would you have me lie my beloved? Say that he contended with Gorthaur and fell even as King Fingolfin did?”
“Why did he answer the call of the dark? He knew what he was daring, perhaps more clearly than even Beren. How could he have forgotten the fate of our cousin Maedhros?”
Celeborn’s arms loosened around her as her sorrow mingled with anger. His warm hands sought her cold fingers and clasped them close.
“Not forgotten, beloved, never that. Needless were none of your brother’s deeds in life, do not belittle his sacrifice in death.”
And then with flash of insight such as was granted few he spoke more confidently.
“For I see that from this oath shall come more than sorrow and pain, the love of Beren and Lúthien is bound up in the fate of all Arda. And Finrod of Nargothrond remained faithful in a battle more fell even that of your High King. For from an oath of love fulfilled and the joining of the two kindreds shall come hope for us all.”
Galadriel looked at her husband with new eyes.
“You have seen this.” she said but it was not a question.
“Yea, so I have. There is more to this quest than the whim of the king. Your brother surely knew that.”
“So, I would believe. And yet it seems unjust that my brother who forgave even those who slew his kin, that he of all the Noldor lords should suffer so in his passing. How was it that he came to be alone on such a quest? Surely, Orodreth would have gone with him, or even Curufin and Celegorm?”
“Beleg brought many tidings from Nargothrond. Celegorm and Curufin were as much guilty in his death as Sauron himself.” said Celeborn, anger lending fire to his usually calm countenance, “They were his guests, his kinsmen and his friends and they not only turned their backs on him, they conspired to dethrone him. They wanted him dead, Artanis, it was not just the Silmaril, they wanted Nargothrond for themselves.”
Surprised, Galadriel looked up, not only in anger from these tidings and the vehemence in her husband’s voice but at her name.
“Artanis,” she said quietly, “Always before this you have called me Galadriel.”
“And, so I shall continue,” replied her husband, “but who else will call you by your first name now that your beloved Ingoldo is gone. We will keep him alive in our hearts and in our minds and it maybe that he will walk again in Valinor. He believed so at least.”
“Ingoldo believed many things,” answered Galadriel, “that the world might be remade unmarred is not the greatest of them. Remember, it was he who thought my cousins should be given mercy, a second chance in his kingdom as well.”
“Is he a fool that trusts too freely, or he that trusts not at all?” Celeborn quoted, but his heart was not in it, “I will not forgive this last and greatest betrayal. If we should meet Curufin or Celegorm in battle now, do not ask me to stay my hand.”
“I will slay them myself, if it comes to it,” said Galadriel with a smile more reminiscent of Fëanor than her own father, “As for Gorthaur, though he should beg my forgiveness on bended knee he would not receive it. I will see his works in ruins and all he makes brought down into dust, though it takes ten thousand years of the Sun.”
And more than one oath was made and kept that day.