Gil-galad lingered in his assigned room only long enough to bathe some of the travel filth from his body and don fresh tunic and leggings. The lush garden of Imladris beckoned. Gil-galad was able to avoid curious eyes by exiting through the terrace of his room. He took great joy in shimmying his way down the large oak tree outside his window, laughing to himself. If anyone saw the former High King of the Noldor fumbling his way through tree climbing, the gossip mills would be awash with new material. Once safely upon the ground and with no little relief that he had made it, Gil-galad stretched and breathed deeply. The air smelled different in Imladris than it did in Lothlórien. Perhaps it was due to the differences in the two Rings, or maybe it was just that this was where Elrond dwelled. Whatever the differences, this felt like home.
The roar of the mighty Bruinen provided background sound to the happy chirping of birds. Nowhere else on Arda was the wind more welcomed, allowed to rustle and dance through the trees, than here, where the Ring of Air ruled. Elrond’s gardens were true treasures, every plant, flower, and tree, healthy, happy and a delight to the senses. Gil-galad had never told Elrond but what he had created here was sheer magic, and that he had done it long before the Ring came into his possession made it all the more incredible. There had been a time when Gil-galad had resented every inch of soil that made up Imladris. The building of Elrond’s refuge had taken his herald, friend, and lover from his side. It had become Elrond’s obsession, and Gil-galad could admit that he had wanted to be the only obsession in the Peredhel’s life.
But death had a way of changing one’s perspective. Looking back, he could see why the half-Elf had been so determined to create this sanctuary. Elrond had never really had one place he could call his own. He had been taken from the home of his childhood, when the sons of Fëanor sacked the Havens of Sirion. After their release by Maglor, Elros and Elrond came after a time to settle in Lindon with Gil-galad.
While none had dared show their prejudices openly, there were certainly whispers and Elrond had heard them. The *finer* Elves, and at that Gil-galad snorted, looked upon the half-Elf as less than them. The insults were subtle; their pure Elvish daughters were not allowed interaction with the Peredhil. Elrond suffered continuous doubts about his abilities, from warrior to healer to Advisor to the High King. But while these suspicions ate away at Elros’ desire to be counted among the Firstborn, they only seemed to fuel the fire that burned in Elrond, even brighter than the full-blooded Elves that shunned him.
Gil-galad knew Elrond had never fully felt welcome in Lindon. The silent censure became worse once they had to also hide their love. Each push by the nobles of the court to have Gil-galad married off and an heir underway only spurred the resentment Elrond began to feel towards the nobles of Lindon. So when Elrond discovered the valley, he had wasted no time in escaping from Lindon and its resentful Elves. Gil-galad had lost something of Elrond when the Peredhel first laid eyes on his valley, but while that knowledge had burned through him with a great deal of bitterness before his death, now it just made him glad. Glad that the half-Elf had had at least this one constant in his life.
Gil-galad reluctantly left his outdoor explorations and moved inside, curious to see what other changes times had wrought. He peeked carefully into the open libraries, knowing there was where Elrond poured one of his other loves. The libraries very impressive, with wall to ceiling volumes, some having been written by the half-Elf himself. Next he explored the dining halls, ignoring the many curious looks and stunned silences his presence caused. The Hall of Fire was welcoming indeed. He could well see it filled with laughter, dancing, and music.
It was the Hall of Memories that caused him the most joy and the most sorrow. Evidence was abound of the loss in Elrond’s past, his presence, Elrond’s brother Elros and his human descendants, and Celebrían. Gil-galad could almost feel the bitter-sweet sense of loss and love in this room. The victorious defeat of Sauron reflected in a mural, the beauty of Celebrían immortalized in a painting, this was where Elrond kept his ghosts. The shards of Narsil lay upon a shrine and the walls were covered in murals, some depicting the mortals who shared Elrond’s blood. There was even a chilling painting of Celebrían’s capture and torture by the Orcs. One mural drew Gil-galad for a closer look. Coming to a stop before the painting, he eyed the testimony of his death painted in vivid colors. There he stood, spear raised defiantly against the Dark Lord Sauron. His last great and foolish moment.
He knew not how long he stared at his image inscribed on the walls of Imladris. It was, finally, the gentle scent of rose that pulled his attention away. He turned and met the eyes of an Elf-maid. Gil-galad had not heard another’s presence and he silently studied the female just as he himself was studied. Her identity he knew immediately. Even though her eyes were a deep rich blue, everything else about her screamed Elrond. So this was Arwen, the Evenstar of their people. She was as lovely as the legends said. The pair regarded the other, each waiting for the other to speak. Since he was the intruder in her home, he broke the standoff.
Gil-galad bowed. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Arwen. From the Halls much was said of your beauty and grace, but the rumors failed to do you justice."
Arwen strolled over and stopped directly in front of Gil-galad. "Should I address you as Sire, or curtsy perhaps?" While her words were mildly spoken, her eyes remained watchful.
Gil-galad smiled down at the Elf-maiden. "Gil-galad will be fine, and please, no curtsey."
Arwen laid a hand upon Gil-galad’s arm. "Will you walk with me then, Gil-galad?"
He gave her hand a squeeze with one of his own. "With pleasure, my Lady. Lead on."
The pair strolled silently back through Imladris' lovely peaceful gardens. Gil-galad waited for Elrond’s daughter to speak, her verdict laying the foundation for his welcome back into Elrond’s life.
"Do you resent me as you do my grandmother?" Arwen asked, shocking her companion with her forthright manner. But Gil-galad really shouldn’t have been that surprised, he thought. She was of Galadriel’s blood also.
He sighed sadly, shaking his head. "No, pen dithen, I do not resent you or your brothers. While my anger at your grandmother burned brightly upon my re-birth, the ire has since abated. What of you, Arwen? How do you feel about my presence here?" Gil-galad knew he should wait and speak to Elrond first, but he had never been one to sit idly by and wait for rejection or bad news.
Arwen sat on a small stone bench and indicated that Gil-galad should join her. Her bottomless blue eyes looked deep into his cerulean orbs. "It is the Valar’s will, is it not, that you were returned?" At his nod, she continued. "Their purpose, then, I place my trust in, believing that they have only my father’s good in mind. I wish only my father’s happiness and well-being. Much sorrow has he known and these last Ages he has been lonely and in need of comfort that neither I nor my brothers can provide."
Gil-galad nodded once more. "I too have to trust in the Valar’s will. But this I can promise you. Only Elrond’s happiness prompted this decision on their parts."
"Good," Arwen said. She rose and looked down at Gil-galad once more. "I would ask that you tread slowly and carefully with Ada. He seemed overwhelmed and unbalanced when we spoke earlier." Arwen went to depart, but Gil-galad could not help the brief flash of anger her words caused.
"Arwen," he called, and when she turned he made sure she could see the prideful anger in his eyes. While he did not wish to cause any unease in Elrond’s house or alienate his children, he would not be cowed or denied what was his. "I have loved Elrond through Ages; even death could not deny that love. I have returned for him and him alone and nothing will change that."
Arwen smiled at someone over Gil-galad’s shoulder, not responding to his words. Gil-galad turned and looked into Elrond shining eyes.
To be continued...