Whose Voice is Heard over the Seas: Part III
(Part I. here, Part II. here)
Of course Maglor had heard about Elrond, the wise master healer of Lindon. Of course he had heard about the kingdom of Númenor and he realized that Elros had been the first king.
But somehow, Maglor had forgotten to care. The grief over the lost jewels, lost brothers, and the lost purpose of life had been all he could focus on for a long time. And it would surely have consumed him by now, if it hadn't been for the two short encounters with the Atani.
But now it was time to stop running away from himself.
Was he doomed to stay here until the End? Yes.
Was he all alone? Yes.
But whose fault it really was?
Everyone's. No one's.
Truly, Maglor was alone, as lonely as an unknown wandering stranger can be. But for the first time in many years he realized there still might be those who sometimes look upon the stars or over the sea, and wonder: Where is the Minstrel? What is he doing right now?
Or perhaps they do not wonder at all. One thing was for sure, though – he would never know until he goes to see for himself.
Maglor suspected the sea would not let him cross the distance to Númenor. He would probably never make it there. Still, he traveled to the ports, to all the harbors which ever saw the sails of the Isle of Elenna, to at least try. But as expected, invisible hands always held him back, silent whispers brought by the western wind always lured him away from the ships.
All he could do after years of this fruitless effort was buy a piece of parchment and ink. He wrote the letter during one winter and finished it in the spring, crafting each word with care.
He felt reluctant to send it, though, and was filled with doubt when he was about to hand the writing to the Dúnedain sailing west. Maglor wondered whether there was still something he should add; he was not certain he was entitled at all to send letters to the kings of Númenor. After having heard about the wisdom and deeds of Tar-Minyatur and his descendants, he felt humiliated and useless. He felt ashamed of himself that he hadn't even tried to reach Elros and his kin earlier, when it had been still possible.
But not just that.
Even if a small part of the stories told about his foster son and his kin was true, Maglor realized he had contributed to it all in his own way. The time he and Elros had spent together had been short, too short for his current liking, but it had been intense and worthwhile. And this sudden sparkle of fatherly pride in his heart was enough to finally dispel the insecurity, and made Maglor drop the letter to the hands of the royal mariner.
He was alone again when he watched the ship leave the port; on a cliff away from the city gates.
Maglor had decided not to wait for a possible answer. He had attached instructions for it, however, he did not really expect any – he had not made any requests or claims in his writing, after all, and he had not signed it with his name. All he had intended was to express gratitude and add some final missing pieces to the personal history of the first king.
Thus whispering a quick prayer to Ulmo and Varda, he looked one last time at the flying banners of Númenor, and turned east.
Strange visions accompanied him on his way, and he wondered whose doing it was. Was it still the Doom of the Noldor? Or could it be his personal curse he had once called upon himself should he ever break the Oath? Perhaps something else entirely, as his journey was hard, but he was still able to go on. The invisible strings that tied him to the shore and kept him from sailing west did not hold him back this time.
But as he continued, the forest darkened and closed over him, so he could not tell the day from the night. What was the meaning of this? Perhaps he was not worthy to see Elrond, either. Or was it an ordeal he had to pass, to be allowed to speak to his kin? After all, many of the Noldor had been forgiven after having passed cruel ordeals of their own, Maglor thought and recalled the melodies of the Lay of Leithian. And with his withered voice, he started to sing, quietly but with a firm resolve that helped him keep his pace, even if his visions encircled him, trying to choke his song down.
He stumbled many times, but kept going. When he fell, he rose again. And when he got to the part that spoke about the great courage of Finrod Felagund, Maglor felt his voice grow stronger, the echo of it coming back to him clean and unshaken. It poured back the strength into his whole being, and the trees and their protruding roots seemed to move back from him on their own accord.
However, his voice failed him when he got to the darkness growing in Valinor – to his father, his brothers, even himself killing the Falmari. Maglor remembered his own heart bleeding over the deeds, regretting for uncountable times all those decisions and events. A desperate cry left his throat as his legs gave out and he fell, just like Finrod before Sauron's throne.
Unable to tell the reality from this vivid nightmare he felt a presence, an intense gaze upon him, piercing and burning.
“What do you want to accomplish here?” Maglor asked in a wild, raging defiance. “You have nothing left to take from me. From this point, I can only gain, and I will, when my time comes!” He cried, raising his head high to look the threat in the eye.
He saw the Enemy's face loom over him, the inner cruelty and twisted nature spoiling its original fairness.
“You cannot break me any further, and you won't, just like you did not break him. Finrod now lives in the light of the West, and you will never reach him again. It is you who shall fall!” He shouted and all he could do afterwards was cover his face from a sudden blaze of heat. Strong gale pushed him back and tugged violently at his hair and clothes, tearing his cloak apart.
He screamed against it, clutching the tree trunks and protruding roots in despair, the splinters of wood biting into his bare hands and face, but he would not let go. Not like this, when he was so close. „It is you who shall fall,” he repeated stubbornly, almost choking on the wind. “And we will watch!”
One last cry, and it was over.
Maglor sank slowly to the quiet ground, nestled between the massive roots and just lay there. As he watched the newfound daylight play between the branches overhead, his eyes started to close. Listening peacefully to the high whistling noise in his ears, he felt a sweet tiredness take over him. And he did not protest.
-End of Part III.
(written for the @aspecardaweek)
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Prompt "give me attention" for kidnap family?
"haha, im gonna take it easy with prompts this time around, only a few hundred words -" cue spongebob title card "2.3k words later"
seriously tho thank you for the prompt!! (and sorry about the wait!) i had fun working on this one bc well i love any chance to write about this lil family of murderers and tiny bois :') hope u enjoy!!
Prompt: "Give me attention."
Thump. Maedhros slammed his book shut. A puff of dust wheezed out from the crusty pages; Maglor could make out the swirl of particles flying about in the dim shafts of sunlight peeking into his brother’s study from windows that he was sure were clean at some point in their existence.
Said brother tossed a glare over to Maglor from the other side of his desk.
“You’re allowed to be here. Quietly.” Maedhros threw a pointed look towards the abandoned scroll in Maglor’s hands.
“But I’m so very lonely, Nelyo,” Maglor pouted, and dropped the scroll on the desk. The parchment rolled out towards Maedhros, whose face was fast approaching the same shade as his hair. “Besides, I’ve already taken care of all my correspondence for the day. Nothing much else to do, really, but seek out the company of my darling brother.”
“I’m older than you,” Maedhros grit out, rubbing his temple in terse little circles. Which one of them he was reminding Maglor couldn’t say.
“Only by a few years,” Maglor teased. He let the corners of his lip curl up - he was well aware this made him look like “a cat about to feast on the fattest saucer of milk it’s ever conned” according to his brother, and that was why he did it.
On top of that dusty old book, Maedhros’ fingers twitched. Got you.
“Come on, Nelyo,” he whined. “Give me attentiooon.”
Maedhros threw him a positively hateful look, but Maglor knew he wouldn’t throw him out just yet. By this point, Maglor liked to think he knew his brother well enough.
There were some things he didn’t, of course, and this was fine. When his brother would wake and traipse out to the courtyard in the dead of night, staring at the moon hungrily for hours and hours as if he would never glimpse its light amidst the pitch dark again; when one of the many elves around Amon Ereb would do something wrong - not when one of their craftsmen made the same excited little exclamation as Curvo used to, or hunters fletched their arrows just how Tyelko did, Maglor understood these, at least - but a request phrased too sweetly, an abrupt movement, a smile too wide, and Maedhros’ throat would tighten, his words clipped, before excusing himself to go lock himself in his room for an hour, or two, or three: these parts of his brother Maglor may never know.
But he knew much, or at least enough. A few months after they’d taken in the twins, Maglor had just finished mopping an explosion of jam on the dining floor and sweeping up the shards of what was once the hefty jar that contained it. He’d first gently let Elros know that if they wanted food, they need only ask; he’d then let him know that no, of course they wouldn’t cast him out for breaking the jam jar, with no small amount of tears or internal panic on either end of that conversation.
By the time Maglor slunk into Maedhros’ study that evening to go over reports from around the fortress, he was maybe a bit tired. When Maedhros told him to wait for just a few minutes while he wrapped something or other up, Maglor might’ve let slip a touch of petulance and no small amount of theatrics into his voice when he asked when his dear Nelyo could spare just a moment for his poor baby brother, simply wilting away from the neglect.
Maglor had frozen, fearful of what his second-most severe brother would have to say in response to - well, whining. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d let himself do so. Oh, he’d been quite the brat in Valinor, and used to be quite proud of that fact, thank you. Each and every one of his brothers’ last nerves practically had his name on it. But it seemed ever since they arrived here, it was as if they simply couldn’t afford the waste of time. Ribbing was a favored pastime of his in Aman, but Beleriand offered no such frivolities.
But living with the twins, putting on playful words and coaxing laughter from two young faces that Maglor couldn’t bear to see two seconds from breaking anymore, had apparently loosened his discipline.
He’d thought Maedhros would treat him to one of his signature frowns, barking at him that neither of them had time to make things any harder for each other, but instead he’d… laughed. Just the slightest huff of air, yes, but a laugh nonetheless. Maglor hadn’t heard his brother laugh since…
Well, if anything, he was honoring his cousin’s memory.
So Maglor experimented over the years, let a few more teases and whines slip into his day-to-day interactions with Maedhros. His brother had since mustered a valiant effort to act annoyed, but Maglor could still catch a muffled chuckle or smothered grin here and there.
So. All in all, he’s sure he knows his brother pretty well at this point, and Maedhros was not troubled (bad), just bothered (good).
Which, of course, meant they could continue to play; Maglor would show no mercy.
“Please? Please, please? Just a smidgen of tender love and care from my dearly beloved big brother?” Maglor asked, eyes wide and pleading, hands clasped in front of him as he leaned over the desk. His hair, inky black, spilled all over his scroll.
Maedhros’ nose twitched. His right ear flicked. Oh yes. He was close to a chuckle now, he could tell. His dearly beloved big brother stood no fucking chance.
“Oh dear Eru, let my brother pay attention to - MANWË’S TITS!” Maglor shrieked, springing up from his seat after spotting a dark shadow peeking through the window.
His brother whirled around. Quick as a viper, his hand darted out to grasp the hilt of his sword. Despite this, Maglor could hear a choked noise he was more than halfway certain was the chuckle he had so desperately hunted. Oh well.
A chubby face stared right back at them, eyes round as saucers. Wait, make that two faces.
Both Maglor and Maedhros sagged with relief.
“Elros, can you please come in?” Maglor croaked, feeling five feet to the left of his physical body. “You too, Elrond.”
The two of them nodded bashfully, heads bobbing as they fumbled over to the glass. And they were… flapping. Each twin sported small brown wings on their back, looking much like the falcons Tyelko used to play with as a child. Maglor supposed, thinking of a great bird soaring away over the sea with light itself clutched tight in its talons, maybe they should have expected this one in particular.
Elros pushed once, twice at the windows, tiny arms straining against the pane and looking more panicked by the second. Behind him, Elrond simply pointed to the - oh, the window latch. Yes.
Maedhros stood up and flicked it open. Elros came tumbling through, nearly bashing his skull on the desk before Maedhros caught him midair.
Elrond flew in smoothly and landed on Maglor’s empty chair, wings neatly folding in. Maedhros dumped Elros on his own chair. His wing smacked Maedhros’ arm by mistake.
“We talked about this. No new shapeshifting without me or Maglor there,” Maedhros said, fixing each of them with a stern look.
Both the twins looked down at this. Elrond wrung his little wrists.
“We’re sorry!” Elros burst out, tears welling up in his eyes. “We won’t do it again, promise!”
“That’s what you said last time, sweetheart,” Maglor told him.
“And the time before that,” Maedhros grumbled.
“What we’re saying, dear, is that we understand that you’re sorry. But keeping your word has to take first priority,” Maglor explained softly.
“Or, er, not doing it again,” Maglor corrected. “That’s what counts.”
“We understand,” Elros sniffled. “It’s just, we wanted to hear, but you weren’t there to check with, because well, you were here, and, well, um, yes -”
“Bringing us to the next point of order,” Maedhros rumbled. He raised a brow at both of them. “Eavesdropping. We have also been over this.”
Oh dear. Elros looked like he was about to drown in a puddle of tears. Maglor rubbed a hand between his shoulder blades soothingly, careful of the new feathery appendages.
Thankfully, Elrond stepped in. “We remember, it’s not nice because we like to be in private sometimes and it’s not fair for us to not let other people be too,” he recited shyly. “Um, we just… we know you both meet up a lot like this, and we know it's important… but… um…” His lip trembled; his voice cracked. “Do you... talk about us? Do you not want us to hear because it’s bad? Because we can do better!” He promised quickly, eyes wide and wet. “Elros is getting really good at his music lessons, he’s practicing a lot! And I’m working on my writing lessons every day!”
Something in Maglor’s chest twisted. “Oh, honey, no -”
But his brother beat him to the punch. Striding out from behind the desk, he knelt down in front of Elrond. “Can I hug you?” he asked very quietly.
Elrond bit his lip and nodded. Without another word, Maedhros wrapped him up in his arms.
They stayed like that for a moment, Maedhros’ hulking frame wrapped around Elrond’s body, like a drape of russet locks, leather and rich furs. When his brother finally pulled away, he gave a heavy look to both children.
“We will never give you away because you’re not good enough. Alright? You will always be good enough. Both of you,” he told them. He reached out and covered Elrond’s tiny hand with his own, fingers curling around and intertwining. “And not because you’re caught up on your lessons, or do what we say.”
“Though those are certainly nice,” Maglor added. He flashed them a teasing grin before taking care to soften his expression once more, and laid a gentle hand on Elros’ shoulder. “You will always have our love. And nothing, not even the worst jam spill, or missed harp lesson - don’t think I didn’t notice that last week, dearest - can ever reach in and steal it. It is your’s by blood and birthright.”
“Love you,” Elros sniffled. Elrond echoed him, voice no less wobbly.
Maedhros gifted them with a small smile. “Love you both, starlights.”
“And -” Elros started, hiccuped, and continued. “And same for me too. Nothing can change that! I’ll always love you two.”
Maglor felt a pang of sickly guilt invade his chest and looked away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Maedhros stiffen.
“Me too,” Elrond said, voice suddenly clear. Maglor glanced at him and met a gaze that seemed years ahead of its time; he froze, rooted to the spot. “We’ll always love you no matter what you do.”
“Well -” Maglor started. “That’s…”
“No need to worry about us,” Maedhros recovered quickly, waving his hand. “Now then, it’s nearing bedtime, hm?”
“But wait!” Elros cried. “What were you two talking about then?”
“Yes! We saw Atya going like this,” Elrond clasped his pudgy hands together and shook them. “And his voice sounded all funny, and then he prayed to Eru about Atar paying more attention to Manwe’s t-”
“ALRIGHT!” Maglor yelped, clapping his hands. His face must’ve been steaming, his cheeks were burning, oh stars - “Bedtime!”
“But we want to know why you were saying all those funny things,” Elros complained loudly. His voice slipped into a high pitched whine, dripping with petulance. “Nelyo, Nelyo, give me attentioooon -”
“I do not sound like that!” Maglor gasped, scooping up a giggling Elrond to be carried to bed.
“I do not sound like that!”
Maglor turned around, gaping. That was not Elros’ voice.
Maedhros stared back. His eyes glinted with mirth and the most shit-eating grin curled his lips. In his arms was a starstruck Elros, who looked no less shocked than if the clouds themselves had just burst into song and danced a lively jig. And quite frankly, Maglor would be less surprised.
Maedhros dealt him one last smirk before twirling on his heel and walking out of the room to go deposit one elfling in his bed. Maglor still had the other, who poked his cheek.
“Atya? Are you okay?”
Slowly, ever so slowly, Maglor felt a smile grow across his face. His eyes stung with tears. He quickly wiped them with his sleeve before they could fatten and spill over his cheeks and probably make Elrond worry even more.
“Wonderful, dear.” He frowned for a second, considering. “Although I think there is a dreadful amount of mockery in my future.”
He looked down at Elrond. His son merely tilted his round head, offering a blank look. Maglor sighed happily. “But that’s okay.”
In time, it became clear that there was no need to worry about the looming threat of brotherly teasing paid back in full; Maedhros may have been looser with his laughter, but even this was a rare occasion still. Maglor did not mind, for any time he saw his brother’s eyes alight with anything other than fatal passion was a gift.
The true threat that lurked within Amon Ereb made itself known eventually.
Two weeks later, Maglor was scurrying to meet up with one of the smiths to discuss pending repairs but stopped short in front of a small figure in the courtyard blocking his path.
“Not now, sweetheart, Atya’s very busy,” Maglor told Elrond, harried, ready to flag down someone on the way to attend to whatever his son needed.
And then it happened. Elrond’s face crumpled just so. His eyes widened: big, round, and wet. His lip wobbled. When he opened his mouth, his voice took on a tone so absolutely, horribly pitiful that Maglor half-suspected the echo of Lúthien herself lived in his words.
“Please, Atya,” he begged, every word a death sentence. “Give me attentiooon.”
Oh Eru, Maglor despaired, even as he opened his arms for an evil little elfling to leap into, repairs forgotten. I’ve made a monster.
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