Therefore, to prove that no, I was not lying about the whole writing bit, here's an unfinished draft version of the next "Sleeping with Ghosts" story:
Explosions in the Sky
Aman, TA 2767
“Those magical explosions remind me of Mithrandir,” Laeriel said. She gestured to the sky, the silver threads in her dress sleeves shining in the moonlight.
Celebrian made a sound of agreement. To be quite honest, she never enjoyed the multi-colored firecrackers Mithrandir set off during the great celebrations. Something about the sound made her think of less secure places and times.
The city of Tirion was a spectacle of elves, horses, entertainers, and food carts in celebration of Mid-Summer. The holiday never meant much to Celebrian; the harvest festivals held more sway in Imladris and the Spring ones for Lothlorien. Mid-Summer in Imladris was always a muted affair, out of respect for Glorfindel and all the residents whose families fell in Gondolin.
“Are most of the festivals this spirited?” Laeriel asked. Her eyes narrowed and she murmured in a dry tone, “I just can’t see the city opening wide its proverbial gates to all for every major celebration of the year.”
“We will have that vendor’s cart, yet,” Celebrian said. “No merchant worth his name would turn down the coin and jewels you have to offer.”
“Yet so many are,” Laeriel said. She held up one of the wine glasses Rog passed out earlier. “Still, on days such as this I feel we should toast to the future.”
“To the future,” Celebrian agreed. She clinked her glass against Laeriel’s and took a long sip. It was a tangy wine made on an estate near Vanima and Arturo’s house and much coveted for its taste. The estate delivered crate after crate to Celebrian’s temporary home in celebration of Laeriel’s arrival.
“Thranduil will like this,” Laeriel said. “His regular vintage keeps having bad years and he’s already started going through the stock. The amount of wine the kitchen staff uses alone should deplete it in a century.”
“I know it’s hard, thinking about how life will go on there in your absence, but they will and they must find a way.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s just all those little things you don’t think of until after you are too far away. I did not leave instructions with Tangwen for the Harvest. I forgot three of my favorite broaches. I did not have a chance to see all my people before I left, to give them a proper goodbye. And Berthilon, his father, he never got to say goodbye. Do you ever stop feeling like you did not do enough, did not prepare everyone before you departed?”
Celebrian regarded her glass, swirling the liquid around while trying to form the proper words. “My situation, my departure, it was quite different. I was so weak, so numb, I barely remember my farewells. If I saw all of them that one last time, I do not believe I could have left. And while I know Faeleth is an old hand at managing the celebrations, that the Councilors well know how to calm a diplomatic incident, that my children, my husband, my parents are more than capable of watching after themselves, I do not think I will ever feel anything but a loss. I do not think we should; we miss them, we love them, it is only natural. It helps me, motivates me, to make the best new Imladris possible.”
“I do not even know where to begin for my people,” Laeriel confessed.
Celebrian laughed. She patted Laeriel’s hand at her confused look. “I did not do all this on my own and neither shall you. We will help you, we are all here to help you.”
Laeriel grasped her hand. Her smile was watery, but there, fighting to stay with her cool façade. Her voice was soft when she spoke, “I just wonder where all the Greenwood Elves are. I know some relocated with the Teleri, but what of all those who were in the Halls.”
“They may not yet know of your coming, Laeriel, and many of those re-born from the Halls may not even know you are the wife of their current King. I do not know where they are, where they have settled, but we will see what we can suss out. Penlod has a way of acquiring information that would otherwise be lost and buried. Many of them might be in hiding.”
“That is what I fear,” she whispered.
Celebrian fell silent and watched the colored explosions in the sky, letting the delighted screams and yells from the city below fill the void.
It never occurred to her that the Silvan elves were in hiding, she never quite thought of the many who came to the shores. They almost exclusively settled among the Teleri, but what of the ones from before? From before her arrival, from the thousands of years in between the end of the First Age and the start of the Third. Oropher was still in the Halls, everyone knew that, and also knew that much like Gil-Galad and Turgon he had a long time ahead for repentance. But what of the soldiers, the messengers, the various elves killed by the spiders and in the cross-fires of the disputes? As far as she knew, there was no pre-established realm for the Silvan and she knew the Greenwood elves did not settle with the Silvan elves here from her Lothlorien.
It was clearly time to make some inquiries.
The Archive of the Noldor stood in an old, ornate, marble building on the outskirts of Tirion. It used to be at the site of the old center-city, but as populations shifts occurred, so too did the city lines.
Celebrian stood outside, looking up at the iron doors and feeling distinctly like a small, insignificant flower.
“The archives of Imladris are much more welcoming,” she said to Penlod, who stood at her side.
“Yes, well, from what I heard Elrond himself is much more welcoming. He encourages education while many of the people who waste away their years in this archive wish to hoard and contain it under a select few.” Penlod’s eyes studied the building, a slight curl of disgust appeared on his lips.
“Do you think they will have anything of what we need here? They seem very exclusive,” she said.
“I think you mean more along the lines of elitist,” he said. Penlod’s grip on her arm tightened. “Still, best not to judge a building by its doors, I suppose. I often fail to get my requests filled here, but I am a lowly former lord of Gondolin, you, however, are the Lady of Imladris and the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn.”
“Once again the bloodlines both open and close doors,” she said, sighing as they began to ascend the granite steps.
“It also helps that you are adept at reading Silvan and Sindar. In general, the Noldor grasp of Sindar is bordering on weak, but none of us truly know or understand Silvan.”
“Why do I feel they dismissed it as the language of rustics and shipbuilders?” she asked.
Penlod’s curled lip turned into a broad smile. “There was a time when Sindar was forbidden in polite society. At least we have seen some progress in terms of accepted languages,” he said.
“It amazes me how we all grow up on Arda thinking the elves here are so enlightened and full of the best knowledge of the world. We all fail to remember just where the kin slayers came from, just who caused the breaking and changing of the world, and just how deep the old prejudices go.” She turned back to study the city in the distance, knowing that within its beautiful towers and buildings rested long-held suspicions and ugly opinions on who and what a proper elf should be.
She knew Penlod followed her gaze, knew he guessed at her thoughts, oft repeated as they were.
“The younger generations will forever blame the elders for messing up the world. Different times, Celebrian, different dangers,” he chided. “Please do not be so easy in the dismissal of our ways of living. We had our reasons at the time and as long as we continue to recognize that it is now a different world and change with it we should be all the better.”
“And what about those who aren’t recognizing the need to change and still living by customs from three ages ago?”
Penlod shrugged. “I never claimed it was a fail-proof system.”
Celebrian restrained the urged to snort while Penlod reached up and pulled back the heavy iron doors.
The main hall was empty, light barely filtering in through the heavy tapestries on the windows. Lamps were lit every few feet. Celebrian could hear every last bit of Elrond, Erestor, and Morwen’s rants on fire hazards and safety of written materials. She looked around, unable to find another living being in sight.
“You did send out the missive informing them of our visit, correct?” she asked.
Penlod nodded. “Oh, they know we are here.” He casually gestured to an opening in the ceiling. “They just wish to observe and make us wait.”
It took every ounce of her good manners not to make rude gestures at the observation window. She had no desire to give them the pleasure and advantage of her impatience.
“I think I shall sit over on one of those benches, if they shall take so long. I have correspondence to keep up with, you know. Vanima and Arturo get quite upset if they don’t hear from me once a month, and let us not even begin with the chiding I get if Elwing doesn’t receive her daily letters.”
Penlod covered the smile on his lips. “Very well done, Lady Celebrian.”
They both sat in amused silence as the sound of hurried feet echoed off the marble walls. Elves so long gone from the battlefield and never raised as warrior tended to forget how to tread softly. The ornate, heavy shoes worn by many of the Noldor Elite in Tirion also made noise. Not to mention the swish of the heavy velvet robes favored by the city’s scholars. All and all it meant little to no stealth approaches in a building of marble halls, high chambers and good acoustics.
An elf appeared hurrying around the corner, dark hair flying behind him with his quick pace. He carried a silver ledger in his hands and his brown robes swooshed over the floor.
Beside her, Penlod moved to stand, but she put a hand on his shoulder, forcing him back down. At his questioning look she said, “Always make them come to you.”
“I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Penlod the Wise of Gondolin and Lady Celebrian of Imladris. I am Valdon, keeper of the records for the Archive of Tirion. How may we assist you this morn?”
Penlod began to speak, but Celebrian again tightened her grip and he fell silent. Ignoring his confused glance, she glared at Valdon in the cool manner all elves of a certain class practiced.
“We, um, that is to say, we of course received your detailed request on the matter of the Silvan elf migration,” Valdon said.
Celebrian raised one very unimpressed eyebrow.
“Please,” Valdon said, “let me show you to one of the reading rooms. I shall have the materials sent down immediately.”
“That would be very good, Valdon, I thank you for your eager service,” she replied. She nudged Penlod and he stood, holding out a hand for her while she rose.
“You are very good at this,” Penlod whispered in her ear.
“Oh, I am a novice compared to my mother and Elrond, but I like to think my father and I are at the same level.”
They followed Valdon into a small private room with high set windows and two bare tables. A writing desk sat in the corner and various chairs were placed around the room. It was not welcoming in the least and Celebrian wondered how anyone could feel comfortable doing research in such an atmosphere.
Valdon placed a small leather-bound journal, covered with a dust cloth and quite smaller than the account scrolls on the Lothlorien syrup trade, on the table. He smiled and said, "All of our collected knowledge on the Silvan elves is contained within these pages."
"That's all?" Penlod asked, disbelief coloring his tone.
"The Teleri's scrolls are perhaps more detailed, but in your request you expressed interest with the Silvan settled in Noldor areas. This ledger contains all known whereabouts and documented interactions of Silvan in the greater Tirion area."
Penlod held out his hands. "May I?" he asked.
Valdon nodded. "I ask you to please wipe down your hands first and only use your fingertips on the corner of the pages. We try to preserve our documents here."
"Valdon, I may be re-born and the son of a miller in this life, but I still recall the proper procedure for handling delicate documents, considering I wrote them. I even brought my own gloves," Penlod said. He pulled a pair of soft white gloves from his sleeves before handling the book.
Celebrian watched Valdon's reactions, noting a slight sheen of sweat forming on his brow. She turned her attention back to the journal.
"The most recent entry is from two centuries ago," she said.
Valdon nodded. "That is when we last made contact."
"Or rather when you last attempted it," Celebrian said.
"We found it difficult to communicate with many of the Silvan. It was nigh impossible without a Teleri present to translate."
"Perhaps if you didn't use Quenya they would have been more apt to hold a conversation with you," Penlod said, his fingers tracing the lines of text. "You are aware it's only used as an academic language and for religious ceremonies on Arda, correct?"
"I have heard such things said," Valdon admitted.
"Then you also know that to some of the elves it is regarded as the tongue of traitors and kin slayers and is therefore not the language of common conversation," Penlod said.
"The language many of the Silvan tried to communicate with was not Sindar, nor was it their own language but something else that even most of the Teleri and the Noldor here could not decipher. Certain words seemed familiar but overall it appears to be a unique dialect in and of itself. I ask you to remember that most elves would not even bother with attempting to communicate with them, much less record their moving patterns."
"It is possible they chose to use the Common Tongue, though few of the Silvan outside of scouts, councilors and ambassadors would know it. I think, in all honest likelihood, it was Sindar they were speaking, just of a different dialect than you know here," Celebrian said.
Penlod looked up at her. "Your Sindar is no different from mine."
"I am also the daughter of First Age elves, married to a Lore-master and lived with far too many archivists than is natural. My speech patterns are not the same as say, an archer from Thranduil's ranks."
"Yes, I suppose that would make sense. Difference of class and realm," he murmured.
He held up the journal, "Do you recognize any of these names?" he asked.
Celebrian scanned the list, noting a few names she recalled from gossip the march wardens passed around. Near the end of the list she found a group of names that surprised her. "Those, there," she pointed, "those are not Silvan but elves who traveled with the Wandering Company."
"The Wandering Company?" Valdon asked.
"They are a group of elves who wander Arda in a traveling party. Gildor Inglorion is their leader," Celebrian said.
"They have no home?" Valdon asked.
"Arda is their home and they are welcome in each elven realm, though Imladris and the Havens host them more than any others. A fair few decided to pass here as the shadow stretches out its hands again,” she explained.
"I do not believe I have ever heard of such an odd way of living," Valdon said. "How do they accomplish anything?"
"They are the guides, the story keepers and tellers. They are the Wanderers," Penlod said. "I know I grew up with the myths about them, passing from village to village, bringing tales of a world far from the one I grew up knowing. In my first youth, I should say, which means their history predates even that of Arda. The stories apparently got lost in time."
"Fascinating," Valdon said, making a note in his ledger.
"This is only a sampling of elves," Celebrian said, "and it's a mixed group. In all likelihood they've passed from the residences listed here."
"I could ask Galdor," Penlod said. "He spends his days traveling and is of the Teleri. Despite the lack of information here, it gives me some idea of where to look in the county archives closer to Vanima's home."
"Vanima, wife of Arturo and mother of the Glorfindel?" Valdon asked, eyes wide.
"The same," Penlod said, skimming through the passages of the journal. "She keeps her own unofficial records, of course, especially when we near the rain seasons." He pulled his own journal out of his sleeves and made a few notations.
Celebrian refrained from asking what else he'd hidden in there and returned to her study of Valdon. There was something hungry in his eyes, an envy at all the knowledge Penlod held in his head, if she had to wager a guess. Two lifetimes left he as one of the most educated elves in all the Ages. Still, there was something about the elf Celebrian did not quite trust. Perhaps it was the lack of propriety or the general sense of entitlement and disregard for elves he did not know, understand, or care to learn about.
Penlod finished his notes and tucked his journal back into his sleeves. He lightly tapped Celebrian’s wrist, their sign for departing. She rose, Penlod mirroring her.
"Thank you for your time, Valdon," she said, willing a dethatched pleasantness to enter her voice. "We appreciate you aiding us in this manner. It shall not be forgotten."
Penlod very discreetly covered a smirk before offering his arm to escort her out.
"Find anything of use in your mission of conquering the archives?" Ecthelion asked. His hair was pulled back, but his fingers and parts of his face carried smudges from the charcoal in his hands.
"You're looking particularly uncivilized today," Penlod said. "Must I start monitoring your time with Rog?"
“What?” Ecthelion asked. He looked down at his hands. “Oh, that.” He gestured to the large scroll of paper laid out on the ground and held down by stones. “I finished the primary sketches for the visitor’s gardens and then started on a sort of guest library. I am sure after all these centuries Elrond would like to keep his home as private as possible while still allowing his estate to be a place for all to come and learn.”
Celebrian studied the sketches. They were not by the most talented of hands but the dedication to the design was clear. “Thank you, Ecthelion, I trust your judgment in these matters. Elrond will never be able to put away the titles of Lore-master and teacher but he has earned the right to some rest in his own home.”
“We leave you on your own for five hours and you become an architect,” Penlod said, patting Ecthelion on his shoulder. “Good work. Once you’re finished I will hand it over to the masons.”
“Thank you, Penlod,” he said. “So, did you two find anything of use in the archive?”
“Nothing but centuries of incompetence,” Penlod said. “Still, it does tell us that many of the Silvan who came before either bypassed Tirion or knew of paths deeper into the land. I think a visit is required to your old dwelling.”
“My parents? I can assure you, Penlod, they are not hiding a gaggle of Silvan in their back cottages,” Ecthelion said.
“Of course not,” Penlod agreed. “Vanima, however, is well known for her tradition of insisting each new visitor sits down for a cup of tea and a snack before continuing their journey.”
“It’s her respectful way of being a gossip and gathering any possible intelligence. Glorfindel was much the same way, when we were young, do you remember?” Ecthelion asked.
Penlod smiled. “Yes, I do. He’d always drag some unsuspecting fool out to the taverns, get them deep in their cups, and interrogate them all with a smile on his face. They never did catch on. Does he still do that?” he asked, turning to Celebrian.
She shook her head. “He is far too well known. He’s trained his guards to act so, but Arda is more of a suspicious, cynical land than ever before. You must understand that after the Second Age, all elves came to judge friendly and overly generous strangers as possible enemies. No one dare repeat the act of welcoming Sauron into their homes. Someone is always listening, always watching, just in ways less subtle but more discrete than your own.”
“His father taught him that,” Ecthelion mused. He reached out a finger and rubbed some more charcoal into the scroll. “While my parents would always welcome you into their home, they are in the middle of their summer harvest season, as are Glorfindel’s parents. I would suggest sending a letter instead.”
“The floods are due this year as well,” Penlod said. “I do not wish to be stranded for the weeks it will take to repair the damage and safely travel again.”
“We are to visit them at Mid-winter,” Ecthelion said. “It is a bit of a journey. Vanima would prefer us to stay for a long visit rather than make the trip there only to collect information and return. I also do not like feeling like my time is limited while we are there.”
“She will not mind the letter?” Celebrian asked.
“She will probably reply in code, but no, she will not mind it at all,” Ecthelion said.
Celebrian turned to Penlod. “That’s settled then,” she said. “I shall send the request out in the morning.”