The brothers sat in a darkened room, with one candle between them.
"It is time for us to fulfil the oath," Maedhros said to Maglor.
Maglor fixed his eyes on the candle. Maedhros had returned from battle only days before. First he had spoken of Elros and of the glory he had in victory. The Men called him a leader now. But soon the conversation shifted, after the boys had retired. The Silmarils, taken from Morgoth's crown in his defeat, were in the hands of Eonwe, herald of Manwe, to be returned to Valinor.
"None can release us," Maedhros continued.
"If none can release us then indeed the Everlasting Darkness shall be our lot, whether we keep our oath or break it; but less evil shall we do in the breaking."
Maedhros waited, and watched his brother's hands clench the table. "They will be gone over the sea, beyond our reach, into the hands of the Valar. We may never see them again." He kept his voice steady as Maglor's hands turned white. "I feel the yearning."
Maglor's face was as white as his hands. "How?"
"We will disguise ourselves and go into the camp of Eonwe. There need be no more deaths."
Maglor sighed, and closed his eyes. "No more deaths."
It was a simple matter, to cloak themselves in the dark. Or, rather, it would have been simple, had Elros not found them as they were leaving.
"I will come with you," he said.
"You will not," Maglor replied, cutting off his brother's words.
"If you go into battle, Father," Elros insisted, "my place is at your side."
Maglor's face twisted into something Elros did not recognize. "I go on a madman's errand that I may not survive." That I hope not to survive, he thought, but it was not true, not anymore. "You and your brother are the last of the house of Feanor. You have had your battles, and your victory. In this you will not follow me."
"Then you will have to lock me up to prevent me," Elros said.
"So be it," Maglor answered. He called the guards that stood at his gates. They came quickly, armed. "Mandil. Linwe." They nodded. "Keep my son safe in his rooms until tomorrow morning."
"Father," Elros said, one last time.
Maglor turned away.
As they rode on Maglor thought he could see Elrond watching from the balcony, his eyes fixed on the distance.
Eonwe's camp was full of guards. They evaded one, and another, and soon they were close to the tent where the jewels were kept. "Halt!" a guard shouted. Maedhros' sword flashed. Soon the guards were upon them. Maglor raised his sword, and two guards fell dead.
"No more deaths!" Maglor spat.
"Your vow, brother," Maedhros answered.
They fought back to back, moving slowly into the tent. The Silmarils were in reach. Each brother could almost touch one. Then, a blast, and Eonwe himself appeared.
The brothers stood motionless, knowing themselves doomed. The herald of Manwe was beyond their skill to fight. But Eonwe did not move against them.
"I will not kill you," he said. "These gems have caused enough bloodshed. Take them, and begone."
No one moved.
"Begone!" Eonwe shouted.
Maedhros stepped forward and took a Silmaril in his left hand. His body trembled as he held it. Then, slowly, the light faded. Maedhros let out a cry, a wail of mourning and pain. He fled the room, not looking back, clutching the darkened Silmaril at his breast.
It seemed to Maglor like time had stood still, like all of eternity was compressed into the light of the one jewel that shone before him. He reached out his fingers to it, couched it gently, and then took it in his hands. Such radiance, such powerfor a moment Maglor felt himself back in Valinor, in the light of the two trees. He saw his father's smile. Of all the sons, he thought, it has come to me. Then, as he watched, the light of this one, also, began to fade.
"Go," Eonwe said again.
Maglor walked slowly towards the seashore.
The darkened Silmaril burned him, scorched his hand. But the pain of the burning was nothing like the pain of the darkness. He knew his brother, who had survived the torture of Morgoth, could not survive this pain, this emptiness.
For the vow was broken. The Silmarils, though found, were lost. And now Everlasting Darkness shall be our fate He remembered the words of his oath, and knew them to be true.
Maedhros could not survive. Maglor realized this, and then saw, with a shock, that he himself could.
The last of the house of Feanor. If his sons would take the Silmaril, the vow could be kept. In their innocent hands the light would return. The light of the Silmarils would return to the house of Feanor.
Was it for this that he had fostered them, all those years ago? Could he have foreseen that they would be the last hope of his house, and of his soul?
He thought of Elrond's eyes, so full of curiosity. Elrond had seen so much, in the far-off visions of a scholar, but never the raw beauty of a Silmaril. He imagined those eyes lit up, joyous. But instead of the light of a distant star, the light would be in his own hands, and he would call Father to the one who gave it to him.
Like Maglor had once. He remembered the jewel in his hands, and the brightness in his eyes. Then other memories came.
He remembered the warping of his brother's face, the fading of his open smile. He remembered the ships burning. Maedhros, once so kind. Alqualonde. Doriath. Sirion.
Maglor remembered Elrond in the window, and on the floor feeding bananas to his brother. I will hate you forever. The knife wielded against him. He could picture that knife turned, each child pointing it at the other. For so it would be.
So much death for this vow, for this jewel. Elros did not desire it, but would kill for it for Maglor's sake. Elrond did not want it, but the stories about it were always on his lips. Alqualonde. Doriath. Sirion.
What would he bring his sons with this gift, this heritage? The doom of the house of Feanor, and the soul-destruction of the Silmarils.
The last of the house of Feanor.
He thought of the boy falling to his death in the burning of Sirion. To him, perhaps, he had been kinder.
The darkness burned him, tearing at his mind. He knew he would soon go mad from the pain. There was only one fulfillment of the vow, and it lay behind him.
They will not know,he thought. No one will tell of the choice of the last of the sons of Feanor. You will be named kinslayer in the tales, and oathbreaker in your heart.
So be it.
He bent to the Silmaril, and kissed it. A tear fell upon it, reflecting starlight in a fleeting moment of brightness. Maglor stood, and lifted the Silmaril to his chest. Then, with one motion, he threw it heavenward. It hung in the sky, like a shadow of a star, beneath the light of Earendil. "Father," he heard a voice, perhaps his own. Then the darkened star fell, and sank soundlessly in the ocean.
He let out a cry, a cry that became a wail, a wail that became a song, a song that was nothing more than weeping. This was his doom and he would face it as bravely as he had tried to escape it. He took one step, and then another. Then he let the darkness take him away.
and thereafter he wandered ever upon the shores, singing in pain and regret beside the waves. For Maglor was mighty among the singers of old, named only after Daeron of Doriath; but he never came back among the people of the Elves.
This story has come to an end. There will be an epilogue to this story and to 'Naming the Stones', posted separately.
My stories 'When I am Wise' and 'Naming the Stones' continue this from the perspective of Elrond, and 'Stardust' by greenleaf-legolas (very recommended) continues it from the perspective of Elros.
The lines at the end of the chapter are from Silmarillion 24, as is most of the material for this chapter. The oath of the sons of Feanor is from Silamrillion 9. They took an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Iluvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not.
Two notes for canon nitpickers:
We are told in Silmarillion 24 that none of the Elves of Beleriand fought in the War of Wrath. That's why I had to sneak Maedhros into the human armies. In the Silmarillion it looks like only the Valar and the Elves of Valinor fought against Morgoth, but in the Akallabeth and in the LOTR appendix we are told that the Edain fought on the side of the Valar.
There was actually another descendant of Feanor alive at this time - Celebrimbor son of Curufin, the future forger of the Rings of Power. Since he is not mentioned as taking part in any of the wars for the Silmarils, I have concluded that either Maedhros and Maglor were unaware of him, or that he had renounced the house of Feanor and its vow.
My deepest thanks to all my loyal reviewers, and to Soledad and greenleaf-legolas for support and discussions, and to Arwen Imladviel and the silmfics group for fact-checking.
I bow to the Great Professor Tolkien, and apologize for any misuse I have made of his work.
Finally, a bow to Loreena McKennit, whose song 'Dante's Prayer' is an endless source of inspiration:
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me.