Untitled (Contest?) by Cliodna Bright

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"We are leaving Middle-earth." Galadriel's voice was soft and quiet. She never needed to raise her voice. Haldir laid his flute across his knees, abruptly ending the song he had been playing. All of Lothlórien's soldiers were gathered in the Great Hall, as it was a wide, airy flet large enough for the traditional ceremonies when all were gathered together.

"For many centuries we have fought against the power of Sauron. You are weary, and finally it is time to pass the struggle to Men and depart from these shores." No one moved. A thousand attentive eyes rested on the lady. "You have all done your part. There is no obligation on you to do other than you wish."

She looked out over the gathering, with love for her people shining in her eyes. "The world of Men is threatened. In Rohan, the country of King Theóden, they face their own end. Saruman's army, ten thousand strong, is marching towards Helm's Deep with only one purpose – to destroy."

A ripple of discontent moved through them, charging the air. Their neighbors to the south had had dealings with the Elves in better times. The horseflesh of Rohan was prized.

"I ask of volunteers to fight alongside Men, as has not been done since the Last Alliance."

For the space of a dozen heartbeats, no one moved.

"My Lady, I would go," Haldir's youngest brother Orophin stepped forward. He stood tall and proud before his lady. Moved by his courage, twenty joined him. Another thirty followed. More filtered forward, until nearly two hundred had taken this risk.

Haldir recognized his duty when her eyes connected with his own. Dreams of the future had plagued him for a fortnight; he knew his fate.

"With your blessing, My Lady, I shall lead our people."

Haldir knew that it was time. He was needed to lead his people, who were so courageously risking their lives for a war that was no longer theirs. But he had not come. Haldir could not leave without a final farewell.

And still he waited. In their spot, away from the responsibilities that were beckoning, Haldir waited. If he did not come soon, his soldiers would end up trapped behind the enemy force without any protection. But still he did not come.

Sighing sadly, the Elf knew that he could wait no longer, and turned to leave – and found his lover watching him. His eyes were filled with grief.

"My Lady tells me you volunteered to lead the soldiers in battle," Celeborn said softly. They stared at one another, neither moving to close the space separating them.

"I will not leave them to fight this alone, My Lord," Haldir responded defensively, and his beautiful voice trembled. Sensing his agony, Celeborn softened. With a few quick steps he was close enough to pull him into an embrace.

"Such bravery. Yet I fear for you, melethron," the Lord of Lórien whispered, nuzzling the sentinel's cheeks, swallowing the tightness in his throat.

"Do not grieve," Haldir whispered back, bringing up one hand to caress away the single silver tear that marred Celeborn's perfect features. "We have love, you and I. An eternal bond, beyond the confines of Middle-earth. Not even death can stand in the way of that."

The silver Elf tightened his arms, needing the feel of him pressed close. To feel the steady rhythm of his heart beneath his hand. "I could not bear to lose you. My heart-"

"Is troubled now, but it will heal. Be at peace, My Lord. Remember your lady, for she will need you soon. You have her still," Haldir soothed; he was strong for his lover, his soul-mate. Though inside, his heart was breaking. He too saw his own demise was close at hand.

"Would you make me choose between lover and wife?" Celeborn asked breathlessly, his hands tracing Haldir's beloved face.

"Nay, meleth-nîn. Choose no greater love, but take comfort in your fortune." Gently he took Celeborn's hands in his own, and placed a heart-felt kiss on each palm.

"Go to your lady, my love. It is time for us to part. Look for me again, across the sea," he whispered, and left.

Alone with his loss, the mighty Elf-lord collapsed to his knees and shook with sobs.

And it came to pass that in the desperate battle at Helm's Deep, Haldir of Lórien fell beside his fellow woodsmen. And in the Golden Wood there was great sorrow for their deaths. It was weathered with great pride, as was the way of Elves. Only in the confines of their homes did they let the pain show. Celeborn of Doriath took much comfort in the arms of his wife, and did not give in to his grief.

When finally the time came for them to be gone from Middle-earth, he delayed his passing. With his grandsons as companions, he visited the resting place of his lover.

‘He was buried beside Men and Elves alike, my friend. The graves were left unmarked. I am sorry,' the words of Elessar echoed in his mind again.

Celeborn had not come to mourn over a grave. He was beyond weeping. All that was left to him was waiting, for the day when Haldir was released again from the Halls of Mandos, and they could be together once more.

He was here to say goodbye. Kneeling before the humble Rohirric headstone that honored so many, Celeborn placed a single white flower, a niphredil of Lórien at its base. He murmured a simple Elvish prayer, and looked towards the setting sun.

Haldir would one day be returned, and Celeborn would be there to welcome him.
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