and All That
Any slashy assumptions the reader makes are entirely their own. This author claims no responsibility for a telling adjective or two.
And now for the scraps. First, the irrelevant original tales and the like.
The primary framework of this story is borrowed from the Iliad. As briefly as possible: this long Greek poem is the story of Achilles, a half-divine warrior who withdraws from the Trojan War to sulk in his tent when his commander-in-chief Agamemnon takes away his prize of war, the lovely lady Briseis. The withdrawal proves disastrous for the Greek armies. Only after his squire and friend Patroclus goes out in his stead, clad in his armour, and is killed by the Trojan hero Hector, is Achilles jolted by grief to rejoin the fray. Lots more interesting things happen before and after the brief period decribed in War Dust, viz., the days before and of Patroclus' death, but it's worth mentioning that Achilles is a man fated to die if he kills Hector, and it is with this knowledge that he goes out at the very last. The Iliad does not tell of his death, but die he did, of a fatal arrow to his heel.
The parallel storyline (of sorts) consists of gapfillers for The Silmarillion. Almost none of it actually occurs in the text. The story of Fingon and Maedhros is probably one of the best-known of it's many threads: the "ancient friendship" of the half-cousins, both high princes of the Noldor, the rescue of Maedhros from long torment at the hands of the dark lord Morgoth by Fingon, the fatal decision of Maedhros to march against Morgoth that resulted in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, and the death of the by-now High King Fingon. The Silm does not explicitly tell of Maedhros' consequent state of mind, but by the end of it all, he was broken enough to commit suicide by throwing himself into a chasm of fire.
Now, the copious footnotes:
Much of what has been said in this story has been oversimplified, fanonized and shamelessly fictionalised. An apparent major invention should be the fact that Patroklos has dark hair. The Greeks are usually referred to as 'fair-haired' in the original text. You may well guess why I took off on the chance that there might be a raven among the hordes.
To give credit to the better parts of 'War Dust', however, I must cite the following references, allusions and so on that did stay true in some form or other to their origins.
First of all, the description of the Greeks in the opening paragraphs owes everything to Xanthe Wakefield's comment, "The Greeks are not humanist, Christian or sentimental. Please understand that. They are musical."
'War Dust' owes much in spirit and letter to Christopher Logue's awe-inspiring independent work on the Iliad. The cry, "Achil! Achil! Achil!" is from his rendering of book 19 of the Iliad.
Some of the phrases that Maglor uses in the narrative are directly lifted from the Iliad, where they are used repeatedly as cliches and aids to oral storytellers. 'Rosy-fingered dawn' is one, 'windy plains of Troy' a second. Others are epithets like 'lightning gatherer', 'never-defeated Aias' and 'wily Odysseus'.
"life burns hot within him" – this is a phrase from the Silmarillion. Of Maedhros it is said that "…the fire of life burned hot within him".
Menelaus' wife, of course, is Helen. Of Troy or Sparta, depending on whom you rooted for.
Maglor's comment on the gods swatting men like flies is garbled Shakespeare. "We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys; they kill us for their sport."
The exchange between Fingon and Maedhros – "Night is passing" "… and day shall come again" is a sort of foreshadowing to Fingon's hope-filled cry at the beginning of the Fifth Battle. "The day has come! Behold, ye Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!" And those who heard his mighty voice cried back, saying "The night is passing!"
The terrible ironies of death.
The only place where I am consciously aware of violating Homeric canon is Antilochos' message. He, in truth, makes a rather noble, boyish speech to announce Patro's death to Achil. I've cut his screen time. Sorry, son of Nestor.
I find it necessary, however, to assert that Achilles' reaction to the news is pretty authentic. It is not melodrama of my own making.
Thetis – the sea-nymph, Achilles' mother.
The nine realms of the muses are all covered in Maglor's invocation. Epic, Religious and Love Poetry, History, Music, Dance, Tragedy, Comedy, Astronomy.
"Sing goddess, of the wrath of Achilles son of Peleus…" – are the opening lines of the Iliad.
"…and so they held the funeral for Hector tamer of horses" – are the final words.
Finally: it has never been proved that Homer was actually a blind bard who dictated the two classic poems. Theories abound. However, I have used the most basic, populist version of the tale here, to make it seem like the tale was kept alive until one came to take over the mantle of composer.
Many thanks to Lindorien and E.D. for all their help. And to Finch, for her thoughtful comments and suggestions.
The assistant may or may not be Maglor.
Disclaimer: All characters and (most) situations from the Silmarillion are the property of the Tolkien Estate. While I would rather I owned them than some Hollywood cinema studio, I'm not quite there yet (and neither are they – thankfully), and so, with the most immense gratitude, thanks to Professor Tolkien. Even more profound gratitude to Homer, who, like me, gets no money out of this.