The Branching of Trees
Disclaimer: It's all Tolkien's, you know that.
The cornered elf fought on, adding to the pile of dead foes that had brought the remainder of his household guard down. Silver blade and silver hair flashing in the tree-shaded and dappled starlight, it took two opponents and an archer to disarm him but he moved unflinchingly into grappling range. Turning and twisting one of his opponents into breakable parts, he barely dodged the charge of another, redirecting the attacker's momentum to send him crashing into a tree. Just as more armed warriors were about to assail him from behind, their fell and dangerous captain rode up to the commotion.
"Hold, fey elf, or the children die!" The captain motioned to two more of his warriors coming up behind him, each with an elf lad bound across the saddle and at knifepoint.
"Daeradar!" twin voices screamed. Twin pairs of large grey eyes, wide with terror in the dark, shone beneath two heads of mussed black hair.
More than any of the wounds bleeding the life-blood from him, the sight - of his grandsons ensnared - staggered the silver-haired elf into submission. Panting and bleeding, he stood his ground against some heavily armed Noldorin soldiers bearing the house crest of a Fëanorion: Celegorm's. The thought barely registered in his panic-filled mind as he looked from his grandsons to the mounted elf-captain to the soldiers surrounding him, back to his grandsons.
"Let them go," the silver-haired elf demanded vehemently, just able to forbear pleading with the enemy. "They are but children!" He kept his head held high, meeting the other's glare directly with his own. He was nearly at his end now and knew it full well, though his pride did not allow him to display frailty.
"You are in no position to make demands," the captain retorted. "The rest of your fleeing cohort is dead, but I had not thought that you would be standing here still, trying to buy the time for their escape!" Then, as if seeing the dead elves strewn on the ground for the first time, he asked scornfully to mask his surprise, "What are you, Dark elf, that you were able to fell so many of the great Celegorm's men?"
The cornered elf did not answer, regaining his breath and trying to focus the remainder of his energy on staying alive long enough to better the situation.
The twins cried aloud, remorseless grips tightening on them.
"That you still live," Celegorm's captain continued, "is a matter only to determine how you shall die."
"I am a prince of Doriath," the other replied hotly, seeing no point in lying. "Now unhand the children!"
"As I thought. You do seem like the one who they say married the Lady Artanis." The captain's eyes narrowed, and all the other soldiers seemed to readjust their holds on their weapons at the mention of the lady's name.
They think I am my brother… thought Galathil, and the combination of the soldiers' reaction and the feyness taking over him made him laugh. The pain in his sides made it short-lived, and the glint of humour hardened in his green eyes. "Alas, I am not he that you seek to take revenge upon for taking to wife one of your own."
"Oh? Then we will do as this prince says," the captain laughed cruelly, waving away the two riders. "Take the children out a league or two and release them there."
Galathil's breath caught, for he knew his opponent could not be that charitable.
"After a few hours they should make good quarry for a hunt!"
The riders wheeled their horses around and galloped out into the forest.
Daeradar! The cries of the twins faded quickly into the distance.
The Prince of Doriath screamed in wordless rage, but only earned new slashes by his enemies' weapons as they kept him at bay. Elured! Elurin! Run!
"The children are as inconsequential as you are," the captain declared, "Even so, we would do the same for the savage cur that wed Lady Artanis and whatever litter he sired. Kill him."
The command had barely left his lips when he looked up in disbelief.
Galathil had already leapt high into the air, swung off a low hanging tree branch - not entirely avoiding the blades that had surrounded him - and was falling towards the captain on his horse. The Noldo had only drawn his dagger before he was knocked off his mount. In the brief tumble to the ground, the captain stabbed wildly at his attacker, but it did not stop the arm tightening around his neck or the last words spoken to him.
"I am Galathil, Prince of Doriath," the Sinda hissed in the moment that they were shielded by the agitated horse. "Gladly will I pray in penitence in the Halls of Mandos, if I can save my grandchildren and my brother from your kind. I will see you there shortly."
The remainder of the battle was brief as the soldiers closed in around their fallen captain, but many of the company met an end from the dying throes of the prince. When the riders that had borne the sons of Dior away returned, they found no soldier unscathed. They were then sent away for aid so that no further pursuit of Elured and Elurin was made. Thusly did the elder son of Galadhon leave Middle-Earth and his grandsons become lost.
Celeborn groaned, and coming to his physical senses, shook his head to clear it.
Is there something the matter? Galadriel placed a hand gently on his knee from where she walked beside the horse he rode while carrying Elwing. His wife could sense a deep shroud of dread over his mind. I should ride the watch, if your mind is not clear.
She looked over her shoulder at the cityfolk that they were leading silently out of Doriath by foot. There had not been access to many of the horses in their hour of fleeing and the few they had were used to the lead the elves at a brisk pace, or to ride stealthily ahead and behind to keep guard. Celeborn followed her gaze. Their safety overruled consideration of the shadow that had suddenly fallen upon him so without breaking the horse's stride, he slipped from the saddle, child in his arms, while Galadriel leapt up to take his place. Elwing stirred from her sleep as her great-uncle handed her up to his wife. Galadriel wrapped the child up in her cloak as Celeborn had, concealing the light of a Silmaril hanging around the child's neck, careful that the armour she wore did not chafe the child.
Celeborn threw the trailing edge of his cloak over one shoulder, retreating deeper into its gathered folds. Galadriel sat straight-backed and alert, gazing out from her new vantage point, but part of her mind remained with her husband. After some moments, she heard Celeborn's audible swallow.
Some ill has befallen Galathil... I fear he is likely dead, came the numb thought.
Galadriel tried to maintain composed for her husband's sake. Now was no time to grieve, though he would need it. The twins?
Celeborn looked inward and then at the sleeping Elwing. I do not know.
Grief morphed slowly into anger in his heart and Galadriel could feel it welling up white hot within him. She had to withdraw lest it awaken within her as well.
Some 3700 years later…
"I do not understand," Elrond remarked to Celebrian, as he watched his young sons and their grandfather tackling each other in one of the gardens below the terrace, "why your father has such an obsession with teaching the twins unarmed combat, and at such a young age." When his wife did not immediately respond, he continued thinking aloud. "When I agreed to let Celeborn teach them self-defense, I did not think it would be this... intense. Elladan and Elrohir get into enough trouble as it is, now they could really hurt themselves."
The smile he received from Celebrian was wry. "You have been through wars, my husband," she admonished, "An attacker will not soften his blow because you were not prepared for its intensity."
"True." The Lord of Imladris inclined his head in concession.
"Besides," his wife continued, "my father will keep them from hurting themselves."
"Your father is hardly a violent man by nature, yet all this training he is giving the twins - the tracking, the woodland survival lessons, and now this - seems to venture into paranoia."
Celebrian sighed and leaned against her husband, a frown of worry finally creeping across her brow. "You know the story of Elwing's brothers," she stated.
"Ah." Elrond placed an arm around her. Our children are safe here, my love.
They stood silent for a moment, watching the three figures beneath them performing a bizarre sort of dance with their combat.
"In a way, I think my father feels guilty."
"For not being able to save all of Dior's children and his brother?"
"He greatly admired Galathil." Celebrian spoke in a hushed, sad tone. Though she had never known her uncle, it seemed to her that he would have been an elf well worth knowing. "When they split the children of Dior between them and fled Doriath, it was merely by chance that Galathil's group was waylaid by Celegorm's men."
"I see." Elrond paused, still watching his sons, knowing fully that their training could hardly be in better hands. "It may be Celeborn feels it unfair that he is able to enjoy watching his twin grandsons grow up, while Galathil could not do the same with his."
Notes: Inspired by Oboe-Wan's "Heir and Remembrance"
It took 5 years for me to wonder why Dior would send his daughter out of the city but not his sons.
I do not remember if there were any official references in Unfinished Tales about how or when Galathil died, but I like using him as a foil even though he is only a name in the footnotes of discarded canon. Borrowing an idea from Marnie's excellent Celeborn fics where his mother is Laiquendi, to create a convenient history for Galathil, he would have to have left Thingol's court after the first Sindarin-only war against Morgoth when Denethor is killed, thus leaving Celeborn behind to inherit the title of "Prince." I also like to think that Galathil is the "lord of the Green-elves hastening from Ossiriand" that brought the Nauglamir back to Dior after Luthien died (which I may one day write a drabble of), and that perhaps he stayed in Menegroth until its fall.