Maeglin chewed on a dried apricot rather stoically as she sat on the deck of the ship. Glorfindel lay at her side, his arms behind his head, gazing up at the night sky. Blazing with cold, white fire, Menelmacar the Swordsman strode across the star-strewn heavens above them, accompanied by his glittering hounds of war, and gazed back down at them.
The elflord turned his golden head and looked up at his beloved.
“Would you prefer I get you some stewed peaches instead, melmenya? Or some nuts?”
She shook her head. “This will do.” She dutifully popped the last apricot in her mouth, and smothered a sigh. “I never thought I could so crave a fresh apple.” Their sea diet had been fresh fish, smoked meats, preserves, dried fruits, nuts, and elven waybreads and honey cakes. All highly palatable, as all elvish food is, but two months of it had left her yearning for juicy fruit… and she found herself thinking wistfully of a crisp, green salad.
He smiled, looking more luminous and relaxed than he had for many decades. “It will not be long now. Then you may have all the fresh berries and apples your heart desires.”
The moment their swift ship had soared free from the Bent World, Glorfindel had felt a sudden lightness as the oppression of a century lifted… and a thousand ghostly voices were suddenly silenced. From that moment, he had been so incandescently happy and alive with his restored lightness of being that he could barely sleep. Haunted by wakefulness herself as the child grew heavy within her, Maeglin spent the nights with him mostly on deck. He would sometimes climb the masts, singing blithely, but mostly he kept her company on the deck, walking, talking, and star-gazing. If she wearied, the mariners of Mithlond would lay down three soft layers of matting near the ship’s prow for them. Lying there, the two lovers would gaze at the beauties unfurled in the skies above them, just as they had one night long ago in Gondolin.
Maeglin slowly lowered herself down now to lie at her warrior’s side, and eyed the starry warrior shimmering in the dark sky above her. His constellation, Glorfindel always called the Swordsman, with a smile. But in her current dark mood Maeglin was inclined to see the sword of stars hanging over her as ominous.
“Look—Erestor with itching powder down his back,” said Glorfindel, leaning his head against hers, and pointing at a group of stars to the east.
She chuckled softly. “Thranduil with baby Arman clinging to his shin,” she said, pointing at another pattern of stars more to the north.
Over the years, their stargazing had grown less and less scholarly. The whimsy of lovers had mostly replaced erudition, and over two centuries they had made the skies their own, the patterns above them reshaped to their lives. New constellations were coined: an anvil and hammer, the seventh gate of Gondolin, an elfhorse named Asfaloth, a defeated balrog stomped into the dust, Legolas shooting a spider with his bow, Mithrandir with his staff and fireworks, Bilbo with a teapot, Lindir with his lute, a baby soon to be born…
Two venerable, silver-haired figures suddenly loomed tall over the lovers, amused by their celestial flights of fancy, and the pair fell silent, embarrassed.
“Arise and cast your eyes upon the horizon, mellyn,” said silver-bearded Círdan, “Alae Aman! Na vedui!”
Glorfindel pulled his wife and her swollen belly to her feet, and the lovers saw the vast land mass looming on the horizon—a long black shape against the sky of stars. His heart leapt. Hers skipped a beat.
At their side, the ancient silver-haired ones gazed at the blessed shores—the end of a Great Journey that had begun tens of millennia before at Cuiviénen, in the age of stars. One had turned aside for devotion to a king, the other had denied his heart’s longing in obedience to the Valar. And both, at last, were here.
Sharp elven eyes discerned, even at that distance, a large island off the coast of the great continent, sprinkled with yellow lights like tiny stars. Beyond it, a cleft in a mountain range from which a brilliant beacon of white-gold light shone out to sea. To the left, along the long mountain range, a single mountain soared skywards, impossibly tall, its peak of eternal snows gleaming in starlight.
“We will be mooring in the harbour in the dead of the night,” Glorfindel murmured to her. “I should be able to arrange our passage to the mainland before dawn.”
“I have had enough of ships for a lifetime,” she muttered.
“Tol Eressëa is swarming with exiles from Beleriand, love. The sooner we get off it the better, and the only way is over the straits. And the fastest way is by ship from Avallonë—unless a friendly eagle offers us a ride.”
She went slightly green, although she had thought herself cured of her fear of heights. He read her mind and smiled. “A ship it is, then. A four-hour crossing if the sailboat be swift, eight days to travel through the Calacirya, then three weeks south to Oromë’s stronghold. And then,”—a tender kiss—“time for baby.”
“How are you so sure the vala would welcome me?”
“As I have told you again and again—Oromë loves me, and loves your Amil. And you are a child of the forest, born and bred! What is there for him not to love?”
I am wholly unlike you or my Amil, for one. But she kept quiet.
Over the next two hours, all the other passengers gathered on deck, anticipation and elation mingling with the thrill of the unknown. Already they felt the difference—all their senses felt intensely alive, and there was a lightness of both body and spirit they had not known in Ennor. They sang and laughed in exhilaration as Avallonë on Tol Eressëa rose before them. Golden and white lights winked at them from hillsides that gently sloped up from the sea. Their ship pulled into the harbour, gliding towards a long wharf where a dozen graceful ships, white and grey, were berthed alongside smaller vessels. Then it slid smoothly into an empty berth as though guided by Uinen herself. Along the waterfront were white buildings with graceful arches, and between them streets paved with shimmering stones that led into the city.
Elves and elf horses lost no time in disembarking. They milled around the wharf, orderly and purposeful, organizing belongings. Once all was in readiness, the excitement was tinged with sadness. Partings were imminent… or would have been, had Glorfindel been able to find a single Telerin sailor to talk to.
“Where is everybody?” wondered Glorfindel, as he surveyed the deserted wharf. The waterfront and hillslopes sparkled with soft lights white and golden… and yet, apart from the crew and passengers of the newly-berthed ship, there was not a soul in sight. “The Teleri sail and fish at all hours of the night,” said Glorfindel, baffled. And sing... but now there was only the sound of wind and waves and their own voices.
“There seems to be an inn yonder where all of us may stay the night.” Elladan pointed at a sign in the distance, next to which glowed a lantern.
“If there is anyone there, that is,” Erestor murmured dubiously.
“Well, you obviously cannot find a ship to take you anywhere tonight, so remain with us!” Elrohir urged Glorfindel’s family. “Together we can seek out Adar and Naneth tomorrow.”
“Indeed, I should think Lord Elrond would be rather miffed if you vanished without so much as a suilad, Glorfindel,” Erestor said reprovingly.
But the golden-haired lord, still deep in thought, was only half-listening. “Could it be… Ulmo’s Day?”
“Ulmo’s Day is in Gwirith! It is but Hithui now,” Maeglin pointed out.
“The calendar of Aman differs, for there is no winter here. It would explain why there is no soul in sight. For that festival, all on the island would be gathered along the Falassë Númea, on the western shores of the islands. That is fifty leagues to the west.”
“How long are the celebrations?” asked one of the crew.
“A week or more.” Glorfindel did his calculations. “It should have just begun.”
All the elves of the Havens were looking wistful.
Galdor of the Havens’ blue-green eyes were thoughtful. “Is there a harbour on the western shores where we might berth?”
“No—there was only Sívelondë at the mouth of Liltanen, when I was last here,” said Glorfindel. “Its waters are too shallow for vessels as large as yours.”
“Ah, pity,” sighed the lean, lanky mariner.
“We could anchor off the coast and launch the rowboat,” said Círdan.
“Or… we might borrow another ship, my lord,” said Galdor, his eyes sparkling as he eyed a sleek, silver beauty, twenty rangar long, bobbing on the waves close to their great ship.
“Borrow a ship from the Teleri? Has someone forgotten his history?” asked Erestor, eyebrows raised.
But all sixteen elves of Mithlond were gathering on the wharf before the pretty silver ship.
“Ah, but this would be Teleri borrowing from Teleri,” replied Círdan. “We should speak the same language to our ships, and sing the same wave-song and wind-song. And we but seek to sail fifty leagues to Sívelondë to be reunited at long last with our kin.”
Already the mariners were stroking the bow of the silver ship and crooning gently to it as one might to a horse one sought to tame.
“She says yes!” Galdor said exultantly, as he and the elves of the Havens lightly leapt on board.
“If your household would join us, we will engage another ship,” said Círdan to Elladan and Elrohir.
The elves of Imladris were looking at each other uncertainly when they heard the light sound of hooves on stone, not far away. The ears of the Imladrim elf horses pricked forward as they stood by.
“Four riders,” said Glorfindel softly.
As the light clop of hooves from a side street drew closer, Maeglin pulled up the hood of her cloak, and friends and family drew around her to block her from view, just as four noble steeds burst into view, their riders’ cloaks streaming behind them. Their hair gleamed in the lights of the waterfront, dark and silver and bright, glorious gold. Shouts of joy burst forth from the travellers.
Glorfindel laughed exuberantly. “A welcoming party! Of course there would be one!” And he turned to look at his uncle. The silver-haired lord was smiling as his lady approached. They must have been speaking to each other since the ship passed through the treacherous chain of enchanted isles eight hours past.
As the riders dismounted, the travellers surged forward to engulf Elrond and Celebrían, their sons at the front. Celeborn and his Lady calmly walked up to each other and clasped hands, gently touching foreheads together. The fourth personage in the welcoming party leaned against his silvery-grey horse and watched the happy chaos with a smile. He was no taller than Elrond and wore a long silver and green robe. His face was smooth and ageless and merry, his eyes brighter than any edhel’s, and his white hair and full beard shone like Tilion. It was Glorfindel who, with a cry of recognition, went running to him.
“Maedol a mae g’ovannen, Glorfindel!” said the fourth rider. “Welcome home, mellon iaur!”
“Ai! mae g’ovannen, Olórin!” cried Glorfindel, embracing him. “You decided to keep the beard?”
“I have grown too used to it. I tried to do without it for a year, but it felt as though something was missing,” said the maia, stroking the silver beard fondly. “Estë and Irmo balked at it to begin with, but now they think it gives me character.”
“Where are the Teleri? We wish to sail to the mainland as soon as possible. There are too many exiles here.”
“Tonight is not a night you could find any passage to the mainland, I am afraid. It is the eve of Ulmo’s Day. All the people of Tol Eressëa have gathered on the western shores for the celebrations… and Turgon and Voronwë are among them to honour Ulmo. They will be feasting and making merry for the next week.”
Turgon… a very good reason for us not to venture anywhere near the Falassë Númea, Maeglin and Glorfindel thought as one.
“I could sail a ship myself,” Glorfindel said, eyeing a white vessel nearby. “Mayhap I could find a ship willing to bear us, and pay a kind soul on the other shore to sail it back.”
“It is not on Tol Eressëa alone that you may wish to be wary, mellon vuin,” said Elrond as he came forward and clasped Glorfindel’s hand in greeting. “Whilst on this island dwell many exiles who have sailed from Ennor, on the mainland are a great number who have returned from Mandos.”
“And it is hard to travel fast or in secrecy with a wife as advanced in pregnancy as yours. Be our guests for a season, mellon iaur,” said Celebrían as she embraced Glorfindel and kissed his cheek. “At our new homely house.” And she turned to take Maeglin’s hand in friendship.
So they fondly bade galu to Círdan and the elves of Mithlond, who were singing with gladness as they sailed further west to Sívelondë in their borrowed ship. Celeborn kissed his daughter lovingly, then turned back to his lady. He and Galadriel, lost in their own world, walked away arm-in-arm along the waterfront, their two horses trailing after them.
The other elves and horses—and their heavy-laden wagons—proceeded up streets lined by trees whose flowers and fruits glowed in all colours of the rainbow, up the hillside, past the graceful arches and columns of buildings and houses great and small.
And at last they saw the golden glow of windows in Elrond and Celebrían’s fair mansion, high on the hills overlooking sea and city and harbour. Running out of the great double doors were half a dozen familiar figures from Imladris who had left the festival with their lord and lady to make the house ready for the newcomers.
Amid the loud, happy chaos of greetings and reunions, even as he was almost knocked over by the ecstatic welcome of Beril and Emlindir, Glorfindel’s sharp ears caught Gwendir saying to Elrond, “…the Lady Idril arrived just before you, my lord—and she has asked to see Glorfindel at once. And alone.”
Glorfindel whirled around at that, and his heart leapt and lifted with joy and yearning for one moment—Itarillë! Ammë!—then sank with dismay as his eyes met Elrond’s. The peredhel was looking deeply perturbed.
Elrond pulled Glorfindel aside, and the two friends put their heads close together and conferred.
“This was highly unexpected,” muttered Elrond. “How could she have known? She should have been at the festival with her father and all the others. Unless she saw us departing in such haste, and followed.”
“She and Lómiel must not meet each other!” Glorfindel had planned to seek out Idril—and then Finrod—alone, and most secretly, once Maeglin and the baby were safe and settled. “So… you have spoken to her?”
Elrond’s face was glum. “I have indeed.”
Glorfindel paled. “That bad?”
“She is convinced we have all been bewitched. There is naught I can say that will make her think kindly of Lómiel. And she forbade me to say aught to my Adar. She wants to ‘settle it’ herself.”
“What does that mean—‘settle it’?”
“She will not say. And I thought Galadriel was formidable!”
Glorfindel’s brow furrowed. He knew his sweet, tender Amil could be a force of nature when provoked. And nothing provoked her more than a child of hers in danger.
“Elrond, could you hide Lómiel upstairs? Perhaps sneak her into the house by a different entrance?”
“Gwendir, where is Lady Idril now?” Elrond asked the elf who stood nearby.
“She awaits Glorfindel on the terrace of the great hall, Lord Elrond,” replied Gwendir, now a merry-eyed ellon.
“Good.” Elrond turned and spoke quietly into Glorfindel’s ear. “Keep her on the terrace.”
“Allow me to show you the way,” said Gwendir with a grin to Glorfindel.
The main doors of the mansion opened to a high-ceiled foyer crowned with a glass dome. To the right, a wide, grand staircase swept upwards in a graceful curve. But they turned left, and passed through a great double door into a hall almost as large as the Hall of Fire. And as they crossed the hall, Glorfindel saw her standing on the terrace looking out to the sea.
As Gwendir turned to leave, Glorfindel said softly, “Please close the door of the hall behind you, Gwendir.”
He walked through the open arches fronting the terraces and gardens for the reunion he had looked forward to for five millennia.
Standing in the golden light of the terrace, her golden hair flowing light and bright down her back to her knees, her silver-blue dress gracefully draping her slender curves, was the daughter of Turgon. She stood on the terrace under fragrant, blossoming trees and next to tinkling fountains, gazing down at the harbour and at the expanse of the ocean stretching to infinity. The echoing roll of the waves resounded in the distance. In her hair, at the back of her head, he saw the moonstone she so often used as a hair clasp. The one he had given to her when a child. She turned. The troubled frown on her lovely face melted away when she saw him, standing tall in the doorway, the radiant warmth of his deep golden hair and his smile as she remembered.
“Aiya, Ammë!” He walked towards her with his lithe, lionesque grace, and her face lit like the sun emerging from behind clouds, and her eyes misted over with tears.
“Ai… yonya!” She ran to him and threw herself into his arms, half-laughing, half-crying, and he lifted her off the floor as he hugged her. “Amatúlya…” And for a long while they did not speak, but simply held each other tightly. At last, he set her down gently and released her from his hug. She stepped back to look at him, her hand lifting to his face.
“Pitya, how thin you have grown! You feel like skin and bones. Does not your wi—does no one feed you properly?”
Only a mother… thought Glorfindel. His tall, willowy frame was but a shade leaner than it had been when he embarked on the white ship to Ennor over five millennia past. He laughed. “All my own fault, Ammë. I have not been eating much… but why is too long and tiresome a tale. I have missed you so! Is all well with you?”
“Well enough.” She wiped a tear from her eye as her other hand reached for his right hand… then looked down at the golden ring on it. An awkward silence fell.
“What an extraordinary ring,” she said, touching the beautiful thing as it glowed luminously on his forefinger.
“Yes, is it not? I am wed, Ammë,” he said a little too cheerily. “And I have sons.”
“So I have heard.”
Idril’s penetrating grey eyes were scrutinizing his face again, and looking deep into his eyes. She hissed, and her eyes narrowed. “I see that a shadow lies upon you, yonya.” On her face, the same steely expression he had seen on the secret way of escape. “It is as I feared.”
Glorfindel’s heart sank. He should have known his mother would detect those last vestiges of shadow, that stain of crimson atani blood on his fëa, which no one else but Maeglin seemed to see.
He knew he would have felt far less dread facing the balrog and Sauron and all the Nazgûl at one and the same time.
At the front of the house, a stream of chatter and laughter continued as the elves swiftly unloaded wagons and carried belongings into the house. Maeglin stood by Asfaloth and Gilroch, forbidden by any to lift a bag or box of any weight. As Beril and Emlindir began to lead the horses to the stables, she made to follow them but was intercepted by Elrond and Celebrían.
“Lómiel, dear girl, Beril and Emlindir can take care of the horses,” said Elrond. “Come—an elleth in your advanced state needs much rest.”
“Indeed, child, the journey must have exhausted you,” Celebrían chimed in.
“Not that greatly, híril-nín. This is naught compared to bearing twins, as you would understand well.” And the vitality of Aman had much refreshed her since she landed.
Celebrían smiled at her as they exchanged understanding looks.
“I cannot believe Glorfindel left Asfaloth standing here.” Maeglin glanced at the white horse, who was looking unruffled by his rider’s negligence.
“True, he always settles Asfaloth in the stables himself,” agreed Beril, surprised.
“Ah, he must have gone ahead into the house to see that all is in readiness for you,” said Celebrían lightly. “Come, I shall show you your room.”
At that, the white stallion nickered softly and his muzzle nudged Maeglin in the back between the shoulder blades, pushing her gently towards the house.
Elrond smiled. “You see? Asfaloth agrees you need your rest.”
“They are in good hands, fear not!” called out Beril as he led Asfaloth and Gilroch away.
So Maeglin followed Celebrían and Elrond into the house. She looked around the large, stone-floored foyer and the high dome above. Glorfindel was not responding as her fëa sought his, and she felt a deepening disquiet. One of the chefs of Imladris, Marinnel, hailed her cheerfully. She had been busy the past hour preparing food for the new arrivals.
“Another cram in the oven! Blessed fruitfulness!” Marinnel cooed as she came forward beaming warmly. “And is the mother-to-be not peckish after the voyage?”
Maeglin realized suddenly how hungry she was. “Famished,” she said. “Have you any fruits? Fresh fruits.”
“Of course! All year round. And I have fresh-baked pastries as well, savoury and sweet. Come, mellon-nín. Let me feed you.”
And Celebrían and Elrond, who had been momentarily distracted by Erestor who was asking where all his books might go, turned to see Marinnel leading Maeglin into the great hall, at one end of which the kitchens and smaller dining parlours lay.
“Marinnel! We shall have a tray brought to Lómiel in her room,” said Celebrían hastily, striding over with Elrond.
“Lómiel, pray go to your room first to rest,” Elrond insisted.
“A little later—I shall have just a bite first,” said Maeglin over her shoulder as she stepped into the hall. Then a treacherous little sea breeze wafted in from the garden terrace, carrying two voices speaking Quenya into the great hall.
“—Ammë, you desired me to find one to love, and I have! I love her—so much—”
“—thousands of maidens in Arda with pure hearts and clean hands… why that one? Why?” Idril’s lilting, lamenting voice carried in with a clarity that made Elrond and Celebrían cringe. Maeglin froze like a statue at the sound of that all-too-familiar voice.
“—one steeped in the blood of our friends—our people—your own blood—”
“—Ammë, please—” Glorfindel could barely get a word in.
“—never did I think to see such a shadow in your eyes, to see my beautiful, bright sun so dimmed!—”
“—I can explain—this has nothing to do with her—”
“—you know what he is! What he did! In your right mind you would never—”
“—Ammë, there was a war—I slew atani—”
Idril almost choked in horror. “Worse and worse! There is black sorcery in this. Even so did that vile sorcerer father of his ensnare Irissë—”
“—I am not bespelled!—”
“—oh my poor boy! You have been so blinded! An annulment. That is the solution—”
“—annulment?! We love each other! We have children!—”
“—I shall appeal to Manwë. I shall not rest till you are free and yourself again—”
The traitor of Gondolin’s face was deathly white and terrible to see. Elrond and Celebrían had both turned rather pale themselves.
“—and that monster’s true nature is exposed—”
Maeglin turned, ran past the lord and lady of the house, and fled back into the foyer. Considering the heaviness of the child she bore, she moved with such surprising swiftness that neither Celebrían nor Elrond could do anything to stop her. Marinnel, who had understood little of anything Idril or Glorfindel had said merely blinked in utter bewilderment, her face blank.
“—as I should have exposed him long before—”
The Imladrim were startled to see Maeglin racing across the foyer, past piles of bags and boxes, and heading towards the door. Then they heard the tirade in Quenya coming through the open door of the great hall.
“—I have never ceased to regret my pity and my silence—”
“Lómiel!” cried Elladan.
“Daro!” shouted Elrohir.
Out on the terrace, the princess’s voice still rose and swelled. “—I still dream of Eärendil dangling over the precipice—”
“Ammë!” Maeglin’s sons came running down the stairs with several others.
“Lómiel! Dear girl!”
“—I still dream of you broken and dead in my arms—”
“Daro! Where are you going, mellon?”
As Maeglin touched a handle of the great double door, it flashed with white sparks, and she yelped and jumped back. “Bloody muk!” she swore, more shocked than hurt. Grim-faced and resolute, she reached for the door handle again—and was blocked by a tall, silver maia, who suddenly grew tall and wide and shone with power.
“And where do you think to go, my dear girl?” asked Olórin as he looked down at the white, strained face below him.
“Out of my way, you bloody maia,” she snarled through her teeth, “or by Tulkas the Strong, there will be violence in Aman once again.” Her black eyes flashed with golden fire and her hands curled into fists.
Elrond and his twins and eight others just from the ship ran towards Maeglin and formed a half-circle around her.
“Dear girl! You cannot fight a fifteen-foot tall maia!” protested Erestor.
“Oh? Watch me!” replied Fingolfin’s grandchild, slamming her fist into the maia’s knee.
“Not bad,” said Olórin, eyes twinkling.
“Ammë, please!—don’t!” begged Arman.
“Back off, yonya! And all of you!”
“Lómiel! Calm down!” commanded Elrond.
“I’ll blacken the eye of any that lays a finger on me, regardless I love them.”
“You would not!” exclaimed Lindir.
Scattered around the foyer and along the great stairs, the rest of the Imladrim watched the group huddled at the great doors. They listened to the pandemonium of voices in both Sindarin and Quenya with great bemusement.
“Mellon-nín, do you have any idea what is going on?” asked Beril, who had returned from the stables by another door.
“None whatsoever,” said Gwendir, shaking his head.
“Emotionally unstable, these pregnant ellith,” Emlindir observed.
“Lómiel, it will be all right—you have us on your side,” Elladan was saying.
“We will stand by you all the way!” affirmed Elrohir.
“Ego!! Let me out!” She pounded the maia’s legs with her fists, then stomped on his foot viciously with her full weight.
“Ouch. I felt that one.” Olórin silently shape-shifted and encircled the furious elleth with two great white wings.
“Let me go, you sodding maia!” she cried out desperately. “Damn you!”
“Now, now,” the maia of Lórien boomed gently in a resonant voice like that of the ocean. “Stop struggling. You’ll hurt yourself.”
Arms pinned to her sides, Maeglin gave up the fight, but her bitterness poured forth in words. “Why? Why bring me back at all? For this? Was it retribution? A sick joke? Why not keep me in the halls till the last battle? Eru should have left me there. Left me to rot with Fëanáro and his sons.” Thankfully, as she spoke in Quenya and her Avarin accent became strong whenever she grew emotional, most of the former Imladrim who were fast gathering to observe the drama understood only about one word in six.
Glorfindel pushed past the others, looking distraught, his face almost as pale as Maeglin’s. “Vesseya—”
Olórin folded back the white wings and stepped aside for the golden lord.
“No! Do not touch me! I should never have come!”
“Shush, melimë. We shall see this through,” Glorfindel said, holding her tightly to him. “It will be well.”
“Liar! You do not believe that. I heard her!” Maeglin said in a voice smothered against his chest.
Idril’s cold, crystalline voice came from behind them all. “Very well then. Where is… she?”
The Imladrim turned, and saw the daughter of Turgon gleaming like the first rays of morning, walking towards them with swan-like grace from the dining hall. Her glittering grey eyes were hard and guarded, and the expression on her lovely features stern. She walked as though the flowing silver-blue dress was a coat of chainmail and she held a sword in her hand. So grim was her sweet face that the murmuring crowd cleared a path before her.
As she walked, the princess was remembering the violation of the black prince’s hands on her as she had struggled with him. Remembering how Eärendil had been held over empty space as she had screamed and pleaded in vain. Remembering the prince’s pale face ugly with rage and malice… and how her skin had crawled with the pure evil and darkness she felt emanating from him.
Face pressed against Glorfindel’s chest, Maeglin trembled at the memory of Idril in her shining chainmail shirt, hair pulled back in a long braid, the sword shining in her hand, her eyes blazing with a ferocity the prince had not thought possible. Her stomach lurched in shame to remember all the prince had done… and all he had tried, but thankfully failed to do.
“Haruni, please,” Elrond said calmly, barring Idril’s way, two pairs of twins behind him. “She is my guest.”
“Step aside, indya,” the princess said, her voice steel and silk.
“It is all right, Elrond,” said Glorfindel, coming forward. So Elrond and the twins parted, and let him pass through. The balrog slayer had his arm around the waist of an elleth in a dark-blue dress and a dark-red cloak, and he was gently pulling her along with him. Her head was bowed, and all Idril saw was a silken curtain of black hair falling unbound over the elleth’s face and past her hips.
Glorfindel gazed at Idril gravely, almost defiantly. He planted a kiss on the black head next to his, then spoke in a clear, calm voice. “Aranelya… Amil… I have the pleasure of presenting to you my vessë... Lómiel.”
Slowly, the black-haired one lifted her head. A trembling white hand was raised to push back the curtain of hair. For a brief moment Idril might have thought she saw her aunt again—but she also saw the eyes.
Maeglin was shaking and weak as her heart pounded madly. For one of only a handful of times in two lives, she found herself powerless to school her face into the expressionless, impenetrable mask she so often raised as a shield against the world, powerless to hide behind her inscrutable, opaque glare. Her anguish was naked in her white face, and her eyes were wide as those of a startled doe, pools of black filled with hurt and shame. And fear.
And as Idril gazed into their depths, she saw that the obsidian eyes were clear. Clear and free of shadow, as even Glorfindel’s now were not. The hardness of the brilliant grey eyes began to melt away.
“Ai!” gasped Maeglin suddenly, as her child kicked strongly within her.
Idril’s eyes darted downwards. And widened at sight of the distended belly showing where the drapes of the wine-red cloak parted. Slender and strong white arms protectively wrapped around the bulge.
Then the princess of Gondolin smiled.
“Mai omentaina,” she said clearly in her crystalline voice, so all could hear. “Amatúlya. Welcome to Aman, chosen and beloved of my soul-son.”
A ripple of relief ran through the surrounding crowd.
Forgive me, Maeglin wanted to say, but her voice stuck. She cleared her throat. “Mai omentaina,” she managed to reply, barely audible.
And Idril stepped forward and took her cousin’s hand in hers and looked at it—shapely, strong, calloused as a warrior and smith’s would be. But this hand had not wielded blade and hammer for over half a year, now, and the wrist and arm attached to it were more slender and feminine than they were wont to be. And Idril found herself unable to even think of the larger, more powerful hands that had once been laid on her, as she looked down at this almost-delicate nís.
Yes, looked down. The former prince of Gondolin was now the slightly shorter of the two, and Maeglin flushed with embarrassment as she realized this as well, her cheeks rosy pink as she proudly drew herself to her full height.
At Imladris, she had once frowned discontentedly at herself in the mirror and complained to Glorfindel: “Why am I this short? Why could I not be as tall as my mother?”
Maeglin was in reality taller than the average elleth, but resented falling short of Aredhel’s statuesque stature.
“’Tis your own fault,” he had replied unsympathetically as he sat on their bed oiling the leather of his boots with a cloth. “Slaving day and night in the smithy during your growing years, and not eating and resting as a young maiden ought to. You stunted yourself, my naucanis.” Then he had grinned radiantly and added, “But I like my nolpaya just as she is—my petite little mole.” And he had laughed as he caught the stool she flung at his head.
The daughter of Turgon the tall was now looking down at her cousin’s furiously blushing face, and her smile widened—the closest thing to a smirk either Glorfindel or Maeglin had ever seen on her sweet face.
Then Baby kicked again, and Maeglin’s swollen belly bounced.
“A strong one!” said the princess. “When is your time… daughter?” The last word was said deliberately, emphatically.
“Another month,” Maeglin was able to articulate in a quiet, flat voice, after she recovered partially from her shock.
“Ah… then you are blessed indeed, my dear, that your extremities have no swelling,” said Idril, looking at the shapely hand lying in her own again and examining it. “And have you backaches?” This was said in the most solicitous of voices.
Dazed at how surreal this was, Maeglin could only nod dumbly. She thought she saw Elrohir smirking at the corner of her eye.
“Yes, I had those as well,” commiserated Idril. “A constant dull pain in the lower back, just here. I needed my dear Tuor to massage it every evening. Nothing helps as much as daily massages.”
“I do my duty as a husband, Ammë,” said Glorfindel, noting how Maeglin’s eyes flickered at the mention of Tuor. The warrior then shot a glare at Elrohir who was looking too amused at everything.
Idril bestowed a smile on her foster son, then continued speaking to Maeglin in that cosy, companionable tone of one woman who has found common ground with another. “I have some very good herbal recipes for warm compresses to apply if you need them… anelya…” Again, daughter. “…you have but to ask.”
“You are kindness itself, aranel,” Maeglin intoned. Just kill me, her mind screamed to Glorfindel’s. I cannot take much more of this.
“Ah, but you must call me amil... anelya. And I know of the most excellent midwife for you in Tirion,” Idril continued smoothly. “Just the one for you. It was she who delivered me when my own amil was brought to bed. And it was she whom Nerdanel sought out to deliver each of her seven, mind you—”
Glorfindel saw Maeglin’s eyes begin to glaze over and went to the rescue.
“Itarillë, may I introduce our sons?” Glorfindel pushed forward the two young néri who had been hovering at his side.
The twins bowed, then smiled uncertainly as they stood before Idril. “Mai omentaina, aranel,” they chorused.
“We are a little confused, aranel—” Arman said shyly.
“—would you wish us to address you as haruni—?” asked Aryo.
“—or, uhh… aunt…?” faltered Arman hesitantly, in almost a whisper.
“Oh, haruni most certainly!” said the princess with a luminous smile, all sweetness and joy as she released Maeglin’s hand. “Come here, indyat! My beautiful grandsons!” And she enveloped them both in a hug and kissed their cheeks. “Your father should have sailed earlier! How greatly I longed to see you as babes!” Over their shoulders, she saw Elladan and Elrohir smiling at her in bemusement. “And you, my handsome ones, must be the true-blood descendants of my line,” she said, releasing the golden twins with a last hug. “How like to your father and to Elwing you are!”
And as Elrond and Celebrían moved forward with a smile and Idril was joyfully acquainted with her next generation of progeny, the balrog slayer grabbed hold of his beloved traitor’s hand, pushed through the crowd, and quietly escaped up the grand staircase with her.
They both sank upon the bed in relief, and sighed. Glorfindel stared at the ceiling. Maeglin lay on her side because of the baby’s weight, and stared vacantly at his golden hair.
After a while, Glorfindel rolled over to face her. “That did not go too badly, all things considered.”
“Not too badly?” she said in a hollow voice. “It was excruciating.”
“It could have been far, far worse, and you know it.”
“She wants us annulled. Is there such a thing?”
“Uhh… while we were in Lothlórien, Galadriel told me of a Noldorin pair in the Years of the Trees who got hopelessly drunk at a feast and woke up with an elfling on the way—and no recollection whatsoever of how they had wed. Quite the scandal. They stayed together for the elfling, and once she was of age, they had it annulled by the Valar and parted ways quite amicably.”
“And went on to marry others?”
“Why would Galadriel tell you that? Was she hinting?”
“Not at all! You know Galadriel likes you. Perhaps she was warning me with her foresight about Idril.”
“Why did you never tell me of this?”
He looked abashed. “I was not perfectly certain you might not one day wish us annulled, if you thought drunkenness was… you know… grounds for parting ways.”
She reached out to stroke his cheek, and smiled. “And so you tell me only now, when you know I was neither drunk nor insensible, but desperately in love with you.”
“For years I had a whisper of fear within that, some day, you might run like your mother…”
“Had I wanted to, I would have fled whether there were grounds for annulment or none. And I imagine it was not drunkenness that was grounds for that annulment.”
“True… it was that they loved each other not, nor over the years did love blossom. And neither recalled aught of being wedded.”
She smiled wickedly. “Whereas we recall every moment and detail of our wedding. Ná?”
“Ná.” He smiled lovingly back at her. “No one in Eä can annul us if we do not wish it. The Valar would never do it. Nor will Itarillë ever petition them. I saw it in her face as she spoke to you.”
“She neither likes nor trusts me. I saw that in her face as she spoke to me.”
“She knew there is no evil in you once she saw you, melimë.”
“That does not mean she loves me. Or has forgiven me one whit. She will tolerate me, at best, for you and the children’s sake. And she has clearly defined how she and I will relate to each other, henceforth. I am her daughter, never her cousin. She will never acknowledge Lómion in me. Or speak of our past. And she need not fear. I will most certainly never remind her.”
“I saw the gleam in her eyes. She can hardly wait for the baby to be born.”
“Well, I am definitely not raising our child with her scrutinizing my every move as a mother, from how I change diapers to how I carry and nurse a babe,” she growled. “I do not care how well she raised you and Eärendil. I am not having your amil breathing down my neck and wanting things her way. The sooner we get away from here, the better.”
They lay quietly for a while, feeling the strangeness of it all. “To think that I once ever… wanted… that… with Itarillë… it is unbelievable…” she muttered.
“So… you felt nothing of… what you once…?”
“Of course not. Another time, another hröa, another person. It is all gone.”
He sighed and cradled her face in his hands. “I love you both. I believe she would love you once she understands how beautiful you are—and how good.” He used the words vanima and manë; inner beauty and goodness of the heart.
“Vanima? Manë?” she echoed mockingly. A delicate eyebrow lifted wryly. “I would laugh were I less weary. You besotted bastard. That must be the first time anyone has ever described me thus.” She took the hand that was stroking her face, and tenderly kissed his palm. “You are a completely biased and unreliable judge of character. You know that, don’t you?”
“How am I wrong?”
“Do my deeds not speak for themselves?”
“Your deeds in this life speak well enough of you. I know you to the depths of your fëa. Beneath the scowls and snarls, the glares and the cursing, you are vanima and manë. And more.”
Still holding his hand, she closed her eyes. “If you do not know better than that by now, fool of a Flower, there is no hope for you.”
He did not argue the point. He moved over to the other side of the bed, massaged her back with long, gentle strokes till she slept. He lay by her side for a while and listened contentedly to her deep, even breathing. He gently kissed her tummy and smiled at his daughter’s lively response.
Kissing his beloved softly on the lips, he left the room quietly, and headed back downstairs.
Alae Aman! Na vedui! (S) – Behold Aman! At last!
Maedol a mae g’ovannen (S) – Welcome and well met
Amatúlya (Q) – blessed arrival / welcome (singular)
Cram (S) – cake
Aranelya (Q) – my princess
Mai omentaina (Q) – well met
Naucanis (Q) – nauca = stunted/short/dwarf + nís = woman. The Quenya equivalent of Aragorn’s nickname Naugwen for Maeglin
Nolpaya (Q) – little mole
Anelya (Q) – my daughter