Celegorm wasn’t trying to sneak up on anyone, his brother least of all, so he allowed his footsteps to make the smallest of sounds on the polished granite floor.
Not that there appeared to be anyone around to listen.
Servants had already retired for the night, and if there were guards around, they had to be commended for their skill, since he could neither see nor hear nor sense them.
The hallway was barely lit. A few candles flickered in sconces to mark the way, but the walls all but swallowed the light. There were no mirrors to reflect the tiny flames, no gold or silver or jewels, not even bronze or copper. The only concession to beauty were the subtle stone mosaic patterns, and the near darkness was almost enough to hide them from sight.
He had never actually seen his brothers’ stronghold and he couldn’t help the comparison; it was practically a hovel compared to the palace that had stood in Thargelion. Even Nelyo’s grim border fortress was more ornate than this place.
The door to Moryo’s study was ajar. He found himself oddly touched by what was an overwhelming show of welcome – Moryo had never hesitated to leave his brothers cooling their heels in the anteroom for exactly as long as it took him to be finished with his ledgers.
He slipped into the room and, with practiced grace, fell into a chair that was waiting for him.
“I thought I was supposed to be the ill-tempered and thoughtless hothead in the family, Tyelko,” Moryo bit out in lieu of a greeting.
“It’s good to meet you as well, dear brother,” Celegorm replied pleasantly. “I love what you’ve done with the place.”
The intended result was achieved. Moryo slammed his book shut and actually looked at him, if only to yell.
“Don’t you fucking try to be funny with me! I don’t care that you’re older than me, you thrice accursed moron-“
“I am accursed,” Celegorm dropped his nonchalant façade. “We all are, I trust you remember. Compared to the Doom, what are a couple of lesser curses? Barely noticeable, I dare say.”
“Did you even have a reason?” No one did scathing quite like Moryo, it had to be said. “Or were you suddenly overcome by want of a wife, after all these years.”
“I had a reason, and I was even ready to be saddled with a wife, an unwilling one that loathes me at that, in exchange of forcing the dark elf and his armies out of their caves. The prize was well worth the risk, even though it didn’t work.”
“I hope it was well worth the price, as well.”
“I hardly think my reputation was good enough in those quarters that tarnishing it a little more made much of a difference.”
“Little more than a little, I’d say. And it wasn’t what I was referring to,” Moryo’s scowl twisted to a cruel sort of smile. “You’re looking a little lonely, Tyelko. Where’s your little pet?”
The jibe landed as an arrow through his heart like no slight on his admittedly questionable honour ever could. His hand reached instinctively towards the great, shaggy head that hadn’t been there for years, and at that moment, he hated his brother for being there to see that, for knowing where to hit.
“That’s no way to speak of Curvo,” Celegorm managed to rasp out, trying for levity and failing spectacularly.
So what if he still moved around a shadow of a dog, as if Huan was still right there beside him.
So what if he still left doors open, if he couldn’t help waiting for a companion that was never coming home.
The expression on Moryo’s face started to soften dangerously. Celegorm felt his vision blur.
He hadn’t shed a tear since he was a child. Not when the Trees were killed, not over the Doom, not when Father died, not even after the Dagor Bragollach.
He was not going to cry now, in front of his little brother, over his dog.
“Maybe he escaped the Doom by leaving,” Moryo tried with some sour approximation of sympathy.
That was the last straw.
With a keening wail, Celegorm broke.
He buried his face in his hands and sobbed uncontrollably, because his dog was dead, because it was his own damn fault, because he was the one who’d driven him away and to his death, because he missed him desperately and would’ve wanted to be there when he died.
He wasn’t sure how long he cried.
At some point Moryo stood up from his seat and a moment later Celegorm felt him lay a hand on his shoulder.
He might’ve cried harder, after that.
When he finally had no more tears left, he lifted his bleary eyes and looked at Moryo – who was standing as far as he could while still being able to touch him, staring at a wall like a picture of discomfort come to life.
“Huan was a good dog,” Celegorm whispered hoarsely and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
“I’m sure he was.”
He smiled at that.
“You hate animals, and he was no exception.”
“I didn’t hate him,” Moryo’s familiar scowl was back on his face. “And I’m reasonably fond of my horse, I’ll have you know. I just don’t let him sleep in my bed or eat my food like an insane person.”
“You’re a good brother.”
Moryo looked, if possible, even more uncomfortable than he’d looked only a short while before.
“Did Maitimo send you here with a message or did he just want a moment of peace?”
Any other day, any other message, and Celegorm might have laughed at Moryo’s truly desperate attempt at changing the subject. Instead he straightened up and pushed away the last remnants of grief and vulnerability.
“There is a message,” he said. “It’s a call up to arms.”
Moryo’s dark eyes glinted in the low candlelight.
“We are going to war.”