Last Days at Imladris
A single bell tolls over the city as the people file down Rath Dínen, the Silent Street, to pay their last respects to King Elessar Telcontar who now lies at rest with his ancestors in the Tombs of the Kings.
In the procession, a white-haired dwarf with bad knees slowly hobbles, leaning on the arm of a tall, willowy elf at his side. The elf’s silken hair appears startlingly pale, almost silver, against his black robe of mourning.
As the door of the mausoleum is sealed shut where lies the descendant of Elendil, the dwarf and elf weep alongside the many descendants of the Elfstone.
The Queen stands pale and tearless, supported by Eldarion her son and her daughters. The elven-light in her silver-grey eyes is quenched.
On the last day of summer, the morn after the coronation of the new king, a city awakens to find the Queen Mother gone. Taking leave of her children, she has ridden out alone, leaving behind even her most devoted ladies-in-waiting. Her final command—that none follow her.
A graceful elven ship is already sailing from the mouth of Anduin the Great and swiftly journeying northwards along the coastline. At Mithlond, it is amply provisioned after being thoroughly inspected by the Ancient Mariner of the Teleri. Then, with a song and a prayer, the vessel launches out on the easterly winds into the great unknown.
Hundreds of leagues east of Mithlond, in a deep-cleft valley, a small group of elves mourn the loss of their beloved Arwen and a boy named Estel, and make journey preparations of their own.
“I have already thrown out an enormous number of books,” protested Erestor, his emerald eyes flashing indignantly. “All that you see here is of tremendous value. Priceless, irreplaceable works. Far greater a treasure than that arsenal you insist on bringing with you! Of what use would all that lethal weaponry be in a land of peace?”
“I am leaving over four-fifths of my weapons for the edain,” replied Glorfindel, looking a little pained, for the sacrifice had cost him dear. A small garrison of a two hundred and fifty Reunited Kingdom soldiers would arrive from Annúminas in ten days to take over the valley, including the armaments left by the warriors of Imladris and the Last Alliance. Glorfindel had held on only to a few pieces closest to his heart. Apart from his twin swords from Aulë, there were five swords, three bows, two braces of knives. Then there was a helmet and shield from Celebrimbor, and a spear that was the twin of Aiglos given him by Gil-galad. Among his cherished collection of vambraces were an ancient, shabby pair from Galadriel that had belonged once to his father Finrod. All the rest of his personal armoury he had relinquished with much regret, and deposited in the weapons store rooms.
The library books had long been packed into boxes and loaded into two wagons—mostly whatever Idhren had left of the archives of Imladris, histories of the Second and Third Ages. Glorfindel and Erestor stood now in the advisor’s study, and the golden lord was gazing with a frown at the piles of books Erestor was still packing.
“Erestor, be reasonable. All I have is two bags of keepsakes.”
“Two very large bags.”
“Compared to your mountains of books? Elladan and Elrohir say you have to at least halve this. What you have in this room alone is more than what my entire family has packed, and our horses thrown in. By all the Valar, do you want to sink the ship?”
Erestor looked desperate. “Most of these books are one-of-a-kind works of immeasurable worth and incomparable beauty. Works of art in themselves. Here—look at this one by Henthael of Nargothrond. Look at the fine gold leaf here, and the colours, bright as jewels. The inks as rich and vibrant today as they were six millennia past. You can feel the wind blowing through the forest, hear the song of the birds.”
Looking at the wondrously illustrated page that depicted the fair woodlands by the river Narog, Glorfindel could not but be moved by its beauty. He turned to another pile and picked up a weighty tome from the top. “Memoirs of a scribe in the court of Gil-galad. Neither a work of art, nor a venerable history. Why in Eä would you bring this one?”
“That one vividly describes life in the court of Forlond—”
Glorfindel gave a snort of derision as he flipped through the book. “If you want to hear about it, look the man up in Valinor, for Eru’s sake. Oh, Raenildor. I remember him, a quiet, pleasant chap. Invite him for tea once we land in Avallónë, and talk about old times. Then you won’t need his book!”
“His writing is a delight, the insights and reflections most acute and perspicacious—”
“Oh, come on. You and I were both at the court of Gil-galad! If anyone wants acute and perspicacious insights, why should they not ask us?” jested Glorfindel with a dazzling grin.
“You? Perspicacious?” scoffed Erestor.
From the doorway came the soft, mellifluous tones of the erstwhile Lord of Lothlórien. “Erestor, might I borrow your copy of The Age of Starlight?” So calm and gentle was his voice, that no apology for his interruption felt needed. As the day for departure drew nigh, amid all the disorder of the household—and the occasional frayed tempers and moments of high emotion—Celeborn moved as though shielded in mithril. He sipped his tea and wine, read books, strolled through the valley by day and by night, and said no word about journeying west.
“Certainly, Lord Celeborn.” Erestor walked over to a nearby shelf, and picked up a book bound in worn, maroon leather.
“Le hannon, Erestor.” And the silver lord glided silently out of the study.
“What a pity he will not sail,” said Erestor, turning back to his books. “He is a formidable repository of knowledge and lore in himself. And I have much enjoyed his conversation and insights these past few decades.”
“Not sail?” Glorfindel raised his eyebrows. “I strongly believe that he will take ship with us.”
“Oh? Has he taken you into his confidence? He has certainly said no word of sailing to me, or his grandsons. He evinces no interest whatsoever in any discussions of Aman that take place in the parlour. And he has been sending letters to Thranduil of late. You mark my words; he plans to betake himself to Eryn Lasgalen.”
“There is one reason he will sail to Aman,” said Glorfindel simply. “Galadriel.”
Erestor rolled his eyes a little. “Celeborn and Galadriel have been wed over six thousand years. As it is with most of the Eldar, the fires of desire burn no longer in them. They join the ranks of many others who, after a joyous term of connubial life find happiness on separate paths. My own parents, for instance—Naneth sailed west after the War of Wrath, and Adar remained till after the Last Alliance. Fondly though he spoke of her, he never pined for her. When at last he sailed, ’twas for sorrow at the fall of Gil-galad.”
Glorfindel had lived longer than Erestor and knew this was true for many couples. It certainly seemed to be so for great-grandfather Finwë and his two wives. So serene and unruffled had Celeborn’s countenance been throughout the Fourth Age that Erestor’s words seemed wholly reasonable. All the same, the silver lord’s nephew insisted stubbornly, “Yet I believe he will sail.”
“Fine!” said Erestor, green eyes glinting. “If he does not, I get back the brooch I lost in our last wager.”
“Done! If he sails, I dunk you in the fountain.” He twirled Raenildor’s book on one finger. “But our Lords Elladan and Elrohir still say you must needs halve the number of books you are bringing. Your books will have one wagon—no more.”
Erestor sighed and muttered, “Oh, very well. The Memoirs go.” And he waved vaguely towards the discards pile by the door.
“I shall take these to the library, then.” Glorfindel picked up the stack by the door, balancing Raenildor’s book atop it. “Cheer up,” he said kindly to the despondent advisor. “At least some among the Arnorians are literate enough to appreciate the treasures you are bequeathing to them.” And with a smile, Glorfindel swept out of the room bearing Erestor’s discards.
Erestor looked at his remaining books mournfully. He took a few of them and carried them over to the spot Glorfindel had just cleared. Before he set them down, he hesitated. He flipped through one, and skimmed through a passage.
“No, no… not this one,” the advisor muttered to himself. He flipped through another, and sighed. “Ah, fair Elhaeleth, how sweet your verses… no, no, not this one either…”
He resolutely set the other three books on the floor without opening them, then carried the other two back to the teetering piles of books bound for Aman.
Stepping out of the house, Glorfindel breathed in the pure air of the valley. It was the first week of Ivanneth. Two weeks remained to their departure.
Two sets of twins were riding home from the hunt, having killed a brace of partridges, some quail, and a rabbit between them. With a wave, they rode past toward the stables and the kitchen.
Glorfindel walked through the apple orchard to the smithy, where Lindir was serenading Maeglin as she sat on the bench. The bard saluted him as he approached, and Glorfindel returned the salute merrily. Maeglin turned her head and gave her love a glowing smile. She rose to her feet slowly, her hand on the swelling curve of her belly. Except for a brief period in her fourth month when she had driven Glorfindel to near despair with a craving for Gondorian seafood, it had been a peaceful pregnancy. As she entered her ninth month, she shimmered with a luminous beauty almost as radiant as Glorfindel’s.
“She likes the Lay of Leithian, this one,” Maeglin told her love ruefully. “She will have none of the merry children’s songs Lindir sings.”
“She likes them when I sing them,” said the father, laying his hand gently on his wife’s belly. “Do you not, gwinig?”
And the infant made in Ithilien kicked an enthusiastic assent.
“Oh, you are cruel, gwinig!” cried Lindir in mock-hurt. “I sang you my best Little Lamb Lullaby and May Blossoms Fair, truly I did!”
“She knows her mind,” said Maeglin. “She favours Lindir for epic lays, and Adar for children’s ditties.” She stretched and winced a little. “Ai! Leg cramps. I have sat too long, and must walk. Shall we, my lords?”
So the three of them walked out towards the waterfalls, and were soon joined by the peredhel twins. It was the turn of the golden-haired twins to cook dinner that night.
“Dinner is going be late,” said Elladan as he fell in step with them.
The eyes of the twins were touched still with sorrow. When they had all sensed the passing of King Elessar, they would have broken their word to their sister and ridden to her side in Gondor—save that Glorfindel stopped them.
“She made me vow not to let you go,” said the warrior grimly to his two Lords. “It is the last thing she asked of me, and if I have to lock you both in the basement till it is time to sail, I shall do it.”
Then Glorfindel had held the peredhel twins in his arms as their father would have, as he had when they were young, and wept together with them as they grieved.
Above them, the sky was a magical sea of crimson and molten gold. The elves gazed down upon the gorge of the Bruinen and the village along the riverbank to the south. Two weeks more, and they would bid farewell forever to the valley.
Over the last hundred years, the edain village in Rivendell had grown further. Its population was kept in check by periodic waves of sickness and pestilence, by migration out to the burgeoning cities of Arnor in the north, and by the usual mortal afflictions of age and childhood mortality. Even with the power of Vilya gone, millennia of habitation by the Quendi had left its mark on the valley. The harvests here were more plentiful, the sun, moon and stars shone a little brighter, the flowers bloomed more abundantly, the foliage of the trees was greener and more luxuriant. But there was no doubt that the valley belonged to the edhil no longer, a hundred and twenty years into the Age of Men. The edain numbered four hundred to the edhil’s twenty-three.
The five elves walked close to the waterfall pools, the sound of rushing waters soothing them. Glorfindel plucked late-blooming white windflowers and braided them into his lady’s hair.
Then they all heard it. Above the rushing sound of white cascading water, a distant thread of song.
Five heads turned to look at the northern hills.
A tune carried on the breeze, echoing plaintively through the valley, haunting and sad as ever. A lament three ages old.
All too soon, the voice ceased.
“I wonder if he knows,” said Elladan in a hushed voice, brushing away the tear that was sliding down his cheek.
“Yes, it is as though he has come to say goodbye,” said Elrohir, his grey eyes moist.
The five of them had the same thought as they stood there still mesmerized by the silenced song.
“We should find him,” said Glorfindel.
“Do you think he would come with us?” asked Maeglin.
“The greatest singer in Arda! If only he would!” sighed Lindir hopefully.
“Adar would have wanted it so,” said Elrohir.
Elladan nodded, his grey eyes shining with determination. “We must try.”
In the eight days that followed, Glorfindel and both sets of twins—dark-haired and fair-haired—went out into the hills seeking the elusive singer, fanning out to cover more ground. Three more times they heard a fleeting thread of melody that seemed to tease and beckon to them. But of the singer, they saw nothing.
“He hides as always from us, and he is as good at it as ever,” sighed Glorfindel one night to Maeglin. “And I am not as good at tracking as I once was.” The constant mutter of the spirits of slain mortals interfered with his communion with earth and tree and water, the soft voices of nature drowned out by their grumbling. Anyone else would have been driven mad, thought Maeglin.
Lying in Glorfindel’s arms, Maeglin’s black eyes were thoughtful as she pondered the singer. She alone perhaps understood why he shunned them so. She recalled a time when she had lived with bitterness and sorrow in her heart, and had shunned the revelry of feasts and the society of the court, preferring the darkness of the mines, and the solitary work of the craftsman. She remembered how Glorfindel’s light, which now cocooned her in comfort, had once repelled her. Had this luminous elflord been hunting for her in the hills, of a certainty she would have fled.
On the ninth day, the garrison from Arnor arrived. Elrond’s twins and Erestor then became preoccupied with administrative handover to the Arnorian lieutenant, and Glorfindel with turning over the training rooms, equipment and all armaments to the junior officers. The other elves busied themselves handing over housekeeping and the kitchens and the great halls to the mortals. The search for the singer was abandoned.
All too soon, there were just two nights to their departure. They were all packed. Maeglin gazed at the empty wardrobe, then at the bare walls of their room, remembering their years there. Glorfindel was sitting in bed reading a book. Maeglin climbed onto the bed, knelt by him and read the title. “Memoirs of a scribe in the court of Gil-galad? Seriously?”
“Not a word to Erestor. I shall return it to the library once I am done.” Glorfindel smiled mischievously, his azure eyes sparkling. “It is good stuff. Wickedly funny too. If Erestor does not look up Raenildor for tea in Valinor, I just might myself.” He chuckled and read out a passage to her.
Maeglin was only half-listening. She gave a laugh that did not fool Glorfindel for a moment, then fell silent.
“You are thinking of the singer,” he said, reading her mind as he did so often. He stroked her cheek gently.
“I do wish he would come with us.”
Glorfindel shut his book and pulled Maeglin close to him. “So do I. But what hope have we if he does not wish to be found? And indeed, he may have departed the valley. I have not heard his song these last four days.”
“Because you have been so busy with the Arnorians. I have heard him.” Maeglin had little to do save take long walks in the valley. No one allowed her to do any heavy work. And it had been Camaen who had handed the forge over to the garrison blacksmith.
“True. But even if he is still here, it is plain he shuns us, melmenya. We have to respect that.”
Maeglin sighed. Glorfindel looked at her sad, solemn face, and with a playful glint in his blue eyes, gave her a push so that she fell onto the bed with a bounce. They tussled until the bed was creaking so loudly and they were laughing so boisterously that Erestor banged on the wall between their chambers and shouted, “Keep it down, you two! Let decent people sleep.”
In the early hours of the morning, Maeglin awoke in the darkness, a phrase of the singer’s song haunting her.
Careful not to wake Glorfindel, she pulled on breeches, one of Glorfindel’s tunics, and donned a dark grey cloak. Then she armed herself with bow and arrows and knives as a safeguard against wolves, which did occasionally enter the valley.
Maeglin gazed down at Glorfindel, sleeping in the dark with his golden mane gleaming bright across his pillow, his strong shoulder and arm bare over the blanket, his aura shimmering on his skin. She felt such a flood of tender love that she almost kissed him, but she dared not lest she wake him. It was one of his good nights… his face and his azure eyes were peaceful as he dreamed.
She went out into the corridor. The other elves of the household had moved their chambers to the east wing now that the Arnorians occupied the rest of the house. She opened one door, looked in on bright golden hair on another pillow, and straightened Aryo’s blanket. Then the mother absent-mindedly picked up a pair of Arman’s leggings from the floor, folded them and laid them across a chair. The younger twin slept sprawled on his back with his pale hair and one arm falling over the edge of the bed.
Maeglin walked past the rooms where all the elven household lay, lost in Lórien, then slipped out of a side door at the end of the corridor, and descended the spiralling stone steps. She headed out to the northern slopes.
Under the pale light of the sickle moon and the stars that looked more distant now, she walked north and pondered what she planned to do. The child within her kicked, and she smiled and sent thoughts of love to it. She placed a shield of sleep and peace over her womb, so that what was to come would not disturb the infant.
What was to come? Was she in her right mind? She had not wanted to overthink it, had not said a word to Glorfindel. A chill wind blew at her cloak and her black hair. Standing finally on the high slopes, in the black shadows cast by pine and fir around her, she hesitated and felt deeply uncomfortable. This is stupid. What was I thinking? I should turn back now.
Well, at the worst only the owls and the night-hunting red foxes would hear her. She could think of nothing else that might work. How could it hurt to try?
But before she could act, she heard a thin lilt of melody and shivered.
Maeglin walked towards the song.
Her heart began to pound with nervousness. She took deep breaths, preparing herself, and let the sorrow of the song she heard take her deep into her fëa to the wounds and darkness of her past life.
Finally, Maeglin opened her mouth, and began to sing, in Quenya, the singer’s own native tongue.
Her voice in this life was much like her mother’s had been—strong, sweet, touched with huskiness. It carried clear and haunting in the cold air to blend with the singer’s. She knew this melody well by now, this lament for the fall of the Noldor. She joined in his song, picking up the tune and harmonizing with it, and adding her own tale of pain and regret.
The singer fell silent. Maeglin faltered and panicked, then drawing a breath, resumed her song.
As the stars marched slowly across the sky, she sang on. Of a white lady ensnared by dark spells in a dark forest, and the birth of a dark child. Of a young nér coming to a hidden city. The death of first his mother, then his father. A curse. Forbidden love; the torments of lust. A captive’s torments in Angband. Treachery. The coming of Morgoth’s hordes upon the city…
The stars moved in their shining paths across the sky, and the moon sailed westward as Maeglin sang. She was darkness calling out to darkness. The moon climbed up into the heavens, drifts of cloud moving across its face. She walked through stands of pine and fir, carefully climbing over rocks and up and down slopes, and her song never ceased.
Then her skin prickled. He is here. A presence to her left, emanating sorrow and heaviness.
Maeglin turned slowly.
The grey hooded figure stood in the distance, a shadow among shadows, beneath the black fir trees. He stood tall and still. Listening.
Now she had to overcome sudden self-consciousness. Seeing the second greatest singer that ever drew breath, her tongue froze and fell dumb.
But he waited.
Maeglin’s hands were cold and clammy with nervousness. Drawing a deep breath and looking away, she sang on bravely to her conclusion. The ignoble final act in a traitor’s tale. A city overrun by balrogs, orcs and serpents. A princess, a child prince, a struggle, a fight. A falling body that struck the mountain thrice…
Then the dark. Six millennia in the Halls of Námo, and finally release in a new body and into a new world...
As Maeglin’s song closed, she feared that he would have vanished. When she looked back, he had drawn closer.
He stood tall and proud like the warrior-prince he was, but his face was still lost in the shadows of his hood. And he began to sing in return.
Soft and low, the beauty of his voice was beyond compare. It was the terrible beauty of the last song of a nightingale, impaled on a thorn, of the wind’s lament over bleak desert sands and icy wastelands, of the rushing sigh of a waterfall plunging into black depthless chasms.
Maeglin saw a long trail of blood and death, a merciless sword cutting down life upon life; saw the flames as a Thousand Caves burned, reflected in dying elven eyes; saw innocents left to perish in dark woods; blood flowing in the Havens; brothers falling, one by one, till only one remained; millennia as a homeless wanderer, shunning the company of elves and men.
The silence after the lament ended hung heavy between them. Maeglin stood still in a trance, until he moved. He sat himself gracefully upon a rocky outcrop, and the spell seemed to lift. She moved forward and sat on a low, flat rock next to his. As she lowered her pregnant body carefully, she felt the hooded one gazing at her. If nothing else, she thought wryly, curiosity had drawn him.
“Aiya, kinsman Makalaurë Kanafinwë,” the child of Aredhel said, quietly. She had bared her naked soul to him, with all its scars and ugliness. Formality seemed pointless. “I am Lómiel who once was Lómion.”
He pushed his hood back, revealing a pale face framed by dark hair and too thin. A face ravaged by long millennia of grief; the sculpted cheekbones too sharp; the silver-grey eyes full of guilt and regret. The elven-light of his eyes, the light of his hröa was extinguished. He might almost have passed for a mortal but for his pointed ears and the still-haunting elven beauty of his face. Maeglin was thankful that another thing he had not lost was the elven trait of caring for his person… his clothes and his person were both clean, and her nose, even more sensitive now she was expecting, detected nothing objectionable at close range though she could smell any of the edain in the village from ten paces away. Such an aura of heaviness, she thought. She wondered that he had not faded long ago from such grief and passed into the Halls of Mandos. Perhaps it was spirit of Fëanor, inextinguishable, burning on even in his gentlest son.
The kinslayer and the traitor eyed each other.
“Aiya, Lómiel-Lómion, daughter-and-son of my cousin Irissë,” his voice was low, sorrowful, melodious, his eyes resting curiously on her face and her swollen belly. “This is an unheard-of strangeness. Is that Námo’s practice then? To send néri back as nissi?”
The shadow of a frown, perhaps thinking of his brothers.
“No,” Maeglin hastened to reassure him. “My venno Laurefindil says all others he had heard of were reborn as they were before. As he himself has been.”
“Aah... The bright golden-haired one, whose light I have oft sensed from afar, and been hard-put to evade. The balrog slayer of Ondolindë, I believe. Is he kin to my Arafinwion cousins, as his hair would suggest?”
“Yes, he is Findaráto’s son. So Laurefindil and I are second cousins.”
The singer tilted his head to one side and looked at her with unreadable pale-grey eyes. “Strange have been your fates in two lives. A golden love in each, and a cousin in each, and a hidden city linking both together. It is worthy of a song.” No shadow of a smile touched his face, though his words suggested some dry amusement.
“Strange fates, yes, but I would skip the song.” A small, grim smile lifted one corner of Maeglin’s mouth. “I have featured in too many songs, and wish them all unwritten and unsung. But I will say this, that in the end Eru and the Valar have dealt with me more mercifully than I deserved. I love and am loved. And lawfully this time,” she added. His eye rested on the gold ring on her right forefinger. On his long slender hands clasped around his knee, he wore none.
“And you carry life,” Maglor said, with a touch of reverence and wonder… who once wrought such death, were his unspoken words.
His eyes gazed into hers more sharply then, questioning. “So. You have come seeking me with your song. And the others have disturbed me on these slopes. Why?”
Now it had come, Maeglin had not prepared what to say. She realized that deep in her heart she had not really believed she would find him where the others had failed.
“Our people’s time in these lands has passed, kinsman Makalaurë. The last white ship awaits at the havens, and the time has come to sail over the sea.” She paused. “Come with us. It is time to go home.”
His eyes grew distant at her words, and he looked away.
“Home,” he said. How he managed to infuse such depths of bitter mockery and sad wistfulness at the same time into that one word, she did not know. He made of it an alien word; something longed for, dreamed of, forever lost, eternally unattainable. “Is that what the lands west are to you?”
Part of her shivered. He had seen the vestiges of doubt in her soul.
“It may be hard for me, for I was born in Endórë and have spent both lives here. But for you—Aman surely is home? You were born and lived long and blissful years there.”
“The Makalaurë who once lived and loved in Aman is dead.”
“There are those there who love you still and surely wait for you. Your amil, Nerdanel. Your vessë, Annalindë. And your brothers, when they are released by Námo—”
“If.” The mellifluous voice had a sharp edge. “If Námo ever releases them. And no longer am I the son my Amil raised. No longer am I the nér my vessë bound herself to. The Makalaurë they knew died when the Oath was sworn, and when blood was shed at Alqualondë. My presence will bring them both greater grief and shame and pain than ever my absence did.”
Maeglin felt emanating from him such a strong wave of self-loathing and hatred that it almost buffeted her. She was dazed and speechless for a while.
“I think the greatest pain for one who loves is separation. How would you know that your wife cannot forgive you or that her love would have changed?”
“She would have the pain of being held by all as the wife of a kinslayer. If I stay here I cannot hurt her more than I have already done. And the further I keep myself from her, the better.”
“The burden of being a kinslayer’s wife has been hers since the day you left. There can be nothing worse than bearing that alone.”
“Do you think any love could survive the long years, knowing what I have done?” Maglor said bitterly. “Did you know that Annalindë was of the Teleri? It was her people we slew. Her brothers. Her friends.”
Maeglin had not known. She was dumb with the horror and pain of it.
“I dream sometimes. Of seeing love dead in her eyes. Of seeing her eyes filled with hatred and loathing.” His voice was hollow. “And I have nothing to give her. The one who loved her died when the Oath was sworn and kindred slain. There is nothing of him left to give.”
“If you do not go for your wife’s sake, there would still be others there for you,” said Maeglin desperately, feeling how weak, how ineffectual her words were. “Elrond, who is already there, shall always welcome you. It was for love of him that you first came to Imladris valley, was it not? He has never failed to speak of you kindly and with love. You have seen his twin sons seeking you this past week. And it is not Elrond’s home alone that shall be open to you. Laurefindil and I will always have place for you. You do not need to be alone. Join us. One can hide away from the judgement of the Eldar in the forests of Oromë, for the wilds of Aman are vast.”
“Ah, so that is your plan. I doubt whether Oromë should welcome an oathswearer and kinslayer in his forests as much as he would welcome you and your warrior of Valinor. And I sent Elrond away long ago that he might be free from association with one such as I.”
“He has no wish to be free of that association.”
“And I have no wish to darken his life.”
“If you would be a wanderer alone still, why not roam the lands of Aman? Forswear all our company if you will, but come. Vast are the lands, and you may lose yourself there. That is why I myself am willing to go. The mortal lands are no longer the place for our kind.”
His eyes narrowed. “Do you think the Valar would allow a kinslayer to wander freely across their lands? I have greater freedom here, if it can be called that. For me… there is nothing in Aman now but the judgement of the Valar.”
“May that judgement not be merciful, and all forgiven? The Valar know your regret.”
His haunted eyes gazed into hers, and she felt herself pulled into a spinning vortex of slaughter and a thousand cries of death.
“Once, perhaps, I hoped,” he whispered. “But no… it cannot be. Their blood cries forever to the heavens and dyes red the Sundering Sea. There is no forgiveness for such sin.”
Maeglin shivered, and closed her eyes to break the spell of his silver gaze. “You are wrong,” she said huskily. “A hundred thousand deaths were on me. And yet Eru gave me a new life in a new body. If that is not forgiveness, I do not know what is.”
“We are not the same, child. You killed a Firstborn only when compelled by Sauron. Your sword is otherwise clean of Firstborn blood.”
“But not my soul.”
“A treachery wrenched from you by Moringotto’s lieutenant in the bowels of the Dark Lord’s stronghold, after you had been subjected to his choicest tortures? I see a mitigating factor in that. Sauron’s hand was not on my throat when I swore the Oath, nor when I sliced open the innocent, nor when I snatched the silmarils from the Valar themselves.”
“Eru looks not at deeds alone but the heart’s condition. Your heart is full of remorse. And in all you did there was no hate. I hated much, and there was malice and lust and dark selfish desire in what I did. You were driven only by your Oath.”
In the haunted weariness of the wanderer’s eyes, she saw a flicker of surprise at her persistence.
“There is a most important thing you have not thought of,” the kinslayer said in a level voice. “The Doom of the Noldor is upon me and the Curse of the Dispossessed. If you take me on your ship, and the Valar oppose my coming to Aman, you and all on that ship with you shall never find your way to the blessed shores. You take a great risk. And for what? Why is it so important to you that I go?”
“I do not know!” Maeglin replied in anguish. “Perhaps it is that your song has comforted and touched me in my own pain, and I feel kinship with you. Perhaps it is because for the Quendi to stay here in the mortal lands is to diminish and dwindle and fade, and I cannot bear that you should. Perhaps it is because I know something of guilt and regret, and cannot bear the thought of any shouldering an eternity of it. Perhaps it is because if a traitor such as I can receive mercy, I know anyone can.”
The singer was silent. The steady gaze of his ancient silver eyes made the words she had spoken sound empty to her own ears.
“You could have thrown yourself into the sea when you threw the silmaril,” Maeglin said more calmly. “Yet you did not.”
“Perhaps I was not as brave as Maitimo,” he said softly.
“I do not think it had aught to do with bravery. It is self-hate so great you believe you deserve not even death. Is it the unforgiveness of others or the judgement of the Valar that bars your way home as much as your own unforgiveness and judgement of yourself? All curses Eru can cancel save those we lay upon ourselves, tyenya Makalaurë. Six thousand years has been long enough. Punishment enough. Break your curse and come with us. Please. We do not wish to sail without you.”
Another silence descended, filled only by the wind wailing through the stands of pine and fir. The sky towards the east was beginning to pale.
“Blessed are you whom Eru has forgiven much. And blessed are you, who have found love and a new life after much guilt and grief. I envy you,” said the kinslayer softly in his musical voice. “Your concern touches me, young kinswoman. But I shall not take my taint and curse upon your white ship.” He rose to his feet, his darkness and sorrow gathering around him almost as tangibly as the cloak he wore. “Sail, and be blessed. I shall have comfort thinking of you safe in Oromë’s woods, as I walk among mortal men.” His hand reached down and touched her cheek, like the brush of a moth’s wing. She had a brief glimpse of the thick, knotted burn scars disfiguring his palm. “There are two who wait for you over there. I must be gone.”
And suddenly, though Maeglin could have sworn she had not blinked, he had vanished. She stared into the space where he had been, feeling as bereft as though she had lost a brother.
“Ammë?” said two hushed voices in unison nearby.
Maeglin turned her head and saw them. Her two beautiful sons. They came out from the stand of pines where they had been concealed, and their faces were tear-stained and stricken. And she saw in their eyes that they knew, that they had heard everything.
She stared at them in speechless horror.
They came to their mother, and sat on either side of her on the rock, wrapping their arms around her in warm, comforting embrace as their father so often did. She shrank away from their touch in shame.
“We saw you leaving the house—”
“We heard everything—”
“We love you, Ammë—”
“We understand now…”
“We will take care of you…”
And as Maeglin began to sob, her sons comforted her in the protective circle of their strong arms, their heads together, two golden and one black.
“Why did you not tell us sooner?” said Aryo, pressing his cheek against hers.
“I did not know how,” she wept.
“All that matters is we know now,” said Arman, kissing her other cheek and hugging her tight.
And that was how Glorfindel found them, just before the first light of the sun broke over the hilltops. He stood before them, wordlessly. They looked up at him with haunted eyes, his sons burdened, half-dazed with new knowledge, his lady shadowed with grief. Then the elflord came forward and gently pulled his lady up onto her feet and into his arms.
Glorfindel looked into the eyes of his sons, and saw that they were troubled, and needed time to think. He smiled reassuringly at them. “Go back to the house, yonyat,” he said quietly. “Amil and I will stay here for a while. The four of us shall talk anon.”
Glorfindel led Maeglin to the ledge, not far away, the love nest where they had spent their first Midsummer night together two hundred years ago. It was a place they had often come to over the years, always finding it restful and blessed by happy memories. The sun spilled over the mountain tops into the valley as they sat on the ledge and she told him about her encounter with Maglor.
“It is his choice. You said all that could be said. Do not grieve.”
“There may be no more ships.”
“Who knows? He may yet find his peace in these mortal lands. And one day he may yet find his way to Aman. Círdan may have built his last ship in Endórë, but if Legolas can build himself a ship, why not Makalaurë?”
“Or he may go to Námo,” Maeglin said. “There was a moment… just the briefest of moments… when my hand thought to go to my knife… and I thought… one thrust… one thrust into his heart… he will barely feel it, and it would release him from his endless wandering and exile.” She did not look at him. “Does that horrify you?”
Glorfindel wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “No, it does not. But I am glad you did not. No matter how good the intent, it would be a murder and a kinslaying still, and I would not wish that on your soul… And you might have been hurt. He is taller and stronger than you, and a far more seasoned warrior. And skilled, as Egalmoth discovered to his cost. He might have welcomed death, he might have retaliated. I am glad we will never know.”
“He would have been more likely to be hurt than I. He was so thin, so weary. His cloak looked so threadbare. I wish I had given him mine. Or had been able to give him something to eat. Could we leave some clothes and food for him somewhere? And boots. He looked like he could use new boots.”
Glorfindel took her face in his hands and kissed her tenderly, but when he gazed into her eyes after that, his own azure eyes were laughing. “Is there anything in Arda more heartwarming than Maeglin Lómion feeling maternal towards a son of Fëanáro? If only Itarillë could have heard that!”
“Are you laughing at me? I am serious!” she snapped.
“I know, I know, melmenya. Fear not, we will leave some clothes and boots for him. But you forget that he is a warrior of some renown—”
“—he did not even have a sword upon him! How does he hunt? Should we leave him some weapons?”
Glorfindel chuckled. “If he wanted weapons, I am sure he is resourceful enough to get his hands on some. How do you imagine he has clothed and fed himself all these years? He was High King of the Noldor for a brief season. He ruled his own lands for four and a half centuries. He sings songs of power even in a time of fading. Believe me, this is one hardy Noldo, and he is more than able to care for himself. He has survived for six millennia, after all, in spite of barely trying.”
He helped Maeglin to her feet. As they walked down the hill towards the house, he glanced at her face.
“Something else troubles you?”
“He said… he said that he would not come on our ship lest we be turned away for his sake… might the ship not be turned away as well, because of me?”
Glorfindel had thought of that for many years, even before he confided in Elrond, and pondered it long, and arrived at his own conclusion. “No. I do not believe that,” he said unhesitatingly. “You were not sent back to Endórë to be exiled, melmenya. I am certain of that. You were sent here by the Valar for a purpose, and to sail to Aman once that purpose was fulfilled.”
“Purpose?” Maeglin said, looking at him quizzically. “To reforge Narsil? To save Elrohir’s life?”
The hero slid his hand behind the traitor’s neck, drew her to him, and smiled down into her puzzled black eyes. “Why, to be loved by me, of course. And to love me. And to learn what it is to be happy.”
If that is not the silliest thing I have ever heard, Maeglin was about to snap, but as she opened her mouth Glorfindel sealed it with a long, lingering kiss. And as she wrapped her arms around him on that rocky hillside, the silly words in their sheer simplicity suddenly had the ring of profoundest truth to them.
On their last morning in Imladris, the valley was clothed in autumn colours, and the sun was gentle and warm.
As Glorfindel helped Erestor load boxes of his books upon a wagon, the advisor suddenly froze, his green eyes staring behind the balrog slayer.
Glorfindel turned to see that the peredhel twins had emerged onto the terrace with Celeborn. The silver lord, like everyone else, was dressed in his travel clothes.
“Lord Celeborn!” said Glorfindel, his face lighting up. “Do you ride with us to Mithlond?”
Celeborn smiled enigmatically. “That I do.”
Glorfindel glowed with gladness. “And… do you journey with us beyond Mithlond?”
“Daeradar has informed us—” said Elladan, “—that he will sail with us to Aman!” Elrohir burst out joyously.
Glorfindel’s azure eyes gleamed with triumph as he turned to Erestor and smiled wickedly at him.
The advisor blanched, turned, ran up the flight of stairs, and fled into the house.
Glorfindel gave him a five-second head start. Then he scaled the wall of the terrace, vaulted over the balustrades, and raced swift as the wind after the vanished advisor.
“It amazes me why he cannot simply use the stairs like everyone else,” said Elladan, sounding very much like his father.
“The stairs offer no challenge; that is why,” said Elrohir.
Celeborn raised an eyebrow. “My grandsons, do either of you know what that was all about?”
His grandsons smiled and shook their heads.
“It is just Erestor and Glorfindel being Erestor and Glorfindel.”
“Since we were babies, they have had this long-standing tradition.”
“It seems fitting it should be thus on our last day here.”
“Now we await what will happen next…”
“It should not be long now…”
In the distance, they heard a wail and a splash.
Ivanneth (S) – September
Gwinig (S) – little baby