3. Part 3
It's warm, and I feel something soft against me. There's a sweet scent. Confused, I open my eyes - and realize that I have a hröa again. The softness, and the scent - I'm lying face down on a bed of soft grass and clover, it must be summer, the sun is warming me. I start to sit up, pushing myself up with my hands. Hands! I have two hands! I suddenly stop and look at my right hand in wonder, scarcely believing it is real, watching in awe while I bend and flex the fingers. I feel a tear fall on my cheek. "Manwë and Varda, thank you," I whisper. "Mandos, thank you."
"I've always enjoyed watching you returnees wake up," I hear a voice beside me say. "You always seem so surprised, even though you know you've been released. I wonder - did you feel the same way when you first entered the world?" I turn to find the owner of the voice, and see Irmo, the Vala whom we also call Lórien after his gardens, watching me with a look of curiosity and amusement on his face. "Yes, you are in Lórien, Maedhros. Let me help you up."
As he reaches over and grasps my arm, helping me rise to my feet, I realize suddenly that I am naked, and blush. Seeing my discomfort, Irmo laughs. "You were naked when you first entered the world of the living, Maedhros - it is only fitting that you should return to it the same way. There is no need to be embarrassed. Come - I have some clothing for you over here."
I dress quickly, then turn to face the Vala. "Thank you, Lord Irmo," I say. "I am grateful for you help. Mandos told me to find my brother Maglor as soon as I was released. Do you know where I need to go?"
"He dwells on Tol Eressëa, with the other Noldor who returned from Beleriand. I will accompany you to the harbor, where you can book passage."
As we walk through Aman, I realize that Elven memory is not nearly so accurate as I once believed. For once the first shock of awakening has worn off, I find that everything appears somehow less vivid than I remembered it being. Of course, I think to myself, you never saw Aman lit by the sun, only by the Trees - naturally it looks different under such different light. But the sun also seems dimmer than my memories make it out to be, and the sky less blue. The gardens and orchards are drab in comparison to the ones that have long grown in my mind. I realize that being incarnate again is going to require some adjustments.
I set sail in the early afternoon, bound for Avallónë, now the main port on Tol Eressëa. So far I have not met anyone I know, but as we approach the harbor docks I realize that on Tol Eressëa the odds that I will be recognized are far higher. I do not wish a meeting with anyone save Maglor yet, and surely there are many who would not welcome a son of Fëanor to this island, not after my actions in my prior life - never mind that Mandos has deemed me fit to be released. I decide to keep my hood up, claiming that the afternoon breeze coming off the ocean is chilly - which, in truth, it is.
When I inquire in Avallónë as to where I might find Maglor son of Fëanor, I realize that my decision to keep my identity secret was a wise one; from the dark looks that several of the townspeople give me, it is clear that not everything from the past is forgotten and forgiven. But I persist, and am soon told that my brother Maglor and his wife Aurel dwell far outside of town, near the estate of Lord Elrond.
Aurel, his wife! Elrond, his foster-son! Belatedly, I realize what a fool I was, to assume that he would still be alone after his return here. I do not even know how long he has been back in Aman, I suddenly remember; he could have been dwelling here for ages, perfectly content with his small family. What right do I have to come into his life now, and disturb whatever equilibrium he has managed to find? I almost turn back, but I remember my promise to Mandos - a promise that must be kept. With a now-heavy heart, I head out of Avallónë on the road I am told leads to Elrond's estate, and Maglor's home.
It is growing late by the time I finally reach my brother's small house, and to my dismay, there is no one home. I do not know what to do next, so I decide to wait for a while, to see if perhaps he or his wife will return. But no one comes, and the stars have come out when I decide that there is nothing else left to do - I must go to Elrond's estate and inquire there. I remember the sullen boy my little brother lovingly raised, and how he made it clear, through his utter disregard of me, that my presence was unwelcome, when I was forced at last to return to my brother's house in the Ered Luin. No, I would not willingly meet with Elrond again, for I have already caused him enough pain, but it appears that if I am to find Maglor I now have no choice. As I walk, I find myself idly wondering - whatever happened to his brother Elros?
My father's Silmaril has nearly set by the time I set out, and when I reach the home of Elrond it is late indeed. I was not sure whether anyone would still be awake when I arrived there, but it is a bright night, with the moon riding high in the summer sky, the kind of night my people love to celebrate, and I hear the faint sounds of singing and laughter from far away as I approach. Good - I will not be disturbing anyone. As I grow nearer, the sounds steadily increase in volume; clearly, there are many people here, and I once again hesitate, checking to see that my hood is drawn up high. It is only my sworn promise to Mandos that gives me the strength of will to continue forward. I finally reach the gate, and as I stop to unlatch it, I suddenly hear a voice soaring over the others, singing a song of praise to Varda. I would know that voice anywhere - it is my brother's.
I stand silently, listening to Maglor sing. It is the loveliest thing I have experienced in this pale world, more beautiful even then I remember it being so long ago, during the days of our bliss under the Treelight, before our world and our lives fell into ruin. I ache at the sound of it, and feel the tears running silently down my cheeks, and I do not know why I weep. I wait until he falls silent, then, after wiping my face with my sleeve, approach the courtyard of the house.
I am spotted before I arrive, by a tall man with dark hair and bright grey eyes, who inquires as to my identity and business. "I apologize for intruding," I reply quietly. "I have come seeking Maglor son of Fëanor."
"My father's foster-father rarely receives visitors," the man replies, "but I will tell him you are here, and let him decide whether he wishes to speak with you. What name shall I give him to go with my message?"
I hesitate for a second, then answer, "Russandol."
"Very well. You may come inside, if you like, or -"
"Thank you, but I prefer to wait here," I reply. He nods, and returns to the courtyard. As I wait, I find I am growing increasingly nervous. What am I going to say to him? How am I even going to begin to apologize for the harm I caused him? Perhaps he will not want to see me at all. I now regret my conversation with Mandos - it would have been far better for me to have remained in the Halls, leaving my brother here in peace, but it is too late to change my decision. Now I can only be patient, and see how Maglor reacts.
I do not have long to wait. A tall form comes running out of the courtyard, and almost before I realize what is happening I suddenly find myself enveloped by my brother. Maglor has practically thrown himself on me, almost knocking me off my feet, and then I feel his arms around me, holding me so tightly I can barely breathe. I return his fierce embrace, marveling at the solid feel of him in my arms, the scent of his skin, the softness of his glossy black hair brushing against my cheek as my hood slides backwards. He feels so real. After so long insubstantial, I had almost forgotten what it feels like to hold another person, or be held by one.
Finally, after a long moment, I feel his arms slowly loosen; it takes an effort of will to slacken mine, for I find that after our long separation I do not want to let him go, lest I lose him again. He steps back slightly and reaches up to pull my hood, which had slipped, completely down to reveal my full face. When I meet his gaze, I see a mixture of disbelief and wonder in his sparkling eyes. "You've come back! You've really come back! Oh, Russandol - I've waitied so long for this day, I was afraid I'd never see you again. Tell me you're real."
"I'm real, little brother," I say, smiling now, "I came as soon as I could. I've missed you, too."
"Come - let's go back into the courtyard. Everyone will be so pleased to see you..." Maglor has his hand on my arm, and is trying to get me to walk with him back into the garden, where the festivities are still in progress. But with his words I think of Elrond as a young man, and the veiled hostility in his gaze, and picture myself surrounded by strangers with bright, hard eyes and lovely faces, so cold, hear their voices whispering "That's Maedhros, the Kinslayer..." I know my thoughts are foolish - Maglor is welcomed here, and I am his brother, newly released from the Halls of Mandos; I will certainly be tolerated, and perhaps even warmly accepted. But at this moment I find I am not quite ready to face the company of strangers yet; I'd much rather spend time with my brother alone. Surely it would not hurt to have an hour or so in private with Maglor before I am forced to re-enter society? "Please, Maglor, I'd really rather not. Couldn't we walk for a bit instead, just the two of us? It's been so long since we were together last; I don't really feel like sharing you with anyone else just yet."
Maglor stares at me for a moment, concerned; I must have let my alarm show on my face. It's been a long time since I have had to guard facial expressions; I realize I am out of practice. "I promise, little brother - I'll come in later. I'd just like a chance to talk with you for a little while first," I reassure him. "I am going to hold you to that promise, Russandol," he replies firmly. "You're going to have to get used to being around other people again; this is as good a time to start as any, indeed better than most." "Point taken," I laugh, "I see that some things don't change over the ages - you're still determined to watch out for me, whether I need it or not."
"And you do," Maglor replies with a smile. "Wait here; I will be back in a few minutes." He turns and heads inside the courtyard; after a brief interval I see him emerge carrying a small basket. "I've made our excuses to Aurel and Elrond, and told them we will be joining them later for breakfast. Now, let's find a place where we can go and chat for a bit. There's a nice scenic spot not far from here, overlooking the sea - we can sit there and watch the sun rise, if you'd like."
"Yes," I reply, my mind flashing back to the last sunrise I witnessed, that horrible dawn when I'd killed myself to escape the pain of the Silmaril in my hand and the regret in my heart. My old life ended with the dawn; it seems fitting that my new life should begin with one. I'll watch the sun rise, and then return with Maglor to meet his wife Aurel, and Elrond and his household, and begin the long process of starting over. "Yes, I'd like that very much."
We walk for a while in companionable silence, my brother slightly ahead, leading the way. Finally I ask him, "How long has it been since you returned to Aman?"
"Not long - a few hundred years of the sun," he replies quietly. "Do you know how many ages have passed since the night we held the Silmarils, Maedhros?"
"No," I reply, "and right now I don't want to know. Far too many, that you had to spend wandering alone and in pain, and all because of my foolishness." Maglor stops for a moment, looking at me strangely. "How did you know that I -" he begins; I quickly reply, "Mandos foresaw it, that morning on the shore, and told me. He said that you would be in Ulmo's care. I wasn't willing to leave with him until I knew you would be safe. I tried to tell you I loved you, before I went, but you couldn't hear me."
He starts walking again, faster now. "No, I couldn't hear you. I thought I felt... something, but I wasn't sure, later, that what I had felt was real. That was you?"
"Yes, little brother, that was me," I answer softly; we walk the rest of the way in silence.
The lookout is indeed lovely, with a clear view of the ocean not far below. The first hint of dawn can be seen on the horizon, the faintest brightening of the sky, the slightest fading of the easternmost stars. My brother and I sit down on the soft grass, side by side, to watch the sky. "What's in the basket?" I ask him, remembering the small hamper he'd been carrying. "Some bread and cheese, and a little wine," Maglor replied, "not too much to spoil our appetite for breakfast, but I thought you might be hungry. Knowing you, you haven't eaten dinner."
I laughed. "Actually, I haven't eaten at all." Maglor just stared for a moment, bemused, then replied, "You mean that you haven't eaten anything today? I told you that you need looking after, Russandol."
"And who better to do it than you?" I reply, as he opens the basket and removes the bread. "Maglor, I want you to know I do appreciate everything you've done for me. I love you, little brother, and I am so sorry for all the pain I've caused you. I tried to tell myself otherwise, after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad: I tried to believe I hated you, and the way I treated you then was unconscionable, but I found in the end I was lying to myself. Please forgive me."
"I forgave you then, Maedhros; I knew you were in pain. Can you forgive me for what I did to you, frightening you into staying alive rather than letting you go when you first learned of Fingon's death?"
"There's nothing to forgive, little brother. All you did was speak to me; it was my choice to stay. You are in no way responsible for my cowardice."
"Russandol, you are not a coward -" Maglor starts to say, indignant, but I interrupt him. "Yes," I reply, "Yes, I was. I was not brave enough to break our evil oath, but you were. I simply wouldn't let you do it."
I watch as my brother suddenly decides to struggle with the wine bottle, obviously wanting to let the subject drop. "Here, let me help you with that." As I reach out to grasp the bottle, I see Maglor start; following his gaze, I realize he is looking in shock at my right hand. "It startled me, too," I laugh. "But for all that it looks the same, it is a new body, after all. I guess the Valar were feeling merciful, and decided that nearly 600 years without my hand was enough."
"Of course they're merciful; you're here, after all," he replies, laughing, as he starts to cut the cheese. "I don't follow you, Maglor," I reply. "Well, rumor has it that Mandos once told our mother that none of her sons would be released before the end of Arda. But the Valar let me return to Aman eventually, and even though I wasn't dead, I am guilty of the same crimes that you committed, after all. I couldn't believe that they'd keep you in Mandos forever, not considering everything you'd suffered, while letting me remain free - it wouldn't be fair. So I never stopped praying, or hoping - and here you are now. I always knew that foolish story wasn't true."
And with my brother's words, I suddenly understand. Mandos is known for his strict sense of justice, true - but is justice wholly unleavened by mercy really justice at all? As I pour the wine, I give a silent prayer of thanks that I, who have no right to ask for any mercy after my cruel deeds, should be granted so much of it. And then I sit in companionable silence with my brother, eating bread and cheese and drinking wine, and waiting to watch the sun rise for the final time over the weary and faded lands of Arda Marred.
The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.
The final italicized lines are the concluding lines of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.
I have no idea how Maglor eventually returned to Tol Eressëa; for two very different ideas about how his redemption might have occurred, check out Deborah's lovely story "In the Seventh Age" and Jilian Baade's delightful story-in-progress "Wanderer".
The subject of fading: Exactly how elves and Arda fade is not clear in Tolkien's writings. In some places, he seems to indicate that all elves will eventually dwell in intangible bodies, the substance of their physical forms having slowly been consumed by their spirits (see especially Note 7 in "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth", Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10), pp. 342-343). In other writings, though, he implies that the physical fading process is limited to elves who remain in Middle Earth, although all elves, regardless of where they live, will gradually grow weary in spirit over time (see "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth", Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10), pp. 364; and "Myths Transformed", Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10), p. 427). I chose to go with the latter idea, as it seems to fit the idea of Aman as a type of elf paradise better (and because it's hard to imagine cities filled with intangible people!). However, I did try to hint that near the end of time the world itself is tired and "lessened" in some way from what it once was; Maedhros wasn't imagining things when he thought the sun was brighter, and the sky bluer, back in the First Age- they were.
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.