FATHER-NAMES, Part 2
The waterfall was not very high, yet it tumbled down with force. Where the sparkling curtain of drops ceased to fall and hit the rocks, making the water churn and whipping up flakes of foam that swiftly dissolved, he saw a few twigs whirl in the eddies before the current carried them downstream. Some bore leaves.
Maglor stopped in his tracks.
'The dark-haired boy was crouching on a rock in the water, close to the eddies. Now and then he cast a twig into the stream, watching it twist and turn until it vanished from his sight. So engrossed was he in this game that he did not observe the tall stranger who stood observing him.
For a while, Maglor did not stir. Once more, he heard his brother's words: Would it not be for the best if they should perish, instead of growing up to take revenge? Now that his search proved far too easy compared to Maedhros' laborious and vain attempt, he knew in his heart that he had hoped it would be unsuccessful. 'To evil ends shall al things turn that they begin well,' their curse had prophesied. Was meaning this boy and his brother well not the surest way to let them come to harm? What if others sought them? Some at least must have escaped from the Havens. He turned away to leave. And turned back.
The child was leaning forward in a dangerous way to scoop up a handful of foam barely within his reach. Maglor watched him curiously. The boy kept his balance and captured his foam flake with his right hand. When he lifted it carefully to his face it glittered like starlight, until he blew it from his palm and the stars scattered.
Maglor opened his mouth and cried. 'Young one!'
At first, the child appeared to hear nothing. When Maglor repeated his call, he jumped up, startled, and poised to flee.
Nine or ten years old, Maglor thought, until he remembered the boy was half mortal, and that mortals grew faster than Elf-children. Four rounds of the sun since this one was born? Cautiously, he advanced along the bank, pushing aside some branches. How did one speak to a child? He had no children of his own, nor had he ever paid much attention to the young.
He decided on: 'Do not run,' and: 'Are you alone?'
The boy did not move or reply.
Maglor attempted a different approach. 'What is your name? How old are you?'
After a long silence the boy offered: 'I am six years old. And my name is Elurín, after my mother's brother. But he died, and I do not want his name.'
Had Elwing been mad, or fey, to name her son after one of her dead brothers? Would the other boy be called Elured? The thought of using such mother-names repelled Maglor. Wonderering at the strange turn this conversation took he asked: 'So you would rather have a different name?'
Maglor thought of the glittering but short-lived foam dissolving on the surface of the stream. 'Then I shall call you Elros*.' For like the foam on these waters, your time under the Sun will be brief, compared to the life of the Elves. A cold thought, and one he could never repeat to the child. What foresight of doom had come upon him, that he should think such a thing about someone he had met but a few moments ago?
'Elros.' the boy repeated, as if savouring a new taste. Shivering, he stepped into the cold water and waded to the bank, where his shoes lay. 'Now tell me your name.'
He decided to speak the truth. 'Maglor, son of Fëanor.'
The child's grey eyes hardened and darted towards the weapon on Maglor's hip. 'Murderer! Have you come to kill us?' he cried. He did not run away, though.
Us. So the other boy had to be around, too. Maglor drew his sword from its scabbard and saw that he had not cleaned it properly, for it bore traces of blood. A hissing sound escaped the boy.
Appalled at his own lack of subtlety, Maglor threw the weapon out of reach.
An older child, knowing what the hands of a strong adult can do, would not have been satisfied. Elros seemed to relax, be it only a little. 'What happened to my mother?' he asked. 'They said she jumped out of the tower window.'
'She is alive, but she has gone. More, I cannot tell.' That much was true, Maglor thought. He could not tell a six-year-old that his mother had flown away in the shape of a gull. Not here, not now. 'But maybe you can tell me where your brother is?'
Elros tried to outstare him. He did not lack in courage, that much was clear. At last he declared: 'Not far away.'
Clever enough. But he was young, and inexperienced at feigning. Maglor followed his glance, in the certainty that it would tell him the tale. It swerved towards the waterfall.
At first he was taken aback. Then he understood.
There was a narrow space between the rock and the glistening, ever flowing curtain of water. The boy might have slipped through without being touched by more than a few droplets of the spray, but Maglor could not. His left side was quite wet when he stepped inside the shadowy cave. But at least it was not sticky, as it had been yesterday, when the moisture had been blood seeping through his coat of mail.
Elwing's other son was seated on the rocky floor, his arms around his knees, his black hair glimmering in the light that passed through the veil of singing water. He was looking up. The roof of the cavern, moistened by the spray, sparkled like the starry dome of heaven and seemed further away than it was. Yet the child was not so absorbed by the sight that he did not hear Maglor enter. When he saw it was not his brother, he, too scrambled to his feet. His eyes went wide.
So did Maglor's. The boy was the mirror image of the one outside.
They are twins! his mind shouted, full of amazement, full of grief.
The features of his own twin brothers came back to him, those furious, dead masks that once had been the eager, joyful faces of his father's youngest sons, countless years hence in the Blessed Realm, before the Shadow fell. This was an agony he had never expected to suffer. His aching heart seemed to expand until his chest was barely able to contain it. And in that moment he knew beyond all doubt that he would defend Elwing's sons with his own life.
How long they gazed at one another, their silence filled by the sound of the waterfall, he did not know. It was the boy who spoke first, his clear young voice rising above the noise. 'Are you a son of Fëanor?'
Maglor was surprised. So they are different after all. This one sees. He nodded. 'I am Maglor.'
'Then you have done much evil,' the boy said sternly - his mother's words, most likely. 'Are you here to you harm us?' His gaze did not waver.
Maglor was forced to look away. 'Yes, I have. And no, I am not.'
'You and your brother remind me of my own twin brothers, when they were young.'
While the boy considered that, a scraping sound could be heard at the entrance of the cave. The other twin came in, dragging the discarded sword along. He looked as defiant as ever.
'Would you kill me if you could lift my sword, Elros?' Maglor asked.
The boy merely scowled, loath to admit the weapon was too heavy for him.
'He would, if he were but a little taller. But his name is not Elros,' remarked his brother.
'His old name did not please him. So I gave him a new one.' Behind Maglor, the sword clattered to the floor, as if Elros was no longer able to lift it.
'If if you were to give me a new name, what would it be?' Elros' twin demanded to know. His eyes, too, held a challenge, but of a different kind.
Name me well.
Briefly, Maglor wondered what name their father would have bestowed on them, the man who had sired them and then left them, exchanging his home for the deck of a ship. None at all, he deemed, or Elros would have mentioned it. He looked from the glistening vault overhead to the waiting boy. 'You are Elrond**,' he said. For you may live to see the stars tread their age-long dance through the dome of heaven. This time, he did not wonder what, or who, put this thought into his mind, though again he knew he must conceal it. In Arda Marred both dooms would bring sorrow soon enough.
'Elrond,' the boy repeated. Just that - nothing to suggest he either accepted or rejected the name.
Maglor bit his lip. 'Come,' he said. 'Let me take you back.'
'Home?' they asked simultaneously. Their voices were almost indistinguishable, but not quite. To one with a singer's ears it would not be difficult to keep them apart.
'To whatever home I can give you,' Maglor answered.
They were silent for a while. 'Do you think it will do?' Elrond said to his brother.
'If we want to grow up to wield swords,' Elros replied ominously.
Elrond turned back to Maglor. 'We have no choice, have we?'
He did not deserve better. Yet, while he led the twins through the woods towards the Havens of Sirion, Maglor the Singer found himself softly humming a new tune for the first time in many years, a marching song to accompany their small steps. He was not at all sure if he could win their trust. He still could not tell if there was a ground to evil. But he knew that, for the time being, the task he had set himself would keep him from falling any further.
*Elros = Star foam; Elrond = Star dome
For naming customs among the Elves: see The Shibboleth of Fëanor, in: The Peoples of Middle-earth, Volume 12 in the History of Middle-earth. If this story deviates from the usual procedure, it's intentional.