5. As Little Might Be Thought

Elros woke the next morning when the sun shone on him through the window. He stretched and squirmed, luxuriating in the warmth of the quilt. It seemed to be much later than when he usually awoke, and he realized that this was because Maglor had not come to wake him. Curious, he turned over to ask Elrond what he thought of the matter. Elrond was not there. Elros suddenly remembered the horror of the previous day, and all his joy in the morning settled down into a cold lump in his stomach. He wished that he could go back to sleep, but it was no use. He was awake now, and he would have to face the day.

He crawled out of bed, and straightened the bedding as best he could without Elrond to help him. Then he went to the washstand, washed his face and hands, and dressed himself. His stomach rumbled, and he remembered that he had gone to bed without supper, as he and Maedhros had both forgotten about it the night before. He hoped that Maglor did not intend to make him go without breakfast this morning. Taking a deep breath, Elros squared his shoulders, and left his bedchamber.

The door to Maglor's chamber, across the corridor, was closed. Elros knocked politely. When he received no answer, he pushed it open just enough so that he could peer inside. Maglor was not there. Elrond lay in the middle of his bed, wrapped in blankets and sleeping soundly. Elros stood and looked at Elrond for a while. In the muted light, he could see scrapes and bruises on Elrond's face. His hands were tucked under the blanket, but Elros did not doubt that they were injured as well. Silently, he closed the door, and went to the stairs.

He did not quite have the courage to go down, however, and instead, he sat on the top stair and peered down into the main room. Maglor sat at the table, his head bowed over a half-eaten bowl of porridge and a cup of tea, so that Elros could not see his face. Maedhros sat opposite him, looking weary. He picked up the teapot and filled his cup, then sipped at it.

"Why did you tell them?" he asked.

Maglor looked up, though his face was still hidden from Elros. "Because it is their story," he said. "And Elrond asked to hear it."

Maedhros took a deep breath. "Yes. Forgive me. As I know you, that should have been obvious. I suppose that the better question would be: what did you tell them?"

"I told them of the message you sent Elwing, her refusal to surrender the Silmaril, and our assault on Sirion. I also told them of how I confronted Elwing in the tower, and of her fall from the window. I could see that the tale disturbed the boys, so I finished by telling them a little of how I took them in afterwards. I think that is what Elrond wanted to hear most of all."

Maedhros nodded. "I cannot fault him for that. I still cannot see how Elros came by the idea that you intended to kill him and Elrond."

"I will ask him, if he ever consents to speak to me again."

Elros almost jumped up and ran down the stairs at that, but Maedhros's next question made him sit very still.

"Tell me something first, before he rises. As your brother, and as the head of this House, I ask you: did you kill Elwing?"

Maglor sighed. "It happened so fast, and it was so long ago – I do not know if I remember it correctly. I pleaded with her to give me the jewel, and she refused. I put my hand out, but I did not touch her. I do not know why she fell, whether I startled her, or whether she –"

Elros must have made some noise then, for Maglor stopped speaking, and turned to look up. His face was pale, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes. Still, he gave a wan smile when he located Elros. Maedhros spotted him a moment later, and raised an eyebrow, but he did not seem nearly as angry as he had been the night before.

"Good morning, Elros," Maglor said. "Come downstairs. Would you like some breakfast? There is porridge, or I can scramble an egg for you."

Elros rose to his feet, and slowly came downstairs. He stood at the bottom, not quite sure what to do next.

"Is Elrond awake?" Maedhros asked. "Does he need anything?"

Elros shook his head. "He is still asleep," he murmured.

Maglor nodded. "I left a small bell with him when I came downstairs to start breakfast," he said. "If Elrond needs anything, he can ring it, and I will go to him."

The wan little smile disappeared from Maglor's face, and he suddenly looked weary. Elros remembered the fear he had seen in Maglor as he carried Elrond back to the house, and how he had wept in the corridor after Elros had gone to bed. Even though he had just woken up from a very sound sleep, Elros felt as weary as Maglor looked. He wanted to stop being angry, but he did not know how to end a fight that had lasted for days on end. "You did not come to wake me this morning," he said.

"I know," Maglor replied. "Yesterday was so difficult for all of us that I thought you would be exhausted, and I decided to let you sleep until you woke on your own."

To his surprise, relief washed through Elros. "You did not forget me!" he cried, and he trotted over to the table, stopping just before he could throw his arms around Maglor.

Maglor seemed to understand what he wanted, however, and he pulled Elros close. "How could I possibly forget you, Elros?" he said. "You and Elrond have held my heart in your hands since the first time I laid eyes on you."

Elros could not speak. He put his arms around Maglor's neck and held tightly, reveling in the knowledge that he had not destroyed his family after all. For now, at least, he still had a home and an adult who would take care of him.

Maedhros reached out and touched Elros's arm. "You must be hungry," he said. "Shall I get you some porridge?"

"Yes, please!"

Maedhros brought him the porridge, drizzled with honey, and Elros ate happily. His appetite had returned, and the porridge tasted delicious, better than it had in a long time. He knew from experience that his difficulties were not yet over, and that there would be painful questions asked that day. But right now, sitting next to Maglor and eating breakfast, that did not seem to matter so much. Elros's world was still intact, and he would face all the other problems as they came.

Maglor and Maedhros let Elros have his peace for much of the morning. Maglor brought him a cup of weak tea, and left him in a sunny corner to finish his composition about Fëanor and Fingolfin. The words came more easily than they had the night before. Elros wrote far more than he expected about the difficulties of apologizing, how good forgiveness made someone feel, and how unhappy Fëanor must have been to snub Fingolfin's offer of friendship. When he finished his composition, Maedhros read it through, and then showed it to Maglor. Maglor corrected some mistakes Elros had made in his spelling, but did not discuss the contents of the composition, as he often did.

"I am glad to have read this," he said. "It is good to see some of your thoughts on this subject."

Just then, they heard a faint tinkling from upstairs, and Maglor went to tend to Elrond. He was not gone very long before he came downstairs again, with Elrond at his side. Elrond wore his nightshirt and one of Maglor's large woolen shawls wrapped around his shoulders. He walked carefully, but his cheeks were pink, and his eyes were bright and alert. Elros had never been so happy to see anyone in his life, and he jumped up and ran to embrace his brother. Maglor stopped him.

"Gently, Elros. Elrond is still sore."

So Elros gave Elrond a very gentle hug, and sat with him as Maglor brought bread and butter and tea. Elrond looked nervously at his food, then glanced at Elros out of the corner of his eye.

"Are you and Maglor friends again, Elros?" he asked.

Elros chewed his lip. "I think so," he said. "I am not so angry as before. I think I will have to have a talking-to, though."

Elrond nodded soberly. "So will I. But I think a talking-to will not be so bad now."

"No. It will not." Indeed, Elros found that he was almost looking forward to being scolded. The scolding would not last forever, after all. And now he could hope that, when it was over, everything would be as it had been before. That thought almost made him smile as he watched Elrond eat his bread and butter.

After Elrond had finished eating, Maglor cleared the dishes away and washed them while he considered the conversation he would have to have with the boys. The physical actions of washing the dishes soothed him, and he was glad of that. Elrond and Elros were both still upset, and it would not do to talk to them if his own emotions were not under control. Maglor acknowledged that he was both hurt and angry over recent events, but it would benefit no one if he indulged himself.

Instead, he focused his thoughts on the children. He readily admitted that his decision to adopt them had not been at all rational or well-planned. It had been an impulsive thing, born of grief and thwarted rage, but that did not diminish the depth or tenderness of his feelings for them. With each lullaby he had sung, each grazed knee he had cleaned and bandaged, each goodnight kiss he had given and received, the twins had embedded themselves firmly in his heart. They had given him a new sense of purpose in his life beyond the constraints of his Oath, and he feared that it would break him to lose the boys now.

Maglor returned the dishes to their cupboard and leaned forward, bracing his hands against the work table, his head bowed. A great weight seemed to rest on his shoulders, and he wanted desperately to go back upstairs, curl up in his bed, and go to sleep. Part of it, he knew, was simple physical weariness. Even after he had made sure that Elrond was safe and warm, he had been too agitated to fall asleep. Maedhros had given him what consolation he could, but Maglor had spent the night awake, lying on the bed next to Elrond, occasionally checking to reassure himself that the child was still breathing.

There was more to it than that, of course, but Maglor could not make sense of his confused thoughts about the matter. He straightened, and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. Sooner or later, he must emerge from the kitchen, and he must be able to speak calmly and seriously to the boys, making sure they understood the severity of what they had done. At that thought, he let out a low groan. He could not force himself to begin such a scolding, not in the state he was currently in.

Maedhros appeared in the doorway, breaking Maglor's concentration. "Do you need help with the dishes?" he asked.

Suddenly, Maglor had an idea of what he could do with Elrond and Elros. He looked up, smoothed his hair, and smiled at Maedhros. "No, thank you," he said. "I think it is time for a chat with the twins."

Elrond and Elros were already sitting next to each other on the padded bench in the main room. Their nearer hands were clasped together, and they wore identical expressions of shame and nervousness on their faces. They did not take their eyes off of Maglor as he drew a chair around to sit before them. Maedhros leaned against a wall. Maglor regarded the twins in silence for a long moment.

Elrond squirmed. "I am sorry that I fell in the river, Maglor," he said. "I was going to the hollow in the riverbank, where you can sit and play with the minnows. Only it was not there when I went to look for it. I did not mean to fall in, truly I did not."

"Thank you, Elrond," Maglor said. "When the flooding goes down, I am going to take a look at the riverbank. Clearly, the ground is not as stable as it looks. If I cannot guarantee your safety, I may have to end your visits there until I can be reasonably certain that you would not come to harm."

Elrond and Elros looked somewhat crestfallen, but not as much as Maglor expected. That was good. Maglor suspected that the accident had frightened both of them, and that they would not mind being kept away from the river for a while. He turned his gaze to Elros.

Elros opened his mouth, but did not speak. Finally, after searching for words, he hung his head. His lip quavered, and his face screwed up. "I was bad," he murmured. "I deserve to be struck very hard on my legs and bottom, like Maedhros said Men do with their children, but he said that you would not do that. And, anyway, Elrond was not bad. Are you going to scold just me, or are you going to scold Elrond, too?"

The corners of Maglor's mouth turned up at Elros's words. "No," he said.

Elros wrinkled his nose. "So you are going to scold just me?"

"No. I am not going to scold either one of you."

The twins stared at him, both mouths open in shock. Maglor gave them a mysterious little smile. Maedhros caught his eye, and raised an eyebrow at him, but did not look especially displeased. Elrond found his voice first.

"Why?" he asked. "Have we not both earned a talking-to?"

Maglor shrugged. "You have," he admitted. "But I do not feel like giving you a talking-to at the moment. I would rather hear you talk while I listen. What do you think about that?"

The twins looked at each other, then Elros glanced back at Maglor. "What do you want us to talk about?"

Maglor leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "Talk about whatever is in your heart, Elros. I will listen to you."

Elros shrank down even more, squirming on the bench. Elrond squeezed his hand in sympathy. Maglor waited silently, neither prompting nor cajoling. It would be difficult for Elros to move past his childish pride and the inertia of keeping his worries to himself, but he must do it with no help from Maglor. The choice to speak must be Elros's, and Elros's alone.

Finally, Elros looked up at Maglor, his eyes shining with unshed tears. "I was scared of you," he confessed, in a tiny voice. Maglor nodded. He had guessed as much after Elros's outburst the day before, but it was still disconcerting to hear Elros confirm it.

When he did not immediately scold or laugh at Elros for his confession, Elros straightened, and his voice became a little bit bolder. Once the words started, they came out in a great rush. "You told us about Sirion, and about how you and Maedhros attacked it, and I guess I knew some of that already, but I never really thought about it, and you talked about how Nana fell out the window, and I did not want my Nana to go away and leave me and Elrond behind, so I thought you had pushed her, and then I thought if you pushed Nana, you would push me and Elrond, and I was frightened, and I did not know what to do, and, and, and . . . " Elros choked, and scrubbed his hand across his eyes. Elrond wriggled even closer to Elros, and laid their heads together for comfort.

Maglor's heart seized in his chest as Elros spoke. He had known from the moment he had made the decision to take the twins with him that they would be entirely justified if they grew up and hated him for what he had done. He had tried to steel his mind and accept that possibility even as his own love for them had deepened. But it seemed that none of that discipline made any difference when faced with the reality of Elros's words.

"Do not cry, Elros," Elrond said. "Maglor loves us, right, Maglor? You took care of us, and you sang songs, and you mended our clothes, and you are going to make us a featherbed, and you would not do all that if you wanted to push us out the window, would you?"

"I thought maybe Nana had been bad, because she would not give you your father's Silmaril back," Elros added, "and that was why you attacked her, and maybe if I was bad, you would attack me, too, but it is so hard to be good all the time."

Maglor remembered his own childhood mischief, and a smile crept across his face as he agreed with Elros's observation. Maedhros caught his eye and smiled as well.

Elros sighed, and slumped forward a little. "I am sorry," he said quietly. "I did not mean to be so naughty. I was frightened, and then I was angry, and then I did not know how to stop being angry." Guilt, shame, and a tiny bit of hope were evident in his face.

Maglor regarded Elros solemnly. "Elros," he said at last, "your behavior these last few days has been by far the worst I have ever seen from you. You have been secretive, rude, sullen, and combative, without rest or reprieve. You have hurt and angered everyone in this room. And yet," he said, looking into Elros's dejected eyes, "throughout all that, none of us ceased loving you. We were angry, but we were also worried. It was clear that something had happened to make you upset, and we wanted to discover that and soothe it, so that we could have our Elros happy again."

"I thought I would never be happy again," Elros admitted. "After Elrond fell in the river, I was afraid that he would die, and it would be all my fault, and you would push me out a window or send me away, and I would never have a family again."

Maglor smiled and shook his head. "Elros, even if you do not live with your Ada and Nana, you still have a family, and it would take much more than a few days of bad behavior to destroy that. You and Elrond are not my prisoners. You should never fear that I will try to harm you or banish you. I love you, Elros, with all that I am, and that will never change."

Finally, Elros managed a real smile. Maglor's heart soared at the sight. Elrond relaxed, and leaned against Elros, and Maedhros came to kneel down next to the boys.

"That was a courageous thing to do, Elros," he said. "It is never easy to admit that you have done wrong and to face the consequences. But there is one more thing you must do to set things right."

Elros took a deep breath. "What is that?"

"You must apologize formally. Though he has been gracious about it, you have wounded my younger brother deeply. I do not like to see him hurt, and I ask that you apologize for doing that to him, and ask his forgiveness."

Elros nodded, and turned to Maglor. "I am sorry that I hurt you, Maglor," he said. "I made you feel bad, and I made me feel bad. Will you forgive me?"

"Of course." Maglor smiled, and held out his arms. Elros jumped off the bench and ran the few steps into the waiting embrace. Maglor clasped Elros close to his chest, and thrilled to feel the child's heart beating against his own. After a moment, he opened one arm so that Elrond could come to him as well. The twins were rapidly growing too big to be hugged together, but Maglor was not ready to give up that privilege, not yet. For a moment, the thought of the two remaining Silmarils flickered through his mind, but he banished it immediately. Fëanor's obsession had already cost Maglor his mother, his wife, and his little brothers. He would not allow his father's fëa to reach out from Mandos and take away his last, best chance for a family.

Maedhros briefly clasped Maglor's shoulder, then left to give him some privacy with the twins. Gradually, Elros's fierce hold on Maglor loosened. Maglor gently eased Elros and Elrond back to the bench. "You are both forgiven for your various deeds," he said. "However, that does not mean that there will be no consequences."

The twins glanced at each other, then straightened, squaring their shoulders bravely. "We can go without supper tonight," Elrond volunteered.

Maglor suppressed a smile. "No, Elrond. That was not quite what I had in mind."

"Then what will you do?" Elros asked.

Maglor raised an eyebrow at him. "Elrond's accident means that I must spend several days working down by the river. I must test the ground to see how secure it is, and I will probably have to take the time to repair and extend the fences between the homestead and the river. This will cost me a certain amount of liberty and time that I had planned to spend in composition. Since I must bear this burden as a result of your actions, I will require that you share it with me."

"What do you mean?" Elrond asked.

"Simply this. I cannot go out and do the work along the riverbank alone. You and your brother will come along and assist me. I will not release you from lessons or chores. This work will come out of your play time. In addition, you are both forbidden from going near the river, unless you are accompanying me, until I decide otherwise."

Elrond and Elros exchanged another glance, then nodded, chastened. Maglor was pleased to see their acceptance of their punishment. It spoke to their understanding of the part they had played in the whole unfortunate affair. Perhaps, he thought, they were ready to comprehend the full story of their lives, all the complex, detailed motivations that had led to his decision to adopt the children of the woman in whose death he had participated. It was a story that Maglor would have to tell with the utmost care and honesty, especially the parts where he himself was no longer certain of all the details. The twins would be his most challenging audience yet, but Maglor found that he relished that challenge.

He smiled, to show the boys that life, even under punishment, could not possibly be as dreary as they currently imagined. "It will not be so bad," he said. "If it would interest you, we might talk further about Sirion as we work on the fence. Would you like that?"

"Oh, yes, please!" the twins chorused.

"Very well, but only on one condition." Maglor tried his best to look stern. "If there is anything I tell you that you do not understand, you are to ask me about it first, before you become upset. Have I made myself clear?"

Elros smiled, and even managed a little laugh. "Yes, Maglor," he said. Then, as if making up for the days he had lost, he moved forward to lean against Maglor once more. Maglor put an arm around Elros, and held him loosely. Elros leaned his head against Maglor's shoulder.

"I love you, Maglor," he said. At last, Maglor's heart was at peace.

END

Afterword

Many thanks to everyone who has read and enjoyed this story. Maglor's pity on and subsequent cherishing of Elrond and Elros is one of the more interesting psychological aspects of the Silmarillion, but one that the book, as an action-based tale, treats as a throwaway line. I've seen many explanations of the love between Maglor and the twins, from pure Stockholm Syndrome to an equally uncomplicated parent-child bond. I think the truth lies somewhere in between, and is much more complicated than any of the three people involved care to think too much about.

There is a family here, but it is fragile, and its bonds must be renegotiated every few years as the twins grow older and wiser. It does seem that Maglor did end up doing at least something right by the twins, as the Silmarillion, in its role as a history book, presents him in the most ambiguous and complicated light of any of the sons of Fëanor.

I am glad that so many people seemed to like this story, and I am grateful for all the responses to it. I do have one request, though. Either JastaElf or Jay of Lasgalen must come clean and tell me the name of the book they have been discussing here! It sounds very intriguing.

Thanks once again for reading, and I will see you later.