Surrogate Jewels - Chapter Fifteen
I adore them.
You need them.
They are so humble now, so quiet and unperturbed.
They are insensible.
I cherish them.
You covet them.
They no longer complain, never argue or defy.
They haven't the strength.
They are precious to me.
They are invaluable to you.
My little Peredhil, innocent and beautiful.
Your little shields, prisoners and hostage-stock.
They would grow to love me in time.
They are not growing at all.
They call me Father.
You told them to.
I make them feel safe.
They feel nothing.
I give them everything.
Everything you took away.
We are a family now.
They are dying.
I cannot live without them.
They will not live with you.
If I release them, they will never return.
I will be all alone without them.
Soon you will be all alone with their corpses.
"Bring Earendil's sons from their sick-beds." I command, the last word tasting exceptionally foul on my tongue.
The servant to whom I spoke is not brave enough to oppose me, but the senior nursemaid standing behind him is.
"My Lord Maglor," she says kindly, "they are not well."
Her tone is apologetic, her face sad and helpless. She is concerned for them. She thinks it best that they not walk, possibly not even be moved.
"I know, and I understand," I reply. She nods, grateful for the sincerity of my words and my apparent acquiescence; until I continue. "Fetch them," I say sternly.
She starts and stares at me with wide, unbelieving eyes...
I do not blame her surprise. If I were simply summoning Earendil's sons because I wished an audience with them, it would be cruel of me indeed, given their condition. But no... Here I have intentions of which the nursemaid in entirely unaware.
"Do it now, please," I say softer.
This time she truly jumps and with a quick nod is on her way.
I sit back, and wait to see the Peredhil brought before me for the last time.
I will miss them.
They will not miss you.
I will think of them, often and fondly.
They will have nightmares of this time, for years to come.
I wish I could have made them happy, I wish I could have been all that they ever needed.
They wish their mother had not thrown herself into the Sea.
If I could do certain things again, I would do them differently.
If they could jump after her, to this day they still would.
What will come of me when they are gone?
"Peredhil," I smile, as I cannot help but do when they are near.
They are blinking at me sleepily, their large, matching gray-blue eyes squinting and puffy from the slumber of Half-mortals... half sickly boys, half fading elf-children... impossible, terrible, but true.
I open my arms to them, and after a gentle nudge from the nursemaid, they muddle more than walk into my embrace. I pull them close, lifting them up onto my lap. So often I have sat with them here on my dais, one on each knee. Here I have braided their hair while listening to the mind-numbing melodrama of my subordinates, chattering on about this or that thing of 'importance'. So often here they have fallen asleep in my arms, after a day of dictating and decision-making, and I would carry them off to their bed. So often... but no more.
"Tell me, children, were you dreaming sweetly?"
They look at each other first to be sure. "No, father Maglor," they both answer as one.
"I see. Perhaps another time." I sigh a long, heavy and painful breath, hearing my heart waver in its wake. "Well now, hug me tightly, children, and kiss me goodbye... then you two may be off."
They do so, mechanically, stiffly... going through the motions but not really feeling the need. They do not desire the conduct, do not long for the contact... 'tis simply what I taught them to do. Or perhaps 'twas a time when they did embrace me honestly, and with a certain degree of desire, of... love. But that possibility is no longer relevant.
Their hearts feel now only what they have lost, their eyes see only what is out of reach, their hopes lie only in things they do not have; like freedom, family and happiness. And thus, reality is to them unreal, waking is as a dream, living alike to death... They haven't long, they will not last, they will not get well; I see that now.
Was only this morning when I woke by their side, and thought by their peacefully sleeping faces and their twenty little fingers curled securely in the locks of my hair, that perhaps, just maybe, I could keep them after all... But then their eyes opened to meet mine, and what little light had rekindled in them after their revival by the Healer's hands had already extinguished once again. I resolved then that I must do this thing, even if it kills me.
Now as their grip loosens from my neck, I feel it very well might come to that. Will I never hold them again? Will I never even see them again? Could I bear it?
"Very good, Earendil's sons..." I set them down hesitantly. I can still put this off... maybe just until tomorrow morning, so I might cradle them whilst they slumber once more. No, no... they are frail and weak. One more morning under my roof is something they may not wake up to see. My hands release them for the last time.
"Now if it so pleases, be away from this place, both of you. Go wherever you will and do as you wish. I release you from my custody, and unfortunately my protection as well. But you are indeed free. Fly."
I hear distinct gasps of surprise and sharp words of shock from everyone else in the chamber. Earendil's sons were not among them, however.
They look at each other wordlessly and join hands, as they always do when they walk together side-by-side. "Fare thee well, father Maglor," one says. Then the other, "Goodbye, father Maglor. Wish us well." They turn and walk away, but from the threshold the first speaks again over his shoulder, just before passing out of sight... "Thank you!"
They are gone.
Never to return, as you well know.
I miss them already...
They are happier than they can ever remember.
What if some ill fate befalls them?
Then it also will have been your fault.
They are unwell. They may perish in the wilderness before they are ever found.
Yes, they certainly might.
What have I done...?
The right thing, for the first time in an Age.
I love them so...
And now they know it, whilst before they did not.
"BROTHER!" Maedhros storms into the room some time later, full of anger and frustration. "This is an outrage!"
"It wouldn't be the first." I yawn.
He sweeps his left hand cross the room, gesturing to the surrounding land. "They are nowhere to be found, Maglor, nowhere! What have you done?"
I smile. "The first right thing in an Age. I aim to make a new habit of this, dear brother. You should try it for yourself sometime; it is quite endearing."
"Maglor." With forced calm, Maedhros speaks to me slowly, as if I can no longer understand regular speech, "The border sentries said it has been hours since they left, with your leave, I might add. And. They. Are. Gone."
"That. Is. The. Idea."
Maedhros heaves deep breaths to calm himself now. Eventually his face falls into concerned confusion, and his tone is a plead, "After all you did for them, Maglor, and I know you tried so very hard; why? Why did you release them now?" He raises his hand for me to take, "I thought you loved them..."
"Brother..." I leave his hand where it hovers between us, "It is because I came to love them so much that I let them go."
Maedhros lets fall his hand, and again his expression goes hard. "We need them, Maglor. I sense dark times ahead, and they would be invaluable in the case of a war." Even firmer are his words as he repeats, "We need them."
"Gil-galad may have been discouraged from battle with us, had we held as prisoners Earendil's only sons," I say thoughtfully, "but mayhap we have an equal advantage with which to abate the young King's wrath, for having spared and released his own natural heirs."
"Perhaps and perhaps not." Maedhros regards me sternly, "And if those two Peredhil whom you love so much should march against us eventually, beside their King, grown mighty and terrible over long years... what then?"
I think on it. An image of them comes to me, grown tall and hale, their matching faces noble and no longer boyish, marching proudly at the behest of their beloved King... and I smile. "...'Twould be a good day to die," I laugh.
With an aggravated growl Maedhros leaves me.
***Continued in 'Picking up the Pieces', by AfterEver@aol.com***
I'd like to extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to Lyllyn, who beta-read this story in its earliest form, and several sections of its rewrite. Besides being an admirable beta, she's also quite a talented author, who doesn't write nearly enough of her own muses.
Lyllyn, if U R reeding this, U R 2 kewl & i wish U wud rite moor. ;-b