Sleep would not come to the former High King. Once he had spoken with Galadriel, once *his* presence had been invoked, thoughts of Elrond would not let him rest. Frustrated and resigned to a sleepless night, he rose and stepped out into the evening air. Gil-galad’s hands tightly clenched the railing of his talan. *Elrond*. No thought had he given, or much chance of reflection was he allowed before he was thrust back upon Arda’s shores. But, was there still a place for a once-upon-time King, here. Now? And what of Elrond, his reason for returning? The half-Elf had been married, was still married according to Elvish law. He had children and was undisputedly a powerful Elf-lord, renowned for his wisdom and healing abilities. When he had served Gil-galad, Elrond had been young in Elvish years, and had looked up to the wiser King. But now, Elrond had more than grown into the promise the Valar had seen. *Was there a place in Elrond’s arms and heart for him any longer*?
Had Elrond loved Celebrían? That thought, though unfair, haunted Gil-galad. He had not wanted Elrond to bury his heart after his death, but the idea of *his* Elrond in the arms of another sent him into a rage. His anger at Galadriel unabated, Gil-galad knew he would not linger long in Lothlórien. But was he ready to travel to Imladris? No, Gil-galad knew he was not. Perhaps for the very first time, the brave warrior, who had not trembled even before Sauron himself, was afraid. His musings were disturbed by the entrance of Haldir. Gil-galad let go of thoughts of tomorrow, at least for this night.
Haldir hesitantly approached the High King. "Sire, I am sorry for the disturbance. Lord Celeborn felt you would not wish to join the crowds in the main talan for dinner so I have brought you a tray." Haldir entered and deposited his burden on a small table. He backed away and gave the King a small bow.
Gil-galad eyed the proud Galadhel sadly. "Haldir, please, no more with the titles." He gave the Elf a small smile. "As you are well aware, I am a King no longer. The Elves of Arda no longer have a High King." He stopped Haldir’s objections with a raised hand. "I have not been returned for that purpose, Haldir. Indeed, that is the last burden I wish to carry once more." Gil-galad moved closer to the silent guard. He warmly smiled into the Elf’s hazel eyes. "You see before you, mellonen, an ordinary Elf."
Haldir reacted to the former King’s words at once. "No Sire, you are far from ordinary!"
Gil-galad squeezed Haldir’s shoulder. "Please, Haldir. I remember fighting along side you and your father. He was a brave and honorable Elf, and I was deeply saddened by his joining me in the Halls of Waiting." Gil-galad sat and uncovered the tray Lórien fare. He drew a deep appreciative whiff of real food, his taste buds exploding. A huge smile spread across his face. Something else he had greatly missed!
Haldir moved back, smiling at the expression upon Gil-galad’s face. "I will leave you, Si-," he broke off at Gil-galad’s mock glare. "My lord," Haldir stressed, smiling. "Enjoy your dinner."
Gil-galad eyed the broad back of the retreating Galadhel, an idea coming to him. "Haldir," he called. When the younger Elf turned back, Gil-galad asked. "Would it be possible to spar with you and your men on the morrow?" He shrugged his shoulders, somewhat embarrassed. "It has been some time, and this reborn body of mine could use the exercise."
Haldir laughed. "Of course, my Lord, it would be an honor. I will come for you in the morning. Rest well."
Once the Galadhel left, the smile slipped from Gil-galad’s face. Even the long missed pleasure of food did not improve his spirits. He had spoken truly to Haldir; his place in this new Arda was unsure and unknown. The Elven realms were well ruled by their current Lords and Lady, no longer was there a place for one King. Besides, the crown when he had worn it had been a daunting burden. Many a day had he wished to shed the shackles of ruling for a more simple life. Well, now was his chance. The only problem was he did not know how to be a simple Elf. But, Gil-galad thought, a familiar challenging gleam in his eye, he would find out.
As expected, no rest did the former King enjoy that night. Instead, a firm decision was reached. Never in his first life did Gil-galad shy from hard choices or difficult tasks and he would not start his second life by doing either. He would take time to regroup, to relearn what it meant to live once more. When he had acquainted himself with this changed Arda, he would make the journey to Imladris and face another ghost of his past.
Morning brought him up and dressed and awaiting Haldir’s arrival. He greeted the guard in good spirits and followed him to the training grounds. Silence greeted his appearance among the guards. He walked among them, never feeling more isolated than he did at that moment. Haldir stopped before two other Elves both of whom bore a striking resemblance to the Marchwarden.
"My Lord, may I introduce my two brothers? This is Rúmil and Orophin." Haldir placed a hand upon both brothers’ shoulders. "Orophin is the baby of the family." He laughed at the scowl he received for adding that little bit.
Gil-galad warmly returned the warriors’ greetings, glad to ease some of the tension his arrival had brought. "Mae govannen, it is indeed an honor to meet you both. I fought along side your sire and was saddened that he fell in battle with me."
Rúmil and Orophin both thanked Gil-Galad and moved back to their assignments, leaving Haldir and the King alone. Gil-galad looked at his partner for the morning. "Well, Haldir, what weapon shall we start with? Now please remember that this new form has not yet touched a weapon. I trust that you will take it easy on an old out-of-shape warrior?"
Haldir warmly clasped the King’s arm, laughing as he led the way to the armory. More stares and halted conversations followed their progress. The armory provided a few moments of ease, but the attention returned once they emerged back into the sunlight. Haldir noticed how the silence and uneasy looks were discomforting to the former King. He looked over at Gil-galad. "My Lord, I know of a place better suited for a sparring practice. Plus, it is blessed by being near a stream for a swim after we are finished. What say you?"
Gil-galad nodded gratefully at the guard. "That sounds excellent, Haldir. Lead on."
The clearing where Haldir led them was indeed better suited to Gil-galad’s needs. The open area was big enough for two Elves to have ease of movement, but the surrounding trees and foliage gave some well-needed privacy. For the next hour the small clearing rang with the sounds of blade upon blade. After a sweaty draw was agreed upon, the pair collapsed in exhaustion. Gil-galad felt every muscle in his re-born form, but upon his face was a smile. He had forgotten the simple joy of working one’s muscles, the feel of exertion in one’s limbs, and the thrill of an evenly matched opponent. He glanced over at the heavily breathing Marchwarden, secretly pleased that he had provided such a fine challenge.
"Haldir, I enjoyed that immensely. Long has it been since I felt this alive!" The pair collapsed, hysterical at the High King’s unintended pun.
Haldir rose and offered the laughing King a hand. "None of your skill have you lost, my Lord. Now, how about that swim?"
Gil-galad accepted the limb. "Ah, that would be most welcome." Tunics and leggings were shed quickly at the prospect of a refreshing dip. Gil-galad stepped into the pool of water, and at the first sensation of the cool liquid upon his skin he forgot all about his companion.
Enrapt he stared down into the clear depths. Goosebumps covered his skin and a shiver of reaction danced through his frame. Gil-galad kept his eyes open as he submerged under the water. Floating, he looked in wonder at the world revealed around him. Small fish and plants danced past him as he stretched out his arms and began swimming. He burst to the surface, a joyous cry upon his lips. So long! It had been so long since he had felt such pleasure. The cool water caressed his skin like a long past lover. The taste of the pure liquid on his lips and tongue...so precious, so taken for granted.
Only gradually did he become aware of Haldir’s stare. Finding the Galadhel eyeing him with amazement, he flushed. "I have always enjoyed bathing," he simply said. He joined Haldir in laughter, not minding that it was at himself.
To be continued...