3. Part 2
It was a complicated dance.
As the most skilled people among the Noldor, the Gondolindhrim always sought for perfection. They devoted a full share of their talent to the arts, and today it was revealed in glory. The King's Square was a whirl of feet and ribbons, tantalising to the eye, yet never a step out of place, and all perfectly timed to the music.
Like a machine, a beautiful, intricate one, but doomed. Doomed and unable to save itself from destruction, because, after all, it is only a machine.
Maeglin Lómion, the son of twilight, leaned against a marble column bathed in the evening sun. The column was tall and strong, cunningly wrought by many hands, its curved shape gleaming white as the rest of the city. The bright sun was forcing his eyed downward, so he must watch the play of light and shadow on the flagstones of the courtyard. Light and shadow, daylight and stardusk... the forces that had shaped him beneath the trees of his childhood. His father's darkness, a grim smile and the grate of a steel door after nightfall. His mother's light, the light in her face as she spoke of Valinor, of Tirion, of Gondolin. Her tears. His comfort. Their resolve to leave together.
He had made his decision. When Aredhel had fallen into darkness, wounded by Eöl's javelin, he had chosen the light. And she, oh, she was the light, in every possible sense of the word.
Idril. Her name was too beautiful for everyday use. It flowed far too freely from the lips of others in the city, earning them a sharp glare from the King's nephew. When he had her, he would keep her name for himself alone, and everybody else would simply call her "Queen."
Idril Celebrindal. Gondolin's dancing silverfoot. The love of my life, and she barely acknowledges my existance.
But all that would change. He would wait patiently, for she would come tonight. He was sure of that. And tonight, he would tell her.
His heart swelled with the goodness of it all, the feeling that all would be right in a scant few hours. He would wait. When he told her, as he planned, she would listen and forgive, and in time come to love him for his honesty. How noble he was being! How he put the needs of the people above his own. These past seven years, he had hated himself. He had lain awake at night, wrestling his demons, searching fruitlessly for a justification of what he had done.
But all that would change.
He would wait.
She would love him.
And now the minstrels began to play a popular tune, one that Maeglin recognised. It was the new lightness in his heart that allowed him to raise a smile to his lips, to clap with the others. Salgant, who had been leaning against a pillar across the square, looking bored, immediately began to clap in imitation.
The world made Maeglin laugh. All was well, and she would be his.
A shadow fell across his face, temporarily blocking the dance of light and shade on the ground. He looked up, and saw the smiling face of an elf-maid. She was offering her arm, an invitation to join the dance. For a moment, he thought he would. Her face was young and pretty, and her dark hair was inlaid with jewels. Let Turgon think he had at last found a beloved of his own. And why not close his eyes as she spun in his arms, and imagine she was...
But no. If Idril saw him in the arms of another, she would turn from him forever, and his plans would be ruined.
"Will you honour me with a dance?"
Maeglin shook his head. Disappointed, the girl moved away, and was lost in the crowd of silk and jewels. Later, he saw her dancing with Ecthelion, the foolish flute-playing Lord of the Fountains, laughing and twirling her arms in the air to make the ribbons flutter.
She laughed because she did not know.
Nearby, an uncharacteristically merry Pengolodh had been roped into the merry-making, spinning the golden-haired niece of Glorfindel with one hand, and balancing a cup of wine with the other.
Maeglin scanned the crowd. He would wait patiently, like a lizard in the sun. He would wait.
And here was Enerdhil, the shy young lad who worked at his forge, dancing with a girl who wore a green stone at her neck. By the fountain, Duilin and Egalmoth were deep in conversation, their words indiscernable for the music and laughter. Rog, the huge, strapping Lord of the Hammer, was nearby, in the arms of little Lothiel, Duilin's youngest daughter. It was a comical sight, and Maeglin allowed himself to smile. He would smile now, but the greater joy would be his later.
Salgant across the square shifted uncomfortably. He was fat, and pale, and disliked the sun. He could not tell what expression was on Maeglin's face, and was itching for a closer look that he might copy it.
And then, a sudden hush fell over the crowd. Simultaneously the setting sun slipped behind the gem-laid roofs of the buildings, casting prismic rainbows of light before golden twilight fell on the square.
Maeglin looked up.
But what he saw was more painful to his eyes than Vása's cruellest stroke.
Two figures stood alone in the middle of the square, for the crowd had parted to make way for them. The light of the dying sun was caught in both their hair, because it was golden. Their eyes were focused on each other, and to them, none of the watchers mattered.
As one, they began to sway to the gentle music of a harp. Their arms wound around each other, and the elf-maid's slender fingers wound in the man's coarse blond hair. His feet stumbled, yet unused to the Elvish way of dancing, but she steadied him. He mumbled something, smiling an apology, and then leaned closer to whisper in the elf-maid's ear. Her cheeks flushed a pale shade of red, and her blue eyes sparkled mischievously as she ran a finger along the line of the man's chin, pulling him into a tighter embrace with her other hand.
Feeling sick, Maeglin sagged against the pillar, the strength gone from his limbs. How he hated the man. Hated him for loving her. Hated him for touching her. Hated him for seducing her, placing a madness on her that made her love him in return. Her every smile to him, her every casual touch, twisted the knife in Maeglin's heart further every day. The knife that she had thrust in, the blade of ice that had pierced him the day she yielded her immortal heart to another.
Hate. All the love had left Maeglin long ago, and he was an empty shell, with only hate - and hope - to cling on to. How could she fail to see? She was throwing her life away for an all-too-brief summer in his arms, a summer that would soon fade into inevitable winter. In a way he hated her too, for failing to see her wrong choice, for living a lie.
He turned away, and left the square to the lovers, his mind working furiously. Tonight, he would find a way to get her alone. He would tell her. Then, everything would be right. And how could she still love Tuor - that mortal - when he could save her? How could he compete with that? He had nothing to offer her, save death, and sorrow. No, she would turn to him. She would give him the love he rightfully deserved.
Maeglin's fevered mind required an answer. A way to lure her to him. A bait, as it was. And an answer came to him then. The child.
Even then, when he was almost fallen to darkness, he was still capable of feeling regret. It was true, he had no love for the boy, for his father's blood ran strong in his veins. Yet the child was innocent.
A lot of people are innocent. My mother was innocent, and she had to die--
So it would be. Idril would understand that using the child was the only way for him to claim her. She would understand. And he would say, as the child's eyes became heavy with the drugged sleep Maeglin had prepared for him, he would say, "I'm sorry." And he would mean it.
Was Eöl sorry when the javelin struck Aredhel, rather than his son? Was he sorry when he lay in prison, while the flame of her life flickered and died? No, Eöl had shown no remorse. He chosen not to save Aredhel. He had let the poison carry her to Mandos, and he had said nothing.
But I am better than my father. I will use the child only to gain his mother's love...
A dark smile twisting his features, he turned down a dark street leading to the North of the city, where he guessed Eärendil might be.
The son of Idril and Tuor sat on the very edge of the white stone wall, his feet dangling loosely over the side. His toes pointed down to the green grass below where a herd of sheep were grazing, appearing tiny from such a great height. His eyes were closed, yet his face was troubled, as if straining to hear a distant sound, or concentrating very hard. The wind was in the North-West that day, and blew in a chill stream about the mound upon Tumladen, its cold fingers sweeping his golden hair back.
He did not notice the dark figure emerge from the shadows behind him.
Still smiling from his planned victory, Maeglin was careful to approach silently. Gaining the child's trust was imperative, and his acting must be flawless.
Maeglin had become a skilful actor during his time in Gondolin. For everyone who knew him, he wore a different face. For Turgon, he was loyal and brave, a worthy heir. For his doting smiths, he was gruff and taciturn, showing joy only in metals and forging. For the endless whirl of Elf-Lords and nobles of the city, ever-glad to make friends of royal blood, the face was the same - calm, polite, detatched in a friendly way. It was only Idril who seemed to penetrate all his disguises. It was only Idril he dared to open up for, but now, he would smile for Eärendil.
Maeglin leaned over, and gently tapped his beloved's son on the shoulder.
Eärendil started, and would have slipped if it had not been for Maeglin's steadying hand. His eyes widened slightly when he saw the elf, and then narrowed to a suspicious glare.
"Might I join you?" Maeglin asked amicably. Eärendil made no answer, but pulled his feet back onto the wall, his eyes fixed on Maeglin's hands.
Very well, play it gently...
"There is no need to be afraid. I am not going to push you."
His tone was light. Eärendil's face softened slightly, yet did not lose its mistrust. He spoke warily.
"Hello, Lord Maeglin."
"There's no need to call me Lord. I am your cousin, am I not?"
Eärendil considered carefully. "I suppose you are." And then, importantly, "You are my second cousin in fact."
"Then you can trust me. Those of the Edain and the Golodhrim trust their kin."
Eärendil seemed satisfied at that, so Maeglin risked a move closer. He stretched out his arms, and leaned on the wall, breathing in deeply. Eärendil watched him, nervously at first, but when he showed no sign of pushing him off the wall, he relaxed, and began to listen to the wind again.
"What would you hear?"
Eärendil's eyes snapped open. Maeglin was watching him in interest.
"You are listening to the wind, are you not? What are you trying to hear?"
A lucky guess. It had struck a chord, and Eärendil met his eyes for the first time. He had Idril's eyes, blue as the sky in midsummer.
"I would hear the sea." Eärendil said. "Father tells me of it, of the crashing of the waves on the shore, of the roaring of the water into the Rainbow Cleft. It makes me sad, for I have never seen it."
"I understand," Maeglin said. "I too have never beheld the wide ocean, but I am told it is very fair. My mother used to sing to me, you know. She would sing to me of the gulls crying on the immortal shores, across the Sundering Sea..." He trailed off, his eyes closed. He laid a hand on his heart for emphasis, and sighed sadly. In truth, he barely remembered his mother's stories. The only ones that had sparked his interest were those of Gondolin, and he was there now. What need had he of stories?
"My mother loves the water," continued Eärendil. "She tells me such stories, the legend of Ossë and Uinen of the Maiar, the story of how the Teleri came to Aman - " he faltered. "But I don't really know very much. I have never seen it."
Maeglin smiled. "Then maybe we are not so different, you and I?" He moved forward again, so he was right at the edge of the wall, within arm's reach of the child. Eärendil did not move away. His trust was almost gained...
"Come," Maeglin said. "I would show you something."
"What?" said Eärendil, whose feet had resumed their dangling over the side of the city wall.
"A stone. A moonstone, that gleams blue and green in its depths, like the roaring sea itself. When you close your hand around it, and listen very carefully - " Maeglin lowered his voice to a whisper, so Eärendil leaned closer to hear, "You can almost hear the song of the waves on the shore."
The child's hesitation vanished. "Show me!"
Maeglin smiled. "All right, then. Hold out your arms, and I shall lift you over."
Eärendil eagerly stretched out his small hands to Maeglin. However, the Dark Elf's son did not lift him down. Using his smith's muscles, he thrust out his arms suddenly, so that Eärendil was dangling over the edge, suspended only by Maeglin's grip. The child gasped in fear, but was helpless to save himself from the drop below. For a moment, all was deathly quiet, save for the howling of the wind in the mountains.
Then Maeglin smiled benevolently, and pulled Eärendil back to safety inside the walls.
"You did not think I was going to drop you, did you?" He asked. Eärendil smiled ruefully, ashamed for doubting him.
"Of course not, Uncle Maeglin."
"Good. Come, then, my home is nearby. I shall show you there." He said, and led the golden child away down a dark street.
A large platform had been raised in the King's square. It was draped with cloth of gold and silver, and the five thrones were set with bright gems. The largest of the five was occupied by Turgon, who adopted a relaxed posture, as if used to the his kingly seat.. Many of the people said he was as a King of old, in Valinor before the darkening. Today, cloaked in red velvet with a circlet of gold on his head, he looked strong and imposing even as Finwë, his grandsire.
Next to him sat Idril Celebrindal. Her face was a mask of calm beauty, and she had cast off her white cloak, leaving her bare-shouldered. Occasionally, she would shoot a glance at her husband, who was seated on the other side of Turgon. Tuor looked uncomfortable, but determined not to show himself up in front of the crowd.
Two thrones were empty. The larger of the two was Maeglin's, set with a black jewel wound between two serpents. The smaller throne belonged to Eärendil. It sat empty, beside Idril. The dancing had not yet finished, for the people were waiting for the King's nephew and grandson to arrive.
Suddenly, Idril stood up, letting the silver coverlet slip from her lap.
"I think I should find Eärendil. It is almost moonrise, and I would not have him miss the festival," she said. Her voice was light, but betrayed a hint of anxiety.
"I am sure he is safe in the city." Turgon said. "He has always been one to wander, has he not? I am more worried about whether your cousin will make an appearance or not. I think he has been distracted by that forge of his and forgotten about us..."
"Then I will go and uncover the truth of the matter," said Idril, and lowered her head to her father and King before taking her leave. Her barefooted steps were light down the platform, and to all she appeared to glide, as if she had no need of the ground at all.
It was only when she was out of sight that she broke into a run.
Maeglin filled two glasses with the dark liquid. He was thankful for the lack of light in his home. If it had been brighter, the oily residue in Eärendil's glass would have been plainly visible.
Taking a deep breath, he handed it over. Idril's son examined the glass suspiciously, then sniffed it, wrinkling his nose at the strong smell.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Wine." Was that harsh sound really his voice? He must be more careful. "The finest Gondolin has to offer," he managed with a smile. When the child drank the wine, the sleeping draught would kick in quickly, and he would be completely at Maeglin's mercy.
A little bit of light persuasion. That was all it was. He was not going to hurt the child, or anything like that.
A pause, as Eärendil swirled it about in his glass. Maeglin watched him, and took a sip of his own wine. He waited. After a while, Eärendil spoke.
"Can I see the stone now?"
"The sea-stone. You told me about it, remember? You said-"
He was interrupted by a loud knocking on the door, and the voice that reached through pierced him to the heart.
"Maeglin? Are you there?"
Idril. At last she had come. And so the plan is almost complete...
"I'll get it." And then, in a harsher tone, "You stay there."
Slightly frightened by Maeglin's sudden change in tone, Eärendil obeyed and slipped into the shadows. The dark elf inhaled deeply, then pushed the iron door open.
He was expecting bright starlight crowning Idril's face, picking out the silver that she had wound into her hair for the festival, gleaming in her eyes. Instead, the light surrounding her and streaming into his house was red. Red like blood.
It must be dawn that stains the clouds...
And yet it was not. It was too early for dawn. The stars had not yet been put to flight by the rising sun.
"Idril." His voice caught slightly. "What a pleasant surprise."
The elf-maid's face was ash-white, and she was out of breath, as if she had been running.
"Where is my son?" she demanded.
"He is quite safe, I assure-"
"Eärendil! Ionya!" She called, her clear voice reaching into the shadowy rooms.
Maeglin could only watch as the child leapt into his mother's arms, and clung to her for dear life. Idril glared at him reproachfully. He realised an explanation was needed.
"I was showing him a stone I carved. I thought it would interest him."
Her voice surprised him. It was barely controlled, quivering with rage. "Keep away from my son! You had no right to bring him here."
It was time.
"And you had no right to steal my heart, silverfoot."
He stepped forward suddenly, and before Idril had time to react, he clasped her neck with a grip of iron and pressed her mouth to his. She struggled violently, but Maeglin, hardened by his years working in the forge, simply tightened his grip and continued to take what had been forbidden. All her loveliness, all her sweetness and fire, all melded together in her kiss. Maeglin felt intoxicated with it all, his head spun. The red light intensified as he held her, and it seemed to be the light of flame.
The flame of passion gleams bright for us.
At last, he released her. She reeled, her eyes wide with fear. Eärendil stood by, his face a picture of shock.
Maeglin looked into her eyes. Those eyes, those beautiful blue eyes, reflecting the glow of the red sky. He would tell her now, then he would take her for his own. Forever.
"You knew it was me, didn't you?" His voice was harsh and full of breath.
"It was me that betrayed the city to Morgoth. I did it for you! I love you!"
Idril backed slowly away, shaking her head in utter disgust.
"Love me? Love me!" Her voice rose. "Do you think that was an action of love? Do you think that you can just take as your lust would have you? You are no better than your father. I hate you. I despise you. I wish you had never been cursed upon this city!"
A crash of thunder sounded out over the Echoriath. Idril and Maeglin both turned in that instant, and they both saw the sight that they had dreaded most.
A black tide was breaking over the white peaks in the distance, with larger, more sinister shapes in its midst. The air was thick with cries, voices of death, and the cries of the people as they knew they were betrayed.
"Run, Eärnil!" Idril cried. She made to flee herself, but Maeglin was too quick, and the trap of his arms snapped shut around her. She kicked and struggled viciously, using her nails to flay his skin. Blood ran down his cheek, but he barely noticed and slid his hand to his belt. At first, she did not know what he was doing, and continued to struggle.
Then, she felt the edge of cold, black steel slide against her skin, and froze. Maeglin had drawn Anguirel, and pressed its oiled blade to the smooth skin around her collar-bone. Eärendil stopped dead, and made a heart-rending cry. "Mother!"
"If you want your mother to live, you will not run," Maeglin said. He spat in disgust. "I will cast you off the walls myself, worthless half-breed."
Eärendil spoke, sounding older than his years. "Do what you will to me, but if you harm my mother, you shall feel the bite of my sword, you traitor!"
Maeglin smiled. "Brave words. Do not fear, I will not hurt her. Would you hurt that which you cherished above all?"
Gently, he laid a hand where Idril's golden hair met her white skin. He pulled her into a protective embrace, resting her head on his shoulder while keeping the black sword balanced perfectly. He pulled her body closer to him, feeling the frantic beating of her heart. Below them, the iron boots of the orcs were beating on the green grass of Tumladen. Already the black tide was beneath the city walls. Arrows whistled overhead, and by the wails of the Gondolindhrim, some had struck their mark.
"Nothing in this world," Maeglin whispered into her hair, oblivious to the battle unfolding around them, "Nothing in this world, while I yet live, will keep me from my Idril."
And so it was that no-one heard the running footsteps in the streets behind. No-one heard the metallic ring of a sword being unsheathed. They all heard the voice.
"Turn and fight, traitor..."
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.