After Sirion: 3. III

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3. III

On the fifth day after the battle at Sirion, a late autumn downpour starts and doesn't stop. Rain comes down in cataracts. Walking through it is like wading—one half-expects fish to swarm up out of the Sirion and school among the trees. The camp has been readying to move east, but the weather, turning what paths they have to mud, puts all plans on hold.

Elrond and his brother find themselves confined to Maglor's tent. On the first day of the storm, he allowed them to play outside, but the rain was freezing, carried by a wind that sent it sharp and slanting against their skin. The adventure quickly lost its novelty, and thoroughly soaked, they returned to the tent, where dry clothes awaited them.

Maedhros's tent isn't made to keep out water, and so he takes up residence in the front room of his brother Maglor's tent. While Elrond and Elros have given up being afraid of Maglor or the other people in the camp, they still don't like Maedhros. The missing hand and the fire in his eyes make him into something monstrous, a kind of red-hot savage. Yet he isn't especially frightening, when it comes down to it—just silent and rather strange. While the rain goes on, he spends most of his time sleeping, like a lion in a menagerie. Occasionally he reads, or draws pictures in a little book. And sometimes he just watches the rain through the half-open tent door, expressionless. When he does this, Elrond's fear falls away, and he thinks that Maedhros looks very sad.

Maglor is more obviously bored. He spends a day ripping apart old clothing and making more tunics and leggings for the two of them. At other times, he plays his harp for hours, until Maedhros tells him the noise is giving him a headache (something that Elrond cannot quite believe). When this happens, Maglor tries to engage his brother in conversation. Usually it doesn't work, but sometimes Maedhros will respond, and then they have wonderful long rambling conversations that fall in and out of a language Elrond doesn't know. As Elrond and his brother sit in the back room and amuse themselves with games and with Maglor's possessions—illustrated books, parchment and pens and ink, an elderly lyre at which they take turns strumming—they can't help but listen to their strange discussions, ranging from the mundane to topics that Elrond can't begin to comprehend, their speech full of words he's never heard before.

Sometimes Maglor talks with them, too. He talks about the illustrated books, or about music. Elrond and Elros respond politely, answering questions he asks, but there is an unspoken agreement between the two of them that Maglor is not someone they like. They like his books, and his harp, and his conversations, but better than all these would be if Maglor and his brother had died a long, long time ago. Then they could be with their mother again.

Elrond tries not to think about his mother much. If he does, it's hard not to weep, and hard not to worry that Maglor is right, that she's dead. So he doesn't think about her, or if he does, it's at night as he is falling asleep, in the deep darkness where not even Elros can tell he's crying.

On the third night of rain, there is a terrible thunderstorm. Elrond isn't afraid of lightning, but Elros is, and he burrows into his blankets, shivering as each thunderclap comes. Even Elrond is unsettled; he has never been in a thunderstorm without a proper roof over his head. He imagines a lightning bolt coming down straight through the roof of the tent, and feels uncomfortable.

"Don't be stupid," he nevertheless whispers to his brother. "It's just noise."

"But it's not just noise," Elros says, and whimpers as a loud peal of thunder erupts above them. "Why aren't you afraid?"

"I don't know," Elrond says. "Because I decided not to be, I think. It's scary-sounding but it can't really hurt you. And being afraid doesn't make it better. So I just wasn't anymore."

Elros is silent for a while. Then he says, "Do you think it's storming other places?"

"Which places?"

"I don't know. On the sea. Where our father is. Maybe there's a storm. And—" He pauses. "Wherever Mother is."

"I don't know," Elrond says.

"Maybe not. Maybe weather doesn't go that far."

"I don't know."

"You think she's dead."

"I don't."

"She isn't dead. She isn't. She's going to come and find us, we just have to wait."

"I know," Elrond says, but he doesn't know, he can't, because they are all alone in the camp with the cold rain pouring down, and if their mother is alive she must be far, far away, because otherwise she would be here, right here, holding them in the darkness.

He starts to cry, and so does Elros—great gulping sobs that shake their bones. The sound blends with the sound of the rain.

Then, unexpectedly, a voice nearby, and the sound of fabric shifting. A shadow over them, and warm, warm arms around him.

"It's all right. Hush. It's all right. It's only lightning."

Elrond stiffens. He knows that voice.

"Go away!" he screams, pushing Maglor away with all his strength. "Get away from us! Kinslayer!"

The warm arms retreat. Maglor stands. Elrond is afraid he will be angry, but all he says is, "I'm sorry," in a low, choked voice, and leaves.

Elrond watches him go. He is shaking all over. He sinks into the blankets again. Elros doesn't say anything, but he has stopped crying, and his eyes are wide.

In the other room, he can hear Maglor and his brother talking in their other language. They begin softly, but Maedhros gets louder and louder, until he is shouting. Then Maglor shouts back, and there is nothing more but the sound of the rain.

The lightning has stopped. Elros is curled up so that his right arm lies against Elrond's left; he sighs, and a piece of Elrond's hair goes fluttering.

Elrond tries to sleep, but all he can think of is Maglor, arms and voice. "It's all right." A parent's voice.

It takes him a long time to fall asleep.

***

The night after the rain stops, Maglor lies awake, listening. He wonders what he will do.

In the morning, the camp is full of voices. Tents are collapsed, packhorses laden. It's a swift process—they came with little and leave with less.

Maglor goes out among his people, directing and helping them as he can. When he passes by his own tent, he finds Elrond and Elros in the door of the tent, watching. They look up at him but don't say anything.

"Hello," he says to them, calmly and kindly as he can. "Let's sit down, shall we?"

The boys follow them into the tent and sit down across from him, identical inscrutable expressions on their faces.

"We are leaving this afternoon," he says.

"Where are you going?" Elros asks.

You, Maglor thinks. "We are going to Ossiriand. Do you know where that is?"

"It's east of here," Elrond says. "The Green-elves live there."

"Yes. And we live much as they do—as nomads. But we have a little settlement, too, in the angle between two rivers, Gelion and Legolin. I am going to build a house there. There are other children there."

The boys say nothing.

"I know you're lonely, and sad, and frightened. And I know you don't like me. But you must believe me when I tell you that nothing is more important to me than your safety and happiness. You will be safe in Ossiriand."

Finally Elros speaks. "What about our mother? If she's alive, and comes looking for us? Or if our father comes for us? How will they know where we are?"

"We're not disappearing. It is well known that I dwell in Ossiriand. If they are looking for you, they will learn soon enough that you are with me." He pauses. "If I ever hear word of your parents' whereabouts, I promise you will hear of it right away."

The boys stare at the ground. He isn't sure what he wants them to say.

"It will be a week's journey," he says. "I've set aside a bag here for your things. Would you like me to help you pack?"

They shake their heads.

"Very well. I will be outside if you need me." He rises and passes out of the tent.

***

They pack their things. There isn't much—some clothing, blankets, a comb, books and knickknacks that Maglor has given them to keep. They pack slowly, as if prolonging the process will put off the moment of departure indefinitely.

Then they stop altogether. People are shouting outside. Not the friendly shouting of fellow workers across a camp, but an argument, high and impassioned. Elrond gets up and pushes aside the tent flap.

Standing not far from their tent are the man and woman Maglor introduced them to the night he sang—Faelwen and Ardegil. Faelwen looks ready to leave; she wears a heavy mantle, and pack, bow, and quiver are slung across her back. Ardegil is shouting at her.

"...and when you are dead," they hear him say, "what will come of your pride? Nothing! All you will get is grief, and we will grieve for the lack of you."

"You may," Faelwen says. "But who else will regret my going, a traitorous woman and a traitor's sister? I will live no longer among my brothers' murderers."

"Better murderers than traitors!" shouts a man who is looking on.

"There are no traitors in this camp." It is Maglor. He goes to Faelwen and takes her hand.

"Lady," he says, "if you go, it will not be for lack of welcome. You are one of our own. If anyone speaks against your remaining here, he is the traitor."

"You speak fairly, my lord, and I do not doubt that you speak as you feel," Faelwen says. "But you are not the lord of the minds of others. You cannot compel them to love me."

"Our people have been divided by grief before. Time may heal this."

"Or harm," Faelwen says. "I fear this injury is a mortal one."

"This is all beside the point!" Ardegil cries. "Lord, tell her she must not leave. For it is madness to wander into the wilderness alone. It will be the death of her."

"Others wander in Beleriand and do not perish," Faelwen says.

"Not alone!"

"Then I will find companions. Or I will die, if death is my fate. At least my heart will be unburdened."

"Is there no room in your heart for your friends?"

Faelwen turns to him. "Then come with me."

There's a long silence. Maglor finally speaks.

"I ask no one to remain with us against their will," he says. "I do not counsel you to go, but I will not hinder you."

"Let the case be brought to Lord Maedhros!" an onlooker shouts.

"Faelwen was born in the Gap," Maglor says. "The decision is mine."

"Then I shall take my leave." Faelwen bows to Maglor. Then she turns to Ardegil. "Farewell, friend. Come with me if you will. Or if you can be happy here, stay."

She passes out of the camp.

Ardegil stands there for a time, watching her go. At last he speaks to Maglor.

"Lord," he says, "I must follow her."

Maglor nods. "You have my leave to go."

"I am sorry I could not serve you better. But she is right. We no longer have a place here."

"I hope you find it elsewhere, then, if you may," Maglor says. "May the stars shine upon the end of your road."

Elrond and Elros watch as Ardegil puts on a pack, straps a sword to his side, and bows to Maglor as Faelwen did. Then he walks away through the tents. The sight of him going makes Elrond feel lonely.

"Good riddance," the man in the crowd who spoke before says softly.

"Silence your tongue!" Maglor cries. He sounds angrier than Elrond has ever heard him. "That we live poisonous lives is no reason to glory in our venom."

The man frowns. "Of course, my lord. But if these deserters, noble as they may be, come running back to us, shall we welcome them with open arms?"

Maglor hesitates.

"No," he says at last. "They shall not return."

Soon the camp has been dismantled. The journey will be on horseback, and neither of the twins has been on a horse before. Maglor brings up his gray stallion and lifts Elros onto his back. Elros looks uncomfortable, but Maglor smiles. "Do not be afraid. Celeblain will not let you fall."

Elrond, watching, is afraid for an entirely different reason—that this means he'll have to ride with Maedhros—but instead Maglor gives him to a woman named Lossi, who rides swiftly and says little.

The horses go smoothly, but riding is nevertheless a tiring business. They stop only once, for the midday meal. Elrond is exhausted and aching by the time they stop for the night, and Elros has fared no better. They fall asleep as soon as dinner is over, too weary to give any thought to escape.

The next night, Elrond is alert enough to watch the rest of the camp and work out the best moment for flight. When they first dismount, there 's some disorder, maybe they could grab their pack and slip off—but then there's dinner, and Maglor would notice that they're gone right away. They'll have to leave while everyone is asleep. But that will be tricky, because everything is quiet and open, and there's a watch.

Another day passes without a good moment. They're getting nervous; each day they are heading farther and farther away from Sirion. What if they can't find their way back? But the only alternative is to give up, and they won't do this. Maglor couldn't stop Faelwen and Ardegil from going, and he won't stop them, either.

The fourth night of their journey, Elrond can't sleep. The ground is rocky, and it's impossible to get comfortable. He lies with his eyes open, watching wisps of clouds drift over the stars.

Suddenly he notices movement much closer to him. The man on watch has left to relieve himself.

Elrond rolls over and nudges his brother awake.

"What?"

Elrond points at the retreating guard. "Now," he mouths.

Elros understands. He nods.

Slowly and silently as they can, they roll up their blankets and put them into their saddlebag. They try to stay low to the ground, but there's not much to fear; there's no fire and hardly any moon. Maglor lies nearby, but he is sound asleep, and does not wake.

They fasten their cloaks, and Elros slings the saddlebag over his shoulder. It's half as large as he is, but he manages it well enough. He's about to stand, but Elrond stops him and whispers, "Crawl."

Last night when no one was listening, they discussed which way they should head once they escaped. They decided to make for the forest in the south. They can see it clearly from the camp, a mass of trees extending east and west. It will be a good place to hide, and if they follow the edge of it, they will be back beside the Sirion in no time at all.

They slowly creep away from the camp. Luckily, they are near the perimeter, so they only have to shuffle past a few sleepers before they reach the open grass. Elrond keeps glancing back, heart pounding, waiting for someone to discover them, but no one does.

They crawl until they can no longer make out the camp in the darkness. Then they stand and grin at one another.

"We've done it," Elros says.

"We can go anywhere we like now," Elrond says.

"And they can't make us come back. Even if they wanted us to, we're not supposed to. We're deserters."

It's a lovely feeling, freedom. Elrond isn't tired at all anymore; he feels like he could run all night. Everything Maglor has ever said to them now seems dim and ridiculous. After all, why wouldn't he lie? He's an enemy. For all they know, they'll return home to find their mother waiting for them.

They walk until dawn, at which point, not bothering with blankets, they collapse beneath the eaves of Taur-im-Duinath and fall into a deep and peaceful sleep.

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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