Fallen to Ashes

By Ithiliel Silverquill

Maglor stumbled through the thick forest. The naked, leafless trees snatched at his hair and his bloodstained sword felt as heavy in his hand as if it was made of lead. Ghostly voices reached his ears—a thousand harsh, musical voices crying out for mercy. Eyes gray as the twilight sky stared back at him, glazed and wide with empty terror. Hands meant to caress the strings of a harp cluched silent blades. Dancers, still with garlands of holly twined into their hair, lay motionless on the snow.

He wanted to weep. He wanted to run far away from the bloody forest, far beyond the reach of the tortured voices and pale grasping hands. He wanted to forget the blood of his kin that stained his sword shimmering red.

A harp lay on the ground not far from where he stood. It was made of light wood and inlaid with silver in the design of a curling vine. Tiny silver leaves smiled shyly at him from the polished surface and gleamed bright against the snow. No music would ever come from the beautiful instrument again: the delicate strings had been slashed and trampled, and a long crack had mangled the bright wood. It was forever silenced.

Maglor let the sword fall from his hand into the snow. No matter that it had beeen a gift from his father, made for him and no other. No matter that it had been the only gift that his father had ever given him out of nothing but love and a desire to offer protection and defense. It was stained with the blood of innocents.

Suddenly he saw a familiar face. Celegorm was not far away, leaning up against a tree. His silver-steel armor was stained with blood, and his fair face was bloodlessly pale.

Maglor cried out and ran to his brother's side. He knelt by the tree and gathered the shuddering form in his arms. Celegorm's gleaming hair, fallen out of its usual elaborate braids, fell in a shimmering cascade over his shoulders. The light gray eyes that were so often filled with fire and rage found Maglor's, but now they were full of nothing but pain and incomprehension.

Celegorm swallowed weakly. "Maglor?"

"I am here, brother," he whispered, shifting so that Celegorm's head rested against his neck and shoulder. "I am here."

Celegorm was silent, his eyes half-shut as he wordlessly submitted to the embrace. Of all the brothers, Celegorm had been the most resistant to being held as a child; he had retained the quirk all through adolescence and adulthood. Even Curufin and Maedhros never resisted a clasp of arms as a greeting, or a quick hug if another was upset, but Celegorm had always been distant.

The only time the fair Noldo had ever voluntarily embraced Maglor as an adult had been when they had received the news that Maedhros had been taken by Morgoth. Maglor had been completely devastated, along with all the brothers, but Celegorm had unexpectedly reached out to him, both to receive and offer comfort. Maglor would forever treasure the memory like a rose snatched from the waste.

"We lost the Silmaril," said Celegorm suddenly, his voice ragged and weak. "Dior's daughter took it."

So it had been a pointless attack. It always was. No matter how much blood they shed, they never gained what had been lost. It was the Curse.

"Will we ever recover them, Maglor? Father's jewels?" The voice that had been called steel and velvet, able to stir the coldest hearts to furious zeal, was quiet.

Helpless anger rose in Maglor's throat. It was all about those jewels—those chips of stone! Fëanor had created them and then died for them. Thingol had died for one. Dior had just died for one. Now Celegorm, his own beloved, precious brother, lay dying as well. All for a chip of glowing stone.

Maglor felt a hot tear run down his cheek, down into Celegorm's hair. This was what their marvelous Oath had done. Their rash act of raw courage and defiance. Perhaps it could have done good, if they had only sought to see the jewels leave Morgoth's crown. But it had gone so much farther than that. They had slain their own kin not once, but twice. Now the Curse hung over their heads.

"I do not know, Celegorm," he said. What he did not say was that he never wanted to see the horrible chunks of rock again as long as he lived. Oh, if only they had never existed!

Celegorm's face grew paler every minute. The delicate features—as fine and perfect as if they had been carved by a master sculptor—were twisted with pain. "Maglor…"

Maglor clutched his brother to himself, the tears coming faster. "Tyelkormo, I am here. I am here." All he could think of was their home in Aman. He remembered when Celegorm was a baby—how he could charm the young infant to sleep with little nonsense songs that me made up as he went along. He had done the same for each of their brothers.

More than anything else, he hated what the oath and curse had turned them into—how they had been turned from merry, miscievous Elflings and bright, smiling Elves into half-demented kinslayers. The Celegorm who had so relentlessly pursued Lúthien and who had nearly persuaded the citizens of Nargothrond to rebel was not the same Celegorm that he had grown up with. The one that always grinned and ran to him in childish adoration to beg for a song, crying Maka! at the top of his small lungs. Maglor hated the Silmarilli and the Oath and the Curse with as much helpless ferocity as he still loved the broken, lost souls of his precious brothers. Even Celegorm, who did not want to be loved.

Suddenly he felt the light touch of pale fingers on his face. He opened his eyes and saw his brother gazing at him. "Sing to me, Makalaurë," said Celegorm quietly. "As you always used to do."

Never in all his life had Maglor so hated the idea of singing. This was hardly the time, or the place, for a song. But he could not deny Celegorm the one last request. If his brother wanted a song, he would have a song.

He sang as quietly and reverently as he could. The song had been written in Aman before the Trees fell, before the Silmarils were made. It was not a song of grief, or bravery in war, or even praise of a hero. It was a simple lullaby, the kind that Nerdanel had always sang to them. This particular one was his favorite, because he remembered seeing Fëanor smile when Nerdanel sang it once in his hearing. It was soft and pure, an innocent song born of an innocent age, before the world had grown dark. Before sparks had been fanned into flames. Before the fire within him had grown so hot that it seemed the very stars had fallen to ashes.

As he sang, he saw the lines of pain deepen on Celegorm's face. It was not physical pain this time—it was as if the song itself burned at him. As if the fever and madness fell away and what was left was Celegorm himself. Tyelkormo the beautiful, the soul that was so easily stung by beauty.

Maglor sang to the very end of the song and let the last note hang in the still air. A lone tear trailed down Celegorm's pale face. Maglor gently touched it away, smiling down into the shimmering silver eyes. It was not much, but it was a gift from the very throne of Ilúvatar. For a few priceless seconds, he had his little brother back.

It could not last. Celegorm's eyes began to cloud with pain and fear. "Maglor!"

Maglor did not even try to restrain the tears that flowed down his cheeks as he cradled the broken body in his arms and buried his face in the gleaming, tangled hair. "I am here. I will not leave you."

Celegorm grasped at Maglor with the last vestiges of his fleeting strength, like a child desperate for a parent to calm away fears. "The Void—"

Mandos, have mercy on his soul!

Celegorm's eyes stared into Maglor's. They were full of terror. "Makalaurë!"

"I am here!" cried Maglor. "Oh, Tyelkormo, I love you and I swear I will not leave you!"

The light in the silver eyes faded. "Maka…"

Maglor wept. He clutched his lifeless brother, gasping out nonsense songs between sobs, his vision so blurred that he could not even make out the bloodlessly perfect features.

After a few minutes he was aware of someone prying Celegorm from him. Strong arms embraced him from behind. Maglor could feel the hot breath on his neck.

"Let us leave this place, Maglor," said Maedhros's calm, sad voice. "There is nothing for us here."

Maglor turned so that his face was buried in the rich copper hair. "Tyelkormo…"

"Hush," soothed Maedhros, rubbing Maglor's back in a circular pattern. "We must not linger in these woods. Now is not the time to grieve."

Maglor reluctantly allowed Maedhros to pull him to his feet. Tears still ran down his face, nearly scalding his skin with their heat.

He felt the gentle heaviness of Maedhros's arm around his shoulders. "Come. Let us go home."

We can never go home, Maglor wanted to scream. We are lost, broken, every one of us!

No one heard the thought and no one answered.

Tyelkormo. My brother. My dear, precious brother. You are lost and I will never find you.

The woods were silent all around them. Maglor, Maedhros, Amrod, and Amras walked away alone, a sad remnant of what was once a family. They did not speak. They did not need to. They were all fully aware of the truth that what once was, would never be again, and the knowledge left an emptiness in their hearts that no comfort could allay.