It was shortly past twilight when her path brought her across the border of the small fishing town. Her people were now a common fixture along roads that led to the Sea – she herself would take such a route soon enough – but Hâlobel was too remote to be used to such sights. A tiny village on the western edge of Anfalas, but for one minor detail it would warrant little more than a note on most maps of Gondor. Under normal circumstances, even that detail would not have called her away from Lothlórien, but she was loath to leave Middle-earth with work unfinished.
The recent war had left Hâlobel relatively untouched – more so even than its neighbours – and her heart told her that this was no coincidence. Drunken fisherfolk stumbled out of the local tavern, as oblivious to her presence as they were to the concerns of the larger world. They were good people, she discerned, and despite the lack of open contact, they would likely greet one of the Eldar with warm welcome, but the time for such things had passed. They would never know exactly how lucky they had been, and she had no intention of informing them otherwise. Let the past, for once, remain in the past.
She skirted the edge of the village, ignoring the sounds of revelry. It was not merriment she sought tonight. Indeed, far from. Her steps carried her instead to a small cottage a short distance away from the settlement, and she brushed past its gossamer defences, the vague suggestions at the edge of her mind simply to stay away. A small enchantment, but a significant indication of what she was likely to find.
The cottage proved to be neater than she might have expected, but its inhabitant was a shattered echo of the man she once knew. His eyes were distant and unfocused, lost in some haunted nightmare, and it was a long moment before he registered her presence at all. She watched as his gaze finally settled upon her, something akin to resentment in his expression. She could feel him shutter his mind against her, and she relished a brief flash of scorn at the idea that she would desire – or even need – to read his thoughts. No, she already knew him far better than she would ever have wished.
"How did you find me?" The tone was neutral, but she could sense the unspoken question regardless. Have you come for vengeance at last, little cousin? For Alqualondë, for Doriath? But even if she still desired such an end, Galadriel was no Kinslayer to strike down a man unwilling to defend himself.
"You could not hope to hide your presence from those with the power to see," she said, and watched as his eyes shifted thoughtfully to her hand, to the now depleted Ring of Adamant that rested upon it. Whether he recognized it, whether he had even been aware of the events of the Second and Third Ages at all, she could not tell. That ignorance angered her. "Your nephew is dead," she told him bluntly.
"Aye, I heard as much."
"He would have liked to have seen you one last time."
Ancient grief bubbled to the surface, and he greeted it like an old friend. "Some wishes are foolish, Artanis. You know that as well as I. He was right to reject my House long ago, and it would have been no kindness to inflict myself upon him once more."
"You are a poor judge of such things, Makalaurë."
An ironic smile graced his lips. "Have you come to expound upon my many faults, then? I assure you, I am already fully aware of them."
"Nay, cousin. I have come to bring you home."
Irritation blossomed across his face and then quickly faded, replaced with tired resignation. Galadriel wondered how many had tried and failed to speak with him across the long yéni. "Perhaps you would have been wiser to send Elrond in your stead."
"Elrond would not have had the strength to say the things that must be said. Against all reason, he still loves you."
Maglor smiled brittlely at that, but he said nothing. Perhaps there was nothing to say. Galadriel's thoughts returned briefly to that evening nearly two decades ago when she had discovered her cousin's whereabouts, when her Mirror had shown her his face, unbidden and undesired. Over seven millennia later, the last son of Fëanor could still elicit emotions reminiscent of those his father had once provoked. She remembered Celeborn's fury, his wish to see his old enemy chained and broken before him, and the difficulty she had had restraining his temper. Though she had sympathized with his desires, there was neither wisdom nor justice in such an end.
Elrond had been more easily counselled than Celeborn, but Galadriel knew that the personal cost to him was even greater. Fëanorian pride and obstinacy had already cost him his childhood, home, and family, and he had precious little left to lose now. "Your curse has never ceased to act upon those who would love you, Makalaurë. How much longer must this continue?"
He thrust out his right hand, and she saw that the skin was still marked by an angry blackened burn. "How much longer?" he snapped back. "My curse has never ended."
"Nay, nor has your pride." It was strange to think that even in its absence, the Silmaril of Fëanor could arrest time more completely than the Rings of Power ever had, but that hallowed scar kept him far more anchored to the past than even Nenya had her. "As a gesture of repentance, this is far from convincing."
He stared at her in disbelief for a long moment. "Do you think me proud of my past deeds? They still sicken me, Artanis, all of these centuries later. How would you prefer that I repent? Shall I throw myself into the Sea and be done with it? Or perhaps I should hand myself over to your Sindarin husband and let him stain his hands as red as my own."
"I see that you have inherited your father's gift for overstatement," Galadriel commented coolly, and watched as Maglor went deathly still.
"I do not care for company these days, cousin. Get out. Now." His voice rang with whatever power remained to him, and few that still lingered upon these shores could have withstood the command. But he was diminished, no more the Noldorin prince of days long past, whereas she was still very nearly at the height of her own strength.
"Canafinwë," she said, her own voice echoing with power. "You will listen to me."
He shivered slightly and eyed her warily, but made no further protest. Galadriel watched him for a long moment and then continued, her tone gentler than before. "We are the only ones remaining in Rebellion, cousin. The only ones left. I once thought that I too would never again step foot in Aman, that I who had left as a princess would never return as a supplicant, but I have been ruled by pride for far too long. To hold onto it for any longer would have been to destroy myself entirely." She didn't comment on how closely she had come in the end, how easily she herself might have slid down a path even darker than Fëanor's had been.
"Then I envy you that wisdom," he replied quietly. "But this is no longer Rebellion, Artanis. This is justice, and fate... and doom. And it is a waste of what little time you have remaining in Middle-earth to try to convince me otherwise. Wise you may be, but if you believe you understand my situation better than I do, you are more arrogant than any of us."
Galadriel simply looked at him. "Did Eönwë banish you?"
"He did not need to."
"Then you have chosen this doom for yourself." She smiled humourlessly. "Is it fear that masters you now, Makalaurë? Do you punish yourself so that you need not submit to the judgement of others? I had not known the children of the House of Finwë to be so craven."
Maglor was the gentlest amongst his brothers, but even he had never been known to take such insults graciously. "Craven?" he repeated with a smile that cut like a knife. "The Valar can pronounce whatever judgement they wish. I do not fear death, much less exile."
"And if they were instead to pardon you?"
A short, unpleasant laugh told her what he thought of that possibility, and Galadriel found herself wondering how she would have handled this meeting even a year ago, before her own testing at Frodo's unknowing hands. But she knew that she would never have sought her cousin out at all beforehand. "You are afraid, I think, but it is their forgiveness that you fear, not their condemnation. You fear a judgement that will render your long atonement void and worthless, cousin. That may be more admirable than fear of punishment, but it is fear nonetheless."
"Fear of that which is impossible?" Maglor shot back. "They haven't the right to offer forgiveness, Artanis. Not until all of our victims have set aside their own all too justified grievances. Our crimes against the Valar are nothing compared to our crimes against our people."
"And yet you claim that you do not still hold out in rebellion," Galadriel observed quietly. "And if by some miracle your victims were to forgive you?" She knew as well as he that such would never come to pass; even she herself was not prepared to forgive him, and others had lost far more at his and his brothers' hands than she had.
"Even that would not undo what has already been done."
"Nothing can do so," she replied, almost regretting her own absence from Beleriand during the later years of the First Age. The tales said that he had once wished to submit before yielding instead to his brother's demands. It was such a small thing to make such a large difference in the end, but she sensed that it was significant regardless. "You cling to your suffering as you once did to your Oath," she remarked. "Is this really all there is to you now?"
"So it would seem."
"This is not repentance, Makalaurë," she told him gently. "It may or may not be fear – I cannot tell you what is in your own heart – but it is not repentance. Nay, it is the same ancient pride and reckless obstinacy that has led all of us into disaster. You may hate your past, you may well hate yourself, but you have never ceased to be your father's son.
"You do not remain out of respect for your victims, Cáno; you do so out of respect for yourself. You remain because in your mind, your own crimes are greater than any other's have been, and it suits you to punish yourself accordingly. That is arrogance, not repentance." She paused a moment, considering. "You may have chosen exile, cousin, but you are still of the Eldalië. This has been a difficult Age for us all; none of us is capable of easily relinquishing the past. We cling beyond all reason to the memory of our own greatness... whether that greatness be for good or for evil.
"You indulge yourself in grief because you cannot bear to step outside of your own story, outside of your terrible legacy as a son of Fëanáro. You have never been able to refuse or reject your father or your brothers, Makalaurë; were you truly repentant, you would find the strength finally to do so now."
For a long moment, she was met only with silence. "Perhaps," he finally said, unable to meet her eyes, "but I failed when it might still have made a difference." And though his mind was still closed to her, she could guess well enough at his thoughts. I failed to stop him at the end, to convince him not to steal the Silmarils. I could not abandon him, but I could not save him. How could I reject him now?
"You are not responsible for what happened to your brother," Galadriel murmured, and sighed when he made no response. "Canafinwë, let me help you."
"You don't even like me."
She smiled sadly at that. "You are not alone in your unwillingness to abandon family."
For the first time in her presence, a sincere – if small – smile graced his lips, and Galadriel understood that tonight's work had not been entirely in vain. "I can stay with you no longer for now, cousin, but it will be some time before I am prepared to leave Middle-earth entirely. Will you still be here should I return?"
"I will not run from you."
"And if Elrond should seek you out instead?"
He hesitated briefly before nodding his assent, and Galadriel knew that she could push him no further tonight. She could not yet see whether he would finally be able to conquer his own longstanding test of pride, whether he would truly even see it for what it was, but for the first time in three Ages, she was willing to put something like faith in him.
Another lost cause, Galadriel? she wondered as she bid him farewell. Another long defeat? Is this but a final cry against the Darkness before leaving these shores entirely?
Motives, she decided, were never entirely what they seemed.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.