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It was with difficulty that he quelled his mounting horror to speak. “Maglor.”
His voice sounded faint in his own ears, like a whisper against the crashing of the sea. “Maglor,” he heard himself say again.
Maglor continued to stare ahead. He spoke to him once more, louder and a little anxious, but loath somehow to touch him. Then a soft uncertain sound, that may have been ‘what?’ or ‘who?’, or something else altogether, slipped from the elf’s lips.
“It is I, Elros,” he called back, relieved.
The elf raised his dark head above his tattered garments. His blind eyes did not turn from the sea, but he smiled. It was the simple, empty smile of a child.
“Elros?” he called brightly. The young man’s heart rose, for the voice was the voice of Maglor, undiminished in beauty and strength, steadfast when all other light had seemingly fled from eye and mind.
Hearing his name so spoken stirred strange feelings in him. He was surprised at the rising of a faded memory of his mother, calling for him through the old house in Sirion. It was a searching, motherly tone, coming to him in echoes, a voice he could not put a face to.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” he said feelingly to Maglor.
The elf blinked, still smiling delightedly. “Elros? Is that you?”
“Yes, Atar, it is I. I came to see you.”
“You came to see - me. Good, good. I cannot see you, though - I have lost my sight. The light was too bright, you know. Is it still so?”
“Still what?” asked Elros aghast, distracted by the sorry figure he had sought so hard and long on the rocky shores. He could hardly recognise him.
“Is it still too bright? You must shade your eyes, you know, yonya. Young ones like you must be careful. Like Elrond. Elrond is always careful. My wise-child - our wise one, no? I always said so to Maitimo - when he would listen to me.” He stopped, his brow furrowed, descending into a half-hearted humming. Then he said sadly, “Do not quarrel with your brother, Elros. It is not a happy thing.”
“No, Atar, I will not.” Elros said, surprised and irritated at the tightness in his voice.
“Do you promise me?” Maglor pressed on, suddenly stern. It was strange, an abrupt change in his mood. He did not seem mad anymore.
Maglor had subsided, although something in the empty eyes shone briefly. His child’s grin crept back on his face. “Good, good.” he chuckled, picking at his sleeve. “Good, good.” He began to hum again, seeming to have lost all notion of his son’s presence.
Elros frowned. He moved a firm hand to grasp the pale fingers, to see if he could hold Maglor’s attention by doing so, but was checked by a sudden escalation in the mindless humming, which became something quite different. It rose in tone and timbre.
And then, without warning, it soared in wordless magnificence to the farthest reaches of heaven. It wheeled up, like a mighty storm breaking its bounds. It brimmed over and then overflowed, high and sweet, with a surprising, staggering joy. Elros was thrown off balance. Disoriented, he remembered the tales this very man, once sane and clear-eyed, had told him - of the music of the spheres, bright stars that hummed as they moved along their course, of the Song that created the world in its joy of being sung. It could not have been much different from this, he thought, the song of the greatest of bards, sufficient unto himself. Perhaps a new star was being born this very moment.
He sat mutely at Maglor’s side as the song went on, for a long while. When it ended, its echoes mingled in his head along with the now-faraway cries of the gulls and the lapping of the ocean. Something that had not happened since he had declared his fate to the Valar happened now; he felt helpless with awe.
Maglor had fallen silent. He appeared to have resumed his unblinking vigil of the Western Sea.
“I am leaving, Atar,” Elros said at last, in a rush. He could not find better words, and choked on them almost before they were out.
Maglor replied slowly, as though he had had difficulty understanding. “So you are,” he said. “Of course. Of course. You must go. It is a place of great beauty. Yes, beautiful. And peace, you will find peace. Of course. Well... ”. And he drifted off incomprehensibly again.
“I am not going to Aman,” said Elros gently. “Listen. I have a tale to tell you.”
He explained with infinite patience of his summons to the Valar, the choice he had been presented with, his final decision, and that of Elrond’s. “You see, it would be improvident of me to choose a way I do not wish. I hanker not after everlasting life, nor yet the promise of Valinor. I cannot rest from travel. I would walk, and sail, see all things, and know all things good and evil. And when I die, Atar, it will be with a full heart, knowing I have spent in whole the flame of the One; in sorrow, perhaps, but not despair, and never emptiness. And…and I am sailing from these shores. The Valar in their glory – ”
“You are going to sea?” Maglor interrupted for the first time.
“Yes.” Elros smiled. “Yes, I am going to sea.” He laughed boyishly. “My adventure, Atar! I am going to seek a new land; do you remember how I had told you I would? The sailor is shipping off, at last!”
Maglor turned fully in his direction, as if seeking to imprint some trace of his features on his darkened eyes. Then something seemed to occur to him.
“Sea?” he asked. “This sea?”
His smile vanished. “You do know what lives there, don’t you?” he asked, his voice lowered conspiratorially.
“What?” asked Elros, confused.
“Well, you are going to seek it, are you not? The light, of course! Our jewel. Have the Valar not granted you it? One for Eärendil, one for Elros, one for Elrond. And whom else would it be for? They are all gone anyway, my brothers, and I have no use for it. I never did. But be thankful they have all sailed away, little one. They were mighty warriors, and so proud, Maitimo and Tyelkormo and Atarinkë and Carnistir…”
Elros’ heart sank. Did he really believe they had all simply upped and left? He cleared his throat. “Not jewels, Atar, land. Land! Think, they raised earth from the sea and hallowed it for my kindred. We of the Atani have a true home now, as the Quendi have had. We have been blessed by the Valar.”
“Atani?” Maglor whispered. Elros sighed, defeated. “Yes, Atar. I told you, I was given a choice. And I chose to become a Man.”
Maglor’s face contorted. Elros thought he was angered at last. He felt his robe being grabbed, and he was pulled in by a strong hand, until his face was just level with that of his foster father.
“Thank Eru.” the elf rasped harshly. “Thank Eru. From elda to atan. You did the right thing, Elros. I am glad, do you hear? Glad that you cast off the other thing! It is terrible, Elros, so terrible, never free. Never free from grief and madness. You would go mad. Poor Elrond. Poor Elrond.”
Elros felt a great destructive wave crash into him. Beside him, Maglor was weeping silently, great tears spilling from his eyes. He was mortified at the sight. A noble elda warrior, a prince of the Calaquendi, and it had come to this. What remained with him save a fragile form, glazed like a white seashell and just as easily crushed?
Like a seashell, he held only the voice of the waters.
An irrational vision came to him, unbidden. A spear pierced through the emaciated body, and the grey-green ocean gushing forth from within. Elros cringed. How morbid the eve had made him.
He heard a shuddering breath expelled from the other. A sudden, fierce love welled up in him. “Come with me,” he begged urgently. “Please, Atar, will you not? See here, it is I who need you. For my sake, not yours. Do not stay away, it would break my heart. I pray you – Maglor, hear me!”
He shook his head mutely.
“Why not?” he demanded stubbornly. Maglor had taken to humming again. “Maglor!” he said in his most commanding tone. The elf fell silent.
“Why can you not come with me?”
“Because I – I cannot cross the Sea. I would drown. You would drown. I am not coming to Valinor!”
No amount of persuasion would convince him that he would not doom the voyage of the Atani fleet to death, or that they were not, indeed, going to Valinor, that they never would in all the lives of men. “Very well,” said Elros finally, weary and close to tears. “If you would rob me of my father, do so. I, at least, shall never forget you.”
He said this and left, without looking back, trembling with anger and shame. Maglor continued to watch the shore, shimmering faintly in the starlight. He had begun to hum.
Never did father and son meet again in this world, for Elros sailed to newfound Númenor and came no more to the shores of Middle-earth, keeping the memories of his foster-father alive only in the High Elven speech that acquired currency throughout his kingdom. Maglor’s fate is unknown among the Elves, for he did not go among them. Whether in a distant future, someone of the children of Elros came seeking the singer again to make new an old tie, we do not know, for it is unwritten.
One of the first stories I wrote, as long back as September of 2003. Sphinx was provocateuse for the plotbunny.
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