A Vault of Topless Trees by Oshun

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Characters not on the MPTT list: Finrod Felagund, Angrod

A vault of topless trees it seemed,
whose trunks of carven stone there stood
like towers of an enchanted wood
in magic fast for ever bound,
bearing a roof whose branches wound
in endless tracery of green
lit by some leaf-imprisoned sheen
of moon and sun, and wrought of gems,
and each leaf hung on golden stems.
-- Lay of Leithian

“Is a leaf really a leaf if it is carved of stone or wrought from metal?” Finrod asked. He winked at Angrod who lurked behind their sister. Galadriel scratched furiously with a long broad-tipped quill, covering the parchment with her usual harsh strokes in heavy blue-black ink. With her eyes cast down, she could not see the grins exchanged by her brothers at her expense.

“You are not clever; you’re just silly,” she said, shaking her mass of heavy hair away from her face. She had allowed it to air dry as usual which maximized its volume to a point which Finrod thought bordered on the ridiculous. But Galadriel was nothing if not vain. And Lord Celeborn, aloof and self-contained under most circumstances, appeared obsessed with her hair, among other things about her.

She wrinkled her nose at Finrod and narrowed her eyes. “You like the luxury and artifice enough here that it has inspired you to carve a palace out of your own piece of rock.”

“It is not as though I have had a lot of alternatives. There are things I admire about this place. The confinement and isolation are not among them. I suppose His Royal Prattiness the Silver Tree will take you riding once in a while. I cannot picture you, of all people, locked up here, paying court to the Maiarin sorceress.”

“Shame on you, brother. She has been more than kind to you. Argued your case on several occasions when our uncle showed no interest whatsoever in your future or worse still a fair measure of mistrust of your motivations. Also, my good friend prefers that you call him Celeborn. I’d appreciate it if you would respect his wishes!” She flipped her mane of hair again and Angrod snorted audibly. If Finrod guessed right, his brother was amused with both of them.

“Ai, Artanis!” Finrod said. “You and your Sindarin prince. What a pair! I only want you to be happy. It’s never too late to change your mind. I could wait until tomorrow if you want to pack and come with us.”

“Go on! You are a fool pretending to be wise again, Ingo. Shortsighted as well. I do not intend to spend my life keeping house for my big brother. There are many things I can master here. Deep arts, to add to what I have learned from Aulë and even from Fëanáro. I intend to rule my own kingdom someday. I don’t know where or how yet. And Celeborn does not intend to stay here forever either.”

“You collect teachers like other women collect shiny baubles and lace scarves. But I have never seen you throw yourself at a man before. What does that stiff necked Sindarin have . . . .”

“He’s taller than her,” Angrod said laughing. “Do not underestimate the importance of that. Every maid, even Princess Prideful, wants to be able to look up to a man.”

“He is not much taller,” she said. “Tall for a Sinda perhaps. But then so is Beleg. I prefer to look at a man eye to eye rather than looking up at him.”

“He seems a shifty-eyed sort to me,” teased Angrod, mildly horrifying Finrod. “Making eye contact is not his strongest point.”

“He is overburdened with responsibility. Thingol pushes him too hard.”

“But he has time to dally with you?”

Galadriel did not choose to answer Angrod, but slid the last of several sheets of parchment upon which she had been writing into a leather portfolio and handed the entire slim package to Finrod. “If I have forgotten anyone that I should have remembered, please pass along my regards.”

“You’re serious about staying?” Angrod said, his voice cracking. “Have you heard what the young blades of Menegroth say about him?”

“Not the ladies?” asked Finrod, pretending to be shocked.

“The young men,” Angrod insisted.

“You are both mentally deficient!” Galadriel snapped. “You are both so glib. You think you know something, but you know nothing about me and less about him. I know that his past lovers remain his good friends and that he does not dally with maids who might be looking for a husband.”

“Except for you,” Finrod said.

“I have never been looking for a husband! But you are right, I am unique. He has courted me since the day we met. We would make a suitable match for one another.”

“The difficulty, however, remains,” interjected Angrod, “that there is no love lost between our peoples and both sides cultivate their own secrets and lies.”

Angrod’s words, harsh but true, swamped Finrod with a wave of protective tenderness for his only sister—who was not nearly as tough as she would have the world believe. He pulled Galadriel into a tight embrace. “I just don’t want you to be hurt. You don’t often chase after men.”

“And I am not doing so now. He has given me a ring.” She held up her hand, turning it back and forth under the light which alternately flickered and surged from the sconces on the walls. The angles of the beaten silver glittered in the unnatural light. Finrod wondered if perhaps the ring was made of mithril, which would make it marginally less inappropriate for a lady of Galadriel’s rank.

“Is that a Doriathan betrothal ring?” he asked, hoping against hope he had kept the judgment out of his voice. There was not a single stone.

“Were you expecting a Silmaril, brother?” she asked. The quality of her self-deprecatory smile surprisingly signified renewed self-confidence and a return of composure. Finrod thought she might not be at all sure about her future, or how she would tolerate the next short period isolated in these halls of stone crowded with their carvings of birds and bees. She was, however, sure about her remarkable Sindarin lord, who carried himself with the arrogance and regality of a Noldorin prince.

She took both of Finrod’s hands in her own and held them close to her chest. “He has his own interests and I have mine, and they are not always compatible, but we cannot bear to be apart. I would belong here right now in any case, for myself, for the opportunity to learn from her. I’ll not be alone as long as Celeborn is here and you need me to look after your interests here also, Ingo.”

Finrod laughed at her insufferable temerity, bending his head to kiss her knuckles. “Come and visit then. Whatever happens, you know that you will always have a home with me. And your Silver . . . Celeborn will always be welcome as well.”

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