In the quiet forests of Doriath, the sunlight was falling dappled through the leaves high above. The birds were singing, the branches were rustling, small animals were hopping happily through the undergrowth. A slight breeze whispered through the trees, and a small brook murmured nearby. All in all, perfect day in the forest.
Galadriel, however, was unable to enjoy it.
"I feel disgusting," she complained, pulling sharply on her reins to steer her horse around a small bush. "Do you people never wash?"
Her Sindar guides looked offended, but were unsure how to respond. She was a high lady of the Noldor, after all. As usual when in need of guidance, they turned to their lord.
Celeborn sighed quietly and gave Galadriel a mild smile. "We will be in Menegroth very soon, my lady. Be assured that King Thingol's halls have very beautiful baths."
A frown marred the loveliness of Galadriel's face. "We will be in Menegroth in two days. I feel disgusting now." She huffed out a breath and pulled her horse to a smart stop. "Surely there is somewhere I can at least perform minor ablutions near here?" she asked, turning in her saddle and frowning at Celeborn as he drew to a halt beside her.
Celeborn looked to their guides. "Is there a river or stream nearby?" he asked.
One of them nodded. "The brook we can hear widens to a small river quite suddenly a little further down this trail, my lord," he said demurely. "If the lady wishes, she can bathe there."
Galadriel looked mildly horrified. "Bathing in a stream?" she hissed, her eyes narrowing.
Their guides shifted uncomfortably. Celeborn indicated that they should take the lead, and spurred his horse to a gentle walk behind them. "Surely you have had to do such things before?" he asked as she drew level with him again. "There were no bathing halls when you arrived from the Grinding Ice, I imagine?"
Galadriel sniffed. "Indeed. But I had my smith make a bath tub, which my ladies would fill with heated water in my tent."
Celeborn allowed himself a private smile. That is so like her. "Did you allow your brothers use of this amazing innovation?" he asked, amused.
Galadriel laughed suddenly, and then looked quite surprised that she had done so. "Of course not!" she exclaimed. "They could most certainly take themselves to the river. If I'd let even one of them use it, my maid would have been scrubbing the dirt out for weeks! Besides, Finrod alone would have insisted on sitting in there for hours upon hours, to make no mention of the rest of them."
Celeborn laughed softly. "Indeed. You are most justified in your actions."
Galadriel gave him a look that was faintly suspicious, and would have spoken had a guide not called, "My lady, the river is good for bathing here!" from up ahead.
She spurred her horse into a trot and soon came to the riverbank, where she gracefully dismounted and looked disdainfully upon the river. Celeborn joined her. "Will this be suitable?"
She sighed heavily. "In the circumstances, I suppose."
Celeborn nodded. "Take the horses a small way through the trees," he said to the guides, "Make a fire to cook some game. We may as well stop here for the evening, if the camping looks suitable to you." The guides nodded and disappeared through the trees.
Galadriel gave him another suspicious look. "And what are you intending to do yourself, Lord Celeborn?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I thought I would also take the opportunity to rid myself of the dirt of the road."
Galadriel pointed imperiously towards a bend in the river, hidden from their current position by a growth of brambles. "Well, bathe over there then," she commanded, "I am not going to bathe in the presence of an ellon, no matter how honourable he may be."
Celeborn stifled a laugh and bowed. "As you wish, my lady." He disappeared around the patch of brambles.
Sighing again, Galadriel removed her cloak and spread it on the ground, leaving her boots next to it. Checking once again that no one was within sight, she removed her leggings, tunic and shirt, and laid them on her spread cloak before stepping speedily into the river. She let out a harsh gasp at the iciness of the water, cursing under her breath.
"Is everything alright, my lady?" Celeborn's voice drifted to her from around the bend. She swore she could detect a hint of stifled laughter in his tone, so she simply made a non-committal noise and tried to adjust to the freezing temperature. It didn't appear to be getting any warmer, and now her toes were definitely numb. She washed herself at an alarmingly fast rate, gasping and panting from the cold, then skittered out as fast as her now jellied legs would carry her. Once on the grass she collapsed to her knees, and then realized she didn't have anything in the way of a towel.
"Damn it," she muttered. What an oversight! She hugged herself, feeling her teeth begin to chatter. "C-c-celeborn?" she stuttered, "D-do you h-have s-s-some kind of towel?"
There was a silence. "I have a spare cloak," he said brightly after a pause, "Will that do?"
A piece of thick cloth came flying over the brambles. She snatched it up hastily and wrapped it around herself. Not a moment too soon, it turned out, as Celeborn himself appeared shortly afterward, fully dressed and looking refreshed. "The river is chilly this time of year, is it not?" he smiled.
Galadriel brought the full force of her formidable glare to bear on him. "Celeborn. I am not yet fully dressed."
He looked surprised. "Oh."
He didn't move.
Galadriel made an impatient movement at him with her hand, catching the cloak sharply just before it fell open. "Leave. Go see to the horses or some such. Go!"
Celeborn bit his lip to contain a snort of laughter. Somehow the gracious lady of the Noldor reminded him of an angry chicken, hopping from foot to foot and waving her hand at him, the cloak flapping loosely around her lower thighs and a very angry expression on her face. "As you wish," was all he could choke out, before moving swiftly in the direction of the camp, muffling rather un-lordly giggles with the palm of his hand.
Galadriel turned back to the river and huffed as she rubbed the cloak over her shoulders. "Honestly. Males."