Chapter 4: Father Maglor's Star
In the fading light Elrond wandered among the trees, wondering what Galadriel could have meant. He knew there was another piece to the test, something he had yet to understand. In his thoughts he could not reach it, and felt only the loneliness of the forest.
The trees were no comfort tonight. He turned to seek solace and learning, as he had as a child, with his texts. In his study he pulled his books one by one from the shelves, hoping for something, anything, to answer Galadriel's riddle. But the dark forest surrounding him through the glass walls of his study was no longer the source of strength it had been. The trees towered over him, hovering, accusing, and he was afraid of what they had seen. So he left his majestic glass structure, and went to the place by the stream where he had been tested that afternoon.
Evening had just passed, and Earendil's star was still in the sky. "Father," Elrond called out, hearing his own childhood voice. What more must I do? He so desperately wanted to understand, to make sense of the tortured shards of his people's history and his own. He wondered what his father was thinking, looking down on his humbled wreck of a son. The star, of course, gave no answer.
"This is as useful as talking to Galadriel," he muttered aloud.
"Then it must be very useful indeed," said Celeborn from behind him. Elrond jumped, startled out of his thoughts. Calaborn, dressed in the white robes of Lorien, was leaning with one arm against the translucent glass structure he had created. Elrond smiled, absurdly glad to see him. They had never been close, although the older Elf had been more than kind to him in his time here. Somehow, though, at that moment Elrond felt that Celeborn's presence was answering a need he did not know how to explain.
They sat together by the stream. The stars, and their reflection in the water, made Elrond think not of his painful interlude with Galadriel in that spot only a few hours before but of a conversation with his brother, long ago, looking out over the shores of Middle earth, remembering their father who had gone.
"Did you know my father?" Elrond asked. Celeborn's homeland had been Doriath, the lost kingdom of Elrond's great-great-grandparents Thingol and Melian. He knew Celeborn must have many stories about his family.
'I never had a chance to speak to Maglor," Celeborn responded. Elrond thought he should get angry that Celeborn had interpreted his question that way, but somehow could not. So he let Celeborn continue. "I was there at the sack of Doriath and saw how he marched, expressionless, like a wraith. He covered himself in black, as if he knew he had been transformed into an orc, or something worse. I believe that if someone would have killed him, he would have been grateful. And yet I treasure his songs, those that I have been able to learn. For they are the songs of an open soul, dreaming always of the stars. If Arda could be torn, and remade, I would ask for his healing, even at the cost of the Silmarils. Great beauty is lost from the world with Maglor gone."
Elrond could not believe the sadness he heard in Celeborn's voice. "He destroyed your home and you speak of his songs?"
"Do you know," Celeborn asked in response, "what side Galadriel fought on in the battle for Doriath? We were only recently married, but she had been living with my kin for many years. Maglor and his brothers were among the Noldor that Galadriel had come with out of the west. Although they betrayed her, still their fates were joined in the beginning of time. What do you think she did, when they came to destroy our home?"
The stream flowed, the leaves rustled, and Elrond did not answer. After years of the teaching he knew every shame that Galadriel could name for herself. But this one he could not speak, not here, not to the one who had suffered from it. It was too close to his own.
"Nothing at all," Celeborn answered his own question. He spoke without grief, without bitterness, and Elrond was amazed. "She remained in her tower until Doriath fell, and then we rode away."
"And you forgave her?" Elrond asked.
"I had to," Celeborn answered. "I love her."
So do I, Elrond thought, and it had nothing to do with the crazed passion of the morning. He remembered the reassurance of her eyes in the forest, and her work that he would continue until the end of his strength. "You have so much to forgive," he said. "My family, for keeping the Silmaril in Doriath. Maglor. My whole people, the Noldor, for our madness over the Silmarils," he spoke the word like a curse. "Galadriel, for bringing us into Middle Earth to shatter your home." He almost stopped, but remembered the events of the day and forced himself to add, "Me."
Celeborn looked at him, and his gaze was like his wife's, both kind and unyielding. "You, too have much to forgive."
"How long does it take, to forgive?" Is it possible to put to rest the hurts of an age?
"About as long as you have taken." Yes.
Earendil's star remained in the sky. Below it there was a patch of darkness Elrond had never noticed before. Maglor's star, he thought, the star that Maglor's Silmaril could have been. Perhaps will be, when Arda is remade. He realized that Celeborn, in his kindness, had given him what he needed to pass the last part of Galadriel's test. To feel the longing of the Noldor for the light, and to renounce it, and yet still to have it, for the light still remains. To refuse to continue the evil of his chosen people, but to forgive it, and his yearning, and himself. To remember, for good and for ill, that Maglor was his foster-father. The father who raised him. His father. "Father Maglor's star," he said, to hear the words spoken aloud.
He turned to Celeborn, eager, wanting to explain. "Galadriel has wondered why I have never danced to the song of the stars. I think I had simply never seen the right star, or heard the right song."
"And you have now?" Celeborn asked.
"Yes," Elrond answered, and began to sing an old melody of Maglor's . It was a sad song, but sung without words it became no longer sad but merely true, and not only true but beautiful. He looked up and felt the stars, those that shone and those that did not. The trees rustled around him, welcoming his soul back to the forest. He looked up at Celeborn, the beginnings of possibilities in his eyes. "Let's go," he said. "Let's go find Galadriel."
They ran together, hand in hand, almost dancing. Galadriel was in her garden, where she had been waiting for him.
"Have you solved my riddle?" she asked, her eyes smiling, knowing that he had.
Elrond did not answer. He knew he would explain everything in the next teaching, but for the moment he let his response be the clarity of his gaze and his wordless song. He extended one hand to each of his teachers, and they began to dance.
When the Firstborn came into the world the stars were their first teachers, made by Varda from silver dew and song. Each star contains a world, a soul, a story, a gem, a light beyond telling. Each night again they teach Varda's love, and light the dances of the heart. The stars and their souls cast down their songs that night on the three Elves who danced beneath them, danced until morning, after an age of kinstrife, in a moment of peace.
And so the Silmarils found their long homes
One in the airs of heaven
One in the fires of the earth
One in the deep waters
Never to be found again
Until Arda be broken and remade.
The verses at the end are adapted from the last lines of the Silmarillion.
I bow to the Great Professor Tolkien, Lord of the Text, and apologize for any misuse of his characters that I have committed.
I bow also to all the authors, living or dead, whose works I have quoted in this story: Umberto Eco, T.S. Eliot, Elwen Aiwelinde.
A final bow to Loreena McKennitt, whose song 'Dante's Prayer' helped inspire both my Elrond stories, although I have not found a place to put the verses:
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars.
If you would like to read more about Galadriel and Celeborn in the First Age, I strongly recommend Oboe-Wan's delightful story 'Silver and Gold,' available on this site.
Thank you to all the kind reviewers whose enthusiasm helped me get this story to its conclusion. I am grateful with all my heart.