FATHER-NAMES, by Finch
Based on The Silmarillion, Tolkien's letters and the HoMe series.
Disclaimer: It's all dependent on Tolkien. He created these characters and their history, though the names of Himluin and Andrúth were invented by me.
In the hour before dawn the four remaining sons of Fëanor descended on the Havens of Sirion to take the Silmaril.
The letter that Maedhros son of Fëanor sent to the people dwelling at the Havens, was as courteous as its demands unyielding. He and his brothers bore the folk of the Havens no ill will and would offer them aid if asked for, but the Silmaril was rightfully theirs and must be returned to them. Or they would take what was denied them, as they had sworn to do, calling everlasting darkness upon them if they should fail.
It was Elwing who received their message, for she it was who wore the Silmaril after her father Dior and her grandmother Lúthien the Fair. She rejected the stern demand. Never would she betray those that had suffered and died to win and keep the jewel in which the fate of Arda was contained.
The folk of the Havens, many of whom had witnessed the slaughter of their loved ones at the hands of Maedhros and his brothers, concurred. They prepared as well as they might for the attack that was bound to come. Long and bloody was the fighting, for Elwing's people had courage, and much to defend. Not even women and children were spared. Many that before had escaped the Balrogs and orcs of Morgoth, now fell to the swords of Elves who were little better than orcs and Balrogs.
The fighting lasted for most of the day. Confusion reigned; some among the attackers turned to defenders in an attempt to mend their evil ways. Some stood aside, caught between loyalty and loathing. But the people of the Havens were outnumbered, and for all their valour could not withstand the wrath the oath had kindled.
Many warriors were slain that day, the youngest of Fëanor's sons among them, in the fury that raged around the base of Elwing's white tower on the edge of the Bay of Balar. The door of the tower was battered relentlessly, and when at last it broke, the defenders' cries of dismay mingled with far more numerous shouts of victory. Maedhros and Maglor and several of their warriors stormed in to run up the stairs. But suddenly those who remained outside beheld a white blaze at the top of the tower. Many had to shield their eyes as against the glare of the sun itself, but the hardiest eyes could discern the pale shape of a woman in the arch of the highest window: Elwing of Doriath. The light shone on her breast, and the wind caught in her long dark tresses as she straightened and opened her arms.
A heavy silence descended. The woman flung herself forward, and a sigh resembling the breath of the ocean escaped all that beheld this sight. She plummeted towards the sea, her garments fluttering behind her like frenzied wings, past the base of her tower and the face of the cliff from which it rose. Ever faster she fell, but before she broke the surface the sea rose to meet her. A huge wave lifted her slender form upward like a hand, up, and up, until it crested and fell away from underneath her, and the fluttering garments were truly wings and Elwing was a woman no more.
A white seagull with a Silmaril on its breast shot into the gathering gloom like a star.
He was the last to climb down the long, winding stairs, a long and weary descent. All other doors in the tower were open. He cast a glance inside the first three, and when he beheld the empty children's beds in the third room, he ignored the other rooms. Someone had been there before him, his brother, or one of their warriors.
Perhaps he ought to make haste, but he was tired. The Silmaril was out of reach once more. They had merely added new crimes to their names, ever more blood to the sea through which they were wading. No wonder we are bogged down.
Outside, he saw the battle was over, the cries and the clamour replaced by the quiet of death. They had won the day, but at great cost. Not far from the tower he found his brother. Maedhros stood watching the bloody corpses of their fallen brothers, their father's youngest sons. He had closed their eyes, yet even in death their faces remained twisted with rage. The same faces, for they were twins. The same rage.
'May they find peace in the halls of Mandos,' Maedhros said without looking up.
'They must atone first – and long will it be before they find mercy,' Maglor said. As it will be with us. The Curse of Mandos will take us all in the end.
His brother laughed mirthlessly. 'Your encouraging words lift up my heart.' His gaze turned west towards the empty seas and added angrily: 'A gull. The Lord of the Waters* turned Elwing into a seagull. What will the Powers devise next to thwart us?'
Maglor refrained from pointing out that it was Elwing, the grandchild of a mortal Man, who had thwarted them in the first place. 'Where are her sons?' he asked. Below the tower, the waves crashed against the shore, telling stories of a shining jewel carried out of reach.
'Not here,' Maedhros answered, the fire in his eyes dulled. 'I do not know who took the half-elven brats. Nor do I care anymore.'
Maglor remembered. More than two dozen years of the sun ago. The kingdom of Doriath was no more. Dior lay death, with his wife; and tough his daughter had escaped with the Silmaril his two sons had been seized and left in the wintry woods. Neither he nor Maedhros knew of this, or they might have prevented it.
'Do we wage war on children?' his brother shouted when they told him the boys had been abandoned to starvation.
'I have seen the bodies of dead children in these halls,' one of the perpetrators had the evil courage to say. 'Did you have no hand at all in their deaths, my lord?'
Maedhros had remained silent, jaws clenched. He had punished nor rebuked the guilty.
'How much deeper can we fall?' Maglor recalled saying later that day, when they left the carnage behind to return to their homes without the shining jewel they had come to claim.
'Is there a ground to evil, or is it a bottomless pit?' Maedhros asked.
'I cannot tell.'
'Neither can I.'
That same night, Maedhros had quietly left their camp and ventured alone in the forest to seek Dior's sons. To no avail. Once, he came upon a pair of footprints, but the boys he could not find, though he searched for them until the snows began to melt.
Afterwards, he told Maglor about the wolves he had killed, and they both thought the same.
'Indeed,' said Maglor, sick at heart. 'We wage war on children. I had forgotten.'
'What difference do two more boys make?' Maedhros said wearily. 'I failed to find Elwing's brothers. Why do you believe it will be easier to find her sons? Is not death all we have to deal? And would it not be for the best if they should perish, instead of growing up to take revenge?'
Did he mean those words, or did he fear to fail for a second time? Perhaps my turn has come to seek in vain… Maglor thought. Then they would both know that the descent into darkness knew no end, and despair together.
'To that, I do not have the answer,' he replied, leaving his brothers, the dead and the living, behind in the gathering gloom.
It was night before he found whom he sought: Himluin and Andrúth, who had served his brother Celegorm before he was slain by Dior of Doriath. He recognized them both. They were covered in blood, as he knew himself to be. 'I am told you know what fate befell the sons of Elwing,' he said.
They gazed at him, one with cold blue eyes, the other with a smoldering ire in a face both fair and cruel. 'You were told the truth,' said Himluin, his tone close to insolence. 'We left them in the woods.'
'As we did with Elwing's brothers, whose father killed our lord,' said Andrúth.
Maglor felt a rising ire. 'What way did you go? Where did you take them?'
'I do not recall,' replied Himluin.
Elven remembrance is long and keen. 'So you have the memories of aging mortals?' Maglor said with deceptive calm.
Himluin shrugged. 'Perhaps we paid no attention.'
They defied him, but once they had been of Fëanor's following, and he was Fëanor's son. He would suffer it no more. Maglor drew his blade and thrust. Himluin crumpled without a sound, his blood soiling the earth, his cold eyes turning into frosted glass. Andrúth cowered.
'Orcs, I kill. To prove you are no creature of the Enemy,' said Maglor savagely, 'you will lead me onto the right path at dawn.' After this killing, which was nothing less than an execution, Andrúth would not lead him astray now.
But then, no one needs to lead the sons of Fëanor astray. We already are.
This time, it was summer, not winter. The boys would have a better chance to survive, Maglor mused, but his chances of finding them were smaller without any snow to preserve footprints.
The rising sun set the forest afire when a sullen-faced Andrúth led him inside. Soon, it became clear to him why they had to go on foot. Instead of chosing one of the paths, his guide climbed the steep hill that the paths avoided, between rocky outcrops and thorny bushes. Once they reached the crest they descended again, bounding, sliding down along yesteryear's dead leaves and slippery patches of moss. The hill would be a formidable obstacle for two young children.
How old were these boys? It occurred to Maglor that he did not even know that much about them. All he ever heard was that they existed. He was loath to ask his guide about it, but he guessed they could walk, or Himluin and Andrúth would not have taken the trouble to put this hill between them and their way home, or what was left of it.
Beyond the hill, the forest ground grew marshy in places – these woods bordered on the fenlands of Sirion - and here and there Maglor saw tiny pools glimmer between the trees. Some time after the red of dawn had changed into the white light of morning, his ears caught the melody of running water, faint and far away. There had been days when he, Maglor the Singer, would turn such music into golden song. Those days were long gone.
'How far?' he growled at his guide.
'We left them beside the brook murmuring in the distance,' was the answer.
Maglor searched the other's smouldering eyes and knew that Andrúth spoke the truth.
'I shall go on alone,' he said. 'Leave me.'
When Andrúth was gone, he let the music of the water guide him. It was much further away than he thought, and when he found it the sound was very loud. Following the stream in the direction of its source, he discovered why when it turned sharply to the west .
(To be continued)
*The Lord of the Waters: Ulmo