Startled somewhat out of her thoughts, Galadriel half turned, recognizing the elf looking at her uncertainly as Calenor. A sentry, she thought. “Yes?”
“A stranger,” he said, slowly. “Tall and dark, lingers near the northern border of your lands. Should we…” He trailed off, shifted, uncomfortably. Young, she thought. So very young.
Galadriel half-opened her mouth to ask for more detail on this strange visitor, and closed it, with a sudden certainty that she knew just who it was. “No,” she said. “No. Do not go to him. He is no threat to us.”
Calenor looked like he wanted to ask questions, but her tone had not been one to invite them, and he subsided. “Yes, my lady,” he said, and bowed gracefully. “I am sorry to disturb you.” He retreated back into the trees. She watched him go, gaze distant and somewhere else entirely.
“I wondered,” she said softly to the air, “If you would ever come.”
After dark, she slipped out with only a quiet word to Celeborn that she would be back soon, and walked through her woods silent as a shadow. She knew that eyes marked her movement, but they would not ask, and most would think nothing of it. She did not intend to make a secret of her actions, but discretion was to be valued.
She emerged from the northern boundary into a field of high grass and saw him immediately, sitting perfectly still and looking up at the stars. At one star, she thought, in particular. “Cousin,” she said, softly. He did not stir.
“Artanis,” he said finally, voice rolling out soft and faintly hoarse, but still full of power. Enough to send a shiver down her spine. Fëanor’s voice, echoing down through the ages.
“Long has it been,” she said, finally, “Since any called me by that name.”
He switched smoothly to Sindarin. “Would you rather the other?”
“No,” she said softly. “It is good to hear – to speak – my own tongue again.” He made a soft sound that was not quite a laugh.
“I suppose it is.” Galadriel wondered how long it had been since he had had words with anyone, in any language, but the thought made her hurt. His eyes dropped, finally, from the sky, and he turned to look at her. “I was here once before, a very long time ago, but now…you have built a paradise here, Artanis. It is – beautiful. Stunning.”
“Thank you,” she said, though what she wanted to say was you were here before? When? “Cano…”
He tilted his head. “I am sorry. I did not mean to…I was far to the south, but the murmurs of war are spreading. Perhaps I have no right, but I wished to know that you were well.”
It is hard, Galadriel thought, to hold onto hate for all these years. I will never not mourn, but now I can mourn you as well. “Nenya and I keep the darkness at bay still.” Maglor nodded.
“You will be careful?” He said, after a moment, and she smiled sadly at him.
“If ever I was reckless, I am no longer.” She hesitated, and then asked, quietly, “Are you here to aid us?”
Maglor’s smile was bitter. “I have not held a sword since the breaking of the world. I wish to pretend I have forgotten how. No, I am not here to fight, Artanis. Call it cowardice, but I do not have it in me.”
“I call it nothing.” She hesitated, and regarded him. “Have you visited Elrond?” Galadriel asked softly. Maglor looked away.
“No,” he said, barely audible. “I have…I have not. I will not. I am...a shadow on him.” Galadriel sank into the grass beside him.
“But not on me?” She asked wryly. Maglor laughed quietly.
“You have enough shadows, cousin. I do not think you would take on mine. My black soul will not, I think, weigh on you.” Oh, Galadriel thought, my cousin. We do not choose the burdens we shoulder.
“You are not forbidden from my lands, you know,” she said instead. “You need not skulk on the edges, making my sentries nervous.” Maglor’s mouth twisted.
“Your subjects may not feel the same. I have few friends among the Eldar, and justly so.”
“Hatred fades,” Galadriel said quietly. “Your name is old now. In this time of evil, seldom spoken, and if it is, more likely of your bravery than – aught else. If they knew you by sight at all. So many here are young.”
“Artanis,” Maglor said, a note of harshness strange in his voice. “Please. I cannot. Even this…it is more mercy than I would allow myself. I indulged this worry because you are all the family left to me, and that still means something, somewhere. But I would not…I laid my own path, and I will see it to the end.”
“Do you intend to die?” Galadriel asked bluntly, and felt only a small sting of guilt when Maglor flinched.
“No,” he said, after a moment. “I do not. I owe it to…I owe it to all of them to live.”
“To all of who?” Galadriel asked, softly.
Maglor’s head dropped, and she could see one of his hands clench at his side. “All of the dead. All of those whose names I’ll never know.” He paused, and she heard him take a shuddering breath in. “For my brothers. For them, I will continue, as long as I can.” Her heart ached. Stung, like it was reminded of all the mourning she had done through the ages. Her brothers. “Someone must live,” Maglor said quietly, “To remember them. To remember the world as it once was, and mourn what it has become.”
Galadriel sighed, and laid back in the grass, looking up at the sky. Her eyes found Eärendil, the light that shone at his brow. “It is not all shadow,” she said, quietly. “There is still hope. We may fade, but the race of Men will rise. The children of Aulë are still strong as their mountains, and there are little folk to the north with great nobility of spirit. The light in the world is not fading, only changing.”
“Unless this new darkness consumes it all.”
“Yes,” Galadriel acknowledged, thinking of a small band of travelers, the fractures she could almost see forming, their fear, their uncertainty. “Unless.”
She felt Maglor’s grey eyes turn to her. “Will it, Artanis?”
My foresight shows me many paths, she thought, and so many of them seem to end in darkness. “I cannot say.”
“If it does not,” he asked, after a moment’s silence, “Will you cross the sea and return home?”
“Yes,” she said. “Such is my intent. I will see my people home, and then I myself shall take the last ship west. Elrond,” she added, after a moment, “Likely intends the same.”
Maglor’s hands fidgeted where she could just see them out of the corner of her eye. “If you can…if you get the chance. Will you bear word of me to my mother?”
She listened to the wind whispering through the trees. “What would you have me say?”
“That I live. That I am sorry. That I would return if I could but I cannot. It would…it would be a kindness, I think. For her, if not for me.”
Galadriel took a deep breath. “Cano…I would have you know. I forgave you long ago. My anger has faded and gone to ash, and even the grief is no longer what it once was. You carry enough. I would have you let go of that.”
“Artanis,” he said softly, and his voice sounded close to breaking. She reached out and took one of his hands, ran her fingers over the scars that were his palms for a moment before he pulled away and stood, taking a few steps from her. “—I am glad to see that you are well. I have lingered here too long.”
“Where will you go?” She asked, but didn’t stand with him. She could see his shoulders trembling, just barely.
“North. West. East. South. Everywhere and nowhere. Artanis, I-”
“Hush,” she said. “I will not hear you apologize to me. If I did not want you here I would not have come.” She stood, then, but didn’t draw closer to him, as if her cousin were a skittish horse likely to flee if she came too near. Galadriel paused, and added, “There is still hope. For all of us. For you.”
“For me.” Maglor turned, and she thought she caught his smile, though it didn’t look like much of one to her. “You are kind, Artanis. Thank you. There is so little left in this world that is known to me. I would not lose you as well.”
“Elrond would welcome you,” she said quietly. “If you went to him.” He turned away. “Wait. –Cano. Do you still sing?”
“Only one song,” Maglor said after a moment. “And you already know the ending.” She did. It was not one she needed to hear again.
“My land is open to you,” she said. “As long as I am here, and after. Have care, cousin.”
“May you stand long against the dark,” he said, turning toward her and pressing his hand over his heart, bowing to her in the old fashion. “And watch it fall, as you have seen all the other evils before fall. I pray that you shall see Valinor again, and your brothers. After all you have given – you deserve that.” He turned smoothly, then, and faded into the dark. She watched him go, and did not call after him again.
Eru, she thought, Valar, keep him safe. There are so few of us left. Let there be one other than me.
Of course she heard no answer. After a moment, looking at the stars, she turned to walk back. Her steps were slow, her thoughts elsewhere, but when she entered the embrace of the trees she thought nonetheless, this is home. This is my home, now, and all the rest is gone.