The storm was raging.
Icy wind howled amongst black branches, intent and bitter, its sound like that of a pack of wolves against the soft crackle of the flames. The woodland itself was silent and dark; impossibly high, ancient trees bowed their bare heads in front of him as he entered the frith. The thicket opened before him as he went, an even path forming by itself. The earth was soft beneath him, his feet sinking airily in the wettish ground. A rich, strange smell flew in the air, a bit dour and a bit sour, fresh but at the same time frowsty, and so intense it made his head spin.
"Maitimo!" He cried, and the torch quivered in his hand.
But the woodlands were drear and dark and they held no answer for him.
"Maitimo! We must go!"
Go, go, go, his words echoed from one bare black bole to another, his voice fading into the eerie choir.
"Maitimo? Tyelko? Carnistir? Curvo? Brothers! Brothers! Where are you?"
"Pityo! Telvo! One of you! Where are you?"
"Kano! Kano," came back to him a distant voice, soft as the murmur of the wind, possibly no more than a dream.
"Home, please, take me home, I'm so tired..."
Three more trepidant steps, and he fell. The woods disappeared, the wind howled no more; he was now kneeling in a sea of strange warm liquid that stank, sticked relentlessly beneath his fingernails and drank deep into his hair and skin.
He screamed, and his stomach rose. A sea, a sea was around him. His clothes were heavy, his hauberk havier, his long dark hair sodden with blood and tears. They sticked to him. He was not even strong enough to lift his arm. Waves of warm, dense liquid were overwhelming him, drowning him. And the smell, the sickening smell...
In the blood of his enemies.
His head resurged, and he spat. Reckless, desperate, he clang to the heavenly sensation of air entering his lungs.
"Maitimo!" He wuthered with renewed strength, and this time, he saw him. His brother was standing on the shore, wide-eyed, but he looked right through him, lantern in hand.
"Maitimo! Save me!"
There was no answer, only the howling wind and the slow seething of the black blood-sea around him.
He was drowning.
There was a soft sound in the woods, no more than a crackle of branch under the hooves of a deer passing amongst the bushes. But his brother drew himself up and turned away, and disappeared in the woods.
Two little faces - he knew. Maitimo was searching for two little faces amongst the death and ruin.
And the blood around him was seething hot, burning him to the bone.
And he screamed.
O = * = O
Makalaurë woke up to the sound of loud clattering when something that sounded to be an avalanche of rock crashed hard against the lattice on his balcony door. His nightrobe was drenched with cold sweat and he shivered, making a hesitant move with a slender hand, an unconscious attempt to shoo his nightmares off.
The noise sounded definitely real, though; and Makalaurë donned his cloak. He pulled the hood onto his head and proceeded first to unlock the door, then to push it lightly open, only to get knocked right in the chest by an overwhelming blast of wind. The paralysing sensation of cold expanded in his whole body, paining his arms and stiffening his fingers as he wrapped the cloak more tightly around himself and took three faltering steps ahead, towards the unknown object that had seemingly chose to land right in the middle of his balcony. Surrounded by slump scaps and small pieces of rock, it was something big and possibly very heavy; the wind must have crashed it straight against his door, but thanks to Maitimo - who had insisted to provide every single balcony door in the castle with lattices, as well as all windows on the first two stories -, Malakaurë did not have to welcome it in his bedroom.
Whether he was still shivering as an aftermath of his haunting dreams or it was just the freezing wind that shook him to the bone, he could not tell. Slowly, he stumbled closer to the mysterious object that was already half buried in the heavily falling snow. As Makalaurë knelt down beside it to have a closer look, he was alarmed to glimpse an open mouth gaping towards him, full of sharp teeth, then claws and scutes and wings.
He had to blink several times to apprehend what he was truly seeing.
Made of cloud-grey stone that shimmered like moonlight, the stone dragon gazed blankly at him with its elaborately carved gaze. Those blind eyes have seen much, and after all these years they still made Makalaurë venerate the crafty hands that have made them. There were only four of the same kind of gargoyle in the castle; and this one had been the last to leave its guard-post. Only, the three others had been carefully removed and incased to an interior wall of the castle so they could be preserved; this one, however, had been still used – and ere the coming of spring, it would also be gravely needed.
Another thing that has gone amiss in the absence of my brother. Another thing that I shan't correct before he comes back.
"Tell me, Maitimo," he said aloud, his voice dissolving in the wind, "when shall I stop failing you?"
Makalaurë struggled to lift the dragon's head, to stash it back to his room, but the stone was reluctant to move. He digged his fingernails into the smooth carvings and lifted again, grinding his teeth. Nothing moved, but a blast of wind sent him flying against the door, and as his back crashed wildly and painfully against the iron lattice, a hot flame of wrath rose in his chest.
"I AM NOT STRONG!" Makalaurë screamed against the wind. "I AM NOT AN ACCURSED SOLDIER! I WAS NOT MADE FOR THIS! I WANT TO REST-"
Almost seething from fury, he grabbed the stone and pushed it with all his angered strength, pushed until his muscles hurt and his skin was scratched and hot blood flowed down his shoulders.
The large dragon-head slipped from his arms and swooshed through the snow-covered balcony, then hurtled right against the lattice. There was a loud pang, then a clang, then a boom, then the sound of morcelling rock pelting onto a cover of fresh snow.
And thus only three gargoyles remained to commemorate those times when Makalaurë was still young and the castle was younger; and he sighed and sank into his exhausting thoughts.
O = * = O
Makalaurë opened his eyes. He was still kneeling in the deepening snow, in no more than a thin cloak to protect him from the icy wind; and a guard was standing above him, his hand staying firmly on his shoulder, on his face an expression of deep concern.
"What is it?" he asked, raising a thin eyebrow. "Is something amiss?"
"I've heard you shouting, my lord. And there was a noise...," the guard's searching gaze wandered from the utterly smashed gargoyle to the heavily scratched lattice on the door, and back.
"The wind tore it down," Makalaurë gestured towards the pieces of rock.
"And then smashed it against your door, m'lord, if I interpret the situation well," the guard said.
"No, that was me. I was angered, and so I... oh Valar, I must have smashed it!" Makalaure sighed as he looked closer. "Maitimo will be furious when he returns."
"You...," the guard looked alarmed. "But Lord, it must have been extremely heavy! How could you..."
"I was angered," Makalaurë sighed. "I did not fully consider what I was doing. My heart feels weary."
"Come, lord," the guard said after a short silence, "let us return to your chambers. This cruel storm shows no interest in ceasing. If it continues like this, we might consider to reduce the number of heated pieces up to the second floor. Warmth flies out from there faster than the Eagles."
"Maitimo would not like that," Makalaurë shook his head. "Nevertheless, you speak the truth. To be fair, I sincerely doubt my brother would find joy in anything that has happened here since he left. Is there still no sign of the carts returning?"
"Nay, my lord; but that means nothing. The weather could have easily delayed them. It is even possible that they have not even set out yet for the journey to return. The roads are very dangerous, and so shall they remain for at least three weeks after the storm."
"Three weeks," Makalaurë closed his eyes for a moment, and let the bars of the door close behind him with a clang.
"Thank you for your vigilance," he said to the guard, "but I shan't be needing it from now on, until dawn – if indeed we shall see one. Watch only the inner walls, even the Enemy is helpless against a tempest like this. No attack shall come tonight."
"As you command," the guard said, and left after a quick bow; but he glanced back over his shoulders from afar, when he thought Makalaurë was not watching anymore.
I scared him, Makalaurë realized, and he glanced towards the door. The remainings of the stone dragon were still lying around on the other side, he knew.
I scared myself as well. Am I just really nervous or am I going mad? Am I thinking too much?
Rest. I'd only need some rest...
But true rest has been avoiding him for days; nightmares haunted his fëa whenever he closed his piercing grey eyes and he gave moans of distress as he slept; sometimes so loud that it would wake him. He'd never been screaming in his sleep before, though; nor did he ever dream of drowning. This dream was something new, something terribly recognizable, as if it had been constantly lurking at the back of his mind since centuries: an experience, horribly real, failing only to materialize – until now.
Sleeping shall not help me now, Makalaurë decided.
But he knew what would.
Slowly, tenderly, he took his favorite small harp and ran his fingers through the strings, playing, teasing, exploring. The instrument sounded clean and clear, fresh as the cool breeze of spring wind, rich as the taste of ripe apples, and it brought a shadow of shy, hesitant joy to his heart, which mingled instantaneously with a pang of distant sadness; and Makalaurë knew that a song was emerging from the depths of his fëa. Closing his eyes in pleasure, he sang, in a low sweet voice:
'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace...
An elegant, melodious chord ran down on the harp's spine, and Makalaurë tilted his head, listening inwardly to all those pressing thoughts burning his heart.
Not good, he thought. This is not the beginning. Not even the end.
Reluctantly, his fingers began to pluck on the strings. The soft music mingled with the howls and screams of the raging storm outside, and Makalaurë found himself strangely relieved, as if a cold blade had been suddenly removed from an open wound in his chest. And he sang.
O = * = O
For the first time in days, Makalaurë searched for a slender ebony door at the end of the Western Wing of the castle, and walked in; he opened all three windows and let the winter-breeze rush through the confined air. He sat on the bed, placed his harp carefully next to him and buried his face in his cold hands. Afront him, the large wooden armoire was gaping just as emptily as before. The two small makeshift beds were flat, untouched.
They are long gone, and never shall they return.
Makalaurë shook his head subtly, the exquisite line of his brows descending to a frown. Himself: he was still blaming himself. And what for?
Some days ago, he had come to the conclusion that the twins were gone for all. Under no circumstances could they have been able to survive the snowstorm that had been raving for a week straight. Makalaurë presumed that they had jumped off the carts as soon as they left the castle, in fear of being discovered. At first thought, the idea seemed far too cunning for a pair of frightened children, but Makalurë remembered the horrors Elros and Elrond have already survived, and that cleared his mind from all doubt.
My work for them – if it could indeed be called such -, is done.
I have tried to care for them; I have tried my best. But to give their parents back: such a thing is beyond my power. They are so young and vulnerable, so wild and at the same time afraid; they are only children. They should not have already seen so much of the world.
Why not admit it? I chose my own good. I chose to surrender to my Oath, to chase my fate – all in vain, as I knew, as I have always known. The Silmarili will never be ours; we shall never get them back. Such is the doom we have laid upon ourselves, and we have laid it long ago. Everything we do, Maitimo and I, is in vain, and he knows this just as well as I; but no matter how many times must my brother fall, he gets back on his feet and goes on, the grip of his valor ever tightening on my heart.
Why not say it? I chose my own good, and now I am pretending to hold that of these children in a higher esteem. I am constantly assuring my own self that I am right, my aim is good and I am telling myself with perseverance that they need me. Why would they?
But me, I truly need them. They keep me sane and whole, and now they are gone, my brother is gone and I'm struggling with the vile demons of self-hatred stuck in my head. And it is only now, only now that I realise I need them so. All these years, have I known myself so little?
And what if they come back? What if, against all odds, they come to love me? What fate shall that bring upon their little heads, when I shall break again under the weight of my Oath? They could not, they could not bear it. And they should not. No one should. Under no circumstances would this end well.
I have no choice, but to let them go.
O = * = O
When Makalaurë, Regent Lord of the Himring rose from his reverie, the radiation of pale golden sunlight that shone through the window made him blink in surprise. The storm has quieted, dawn has broke, the Sun was already high in the sky. Gazing out, he saw that the wide wastelands of Himlad were all deeply covered in snow.
And a thin line of homecoming riders was swiftly approaching from the West.
And a horn was blasted, and shouts came from the walls and towers.
Maitimo has returned.
Makalaurë smiled from the depths of his heart. Slowly, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, allowing the gentle waves of joy and relief wash through his fëa and hröa. His brother, his now only brother has returned, sane and whole, and very soon he shall see his face and hold his hand.
And then shame and remorse hit him like a blow in the chest. What was he about to tell him?
"Maitimo, what a pleasure! I am tremendously sorry about letting little Elros and Elrond go, I could not help it. Oh, and sorry for destroying your last precious piece of Curvo's architecture, a most unlucky accident. You have never liked the way that gargoyle frowned, have you?"
Clumsy and nervous.
"Maitimo, I... I am terribly sorry. I am the most helpless and unlucky creature on Arda. All of my intentions were good, and yet without an exception they all have turned to disaster. The twins are lost to us, and it is my fault, my fault; I was not vigilant enough. I must have scared them off. I am sorry for involuntarily destroying everything you're trying to keep whole."
Pathetic. And I have not even mentioned the dragon yet.
But the gates were already opened and the riders were storming in.
Makalaurë was out of time.
O = * = O
The Regent Lord of Himring was standing still, his legs sinking deep in the snow; its thick white cover reached up to his knees. Four guards surrounded his tall, lithe figure, lances in hand, their gazes fixed intently on the homecoming riders.
First came three scouts, one of them holding a ragged dark banner with the many-pointed star wrought with fibres of gleaming silver upon it; then three dozen of riders: his brother's remaining soldiers from the last watchtower of Himlad, which, according to Makalaurë's suspicions, must have recently fallen into ruins. And then came three very familiar carts, with horses trotting dutifully in front of them; and finally, last in line rode his beloved brother and another tall figure, clad in a thick black cloak so only his keen eyes showed.
"Easy, child," Maitimo said with a smile, to a small figure that was sitting in front of him in the saddle. "Let your shoulders down, or every horse within a mile shall feel your unease."
"But he won't let me guide him," said a little voice, slightly annoyed. "He never does. He will only dance around, and bridle his head up."
"Try again," said Maitimo assertively. "It is not proper for the Lord of Himring to stumble in court like some miserable gimp. My dignity is now placed in your hands, little one."
The world reeled wildly around Makalaurë as he watched his brother show young Elrond for the thousandth time, how to hold a leading-rein. The other, veiled rider was trotting closer as well, with Elros placed in the saddle before him.
The children were back.
Little Elrond made another clumsy attempt to master Maitimo's great stallion, all in vain. The tall Elf then streched out his right leg and pinched it lightly but imperiously against the horse's ribs, implying that it would better obey – and the stallion moved at once.
"Never let his head down," Maitimo went on with his lesson, still not even granting as much as a glance for his brother. "Today, he shall find nothing to eat down there but he cannot think that you would let him graze at any moment while you're riding him. And don't pull him like a madman, either... hold his head lightly but sternly, always with ease but also with utter severeness, if need be. He must recognize that you're trying to control him for his own good. Have no fear to give him a fair pull if he's in one of his mischievous moods, that will not do harm."
Makalaurë watched so intensely the final round of Elrond's struggles with the stubborn horse that at first, he did not even bother to have a closer look on Nelyafinwë's companion who had closed up to the lord and who was now looking at him, wondering. It was the intensity of his gaze that made Makalaurë stir and look him in the eye, startling anew.
It was Tyelcano!
Maitimo magically solved everything – again. And I am a pathetic mess.
His brother was looking at him now, a warm and gentle gleam in his eyes.
"Laurë," he said, "brother, I am so glad to see you again. How fare you?"
Horribly! - Makalaurë wanted to say, laughing, but the words never found their way to his throat. All he could do was stand there, stand in the middle of the gateway, stern and cold like a statue, his skin pale as moonlight, his eyes gleaming.
"By a most wondrous turn of events," his brother went on, apparently seeing his unease, "I have returned to you with more companions than I had left. I truly thank you for the provisions you sent me, they arrived at the moment of greatest need. And how wonderful! When we removed the canvas from the food reserves, we have found something you may have lost and missed."
Maitimo and Tyelcano jumped off their horses simultaneosuly, as if the scene had been previously planned, and each of them lifted a frightened twin from the saddle, placing them lightly on the ground in front of Makalaurë, who still stood motionless, as if frozen.
The children were both shivering in the fresh morning breeze, and Elrond was holding like grim death on Elros's cloak. They stared at him wide-eyed, unable to speak.
"It seemed to us," Tyelcano's calm, gentle voice cut in, "that they wished to speak with you."
This broke the silence.
"Makalaurë," Elros whispered, with tears welling in his eyes.
"We are so sorry," Elrond added.
"Please, don't be angry..."
"We meant no harm..."
"Please, forgive us! We will not escape again."
"It was so cold, and we were afraid..."
"And there were wolves!"
"And we thought that maybe if we came back you would be very angry and would not accept us..."
"...will you sing us songs again?"
Surrounded by guards and soldiers, Makalaurë could not allow himself to run to the children and embrace them as he wished. Nor was he sure that it would be welcome.
"You!" He shook his head slowly, as he started to regain the ability to express his thoughts. "You frightened me! I was certain you have found your death in this mad storm! What were you even thinking, silly children?! Do you believe now that Russandol and I intent to protect you...? What a chance, what a wonderful chance you had indeed to run straight into my brother and not into Orcs!"
"They might have been a little less frightened, then," Maitimo remarked.
"We believe that you won't do us harm," Elros said in a very low voice.
"We will never escape again," Elrond promised.
That was enough to Makalaurë.
"Very well," he stepped forth, not caring anymore about the eyes and ears around him. He knelt before the twins in the deep snow and with each hand he held a pale little face with bright grey eyes. "And I, Makalaurë son of Fëanáro promise that no harm shall ever come to you while you live in this castle. My sword shall protect you from any kind of malice and every enemy."
"As shall mine," said Maitimo, and suddenly he was standing right next to him, stern and proud, his eyes softening as they met the twins'. "Food and shelter I shall grant you as I would do to any of my close ones: this I promise from my heart. I will never lay hands upon you, nor will I ever dismiss you from my lands – thus spoke Nelyafinwë, son of Fëanáro and Lord of the Himring."
Makalaurë saw some kind of hesitant joy on the twins' little faces; they could not entirely understand what these promises meant but the first spark of trust and closeness has been lit between the four of them and the twins seemed a little less distant and frightened as before. Maitimo's soldiers stood tacitly around them, lost in the timeless moment; and finally, it was Makalaurë himself who spoke.
"And now," he said, not being able to hide his smile, "I suggest you all come inside. The hearth is laden, the torches are lit, tables are fraught in the Dining Hall; I would like to hear, Maitimo, how on Arda could you manage to find our dearest Counsellor. Tyelcano, my dear friend, how fare you? I am glad above all that you have returned."
"My wounds are healing," said the Elf with a modest smile. "Your lord brother saved my life and looked carefully after me until the worst was over. Of my disappearance, not much can be said; I've been waylaid and captured by Orcs, and that brought me little joy. Thankfully, they did not find out who I was, or else, I would have been dragged along to the throne of Moringotto."
"Never say that," Maitimo said. The soldiers were now dismissed, and they were walking slowly towards the Dining Hall. Makalaurë saw with surprise that Elros and Elrond were always in his brother's heels now, and they seemed much less afraid of him than before.
"And how fare you, little ones?" He turned to them. "You seem pale. Have you had enough rest? It must have been awful to sleep in those carts for more than a week!"
"It was a little boring at the beginning," Elrond admitted. "But then it was good."
"Russandol told us tales about the Hound that defeated the Valarauko!" Elros added enthusiastically.
"And about the bats and werewolves!"
"And about the Great Spider that wanted to eat Arda!"
"And about the dragon that had no legs and no wings and he wanted to steal them from the Eagles."
"The dragon was the best!"
"No, the bats and werewolves were the best, but you fell asleep and missed the most interesting part."
Makalaurë felt his eyebrows rise to impossible heights as he looked at his brother, who – Valar, was Nelyafinwë son of Fëanáro, Lord of the Himring, Warden of the East and Enemy of the Enemy actually blushing?
"You told them tales?"
"I am not good at it," Maitimo apologized, "but they would not sleep, and..."
"They were the best tales!" Elros crossed his arms stubbornly.
"They were just as good as yours, Makalaurë," Elrond corrected at once.
"No! Makalaurë has the best songs and Russandol the best tales. It is just like that."
"Has he ever told you his tales, Makalaurë?" Elrond wanted to know.
"Maybe, when I was very little," he mused, "but it was so long ago I cannot remember."
"Then you should listen to them," Elros asserted. "They are so exciting!"
"And for which tale should I ask him first?" Makalaurë smiled at them.
"The bats and werewolves," Elrond said immediately.
"That's too dark," Elros shrugged. "Ask for the tale of the stone dragons!"
"The stone dragons?" A terrible suspicion rose in Makalaurë's guts which grew into certitude when his brother smiled proudly at the children.
"That tale is true. The stone dragons really exist, little ones, and they are here in this castle. Three of them inside – they are very old and wise dragons, you see, and they have been dismissed from their duty. But one of them still guards the walls."
The twins were beaming in excitement; the only thing that could restrain them from running off to see the dragon immediately was the hungry rumble in their stomach. The tables were richly loaded and orange firelight danced merrily in the hall; and they ate with ease, even smiled. Makalaurë watched them with amazement.
Not wanting to delay the inevitable, he leaned closer to his brother and Tyelcano at the end of the table and told them truthfully about the fate of the last gargoyle. Maitimo's reaction was nothing like he'd expected; his brother had to hide a grin behind his goblet.
"Your next tale, Lord Nelyo," Tyelcano said, "should include a bard of great valor who wrestled with a flaming dragon when poor harmless creature accidentally stepped on his harp."
"Don't you dare!" Makalaurë hissed, but this time, Maitimo's smile was visible.
"What a great idea, Counsellor! Your wisdom was much missed here."
Makalaurë shook his head silently, but he could not suppress a soft laughter, either, before silence stretched between them.
"What a strange thing it is," Maitimo suddenly spoke up, "that we sit here, at the middle of this merriment. And look at them, brother, look at them as they eat and speak. They have no fear – and my heart is weary."
"It should not be," Makalaurë said.
"Do you think? These children will grow. They shall know better who we are, they shall have their own knowledge and judgements. Short is the time that is left to us to make them see the world the way we want to. You are not their father, Makalaurë, and nor am I. You shall never be – and nor shall I."
"They have no one," Makalaurë shook his head. "We are responsible... we must..."
"We are beyond responsibility, my sweet little brother, and you know that. You know, just as well as I, that this is madness. But do not misunderstand me, for me too, I am acting like an accursed fool telling them stories and rocking them to sleep every night. Me, the failed lord, the Kinslayer. Do you not see, how highly inappropriate this is? Do you not see how awful is the lie we tell them with every smile, with every touch, with every reassuring word?"
"You promised to protect them, along with me," Makalaurë said in an icy tone.
"Yes, I did, accursed fool that I am! And have no doubt – I keep my promises." Maitimo laughed darkly. "But one day – and very soon – we both might regret that we did."
"What say you, Counsellor?" doubt filled Makalaurë's voice as he spoke.
"I say," Tyelcano said in a low voice, "that you would have regretted more if you harmed them. We all know that it is folly to justify an evil deed with another; but to me, it is just as wrong to believe that the path that your past deeds have laid before you could never be swerved. You both acted as your heart told you; you have listened to its demand, and now you are indeed responsible for what you've done. You have brought these children here, you have clothed them and nourished them, they escaped and yet they came back to you – you cannot abandon them now without finishing what you started."
"And what would that be?" Maitimo closed his eyes in exhaustion. "Raising possible future enemies?"
"If need be," Tyelcano raised a thin black eyebrow. "But seldom do the young turn against the ones who raised them well."
O = * = O
The sun was already setting by the time Maitimo and Makalaurë took the twins to a dragon-hunt around the castle, its fiery disk descending amongst steamy orange clouds. Very soon, they found three stone dragons in the inner side of the Northern Tower's walls, but – as Maitimo explained to the twins -, those dragons were unimaginably old, older than Time itself, and they were also very prideful, thus they restrained themselves from speaking with youngsters like Elros and Elrond, or even Maitimo himself; their duty was reduced to guarding the walls with their watchful eyes and scaring any enemy to death, should they ever dare to set foot in the Himring.
There was still one dragon in the castle, though, that might ease the twins' curiosity, but to visit her (Maitimo insisted that it was a female dragon), they needed to climb the tower and enter Makalaurë's chambers, because the dragon loved dearly to sit at the corner of the roof.
Makalaurë entered the room first, then he opened the slightly shattered balcony door and sneaked out onto the balcony, while his brother stayed in the room with the twins, and hushed them, listening intently to any sound he made. Makalaurë waited a minute in utter silence, then he gave a loud theatrical gasp, and ran back to the room.
"Maitimo!" He exclaimed, thrilled. "Maitimo, the dragon has gone!"
"What did you say?!" Maitimo's eyes widened, in them a mischievous gleam. "How is that possible?"
"She's always been very stubborn. She must have flown away! Come and see the marks her claws left in the rock!"
Makalaurë ran back to the balcony, followed by his brother and a pair of exhilarated twins. The setting sun painted their faces orange as they stood one by one behind the epaulement.
"Look," Maitimo pointed with his finger. "My brother was right. That was her guard-post – but she flew away."
Elros and Elrond gasped when they saw the neat stone pedestal at the edge of the wall, where roof met rock. There was a deep scratching in the middle, as if something huge had been uprooted from there.
"I shall miss her greatly," Makalaurë sighed.
"And so shall I," Maitimo gave a small nod.
"Where did she go, Russandol?" Elros asked, suddenly pensive.
"I do not know, little one. Maybe one day, she will return."
"Maybe one day," Makalaurë whispered. The sun disappeared under the horizon, and wind was rising from the West, an icy kiss upon their brows.
"Will you tell us a tale of her deeds, Russandol?" Elrond pleaded.
"Why not," Maitimo mused. "As it happens, I have one in mind..."
"...about the dragon and a bard." Makalaurë finished his brother's sentence with a sigh.
He deserved this.
Looking to the beaming children, however, he felt this might even mean more than he'd ever deserved.
Makalaurë sings some lines of Shakespeare's 34th sonnet (one of my favorites). It is on my list to actually write a song for Makalaurë he can sing in one of my future stories, but this is just not that moment. I hope Shakespeare gives him justice. The full text:
Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.
It might not fit perfectly into the context but for some reason I strongly associate it with the atmosphere of this chapter.
So, it appears that this story has come to an end. Allow me to thank you for your follows, favorites and reviews, it really meant – and means – a lot. This story has helped me through a great crisis in my life (you probably also noticed this, since there was a one-year break in my continuity of publishing new chapters) and it will always stay important to me. I don't know if I'll ever write about Maedhros, Maglor and the twins together again; I avoid on purpose to try and publish a "full story", beginning to ending, about their life and relationships, to help possible further changes. Anyway, THANK YOU again, and I hope you enjoyed this little journey together with these characters.