Xxxxxxx Night in the camp by the last bridge xxxxxxxxX

"Are you sure that you do not want to eat something Adar?" Elrohir asked in concern.

"Do not worry, ion-nin. I ate a big meal at mid-day." Elrond yawned and sipped at the healing draught. "Enjoy the evening." He smiled wryly at Elrohir's indecision. But his son finally nodded in agreement and left.

"They treat me like some fragile glass. What would Ereinion say?" Elrond smiled at that thought then sipped the brew. The mixture of oleander and milkweed was not unpleasant and did seem to help stave off the occasional chest pains he had been experiencing. "Well, a life lived with energy and a zeal to help others does take its toll." But he was definitely feeling better since the burdens of caring for Imladris had been lifted. It was also good to have some peace and quiet away from the well-meaning but at times suffocating concern of his son and close friends. Having finished the draught, he moved to get his quill and journal from his bag. He had not written in days, not since they had left Imladris. Through days of riding, the feelings of loss swept through his fëa and solidified in his mind. For loss was what it was. He had built a home in the valley. He had courted and won his bride. They enjoyed years of bliss together and were blessed with beautiful children, who were grown and now come into their own. He had given all that he had to keep his family and his people safe. He had weathered many changes in his long life. Change meant leaving parts of his life behind to begin anew. Writing was cathartic, allowing the feeling of loss to flow and opening room in his soul for thoughts of new beginnings like moments of sun streaming down through the clouds on a rain filled day. He sat down, pulled out his journal, and opened a small leather pouch that held a worn and much enjoyed writing set. It had metal nibs that fit into short wooden holders, which were favored by the Noldor from Aman versus the feathered quills that most of the Sindar liked. These were more robust for traveling. The gray ink stone had several small wells. To one of these wells, he added a little ink paste and five drops of water from his canteen. He pulled out a brush and mixed the water and solid ink together slowly, smiling when it had reached the correct consistency. He had perfected this technique over the ages, although the last time he had made his own ink paste from plants was thousands of years ago. He loaded the nib with ink from the brush, then set pen to paper and started writing. Words flowed out of him, describing the experience of leaving the valley and crossing the Bruinen. He needed to stop every two lines to refill the nib with ink. The repetitive motion was calming. Elrond wrote until the well was dry then with a yawn decided that he best not refill it. He rinsed the nib, brush, and stone with water from the canteen and stored them away.

The music swirled in the air. It was a rowdy tune, but he yawned again and laid down on the bedroll. "I will change later." He thought. "Perhaps just a short nap for now." His eyes closed.

"It is a sad tune." He said as he looked up at the harpist, his voice raspy. This warrior had stood between him and death, freeing him from the choking grasp just days ago. He shuddered and clutched at his throat as the memory of an enraged face surrounded by fiery red hair swam in his vision.

"Aye, a sad tune for sad times. The music weeps with us." The singer agreed. "We will think on your Naneth when we hear it."

"She must be very lonely where ever she is now." Elrond paused. Elros wiped at his eyes. The last few days had been terrifying. He clutched at his brother's hand.

"Will she come back?" Elros whispered to their only confidant. "Must we go with you? They hate us." Elrond blink dazedly, startled from his dream. He sat up a little disoriented. "Why had he dreamed of that day?" He was puzzled, but the haunting melody continued. It was not from his dream. "No one here would recognize the song Maglor had written for them." He realized suddenly. No, there could only be one source of this tune. He let his mind search afar, as he could when Vilya was strong, but was met with a wall of darkness because that power was gone. He must resort to other ways. Since childhood, he had a special relationship with the wind. It had helped a number of times in Himring, keeping him and his hiding place safe. Later that bond and power was forged to help warn him of danger. But detecting an old soul was difficult among this traveling party, given the number of ancient elves who traveled with them. He rose and pulled out the gray cloak from the bottom of his bag, then strapped his sword around his waist.

"Silent like the air." He thought as he bent his mind to slipping away undetected. He and Ereinion had a regular competition to see who could slip their guards faster and stroll out in disguise among their people. Be it his heritage or his skill, Elrond excelled at blending into the shadows. It was not long until he had slipped behind the meadow the horses occupied. A low call brought Celthúl away from the others and back into the woods behind them.

"Thank you Celthúl for bearing me when you would rest. We will not go far. But you must be content to rest for awhile without your friends." Elrond patted his loyal steed then mounted, moving in the direction he thought he had heard the music arise from. Indeed, he soon spotted the lone rider who clearly carried a harp. The mysterious harpist seemed to know the way to move undetected through their border guard. Elrond followed, keeping Celthúl at a comfortable distance behind the other rider. Once they were beyond the normal zone for scouts, they rode in silence for about a half hour. It was only wise to be sure that no others stumbled upon them. The harpist turned into a cleft. It was a narrow path off the main rode that opened into a small flat span about ten horse lengths wide. Patches of grass grew here and there. The other dismounted and spoke softly to his horse, which proceeded to move off in search of food or rest. Then the singer turned toward Elrond.

"You came." He shown with the light of the firstborn for all he was clothed in the rough cloths of the people of the North. His hair was cut short obviously to blend in to his adopted people.

"Did you think that I would not?" Elrond's voice was soft. He dismounted and whispered to Celthúl, who neighed in agreement then wandered off in the direction of the other horse. Elrond scanned the area for others, but it seemed to just be the two of them.

"I did not bring you here to ambush you." The other said lightly.

"I had no such thoughts." Elrond shook his head. The figure was not the tall, hulking elf he recalled. "Aye, but I had not yet reached my full height." Elrond thought then said aloud. "But it is prudent to be cautious for our scout sighted wolves. Is this area well known to you?"

"I have not heard wolves today. They were likely frightened away by your large group." The elf replied, though he stepped backwards when Elrond stepped forward and seemed intent on maintaining the distance between them.

"Our numbers did not scare you away." Elrond spoke calmly, although this elf before him was like a figure out of his imagination. They were separated by lifetimes.

"I was hoping to speak with you, if you would allow it." The singer said simply.

"It was a dangerous way to attract my attention. I may not have been the only one to recognize the song." Elrond tried to assess the elder elf from afar. He sensed the elf was anxious but bore him no ill will.

"You were tied to the Valley by duty, and it would have been more dangerous to contact you there. I did not want to raise my hopes. Others would not be pleased. You know the law, the price for interacting with a kinslayer." The elf fell back into Westron, which had been his primary language for more than an age.

"I once called you uncle." Elrond put his hands out with his palms up in a sign of peace and slowly stepped closer.

"You should not. Your path has been hard enough." Maglor returned.

"How long is the sentence of exile?"

"My crimes were many." He looked away.

"Yes, I am aware – four kinslayings in the quest for a jewel." Elrond said calmly, looking squarely at the troubled brown eyes to assess the truth of his words and the temperament of his heart.

"Four? Yes, there were two guarding the Silmarils in the camp at the end of the war. Why did the Maiar not guard them? Why leave them in the open dangling in front of Maedhros? I could not convince him otherwise and then… and then they were dead." His voice held horror and his eyes sorrow and regret. This was an elf trying to make amends, although how one accomplished that given the horrific deeds, he did not know. "I killed many. What was worse was that our attitudes influenced our followers. They also learned not to value the lives of others and to denigrate elves not of the Feanorians. In the end, even the deaths of the young princes of Doriath, your real uncles, could be laid at our feet. For Celegorn's sworn guards injured and bound them, throwing innocent elflings in the forest where they died of their wounds and exposure." He wept at the whispered admission. Elrond stepped closer and laid his hand upon Maglor's arm. Maglor shivered as he felt Elrond's power sweep through him. "I could not save them. Maedhros and I could only bury them once we found them."

"It is difficult to reconcile the evil that you did with the person that I knew. You saved my life long ago and protected me as much as was within your power. I am in your debt."

"I did not do enough. You were hurt there and exposed to far more evil than an innocent boy should know. You would not have lost a home nor been in such danger if it had not been for my brothers and I."

"Yet, you were there in my need and offered protection. Surely that should count for something? Then there is the matter of your life for these last two ages. Is not two ages of this world enough for atonement? Can a person not be rehabilitated?"

"That is not your decision. They name us mass murderers, and they are correct."

"If you knew it was wrong at the time, why did you not leave them?"

"My brother was our leader. He and most of the others felt our anger was justified that others should know better than to withhold what was rightfully ours. Even if I had left with the handful of warriors who would have followed me, it would not have made a difference." Maglor paused. "It may have made the outcome much worse, for you and your brother would not have survived."

"No, we would not have survived Sirion without your intervention." Elrond said with surety. "Did your change of heart start at Doriath? Or when you saved us at Sirion? Or once you began to foster us?" The singer did not reply. So Elrond continued. "Perhaps it is still ongoing. I am confident enough in my standing that I would freely admit to meeting with you. I have had the great misfortune of meeting beings that could never be rehabilitated – of knowing those profoundly evil. But you are not numbered among those. Thus the issue of the length of the sentence and rehabilitation should be addressed."

"Only those that handed down the verdict could address it and only if they chose to do so. Then will the elves accept their verdict? For some no penalty would ever be enough for the horrors the sons of Feanor and their followers caused. I hesitate to think of the turmoil should Mandos release even a few of our warriors to be reborn in Aman, as he released your friend Glorfindel. Forgiveness is hard. Yet, an eternity of exile with slights both actual and perceived might only contribute to another outbreak of violence."

"Of the fates of the warriors from Himring, I can not say." Elrond shuddered imperceptible. They had been cruel to the Peredhil in Himring. Without Maglor, he and his twin would not have survived. "Yet, if your warriors repented of their deeds and fulfilled their sentence, should they not be reintegrated into elven society?"

"For that I have no answer." Maglor sighed. "I have not done nearly enough to mitigate the evil that I wroth."

"I think an age living humbly among the Edain teaching them, instructing them in the arts, literature, and healing is enough." Elrond paused. "I have forgiven you and would ask the Valar to forgive you."

"You can not forgive me." Maglor gasped but Elrond reached out and grabbed his shoulder to steady him. "That you would even think to do so gives me hope. How do you even know what I have been doing this last age?"

"Do you want me to list your favored pseudonyms?" Elrond's brow lifted in amusement. "I was the Lord of Imladris this last age and had a large intelligence network to draw on. Although none recognized you, there are only a handful of elves that willingly or unwillingly resolved to dwell with men. Believe me when I say I know that since the middle of the second age you have been using your gifts to help and to teach others. Prior to then, I have no knowledge."

"I wandered long in sorrow and desperation until I came back to myself."

"What brought you back?"

"In the long silences, I heard someone calling me." Maglor paused. "It took me long to acknowledge it and even longer to listen. But now, I meditate and pray. I listen for Eru's directions. Apparently, he still has plans for me, instructions for how to be the elf he wants. I think it will be long indeed before my soul can be molded to his liking for I am greatly lacking." Maglor paused and looked down. "I know my path still lies in these lands. I will trust in him to guide me forward.

"My heart wanted to seek you out before." Elrond paused. "But my duties were to protect and provide for my people in Imladris. It is what Eru bid of me."

"You always had a big heart – too big. You could not have sought me without putting yourself and others in danger. The laws of the Eldar are quite clear."

"Forgiveness is part of healing as you well known."

"I do not deserve your forgiveness." Maglor paused, for it did not seem right to ask.

"Is there something I can do for you?" Elrond sensed his need.

"There are others of my family who are hurting still from my absence – and from the absence of my brothers. Could you give these letters to Nerdanel and Mahtan?" He paused then added hastily, "Once you are healed and whole. I can see this war has taken its toll on you and you need to sail."

"I chose to sail now." Elrond restated. "I promise to deliver your letters to your Naneth and Daeradar as soon as I am able." Elrond promised solemnly. Maglor drew out two thick letters and extending his hand, gave them to Elrond.

"Your hand?" Elrond questioned as he took the letters and tucked them safely into his tunic pocket. "Why has it not healed?"

"It healed partially and does not prevent me from my daily tasks. I think it will not ever heal fully. It is my living reminder of the evil deeds I have committed." Maglor paused. "In our madness, we equated a jewel with more worth than the lives of others. I could toil away for the rest of eternity and not sooth even a small percentage of the horror we caused. It is right that I am exiled, forbidden to enter the cities of my kin." He pushed back the hair exposing his ear. Not the pointed ear of an elf, it had been cut with care and had healed with minimal scarring to look more like the rounded ears of men. "I may walk among them for ages yet doing what I can to atone. I will do what Eru bids." Maglor waved his hand in the air nonchalantly. Elrond carefully trapped Maglor's injured hand with his own to examine it more closely. The angry red scar looked like it had only occurred a month ago not over six thousand years ago. He reached out with his healing senses, their souls briefly connecting. He saw Maglor's deep sorrow and remorse. Then Elrond gave of himself, pouring out his healing to sooth the angry nerves that caused such pain. The connection gave a flash of incite into this troubled soul of Feanor's last remaining son.

"I forgave you long ago." Elrond said honestly, suddenly knowing that it was Maglor's spirit that prevented the scar from healing not some trick of a Silmaril.

"You can not. You should not. You are about to sail to meet your true parents. They will never forgive nor can they forget."

"Yet my forgiveness has been granted." Healing poured forth from him as if to accentuate his words. "I can not speak for my birth parents, for I do not clearly remember them."

"My fault too."

"My father was never coming back. His absence was not your fault. Of the others, those deeds are six and a half thousand years past. We cannot change the past, but we can forge a better future." Elrond slowed his healing until the connection forged between patient and healer broke. Maglor looked at him in wonder.

"It was you and your brother that changed me. My heart had not felt such love nor twisted with such worry at another's well-being." Maglor whispered. How long they sat there speaking, neither could say. But far too quickly the sky began to lighten.

"You must go back." Maglor said at last. "They must not find you in the presence of a kinslayer."

"It is far too late for that." Elrond disagreed. "They will soon be on their way to me. It is you who must leave quickly. I will obscure your tracks." They both rose and embraced.

"May Elbereth keep you safe, and may Eru guide your life." Elrond whispered.

"May you find happiness in the West." Maglor returned. "It has ever been my privilege to know you."

"I will deliver your letters." Elrond promised as Maglor whistled for his horse. Then, the only living son of Feanor, forever exiled from his people, rode away.

Xxxxxxxxx

"I sense he is well. Do not take many with you. Bring none whom would be ill disposed towards a banished one – a kinslayer." Celeborn felt his wife's voice fade from his mind. He relayed a cryptic message to Haldir before turning to Elrohir. "Your Adar is well. He would be dismayed if we showed up on mass to gather him like some wayward child." His words hang in the air as he spurred his steed forward. Glorfindel and Erestor were not far ahead and he signaled to them to halt. Elrohir pulled up beside them.

"My Lady senses that he is well. There is little need for all of us to go." He paused as if he were pondering the best course of action, though he knew well that the councilor's father had perished defending Elwing. "Erestor go back and make sure that the others know there is no danger." Erestor seemed about to protest, but Lord Celeborn was the highest authority among them. He nodded in acknowledgement and turned his horse back towards the camp.