Anything can be excused, given enough thought; and Maeglin had given it little else since returning whole and with his sanity intact from Angband. There were rationalizations, there were always rationalizations.

True to form, he found them, in his own mind.

Lying on his back and watching the clouds drift by, it wasn't them he was thinking of, though. It was his mother, as last he'd seen her, bleeding, dying (he knew it, even when they said she would not) and yet his uncle had pushed him back, refused to allow him to speak with her. "Not now," he had snapped, and by the next morning she was gone, and he had never seen her again.

Once or twice he entertained the bitter thought that his mother was not really dead, that Turgon had merely hidden her away to keep him from her, hateful and selfish. He knew somewhere that it wasn't true, but in his darker moments, he thought it, and hated, and nursed the hatred in his heart like a seedling. It was his shield.

They thought he didn't notice, thought that he could miss…ha! A glorious prince he might be, of Gondolin, but in name only. They would never accept his rule. Not with their sidelong glances and whispers of suspicion, because of his father. As if they expected him to become his father in a moment. He would never be like his father.

His father had killed his beautiful mother, and for that more than anything else Maeglin had endeavored to forget his name and everything about him. If only everyone else would let him.

No, they would give him nothing. Cut him out of the line on some loophole. He could see it coming. He would not live with that forever, and would never live with being denied his right. He deserved the throne! He deserved Idril.

Idril. Just the thought of her made him smile, a smile that to any watchers had the taint of madness in it. And he had promised…promised to make her his.

And there, his thoughts were back to it. It made him shudder, still – the feeling of Orkish hands on him, looking up at his face for the first time, and the knowledge of what could be done to him… Maeglin didn't want to feel pain. Not that kind of pain; the agonizing soul searing thought-ending kind. It would be too much.

And then he was given a chance.

You know what awaits you, he said in his dreadful voice, or you can give me the location of your uncle's city, and I will let you go free.

And he had felt hope, and at a strange urging, said and give me the throne; give me its lordship and the hand of the lady Idril, and he had smiled a terrible smile and said yes.

It was easy, to betray everyone he knew. Just a few words, barely ten, and it was done, and he was free.

It was then he thought for the first time about what he had done. And thought, I have condemned the people who raised me, who I grew up with, who taught me, to die. I have just betrayed my city to the darkest being ever to have lived.

And it was then that he first truly wanted to die.

He considered it, seriously, there. Considered simply plunging into one of the rocky crevasses and simply being another lost on an exploration gone too far. But he cringed back, and failed.

And rearranged his thoughts so he could live with them. They had betrayed him first. They had failed him, treated him ill, always, in all their whispers and murmurings. They would stab him in the back at the first opportunity, if it weren't for the feeble protection of his uncle. No! His uncle did not protect him, Turukáno stood by and did nothing, perhaps even encouraged the plots, quietly. It was only Maeglin's own wits keeping him alive, his own alertness that kept his enemies from attacking.

It was rational. It made sense.

He deceived himself until he thought it was true. He owed them nothing. And whatever destruction Morgoth could wreak, he would mend it, of course. With Idril by his side, and unmolested by the Dark Lord, they would rise again. There would be survivors. There were always survivors. If he felt guilt, then, it was fleeting.

Of course, he could not always keep his shields up. Some unexpected act of kindness, a good day, would bring back his regrets in full, and he would stand trembling in some quiet tower, willing himself to jump, but his courage always failed him, and he turned away, building up his walls impenetrable and high.

If he had been strange before, though he did not know it, he became stranger. Those who had noticed nothing wrong began to sense something off about him. The increased circle of people avoiding him didn't touch Maeglin, though. All the better. Fear had made him paranoid, and he expected attacks from every quarter.

Expected and feared discovery even more.

What would he do, if (when) he was found out? Run? To where? There was nowhere to go, once his deed was done, that would accept him. Throw himself on their mercy? The thought made him laugh, bitterly. What mercy, when had they ever shown him mercy – and how could they think to protect him from Him? How had they ever stood so long…seeing what he had, Maeglin had to think it was only at Morgoth's will. So he could crush Gondolin as it stood at its peak.

No, there was no way out but forward. If he was discovered, he would fight it, deny it, and hope that he would be freed to meet his rightful place before they killed him.

Of course, if Tuor were involved, he would be dead without a chance to speak. Tuor would kill him gladly. Maeglin's lip curled with hatred. No, it was clear that somehow or other, Tuor would have to die, before he could ruin everything.

It was all very easy, to think and scheme and plan during the light of day. It was in the dark, trying to sleep and not finding it, that he struggled. And what would his mother think, of all this? Would she think him so noble, so brave, if she knew what he had done and what he planned to do? Or his father – was he becoming what everyone seemed to think he would, Eol's son in truth?

They swirled around him like clouds, dark thoughts nibbling away at his self-confidence, his righteousness. It was for them he nurtured that seed of hatred, every day, with every wrong real and perceived, and let it blossom into flower to whisper to him that it did not matter, she was not here, he was on his own now and that meant he had to look out for himself because no one else would.

Odd, but the more he let that seed out, the more it seemed to grow, squeezing out of his heart to fill his chest, until he wondered if when he died the black and ugly flower would simply burst forth from his flesh and reach for the sun.

It swallowed his doubts, though, and he needed something to swallow the doubts, or they would eat him instead. The black flower, ugly and twisted as it was, was a better choice by far.

But it was none of this he thought about at the moment. For the moment, he lay in the grass watching the sky, with a heart full of hatred and a mind full of scars, and thought about his mother, and the last time he'd ever seen her, and how she'd taken his hand and smiled before they took her away.

It was like she'd loved him, for real, but if she'd really loved him, the black flower said, she never would have died.

He believed it.