They took Gimli’s boots off and laid him down on the top of his bed; he would sleep soundly tonight. Legolas thought it likely that his friend would have pleasant dreams – perhaps of Aragorn in happier times. He found himself envying Gimli both the sleep and the dreams; both would be a comfort tonight.
Once across the corridor Galanthir closed the door of Legolas’ room behind him, put down the wine and the glasses, and moved a chair to face the window. He turned and began to unfasten Legolas’ tunic as if he was the body-servant most in the citadel presumed him to be.
Legolas simply stood and let him undo it, remove it, and hang it up. Even though he had told Tindómë and Rumil that Galanthir would keep him from melancholy, Galanthir could not keep him from the weariness that the sorrow brought, and he was suddenly glad to have even this simple task performed for him.
“Sit, princeling,” Galanthir said, gesturing towards the chair.
Legolas obeyed. He smiled slightly at the use of the epithet the warriors had given him when, as an elfling, he would invite himself to their archery practice.
Carefully the other ellon loosened first the complex braid down the back, which identified Legolas as originally coming from Eryn Lasgalen, and then the tight three-strand braids that identified him as a warrior and an archer. There was no need for explanations – as Tindómë had learnt all those years before, with Rumil and Orophin, this signified ‘here and now you are not a warrior and you do not owe allegiance to anyone but yourself’. The meaning was more or less the same to both mixed Sindar/Silvan populations; at this moment Legolas neither knew nor cared exactly where the origins lay.
Galanthir picked up Legolas’ comb and began to comb his hair for him with long, slow, steady strokes, soothing and comforting. Then he spoke – unknowingly echoing Tindómë’s words from earlier.
“There is no-one here now but you and me. He was a brother of your heart – take comfort and mourn.”
Legolas turned his head slightly and leant towards Galanthir so that his bare cheek touched the other ellon’s chest, now also bare. Galanthir continued his slow combing and Legolas wept, softly, for all the members of the Fellowship now gone.
After some time Legolas took a deep breath and, almost immediately, Galanthir passed him a handkerchief before helping him to his feet.
“Thank you,” Legolas said.
“There is no need, you know that,” Galanthir answered. “Now, come…”
He kept a hand on Legolas’ arm and led him through to the bedroom. Soon they lay on the bed side by side.
“Legolas,” Galanthir said, “you are my friend, and you may take as much comfort as you wish.”
To an outsider the phrasing might have sounded odd – but between elves who had fought together for Mirkwood it was a well-recognised formula; and not only that, but one which suddenly brought to Legolas’ mind a particular memory of Aragorn. Before examining that, however, he gave his reply to Galanthir.
“I would have you lie here with me tonight, to feel the comfort of your hroar touching mine, and know that my loss has not left me alone,” he said, formally. Then, much less formally, “I think I am too tired to need the ultimate comfort to distract my thoughts…”
Equally conversationally, as he moved in the bed to cushion Legolas’ head on his own chest, Galanthir replied, the sound of a smile in his voice, “Do not worry, my friend – I do not desire your body so much that I cannot cope with proximity without fulfilment!”
A few moments passed before Legolas felt Galanthir stroking his hair gently, and then heard, “Tell me about him, Legolas. I knew him as the king. Tell me about him before that. Tell me of good times.”
Legolas thought, for a few moments, letting his eyes focus on the past rather than the present.
“To begin with,” he said slowly, “there were almost no good times. And I did not know what to make of him. I really did not know him before I went to Imladris – my patrol left the Stronghold within a day of his arrival with Gollum.
“Yet, even at the meeting of the council that Elrond called, there was something about him that made him seem always a leader. Perhaps it was the way he was held in high regard by those who lived in Imladris… Boromir was the leader of the army of Gondor, I was a captain in Mirkwood, but the chieftain of the Dúnedain seemed automatically to be the one who led alongside Mithrandir.
“I think I was drawn to him, in the beginning, because he seemed less ‘other’ than the rest of the party. He spoke Sindarin – with a strange accent to my ear, true, but it was real Sindarin. Boromir could speak a form of Sindarin, too, but so different to ours that it might almost have been a foreign language.
“I think I only realised that he was not as much like my own folk as I had thought after Mithrandir was left behind in Moria. All of us were shocked; all of us mourned the loss to a greater or lesser extent. Boromir was least affected, I think, Aragorn and Frodo the most. I… I went to Aragorn, as we rested for a little time as the sun sank, and I offered him comfort. I said that I knew it was not the place there, but when we would stop for the night he might take as much comfort as he wished, for it would comfort me also. And he did not understand me.
“He looked at me askance, and then thanked me for my sympathy, but it was clear from his face that he did not understand what I offered him at all. I wondered then whether they did not offer each other the comfort of the hroar amongst the Noldor, or whether he had not learnt of it before he left and joined his father’s people. But it was clear that it was not his way.
“And if not his, I realised, then surely not that of any of the others either. The hobbits clung together but none reached out to me. Until we came into Lothlorien the only touch I received was that of Gimli, who clapped me on the back – a form of comfort within his own people. I think that might have been the moment I first realised he and I might become other than antagonistic in our dealings.”
Galanthir’s hand continued to stroke Legolas’ hair; Legolas could feel the other’s heartbeat, and the skin to skin contact along the length of his body helped to sooth his fëa as he continued to look back to that time.
“It was not until we were with the Galadhrim that anyone held me in comfort. I was so glad to know that our brethren there were still like us, even though we had had so little contact for so long. The warrior who came to me spoke words of offer that I recognised, as did the elleth who came to me once we were within the city.
“I spent my nights, then, mainly amongst the other edhel, for it seemed as if the rest of the Fellowship kept each to himself even though such comfort as could be given was offered. Boromir, I think, found solace with an elleth or two, but Aragorn genuinely did not seem to understand the difference between using the hroar for pleasure or for comfort. I know not if he ever did, for I never mentioned it again.
“But he was a good man, Galanthir. Once I accepted he was not an elf…”
Legolas spoke of conversations around camp fires, of time spent with the Rohirrim, of jokes shared even in the bleakest of times. Galanthir continued to stroke his friend’s hair, and the bare skin of his chest and flank, as he slowly felt Legolas relax.
It was odd, he thought, that the mortal races could be seen holding or stroking a horse, or a pet, to calm it but did not seem to use the same methods with each other. An elf would always offer such comfort to a friend and also, as Legolas had found in Lothlorien, to any that they deemed needed it; even though elves, of all races, used the least unnecessary body contact. Perhaps the two were related, he thought.
Soon Legolas would be ready to drift along the dream paths and Galanthir would guide and guard him there. But, if Legolas had needed the release to near oblivion that only sexual flight could bring, then he would have helped his friend achieve that without any reservation. Such comfort must surely be possible between warriors of other races? He recognised that it might be more difficult for a mortal female to give it to a male – their permanent fertility would be an encumbrance. It was not as if it implied any sort of bonding relationship to those who offered and took comfort.
Even after this century, and more, amongst men Galanthir still felt they were a book with pages glued together so that he could not read more than a sentence here and there.
He moved a little so that they were both comfortable and then slowly, quietly, began to sing without words until Legolas sighed deeply and spoke no more until morning.