After Sirion: 2. II

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2. II

That night, Maglor dreams about his wife. They are together in their old house in Eldamar. The light slanting through the window is moonlight, but it portends no grief—it is as if the Two Trees never were.

In his dream, they make love, languorously, like people who have never known separation and do not fear death. Their passion is not desperate; it blooms like an eternal rose.

Only Ilúvatar knows the final note of their song.

Afterwards, they lie in each other's arms, satisfied. Maglor tells her he loves her. And he tells her that he wants to have a child.

There's no reply. He opens his eyes—and he sees that he's embracing his brother Maedhros's skeleton.

***

Maedhros avoids Maglor for the next few days. There isn't much with which to busy himself—the people who follow them are self-sufficient; they no longer expect or need a spirited leader to overlook their activities. Hunting, cooking, washing, and a myriad of other camp activities are managed without him. He spends much of his time walking alone through the sparse woodlands, watching the autumn leaves collect in piles beneath his feet. "How are your twins?" he asks Maglor whenever he sees him, with a humorless smile. Maglor in turn looks grim, and tells him that they are as well as can be expected.

The boys themselves have been scarce. They sleep in the back room of his brother's tent and spend little time outside Maglor's watchful company. Yet Maedhros cannot avoid them forever, and on the third day of camping beside Sirion, he sees them sitting alone beside Maglor's tent, talking quietly together. They look like they've had a bath since he last saw them, and wear matching tunics of a fabric decidedly reminiscent of one of Maglor's old shirts. Seeing him, they fall silent, watching wide-eyed as he walks by. It is only afterward that the cause of their silence occurs to him—his sleeves were rolled up, and they saw his missing hand.

He forgets about it until that evening, when Maglor joins him where he sits by a campfire, idly tracing patterns in the dirt with his dagger.

"Hello," Maedhros says. He doesn't ask after the twins.

Maglor talks about them anyway.

"Do you have that old flute?" he asks. "I think the boys would like it."

Maedhros looks up from his scratchings. "What flute?"

"The one I made you when we were children. You still had it when we first went to Ossiriand, didn't you?"

"I suppose. I don't know where it is now."

There's a silence.

"Did they ask about my hand?" Maedhros asks.

"What?"

"Your twins. I walked past them today, and they saw it."

"Ah. No, they didn't. I suppose they were too shy to ask. Why?"

It's a question Maedhros can't answer, and so he says nothing.

"If you're so concerned about it, talk to them yourself," Maglor says.

"Yes, just the way to win the hearts of our young prisoners. Sit them down to hear about my old war wounds."

"It would distract them. I wish you wouldn't avoid them. They'll only be more afraid of you."

"Let them be afraid!" Maedhros says. "A healthy fear of a pack of Kinslayers is nothing to be discouraged. But instead you would train them like sparrows to eat out of our hands, even as we ready the next snare."

He speaks thoughtlessly, for the sake of being argumentative more than anything else, and expects Maglor to follow suit. But his brother says nothing, only gazes at him with still eyes, as if seeing him for the first time.

"You have changed so much," he says, and walks away.

***

That night, Maglor eats supper with the twins as usual. It's growing cooler, so they take their meal within the tent. He has grown to enjoy this; grieving children are children still, and even their meals are marked with a youthful levity. They fiddle with their food and jab one another with their utensils; they whisper and make faces and sing tunelessly as they eat. Maglor doesn't have the heart or the nerve to chastise them for dawdling, and the boys are well enough behaved that they don't need lectures. They finish every scrap of food and even pile up their tableware when they are through.

After dinner he finds he has a mind for music, and so he takes out the smaller of his harps. It's badly out of tune. The boys watch with curiosity as he tightens and loosens the strings, humming a little to get the pitches right.

"Are you a bard?" one of them asks—Elros, he thinks.

He smiles. "I suppose I am. There is nothing I like better than music. But I do not usually style myself as such."

Silence follows this, but this time it is not so profound.

"Is that hard?" Elrond asks.

"What, tuning?" Elrond nods. "No, not really. But I have been playing for a very long time. My brother Maedhros says I learned to read music before I learned my letters. Would you like to try?"

Elrond and Elros exchange glances. They do this often; whenever their code of brotherly conduct is in question, a silent council is required to settle the matter.

"All right," Elrond says. He comes to sits by Maglor's side, but not too near.

"Try this string," Maglor says. He hands Elrond the tuning key and sounds the string in question. "It is rather sharp. Twist the peg to the right to lower the pitch. Be careful not to twist the pegs around it."

Looking daunted but determined, Elrond puts the key on the peg and twists it a little. He plucks the string. "Is that enough?"

"Very close. Down just a little more."

Soon the string is tuned to both their satisfactions.

"Very good," Maglor says. He looks to Elros. "Would you like to try?"

But Elros shakes his head; it seems that Maglor is only permitted one twin's enthusiasm at a time.

When he finishes tuning the harp, he looks up again. "I think I shall play for a while, out by the fire. Would you like to come and listen?"

Shared glances again, but this council is a brief one.

"All right," Elros says.

"For a while," Elrond amends.

Maglor makes sure they put on their jackets, then leads them outside. It's early evening; campfires make constellations across the dusky clearing. He chooses one somewhat apart from the others. A man and a woman sit by it—Ardegil and Faelwen, Maglor sees. He knows why they sit apart—Faelwen's brother and Ardegil's dear friend was one of those slain in the late battle, not at his comrades' sides, but fighting against them. Ardegil himself stood aside from the fighting, and while Faelwen is a healer, not a shieldmaiden, Maglor knows she is of Ardegil's mind. Maglor has pardoned Ardegil—has done everything short of praising him for doing what he could not do. But their grief is not lessened, and and they receive little comfort from the rest of the camp. He knows that they stay only because there is nowhere else to go.

Faelwen sees him first. She raises a hand in greeting. "Have you come to sing for us?"

"Perhaps," Maglor says. "I may just play. Do you mind?"

She smiles faintly. "What a question! We are not speaking; it would be a dull soul indeed who preferred silence to Maglor's music."

"Yet silence has its own charms."

"So it does," Ardegil says. The fire flickers across his face, showing a visage fair but grim. "But we are both weary, I think, of its company. Please, honor us with your own." He looks at the twins. "And that of your charges. We have not been properly introduced."

Maglor nods. "This is Elros and Elrond." To the twins he says, "This is Ardegil and Faelwen."

"Hello," the boys say quietly, in unison.

"I am very glad to make your acquaintance," Faelwen says.

Maglor sits on one of the split logs by the fire, and the boys do the same. "What would you like me to play?"

"Whatever you like," Faelwen says. "Do sing."

Maglor thinks for a few moments. A wild part of him wants to play a lament, a piece of his Noldolantë, perhaps, the slow, dissonant chords relieving his guilt-laden heart. He will play it and somehow prove to the boys at his side that he is not insensible to their griefs, that he too grieves at what he has done.

It's a selfish, foolish impulse. Instead he plays a song he learned from the Green-elves, a hymn of seasons, celebrating leaf-fall and leaf-stirring, frozen winter and high summer. The melody is bright and layered; it slows and quickens as it progresses, so that the variations of music mirror those of nature. When he comes to the autumn movement—his favorite—he adds his own voice, translating the words from the Silvan tongue as he goes:

Now we delight in the elder season,
In faded autumn. Bright-garmented,
The season of fading and fruit. Season of
Diminishings. Sing with all the earth
Of the sleep of winter
And of spring after!

The season of stirring comes last, slow but rich, full of promise. Even in the last strains, the melody redoubles and echoes the spring-tune. The simplicity of the subject is its beauty. The music rejoices, and Maglor finds it in his heart to rejoice with it.

He ends the song and remembers his audience. He has played no longer than half an hour, but the twins already look sleepy. Ardegil and Faelwen's faces are bright and watchful. Around them, some of the camp has come to listen. One of them, a shadowy figure just beyond the circle of firelight, turns and disappears as soon as he looks up. Maglor recognizes red hair and a lordly walk.

"Come," he says, rising and touching a twin's shoulder. "It's time for bed."


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: toastedcheese

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/14/09

Original Post: 07/27/08

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