Over the next several weeks Haldir became a valuable companion to the former King. Sparring, exploring, or even just seated around a fire sharing stories and happenings, his presence helped Gil-galad greatly. Little did he see Galadriel or Celeborn, preferring to spend his time among the Galadhrim. Much as before, Gil-galad was more at home among the warriors than the politicians. Each morning, every sunset, every morsel of food... all were treasure to the re-born Elf. Gil-galad enjoyed everything he had previously overlooked. The simple pleasure one could find in a fresh fruit or a sweet wine no longer were simple pleasures taken for granted. Every Elf, from the smallest Elfling to the most battle-hardened warrior was of interest to the former King. Much time did he spend simply conversing. Elflings loved to sit upon Gil-galad’s lap and hear tales of old. That their storyteller lived during the events he described never occurred to them, but how does one explain the concept of death and rebirth to the very young?
Gil-galad began accompanying the Galadhrim on their patrols, his unassuming and eager manner endearing him to the members of Haldir’s patrol. Many an evening he would tell of battles of old and answer question after question tirelessly. One evening, after everyone else had sought their bedrolls, he and Haldir remained by the fire. Gil-galad could sense that the other Elf was troubled by something and caught more than one hesitant glance in his direction. Finally, unable to tolerate the stifling silence between them, Gil-galad spoke up. "Come, Haldir, spit it out, will you? Whatever it is that has you so disconcerted, just say it."
Haldir sighed, his eyes trained on the fire. After a few moments he seemed to have worked up his courage and turned to look at the former High King. "How much longer will you continue to hide here, my Lord?"
Gil-galad looked away, a flush staining his cheeks. "I know not of what you mean, Haldir. I am not hiding here, as you say."
Haldir scooted closer. He waited until the King had swung his eyes back to Haldir’s. "You have become a dear companion these few weeks. I only say this because I have come to care for you, my Lord. Indeed you are hiding. You are hiding from the world and more importantly, you are hiding from Elrond." Haldir looked regretfully at his friend. "I do not say this with any desire to see you go, I will miss your company greatly. But, mellonen, you do not belong here in the Golden Wood. Your place is with your heart’s desire, Elrond."
Gil-galad looked into his friend’s concerned eyes. His shoulders trembled for a moment before he took a deep breath. Haldir was right. He had been hiding, avoiding, what ever one called it. He had been putting off reaching any decisions. Decisions about his future, about Elrond, decisions about anything. Now it appeared the time for hiding was over. He leaned in and drew Haldir into a hug, grateful for such a caring friend. "You are right," he whispered. Gil-galad said no more, leaving Haldir next to the fire. He went to his bedroll and lay down.
Nothing more was said the rest of patrol, but upon their return to Caras Galadhon Gil-galad went to see Galadriel and Celeborn. Both greeted him cautiously. He bowed and thanked them for their hospitality, all pretending that it had been consensually. Gil-galad met his cousin’s eyes, seeing in them some unease. "It is time for me to depart. I will be journeying to Imladris. Is there any message I may give your son-in-law?" He asked, no emotion in his voice.
Galadriel did not speak. Only Celeborn was brave enough to answer their former King. "No, Gil-galad, no message, just that of our love to our grandchildren." Celeborn ignored his wife’s glare. "We will, of course, send an escort with you. I believe Haldir and his brothers would welcome such a task. You have made a great many friends here, Gil-galad and many will be sad to see you depart."
Gil-galad simply nodded, unable as of yet to forgive his one-time friend. "I thank you, Celeborn." Gil-galad left without a backwards glance. He packed the few possessions he had managed to collect and made calls to the friends he had made, wishing each a sad farewell. He had indeed enjoyed his time in the Golden Wood and would miss his friends. That night a surprised and grateful Gil-galad was lead to the main fountain where a feast was held to formally say goodbye to the King. Gil-galad was especially touched with the sword that all the Galadhrim had contributed in gifting him with. The gleaming mithril blade bore the Elvish inscription "Forget Not the Golden Wood." It was with a saddened, yet nervously hopeful heart, that Gil-galad left Lothlórien and headed towards Imladris and Elrond.
Gil-galad knew as they stopped for the night that his unease and nervousness was noticed. Even his horse sensed its master’s unrest and danced nervously under Gil-galad’s weight. He could not stop his thoughts or keep his mind from traveling to the half-Elf and what welcome awaited him. How would Elrond react? What of the Peredhel’s children? Would they welcome him into their home, the former domain of their mother? All these questions and more kept the former King awake through out the first days of their journey. It was with a great deal of thankfulness a week into their trip that Gil-galad greeted Haldir’s suggestion of a hunt.
Silently Gil-galad crept through the forest, the borrowed Lórien bow at the ready. He stopped, ears picking up a sound not heard in centuries. Orcs! He stayed still, mind busy. He did not know the other’s position, having wanted the solitude of his own company. Quickly gaining a position in the trees, Gil-galad strained his ears for a better fix on the enemy’s location. He did not know if the others would recognize a Lindon warning call, but chancing it, he put his lips together and whistled: one high note, one low note. Faint rustling, too low for any but Elven ears could be heard and Gil-galad relaxed. The others were close.
Their smell announced their presence before the Orcs’ forms could be seen. Gil-galad fought the compulsion to cover his nose and mouth. Never had he thought to encounter that odor again! He emptied his mind of any images of battles past, and focused on the Orcs now moving below him. He caught the Galadhrim’s faint call on the air and made ready. When its sister call came, he released arrow after arrow into the screaming bodies below. The battle was quickly over, the creatures no match for the bowmen of Lothlórien. After the carnage, he silently helped the others dispose and burn the Orcs’ bodies. Gil-galad ignored Haldir’s concerned looks and once camp had been set, left the camp alone. The stream was welcomed gratefully. Gil-galad hastily shed his gore-covered garments and plunged into the water. Scrubbing fiercely at his skin, he was unaware of Haldir’s arrival. The Marchwarden voice startled the King. "Are you okay, Gil-galad?" Haldir asked.
Gil-galad looked up at the other Elf, his mouth trying and failing to form words. Gil-galad crumpled to his knees in the water, his eyes revealing remembered horrors. Haldir moved quickly into the water, clothes and boots still on, and caught the former King in a strong embrace. "It’s okay," he whispered, between the King’s gasps and sobs. He held the trembling form tightly. "Your death?" he asked.
Gil-galad could only nod against Haldir’s shoulder, his body wracked by images of a battle fought in the last Age, a battle that had cost him his life. Gradually, Gil-galad calmed enough for Haldir to lead him to the shore, dry him, and dress him in the clean garments Gil-galad had brought with him. It was a numb, Gil-galad who returned to camp. He accepted the tea Rúmil handed him, gratefully recognizing the smell of sleeping herbs. He was unaware of the watch his sleep was guarded with that night.
As their journey brought them closer to Elrond, Gil-galad grew more withdrawn. His thoughts returned again and again to the words of the Valar. Elrond was suffering; he had been for most of his life. Each brief moment the Peredhel had found happiness it had been ripped from him. First his parents, then his brother; Gil-galad had too left him. Elrond’s wife had been attacked and left for healing in Valinor, and now his daughter, the Evenstar of their people, would choose the same path as Elrond’s brother. A path that would separate father and daughter forever, to become mortal. Gil-galad’s heart bled for his love. The Valar had revealed a further heartache for the Peredhel: his sons, were leaning towards the choice of their sister, to become mortal and die.
Gil-galad was not sure of the Valar’s task for him. It had only been revealed that they wished to ease some of the Peredhel’s suffering by returning a lost loved one to him. But any knowledge of the twins’ possible choice was to be withheld. "Was he perhaps to influence their decision in some fashion? And if so, could he"?
Gil-galad froze at Haldir’s words, "We are within Imladris’ borders." The time was upon him. He would soon face the only person he had ever loved, but was he welcome?
Cries of "Halt," were heard. Haldir halted the party as a golden-haired sentry appeared on horseback. Gil-galad recognized those noble features. Glorfindel, Seneschal to Lord Elrond, and the only other re-born Elf on Arda. Glorfindel spoke with Haldir, his attention focused on the Lórien guard. Haldir responded quietly to the Balrog slayer and appeared to be nervous.
Gil-galad turned to Rúmil. "I think it wise that the rest of you wait here a moment and let me greet the Seneschal alone." He waited for Rúmil’s acknowledging nod before he urged his horse forward.
Gil-galad kept his eyes pinned to those of the Seneschal’s. He could see the same emotions that had appeared in many others at first sight of him: disbelief. He rode close to the Elda, waiting calmly for the blond to recover from the shock. He met those proud eyes blank-faced. Until he greeted Elrond and judged his welcome, it was better to remain calm and collected.
Glorfindel placed a hand over his heart, his words emotional. "If I did not know myself sane, I would swear that I’d consumed too much of Thranduil’s Dwarf wine." At the Seneschal’s words, Gil-galad burst out laughing. Warmly he accepted the awkward, horseback embrace, his heart warmed by the Seneschal’s carefree welcome.
"You also consume too much wine, my friend. That is one of your many charms." Gil-galad pulled back and smiled at his very much-missed comrade. "Are you brave enough, Balrog slayer, to lead me forward?" Gil-galad asked, his face becoming serious.
Glorfindel’s mirth too vanished. He gravely looked into the King’s eyes. "Do you not feel that some sort of warning is needed? To spring this on him with no advance notice, might be a bit much."
Gil-galad looked to Haldir, and sighed at the Galadhel’s nod of agreement. He looked down then swung off his horse. Gil-galad looked up into the blonde’s eyes. "I only ask that you do not delay, Glorfindel. Now that I am this close, it is taking all my will to stand here, where he is not."
Glorfindel gave the former King’s shoulder a brief squeeze. "I will hurry, though it may take much to convince him of this miracle." With that, the Seneschal spun his horse around and fled back to Imladris.
Gil-galad did not know how much time passed, but it seemed forever. The agonizing waiting had him pacing and muttering curses to himself. Everyone and everything else was blocked out as he waited. He did not notice the others moving their horses away. Gil-galad felt that his very heart was exploding as he finally heard the faint sound of hoof beats. Closer the sound came, the horse closing the distance fast. Gil-galad kept his head lowered as the horse came to a sudden stop directly in front of him. He tightly closed his eyes. He heard the faint rustling of robes, and then he was overcome by a familiar, beloved fragrance.
Gil-galad dared not look. This could not be real! Tears streamed from under his closed eyelids and he tightly clenched his fist to keep himself still.
The voice, when it came, hit him and sent his body quaking. "Will you not look upon me? P-please open your eyes; look at me, so that I may know this is no dream!" Elrond’s voice was fearful, almost incomprehensible, in its emotion.
Slowly, Gil-galad raised his head and opened his eyes. Silvery-grey eyes like the mist on a rainy morning looked back at him. "Elrond."
To be continued...