Disclaimer: Maeglin and Co. are property of JRR Tolkien. This is unauthorized fiction. I am receiving no money for this fiction.My Father's Son
My father said something to me when I was very young that I forgot for a long time afterwards. Perhaps if I had remembered, things would have turned out differently; but more likely it would have made no difference. Our natures and temperaments often force us down paths that we cannot see, much less change, and I am no exception to this rule.
As I said, I was very young – a child, really. My parents were arguing, as usual. I tink Mother wanted to go visit her brother again, but Father would have none of it. He never allowed her out of his sight if he could help it, except when he went to the mountains.
I was outside, sitting in my favourite tree – a tall mothorn of the kind that grew only in Nan Elmoth. Its leaves are a dark green that is almost grey, but they shimmer in the starlight. It was night then, I think – at least, it was dark enough that I did not notice Father until he had climbed onto the branch beside me.
"If you read in the dark, you will dull your eyesight," he said.
I blushed in the dark and hid the papers I'd been holding. It wasn't a book at all – at least, not one that anyone else had written in. I had been writing verses in the letters Mother had taught me. She said one of her uncles had invented them. That meant they were forbidden, of course, as was anything concerning the High Elves. I was afraid Father would ask to see what I had been doing, so I tried to distract him as quickly as I could.
"What were you fighting with Mother about?" I said.
Father barked his familiar sarcastic laugh. In all my life I never heard him laugh normally – only this thorny, pungent sound was permitted to escape his lips. The peals drifted along between us, like poisonous dandelion fluff.
"Your mother is like a restless cat," he said, "She always wants some one else's dish of milk. The problem is, once she has it, it is never as good as it looked from far away."
I was careful to keep my voice neutral. "She wants to see Gondolin again. Why won't you let her go?"
Anger seeped out of him like a frozen black mist. Father was often angry, especially when he had been speaking with Mother. Not that he didn't love her; in fact, I believe that's why he loved her – she was the only person clever enough to occasionally best him at his own game. Whether she loved him I was never certain; but my own feelings on the matter were quite decided.
"Maeglin, let me tell you something," Father said. I didn't want to hear. Whatever he was going to say, I could tell it would only worsen the atmosphere between us.
"In all their lives," he said, his voice dropping to a wry whisper, "People do only one thing. They desire. The roots of every act and thought are entangled inseparably with this one need... Wanting drives us to our every deed, be it good or bad. There is no greater joy than receiving what one has desired, and no greater torment than losing it."
He paused, but I didn't speak. I was afraid of what he would say next; it would be a stab at me somehow, and I was too ignorant to parry.
"No, we cannot bear to lose," he continued after a moment of silence, "But often the desires of others obstruct our own. They want to bring us to heel, to lay our dreams to waste. And the only way to stop them is control them first. We must destroy them before they destroy us; true triumph is the triumph of one will over another. You think I do not know what your mother wants? I tell you I care not! I am the master here, and my word binds. If I must keep Aredhel as a prisoner, and you as well, then so be it."
I bit my lip, trying to stop the trembling that crept slyly over my limbs. To speak would be folly; in this emotional sparring Father was far more experienced than I. Yes, I hated him, of course. Who could love a being that spoke such hideous words? But that hate gave me no strength, no skill against him.
"If your mother goes to Gondolin, she will never come back. Is that what you wish?"
Still I said nothing. The woods were drowned in night stillness; I tried to breathe silently. Perhaps he would think I had fallen asleep. Father chuckled softly, the sound like the mocking hoot of an owl.
"Your eyes are sharp, my son," he said, "I know it; I named you well. But you do not see everything yet. You are thinking that I am hateful and cruel. But you do not realize yet that you, too, belong to me. You sprang from my heart and mind, and all you ever do will be to my glory, in my image. You think I am greedy, petty, covetous – ah, but you overlook the worm in your own soul. It is consuming you even now. Can you not feel it? The craving for something else, something different – that tantalizing wine of happiness, so far beyond your reach. That craving will be with you forever – learn to love it now! It will never be satisfied."
Oh, how I hated him for those words! There was nothing I feared more than Father – or that I would become like him. And yet, he was not entirely right, I think. It was not desire itself that doomed me – simply in knowing my fault, I could have denied it easily. No, there was a deeper darkness here, and a crueller trap: I enjoyed desire. There is a perverse pleasure in longing for something, far greater than in having it. Sweet hunger... dizzy, sensuous thirst... years later my head would reel from that morbid intoxication. And so, even if all my wishes had been granted to me, things might not have happened any differently, and I would have been as miserable as ever.
But I knew nothing of the future in that moment, and all I could think about was that right then I desperately wanted Father to leave. For a moment it even seemed that he would oblige my secret wish and climb out of the tree. But at the last minute, he made a grab for the papers I'd been tying to conceal behind me instead. I was too surprised to react quickly, and before I knew it, his eyes were flicking over the clumsy writing. It was dark, but Father could pierce shadow with his gaze; shadows in the forest, or shadows of the mind.
"Why, Maeglin," he said with a humourless smile that reminded me of the way a snake's mouth curls at the ends, "I didn't know you were a poet. And such a plaintively eloquent one... 'Dusk shadows strangle the night/But beyond the woven woods/From one star spills a silver light/Upon the free escaping road..."
"Give that back!" I burst out in angry fear, unable to keep silent any longer. Father was undisturbed.
"Such thoughts are unbecoming," he said, tearing the paper slowly into pieces. Each rip sounded like the screech of another lock being turned on the door of my prison.
"You will never escape, no matter where you go," Father continued, "A man can't run from his blood."
"It's you I want to run from!" I hissed suddenly. I snapped my mouth shut immediately in horror at what I had said. Father glared at me, his narrowed eyes glinting like slivers of silver.
"Just remember one thing," he said, grabbing me by the collar, "You will always be your father's son."
He pushed me lightly, and suddenly I was tumbling through the leaf-wreathed air, to land in blackness.
The fall must have knocked that conversation from my mind, or perhaps Father put a spell on me. The next day nothing of it remained in my memory, and only after my death did I recall it.