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Old 03-03-2020, 02:20 PM   #1
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
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Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tales from Tol Eressëa

Tales from Tol Eressëa
by Mithadan
(Originally posted March 2, 2004)

Ælfwine sat beneath a beech tree, resting from his journey. Above him, the leaves of the tree were limned in a golden-green from the light of the westering sun. His back to the trunk and his fingers running through the thick turf amid the roots, he again wondered at the fortune that had thrown him up upon the white strand of this isle. To have been saved from drowning in the depths of the seas would have been enough; but to have been washed upon the shores of this land where legends walked beneath the skies?

"Fortune?" Pengolod had snorted. "Mere chance to have been carried to the shores of this land? Nay. It may be that chance plays some part in the unfolding of the Tale of Arda on the grey shores of Middle Earth. But in all the ages since Ulmo anchored Tol Eressëa in its place, not once has 'fortune' brought a child of Man to this haven. Nay, though the purpose is unclear, you were brought to tarry among the Eldar by more than mere chance."

The Elven-folk, ancient and forgotten by his people save perhaps in the tales of children, had succored him until he was hale again. Tales they told him of ages past when the world was yet new and wondrous. Of the three kindreds of the Elves they told him, and of the darkening of Valinor where the gods yet dwell. Songs he heard, of surpassing beauty and sadness, of the rebellion of the Noldor and the tragic war against the ancient Enemy of all who would live free.

And when told of the War of Wrath and the rescue of the Eldar and the Fathers of Men in Beleriand, Ælfwine had asked, "If Middle Earth was indeed redeemed from the evils of Morgoth and he was, at last, utterly defeated, then why is Middle Earth not a garden shared by Elves and Men? Why did the Eldar abandon the Hither Lands then, leaving the world to the folly of Man?"

Pengolod had smiled sadly. "Say rather ‘freed from Morgoth’s grasp,’ not ‘redeemed.’ Until Arda is remade, it shall not be redeemed from the taint of him. But the Eldar did not abandon Middle earth. Yea, many of the Noldor accepted the pardon of the Valar and returned to dwell here in the Lonely Island. Yet many, and also the people of our kin, the Moriquendi, remained behind; for a while. It was not our place to dwell ever in the lands of thy birth. But for many an age, the Quendi walked beneath the trees in what now are the mortal lands."

"When did the Eldar depart finally?" Ælfwine had asked. "And why?"

"After the Third Age ended and the time of Man had come, the last of my brethren took to the sea bound for the haven of Avallónë. As to why, that tale is best left to one who watched these events unfold," responded the Elf.


.....................................


And so, days later, Ælfwine found himself on the road to the dwelling of that loremaster of the later ages. North he had traveled from Tavrobel towards the great haven of Avallónë, then west towards the heart of the island. He had paused wistfully, in view of the white towers of Avallónë, longing to visit that city and, not least, the pale Elven ships at their quays. To ride the waves standing by a high swan-beaked prow! But Avallónë must wait. For now he sat beneath the beeches, tired and hungry, yet savoring the sweetness of an afternoon in this strange land. Even the air in this place seemed possessed of a magical quality, scented as it were with the flowers and the green things that grew in such abundance. Opening his eyes, he looked upon a stand of mighty trees across the road with smooth silver-grey trunks and fiery golden leaves. What had the Elves named them? Malinornë?

His reverie was broken by the clip-clop of hooves on the path to the east. Several riders rounded a turn in the road, among them a fine grey palfrey upon which sat an Elven lady of surpassing beauty. The riders slowed and gazed curiously at Ælfwine. A tall raven-haired Elf, wearing a star on his brow bound by a slender fillet, spoke.

"Now here sits a marvel, the like of which I have not seen in years unnumbered. For, unless I be mistaken, this weary traveler is of the Atani. Hail and well met! What errand brings a child of Man to this Lonely Isle?"

"No errand but good fortune, though Pengolod holds otherwise," replied Ælfwine as he rose.

"Pengolod the Learned has keen sight in this matter. Your name Sir?"

"Ælfwine I am, Lord. I seek the house of the loremaster Elrond at the instance of Pengolod."

With a sudden smile, The Elf turned to the lady upon the palfrey and cried, "Fortune does not guide this Man! What think thee Celebrian? Does chance have a hand in this meeting?"

Her laughter fell like silver rain. "My Lord Elrond's house is but a stone's throw away," she said. "But the Elf you have found, Ælfwine! You stand before Elrond and his wife; I am Celebrian. And these be Elves of his household."

Elrond leaped from his steed and clasped the Man by his shoulder. "Come Ælfwine! Weary you may be. But that may be cured by a laden table and a draught of wine. You will tell us your tale and why Pengolod has sent you. And if I can be of service I shall."

They walked with the horses along the road and, indeed, but a stone's throw away a path led through the trees to a number of dwellings great and small. Elrond and Celebrian led him to the largest, a house of hewn white stone, where they were greeted by several elves who took the horses. Ælfwine was led to a chamber with a fine bed and a basin filled with clean hot water. After he had washed, he was led to a great hall with a long table laden for supper. Elrond beckoned him to a high chair next to his own and bade him drink and eat to his ease before telling of his errand to that house.

After having his fill, Ælfwine told the tale of his coming to Eressëa; of his sailing forth from England; of his entering the Straight Road and the world falling away beneath his ship; of his mates abandoning the vessel in fear; of the storm which wrecked his craft; and of the great wave that had lifted him and gently carried him to shore.

Elrond and his table marveled at the tale of Ælfwine. "Indeed Pengolod erred not. Chance alone did not strand you here among the Eldar. Some great purpose lies behind these events which I cannot perceive. But tell, why has Pengolod sent you here?"

And Ælfwine told of his sojourn in the house of Pengolod and the tales they had told him of the First Age and his wonderment at the hidden history of the world. At last, he spoke his questions of the fading of the Eldar during the ages after the defeat of Morgoth and of their departure from Middle Earth. "For it seems to me that had the Eldar stayed much grief might have been avoided and the history of Men less tragic," he said.

Elrond looked gravely at Ælfwine. "The tales you seek are long and themselves woven with sadness for what might have been. Their telling will take many days and you have traveled far and long. Do you wish to begin tonight?"

Ælfwine nodded his head and Elrond summoned his household to a great hall where was lit a fire. When all were assembled, Elrond turned to Ælfwine and began to speak.


....................................


Many days indeed passed in the telling of these tales of the Second and Third Ages of Arda. Ælfwine listened keenly and heard of the foundation of Numenor; the Mírdain and the settlement of Eregion; the making of the Rings of Power and the One Ring; the war between the Elves and Sauron and the ruin of Eregion; the Akallabêth; the Final Alliance and its victory; the foundation of Gondor and Arnor and the disaster at the Gladden Fields; the wars of the Witch King and the fall of Arnor; the failure of the line of kings in Gondor; the War of the Ring; and many things besides.

Late one afternoon, Ælfwine retired to the gardens behind the house of Elrond where there bloomed the elanor and niphredil. Long he wandered in sadness musing over the Eldar and the tragedies which befell them. After a time, Ælfwine entered a clearing in the gardens where stood three monuments of bright white marble shot through with gold. Unable to read the runes carved on the stones, he sat and wondered of their purpose.

How long he sat there he knew not, yet suddenly he stood and looked about and found that night had fallen. The stars shone gently in the sky but to his surprise the monuments appeared to glow with a clear white light in the gathering dark. At that moment he realized he was no longer alone. Beside him sat Elrond, regarding the monuments with a sad smile. His grey eyes glittered under the stars and he seemed to be glimpsing a faraway scene.

Then, looking at Ælfwine, he asked, "Have you heard tales enough of ages long past? Or do you crave the whole of the lore of the Eldar to weigh in your memories?"

The Man smiled. "I have heard of many wonders since I arrived on these shores. But my memory has room and to spare. Yet I have not heard that which Pengolod promised; why you and your brethren left the Hither Lands?"

"Maybe not all have, responded Elrond. "Maybe some tarry there yet hidden away in mountain fastness or in unknown green vales, as spirits or shades of the past. But you have had your question answered. It was the fate of Elvenkind to fade before the race of Men and give up Middle Earth to you and yours. But for the Three Rings whose power failed at the passing of the One, most of my kindred would have left to the West long before the Third Age was finished. The Fourth Age and the ages since are the time of Man."

"But cold and sadder is the world, I deem, without the Elves, and barren of lore and knowledge," complained Ælfwine.

Elrond raised his head and his eyes twinkled as he looked sidewise at his friend. "Pengolod himself could have told of the fading of the Eldar. While the purpose behind your coming to Eressëa is not clear, perhaps you were meant to hear these tales and carry them back to your people so that memories of the Eldar and our deeds are not entirely forgotten as the world becomes old. For this reason, Pengolod sent you to me, unless I be mistaken."

They sat quietly for a time under the clear light of the undying stars. With a pale glow, Isil raised his head above the rim of the land. As if greeting his light, the three stone markers shone yet more brightly amid the shadows. Ælfwine stirred and gestured towards the monuments.

"And what be these stones?" he asked. "Like grave markers they seem, and I have not seen their like here. Nor would I expect to in these undying lands, if graves indeed they be."

A faraway look crossed the face of Elrond and he sighed. "Graves they be. Here lie great heroes whose memory we hold in honor and whose passing was a sadness of parting unto the end of Arda."

"Who lies here? Surely the power of the undying lands fades not!"

"It is not the lands themselves which are undying," responded the Elf. "Rather those who live here, the Eldar, the Valar and their people have life as long as Arda shall last. The lands themselves hold no especial virtue apart from those who dwell upon them."

Elrond sighed once again. "The morning after we sailed from the Grey Havens we drew nigh unto Tol Morwen. There we paused to do honor unto those who lay there on that sad remnant of Beleriand, and to those who perished in the wars of the First Age.

"Little longer did we tarry and soon we entered on the Straight Road and the world fell away beneath us. Then did many gather in the stern of our white ship for a last glimpse of Middle Earth, where we had laboured so long. And not a few tears were shed at that time. For diminish we must, yet we did not love Middle Earth less because of that.

"But the Ringbearers shed no tears. Frodo stood at the bow with the wind in his face and Bilbo sat beside him. They, at least, went without sadness, looking to the West and not back to the lands behind and below.

"And after a time, the seas became broad and flat again and we came beneath clouds and a light rain began to fall. Islands there were about us, small and dark, and ever and anon we might see the skeleton of some ancient vessel broken on the shores. We wondered at who might have come so far, Man or Elf, only to fall by the wayside to sleep unto the end of the world. The rain was not chill but warm, and soon the sweet smell of flowers seemed to fill the air."

"Aye," interrupted Ælfwine. "The isles I beheld also, forbidding they seemed, and I feared to run aground. But the rains which took my ship were neither warm nor light and I smelled no flowers until I awoke on the sparkling shores of this land."

"Yet you were not broken with your vessel and to Eressëa you were allowed to come," replied Elrond before he continued his tale.

"When we emerged from beneath the clouds we saw before us this green island with its white beaches, and beyond rose the Holy Mountain which pierced the sky. Glad we were to behold that sight and many broke into song.

"Frodo's face seemed to glow and, for maybe the first time since his return from the Quest he smiled happily and in truth, and he turned to Bilbo and said 'Look! Behold our new home!' And Bilbo turned his wizened face and nodded as the breeze blew through his white hair. 'For a time, Frodo,' he responded. 'For a time.'

"As we made for the port of Avallónë a great throng gathered on the quays, shouting and waving their arms. Bells rang and echoed in the streets and from the Tower there shone a bright light beneath the banners of the Eldalië. Many glad reunions occurred that day and joyous was my first sight of Celebrian standing whole and healed again.

He paused with a smile and turned to Ælfwine. "Yet many had waited longer than I to be rejoined with their kin. A great white pavilion had been raised in the square of the city and there were many who had come even from Valinor to greet those who had at last come to Elvenhome. Those in the pavilion rose as the Ringbearers approached and the crowd parted, giving way before the Hobbits and Galadriel beside them.

"At the end of the pavilion stood a dais upon which several elves were seated. As we approached the dais, Galadriel gave a cry and rushed forward; for there indeed sat Finarfin, her father, and beside him Finrod, who had returned from Mandos, and other of her kin. Ages had passed since the sundering of that family and glad was their meeting.

"And amid the clamour and the tears, one strode forth onto the dais and held out his arms to the Ringbearers. Tall with raven hair he was, with a silver robe covering his mighty thews and a silver circlet about his brows. Eonwë it was whom I had last met in the wrack that had been Beleriand at the end of the First Age. The crowd hushed as he spoke: 'Welcome Frodo and Bilbo and from Manwë I bring greetings! Never before have any of the younger race graced these streets and ages will pass before any do so again. Yet few of greater valour have ever walked here. Thy deeds have been told in song even unto the peak of Taniquetil. Welcome!'

"The Hobbits blushed crimson and stammered their thanks, unable to meet the bright eyes of Eonwë. Olorin it was who gently took them by the shoulders and guided them onto the dais to stand among the mighty of Arda amid the cheers. Many a glass was filled and drained in toast that evening much to the discomfort of my little friends. Yet whether they will or not, great heroes they were and deserved of their place.

Elrond paused, leaning back to look at the stars. He smiled again and continued. "Bilbo did not fall asleep once during that celebration. He spent much of the evening speaking to Finrod about Beren Erchamion. Ever a lover of tales was Bilbo. And Frodo as was his wont sat quietly listening and speaking little.

He paused again and stood to walk to the first monument. Resting his hand on its peak, Elrond nodded his head and resumed sadly. "Bilbo died a year after, on his birthday. He summoned Olorin and myself and we traveled with him and Frodo to Avallónë where we carried him up the steps of the Tower to the Chamber of the Palantír. Olorin braced him upright as he gazed into the stone. As old and tired as he was, he stood for an hour seeing visions of his home at Bag End, of the Hithlaeglir and the Lonely Mountain and, finally, of Aragorn in Minas Tirith with my beloved Arwen. Then we bore him back and laid him down on this very spot so he could see the stars.

"Frodo was crying pitifully but Bilbo raised his hand to clasp Frodo's and said 'Now hush. My little part in this tale is done. It must go on without me as you must. Fear not; I don't. There was never a Hobbit more lucky than I, to have seen what I have seen, done what I have done and known who I have known. This tale is yours now until you too pass out of it and until the world is renewed and we meet again.' And saying that he closed his eyes and passed gracefully into death. But Frodo raised his head amid his tears and nodded his head as if to agree.

"Frodo lived many years of Men at ease here in Eressëa. Then one day he too summoned Olorin and we again traveled to Avallónë. Not to the Tower, but rather to the piers where we sat long looking out upon the seas. And over the horizon there came a sail and a white ship which came into the havens, its prow cutting the waters with swan's head held high. At last it docked, and many Elves climbed the gangway to the docks and again there were many reunions. After many minutes a short white-haired figure followed wearily.

"'Sam!’ said Frodo. 'At last you are here. I have been waiting too long for you to come. Don't tell me you were afraid to go sailing?'

"Sam responded, 'Begging your pardon Mister Frodo, no I wasn't. Afraid that is. But I couldn't leave Rosie behind. I had to wait for her to leave first.'

"'I'm so sorry Sam,' said Frodo, kissing his forehead. 'I know you miss her. But I am glad you are here.'

"We returned to the house once more and dined with Frodo and Sam. Then we left them alone to speak of their time together and what had happened since. We heard them talking long into the night and then all was quiet. In the morning, we found them lying together hand in hand looking happy as if nothing ill had ever happened to them. It was March 25. And now there are three gravestones on Tol Eressëa in the garden of Elrond."

Elrond took a deep breath and stood silently before the markers. Then he bowed deeply and turned to Ælfwine. "Come. Its late."

END
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Old 04-02-2020, 09:37 AM   #2
Huinesoron
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In the words of a certain Hobbit, "I've put this off for far too long..."

Reading this story, I mean - it was a month ago I asked if commenting on it was okay! But, like Master Samwise, I made it here in the end.

I was a little wary of this story for the first half or so, when it seemed it might be about to turn into just a retelling of LotR, but I should have had more faith. The gravestones proved how wrong I was, and the story after that point was pure emotional gold. The high points, as I'm sure you intended, were the reunions/acclamation, Bilbo's visit to the tower, and Sam's arrival.

The line that's sticking with me is "I had to wait for her to leave first", which is just so Sam. It also draws a link between the hero of LotR and its author; it would be nice to think that after Tolkien lamented that "the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos," he was able to console himself by thinking of Sam and Rosie's end; and if he imagined it anything like this, it would be a comforting tale indeed.

hS

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Old 01-23-2022, 05:54 PM   #3
Mithadan
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Tales From Tol Eressëa:
Conversations in Avallónë – Part I
by Mithadan

Ælfwine had tarried in the house of Elrond but a fortnight when the wind turned and blew from the East, bringing with it a stream of thin rushing clouds. Dancing amid the clouds were kestrels and gulls, wings spread wide in the stiff breeze. Their mournful cries awoke in Ælfwine a great desire to again breathe the salt air and walk the shores of the sea. And so he resolved to take his leave of Elrond and Celebrian, yet not without some regret, for within the walls of that house for the first time in his restless life he had found a profound sense of peace. The halls of Elrond were like no other; ancient beyond the reckoning of men but seemingly less weighted down by the passing of the ages than the dwellings of other Elf lords. It was as if the house was unchanging and constant so that if, by chance, he was to return a century hence the fire would still be lit while stories were told. Yet it seemed that Elrond understood the hearts of men like no other in this land.

So it was that on a fine sunny morning Ælfwine strode through the gates of the house of Elrond carrying a light pack and bade his hosts farewell. Elrond regarded Ælfwine gravely, then turned his grey eyes to the East as if to see where the road would lead this man. "The sea longing is shared by Elves and Men alike," said Elrond. "It is difficult to resist yet I deem that you are not yet ready to take leave of our fair isle. So I bid you return when you wish, and the chance allows. You will be welcome."

"Yes," said Celebrian. "Come when you may. Your stay here has gladdened us for it brings memories of ages past when we yet dwelt in Middle earth and many a child of Man graced our halls."

"I will return if I can," replied Ælfwine. "Indeed never have I been happier than these past weeks. If I may, I shall visit these halls again."

Elrond smiled broadly and his eyes glittered like stars in a cloudless midnight sky. "Indeed you must, for many are the tales which can be told and the songs that may be sung. You have heard but a few and broad is the lore of the Eldar.

"Midsummer is but three weeks hence and, on its eve, many will be the guests in my home. That is a night like no other for songs and stories and then might even your great appetite for tales of old be sated. Come then if you may and join us in welcoming the sun's first light on Midsummer's morn. Then you will indeed be glad of the fate that has brought you here."

"I thank you," said Ælfwine. "And I shall surely return then for who could deny such an invitation from so gracious a host." He bowed to the Elves and lifting his pack he turned away.

"A moment!" cried Celebrian. "We would not have you depart without some token to remind you of your stay in the house of Elrond." She stepped forward and held out her hand. In it was a small knife, little longer than a finger and a half, in a silver sheath that glittered under the sun. The sheath was engraved with a six-pointed star encompassed within a circle. Between each ray of the star was set a white stone which seemed to glow in the morning light. Taking the knife, Ælfwine marveled at the beauty of the gift as he drew the tiny blade from its sheath.

"Take care!" warned Elrond. "It is very sharp and it will hold its edge even if you use it often."

"Thank you again!" stammered Ælfwine. "But for what shall I use this fine gift? Surely no one would waylay me in this land and even so what use would such a small blade be in my defense? Yet it is a thing of beauty and so precious of its own right."

Celebrian looked sidewise at her husband and laughed. "It is not for your defense. Nonetheless I suspect you may find a use for it." She smiled and her grey eyes glittered with mirth. "Farewell Ælfwine! May your road be pleasant and may it take you where you wish only to lead you back to our halls."

Elrond and his wife turned and strode up the white steps and through the heavy wooden gates of their house. Ælfwine stood for a while looking after them and, almost, chose to stay but a while longer. Then he sheathed the knife, placed it in a pocket of his pack and stepped out onto the road.

The road to Avallónë was longer than he expected and ever as he walked the sea birds wheeled and called above his head. But at last he drew near the Elven city; its white walls rose before him and its towers gleamed like snowy peaks outlined against the blue sky. And at last the gulls abandoned their game and soaring over the walls of the city returned to their home by the sea. One paused and lit on a branch of a tree whose limbs spread their shade over the road. It looked down at him as he passed as if reluctant to take leave of its play, then with a great cry it took to the air and wheeled away on the sea wind and passed into the West.

The road grew broad as it wound its way down to the gates of Avallónë. Of mother of pearl they were wrought, and they shimmered in grey and white and opalescent blue. Almost fragile they seemed, though bound and barred with gleaming silver, but then who in this land was there to lay siege to them? Yet Ælfwine knew somehow that no might of men unaided could topple those doors. Today, like most days, save when Ossë was at play and a rare storm lashed the enchanted seas, the gates of Avallónë stood open wide and many were passing through them on errand, errantry or leisure.

Just inside Ælfwine paused to look about and his gaze came to rest on the great tower, the Mindon Anduliéva. Built of polished coral rock the slender tower rose nigh unto four hundred feet to its great lamp whose light pierced the darkness even of a starless night. He perceived that on the dark night months before when a storm had whipped the waves into a frenzy until his empty ship was beaten into submission, it was the Mindon's light that he had seen at the verge of sight, beckoning him to safety. Only the glow of that light had prevented him from surrendering to the might of the sea then. In a chamber just under that lamp, Ælfwine now knew, there rested a palantír which gazed ever back to the mortal lands that the Elves had left behind. He wondered if on that night someone had watched through the palantír as he struggled to reach the lands to the West that had for so long been forbidden to Man.

As he wandered through the streets of the city, many a passerby stopped to stare at the raven-haired Man. This did not concern Ælfwine; he had experienced the same expressions of wonderment in Tavrobel and on the roads that he had traveled on the lonely Isle. Ignoring the buzz of conversation and the whispers of "Atan," he strode on until he reached a great square in which many fountains played, their streams melting into rainbows beneath the light of the sun. To his left rose the Mindon, impossibly slim for its height so that he could not long gaze up at it without growing dizzy. To his right the streets sloped down to the quays of Avallónë where many white ships lay tied to the docks. Nearby, a small group of Elf children, almost the first he had seen on the island, danced beneath the spray of a fountain.

Suddenly they became aware of him and scrambled over to crowd around his legs. Enraptured by the music of their voices and their lithesome grace, he knelt among them and one reached out hesitantly to touch his face. When her fingers reached his beard she cried out in delight and her fellows skipped and giggled, pointing at Ælfwine. And Ælfwine laughed too for he thought he understood now the purpose of Celebrian's gift. In the months since he had arrived on the shores of this place, not once had he beheld an Elf with a beard.

The children returned to their game and he rose and proceeded down to the quays. The scent of the ocean filled the air and his heart pounded in his chest as he drew near the many swan-prowed ships. He wandered among the docks taking their measure and wondering at the beauty of their smooth white hulls. No stain of pitch or oil marred their planks and the manner of the making of the hulls was beyond his knowledge. Their banners of white, blue and green, glinting with traceries of gold and silver, rustled in the endless breeze and, once again, the sea birds filled the skies.

He continued on along the quays approaching a great white swanship, larger than any he had seen. Its banners were grey with blue stars and wings were carved upon its sides. It was drawn up to a dock and several Elves bustled about its hull cleaning it of the stains of the sea. As he drew near, he became aware of two figures standing near a seawall by its prow. Then, with a cry of surprise, Ælfwine rushed forward for one appeared to be a Man, his hair silvered by age, with a long beard. Hearing his cry the two turned to him and by the glitter of his grey eyes whose depths reflected the wisdom of ages, Ælfwine knew he had erred and that the silver haired one was indeed of the Eldar.

"My pardon," puffed Ælfwine as he reached the two Elves. "By your beard I took you to be one of my people; one of the children of Men. But I see I am mistaken."

"And I see that you in truth are of the Atani. What wonder is this that a Man is permitted the Straight Path?" replied the bearded Elf in a voice deep as the seas. "Come. Sit and speak with us for I would hear your tale. I am Círdan, a shipwright of the Teleri."

"Ælfwine I am called," responded the Man. "And I would also hear your tale for no Elf that I have seen wears a beard." He sat on the wall and for the first time looked upon the second Elf. He was very tall and his hair was dark and shot with tones of rich red, but his face was deeply lined as if he had suffered some torment. His hands he held behind his back and he neither sat nor spoke.

"Even an Elf may show some sign of eld after the passage of many ages and I am old even in the eyes of my people. Few live on this Isle who can recall the waters of Cuiviénen," said Círdan as he gazed out at the waves marching in endlessly toward the shore.

"Cuiviénen?" murmured Ælfwine. "It is a name I have heard here but only as a rumor of echoes of ages past. A legendary place I thought it. Does Cuiviénen exist?"

"It did," replied Círdan with a sigh. "A land of green hills, forested cliffs and the sweet music of water it was. From the quiet voices of streams winding through the fallen leaves of seasons past to the tinkling splash of silver falls descending into sapphire basins worn into the foundations of hills, the air there was ever filled with the restless song of the waters. It filled my heart with joy and long would I stand just listening to the plash and burble of the streams of Cuiviénen. The green forests called to others of my kindred, but ever did I hearken to the sounds of water."

He paused and his eyes grew bright yet distant as if he beheld some remote vision. "Long we dwelt there in happiness, where all seemed new and wondrous. And we wandered the hills and fields giving names to all we saw. The earth, its trees and grasses and waters entered into and became part of our being and thus ever did the Elves cherish and wish to preserve the loveliness of Arda. It is a part of us as we are a part of it."

"If Cuiviénen was so blessed a place then why did the Elves leave it?" asked Ælfwine.

"After a time, long perhaps in the measure of Man, but far too soon, darkness came or more truly darkness found us, for it dwelt ever in the world," said the Elf. "Clouds came and darkened the sky and the hills became stalked by evil things. Dark shapes flew overhead mantled in fire. And many feared to wander the hills for some who did so would not return. Ever and anon the screams of some fair elf who had been seized would pierce the air as we huddled together by our fires. And more than any other shadow that haunted Cuiviénen did we curse the Black Horseman for he would chase down our kin and carry them off to where we knew not."

His eyes blazed in anger. "One day I left our camp with Vilwë, a close friend, and we followed a stream down from the hills. I waded among the reeds as he ran among the nearby trees seeking to steal back the contentment which had been taken from us. And for a time we forgot the darkness and fear that had settled upon the Quendi. Then I heard a clamour and din from the camp and Vilwë cried out in pain. When I turned, there at the clearing's edge stood the Horseman on his black steed and Vilwë he held under one arm. As the shouts of the Elves from the camp drew near, he spurred his horse closer and threw back his sable hood to look down at me.

"As one of the Quendi he seemed, with black hair and bright eyes, but his mouth was drawn in a sneer. Our eyes met and I staggered as from a blow, for at that moment I saw within him the depths of his corruption; doors of black iron, walls of shadow and towers of tortured stone. For no cause but that I could think and reason he hated me and all my kind, and he sought to whelm me over with his dark thought and strip me of will so that I could not resist him. Nonetheless I leapt forward to aid my friend, but he laughed and his horse carried him away with a rush just as my kin burst into the clearing where I stood."

Círdan was silent for a long time, his jaw clenched at the foul memory. "I saw him again. Not in Cuiviénen but ages later. Messengers came from Eregion to Lindon summoning us to a council, for a stranger had come to Hollin promising gifts of skill and wonder. Our lord Gil-Galad bade Elrond and I attend the council and we journeyed long to reach that fair land. We were brought to Celebrimbor's Great Hall to meet with Annatar, the 'Lord of Gifts'. There he sat with Celebrimbor and his household, laughing and feasting amid the carved columns and tapestried walls of the Hall.

"Fair he seemed with golden hair and noble visage like some benevolent king who sought to impart his wisdom upon those who would but have his counsel. As I sat at the table, he looked up at me smiling, and from his open mind his thought reached out to me with friendship. But the fair veils that had deceived Celebrimbor and his people shifted like gauze in the wind, and of a sudden I saw those same images that I had seen ages ago; doors of black iron and walls and towers of shadow. And I knew him, if not his name, and I leapt up and my chair fell behind me with a crash. In my anger I could not find my voice and I reached for my sword for, unlawful as it might have been to assail one who comes to council in peace, I would have sought to slay him in memory of Vilwë and the Lost.

"But as was the practice in those times, I had left my blade outside the Hall and Elrond restrained me and pulled me to the door. Ere I reached the portal I contained my fury and said 'Treat not with this one for deceit is his counsel and sorrow will be the result.' But 'Annatar' responded 'I suppose manners are otherwise for those who dwell among the trees. Water should be his draught and not the heady wines of noble Eregion.' And many laughed but Elrond looked back as 'Annatar' smiled and saw that his eyes blazed and read therein a hatred for all who walked free. Thus when I told Elrond my tale, he believed me and we counseled Gil-Galad to close his kingdom to the Bringer of Gifts. But Celebrimbor in his pride and desire for knowledge would not credit my words . . . " Círdan's voice trailed off in sadness and his head dropped until his eyes could not be seen.

"You read his thought? How is that possible?" asked Ælfwine when Círdan looked up at last.

"The skill is known as Ósanwë among my people and all free speaking peoples possess it in some measure, if they can recognize it. Even Men possess some semblance of the skill, but few are they who can use Ósanwë, which is difficult even for the Eldar," replied Círdan.

They sat quietly on the wall, each lost in thought for a moment. The dark-haired Elf remained silent where he stood, facing the wind which blew in from the sea. At times he would rub his hands together as if they pained him. At length Ælfwine stirred.

"How did the Quendi escape the darkness which had fallen on Cuiviénen?" he asked. "Did you flee that land to some fairer place?"

Círdan smiled. "We did not flee. We knew not where we could go. But then we were found by Oromë and the Valar protected us until we were summoned into the West and Morgoth, the dark lord, had been jailed in Mandos. But even then, some remained behind and others turned aside on the long road which led to the sea. Many we never saw again."

"What befell those who remained behind? Could some enclave of the Quendi yet reside in my world? There are many tales of magical beings told among my people. Might Elves yet live in Middle Earth?" queried Ælfwine.

"We do not know what befell those who remained behind though many who turned aside ultimately joined us in the West," responded Círdan. "Some say many who feared the West were at last taken by Sauron whom the Valar found not when Utumno was overthrown, and that all the Lost were corrupted and become the seed of the foul race of orcs. Others hold otherwise and say the orcs were bred from animals given cunning by spirits unknown and later joined with some of the race of Men. Of those not taken by the darkness, some say that the Elves who forever forsook the West became worn by the trials of the world until they faded and their hröar, their bodies, disappeared leaving their fëar, their spirits, to wander houseless roaming with regret and living amid the memories of the past.

"The Quendi loved Middle Earth and many were loathe to leave. This was and remains our nature. Stone and hill, tree and leaf, flower and stalk, droplet and stream pierce us to our cores each to his own measure. And love we give in return and impart our own essence into our surroundings, giving as we receive. To leave any place where we have long dwelt is hard, for to depart is to leave some portion of ourselves behind.

"Mere words do not pass on the depth of such feelings. Men do not understand this; even the Valar do not wholly grasp this aspect of our nature, naming us 'willful' or 'wayward' though we are as Eru intended. Thus Turgon could not leave Gondolin even at the urging of Ulmo himself and Celebrimbor could not abandon Eregion even at the last.

"Even I almost turned aside," he mused. "During the long journey from Cuiviénen into the West, we came upon a mighty river, the Anduin, and I was overcome by the joy of its music. I leaped into its waters and floated downstream and almost resolved to dwell beside its banks. But some inner voice told me my fate was otherwise and bade me continue on. So I left Anduin behind with regret and continued on to Beleriand.

"The Teleri were the last house of the Quendi to arrive in that fair land and I was late even among the Teleri. When I crossed the Blue Mountains and entered Beleriand my lord Elwë had disappeared in its forests and many sought for him, but I continued on to the fringes of the land and came to the great sea. In the distance I saw the lights of fires and lanterns twinkling on this island as it was drawn away into the West and with it were many of my kin. I bemoaned my fortune and wondered how I might cross the ocean into the West. And a voice came within me, and whether it was some inner voice or a message from the Valar I knew not, but it bade me to live by the sea so that I might ever succor those of the Quendi who might come to me, lost or left behind, until the last of my people resolved to leave the world. I rejoiced then for I loved the sea and its myriad colors and moods and voices and so I dwelt on the shores of Middle Earth until the Last Ship departed and no others would willingly pass into the West."

"How could you know there were no others willing to go?" wondered Ælfwine.

"One night," Círdan responded, "when many years, had passed without any of my kindred arriving at my halls, a great wind arose and the sea surged. The lines which held the one remaining ship at her dock snapped and the winds filled its white sails. But the ship did not move from its place. And from the West came a great eagle which folded its wings and plummeted down only to land on the very rail of the ship. It looked at me with its bright eyes and spread its wings wide. Then with a great cry it leaped to the air and sped back into the West just as the sudden storm died. And suddenly I knew the time had come and all who remained should now depart." Círdan paused and smiled at his companion who stood silently by.

"Then those few who remained, Teleri and the Noldo, the tarriers and the rebel, gathered such things as they would not leave behind and took ship. For we knew our time was done and all grievances forgiven. And the Havens lay silent and empty behind us."

The wind blew their hair as the sun westered and the sea birds clamored in the skies above. A swan ship cut through the waves, spray leaping from its prow as it left the harbour. The sun gleamed in Círdan's hair as his bright eyes turned to the sea.

Ælfwine frowned slightly in puzzlement. "What rebel do you speak of?" he asked. "I have heard of the rebellion of the Noldor and the ban against their return. But the ban was lifted, and I am told all departed soon after the end of the Third Age."

"The ban was lifted as to all but one," responded Círdan. "One remained behind and did not return. But by the time the Last Ship sailed even he was pardoned." Círdan turned to his silent companion and said "This, Ælfwine, is Maglor, son of Fëanor."

TO BE CONTINUED
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Old 05-30-2022, 09:02 AM   #4
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,092
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tales From Tol Eressëa
Conversations in Avallónë - Part II
Of Oaths and Ill-Fate
By Mithadan


Ælfwine started with surprise at Círdan’s introduction, for before him stood indeed the stuff of legends. Many had told him tales of mighty Fëanor and his seven sons and the evil done by them while driven by an unholy Oath. Some had recited the ancient lays with sadness while others spoke with ill-concealed anger. To Ælfwine, the tales awoke within him little sympathy and of the deeds they spoke it seemed as if it were better that many had never taken place. Nonetheless he stared with astonishment at the tall, silent Elf.

“I am honored to meet you Maglor, son of Fëanor,” he said. “Many are the tales told of your sire and your kin. Here indeed do the legends walk among the living for I had heard that you died ere the close of the First Age of the world.”

For the first time, Maglor spoke and his voice was of surpassing beauty as if the warbles of songbirds, the music of the waters and the whispers of the winds had been blended into a single theme. It was a joy to listen to him speak and a burden to hear his words.

“Died?” said Maglor with a bitter laugh. “Nay, fate did not provide me that mercy. And though I long for such a release I cannot follow the lead of my brother Maedhros and take my own life. But how could the halls of Mandos exact from me any penance greater than the knowledge not only that I held and of my own will relinquished a Silmaril but also of the deeds which resulted in that gem coming into my hands.”

As Maglor spoke a stiffness seemed to enter his shoulders and his proud face dropped a bit. “But of these things I will not willingly speak,” said the Elf. “I returned to the West seeking healing, not forgiveness, and though I have received neither my heart is eased if only I may but leave my past behind and unspoken.”

“Come!” said Círdan. “It is late and we are yet to hear your tale Ælfwine. Let us retire to my halls and ease our appetites ere our wagging tongues become overtired.”
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Círdan’s halls stood just north of the quays of Avallónë and its windows on the east overlooked the harbor. Many craftsmen and wrights dwelt there, and the dining hall was crowded as they entered. Ælfwine noted that while many greeted Círdan, few spoke to Maglor who in turn answered briefly or not at all. The three proceeded to a table by a window from which they could watch the stars which emerged as they dined. Ælfwine retold the tale of his coming to Tol Eressëa and Círdan asked many questions. But Maglor remained silent and ate without looking from his plate. At length, Ælfwine turned to him and spoke.

“You say you longed for death. Yet it seems to me that were this so this isle would not be your home. Why would you depart from Middle Earth if in truth you sought such a fate?”

Maglor lifted his gaze until his eyes met those of Ælfwine and the Elf’s face seemed a mask of anger barely controlled. “The Atani should pause before demanding answers from their elders,” he growled. “In truth I would not have been sundered entirely from my people at the end. For while I have in the past been welcomed among the Afterborn, as the ages passed the names of my father and kin were held in scant esteem. Murderers and criminals they named us. Yet I have found little more sympathy here and the same names were given to us though to my face many feigned courtesy.”

Maglor stood abruptly, pushing the table and its contents back with a clatter. Through gritted teeth he addressed Ælfwine. “You will not draw me out so. My tale is mine for the telling and I choose not to speak it to you or any other. None would believe what I, a son of ‘Fëanor the traitor’ would say at any rate. I only wish to be left in such peace as I may find with myself.” And with those words his proud and mighty voice cracked, and the depths of his despair were revealed. He sank back into his chair and called for another flagon of wine.

“Peace!” cried Círdan. “We forget the duty we owe to our guest and wine has made our tongues over free beyond the bounds of courtesy. Ælfwine! Forgive Maglor of his words; you are not the target of his anger.”

“Aye,” responded Ælfwine. “And I in my turn should beg forgiveness for I imposed upon a host with insatiable curiosity when I should properly have yielded. Maglor! I meant no offense, and none should be taken. Now, with your leave, I shall retire to my rooms. As the little children of the Eldar have reminded me, I am in polite society and my beard should be shorn ere I am seen again on the streets of Avallónë.”

With that, Ælfwine lifted his pack and rummaged through its pockets until he came upon Celebrian’s gift. Lifting the tiny, sheathed blade from its place, he stood and made ready to go. But Maglor lifted his head and, seeing the knife, leapt to his feet with a cry, causing Ælfwine to step back in surprise. At the surrounding tables, Elves turned to stare as Maglor drew himself to his full height with blazing eyes.

“How have you come to possess that blade?” roared Maglor, as he advanced on the Man.

“It was a gift,” stammered Ælfwine as he moved sideways to bring the table between himself and Fëanor’s son.

Maglor again stepped forward and with catlike speed snatched the knife from Ælfwine’s hands. Ælfwine bristled with anger and made as if to seize it back, but Círdan silently stepped between the two and stared at Maglor with curiosity. Holding the blade in his shaking hands, Maglor slumped forward heavily to lean against the table. His eyes closed and he hung his head as if a heavy burden had come upon him.

“Where did you get this?” asked Maglor softly without raising his head.

“I say again, it was a gift!” cried Ælfwine. “Now return it to me!”

Maglor let the knife slide from his nerveless hands and returned to his chair. As he raised his head, Ælfwine was surprised to see tears slide slowly from the proud eyes of the Elf. “Who gave this to you?” he asked. “Do you know what this is?”

“It was given to me by Elrond and his lady Celebrian when I departed from their halls. A jest I deemed it; a sharp blade with which to shave my beard though they did not say this. They smiled as they gave it to me and Celebrian said ‘I suspect you may find a use for it.’ Only later did I realize my unshorn beard was amusing to the Elves.”

“A jest?” cried Maglor. “A jest? If so, it is a bitter one. Celebrian is the Daughter of Galadriel is she not? From her I might expect such a ‘jest’. Yet from Elrond? Has even he come to despise me? Nay, I cannot believe that! But to give such a gift!”

“I too recognize this blade and its sheath,” said Círdan. “You give Elrond short shrift if you believe he would do this with ill-will towards you Maglor. Elrond has far sight and is wise even among the Eldar, Such a gift was not made in jest.”

The Shipwright turned to Ælfwine with a slight smile on his lips. “Tell me Elf-Friend, did Elrond know you planned to journey to Avallónë?”

“Yes,” responded Ælfwine. “Seabirds came to frolic over his halls and hearing their cries awoke a longing to again breathe the salt air. Thus I resolved to visit this city and, with regret, took my leave of Elrond and his lady.”

Ælfwine frowned slightly. “I do not believe that Elrond and Celebrian bear ill-will to any who live on this isle. And as I traveled the road to this city with the gulls and kestrels following me as if to feed my desire and urge me on, I often puzzled over this tiny blade.”

Maglor wiped his sleeve over his eyes and looked at Ælfwine. “This blade,” he said, “was wrought in Gondolin of old and by the device on its sheath it was made for none other than Eärendil, son of Tuor and Idril, when he was but a child. From him it was passed on to his infant son Elrond. When the Havens at the mouth of Sirion were assaulted by my brothers, I brought Elrond and his brother Elros out of the ruin of that place and this blade and no other thing he carried with him.”

“You took Elrond hostage?” cried Ælfwine.

“No!” shouted Maglor with blazing eyes. Then the fires of his anger receded. “Have you not heard... perhaps you have not. What have you heard of the attack upon the Havens at the mouths of Sirion?”

“Only that you and your brothers assaulted that sad enclave and slew your own kin seeking the Silmaril that was held there by Eärendil and Elwing,” replied Ælfwine.

Again, Maglor’s face twisted with fury and he made as if to rise, but Círdan quietly placed a hand upon the shoulder of Fëanor’s son and gradually his anger grew cool. He looked down at the knife then, with a sigh, reached out and clasped Ælfwine’s hand. “I should not be surprised that you have heard this. The tale is told thus though I cannot bear to hear it. It seems my Oath must ever chase me and though I have not followed my brothers to Mandos I must nonetheless suffer under a burden of guilt and regret.”

He again looked down at the blade which lay upon the table. “Elrond,” he whispered so softly that his companions could only just hear the name and the love he possessed for he who bore it. After a moment he straightened with a decision. “For Elrond who I loved as a son, for he who I have not seen since the War of Wrath I will tell you some of my tale. I have wronged you with my words and my anger and so I will make amends so that you might find some forgiveness at least for this son of Fëanor.”

“You have not seen Elrond since the close of the First Age? Yet he dwells but a few days’ journey from here,” exclaimed Ælfwine.

“Nay,” answered Maglor. “Not in Middle earth since the end of the First Age, though I ever knew where he dwelt, nor here have I seen him. Even though he has sought for me, I have not met with him. I cannot! My shame is too great. Shame for the deeds of my father, my brothers and myself. Nor have I dwelt among the Noldor here or in Middle Earth, and only briefly and late visited Eregion. I cannot bear it!

“Yea! I will tell you some of my tale, but I will tell it aright as only I know it. It will not be as you have heard it. For though I was trapped in the webs of Morgoth’s malice, so too have his deceits crept into the lore recited by all who recall those times.

“My father was among the greatest of all the Elves who have lived. He was subtle of mind and skilled in hand and blessed with the gifts of Eru who made him mighty. Ever he sought knowledge and lore and skill for the benefit of all his people and to enhance the glory of Valinor. Fëanor was free with his knowledge and did not hoard the fruits of his skill but gave his works and his lore freely to all who asked, Elf or people of the Valar. And if he was ill-pleased when my grandsire was betrothed to Indis of the Vanyar and if no love was lost between him and his half-brothers for that reason, still he neither did nor counseled any evil -- at that time, the Noontide of Valinor.

“My brothers and I were friends of the many children of Finarfin and Fingolfin did you know this? Maedhros and Fingon especially but we all befriended our cousins. Fëanor did nought to prevent this and even to his half-brothers was civil, if cool, until Morgoth was released from Mandos.

“A great mistake that, for the Valar to release their greatest foe to live among us. Mayhap they share some fault in what later befell, for how could mere Elves evade the unseen shadows of Morgoth’s evil? Yet at first all had great profit from his assistance and his seeming friendship.

He sighed and looked out from Círdan’s halls at the glowing surf and the stars that shone above. Below the windows someone burst out in a song about Valinor and its glory. His eyes seemed to behold some far away vision of times long passed. Then he looked back at his companions.

“After Morgoth was released some foresight seemed to come to my father,” he said. “And he resolved to capture the blended light of the two Trees so that it could never perish or fade. Many years of the Valar it took and for the first time Fëanor knew failure.

“How many cracked and blackened crystals he produced I do not know; there were many. But one day he erected a tent with a window on one side beneath the Trees and, while a crowd assembled, he filled it with lenses and mirrors while the hours stretched into days. Then after a blending of the light of the Trees, he at last emerged, his face and hands blackened and scorched and his eyes red with weariness, and he carried a black casket back to his halls as we followed.

“At last, in his innermost chamber, he opened the casket to us and we beheld three great jewels which glowed within with the living light of the Trees. In darkness they gleamed with splendid luminescence of gold and intertwined silver, but in the light they sparkled and shimmered as if a rainbow were captured therein. Thus were wrought the Silmarils, the greatest of his works and the most beloved.”

“Some say that Morgoth had a hand in their making,” said Ælfwine. “I have also heard that Morgoth was high among his counselors and but for his aid Fëanor would not have reached the great stature which he attained.”

“Falsehoods,” spat Maglor. “The slander of Morgoth. Ever did Morgoth weave his webs of deception seeking to estrange the houses of the Noldor from one another and thus sow the seeds of dissension and confusion. Many ears hearkened to the whispers of the Black One and, as is often said, whispers beget whispers and thus were the lies perpetuated among the people of Tirion.

“But my father did not treat with Morgoth though his words found their way to the ears of Fëanor as rumors and libels published by others as fact and not until much later was the source of those words revealed. None distrusted Morgoth more than my father and the Blackheart was never welcomed in our halls. Indeed, never did Fëanor take counsel with Morgoth or accept his assistance in the making of the Silmarils or any of his works. My father worked alone or, if need be, was assisted by his sons or only those he trusted as stalwarts of his house.”

Maglor paused and smiled sadly before continuing. “The truth be told, if Fëanor received inspiration from anyone for the Silmarils, it was provided by one who grew to hate him beyond all others, save perhaps Morgoth himself. At a time of festival not long after Morgoth was released, a great feast was held in the house of my grandsire. As the light of the trees blended and the white pillars lit through the windows seemed to themselves glow, my father entered the great hall and beheld a tall lady clad in white whose hair seemed to have captured the very light of Telperion and Laurelin. When he approached her, he saw that she was none other than Galadriel, daughter of Finarfin. And setting aside his pride he greeted her with fair words and begged her for a tress of her hair, praising it as ‘wondrous and more fair than any work by the hands of the Noldor.’ But she refused him, saying ‘You ask for a part of me yet give no part of yourself to my father, his brother or their children. When the house of Fëanor can sit in peace and friendship with the houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin, then shall I give up a tress and not before then.’ Then she turned away leaving my father shamed and angry. Even so, twice more did he ask for a lock of her hair and twice more she declined. Then my father said ‘No more will I ask anything of my half-brothers or their houses.’ And then, perhaps moved to create a work beside which even the hair of Galadriel would pale in comparison, he considered the light of the Trees and how that light might be enmeshed in imperishable crystal.”

“It seems that your father grew to love the works of his hands overmuch,” said Ælfwine. “And you and your brothers besides. For the theft of those jewels led to the making of the dread Oath of which I have heard. Did not that Oath and lust for the Silmarils lead to the rebellion of the Noldor?”

“I doubt not that many tell the tale so,” replied Maglor. “Yet it was not so. Long did the lies of Morgoth wind their way secretly through the streets of Tirion ever to find those who would hearken to them. To Fëanor’s house it was said that his half-brothers plotted against him but to Finarfin and Fingolfin the tale was that Fëanor would have them expelled from Valinor. Others whispered that the Valar had imprisoned the Noldor to prevent them from attaining their greatest stature and ruling the lands over the seas.

“Finally, we heard of the coming of Men to whom it was said the Valar would give Middle Earth as vassals while denying the Noldor their rightful place. This last greatly angered Fëanor for it seemed there was some germ of truth in these words. For the Valar, of course, did not deny the coming of the Hildor yet did not understand the confusion and resentment of the Noldor. In those times, the councils of Finwë became as storms of anger with accusations and counterclaims filling the air as my grandsire sought to keep the peace. And the unlove between Fëanor and his half-brothers then became hatred and we were estranged from our cousins. The Silmarils did not cause the rebellion. It was the lies of Morgoth which wrought our doom.

“Then did the Noldor conceive of the making of weapons and armor and shields, no doubt following some suggestion of Morgoth. The streets of Tirion became uncivil and many took to carrying the sigils of their houses. In this did Caranthir, Celegorm and Curufin take great delight and they began taking their shields abroad and crying out to all who would listen that the Valar would seize the things which we had made and loved and keep us as slaves and servants like the Vanyar who dwelt with their masters.

“Many murmured at these words and then when at last Fingolfin sent messengers to Fëanor bidding him to restrain his sons lest the Valar grow angry, did Fëanor, rejecting the counsel of Maedhros and I, take up these words as his own. Soon thereafter did my father break the peace by drawing his blade on his half-brother and our house was banished from Tirion for a time, even while the Valar sought for Morgoth. That we had been caught by the plots of Morgoth did not ease my father’s mind for he had been shamed and the banishment made the lies seem true when Finwë set aside his kingship and joined us in exile.

“Thus Fëanor continued to take counsel concerning the wrongs which seemed to have been wrought upon his house and Caranthir, Curufin and Celegorm openly espoused rebellion and they held our father’s ear. If any counseled restraint, Caranthir decried them as disloyal and many bitter words were exchanged among my brothers, for Maedhros and I did not wish to leave Aman and Amrod and Amras, though less certain, were of like mind.”

“Yet all rebelled and all spoke the Oath to pursue the Silmarils,” said Ælfwine. “And these words were spoken willingly and without duress.”

Maglor laughed without humor and his face grew dark with regret. “Without duress you say? Willingly? You do not understand the pain and confusion of those times. Willingly? We had been ensnared in the deceits of Morgoth who of old was great as Manwë himself! Our fates had been determined, not by the Silmarils or by choice, but rather by the Black One. If the Silmarils only had been stolen the Noldor would not have rebelled and Finwë might have prevailed upon Fëanor to forego his jewels until the Valar resolved to overthrow Morgoth.

“But this was not the case. Consider. Morgoth slew the two Trees plunging Valinor into what seemed as a darkness everlasting. The joyous noontide of Aman had popped like a bubble and was replaced by fear and doubt. For most I deem that there might have seemed little to leave behind.”

“Then leave! Rebel if you must,” interrupted Ælfwine. “But why the Oath?”

With these words, tears again started from Maglor’s eyes and streamed down his noble face. “The Oath! Even now I can hear it; the words of my father then mine and my brothers’ as torches burned in Tirion Why, you ask?

“When the Trees were slain, my father had been in Valmar, summoned to festival by Manwë. Our household stayed behind only to be plunged into darkness and doubt. Then reports came of a ravening shadow, some power darker than night itself, approaching our stronghold and all fled in fear and anguish. But my grandsire waited, bidding my brothers and I to go and protect our people. ‘I will retrieve the Silmarils and follow!’ he said. But he did not follow. Alone he stood before the doors with sword in hand to face Morgoth and the dark power we later learned was Ungoliant. Alone he stood and alone he fell, burned foully by Morgoth and wounded with many wounds. And his hands were bound by webs! He had been slain while defenseless, his sword lying broken on the ground. And we had fled leaving him behind alone!

“Mayhap Caranthir, Celegorm and Curufin might have sworn the Oath due solely to the theft of the Silmarils. But Maedhros and I? Nay. We spoke the Oath crazed by grief and anger, wishing to pursue the murderer of Finwë and the destroyer of the light of Valinor. We did not consider our words and repeated our father’s Oath without thought seeking only to act, to chase down Morgoth the Accursed. We spoke without thought, our minds clouded by grief and guilt. For we did not stand beside our grandfather and he died doing what we feared to do!”

“Had you stayed to fight beside Finwë would aught have changed?” asked Círdan gently. “Save perhaps that you and your brothers would have perished then also.”

“And perhaps the world would have been better if we had! Often I have pondered the cruel fate which had me survive that day only to speak the Oath that led to so much evil.” Maglor poured himself a cup of wine and drained it in a gulp. Again he drew his sleeve across his eyes.

“So we rebelled,” he resumed. “And even in rebellion the houses of the Noldor could not agree, such was the confusion of those times. We departed from Tirion in three hosts with Fëanor ever at the fore. We left behind Tirion the Fair yet we knew not where and how to go. Thus after much debate we resolved to proceed to Alqualondë and persuade the Teleri there to join us or at least lend us the use of their ships so that we might cross the sea. But the Teleri had no desire to abandon Aman and denied us their vessels perhaps hoping that we would rethink our choices. But by our Oath we were banished, and we would not allow others among us to reconsider. So desperate were we that we determined to return to the docks in stealth and seize the vessels.

“My father gathered a portion of his van and, with my brothers, crept into the city and attempted to board the ships. But an alarm went up and many of the Teleri rushed to the docks to vie with us for control of their vessels. They were but lightly armed with knives and hooks and bows but there were many. We attempted to retreat but were blocked by the crowd and trapped on the quays. At first, we merely pushed or wrestled with the Teleri seeking to escape. Then one of the Teleri stood forth and with a cry drew his knife and rushed at my father. Celegorm stepped before him and, drawing his sword, slew the Teler. For a long moment all was quiet, then a melee erupted and many were slain on both sides as we retreated through the crowd.

For my part I wielded only my shield and the hilts of my sword seeking to stave off the Foamriders. Maedhros was of like mind and sought to restrain our fellows and avert bloodshed. But hearing the din and hue in the city, a large part of our host rushed in to succor their lord and seeing new strength in arms, Caranthir rallied his soldiery and bade Fëanor to attack the docks again. I begged my father to desist but he shoved me roughly aside and cried out that the Valar had suborned the Teleri and he egged on his warriors. Even so, the streets were narrow and we were again forced to retreat.”

Maglor again seemed on the verge of tears and his voice broke as he spoke. “At that moment the van of Fingolfin’s host arrived and, finding our host embroiled in battle, rushed forward with swords drawn. Maedhros and I ran among the Noldor urging them to put up their weapons but our cries were whelmed over in the clamor. I found myself again at the docks, sickened by the spilt blood of our kin, both Noldor and Teleri. And there I beheld a strange sight. For Galadriel was there and she fought on the part of the Teleri with her companions. In a clear voice she cried out to Fëanor, ‘What madness is this that you would assail your kin and slay them in cold blood? Cease, else ever will I and those who hearken to me be your enemy and death will be your reward for these deeds!’ But my father laughed for he had at last attained the ships. As if to release me from my agony, I was struck from behind and, as I fell, my last sight was of soldiers of the Noldor pushing Teleri to their deaths from the arch of living rock that spanned the mouth of the harbor.”

Through his tears, Maglor turned and said, “Forgive me Círdan, for the blood of your kin lies upon my shoulders.” And he buried his face in his hands, weeping bitterly.

Círdan leaned forward and grasping Maglor’s shaking hands in his own, kissed the tormented Elf’s brows. “I knew of the Kinslaying long ere we first met,” he said. “And though you have never told me your tale have I ever denied our friendship? By your name you are branded as a son of Fëanor and marked by the deeds of your kin, yet your name itself is not evil. By your eyes I deem your tale to be true, yet even if it were not so were you not forgiven and allowed to come into the West? Set aside your guilt Maglor, for you are not deserving of such a burden.”

“Not deserving? And what of the second Kinslaying?” cried Maglor. “When Beren recovered a Silmaril from the Iron Crown we did not celebrate that deed as an act worthy of the highest honor. Rather my brothers prevailed upon Maedhros to send a messenger to Thingol laying claim to the Jewel. And though he and I for a time restrained our brethren from rising up against Thingol and his queen, when later Thingol was slain and the Silmaril passed from mortal Lúthien to Dior the Fair we could no longer constrain Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin to follow our will. The house of Fëanor assailed Doriath and destroyed the remnant of that kingdom also in the name of our oath. Maedhros and I stood aside from that black deed with such of our households as would obey us, yet we did not attempt to stop our brothers from spilling Elven blood. Because we stood aside our brothers named us disloyal and lacking in honor and because the sons of Fëanor slew Dior and his people we were called brigands and worse.”

“Then you at least did not slay your own kin and foreswore your Oath,” replied Círdan. The ancient Elf looked closely at Maglor as if perceiving something as yet unsaid. “You could not have restrained your brothers in any event.”

“Could I not have?” whispered Maglor. His eyes reflected the red light of the fire burning in the hearth but seemed veiled as if by the smoke of battle. “The Silmaril escaped the ruin of Doriath in the hands of Elwing and retreated to the mouths of Sirion. Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin would have followed with the remnant of our army, but again Maedhros and I refused their demands.”

“But eventually you did attack the Havens, or so I have been told,” said Ælfwine. “Though it is said that some of your people at last rebelled and elected to fight on the part of the refugees who dwelt there.”

“A half-truth at least, and so it must have seemed to those who survived,” responded Maglor. “Long did we five remaining brothers debate but Maedhros and I held firm though Caranthir named us ‘cravens’. And as the years passed it seemed we had prevailed. Then once again the debate arose and bitter words were exchanged ere all returned to their encampments. But days later a messenger arrived from Caranthir who said in haughty words ‘We go to recover the Silmaril and fulfill our Oaths. If you be not oathbreakers then follow us and rejoice in our victory. But if you refuse, you dishonor our house and shall no longer be numbered as our kin. We remind you that you are sons of Fëanor, the greatest of the Noldor. If the memory of Fëanor and Finwë means aught to you then you will follow.’”

Maglor’s eyes blazed at the memory and in a voice strong and even he said, “We followed. We gathered all of our households and more besides and followed. When we reached the Havens battle had already been joined and the refugees were in dire straits. The rearguard of our brothers’ army espied us and sounded horns, crying out that we had come. I am told that upon hearing the horns and the cries Elwing, in final despair, threw herself into the sea bearing the Silmaril on her breast. For naught! For I stepped forward with the standard of Fëanor and in view of all dropped it into the mud and ichor of the field. And we trod upon it as our households charged into the rear of our brothers’ forces and, caught between the defenders of the Havens and our soldiery, Curufin, Celegorm and Caranthir were defeated utterly. Maedhros and I nonetheless grieved when we learned that our brothers had fallen in that battle for we recalled that they were not always evil though they had become marred by the deceits of Morgoth.

“Then it was that I took Elrond and his brother Elros as foster sons for none knew where Eärendil their father had gone and Elwing their mother had seemingly drowned in the waves. I loved them as my own sons and they in turn returned that love and grew tall and mighty in my care.”

“You rescued them and the remnant of their people!” cried Ælfwine. “But why then do you refuse to see Elrond or any other of the Noldor?”

Maglor fell silent for a moment but Círdan looked at his friend with a sad smile. Then raising another cup of wine, Maglor stirred. “Great was the War of Wrath,” he said. “And to my great joy, after many years of toil and battle, Morgoth was overthrown. But our Oath again awoke for the Silmarils had been recovered. As the host prepared to depart into the West, Maedhros and I debated for days. For he would attempt to seize the Silmarils while I wished to cross the sea and seek the judgment of Manwë for my actions even at the cost of breaching my Oath. Maedhros became fey with his desire and he resolved to do this deed whether I aided him or no. And I could not restrain him and would not assail him as I had my other brothers.

“Fearing for his life and expecting quick capture, I followed him as he approached the camp in stealth. But light was the guard and Maedhros crept even to the place where the Silmarils were kept. He leapt up and assailed the guards, quickly slaying two with the strength of madness. But two others vied with him and, in the end, I could not stand aside and watch him slain. Drawing my sword I hewed one down even as he dispatched the second and entered the tent to seize the casket in which the Silmarils lay. Thus my Oath had indeed come home at last and I had slain one of my kin undeservedly and in the conduct of an unlawful deed. I wept bitterly even as an alarm went up and I stood by Maedhros hoping for death. But Eönwë would not allow us to be slain and we fled with the two Silmarils.

“A distance from the camp and at the verge of the sea we stopped. The ground about us was broken and smoke arose from the cracks for Beleriand was dying and a large portion had already sunk beneath the waves. Maedhros opened the casket and the Jewels blazed forth with the light of the two Trees. And we each reached in and each lifted one Jewel in our hands.”

Maglor’s voice shook again and a mad light appeared in his eyes. “Wouldst thou behold a Silmaril Ælfwine?” he cried. And he opened his hands and held them palms forward. Graven on each palm as if seared by a brand was the impression of an oval jewel of the size of an egg. Maglor clenched his eyes shut as he resumed. “They burned! Like the flames of the sun they burned our flesh for they had been hallowed in Valinor and we by our deeds had forfeited any right to possess them! And as I screamed in anguish, Maedhros staggered forward to one of the great smoking cracks and, still clutching the Silmaril, threw himself in seeking the release of death. As fires roared up from the depths the Silmaril seared my hands and I turned and heaved the stone far out into the sea.

“Crazed with pain and sorrow I fled blindly and for a long time avoided the company of any living thing. To Elrond I could not return for my shame was and remains very great. The pain of the Silmaril awoke in my mind the memory of every deed I had done or declined to do in the name of the Oath or in despite of it. Although I eventually regained my senses and the need for company, I could not and cannot face him or any who knew me from those times.”

Círdan rose from his seat and placed his hands on Maglor’s bowed shoulders. “So now Maglor you have at long last told your tale in full and I have waited very long to hear it. Will you continue to hide in the past? You have dwelt in this city many ages and have never passed its gates. You who fear judgment have adjudged yourself and found yourself wanting. Well I do not agree. Ill deeds you have done yet also ill deeds have you prevented or done what you could to lessen their evil. For what you have done I deem you have atoned else you would not have been allowed to return into the West. Would you even now gainsay the authority of the Valar?”

TO BE CONTINUED
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Old 06-21-2022, 03:44 PM   #5
Mithadan
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Tales From Tol Eressëa Conversations in Avallónë - Part III A Midsummer’s Morn

Tales From Tol Eressëa
Conversations in Avallónë - Part III
A Midsummer’s Morn
By Mithadan

Maglor cringed at Círdan’s touch as if the hands upon his shoulders were instead burning brands. He reached again for the flagon of wine and poured himself another cup with uncertain aim. Ignoring the spilled wine, he raised and drank from the cup.

"What is this you say to me Círdan?" he asked. "My father and brothers sit in silence within the Halls of Mandos. They have not been released – not even Maedhros! That is the judgment of the Valar! That we are guilty, each and every one. Guilty beyond redemption. Guilty of leading our people in rebellion and murder. And our realms in exile were destroyed and the fair lands where our houses stood were sunk and crumbled into the sea as if to wash them of the taint of our having dwelt there. Who am I to gainsay this judgment?"

Tears ran from his eyes and spilled down his cheeks. Maglor clenched his fists in grief and sorrow as he looked up at Círdan. He again reached for his cup, but his hands were unsure and wine spilled upon his fingers. The cup fell to the table and he raised his hands to gaze at the red wine dripping from them. "Blood," he muttered, and Maglor attempted to rise from his seat. But his legs failed him and he slumped down upon the table as if felled by a blow.

Círdan looked down on the sleeping Elf, his eyes filled with pity. He summoned two of his mariners and bade them to bear Maglor to his rooms. He watched as they gently lifted the slumbering Elf, then Círdan sat beside Ælfwine with a sigh.

"So noble an Elf reduced to this," he said sadly. "To dwell here almost as a hermit, speaking only to such of my people as he must. Long have we dwelt here and long before that in the Gray Havens. His sorrow and shame is bottled within him and he will not pour it out. Ælfwine, in all the time that I have known him, he has never told this tale. But even now that he has, at last, spoken, I fear he will not allow himself to be healed."

"His tale is sad beyond measure," said Ælfwine. "Yet it differs from those that I was told in the house of Pengolod. Does he speak the truth?"

The fire in the hearth was reflected in Círdan’s gray eyes as he gazed at the Man sitting beside him. "Most who tell these tales relate only what they have heard from others. Even Pengolod was not present during most of these events. Indeed, I had heard that Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin fell in Doriath. Yet if they survived that foul attack, it would go far to explain the assault on the Havens at the Mouths of Sirion. Those times were confused and words passed from mouth to mouth often change as time passes.

"Maglor speaks the truth" said the Elf. "I saw no deceit in him; only pain. He would not speak lies to me. Nor could he. We have known each other too long."

"How did Maglor come to dwell with you in the Gray Havens of Middle Earth?" asked Ælfwine.

"Maglor tells that he wandered long and alone in grief and regret after Maedhros slew himself," responded Círdan. "Of those days he has said little save to tell that he ever returned to the shores of the sea, longing for the West and mourning those that he had lost. At length he came in secrecy to dwell among the Silvan folk who dwelt in the forests at the feet of the Ered Luin. He named himself ‘Randir’ to them, he who wanders, and settled beneath the trees in that fair remnant of Beleriand.

"When Sauron arose in might during the Second Age and assailed Eregion with his foul armies of orcs, Maglor became enraged. For though he had come not among the Noldor in Lindon, many whom he yet held dear dwelt in Ost-in-Edhil and Celebrimbor was his nephew. He gathered such Elves to him as had fought against Morgoth and hated his servants and took a small force across the mountains. Thus ere Gil-Galad could assemble his armies and commit them to the command of Elrond, Randir and his band rode forth in aid of Eregion.

"Randir and his force rode hard, heedless of the welfare of their steeds and passed over the long leagues of Eriador in a matter of several days. Even so, barely did they arrive ahead of the van of Sauron’s armies; Randir’s horses clattered through the streets of Ost-in-Edhil in the morning of a day which would turn very dark. The Elves looked about in amaze at the city, for it was very fair. Built on a green hill in memory of Tírion of long ago, the city was encased within white walls and its streets were paved with broad gray stones lined with green trees and swards of grass and flowers. Its smithies were housed in sturdy buildings topped with silvern domes whose louvers issued the steams and smokes of the wrights’ work, yet the domes themselves remained untarnished. The workplaces were grouped together in the north of the city, but in its center and nigh to its eastern walls rose great towers, each capped with a great crystal representing the mark of the house dwelling therein. And the symbol of Celebrimbor’s house was the golden citrine, but over the lintel was the Star of Fëanor.

"The rumour of the size of Sauron’s armies had reached Celebrimbor’s council room and preparations for war were proceeding apace. Messengers had come from Lindon and Lorinand with promises of assistance yet the Captains of Eregion were grim, for it would be many days ere those Elven nations raised their armies. As the Captains debated, Randir entered, wayworn with his face shrouded by a gray cloak. He bade them consider retreating, perhaps into the nearby mansions of the Dwarves, their allies, or at least to send forth the young and their mothers, whether north or east. One of the Captains derided him, bidding him to ‘return to the trees of the north if you have no stomach for fighting; but we will not give up what we have made here.’

"At that, Randir cast back his hood, revealing his hair shot with red and his angry countenance. ‘Ambarusso’ whispered some of the councilors and many now recognized the visitor by the red color in his hair. ‘Love not overmuch things made by hand’ warned Maglor. ‘This I learned an age ago in the North. A lesson learned bitterly under the baleful gaze of a lord darker than this one.’ Again he begged the Captains to send forth the young and the maidens with some few to aid in their protection, and Celebrimbor bowed to the wisdom of his uncle and sent forth many under the guard of the again secretive Randir. Barely in time did they depart for the north as the dark forces fell upon the city behind them."

Círdan sighed heavily. "Only later came the news that Elrond and Celeborn did not arrive in time and that Eregion had fallen. Celebrimbor was tortured and then slain and his body was borne aloft as the standard of Sauron’s army. Few indeed escaped the fall of the city save those brought away by Randir and his folk.

"Randir’s band did not tarry in Lindon after delivering their charges, but rather returned to Eriador to harry the forces of Sauron wherever they might be found. I recall tales of Randir who struck fiercely and fearlessly against encampments of orcs only to disappear without a trace, never to be caught. Indeed it is said that he crept into the camp of the van of Sauron’s army and stole from them the body of Celebrimbor, leaving in its stead an orc captain bound and gagged in white cloth. No small part did he play in the long war against Sauron, and at the end of the Age, he was a great captain commanding a force of Sindar at the Battle of Dagorlad.

"When the forces of Oropher were whelmed by Sauron in what was later called the Dead Marshes, the Enemy assailed the host of Gil-Galad and the King was hard pressed to resist the assault. But Randir and his forces drove into the flank of the Dark Lord’s armies driving apart the van from the main force. Encircled, the soldiery of Sauron’s van were slain to the last one. Yet after the battle, Randir would not meet or accept thanks from Gil-Galad or his herald, Elrond. After the war, Randir again disappeared.

"During the Third Age, Randir again roamed Eriador and he assisted the remnant of Arnor in the war against Angmar. But when Elrond and Glorfindel came to the assistance of the Dúnedain and the Witch King’s armies were at last defeated, Randir was not to be found. It is said that later in the Third Age, Randir again fought against the servants of Sauron, but after the War of the Ring, he came quietly to the Havens where he refused to take ship but merely gazed out over the waters.

Círdan sighed and rose to look out the window at the restless seas below. The stars shone through his silver hair as he breathed the salt air. Then he turned to Ælfwine and spoke once again. "One night," he said, "I was walking beneath the trees of a forest near the walls of the Havens when I heard a song of surpassing beauty. I came upon Randir unawares as he sang a song of Valinor in the tongue of the Noldor. His voice was as the sweetest honey; I who had known Daeron had never heard such beauty. And then I knew, and I stepped out before him and called him by his right name. At first, Maglor would not speak, but I said ‘As Randir you were my friend, and this will not change with your name.’ To which he replied ‘But my name is as a curse to me and all who I have loved.’ But I said ‘Your name is yours whether you use it or no. Even Turin learned this lesson.’ Thus we remained friends and he was Randir no more. But though he would tell tales of Randir, never did he speak to me or any other of what he revealed to you tonight."

Ælfwine opened his mouth to speak again, but Círdan raised a finger with a smile and stopped the Man. "It is late and time for rest. You are my guest and we may speak of these and other things some other time. Maglor lies snoring in his bed and you should rest also. As we say, ‘the morning may bring new tidings’. And now, morning is not far away."
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But the next day, Ælfwine saw neither Círdan nor Maglor, nor did either appear for days thereafter. Ælfwine spent his days exploring the Elven city and meeting its peoples. In a courtyard beneath the Mindon Anduliéva he discovered a green hillock upon which grew a fair white tree. Its leaves were shaped like spearheads with edges that seemed to sparkle silver in the light of the sun, and its bole was smooth and pale. Ancient it seemed, so that his outstretched arms could not nearly reach about it, yet it was hale also like a young tree just reaching its prime. Long sat Ælfwine beneath its boughs, listening to the winds play among its leaves with a quiet whisper that seemed to speak to him of days long passed and futures yet to come. Each day, Ælfwine returned to the tree to listen to its music and smell its green airs, but most of all to sit in its shade and watch the sunlight illuminate its leaves. For at those times, the leaves themselves seemed to shine and he felt as if he were in a dream of a different age.

It was beneath the tree that Círdan found him one afternoon. The mariner strode up to him with a smile and said, "It does not surprise me to find you here. I come here myself at times to behold, if only in the eye of my mind, that which I never saw during my life."

"And what would that be?" asked Ælfwine, still drowsy from the early summer heat and enraptured by the play of light among the leaves.

"The Silver Tree, of course. One of the Two Trees of Valinor," laughed Círdan. "Did you not know? You rest beneath Celeborn, a sapling of Telperion, a gift from the Valar long ago. Of all the trees in the world it most closely resembles its sire, or so I am told." His brow furrowed and his voice became pensive as he looked out to the east. "It may be the only one of its kind east of the Pelori, perhaps in all of Arda."

Silently, the two walked away from the tree, though Ælfwine felt strangely reluctant, as if only beneath its shadow could he feel utterly satisfied and free from any longing. But the feeling passed as they traversed the streets of Avallónë and approached the harbour. The winds had shifted and blew towards the West. Looking up, Ælfwine again saw seabirds assembling above him, dipping and diving between the houses with raucous abandon. Círdan looked up with a smile as the gulls led the way to the quays only to settle upon a seawall crowding about a lonely figure sitting there.

Maglor looked about in surprise at the feathered company which had joined him on the seawall, then rose to greet Círdan and Ælfwine. "I must apologize for my behavior," he said. "I fear that I neither comported myself with honour nor accorded our guest the respect he deserved."

"I know not for what you apologize," responded Círdan. "For drunkenness after a mighty effort in revealing truths long hidden? Nay, no apology is needed. For ages of long and silent suffering? Your sorrow is yours and if you choose to keep it, it is no affair of mine. But wait! There is one bit of rudeness for which you are not yet forgiven. You have not yet answered my questions."

"Your pardon?" replied Maglor. "Which queries might these be? My memory of that night is less than certain."

"Two questions I asked of you," said Círdan with a frown. "Firstly, I asked ‘will you continue to hide in the past?’ For this you have done now for ages and though you be my friend and your mind is your own, it grieves me to see your pain continue. Secondly, I asked ‘would you even now gainsay the authority of the Valar?’ For you have judged yourself ignoring that it seems the Valar have also judged you by giving you leave to enter into the Undying Lands. You see, your own judgment is one of guilt while it appears the Valar have judged you repentant and atoned sufficiently from your deeds. And to these two, since I have rudely received no answer, I add now a third: Maglor, what will you do now? You have at last told your hidden tale so long concealed. No secrets remain, if secrets they ever truly were. What will you do now?"

Maglor grimaced as if he had tested the queries but had found them unsavory. "Do you suggest that I take ship now at come at last even to Valinor to seek the judgment and forgiveness of the Valar?" he cried.

"Not today," laughed Círdan. "Though that choice is yours. However, you have accepted their hospitality for ages now. Perhaps it is time, indeed past time, to do courtesy to your hosts. But I do not suggest such a journey yet. Perhaps a lesser one. Ælfwine has been invited to celebrate the dawn of Midsummer and so have I. Will you accompany us? Will you leave Avallónë at last even for just a fortnight or less and see what lies outside these walls?"

Maglor stared blankly at Círdan without comprehension. Then his face blanched. "You would have me journey to the House of Elrond?" he asked incredulously. "To face he who I took from his own people only to abandon him to slay a guard without cause and steal a Silmaril to which I no longer possessed a valid claim?"

"Yea, Elrond, whom you loved and who loved you in turn. And if you in truth ‘abandoned’ him, do you not owe some explanation?"

"But what explanation could I give?" cried Maglor.

"You could begin with what you spoke of with me," answered Ælfwine drily. "For though it may not be the only tale which you have to tell, it is clearly the tale which you now need to tell. Elsewise, why spend an evening’s agony telling it to a Man, for no reason other than that he bore a token from Elrond."

"To me it seems fated, if not foretold," added Círdan. "Else why would Elrond gift Ælfwine with the one item certain to capture your attention? So I will answer my first and third questions for you. You will hide no longer and you shall join us and journey to the House of Elrond. We leave in two days. As for my second question, I leave that for you to answer." And with that, Círdan turned and stalked away.

Ælfwine stared after the ancient Elf. "He speaks as if he were a doomsman," he said.

"Aye,’ answered Maglor. "And a doom it may be. There are many who bear no love for Fëanor and his sons."

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The three left the gates of Avallónë on foot ("For Maglor has not seen the full beauty of this isle and I would not have him rush his journey by riding horseback," reasoned Círdan) accompanied only by the seabirds who again frolicked noisily overhead. Just as they had followed Ælfwine in his journey to the city, so too did they accompany the three as they walked into the west. The three bore light packs and wore gray cloaks clasped at the throat with brooches set with aquamarines, signifying the guild of Círdan’s mariners.

The road was fair and they traveled at a leisurely pace. Indeed, now and again they were passed by Elves on horseback, some clad in finery, bound apparently for the same destination. With a hail and a wave, they clattered past, bells tinkling on the harnesses of their steeds. On one occasion, a cart pulled alongside them and an Elf bade them climb aboard, to which Círdan responded with a laugh, "Ride on, friend! We have no need for haste, particularly as we travel in such fine company!" Círdan pointed up at the birds circling overhead as one particularly sassy kestrel cried out with disdain at those poor landbound souls below. The Elf laughed and twitched his reins as the cart trundled on.

Yet whether the road was longer than expected or whether they tarried overmuch, it was sunset of Midsummer’s Eve before they reached Elrond’s lands. Pavilions had been raised on the lawns and tents dotted the landscape as if a host had laid siege to the place. They were met at the gates by Gildir, a servant of the House, who bade them seek refreshment at the pavilions ere choosing a place for their tent. But when asked about Elrond, Gildir’s face fell. "The Lord and his Lady were called away on urgent business. We know not whether they will return in time to greet Midsummer’s dawn."

A sigh emitted from the hood which had hidden Maglor’s face during the journey, notwithstanding many jibes and prods from a mirthful Círdan. Whether a sigh of sadness or relief, his companions did not know. Yet Maglor did not pull back his hood even as they walked among the campsites and pavilions. Thus while many greeted Círdan or stared openly at Ælfwine, none spoke to Fëanor’s son.

"Will you not show your face," teased Círdan. "Or must you continue your hermit-like ways?"

"I will throw back my hood when I meet with Elrond," replied Maglor. "But I see here many who served the Houses of Finarfin and Fingolfin. While I fear none, I would avoid conflict on what should be a day of peace and happiness." With that, Círdan produced a tightly bound roll of sky-blue fabric which, to Ælfwine’s wonder unrolled into a large cloth which was quickly fashioned into a small pavilion. Círdan attached a banner to a pole which he set at the entrance, and then the three entered and rested before the evening’s festivities.

The sun set and stars pierced the night sky to be greeted by Elven song. As the evening progressed, drink flowed and fires were lit as dinners were made and served. However, the celebration did not begin in earnest until after midnight as Midsummer’s dawn crept nearer. After a few hours rest and over the objections of Maglor, Círdan ushered his guests into the great hall of the main house where the celebration was proceeding apace. Minstrels strolled among the throng and many songs were sung, some light and fanciful by Elves as jolly as children and others deep with meaning and history by others with faces noble as kings. All knew Círdan, who soon disappeared into the crowd. Many were curious about the Man who had arrived unexpectedly on the shores of the Lonely Isle and often Ælfwine and Maglor, still hidden within his cloak, were greeted by groups of finely clad Elves who offered wines or ales or sweet liquors. Ælfwine quickly determined to consume little by way of spirits in fear of sleeping through the event, but Maglor rarely refused a cup.

As dawn approached, Ælfwine drank carefully from a cup of chilled wine, his throat sore from telling the tale of his arrival over and again. Maglor had stayed close and silent throughout the night listening to all but saying little. If asked his name he responded that he was Rána, the wayward, and few inquired further deeming this a bad joke, for of course Rána was another name for Isil, the moon.

Ever and anon, Ælfwine glimpsed a maid of surpassing beauty, tall as few Men were, with hair as golden as if spun from the fires of the sun itself and a face serene and fair beyond description. Her eyes were bright and as sharp as the points of spears. She wore a gray unadorned mantle and about her brows was a slender filet bearing a single white jewel which sparkled like a star on a cloudless night. Accompanying her was a tall Elf likewise clad in gray. But if ever they wandered near, Maglor would pull his hood forward and turn away. On the first such occasion Ælfwine heard him whisper a name: "Galadriel."

As the evening grew old, many songs were sung, some by one alone and others by many together. The music affected Ælfwine like strong drink and visions of times long past seemed to fill his mind so that the words themselves took shape and wandered before him. And as he stood swaying at the edge of sleep, he saw a green mound under a black star-filled sky. About the mound were many lords and ladies sitting on the green grass in silence. At the crest of the mound, two ladies stood, one clad in deep gray from whose eyes a stream of tears flowed and dropped to the ground, and a second clad in many shades of green and brown who stood with her arms raised. As the Elven chorus rose about the Man, the one knelt to the ground and continued to weep but the other began to sing though Ælfwine could not discern the words. Then a single Elven voice stood forth from all the others and pierced his heart with sweet words while, in his vision, he beheld two shoots spring forth from the ground between the two ladies and, as they grew, leaves sprouted and reached for the stars above, yet somehow the darkness of the sky seemed to rapidly diminish as if a new day were dawning. But some feeling within him disturbed the vision and as it faded he stood in the great hall again, surrounded by many Elves who had fallen silent while one voice sang on. And Ælfwine realized that the voice was that of Maglor.

Realizing that he sang alone, Maglor’s words faltered and he fell silent, but not another sound could be heard in the House. Indeed it seemed the night itself had fallen mute. He bowed his head and pulled his cloak close as if to escape the stares of those who stood around him. But two Elves stepped forward and they were Galadriel and Celeborn.

"You may shrink into the shadows, but by your voice alone you are known to me and many others here. Show yourself Maglor!" commanded Galadriel.

Slowly, Maglor drew back his hood and stood tall and straight before the two Elves. "My Lady Galadriel," he said with an even voice and a slight bow.

Then Celeborn stepped forward with anger in his eyes. "Why the Valar extended their grace and allowed a son of Fëanor to come to this island is beyond my authority to question. Yet this is the house of my daughter Celebrian and I will not have the slayer of my kin join this celebration. Long ago on the docks of Alqualondë my Lady herself took arms and fought against your father and those who foolishly marched under his banner and spilled the blood of the Teleri unjustly and unlawfully. And though that be ages past, I would not have you here to mar this night or any other," cried the tall elf. But Galadriel had fallen silent with her fair brow furrowed as she gazed upon Maglor.

"Yet this house is not yours," replied Maglor angrily. "And though I am my father’s son, not in all things did I follow him or my brothers. But see Ælfwine! It is as I feared. I have been judged though I have not been heard. The brand of my father’s name remains on me even now. I will keep the peace and I shall depart though I must remain imprisoned on this island among those who revile me."

"What could you say in your defense?" cried another. "That you seek forgiveness? That your deeds were less evil than those of your kin? That my brother was not pierced by a Fëanorean blade in Doriath? If we have judged you without trial, even so it seems our judgment is just."

"Wait!" cried another, and it was no lesser Elf than Pengolod. "I do not know this one as Maglor. But I do know him as Randir who led the maidens and children out of Eregion ere its fall and fought on their part in bringing them to Lindon. I know this for Celebrimbor sent me and others along with Randir to aid in the defense of the refugees!"

Murmurs arose from the crowd and a confusion of voices was heard, some advocating tolerance and others rising in anger. Then one booming voice rose above all others. "To Mandos alone is committed the authority to adjudge a matter such as this; right or wrong, innocence or guilt and all degrees between. Not one of you here possesses this right. And you condemn Maglor without his being heard! It seems it is a trial you want. Then who shall be his advocate?"

"No one," said Maglor. "For none here knows my tale except as has been passed along by those who were not present, and I will not willingly speak it to an audience so wrathful."

"Nay! I know your tale," said Ælfwine. "And if you will, I shall be your advocate."

The Man’s announcement caused a ripple of surprise to pass through the crowd and not a few laughed. "Take no offense," said one. "But of the few men I have known, most were not skilled at discerning falsehood from truth."

"Meaning that you often lied to them Belmir, I take it," came the voice from the rear of the hall. "Let the Man speak. At least some here are accounted as wise. Though you presume to tread upon the authority of Mandos, perhaps you may ‘discern’ the truth."

At that, all eyes turned to Ælfwine, who seized a cup of ale and drank a deep draught. Then he began to speak the tale of Maglor as he had heard it the week before. Of Fëanor and his sons he spoke, and the Silmarils and Morgoth. He walked through the streets of Tírion under the shadow of Bauglir and cried as the Trees perished and Finwë also. In grief and madness dread oaths were spoken and a rebellion begun. He followed the trail of woe to the docks of Alqualondë and left footsteps of blood on the road to Beleriand though some blades remained clean. Hastening through the long defeat, the woods of Neldoreth rang with cries and the clash of swords. Then regret vied with shame as the waters at the Mouths of Sirion ran red and brother fought brother. Then, at last, two Silmarils shone briefly in the crumbling remains of Beleriand ere they found their long homes beneath land and sea. But the guilt and anguish wrought by these events lived on for ages.

It was not yet dawn when Ælfwine reached again for his cup and looked about the silent room. Galadriel looked long and carefully at Maglor who could no longer meet her gaze. She seemed to be taking his measure, searching for some flaw or hidden ill. Then she too looked away, and Celeborn seemed lost in thought.

At length, Belmir stepped forth. "A pretty tale," he said. "Woven cunningly, yet wrong in many details. You lose your storied skill with words Maglor, or perhaps you should have spoken them yourself. Why should we believe this Man if what he says disagrees with all we know?"

"And you would know the truth Belmir? You lived in Gondolin, did you not? No? Perhaps Hithlum so that you witnessed these events firsthand? But I thought you spent all your years under the leaves of Greenwood the Great while you dwelt in Middle Earth," replied the deep voice.

Belmir flushed with anger as he searched about the hall for the speaker. "Enough," he cried. "No, I did not live in Beleriand or Valinor. But one need not see the stars to know that they shine. Anyway, he is by his own words entrapped. For by his tale, his actions and those of Maedhros were coeval; neither worse nor better than the other. Yet Maedhros who died so long ago has not emerged from Mandos. So the Lord of those dark halls has found him wanting and that judgment is of equal force as to Maglor."

The crowd murmured in admiration of this argument, and some, thinking the matter put to rest, looked darkly at Maglor. But someone began to laugh as if some jest had been made. The crowd parted and a bearded man with white hair and white robes stepped forward. Galadriel, surprised, whispered one word: "Olórin."

"Belmir, you are a fine archer and woodsman, but you are not an advocate. Maedhros slew himself in anguish when the Silmaril seared his flesh. Slaying oneself is deemed an evil; a fault in the essence of the fëa requiring lengthy healing and penance in Mandos. This alone sets Maglor apart from his brother. But I am pleased that you concede at last that Námo, who is also known as Mandos, is by right and authority the proper judge of this matter. Do any here gainsay this?" asked Olórin in a loud voice. And none responded.

"Good! Then it is settled," he said. "Elrond! Come forward! It is time for healing and reunion."

Maglor, who had been sitting with head hung leaped upright upon hearing that name and stepped forward to embrace the younger Elf with tears in his eyes. In doing so, he brushed past Olórin and a second figure dressed in a hooded blue cloak. As Maglor passed, the Elf’s hood slipped back revealing a noble face with a broad smile. The first light of dawn entered the hall and illuminated the figure’s reddish hair.

"Loath am I to disturb your reunion with your fosterling, Maglor," he said with a clear voice. "But I have missed you for just as long, since that day on the shores of the sea when the Silmarilli burned our flesh and our foul oath was voided at last."

Maglor spun about with an ashen face to see his brother Maedhros standing before him. As they embraced, Galadriel bowed her head and laid a hand on the shoulder of each. Then she turned and whispered to Celeborn who drew a long knife and handed the hilts to his wife.

In a loud voice she said, "Maglor and Maedhros! Long have our houses been at odds and for years untold have half-truths been published as fact. It is time to set an ancient wrong to right."

With those words, she undid one of her tresses and with the knife cut one of her braids and handed it to Maglor. "Long ago, your father asked for this gift and I denied him. Perhaps had I not been so proud things would have been otherwise," she said. "I will never love your father, but you are not he. You have been slandered and ill-treated; a remnant of the lies of Morgoth. You are welcome here among your people. Come! Let us greet the dawn!" And all about them erupted in song to greet Midsummer and celebrate the evening’s great events.

______________________

Ælfwine sat with Olórin and drained yet another cup. "Fine ale," he said. "And a fine night also! Your arrival was timely, father."

Olórin sipped carefully at his cup taking care not to wet his beard. "Father?" he snorted. "You may call me Gandalf. And yes, the beer is good, but I have had better. But that was long ago and far away. I too am enjoying myself though it is often said I am over-fond of my own cleverness. The rift between the houses of the Noldor was long overdue for healing."

"Aye," replied Ælfwine. "And pleased I am to have played a part in that healing. The truth has great power, even when spoken by a Man."

"The truth is no different whether spoken by Man or Elf," said Gandalf. "Will you be staying here with Elrond? I see that your escort is occupied, and I suspect that he has some journeying to do." Gandalf looked at Maglor, Maedhros and Elrond as they spoke together animatedly, then looked meaningfully to the West.

"If Elrond will have me, I will stay for a time," said Ælfwine.

"Good!" said Gandalf. "I would enjoy the opportunity to speak with you further. It has been long since I have spoken to a Child of Man."


END
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the borders of the Elven-land.
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