Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of J. R. R. Tolkien, nor any of the various dramatic incarnations thereof. No profit is being made from this work.
Hello, and welcome to this story! It all started innocently enough, as I was writing a different story, called "Natural Children," about Maglor's relationship with Elrond and Elros. In the course of that story, I made some remarks about Maglor, hinting a little bit about his background, mostly through his memories. As I wrote, I found myself fleshing those memories out a little (all in the name of good authorial technique, of course), and then a little more. Before I knew it, there was an outline for another story, this time with Maglor in the starring role.
Behold. Here it is. Enjoy it, and I will meet you at the end.
1. A Friendship Set To Music
Macalaurë sang happy nonsense syllables under his breath as he clattered around the kitchen, assembling a dinner of choice tidbits left over from previous meals. He put a scoop of spiced barley on his plate, added a dollop of mashed turnips and a handful of broccoli florets, then slipped into the cold pantry to investigate the roasted leg of lamb that lay there. He heard the kitchen door open, but paid no attention. The other person dipped up a mug of water from the cistern and drank thirstily before poking his head into the cold pantry.
"Macalaurë!" Tyelkormo said. "What are you doing in there?"
Macalaurë smiled at his brother. "I am getting dinner for myself. What does it look like?"
"But it is not yet time for dinner. Not only are you spoiling your appetite, you are spoiling that leg of lamb. I was going to stew it."
Macalaurë carried his plate out into the kitchen, set it on the worktable, and hunted in the cupboards for a wine glass and the half-finished bottle left over from the previous night's dinner. "Nothing is preventing you from stewing that lamb. I did not take so much, and there is still plenty left over." He poured himself a glass of wine, sat down at the kitchen table, and began to shovel food into his mouth.
"That is not the point." Tyelkormo sat down opposite Macalaurë. "The point is that you are eating dinner here, alone, before I have even begun to cook."
Macalaurë paused, swallowed a mouthful of turnips, and smiled at Tyelkormo. "My apologies," he said. "I will have to miss dinner with the family tonight. I have an evening lesson at the house of Séretur."
Tyelkormo's expression quickly changed from one of annoyance to a broad smirk. "Oh, I see," he said. "Will Séretur be instructing you on the harp? Will you be instructing his lovely wife Almiesárë in singing? Or might you be 'instructing' Calimë in something completely different?"
Macalaurë calmly picked up his fork and pasted a lump of mashed turnips on the bridge of Tyelkormo's nose. "I am hardly the first musician in Valinor to have fallen in love with the daughter of his teacher. Nor are we the first such couple to have become betrothed."
Tyelkormo scraped the turnips off of his face and popped the lump in his mouth. "Nor am I the first person to tease his older brother about an impending marriage. So, tell me. What is so compelling about the house of Séretur that you must forego dinner with Father and the rest of us?"
"If you must know, I am having an early harp lesson with Séretur, and then I must sit with Calimë and her mother and write the formal invitations for the wedding." Macalaurë washed the last bite of lamb down with a swig of wine, and got up to take his dishes to the washbasin. "We will be inviting Mother," he added.
Tyelkormo sat silently for a moment, then reached for the wine bottle. "I think I need a drink before I start the stew. Do you think Mother will come?"
"I hope she does. Whether or not she is estranged from Father, she is still Mother, and it is my wedding, after all. That does not happen every day. Perhaps she and Father will even manage to find it in their hearts to be civil to one another for the occasion."
"I definitely need a drink," Tyelkormo said, and took a swig directly from the bottle. "I hope you are right, Macalaurë. Especially about Mother and Father being civil. It would be a shame if they ruined your wedding day by quarrelling."
Macalaurë rinsed his dishes and picked up a towel to dry his hands. "That will not happen, I assure you. One of the things that Calimë and I have been discussing is how to prevent such a quarrel, politely, of course." He put the towel back on its rack, and turned to leave. Tyelkormo caught his arm.
"Good luck," he said. "I hope that you and Calimë can persuade Mother to come. It would be a ray of light in our Exile, for all of us."
Macalaurë ruffled Tyelkormo's hair. "We will see about that."
"That is all I can ask for." Tyelkormo released his brother. "Now, go. Get to your lesson with Séretur before you are late."
Macalaurë's long fingers worked elegantly over the strings of his harp. Each note sounded pure and clear, trailing off into the air as he slowed towards the end of the piece. After a delicate pause, he rolled the final chord, and then moved his hand away from the strings, allowing the sound to hang, shimmering, in the air. The last echo died away, and Macalaurë brought his hand down, and sat back in the chair. Séretur lifted his chin and looked at Macalaurë.
"Acceptable," he said.
Macalaurë snorted. "Acceptable? I am note-perfect, the phrasing is precisely as you have suggested, and my transitions are smoother than they have ever been. And all of this is merely acceptable?"
"Your technique is perfect," Séretur said. "But your rendition of the piece lacked something. Heart, perhaps. You have not written it down in that notation of yours, have you?"
"No," Macalaurë said. "I have respected your wishes on that subject, and you will never see this piece notated. I have learned it with my ears and fingers, as you wished."
"Then the problem lies within you. Macalaurë, this is a love song. Can you make it sound like something to thrill the heart as well as enchant the ear? Come, try the opening section again. Think of something that makes your heart sing."
Macalaurë thought for a moment, idly stretching and massaging his fingers. He repositioned the harp on his lap, and placed his hands on the strings. Closing his eyes, he breathed in and out, waiting for the moment of perfect stillness within. His hands came to life, and he began to play. He played through the first section of the piece, and was about to make the transition into its answering section, when he noticed Séretur glaring darkly at him. He sighed, and rolled a chord to make an ending. "What? What is it, Séretur?"
Séretur looked at Macalaurë, and a muscle in his jaw twitched. "You were thinking about my daughter."
Macalaurë set his harp down on the stand and laughed. "It is a love song, Séretur. You cannot be surprised that I find the thought of Calimë inspiring in that regard."
Séretur's expression softened a little. "No, I suppose I cannot be surprised. You are young, Macalaurë, and you have no children, so this will be hard for you to understand. There are some things that one may be perfectly happy to contemplate in the abstract, but may find more difficult when they involve one's own daughter."
Macalaurë was silent for a few moments. He ran his hand idly across the harp strings as he contemplated Séretur's words. "Do you mean that you oppose our marriage?" he asked. "I do not understand. You gave your consent freely at the time of our betrothal."
"That is not precisely it." Séretur blew out a breath, considering his next words. He pushed the harp stand gently to one side, then drew up a chair to sit facing Macalaurë. "You are young, as I have said, and you are deeply in love with Calimë. I do not fault you for this, but I think it blinds you to some other truths."
Macalaurë frowned, and sat up a little straighter, but did not argue. Séretur pursed his lips, then continued.
"You are the best student I have ever had. Your voice is already pure and powerful, and I can only imagine what it will become when it is fully developed. Your skill with the harp is considerable. On a very selfish level, I bless the day that the Valar exiled your family from Tirion, because it gave me the opportunity to teach you. You are kind, considerate, handsome, a skilled musician – all that I could ever have dreamed of in Calimë's future husband. But, Macalaurë, Calimë is not simply marrying you."
"What do you mean?"
"She is marrying your entire family." Macalaurë looked puzzled, so Séretur elaborated. "I know that you think that marriage is an equal joining of two houses. That is what you have been taught, and that is the way it works – in principle. But yours is no ordinary family."
Macalaurë turned his head to the side. "I know," he said, and a note of bitterness entered his voice.
Séretur took Macalaurë's chin in his hand and turned his face back. "You do not have to like it, but you must accept it. By marrying you, Calimë will become part of the House of Fëanáro, the exiled Prince of Tirion. Whether either of you will or no, she will be bound up with the fate of that House, and of its head. And even if he is your father, you cannot be blind to the fact that Fëanáro has become fey and wild. That is the reason that he, and you, were exiled here in the first place, because his temper finally escaped his control. Do you see why it is that I am of two minds about this marriage, Macalaurë?"
Macalaurë jerked his face away from Séretur's grasp. "I am not my father, Séretur," he spat. "You cannot be blind to that. But if the idea of Calimë becoming part of the House of Fëanáro distresses you, why did you consent to our betrothal at all?"
Séretur sighed, and sat back in his chair. A slow smile spread across his face. "In the first place, it was because I like you. But more importantly . . . Macalaurë, you know Calimë. Can you imagine the scene she would have made if I had refused her something that she wanted as much as she wanted this betrothal?"
A distinctly feminine laugh interrupted their conversation. Macalaurë and Séretur both turned to see Calimë standing in the doorway. Her dark eyes sparkled in her heart-shaped face, and her mouth worked in amusement as she pushed a stray curl behind her ear. She strode over to Macalaurë's chair, and leaned down to embrace him from behind. He twisted around to kiss her. She returned the kiss, then raised her head to smile at her father.
"If you had refused this betrothal," she said, "I would have made such a scene as to make the people regard my future father by marriage as a placid, gentle deer. And then I would have gone ahead and married Macalaurë anyway."
Séretur laughed, and spread his hands in a gesture of resignation. "You see why I could not refuse? But it would appear that the time for music lessons has passed."
Calimë straightened, but kept her hands on Macalaurë's shoulders. "Indeed it has. You have had the time you required for a harp lesson. Now it is time to turn our attention to other things."
"Clearly." Séretur rose, and began to return the furniture in his music room to its original positions. "I will not tell you to practice, Macalaurë. You are far too good at that. Instead, simply play. Play for the joy of hearing your own music, and remember that joy in every piece that you play. You have done well today."
"Thank you." Macalaurë also rose. He bowed to Séretur, tucked his harp under one arm, and put the other around Calimë's waist. Together, they left the music room to resume planning their wedding.
Almiesárë came into the dining room some time later, bearing a pitcher of ginger water and three cups. Macalaurë and Calimë scrambled to clear a space on the table among the lists, invitations letters, fabric swatches, and other detritus that had accumulated there. "It is time for a rest now," Almiesárë declared. "Planning the wedding of the King's grandson is hard work. Here is something cool to drink."
Macalaurë and Calimë reached for cups gratefully, and Almiesárë poured generous helpings of the ginger water. Macalaurë sipped, and smiled.
"This is excellent. It warms the stomach and cools the brain at the same time."
"Of course," Almiesárë said. "I have been making this for Séretur and Calimë for years."
"We drink it before performances," Calimë explained. "It is good for settling the stomach when one has an attack of nerves before one must play."
Macalaurë took another sip and nodded. "That is a good idea. Almiesárë, will you make a pitcher of this for the band at the party before the ceremony?"
"That I will," Almiesárë said with a smile. "And I might just be convinced to make another pitcher for the bride and groom as well. If my wedding was any indication, you will both be grateful for it."
Calimë rolled her eyes and laughed. "Mother!"
"Do not 'Mother' me, young lady." Almiesárë's eyes twinkled. "Remember, I have had a wedding, and you have not. That makes me the expert in this room."
"Excellent." Macalaurë downed the last of his ginger water and stretched. "Since you are the expert, Almiesárë, perhaps you would care to favor us with some advice."
Almiesárë nodded smartly. "Certainly. What is the issue? We are inviting the Lady Nerdanel, of course, are we not?"
"Yes, of course we are," Macalaurë said. "That is not the problem. The problem is this. What should we do about the rest of my family? My cousins, and my aunts, and . . . my uncles?"
Calimë leaned forward. "What he means is, would it be proper for us to invite Lord Nolofinwë? There is so much bad blood between him and Lord Fëanáro, after all. Would he see it as an insult, do you think, to be summoned all the way to Formenos?"
"And what if Nolofinwë did come?" Macalaurë added. "We would have to keep my father away from him as well as from my mother. Or, worse. What if we invited him, and he took the invitation itself as an insult, and did not come?"
"Ah," Almiesárë said. "That is indeed a problem." She ran her finger down the list of guests to be invited, as if the solution might be found somewhere among the names. Calimë heaved a great sigh, and laid her head on Macalaurë's shoulder. He petted her hair almost absently, and turned his head to place a kiss at her hairline. Almiesárë looked at her daughter and her betrothed, and a gentle smile spread across her face.
"Weddings are about family," she said, "so family must be honored. Lord Regent Nolofinwë and Lady Anairë are part of your family, Macalaurë. Whatever ill feeling there may be between Lord Fëanáro and his brothers, they are still family, and they should have the honor of being invited to your wedding."
"My father will be most distressed if they appear," Macalaurë groaned.
Almiesárë snorted. "That, if I may be so bold, is his affair. After all, who is getting married? You or your father?"
Calimë snickered. Macalaurë rolled his eyes, but tightened his arm around her. He nodded to Almiesárë. "You are right, of course. So, we will invite my uncles and their families. Arafinwë will be easy. He will welcome the messenger with open arms, and our biggest problem will be to ensure that he does not send Aunt Eärwen and Artanis straight away to fuss over us. But what of Nolofinwë? His pride is no less delicate than my father's."
Calimë and Almiesárë exchanged a glance, and then both mother and daughter burst out laughing. Macalaurë gave an uncertain smile, not quite understanding what was so amusing. At last, Calimë caught her breath, and took pity on her betrothed.
"Macalaurë, you know what my father is like. Do you truly believe that Mother and I have no idea how to handle a delicate sense of pride?"
"I suppose I do not, now that you mention it."
"Of course. You are very clever. That is why I am going to marry you." Calimë kissed Macalaurë's nose. "We will deliver the invitation quietly, by a messenger from my father's House, not yours. Then the Lord Regent will be able to make a big public announcement that he will deign to attend the wedding of his nephew, the mighty singer Canafinwë Macalaurë, at the most humble request of Séretur Erufailon, master harpist of Formenos."
Macalaurë stared at Calimë for a moment in stunned silence. Then he burst out laughing. "Calimë, you are a marvel!" he cried. "It is as if you had entered Nolofinwë's mind. Of course he will come, if we take such care with the invitation."
"Good. That is settled, then." Almiesárë pushed a blank piece of parchment towards Macalaurë. "You write out the invitation for Lord Arafinwë and his family. Calimë and I will draft the invitation for Nolofinwë."
Calimë and Macalaurë paused for one last kiss, and then bent their heads over their work.
Macalaurë returned home late, but was not entirely surprised to see light seeping from underneath the door to the forge. Still giddy from his time with Calimë, Macalaurë knocked on the door.
"Who is there?" Fëanáro's voice came from inside.
"It is I."
After a moment, the door opened, and Fëanáro pulled Macalaurë into the forge and embraced him. "Welcome home, Macalaurë. I trust that all went well tonight." His tone was friendly, but his body vibrated with tension, and his eyes glittered. He cast nervous glances at the oaken chest in the corner, bound with thick bands of iron, where Macalaurë knew that the Silmarils were kept.
Macalaurë nodded, and dared to put a hand on his father's shoulder. "Of course everything went well, Father. I had a harp lesson, and I spent time with Calimë and her mother taking care of wedding business. There was never a reason for anything untoward to happen."
Fëanáro shrugged. "One never knows, Macalaurë. One never knows. Anything may go wrong, usually when one is least expecting it." His eyes flickered toward the oak chest again.
"That reminds me," Macalaurë said. "I have been meaning to ask you this for some time, but it has always slipped my mind. Have you decided what you will wear to the wedding? Almiesárë showed me the diamond fillet she intends to wear to give her daughter away, and I would have you wear something beautiful as well when you give me away. Would you consider wearing the Silmarils?"
Fëanáro's eyes blazed, and he whirled around and seized Macalaurë's shoulders in an iron grip. "No!" he cried. Macalaurë started, but his father held him fast. Then Fëanáro's expression softened. He slowly opened his hands and released Macalaurë, who frowned in confusion. Fëanáro took a deep breath, and smiled.
"I – that is – I mean to say – That day will be your wedding. I would never dare to wear any jewel that might outshine the bridegroom. Even if you forgave me, Almiesárë never would." He laughed a little, and Macalaurë laughed with him in relief.
"Very well. Perhaps you will wear your fire opals instead."
Fëanáro nodded. "Yes. That is a good idea. I will wear fire opals. But, come. It is late, and you should go to bed."
"Father! I am fully grown, and I am about to be married. I believe that I can determine when I should go to bed."
"Perhaps so. But you are still my son, and you are not married yet, so allow me to enjoy being your father while I am still permitted to do so." Fëanáro embraced Macalaurë, then released him with a pat on the shoulder. "Sleep well, my son."
"Thank you." Macalaurë turned and left the forge. He closed the door quietly and headed back to the house. Séretur had not been entirely correct, he told himself. Fëanáro had changed since the Exile, but Macalaurë could still recognize his father and take comfort from his love.