If We Fall Anew: 3. Omnis nihilque

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3. Omnis nihilque

It was yesterday he brought us with him to his camp, on the very ruins of the Sirion Havens, sacked and burnt. Now we are walking down between all the tents, and I cannot help but watch with curiosity as we pass them all, and the soldiers stare at us with impunity, after a slight bow of their head to their Lord. I feel bare with no weight hanging from my waist; Maglor allowed me to take Aranruth, but I am forbidden to bear her in daily life. Elros is walking near him, and looks around with eager eyes; the tired soldiers, somewhat relieved to see a living child again, shout mocking or kind comments at him. But the waking settlement is lively, and the men are preparing for departure; light-footed youths are running about carrying messages, and they already are taking the tents down, or packing whatever little bit of stuff they have.

 

Now there is someone else walking down this same road to meet us, in great strides, and all eyes are lowered on his passage. He can't be missed. People are stepping out of his way, and indeed he is the most handsome and noble of the Sons of Fëanor; tall he is, fair of face, with thick, heavy copper hair; but for now he carries himself slightly hunched, as if bearing a great weight. I do not believe I have ever seen such an unreadable expression; there is so much written on his face it cannot be deciphered. As he passes by us, his step slows down, and he acknowledges his brother with a mere look from his dark eyes. However, Maglor steps in front of him, as if by pure chance, and blocks his way, earning a threatening glare. Deflecting his older brother's question, he rests a hand on each our shoulders.

 

"Elrond and Elros, Peredhil, sons of Eärendil the Fair and Elwing daughter of Dior, Heirs to the High Crown of the Umanyar, princes of Menegroth, Gondolin, and the Havens of Sirion."

 

I am somewhat surprised by Maglor's touch on my shoulder, and never have I even thought about all those titles that truly do rest on our heads. Princes of three Kingdoms fallen; two at your own hands, Lord Fëanarion. But the Lord Maedhros has nothing to answer, and only rests his gaze on us for a second, and I feel my heart itself to be uncovered by that gaze.

 

However, as he passes us by without saying a word, I could swear, oh I could swear I saw a tinge of sadness and jealousy in his eyes. [1]

 

~

 

Even after a year spent in his House, I still refused to address him as anything other than a perfect stranger. Now, after two more years of sharing the same roof, it is better, or maybe it is not; I don't know when it began. I want to speak to him, yet I'm afraid to speak to him; I want to look at him, yet I'm afraid to look at him, and still does the bitter fire of revenge consume my heart.

 

Maglor is kind to us. He is so very much reserved and discreet that it always seems as if he is calm and controlled, on the brink of coldness; and yet I know, I know that inside he is broken to pieces. Sometimes he even smiles when little Elros tries to cheer him up, and yet even his smile is sad. I think I am grateful for that. I don't know, I don't really know if I could have borne to hear him laugh, laugh as one who in his heart bears no burden heavy as the blood of another.

 

The Lord Maedhros is very unlike him; he is ever silent, and can be compared to a block of ice; never speaks, never smiles, only watches from afar. I know the two are very close; I know that Maglor is his brother's right hand, in the first as well as the second meaning of the term.

 

The Lord of the Gap is now our official tutor, and yet each day spent next to him is a torture to me. He teaches us lore, he teaches us song, swordplay, archery, and Elros he teaches to read and write; in return it seems that the young boy teaches him to smile again. Indeed, my brother much prefers to play outdoors and learn to fight than stay seated at a desk reciting his lessons, and at music he could never do much more than a common mortal. Maybe he is, after all, a mortal. Maybe we both are.

 

Two years ago, when I still was brooding dark thoughts alone in my corner, and staring at them in silence, I watched Elros compose his very first song, and Maglor from pleasure laughed, and kissed his forehead, passing a hand through his hair.

 

Then I suddenly wished it were I who was there, with his hand in my hair.

 

I don't know. At first I didn't mind. I watched him, and he never tried to win me over, so I stayed in my corner, watching. Then he allowed me to make free use of his immense library; and I spent days and days immersed in the books, not even stopping to eat. Some were in Maglor's handwriting, some in Maedhros’s, and the former I devoured with an eagerness that sometimes scared even myself. I do not know what I hoped to find. Others had margins which were loaded with hastily scribbled notes and comments. Sometimes, he would come in, always silent, and take a book or two away, or put them back in place. If he did that, once I was sure that he was out of hearing, I would immediately pick those same books up and flip through them. Usually they were of no interest to me: story books or children's rhymes, probably for Elros, but occasionally I did happen upon some useful information. Once, I even found one of those to be a manual for gardening.

 

One day I found a thick book, covered in dark leather and dust, and as I opened it the first thing that struck my eyes was the handwriting. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and yet I felt like I knew it, and had ever known it. I flipped through the pages. The same handwriting: bold, fiery and proud, incredibly elegant and beautiful and precise. There was not a single crossing out in the whole book, and, as I began reading, I thought that the writing was perfect, flawless, but strangely unsettling. The tongue was the Ancient Quenya, the language of Valinor, and the letters those that are called Fëanorian. At first I didn't understand, but then, as I read on, I did. It was that same story that Mother told me, once, long long ago, the story of the olden days before the Sun or Moon had been made. And when I brushed the thick layer of dust off the cover, this faded, silver inscription appeared on it:

 

Ainulindalë

ar

Quenta Silmarillion

 

That book I read many times over. Every single word drew me in, fascinating, irresistible, and I fell into the mist of a hazy voyage, till suddenly the tale ended in an incomprehensible way. It just stopped. The writer apparently never bothered to finish it. And the pages left after that last sentence were blank, so hopelessly blank. It was always then, after staring at the unstained white sheets for ten good minutes, that I would begin the book over again. I tried to learn passages by heart. But still I was puzzled by the end of the book, even though I knew it since I was a child; the Flight of the Noldor that ended in bloodshed and treason. And that handwriting, that handwriting that drew me to it and fascinated me like a flame a moth. I could not believe the story ended just there; or maybe it did.

 

And so one day I decided to ask Maglor about it. I waited till night, after he had put Elros off to bed -which seldom proved to be an easy task-, and he was sitting at his desk, with his face buried in one of his large, skinny hands.

 

“What book is this?”

 

He took it, gently, with an eyebrow raised in slight surprise, and began slowly flipping through it with an almost reverent hand.

 

“It was my Father’s book.” [2]

 

His fingers rested on the pages, following the lines with a loving caress, and gradually they flipped no more, as the words caught his eyes against his will, and he was reading before he knew it himself.

 

But the answer hadn’t satisfied me.

 

“Why isn’t it finished?”

 

Obvious answer: the man’s dead.

 

True meaning of question: Why didn’t *you* finish it?

 

Fortunately, Maglor isn’t dumb. Far from it.

 

“I never had the heart to tarnish his work.”

 

With a sigh of regret, he snapped the book shut, and handed it back to me; and his eyes were vague. I stood there for a moment, unmoving, till he cast a questioning look at me. Finally, I blurted my question out.

 

“Will you tell me the end of the story?”

 

Again, his brow was raised in surprise.

 

“Do you know it not?”

 

I swallowed.

 

“It is your story I wish to hear. The story of the Sons of Fëanor, told by a Son of Fëanor.”

 

His gaze was stern, and weary somehow, as I have not seen it before.

 

“Are you sure you wish to hear it, Son of Eärendil?”

 

For an answer I sat myself at his feet, and his eyelids half-fell over his pupils, long lashes casting a shadow over them. We stayed up the whole night, and he told me their tale. He never missed a detail, ever calm, expression unchanging, he reminisced as if for himself alone the horror and glory of that night when the Oath was sworn, and word for word he repeated that Oath without a quiver in his voice; at his side I watched powerless as he threw himself into the slaughter of the first Kinslaying; at his side I saw the fire leap up at Losgar, hungrily devouring the beautifully crafted ships, and in my heart I saw the same fire burning on another shore; at his side I fought in the Dagor-nuin-Giliath, and carried a dying Fëanor out of the midst of battle; at his side I wept for his brother, whom he thought lost; at his side I found that brother returned and ever-changed; at his side I held the Gap near the fortress of Himring, and lived in hopeless faith through the years of the Siege; and when morning came the Sun found us deep in the horror of the Bragollach, with me at his feet.

 

Then, suddenly he was trailing off, confusing memories and thoughts, and grimacing he abruptly stood and left the room, cursing under his breath. Nearly slamming the door behind him, he caught himself only just in time, and I realised how much it had cost him to tell me this tale, and keep composure.

 

Nevertheless, the next evening he was sitting there again, waiting for me, and so for long weeks did we spend our nights thus.

 

The story of his life unfolded before me as a path unwinding, always stretching out, a path clouded by a fog opaque, a path with tall barriers on each side. It was a path where sometimes there were crossroads, but it seemed to me that whichever way was chosen, there was but one final destination at the close; as if all roads led to the end. From that time on, if his days belonged to the little hyperactive Elros, and were spent in running about, mostly chasing after him, fighting with him and pretending to be vanquished, and then forcing him into a seat for his lessons, his nights were mine, as we sat in his study for the long hours of darkness, and discussed scholarly matters, historical events, some in which he took part himself, and he told me of the peace and splendour of Valinor, of the daily beauty and joy that in the end failed to restrain the valiant and impetuous Noldor. Of his Father he did not tell, and nor of his mother, but often in his tales came up merry anecdotes of his six brothers and himself, and when he recalled those times he smiled, and once I heard him laugh.

 

Sometimes, unwittingly, he lapsed into Quenya, and went on telling his stories all the same; and I did not dare interrupt his words. He spoke of golden times when Melkor’s lies were unknown yet to the hearts of the Elves. He spoke of the Trees, again and again, because I could not hear enough of the Light that does not die. He spoke of fountains, light, stars, alabaster cities and godly beings, flowing rivers and stretching meadows, hunting in forests and singing with the birds; of towers and pearls and shores and white-sand. He told me of his own youth, spent thoroughly in the making of songs, which he says he remembers no more; and in raising his two youngest brothers, caught in between his mother's tears and his father's budding madness. He said he couldn't have done it without help, he said that the twins were two little living bullets, shooting all around the House, and that as they grew up it became worse, just like my brother, who sleeps upstairs.

 

I think I saw what he was doing then, trying to give us the childhood he scarcely had. Maybe. If it is so, then he is failing miserably, at least for me. I want nothing of it, not now, oh no. Childhood is not what I want.

 

Some nights the Lord Maedhros would join us, and sit himself at the other end of the table, silent as always, listening, adding one word or two to our dialogues, and eventually joining in. It was in that time that I began deeming the hours after dusk, which before had always seemed long and lonely to me, too short for my liking; though I always felt somewhat guilty when I saw Maglor's weary face, and eventually sent him to bed, protesting that I was tired myself. Then I would lie awake beside my brother till dawn came, or sit on the windowsill, watching the stars, thinking of him.

 

Yes, I thought of him. At the beginning it didn't worry me. I thought of the matters we had discussed that night, I thought of his rare and painful smiles, I thought of that first day when I sought to slay him and I thought of the revenge I had sworn against him when we wandered in the forest. I thought of that endless pursuit in the woods, the game of cat and mouse, the victim leading the assassin, and I remembered the song he sung when he thought us lost. I thought of him, who had seen a Light I will never know, and heard the Music I will never hear, trod on a ground I will never walk, and I thought of his eyes, dark unlike the grey ones of most Noldor, in which a little ray of this Light is reflected, of his music, reminiscent of another music, one of long, too long ago.

 

Today, I think of him still. Today, I know that there is no forever, and now during three years I’ve hated him too much to hate him anymore. Three years. Three years have passed since that day the red waves came crashing into the cliff near the harried Sirion Havens, and now we are sitting, all three of us, me, my brother and him, around the dim fire. Elros has climbed into his lap, despite the fact that he has grown quickly, and during daytime now gives even more trouble than before. He knows the land by heart. Luckily, I know it too, and Maglor even better, so my brother cannot hide for long before being discovered. But in the evening he delights still in hearing ancient tales and stories, cuddled close to the only one who has ever been a true father for him. I cannot restrain a sigh, which they can interpret as they want, but in the depth of my heart I myself am afraid of its true meaning. With a piercing gaze, Maglor searches my face, and I feel myself turn red under his eyes, while he speaks of legends and heroes to Elros in a soft voice. These are eyes to be found rarely on the surface of Arda, eyes that can expose one's soul naked under the sunlight for all to see, eyes that he shares with the Lord Maedhros, the eyes of a Fëanarion. But in Maglor's gaze there is softness the other does not possess, and he does not force the way to my mind, however I know he can. I don't know, I don't know if I am grateful for this or not. Maybe it would just be easier.

 

His red-headed brother left our company some minutes ago, without a word. He sometimes walks away, in the darkness of the night or the pale light of day, and I doubt he himself knows the true aim of his wanderings. He returns, hours, days later, on foot or on horse, then departs again, and never says aught.

 

Maglor's gaze has turned to the flaring fire, and the flames send eerie shadows dancing on his face. As soon as I feel his eyes on me no more, I am watching him again, almost devouring his image. He for whom I had developed so much hatred, he who watched unmoved and unmoving as Mother had thrown herself out of the high window, he whom I caught but a glimpse of in battle, near his tall brother, and then I had seen only the blood dripping from his sword. He who had persevered in hopelessly seeking us for two months, he whom I had watched with growing curiosity, an almost morbid fascination, as I led him deeper and deeper into woods he knew not, and lost him again and again…

 

I know I have no chance to best him in any way, and I know now that having lived so long under his roof, were I able to physically slay him, I could not. How often have I pictured myself thrusting a sharp dagger into his heart, and drawing crimson, flowing blood! How often have I seen his eyes staring in mine at the last moment, filled with pain and terror! My mind finds the idea repulsive, and yet delights in it, delights in having him kneeling in front of me, and his last breath being mine. And my revenge, my revenge is lost, and I'm sorry Mother, your son will bring shame to your name. Maybe, maybe the world will not know, maybe I will be able to keep it all in my heart until it bursts to pieces and then no one will find out, but then as long as I live it will be in my soul so that my own name will be painful to hear, and, each time someone will call out to me, I know I will cringe from that name that is mine and cringe from answering to it, to it that will ever be an accusation of that which I cannot bear to believe.

 

I am consumed, consumed by a fire that is hatred no more, and that I fear to name.

 

Hatred no more? Maybe still, maybe still a little, and maybe still that one day when I wake up I'll find the fragments of my heart lying scattered on the ground, too.

 

I feel the fire burn in me, and that is not the dying fire in the fireplace, not the blinding fire of the Sun, not a kind of fire I know. Part of it is the fire that I have guessed through his words when he spoke of the ancient times and the Jewels he killed and destroyed for, part of it is the fire I have seen that hungrily leapt at and burnt down the house of my childhood, part of it is the fire I felt when I first saw his shadow standing over me that day at the seaside, just before I made my move to unsheathe my sword.

 

I force my gaze away from him, and abruptly stand up, as I can bear this burning no more. I walk to the window at the far end of the room, and open it in full, resting my elbows on the windowsill. Mayhap that the cold light of Varda's stars will cool my soul, and the fresh night breeze calm the flames of my heart, at least for a moment. Behind me I hear Elros' protests as Maglor leads him out of the room, as every evening, and follows him out to make sure he sleeps, and to tuck him into bed.

 

The door closes softly behind them, and I gasp, drawing a profound breath, as I know I am alone in the room at last. In some minutes Maglor will be waiting for me in his study, but perhaps tonight I will not go. Perhaps it is prudent no more to meet him like this; perhaps I prefer to suffer alone, and burn out alone. Perhaps he will be waiting vainly tonight, and the nights after; perhaps I will just go to bed by myself, trying not to think of him, trying to close my eyes and not dream of him, and contain my fire within myself.

 

But the door is opened again, gently, and I can hear his light footsteps on the floor, walking towards me. He rests his hand on my shoulder, comforting, and I shiver under that touch, that touch I so seldom feel and have so often yearned for. There is not a word spoken, but suddenly I find myself spinning around, both my arms surrounding him, his chest against mine, my face in the curve of his neck, and I am crying, crying like I have never cried, crying like I had never even known I could cry. Soon his robes are moist with my tears. I can feel his surprise at first, and the tension in his body, but then he slowly relaxes, and his hand begins stroking my back, soothingly, but my violent sobs only strengthen, and my arms wrap around him all the tighter. I lean back on the wall behind me, and he is pulled forwards, off balance, half-leaning on me.

 

I don't know how long I have been standing like this, crying on his shoulder, shivering under his touch, but the fire is dying, and the light growing dimmer and dimmer by the second. He is singing, singing a simple little wordless song, meant to calm, but on hearing his voice the fire in me rises again. How easy would it be now, if I could only draw my dagger, to dig it into his back? How easy would it be now to gain my revenge, now that he is wary no more, that his eternal defences are down? My hand travels down his back, finding the perfect, deadly spot where the weapon has to strike, but at the same time I cannot restrain my leg from moving against his, as I deposit a burning kiss on his neck. How easy would it be to have him now? Too late does he start away from me, but my eye catches his, both at last unmasked, and I see directly into his soul.

 

Now I have seen you, Fëanarion, without your shield and armour, now I know you, I know that you are broken and shattered, I know that tonight you are the Son of Fëanor no more, but only Maglor, only the one who could not bear to have two children he didn't even know die of hunger in the woods, only the one whom I heard singing his despair that night under the stars…

 

He has looked into my eyes, and I don't know what he has seen in them, nor do I care. My fingers intertwine with his dark locks. Avidly I have claimed his lips, feeling the heat rise in me, and for a moment he does not pull away, but does not respond either.

 

And this will be my revenge, Maglor Fëanarion, this will be my revenge to have you broken in my arms, to have you become mine, here, now, knowing that you are after all no more than an elf, a normal elf, despite all your titles of Prince without a crown and Lord without a land, all the blood on your hands that I can see scarlet flowing drop by drop from your fingertips staining the marble floor…

 

And my hand has already begun fiddling with his tunic when he finally jerks away, in the same motion nearly slamming me against the wall. A gush of cold air from the open window catches me in the face, at once clearing my head. What had I done? Do I feel regret? Shame? No. Just disbelief, and a strange, new kind of pleasure. For a moment we stand there, gasping at each other, and I see his chest heaving under his shirt at an alarming speed. I am sure the thumping of my heart against my ribcage is loud enough to wake my brother, sleeping upstairs. His eyes are wide, filled with something maybe akin to panic, and indeed there is no more shield to hide his soul, and what I see there might have pleased me, some moments ago, but now I find that it is not what I want, not what I want…

 

He applies a pale hand to his forehead, and inhales deeply; however, it does not prevent his voice from wavering, shaken as he is.

 

"Son of Eärendil, you are yet too young…"

 

But I do not hear the rest, as suddenly I find myself drained of all strength, and I am leaning against the wall, slowly sinking to the ground as my legs support my weight no more. I am barely conscious of trembling like a leaf in the wind, of the silent tears rolling down my cheeks one by one, of drawing my knees up to my chin, feeling like I will never live again. I have no clear idea what happens then, but one moment I dimly feel him sitting down beside me, a slender yet strong arm sliding around my shoulders, and the next I am sitting in his lap, still shaking, and I feel his breath on my neck, and gentle fingertips brushing my tears away…

 

"Have you ever seen a Silmaril, Elrond?" his voice murmurs in my ear.

 

"No." It is true. She was wise, Elwing. She knew the passion the Jewels kindled in every heart, pure or foul, and maybe she did feel that desire tug at her own heart too, to forbid her two little sons to come near it, locking the Gem away in an ebony cassette. "What are they like?"

 

He begins playing with a strand of my hair. His breathe on my neck…

 

"I don't know if I can put it in words."

 

I look at his face, seeking his gaze, but his eyes are lowered and avoiding mine.

 

"Then sing it."

 

So he sings. He sings, but his voice does not ring true. He sings, a song of old, or maybe he is making it up as the notes leave his lips, hanging in the air for a second, then fading away to leave room for the next one. He sings, and entrancing melody, a perfect song for perfection, a song of pure light, but his voice is marred by profound grief and pain, as the singer himself is not convinced by what he tells of. And when the song ends, I can but shake my head.

 

"I do not understand."

 

The silence falls. He pulls me up against his chest, lips seeking mine in the semi-obscurity.

 

"Neither do I. Not anymore."

 

The fire crackles one last time, and then dies out, leaving the room in darkness. 

~

1-     Well, now, everyone's probably wondering, what, what the Hell, Maedhros is jealous of the Peredhil, how did *that* ever happen? That's a no, no, people: it's his brother he's jealous of…

 

2-     I know, Fëanor certainly didn’t write the first chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion,  but then the guy who did must have had some material to begin with, right?


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: Le Chat Noir

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/03/02

Original Post: 07/30/02

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