There were days, sometimes, when his father was quieter than others. When his father seemed to forget their existence and his mother could steal him away to some quiet place in the small house and tell him stories, her eyes distant and wistful. He loved those days, loved his mother, loved her stories.
They got her in trouble, though. He didn't love that.
When he'd been young, there'd been a day when she'd been telling Maeglin of the Sons of Fëanor, her eyes bright and a slight smile on her lips as she described them with such vivid language that he could almost see them, closing his eyes lightly. Ëol found them, though, and Maeglin would never forget the look on his face, never forget the way his hand closed on his mother's slender wrist and dragged her to her feet, shook her.
"You fill his head with lies. Lies!" He shoved her from him and stepped toward Maeglin, took his face almost gently between his hands, his eyes burning with the light of fantacism. "The world outside these woods is dangerous, boy. You will die if you go there, do you hear me? Likelier than not at the hunting spears of that damned folk. Your mother tells fables and thinks of them as truth."
Maeglin knew better than that, though, and while he made himself nod because not to agree would make his father angry and he was already angry enough.
Then Ëol took his mother away and while he never heard a sound from her that long afternoon from where Maeglin was sitting quietly alone, very still, in the darkest corner he could find, for a long time afterwards she was subdued, quiet, and there were no more stories.
His mother was beautiful. He knew that like breathing, as sure as he knew that he took after her in looks and that this upset his father. "You are my son," he would say, shaking his shoulders, "Mine." Looking at himself in still water, Maeglin considered that claim, and rejected it. His eyes were his mother's clear and grey, and if there was a hint of a gleam to them that wasn't hers, he ignored it. He had his mother's fair skin and his mother's sleek, dark hair. He loved her hair, and always had. In one of his first memories, he sat on her lap and wrapped a small fist in her hair, tugged at the silky black curtain, and he heard her laugh and saw her smile for the first time.
There was no one so beautiful as his mother, no one so worthy, no one so kind or generous or wise. She didn't smile often now, and laughed even less. He missed it, and knew well the source of her sobriety.
Here in the shadows, her fair skin looked sallow, her eyes seemed dull and lightless. It was only when she told the stories, about hunting in the sun or running with brothers-cousins-beasts that she brightened, and he wondered, once or twice, if she were some Maia his father had somehow enslaved, stolen away and hid in the dark.
Ëol silenced her laughter. Ëol kept her here when she so longed for her family, and when he asked why they could not all go back Ëol had laughed, harshly. "You think they will ever accept you and me, boy? We are lesser, lower than them. Not fit to kiss their feet. Her so called 'family' would kill us as soon as look at us."
Maeglin liked his mother's stories better. Gradually, nurtured in thought and darkness for years, a thought came to light. It was Ëol's fault his mother was unhappy. Ëol's fault his mother languished.
Hatred was born, and growing he encouraged it, nurtured it, nursed it as tenderly as his mother had once nursed him. It bore sour fruit – his father's harsh words and harsher blows – but he held onto his defiance and waited until one of the days his mother was quiet, withdrawn, her hair cast over her face.
"Mother," he murmured, kneeling before her and pushing her beautiful hair back, face turned up and expression almost worshipful, unaware though he was of it. "I want to meet your brother. I want to see Gondolin."
When the spark kindled in her eyes again, he knew he'd done the right thing.
They told him his mother was dead.
He could believe that. After the javelin had struck home and his – uncle? It was strange at best to think of the forbidding and stern king he'd seen that way – Turukáno's guards had laid hold of his father, Maeglin had been at his mother's side, holding her hand and trying to stem the flow of blood. And she had looked at him, and smiled just a little, and squeezed his hand once before closing his eyes.
And he knew then that she would die.
The King had barked orders, fear in his eyes as he gazed at the body of his sister borne away, to place Ëol in the dungeons, and turned his eyes on Maeglin, frowning.
"Keep him under guard," he sentenced, and Maeglin met his eyes almost defiantly, not letting an expression cross his face.
"Let me see my mother."
Turukáno's head jerked, and Maeglin thought to wonder if he looked like his mother to this stranger, or more like his father. "No. Go with the guard." He paused, and added, almost grudgingly, "For your own safety. I will not have my sister's son murdered in my own hall."
Wouldn't you? Maeglin wondered, but didn't voice it.
The night passed slowly. He'd been placed in a tower, and stood at the window looking out, as the wind whistled by, pretending he didn't know about the guards outside his door. Prisoner or guest? Perhaps he had been foolish to come here.
His father had warned him, of course. Of the dangers of stepping outside that dark wood where he'd been born. His father had told him that the ones his mother called family would never accept him. It grated at him to think that his father might have been right. About anything, but especially that.
He wished, fleetingly, that the dart meant for him had indeed taken him instead of his mother. It would have made more sense.
The morning came bleak and grey with the news they brought him that Irissë the White Lady was dead and that he was summoned to the cliffs. That the High King wished his presence. He nodded, once, and thought to wonder briefly why his mother's brother hadn't come to tell him himself.
The wind was stronger on the cliffs than it had felt on his window, but Maeglin overcame his fear and looked over the edge, down at the sharp and jagged rocks below. His stomach felt like lead, and he could feel Turukáno his mother's brother watching him. Looking for what? Signs of weakness? Maeglin stiffened his shoulders and glanced away, eyes finding his father where he was held his eyes like steel, hardening when they found Maeglin's gaze. Ëol spat in distaste, and Maeglin turned away.
He felt…nothing. No grief. No rage. No fear for his father or hope for himself. As blank and empty as if the very thought of emotion were an alien thing.
It was not a trial. The heavy tones of Turgon's voice made that much clear. It was merely an execution, a statement of the facts, you-Ëol-Dark-Elf-have-abducted-and-forcibly-held-she-known-by-the-name-Irissë-Nolofinwion-leading-to-her-death-this-past-night… Maeglin stopped listening.
They sentenced his end by the cliffs before them, as Maeglin expected. As the two Elves holding him dragged him to the cliff edge, Ëol seemed to feel fear for the first time, and head turning, his eyes fell on his son.
"You would stand by and do nothing? My own blood?"
Maeglin knew he was being watched, knew that he should say something, something defiant or denouncing, renouncing this man, this murderer of his beloved mother, as his father.
He said nothing.
The words of his father's curse did not quite penetrate the shell of calm that kept him from feeling. He did not look away from his father as Ëol intoned his own son's doom, his own death, and then he was falling.
He still said nothing, made no sound, and knew that Turgon watched to see if he would look away.
He didn't look away once.
The halls were quiet and still this afternoon, the wind that had kept him awake for the past two nights with the fear that the fortress would slide off the mountain and he would fall into nothingness only to break when he hit the ground finally having ceased to whistle. So he walked.
Maeglin was not so tall as some, nor so short as others. He stood out in very little, really, except for eyes that had fulfilled their promise and become the gleaming, grey-black that was a perfect mix of his mother and his father. Their stubbornness was certainly hers.
The madness could have been either.
Not that he was aware of or thinking of any of this. At the moment it was only one person who crossed his mind, no matter how tired he might be, as all his waking hours save a few were spent. Thinking of her. Of the way she moved, of the way her hands delicate and slender touched railings and imagined how they would feel on his face.
Or would feel, if she would ever look at him with something other than fear or verging on disgust. His lip curled. Fools, all of them. For not seeing what he could give, for not seeing anything but the shadow of his thrice-damned father. He could speak Quenya flawlessly, knew the customs and cultures as well as any born here, and yet they somehow knew him for something other. Something else.
But here, now, in the quiet halls with the wind no longer blowing…she would come around. Give her time and she would understand, he'd always known she could understand him as no one else would. She reminded him of his mother, in her build and in her grace, his mother when she had smiled and laughed. Idril did both far more often than she had.
Maeglin heard voices, softly, and froze. He took a few steps and stopped, trying to listen.
"Hush. You worry needlessly."
"I don't think so." That voice he knew. Her voice. "I think I worry for good reason."
A few more steps and he could just see her back. But who was she talking to? And what could be worrying his beloved, his most sweet light of life? If he knew…
He shifted, three steps to the right, just in time to see his face before he slipped his arms around Idril's waist and kissed her, long and deeply and passionately. Maeglin felt his knees quiver and his breath catch.
She would choose – an Edain, a wanderer, a houseless messenger, a fraud who claimed to come from the Vala Ulmo himself with tidings of doom and loss – over him?
She sank into his arms and kissed him back with a small sound of pleasure.
He could not take his eyes away. Could not stop watching even if every second passing felt like a hand had taken hold of his guts and was pulling them out hand over hand. It hurt.
It was an eternity before she pulled back, shivering. Maeglin could feel his nails in his palms, could feel the rage beginning to boil under the hurt. How dare she. How dared she, humiliate him like this, make him think – think that she would-
"Someone's here," she said, drawing closer to Tuor – hatred, hatred rank and hot began to flow, looking at him, as he turned, eyes narrowed.