By Light Beguiled: 9. An Ending

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9. An Ending

***

Drawing a hand over weary eyes, his sigh fell like a receding wave, reluctantly parted from the shore. Upon the middle street slick with blood he stood, the buildings on each side of him quailing in the silence of battle’s aftermath, mourning the Elves who had built them with such care:
Where have they gone, those mirthful, thoughtful Elves? Sweetly they raised us!
"Silence," he grated. In response the pavement shrank under his unyielding weight – somewhat disgusted, he studied the meticulousness with which it was created; every cobblestone fitted into perfect place:
Heavy boots, harsh feet, marching, hurting, spilling blood, bringing hate!
"Silence." He stomped his foot hard enough to crack the clay, and walked on.

Coming to the gardens, he calculated the provisions that could be salvaged from the bountiful -if slightly damaged- crop. And he smiled at that, satisfied that the long trek back to Ossiriand would not be slowed by the need to hunt... then he heard the lamentation:
O lady Elwing, fair and white – wherefore this fight and why her flight?
"Because we are all doomed," Maedhros growled, and turned away.
Without her jewel, warm and bright – endure this dark instead of sight?
"Forever."
O Noldo Elf-lord, great of might – pray sing the songs they sang last night!
"Silence!"

There would be no peace whilst this realm yearned for the Elves who had graced it. Chafed at that, Maedhros walked through town, the buildings and pathways quieting at his approach. Coming to the end of the road, he halted to inspect the body of one who laid face-down. The Elf’s identity confirmed, he continued, passing few injured along the way, and many carcasses. Elves did not strike to maim or cripple, and to lay alive with a debilitating wound after battle was considered a rare misfortune.

Before long he saw the ships from ahead -some were shallow and small for fishing, others deep and long as many great trees, and one of exceptional beauty – all of them emanating terror and outrage.

But he paid no heed, his attention taken by the task of finding two particular warriors in a field of several. If the twins had not worn helms, he could identify them by their hair alone, or their garb; but many here were dressed in similar colors, or their clothes were so stained with blood and grime as to be unrecognizable. Inspecting each face was a grim task, even for one accustomed to the consequences of battle.

In a moment of rest he paused, and looked towards the Sea, carefully ignoring the lament of the ships docked at the piers:
Earendil, Earendil; face alight with heaven-stars!
Peredhil, Peredhil; know a kinder fate than ours!
Silmaril, Silmaril; rescued now from future wars!

Despondent, he sighed. The grisliness of his chore and the pangs of failure had gradually been wearing upon him, and presently he felt miserable; sore and tired and wretched. Every time he blinked another pale face floated before his closed eyes, dim eyes vacant and staring back at him lifelessly. So many dead, and nothing gained; he had never felt so thoroughly bereft of all hope, and the madness of his quest was never clearer. Amrod and Amras were nowhere nearby to be found: they were dead. He turned from the Sea and the piers and the ships, and resolved to find Maglor instead. He would ask him to forsake their foolish search, and help prepare for departure. The sooner they could leave this place, the sooner it would become a memory.

Turning his eyes to the ridge, he noticed that the garden had pavilions where one could overlook the harbor from above; no doubt a lovely view, in better times. But now the sandy slope was lined with tracks, appearing like streaks of tears on the face of the earth, and bodies were strewn all about the bank – some evidently tumbled down from the ledge, bows still clutched in their hands, while others seemed to still reach for the summit, their arms outstretched.

To his surprise, one previously overlooked Elf stood in shadow at the foot of the bank, head bent down, shoulders slumped. It was Maglor, and Maedhros did not look forward to encountering whatever his brother gazed upon so intently. Nonetheless he approached, and coming beside Maglor he beheld two bodies, identical in shape and clothing, lying side by side in the sand, motionless. One was face up, the other prone; mirror images in death as in life.

Thrice Maedhros tried to speak, not making a sound. Knowing he would find his brothers dead made their discovery no easier. They were the youngest, and should the youngest not be the last to die? Suddenly he felt very old, an ancient tree in a razed forest, where the saplings were burned to the roots while the eldest were left to dwell alone, bereft of purpose and the ability to sow anew.

"I did not know what they held," Maglor said, his ragged voice a mockery of what it could be. "I was half-blinded by the sand in my eyes. I ran into a volley of arrows, and only saw them for an instant while they retreated, and then I was forced to take cover. After that I pursued Elwing, not thinking of them again until it was over. I did not know they fell, I did not know what they carried."

Maedhros roused himself from the stupor his mind had drifted into. "What?" He saw that Amrod held a small child in his lifeless arms, the way a youth might clutch some plaything to their bosom during sleep. Peering closer, he assessed the child; one more face that would haunt his memory. The grey eyes, glossy like melting ice, stared unblinking at the sky, and his skin was white as snow against his dark hair, speckled with drying blood. An arrowhead protruded from his left shoulder, the shaft mounted in Amrod’s torso where it entered him from behind.

Maedhros was sickened to see that several other arrows had found their mark likewise, and that his brother had been targeted from both sides, evidenced by the multiple wounds at opposing angles. Somehow it was worse, knowing that Amrod had died slowly, bleeding from so many punctures, staggering as limb after limb he lost his strength, unable even to defend himself at the last when someone had crouched to slice his throat. It was a cruel end, yet no less than he had dealt, and perhaps no better than he deserved – seeing that, understanding it, was worse by far.

Maglor had stepped forward to kneel beside Amras’ prone form. Unshed tears shone in his eyes, and an unspoken apology did not pass his lips. He was ever fond of his youngest brothers, who loved hunting in the forest and riding under the open sky, who respected nature and relished the wild. ‘Brash’, others had named them – ‘Free’, Maglor would reply… would never reply again. He winced until it hurt to be so twisted, and reaching out grasped the spear that stood like a crude flagpole in Amras’ back.

"Is slaying each other not shameful enough, that we do it also without honor? Why not a fair contest for these two, at least?" He shoved away his brother’s hand when it rested on his shoulder, refusing his comfort. "Because they would have triumphed! None dared to face them, for none could match their prowess; thus here they lie slain with weapons in their backs!" With his other hand he seized the shaft, locking his fingers together. "Coward’s tool, I name thee; slayer of my brother, disgrace of thy wielder – begone!" Wrathful, he wrenched the javelin from its rooting, careless of the damage it would cause to Amras’ already mauled remains.

There came a distinct gasp, then a whimper as Amras’ body settled to the ground. Maglor started, as did Maedhros, and they both rushed instinctively to turn their brother around, finding that a second child had been pinned beneath the corpse. Bright blood oozed from a shoulder wound, and his eyes blinked wide with fear, clouded by pain as they moved frantically about.

Maglor was quick to react, bending close and attempting to soothe the child with words as he busily removed his soiled gloves. Next he inspected the wound, eliciting a cry from the child, who strove to master himself to speak, his voice surfacing only weakly, "Help... please!"

"Be brave, little one," Maglor said, hurrying to staunch the flow of blood. A swell of guilt arose in him, for he realized the child had been pierced by the same blade that skewered Amras; the blade he so crassly removed. As he worked he spared a glance at the spearhead lying aside, seeing that its tip was slender and smooth, widening to form jagged teeth as it neared the hilt. Likely there was little to no tearing upon removal, however ungentle it had been.

"Please... please," the child was pleading, and Maglor looked back.

"Hush now, child. Speak not if it pains you." He lifted him gingerly, baffled when the youth fussed.

"No, please... my brother, help him!" Again Maglor started, having forgotten everything else save giving aid. His eyes dashed to Amrod – the other child was gone.

"I severed the shaft, but the arrowhead must be removed with a healer’s skill," said Maedhros from slightly behind, in Quenya. Maglor turned, shocked to see his brother holding the first child. Maedhros handed him a flask. "Have him drink some, then follow me."

Maglor fumbled with the cork, and urged the child to drink. The moisture to his parched throat prompted more words. "I saw my brother get hurt," he said, seemingly oblivious to his own injuries, though his eyes clenched shut as Maglor jarred him to stand. The boy groaned and writhed as if dizzy, but was persistent, "Where is he?"

"He is with us, do not fear. We will—" ahead of him Maedhros paused, and turned to look back, his tall form straight and ominous against the black of night. Maglor followed his stern gaze to Amrod and Amras, the sand stained red with their blood, and he swallowed against a tightness in his chest at the sight of them.

He looked back to Maedhros, and the child he held, and then down at that child’s twin in his own arms. "We will... help you," he finished. The child took a shaking breath and went still as his eyes fluttered shut.

Maglor walked quickly to come beside his brother, and they continued in silence.

***


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.

Story Information

Author: AfterEver

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/19/03

Original Post: 03/10/03

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