This story is an alternate history, written for the "Maglor throughout History" Silmfics challenge. Thanks go to my beta-reader Maia, whose help with this story was invaluable.

Disclaimer: Maglor is the creation of J. R. R. Tolkien; I am merely borrowing him. The other major characters in this tale belong to themselves, and now to God; no disrespect to them or to their families is intended.

Chance's Strange Arithmetic

By Ithilwen

Chapter 1 - The Scholar

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
(The Send-off)

She found him in the study.

Ever light of foot, she'd entered the room so quietly he failed to hear her, and for a long moment she stood silently in the doorway, watching him. Trying to drink in this ordinary scene: her husband sorting through his books, picking up first one and then another, opening each volume and scanning through it quickly before snapping it shut again, lovingly caressing the cover as he set each in turn aside. A scene she'd witnessed so many times before, a researcher sorting though his references, looking for just the right quote to cite...

A part of her trembled at the thought that this might be the last time she'd view this sight. So many young men had already gone away, never to come back. You've already taken so many, she silently pleaded, please, God, don't take my husband as well! But aloud she merely asked, "Have you decided yet which ones you wish to choose?"

He turned around, surprised, and smiled when he saw her standing there. "You must think me terribly foolish," he said lightly, "to fuss so over such a simple decision! I'd take them all if only I could. But since I can't, I had better choose wisely. It may be a long time before I will be able to return home and select another book to read."

If you return at all, she thought in despair as she saw him standing before her in his still-immaculate uniform, but did not say it aloud. What good would it do, burdening him with her fear as well as his own? For she was certain that behind the brash exterior he cultivated now for her sake, he was apprehensive, if not so frightened as she was. "You'd better make up your mind quickly, though; we need to leave now if you're not to miss your train," was all she said in reply.

"In that case..." His hand still rested on the last book he'd considered, a tattered thing bound in faded red leather which he'd recently picked up at a second-hand shop for a shilling. Written in some sort of strange script he'd been struggling to decipher, it posed a challenge any philologist would find irresistible. And being of little value, it would be of little loss should the worst happen to him. "I think I'll take this one." He picked up the book and walked over to his wife. "Shall we go?"

She nodded silently, and he reached out and gently caressed her face. "I'm sorry, Edith," he said softly. "But I have to do this; it's my duty. Try not to worry too much about me." He did not say I'll be all right, for they both knew that might prove a lie. The Hun had more fight in him than his countrymen had ever anticipated; with two bloody years of war already behind them, there remained no end in sight.

She nodded, and took his free hand in hers, and together they left the study behind. In less than an hour, he would be on board a train, the beginning of a long journey that would carry him to the bloody slaughterhouse of France and an uncertain destiny.

To Be Continued