Author's note: Sequel to 'If We Fall Anew', in which Maglor has to choose between Elrond and his Oath.  This is a relative and belated answer to Deborah's question, about why Maglor still went after the Silmaril if he did not truly yearn for it anymore.

Maitimo=Maedhros

Atarinke=Curufin

Disclaimer: As I will never tire to say, I own neither the characters, nor the setting, all of them being the intellectual property of Tolkien; and I am only borrowing them for a short time in order to torture them some more. Nothing criminal in here, is there?

Shadows ere Darkness

By Le Chat Noir

One night. Just one more night.

The moonlight streaming in from the window ajar falls gently on your face, emphasising the delicate pallor of your skin, the candid, childlike complexion, and drearily contrasts with the dark halo of your long, glossy hair spread out on the pillow.

I stare. Your skin looks as if it is made out of porcelain, frail, breakable porcelain, and yet your formerly fragile, almost sickly frame is already maturing from one of an adolescent to that of a grown man.

Child.

All the while I have known you.

Small, innocent child, lost in your own life, confused by your own dreams.

A little warily, I reach out to touch your cheek, still a little flushed, stroking it all the while barely making the contact between your skin and mine, because of course I can not afford to wake you.

No.

Not tonight.

Tonight I want you to sleep through the darkness, even unaware that darkness was there, and dwell in blissful dreams; and tonight I will not disturb your peaceful rest.

Maitimo has given me one night. Just one more night. For us, my beloved. He says he will leave at dawn, whether in my company or not, and he asks me to choose my path.

No. It was not a question he spoke. Whither art thou going, brother mine? Whither?

I see little difference between the choices I am offered. For me they would both lead down to the Darkness. But my brother sees it, yes, he does, and he says that at least we should walk to our doom with a straight face and a firm step.

He says we should sneak into their camps at night wearing the disguises of beggars.

I do not see in which way that would be honourable.

He gave us one night. I asked him for it. I asked him for one more night, one last night, and then I went to you. You at least do not doubt me; you did not doubt me when I came to seek your embrace one last time, and in your naïveté my beloved you saw nothing more in my renewed fire than the mere desire of love.

Love.

They say that true love is the one that does not care for the self, but only for the well-being of the loved one. Do they mean to say that I who crave you so, who need you so, that I who cannot let you go without letting go of a part of myself, do they mean to say that because I do not wish for us to be parted, I, am just a selfish coward who does only think to satisfy his own needs?

Do you think it can be?

And yet you are but a child, and somewhere I can not be sure if you are not still the boy who tried to kill me the first time we met, and I cannot be sure that I am not still the one you met that day, who thought only of two children that needed a father.

And yet, how could I ever have been so foolish as to think I would make a good father, I who in my childhood knew only a man who loved his sons so much he never even saw that we were but children?

I who in return have loved that man so much, when the first remembrance I have of him is a long and complicated explanation of the intricate design of the tower of Olwë, made solely of pearls, the largest, purest pearls the Ocean did give. And the way he had held me in his arms, and I was playing with his hair, trying to understand.

I would have died for that man. Can you understand that? We would all have died for him, my brothers and I, and even now I cannot be entirely sure if we were not, indeed, lured into dying a Death more bitter than the mere crushing of the hroä. If he was not the first one to put one foot into the grave.

If we were not so blind as to step in behind him, not seeing the swamp ahead of us, and him least of all.

You shiver slightly. Is it because of the cold air from the window, my love? And yet I can not stand for fear of waking you, because I know your sleep is light, so easily unquieted. But your shoulders are bare, and the covers did only reach up to your waist; I am sorry my love, I did not know you were cold. Slowly, very slowly, I pull them up, and depose them lightly onto your chest. Now it is I who am half-uncovered, but it does not matter.

I will not sleep tonight.

Not tonight.

Atarinke -another of my brothers- once said that there was an Oath, who was also our father's will -it was when Maitimo had obstinately refused to launch the attack on Doriath; you know what happened then, you would know!- and I am beginning to wonder if his words weren't true. And not only true, but if these words aren't the whole truth, if our very lives -those of my brothers and mine- aren't just summed up, so simply, shortly summed up; that for us there is an Oath, which is our father's will…

He is dead now, fallen a long time ago -however not so long, my love, not so long- and yet we are still dying for him. Him and his Oath. It is odd, isn't it? I do not even feel any regret for taking it anymore. After the First Kinslaying it was terrible, you know, and even more after the little Umbarto died in the Great Fire. At that time, I would have wished him dead. I think I would even have killed him if I was given the chance to.

Then, he died. He laid there, dead, so still, so still, and then after a moment all that was left were cinders and dust. We had all stepped back, and we had all watched him burn, as in a pyre, we watched him consummate himself and then at that moment I knew I would still die for him if he came back and asked me to. I would have thrown myself into the pyre with him, without a second thought, because I remembered the way he had taught me the music, beginning by one song of his own composition, that was much to difficult for the child I was. I had cried that day, because I found myself unable to make him proud, and he had sat there, blinking, staring at me, his fingers still absently touching the harp's strings, out of their own accord, until I ran out of the room, nearly blinded by tears. Later, he had come to hold me in his arms and soothe me with a little lullaby I had never heard before; but when I looked again into his eyes I saw he did not smile, and did not understand either.

For him, I would have killed.

I did.

He had asked us to.

I do not think there was need to make us swear the Oath again. We would all have died for him. We would all have killed for him.

Afterwards, the wind passed there and swept the grey ashes away, dispersing it into the air, and there was nothing left. I looked at Maitimo and he looked at me, and at the moment I thought that he had gone mad. He unsheathed his sword, slowly, very slowly -it was the sword our father had made for each of us, the first sword we held, and the last one, too- and then he leapt into the air, and began to fight against the very darkness that surrounded, his movements fast and precise, graceful as he only knew how to be, as if his feet never touched the ground; and then when he at last came down, breathing hard, on the spot where our father had laid, he swore revenge. It was an Oath he spat through clenched teeth.

Now you smile.

What sweet dreams do you dream then, my beloved?

What pleasant memory have you stumbled upon in your journey?

Ah, I wish I could know, my love, I wish I could share this last memory with you…

But for me there is only Darkness, whichever path I choose.

And if I choose to remain with you, my love, if I choose to spent the rest of my life with you, here, would it not be bringing the Darkness upon your head also? And what of the young man who sleeps upstairs?

Yes, what of him? He is still also a child, younger than you, but sometimes, I cannot help but think that the more mature of you two would still be him.

But could I bear to stay while knowing that my brother is gone, that all my brothers are gone, bending to their word in the end -and for their love of him-, that they all bowed before their fate and walked down their path tall and proud; could I bear to know that even Maitimo, whom I had loved more than all the others, and who had frowned and clenched his teeth, and Amros, the little Amros who was so embittered and fell into silence, even them, in the end, had to yield? Could I stand to stay alone, the last and only one to bear on my person the eternal marks of the Curse, and the damnation? Alone, not knowing what had befallen them… never seeing my father again till the world is broken and remade…

I do not want to burden you with it. One day, you will find a girl, a young maiden whose heart is light and laughter clear; one day, a young girl who will catch your eyes, catch your heart, and you will forget me. Maybe you will remember the man who destroyed your life and lost your mother for you. Maybe you will remember the man who adopted the princes of the Kingdom he burnt. Maybe you will remember the man you hated, the one you had wanted to kill that day on the cliff.

But me you will forgot.

It will be better that way.

Soon I will not even desire you anymore, for I have never known the dead to love and crave.

But still I do not want to make a decision now.

However, I know there is no decision to be made, but only one path to take for me, in the end: the one that leads to Darkness.

~

Ere you wake, I will seek to place one more kiss on your lips, but without rousing you, of course, without rousing you, and I do not know if it will be more like the kiss of a lover or that of a father to his child.

This is one night, just one last night, for I know full well that when you'll wake at dawn, still lazily stretching yourself on the soft mattress, when having not yet opened your eyes to the sunlight you'll reach out to pull me into your warm embrace, then the bed will be cold and you will find me gone.

And I will be gone.

Gone.

Maitimo will be waiting for me, already mounted on his steed, and we will depart from this house without looking back. Maybe we will talk, and maybe we will not. If we do, then the words we will speak may only be words of hatred and mockery.

For this time, the obscurity of the night is only the taunt of the shadows that laugh before the darkness falls.

~

Author's note: Eep. Please don't kill me. ::points to Maglor:: It's all his thinking, I swear!

On a completely different subject, has anyone ever read 'Burning Secret' by Stephan Zweig? Don't you think that would have been Elros' reaction…  First, Maglor is all his, and then, suddenly, something starts happening between Maglor and Elrond, and he doesn't really know what… Only Elros may be better at hiding it…

Bleh. Stupid speculations. ^_^