Disclaimer: All characters and concepts mentioned here are the property of the Tolkien Estate. I make no profit, and do this only out of love for the original material.
A/N: I should note once again that this is AU; the events in this fic are not canon. They are an offshoot of sorts from my Nerdanel fic, 'Sifting Through Ashes', and this may be considered a side-story for that, though it is also a stand-alone piece.
Brighter Than Silmarils
He is the last.
He was the second – the second-born child of Fëanor, son of Finwë, and Nerdanel, daughter of Mahtan.
Once, there were seven. But Amras is dead, and Amrod, the twins, the youngest, who should have remained with Nerdanel after all. Clever Curufin, too, has fallen, his hands never again to linger upon fine works of metal-craft. Quick-tempered Caranthir, Celegorm the bold hunter; both are dead.
And Maedhros... the eldest and last to fall, bright star of the House of Fëanor quenched amid flames.
Only Maglor remains, hands burned and scarred from his father's jewel. Only the singer lives, to call his sorrows to the whispering tides.
He remembers how it began.
He remembers Valinor, land of his birth, as it was by the light of the Two Trees. Telperion, silver, majestic, and Laurelin, golden and warm, stood side by side, their light waxing and waning with the hours, until the hour of the Mingling of the Lights, where both shone as one and the radiance touched an already beautiful land into heartbreaking loveliness.
Maglor – Macalaurë in the Quenya that was his birth-tongue, 'gold-cleaver,' for the legendary voice for which he is renowned – was happy there. His songs rang out freely there, at festivals or in open fields, and all knew that this handsome Prince of the Noldor was destined for greatness.
How not? How could he be other than great, as the son of Nerdanel the Wise? As the son of Fëanor, then Fëanáro, who was named, by the Valar, the greatest of all the Elves born or yet to come?
But Elves are immortal, never coming to age and debility; his father's heir Fëanor might have been, but none thought High King Finwë would ever have cause to set aside that mantle for another.
None could have dreamed of what was to come – the Trees despoiled, Finwë slain, and the Silmarils, most beautiful and precious of all Fëanor's creations, stolen away.
Taken by Morgoth.
Vengeance they swore, and vengeance they sought, bound by the name of Eru in their hasty oath, held firm to the course of disaster by the vow that bade Darkness Unending claim them should they falter. Maglor swore the Oath, like his brothers, but only he has seen its final pain.
So many have paid the price for the Oath. Maglor sees their faces still, and it is not the vision of orcs trampled underfoot that troubles him, but the memories of the unspeakable wrongs committed by his kin.
The Kinslayings. Elves killing Elves; a terrible crime against all that should have been. The Sons of Fëanor vowed to wrest the Silmarils from any who kept them, but beauty is a dangerous thing; for the beauty of the Silmarils, realms have fallen, their rulers determined never to give up such a gem if even one fell into their hands.
He cannot forget; he does not believe he deserves the comfort of dulled recollection. It is his penance, he feels; one must remain to remember, and to know the guilt from whose shackles death has released his brothers.
Once, Maglor would have owned himself content to wander and sing; such is his fate, now, and there is no contentment in the bitter lamentations that are his songs. He sings to the Sea; he threw the Silmaril there, to quench the burning as it blazed in his hand, rejecting the son of its creator for the bloody deeds that had darkened his soul.
Gentle-natured and temperate, it was not of Maglor's design that the Noldor marched to war against their own people; yet he did not denounce it, and a life taken to shield his beloved brothers from harm is gone regardless of intention.
Dispossessed, an exile alone in strange lands, Maglor wanders still, though few who knew him as he once was now live. And somewhere far away, his grandmother is fated to weave tapestries of the fates of her line; the ends of all but one are etched in thread, and from many tales he fades away, out of thought and legend.
But some remember. Elrond, loremaster and ruler of Rivendell, remembers; and how not, when Maglor fostered and raised him, repenting of the deaths of Elrond's kin, and taught him the first pieces of the ancient lore within his memories?
There was love, there, and its coin is not yet spent.
Celebrimbor remembered, once, though the son of Curufin repudiated the deeds of his forefathers. The final flower of the House of Fëanor, the gemsmith nevertheless knew much of what had gone before. But he is dead, slain by the forces of the one who had deceived him; Sauron, whose fairer guise lingered in Eregion and devised with Celebrimbor the Rings of Power.
Another, far away, remembers. She gazes at the tapestries, and weeps as though her heart were breaking, at seeing the grim fates of her sons; for Nerdanel lives yet, in the eternal land of Valinor, and mourns the loss of her husband and their sons.
Yet change comes, even to the eternal land, even to an eternal people, as the world grows strange about them. Those who walked in other lands sail West, coming home, and the master of Imladris speaks for his foster-father.
At last, it is known, and love's prize is truth; not all of Maglor's deeds have come to evil. Not all that was his fate in days gone by is dark, for from those he raised, Elrond and Elros, come the greatest hope of Arda, and the King returned in Gondor, who has seen the fall of Sauron the accursed.
From Aragorn, of the line of Elendil, of the blood of the Kings of Numenor, Elros first among them, and from Arwen, daughter of Elrond, comes the line that is renewed and shall not falter until the breaking of the world. And Sauron is destroyed, his Ring returned to the fires of Orodruin. The last harm wrought by the House of Fëanor – the Rings of Power – is ended, and the deed of compassion that saw Eärendil's sons reared to manhood in Maglor's care has granted Arda peace.
Elrond has spoken for Maglor, before those who dwell in Valinor, and their hearts are moved to clemency, should any come forth who may act in love in this one matter.
There is one, and she has made her choice.
His hair was tangled. At times it scarcely seemed to matter, but at other times it bothered him, and this was one such time.
Maglor sighed, setting aside the driftwood he had been transporting, and sat down upon a wave-smoothed rock, beginning to painstakingly work the tangles from his hair, lock by lock, with his fingers. Dark hair that admiring maidens had once likened to a curtain of black silk, now salt-stiff and unruly, settled into place a few strands at a time, gradually losing its resemblance to the abundant nest of some unruly bird.
He was thinner than he had once been, though the crafts taught to him by his kin had contrived to keep him fed and sheltered even in these wild and desolate places. All of the lessons that had once seen him fret, in childhood, over the time they took away from his music, now served him for survival's sake.
He had lost count of the little huts he'd crafted as he roamed the shores, days blurring together until even centuries ceased to have meaning for him. He had hunted, and fished, and had carved from timber the tools he required.
When he had come upon the fisher-family, in their remote dwelling, they had stared so at the tall visitor, and Maglor had struggled to find words to make himself understood. At last, he'd traded carved utensils for spare clothing, replacing his own threadbare attire; he, who had once been a Prince and lacked for naught, now bartered for a fisherman's ill-fitting garb.
Maglor had returned to them again, later, hoping to make another trade. Their home had been deserted, crumbling into nothing, and all traces of the family save the crude remains of graves were gone. It was only then that he'd realised how much time had passed as he'd wandered alone. It was only then that he'd truly understood the rift between Elves and Men; cut off from the former, he was doomed also to eternally outlast the latter, living on as they aged and died.
Once, it had been no more than a lamentable fact of their nature. Now, so long alone, he almost envied them. They were destined to move beyond Arda at death, while he never would.
Overtaken by moody recollection, he gazed again at the scars upon his hands, where the Silmaril had burned him. He'd failed. He had done everything, even the unthinkable, and still he had failed, and even his brothers were lost to him.
Seeking whatever pitiful comfort still lay in music, trying to draw forth memories of happier days, Maglor began to sing. The song was one he'd written for Caranthir, to ease his little brother's stormy moods with gentle joy; today, it came out as a tune more fitting for a funeral dirge.
The song broke off, abruptly, as the Elf gazed out to sea, and saw a sail against the horizon. Almost mesmerised, he watched it draw closer, paying little heed to the chill breeze stirring the sands at his feet.
The graceful arch of the prow...
"No," he whispered, swaying in place, overcome with memories of the Telerin swan-ships, for which his father had wrought the first Kinslaying. It was an Elven ship, that much was clear, though not as large as the ships that had burned at Losgar.
Maglor rose swiftly, longing to flee before whoever sailed there might see him, but some strange impulse held him back. He had been alone so long, after all, and perhaps the sailors would not drive him away immediately.
He waited as the ship drew closer, a single figure standing at its bow. The wind caught the hood of the stranger, loosing long coppery-gleaming hair, and Maglor reeled as though he'd been struck. The trait was one peculiar to his family, and for a moment he felt as though at any moment Maedhros or Amras or Amrod would call a greeting to him, for those three amongst his brothers had borne hair of just such a shade.
Then, he was walking as though caught in a dream, water rising up around his legs. He knew, now, though he could scarcely credit it.
Having leapt from the ship and waded closer, Nerdanel smiled through her tears, and threw her arms around Maglor. "My Macalaurë."
"What... what are you doing here?" Shock had robbed him of all eloquence.
"I've come to bring you home."
He drew back a little. "I was exiled... I have no home."
"That has changed," Nerdanel informed him, something fierce in her voice. "Once I heard what Elrond said about you, I..." She trailed off, with a rueful laugh. "Well, I discussed the matter rather vociferously with the Valar. They have relented, Macalaurë; they must still judge you, but you may come home." She looked at her son, fighting back tears at his haunted and ragged appearance. "You are my son; I love you too dearly to leave you here."
"I failed, Emya," he said plaintively, slipping without meaning to into the childish form of address. "They're gone, and all those people too, and the Oath..." He was weeping, then, as his mother held him close.
"It can be different now," she told him gently, smoothing his hair, oblivious to the waves lapping around them. "Come home. You'll see."
Maglor took a deep, shuddering breath, fighting for composure. To cease to be alone, after all this time? Could he? "I... Yes. Yes, I'll come home."
"Is there anything you want to bring with you?"
"Nothing." He gave her a sudden smile. "It's enough to leave these shores behind."
A bright spring of joy rising in her heart, Nerdanel nodded, and led her sole remaining son to the ship.
Many things change; the dooms of ancient times have run their course, and the Song that engendered Arda held much of love.
There is a place for mercy, here, and for kindness.
There is a place for family, and for those who reach out to the ones they love, though all the world might stand between them.
And a mother's love can burn brighter than Silmarils... It can shine as a beacon, to guide the way home.