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Summary: Galadriel tests two of the fellowship - and makes some surprising discoveries. UST.
A/N: The sequel to Alien Creatures
I was hard on them, but it was needful.
One by one, I looked into their hearts, and one by one they flinched and turned away. The ring-bearer, and the hobbit children who travelled with him, the Heir - though he endured it long - and the child of Gondor about whom I have much reason to fear, the Dwarf and the Elf. Some endured it long, some not; and one of their number could not endure it at all.
I was cruel, for it was necessary. I showed them their desires, every one, the things they held most dear, most likely to turn them away from their chosen path. Before long the Ring would test them harder - and if pain now could save ruin later, then let me be the bringer of pain.
I was hardest, I think, on the Dwarf, harder than I have been on any being for many ages. He was among the unyielding of them - as the Dwarves always are - but he had this weakness, this one great weakness, and I was wary for him, for on such the Ring feeds.
Oh, I started simply enough, offering him power - the power and the will to restore the greatness of his people. And that was cruel in itself, for I played much on his grief for Khazad-Dûm - and he mourns the corruption of that land as much as he does Gandalf and his kinsman Balin.
But he was but little tempted; and for that I should not be surprised. After all, his forbears, the Dwarf-Lords of old had been but little changed by the rings intended to ensnare them, managing even to some measure to bend them to their own wills. I could feel Sauron's rage and bafflement over that, and I well remember it. I must confess I was amused. Had he *truly* expected otherwise? Then he knew less of that people than I gave him credit for.
But Gimli of Erebor seemed scarcely touched by such wiles, and I dug deeper. And I found in him a wish so desperate, and so hopeless, that I could not let it remain unchallenged ... for it is through such wishes that the Ring does its subtlest and most dangerous work.
Such an ardent wish it was, and such a hopeless one, as it seemed to him, and it left him quite uncharacteristically vulnerable in spite of all his strength. Such a pathetic thing, so easy to twist to the Ring's purposes - and such a cruel torment to place upon him.
He had placed such trust in me, and I used it knowingly to flay open his deepest wound.
- He desires you not, and never will, I told him.
He acknowledged it as true without question. His despair lay so near the surface that it was a simple, little matter to stir it to life. Why, after all, would one of the Firstborn conceive any affection for such mean, ugly creatures. What did a mere Dwarf have to offer one so great and so lovely as an Elven-Prince. It was beyond ridiculous; it was obscene.
Thus his despair told him; and I watched and said no word.
- It would take the power of the Ring itself, I suggested, to make him desire you.
A bitter laugh in his head; and a glint of suspicion in the dark eyes.
- It would take far more than that!
- You could make him, I told him, if you used it. You could make him love you.
Oh the cruelty and the temptation of those words! I felt it every bit as keenly as he could, for I caused him that pain knowingly. Something in his face froze at my words, and it was long seconds before he gave his answer.
- It would be a lie, he replied, firmly, though I felt something in him tremble.
- Only you would know the difference.
He threw the word by reflex, not letting himself ponder the enormity of the offer I had given him.
- He will never take you otherwise, I told him again; and I felt his resolve grow weak. - He is far out of your reach, little Dwarf.
- I know. I know it. But do not tempt me!
He turned his head away then, away from my eyes, and as far as he could from the Elf's eyes. I did not turn away, but waited again for him to look up.
- I am sorry, son of Glóin, I told him. - But I had to know.
- I know it, my Lady. Only do not judge me by my foolish dreams.
His thoughts sounded surly in my mind, trying to cloak his humiliation and shame with gruff sullenness. It did not succeed, of course.
- No dream is foolish, I told him. - Unless it leads to evil deeds.
I left him comfortless, for what else could I tell him? For I had not yet the measure of Legolas' heart, though I had seen in it only fastidious disdain for his companion.
After seeing such things it seemed somehow fitting to turn my gaze on the Elf. He was the last of them, for he had chosen to stand to one side, slightly apart from his companions. He *was* kin here, after all - and he was very conscious of it.
I offered my temptations, and swiftly and surely they were rejected; and in any other I would have had no reason to fear for him. But I could perceive there were things hidden deep at the back of his mind, hidden deep and locked away ... and until I could vouch for what they were, I could not call him safe.
Few can conceal their thoughts in such a way. Celeborn, who is his kin, can do likewise; and though I would not trespass on him, I know how, in case of need. It is not a hard matter, but one of skill, and most of all of patience.
So I probed, though it took long seconds. He did not seem to detect my intrusion, and I was careful that he did not. And when I saw beyond it, what did I find?
It was an obsession, I suppose, of sorts, half-seen and unacknowledged, treasured up like a guilty secret. Every look or word he had exchanged with the Dwarf, every action he had seen the Dwarf perform, all hoarded at the back of his mind like dragon's gold, hidden even from himself.
Curious; but hardly dangerous.
I could have retreated at that, and left him be, but for a sudden desire for .. for mischief, Celeborn would call it, perhaps, though I might give it another name.
So I spoke to Legolas, of unity, and of the divisions which threatened to sunder the party, and he listened, agreeing, blithely unaware of where my words were tending - apparently unaware of his own dishonesty. I finished, and paused, letting him wait without help, and he grew puzzled. It was no more than I had already said aloud, and he guessed that there was more to come.
I gave him quite long enough that he began to grow anxious. Such a powerful weapon is silence.
- There is much that you could learn from him.
I did not need to state of whom I spoke. His eyes widened, and I felt his sudden rush of suppressed amazement - that a great Elf-lady would treat any Dwarf with kindliness and courtesy. But I felt an edge of resentment in his thought, for he felt that the Dwarf had been greeted more graciously than he, who considers himself our kin. He wisely made no answer, and I smiled.
- Why? he asked at length, and his puzzlement seemed sincere. Clear to see that he had considered my gentleness towards Gimli no more than a sop to wounded feelings, rather than a gesture of friendship to one more than worthy of it.
- I find much to respect and honour in him, I told him. - Courtesy and loyalty should be honoured wherever they are found.
He was too intelligent to protest. I could sense the bright threads of self-awareness beginning to form in his brain, and the memory resurfacing of the failure of his own courtesy on his arrival in the wood.
- But he is so stubborn!
- That is their way, I told him. - Their grudges are held steadfastly, and their loyalties also - and their loves. Do you dislike him?
I waited, wondering how honestly he would answer.
- Perhaps. I have never spared him much attention. He is but a Dwarf, after all.
And then I smiled, and showed him what I had found at the back of his mind.
And he flushed and broke and turned away.
I did not pursue it, but let them take their leave, watching them all as they left our presence. Perhaps he would continue to deceive himself, and perhaps he would not. Perhaps I have been foolish, to say what I did to them. Or perhaps not. I do not know what will come.
For not even the wise can see all ends.
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Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003