A/N: This work consists of a set of prompts written by the Maeglin Week Challenge on Tumblr (initiative by maeglin-s on Tumblr).
Day 1: Adjusting / Coping
Day 2: Childhood / Life in Nan Elmoth
Day 3: Mining / Creativity
Day 4: Happy Memories / Happy Moments
Day 5: Relationships / Attachments
Day 6: Torture / Death
Day 7: Halls of Mandos / Valinor
The cover image was made by the wondefully talented LiigaKlavina on Deviantart!
I. My Cloak
"You might want to stretch your arms, cundunya," says the tailor. He is a lean, elegant Elf; his clothes are clean and ornamented with care.
"What did you call me?" says Lómion, a little embarrassed. Mother had taught him many words, but this was not one of them.
"Never you mind – people shall call you that, and you shall get used to it. Now turn around if you would, young lord, and have a look. Is the cloak to your liking?"
Lómion's eyes are keen, and so is his mind. Fruitlessly, he wonders why he wasn't called cundunya for a second time.
The tailor is not entirely honest with him, he knows. He wears that wide smile only to reassure him, he suspects. He trims around a young Elf whose mother has been killed, careful not to show pity and not to imply weakness… of that, Lómion is perfectly sure.
(No one gets it. No one understands how tragically easy it is to live without Mother).
(It suffices to simply go on. Not to halt, and never to turn back).
(To pretend it never happened).
"I like the colours much," Lómion lies. "Especially the silver." (He stretches the lie further). "And the bird adornments." (And further).
"If I am permitted to say so, young lord, 'tis a perfect fit," says the tailor, and pats his shoulder. "Let us show it to His Highness, wouldn't you agree?"
"Let's," says Lómion. Yet while the other Elf leaves the room, he stays still; and suddenly asks, in a barely audible, hollow voice:
"Do you think that a new cloak might change someone? Change entirely?"
The tailor is on his way already, and never hears him.
And King Turukáno awaits.
II. My Son
His father's halls are dark and the woodlands around them gloomy, often cold. If he wakes early and takes a walk among pinny oaks, light puffs of mist swirl around his feet. It would perhaps remind another child of flying, but Lómion does not know what flying is.
In Nan Elmoth, dusk is eternal and dawn never comes; yet though faint, there are colours in the darkness, and curious shapes Lómion soon learns to see. He gets to know the mirk, to see it inside out, to understand its nature; and from that moment, it no longer scares him.
"I have two cloaks," Father tells him once. "One you can touch and behold; the other one is the night. Soon, you will walk with me beneath its veil, and we shall thread many paths together. Then you will see that there are only few who act likewise – and we'll live longer than they might."
"But we live forever, Father," Lómion says, "do we not?"
"Forever is a very long time," Father laments, and he leaves. He doesn't address Lómion – doesn't call him son or little one or anything else Mother does, though Lómion sometimes wishes he would. He also wishes he would see Father more, and is already excited to journey with him. There are interesting, mysterious things happening around Father, and Lómion watches him more often than he realises.
One quiet evening, Lómion runs around the house. His mother and two servants are chasing him.
Her mother laughs and enjoys the hunt, the servants are slightly flushed and frustrated. Lómion knows this, because he's climbed one of the ancient trees that cope over the House of Eöl, and now he listens.
Any other Elf would be noticed, even at this height; but Lómion is friends with the shadows of dusk, and is one of them. And he doesn't want to be put to bed just yet.
The searching party roams around the dark, silent conglomerate three times, then decide to look for him elsewhere, just as he knew they would; but Lómion only moves when the pat of light feet over litter die out entirely. He slides down the tree and takes a few steps, giddy with the joy of sudden freedom. He picks up a stick – no, a lance -, and runs to take one of the invisible paths that circle his homeland.
"What are you doing here, child?"
Father is standing behind him when he turns. He's so terribly tall and his eyes gleam curiously in the last embers of sunset that found their way through all the verdure.
"I'm just… how long have you been watching me?" Lómion wants to know.
"Ever since you were born," says Father.
Lómion ponders that for a while.
"Then why do you always hide from me?"
"I hide from no one," Father's voice hardens. "I am merely quiet and cautious. You can see me whenever you want to – it is enough to stay silent and look."
"So if I want to see you, I just sit there, at the edge of the meadow, and you will come to me just like birds and fawns do?"
"Enough questions for today, my son," says Father.
He doesn't immediately realise that the word has been said, and something has been sealed with it. But Eöl's mind is keen as Lómion's: it finds its way swiftly back to the realm of present and reality, and then the fearsome Dark Elf chokes on one simple word of endearment.
(Lómion is old enough to comprehend what son means; but he'd always been his father's son. It needed not to be said for him to know. Now, he only feels that something important has happened, but lacks the understanding of it).
They are walking together, towards the house. Lómion falls behind from time to time. Father doesn't even turn his head: he halts, and waits patiently for him to come.
At the third halt, Lómion takes his hand.
If Father is surprised, it doesn't show.
"What is that? On your belt," Lómion points. The thing has always been there, ever since he was born, yet he never cared to ask.
"A hammer," says Father, wrinkles of uncertainty deepening between his brows. "One works with it."
"Will you show me how?"
"Another time," says Father. "Your mother thinks you should get to bed."
"And do you?"
"You are still small. Your mother knows what is best for you."
"But I don't want to sleep," says Lómion. "That is why I was hiding. Night is just an awful time to sleep – a lot of interesting things happen."
It seems like Father cannot argue with that - and in fact, he doesn't.
III. My Discovery
"A tricky one you are," Lómion – now, Maeglin – whispers, his fingers tracing paper-thin, delicate patterns onto merciless walls of rock, "but we shall learn to understand each other… if not sooner, then later."
Echoes play a cruel game beneath the impenetrable peaks of the Encircling Mountains; the cave's walls strengthen his voice, and alarmed, his companions look around in the airless space. They see no one their prince could have possibly talked to.
"How come no one wandered below these mountains before?" Maeglin asks, his glance suddenly earning him the name his father had gifted him with. "How come no one searched these caves, that no one ever had an ear to listen to the whispers in these walls? You, good people of Ondolindë, do not know your own richness and good fortune."
"And what do the walls whisper, cundunya?" Asks one of his companions, the one who led him here. It is said that he alone from the City holds the entirety of the mountain paths in his own memory.
One is hardly better than nothing, Maeglin thinks.
Beware of all who swallow their hard-earned knowledge, and are not eager to share it, he recalls the teachings of the father he hates to love still. Whenever one shares such wisdom, seldom is it whole. There may very well remain a small shard of information, hidden from even the keenest eyes, ready to strike you down when you are the weakest.
"And so did he," Maeglin whispers to the walls. "It was not only a shard that Eöl kept hidden, but a whole weaponry."
"And Eöl never told you not to beware of him," the cold enormity of steel-filled rock answers him mutely.
Maeglin walks in the darkness: a shadow amongst darker shadows. He doesn't need the lamp his companions are carrying; in fact, it even annoys him a little.
"Put those flames to rest," says he when he can bear it no longer. "Light and darkness does not swallow each other: they trick you when they mingle. Darkness swallows light when it is stronger; and light burns holes into darkness so you have the impression of seeing through it; but that's a lie. You can see the world either in light or in darkness; yet never both."
"I fail to understand you, cundunya," says one Elf (perhaps the bravest in the company).
Maeglin is not used to being understood in any case; he smiles.
"My point was to kindly ask if you could extinguish those lights."
"We cannot walk in such darkness, cundunya," says another Elf.
"Then leave the walking to those who can," says Maeglin, and disappeares in the closest bend.
Without the light to disturb him, he finds what he's been looking for; and reluctantly, his companions follow. They find him kneeling before a wall of rock, his hands searching for something invisible.
"Some say, cundunya," says the leader, "that you use Dwarven magic to discover steel in the walls."
"Dwarves don't use magic," says Maeglin leniently. "They don't need it."
"Then how do you know, where…?"
"First, I stay silent, and then I listen."
IV. My Truths
Somehow, everything was cleaner back in Nan Elmoth, Lómion thinks.
Cleaner, for sure. Easier… perhaps. Perhaps not. If he felt cold, he had to start a fire. If he wanted to feel the sun on his skin, he had to walk for hours to find a clearing. If he was hungry, there was barely anyone around him to look after his needs. Notions like lord or (worse) prince not quite existed.
Father was a tryant, Lómion had always thought, in his long, dark robes and darker chainmail. With his dark eyes and darker glares. With his sharp jawline and sharper tongue.
Yet back in Nan Elmoth, yes meant yes, and no meant no. And Lómion liked that.
It made him feel so light.
(Was he now the tryant, then…?)
(Was he now the traitor and murderer?)
V. My Mask
"I was very glad to see you at the feast, young one."
Lómion turns to see Laurefindil of the Golden Flower smiling gallantly at him. The lord's hand, though, is in his pocket, and his arm rests in an uncharacteristically clumsy position.
"If all I can do for the well-being of others is showing up in the Great Hall," he answers slowly, "I am very willing to do so."
"Was the feast not to your liking, then? Were you merely there for the others?"
I was there to drown you, the City, the world, our whole existence in a goblet of wine, Lómion thinks. (He cannot say that aloud, of course).
He ponders if he should say anything instead, but the silence that settles between them feels peaceful, ruminative.
"The good people of Ondolindë are joyful and careless, and they keep forgetting that you have another name as well. Yet you see us all, Maeglin, do you not?"
Lómion discerns his other name, his forgotten name, the name he hasn't heard in what seems like Ages. (Laurefindil is pronouncing it badly; yet correcting it would mean that he acknowledges its existence).
"I do look," Lómion says after slight hesitation, "but if I see…? That is a fair question."
Silence stretches between them again, and Lómion wishes it would be uncomfortable.
"Please," says Laurefindil abruptly, "accept this."
He pulls his hand out of his pocket, and Lómion sees a black gemstone in his open palm, so dark that one could mistake it for a piece of coal if not for its curious, rainbow-like hue in the bold sunlight.
Lómion wants to touch it. He reaches out, restrains his hand, hesitates.
"What did I do, lordship, to earn such a gift?"
"You did not do anything in particular. That is why 'tis called a gift, and not a reward."
Lómion wants to decline, to be crude and go away; yet somehow, the gemstone slides among his robes as Laurefindil weighs a hand on his shoulder, urging him to follow, lest they miss dinner with the household.
Lómion wishes something would betray him; yet his face is noble and fair.
And his feet are light on silvery white stone.
VI. My Mistake
In Angamando, darkness is pitch black and even the frailest of lights is tainted with blood.
(Maeglin wishes he would have screamed. Wishes his blood would have been shed).
The Gates of Summer are approaching, and the City sings. The City feasts.
On the morrow, silence shall fall, then soft music shall fly across Tumladen on feather wings of wind, Maeglin knows.
In Angamando, the only music he'd hear would be the rattle of chains and the crackle of raspy, stifled screams.
x X x
Moringotto had promised he would not touch him.
(An agreement. They had an agreement. They came to an understanding. For Moringotto's was a practical mind, much like his own).
Moringotto had promised Itarillë would be his.
(And sometimes, Maeglin was fool enough to believe that).
Moringotto promised he would not chain and torture those Maeglin wished to spare.
(If he only knew that physical pain was the lightest of torments…)
VII. My Rest
"Rest?" His conscience screeches. "I do not want rest."
"How do you expect yourself to heal, then?"
The speaker's presence is soothing. It makes his pain less – therefore, more unbearable.
"The only thing I expect is being shut out to the blackest Void."
"I congratulate you, child; you are almost as dramatic as Feanáro. Only, it was me he wanted to shut out."
(The last place Maeglin had expected gallows humour are the Halls of Mandos; and his conscience stirs a little).
"What will we do now?" He radiates with his own being.
(Devoid of hröa, he cannot lie or deceive – devoid of hröa, he feels wounded, naked).
"Do? Nothing. What will happen to you is that you shall heal. Then you shall wake to a new life and try your strength."
"And what for?"
"To no avail, mayhaps," Námo laughs softly. "Yet you children always try."
Thank you for reading this set of prompts! I only wish I could have continued and finished this work in such an inspired state of mind as I was when I wrote the first three instalments.
I must say that it's very much against my conviction to publish something I'm not even remotely satisfied with, but if anything, this story was good for a test: a test of my capabilities of resolving a TASK while writing. I daresay this was not the last such challenge I undertook.