Galia didn't know why she'd returned. The bridge rose and called her friend, but she had little optimism for those who awaited within. Again she felt that deep feeling of emptyness as the high pillars of the king's hall echoed the murmering of the nobles within. She bowed before her king but in truth felt little of the obligation that this gesture might suggest. He spoke of the recent summit with guarded words and of his gratitude to Valadriel, the emissary from Lothlorien and Galia listened and nodded dutifully and wished she was elsewhere. Somehow this place was emptier even than she remembered it and she couldn't help but to glance around as two people from her past seemed to claw at her heart.
"Sylvian wine, in a tankard." The barmaid frowned questioningly at Galia as she made her order, she was lounging back on her seat, with her feet up on the table. "You have tankards, yes?"
"Erm, yes miss." The barmaid flustered and poured the wine and Galia tipped her generously, just to see the look on her face. She was a pretty little thing with long flowing locks and that eager naive expression that Galia realised that she must have had when she had done this very same job all those years ago. As the maid deftly wound her way through the dancers Galia looked for the eyes that followed her, there were many polite glances and one who tracked her every movement who had clearly drunk a little too much. Crumpled deep in her pack there was the dress that Galia wore when she used to dance here, it was like some lost piece in the game of her life. A game she played here, a game she once lost. And so she sat in her worn leathers, a challenge to all that turned a sneering glance her way, just as it had been, only she didn't care any more. And she still had no idea why she'd returned.
"Surprise!" Shouted a slightly drunk Galia as she slipped from the shadows. In unison the butler and the cellkeeper fell from their chairs upending their flagons into their faces. It was better than she could have hoped and she collapsed to the ground in a fit of giggles.
"Galia, as I live and breath it is good to see you!" The cellkeeper wiped his face and joined in with the joke but the butler haughtly sniffed and retreived his upended chair.
"Oh, will you ever forgive me?" Galia laughed as she waved a bottle under his nose. It was snatched away and uncorked and three bottles later they were talking like the old friends they were. This felt more like home. Down in the tunnels those who had lost the favour of their master did what they liked and had little use for the protocols that defined life above. Here a bottle or two would never be missed and a sweet oblivion awaited those who knew in their hearts that their time in the halls of their king had passed.
Galia sat bolt upright as the scream echoed through the passages, as she did so a bottle fell to the floor and shattered. She'd fallen asleep with her face on the table and she was alone, the others had gone to tend to their duties and left her. The scream continued, the sheer terror in that voice cut through her hangover like an ice shard. She knew the voice, and she knew the tortured mind from which it issued and she now knew why Thranduil's hall had seemed so empty, and most of all, in that moment, she knew why she had returned.