I sit atop the hill, watching my little brother as he watches her ship sail. So much sadness I can feel, even from here. I can sympathize with him, yet his wife and daughter still live while mine do not. Shrugging away the hurt I still feel, I rise and follow the path leading down to him. I'm not very subtle about my approach, breaking a twig or two or skidding on gravel, yet he does not take his face from the horizon. I know he heard me, I could see the slightest movement of his head, as if he meant to look back but did not. For a long time, I stand a few paces behind him, waiting.
Time passes, and the sun finally sinks below the horizon, leaving behind the dark reds and indigos of evening. The stars appear first, before the moon, and still he stands there. "I know I should leave, but I cannot. Not just yet," he speaks before I can. I should have known he would.
"You know as well as I do that there is no return from Aman. You also know that she will wait for you." Then he turns to face me, recognition plain on his face.
"Galathil." His voice isn't exactly welcoming, but then I knew it wouldn't be. "After all these years, and now you come back." There is a question in his eyes.
"Yes, but then you know why I left." He sighs and nods, then returns his gaze to the West again. For a brief moment, I begin to think he'll stay the night here, but as the moon's light begins to shine down on us, he looks at me again.
"Come," I say, and gesture for him to lead the way. He hesitates, but then begins to walk up the hill.
Quietly we go, leaving the Grey Havens behind us. We go to our horses, which are now too many for just the two of us. Again, my brother hesitates and gazes out to the West. More than just missing his wife, I think his sea longing is stronger than ever. I take a chance and lay my hand upon his shoulder in comfort. It shakes him from his reverie, and he mounts his stallion. With Galadriel's horse's reins in his hand, he starts to lead the way. I collect the other two horses behind me, and we leave. I follow his lead, mindful that he is still the Lord of Lorien while I hold no title myself, except the title of elder brother with no aspirations to be ennobled. Any titles I held died with my wife and daughter.
The journey is a long and silent one, and we stop only occasionally for food or sleep. My brother seems determined to get back to his realm, and yet he takes his time. It's rare that we talk, and only when we agree to stop or how long to continue on. I observe him from my position several paces behind. He gives the impression of calm, almost royal dignity about him. Those we pass bow their heads in respect, but only occasionally does he return the gestures. His eyes are locked forward and he refuses to look back. Not even to me when I ask him the same questions over and over again. 'Do we stop here, or continue? Do you wish to eat or not?'
Less than a day's ride from Lorien, he answers affirmatively to both and we stop. I do not ask why he doesn't wish to continue and stop once inside the borders, but I can see he has something on his mind. The misery of being left behind and the sea longing are still there, but not as much as before. No, now he's curious about something. I am amazed I can still read my brother like I did long ago. Of course, he really couldn't hide anything from me. Smiling, I bend to take care of the fire while he tends the horses. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he'd be wondering about how his people will accept me. After all, it is I who returns with him and not their Lady. But of course, that's not it at all. They would have known her intent, for it isn't like her to go quietly, especially not when she's leaving Middle-earth, never to return. No, I do know better, and it isn't surprising at all to hear his approach, though he tries to keep it silent. He stops just slightly behind me, but does not speak, forming the questions in his mind, I suppose. My brother is better at wording things right while I tend to be the hotheaded one.
"Why did you not stay with us in Eriador?"
"You were always straight to the point," I mutter, turning to smirk up at him. He lifts an eyebrow sardonically, waiting for his answer. "I could not stay in a place where they were not."
"Your wife and daughter."
"But you had family in Eriador, and you could have found happiness again."
I have to keep my voice even, as I feel the anger rising. "No, I could not have found it again. Gailiel was everything to me, as was Nimloth. Where they were, I was home."
Silence. Then, he crouches down beside me, staring into the flames. His silver hair catches the colors of the flames, oranges, yellows, and reds. We are not too similar in looks; my own hair looks more like father's, more gray than silver. I look at him, patiently awaiting the question I know he'll ask me.
"What happened? We received word that Doriath had been destroyed, and then you came to us, but you never spoke of it. Before we knew it, you were gone again."
He is right, I don't speak of it. I try to keep the memories at bay, but only on the loneliest of nights do they ever come back to haunt me, and always as vivid as when it happened. Maybe I should talk of it now. Maybe it will help in gaining the healing I seek. In a strange way, I find I have something in common with my little brother, though his wife and child still live. Mine are gone from me forever. I inhale deeply, but Celeborn interrupts me.
"You do not have to speak of it if you do not wish to. I am being too curious for my own good. I am sorry."
He makes ready to stand, but I grab his arm to stay him. "You ask me about what happened, then you tell me I should not. Tell me, brother, which should I do? Am I to speak or remain silent?"
"Which do you want to do? If it is too painful, remain silent, for I do not wish to reopen old wounds. If you want to speak of it, then I will listen."
He is still so much like our mother; it almost pains me to think of her as well. Calm and cool-headed while I retain the fiery manner of our father. I release his arm, and he stays beside me, patient as ever. My gaze falls back to the fire as I begin to remember, my voice curiously monotone as I let the words flow through me…
"We were roused from sleep, in the dead of night," I begin, remembering as if it were only a day ago. "The Sons of Feanor were attacking us, come to claim their precious jewel. I readied for battle, Gailiel helping me. When I was ready, I gathered her to me and kissed her, then told her to go to our daughter. I went to fight against the intruders." I look at my brother, and he almost seems to flinch under my gaze. "I never agreed that Dior should keep the Nauglamir, but it belonged to his mother so he kept it. I even tried to tell him it would being nothing but misery upon us, but he wouldn't listen. When the battles began, I felt only a little shame at thinking I was right. Long was the battle, and ever stronger the desire and desperation to reach my wife and daughter and take them safely away from the battle. I fought hard, keeping my wits about me enough not to lose sight of who to kill. You know my rages, brother," I say, a wry grin tugging at one corner of my mouth.
"How can I forget? Father had to pry you off of me once."
"You should not have provoked me."
"How was I supposed to know the garnets would be part of the necklace you were making for Gailiel?"
I return my gaze to the fire, my mind amplifying the flames to those from my memory. "There were fires everywhere, and we found ourselves battling those and the invaders as well. Long went the fighting until we realized that we had no one left to fight. Many were left dead, or dying, and the fires were finally extinguished. We thought we were triumphant and that all we had left to do was clean up and resume life as we knew it. That is what we were doing when more survivors returned, but the news they brought was horrendous. Our King lay dead, slain by the Sons of Feanor. I think, brother, that my heart nearly stopped beating in my when I saw my daughter carried on a litter behind him, eyes closed and bodies bloodied. I ran to her side, crying and hardly able to touch her save for the caress of her face.
Nimloth was borne away with Dior, to be given a proper funeral along with all the others who died. My grief was great indeed, but I still had Gailiel. Or so I hoped, for no word of her was heard, so I thought she was still alive. I should have known better. I was going to follow them out in hopes of meeting my wife, but someone came to me with a message from her. When I asked where she was, the messenger hesitated, then told me she was in the grand reception chamber, and that she was not well. Fear gripped my heart, and I ran as fast as I could to get there. I found her lying on a litter, a blanket wrapped around her. It was blood-soaked around her mid-section and I fell at her side, taking her hand in mine.
'Nimloth…' she started, tears falling from her eyes.
'She is with Mandos now, my love, and Dior is with her.'
'And soon her mother…'
'No, Gailiel, no.' I began screaming for help, and though it was only a few moments before someone came, it seemed like an eternity to me. I sent them off to find a healer, ignoring the look of pity they had in their eyes. 'Soon we will get you healed and we will go with the rest. Far from Doriath.'
'My wound is mortal,' she said her grip on my hand getting weaker. Her eyes looked beyond me to focus on something I could not see. 'They await me in the Halls,' she murmured. 'Nimloth and Dior are waiting for me.'
'No! Stay with me!' Her eyes found mine again, losing their focus. She was fading away and I could not stop it. Her hand gripped tightly once more, as if she were defying Mandos for a few minutes longer.
'Do not grieve for us, Galathil, and do not be so foolish as to die to follow us. You will never hear the end of it from me!'
'Foolish woman for trying to make me laugh,' I said, smiling at her, then burying my face in her hair.
'It worked, did it not?' Her laughter was a mere whisper in her throat, and then her grip relaxed and was much weaker than before. 'I love you, Galathil. Since we were younglings ourselves, I have always loved you.'
'From the moment I saw you, I have loved you. I love you still, and will love no other after you.'
'Such a romantic,' she whispered.
She was taken by Mandos only moments before the healer came. The poor woman apologized countless times at not being faster, but I did not hear her. I closed Gailiel's eyes and covered her face with the extra part of the blanket. The healer saw fit to call for help, and I walked beside my wife's litter as they carried her out of the chamber and through the halls. All was silent, or rather, I heard nothing as we walked. I stared straight ahead, and no one drew my attention away. They knew I had lost both wife and daughter, and some even feared my wrath. But I had spent my anger, brother. I could not go after the surviving Sons of Feanor to exact my revenge, though I took vast pleasure that three of them were killed by Dior's hand.
We buried the dead, among them my wife, my daughter and Dior himself, who would have wanted it that way. Those of us who were still able, helped those who were not, and we made the long journey to the Havens of Sirion. I stayed for a time, but finally left to come to Eriador." I blink away the memories and return to the present to look upon my brother. "The rest you know."
"Not all," he says after a time. "I do not know what became of you after you left us."
"I traveled from one end of the world and back. Kept myself alive by avoiding agents of Morgoth and of Sauron. I went where I pleased and lived the life of a wanderer, staying only as long as I wanted wherever I went. I even came to Lorien once."
"You did? Why did you not…"
"Stay?" I finish his question for him and smile. "Gailiel told me not to grieve, but I did, and have been ever since she died. Seeing you with your family would have reminded me of what I lost. I stayed long enough to enjoy the beauty of your realm, but left when it became too much."
"With my wife gone from Lorien, and her Ring with her, it is not as beautiful as it once was." He shifts and sits down on the ground. "How long will you stay this time?"
"I wonder why you have not returned to Aman, brother," he says, taking a sidelong look at me. It is a question I do not feel the need to answer, but do anyway.
"What is there for me to return to? Before you say mother and father, yes, I already know they are there. I love them dearly, but I would rather see my wife and daughter on the shores to welcome me."
"Not only mother and father, but my wife and daughter are there as well. Your sister-by-marriage and niece who will welcome you with open arms."
"I doubt your daughter will welcome me. She does not know me!"
"Oh, but she does. I have told her stories about you."
"All good ones, I hope."
"Plenty of them. I even told her a few of the more embarrassing ones."
"Incentive enough to set sail and set the record straight? I know what you are doing, little brother. If I sail, it will be when I decide."
We spend the rest of the night talking around the fire, sleep forgotten, and our hunger assuaged by the stew I had cooked. At sunrise, we make our way to Lorien and enter within the borders of that golden wood. Word of my coming spreads quickly among those who haven't yet sailed or moved to other realms, but of course they cannot know who I was. Their Lord left with their Lady, but now returns with a stranger. I hold myself as my brother does, straight-backed and proud as we ride through the forest of mellyrn. Taking a look around, I notice the difference between the time of my first visit and now. He is right. Lorien has lost some of its splendor, but it is still impressive to my eyes.
There is no need to introduce me as his brother. I want to remain as unknown as I can. I travel with him as he travels to Mirkwood and witness its renaming to Eryn Lasgalen. He introduces me to King Thranduil, but only as trusted advisor, and I am greeted kindly. I catch glimpses of the King's son, Legolas, one of the famed Nine Walkers who were instrumental in the victory over Sauron. We stay for a while there, until my brother decides to move on to Imladris, where the sons of Elrond still remain. I had forgotten the glories of Imladris and the peace that I could find there. It is there that I finally make a decision that would please my brother more than it does me, though I know I have time to get used to it.
I will set sail for Aman in the spring.
I'v come to realize that, while I enjoy spending time with my brother, I am weary of Middle-earth. As Lorien will soon lose its splendor completely, so Middle-earth lost its brilliancy in my eyes. I discuss it with my brother, and I am right in knowing he'd be pleased. But I do not expect his own decision to join me.
"I have grown weary myself, Galathil," he tells me, clasping my shoulder in a firm grip. "Most of all, I want to see my family again."
I know he meant all of them, his wife, daughter, and our mother and father as well. I smile at him and we make our preparations, settling in the wait out the winter months with growing impatience. Elrond's sons will be staying longer still, ever keeping Imladris safe as their father had, and also keeping an eye on their sister, the Queen of Gondor. I admire their perseverance, for surely they miss their parents and the family that have already sailed. Though I still keep my identity secret and therefore cannot claim the family ties between us, I am pleased to have met my grand nephews.
Spring arrives and it is time to leave. We ride to the Grey Havens with Elladan and Elrohir. They will see us off and return to Imladris with our horses. Lord Círdan awaits us with a grey ship ready to sail. We say our good-byes to the twins and board the ship, which leaves within the hour.
Our journey is longer than I expected, lasting perhaps a couple of weeks, but at last we make it safely to the shores of Aman. As my brother promised, our family is waiting for us, waving excitedly. The sight of my parents after such a long time gives me a joy I wasn't expecting. Once we disembark the ship, my brother loses all manner of decorum and runs for his wife and daughter. My own approach to my parents isn't at a run, but a more cautious walk.
"Welcome home, my son!" My mother wraps her arms around me and my father clasps my shoulder. I hold on to mother tightly before embracing father. We spend our time talking and then Celeborn brings his wife and daughter over. We are a family reunited, but in a way, I wish my own wife and daughter were here to be a part of it. I will tell my parents of them later, but one thing is made very clear to me…
I am home. Even without my wife and daughter here, I am home.