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Frodo turned out to be greatly interested in dates and reckonings, so although Maglor had never counted years with any great attention for himself, he had helped Frodo to work it out in years of the Sun. Frodo had eventually announced, with an air of hobbitish triumph, that it had been seven thousand, one hundred and forty-eight years, since Maglor’s father Fëanor had been banished from their home in the white city of Tirion on the hill of Túna, to distant Formenos.

All Fëanor’s sons had followed him without question. Their mother had not.

Not that there had been a Sun to count years by, in those days, of course. Their house in Tirion had been positioned to bring the light of the Trees into the rooms, and to offer a view out through the Calacirya towards the stars, and it still was, though Telperion and Laurelin were long dead and remembered only in song, and the stars could now be seen overhead every night.

It could not possibly be the same house. No house stood for over seven thousand years. Seven thousand years of sun and wind and weather would wear out even stone, let alone wooden doors and window frames, metal gates and lamps and window-glass.

And yet it looked the same. Even to the leggy rose-bushes by the garden gate, that mother always said that she would prune herself, and never quite got round to. How long did roses live? An eyeblink : a handful of summers, twenty years of the Sun, perhaps. And yet Maglor would have sworn that they were the same roses, with the last overblown late-autumn blossoms dropping crimson petals on the grass, the same warm rich scent in the morning sun.

The swift years of Middle-earth had run past like a wind on the meadows, but here in Aman, the house where he had been born stood unchanged, unmarred. He looked up at the windows, and almost expected to see his elder brother with jewels in his copper hair wave down at him from the window that had been his. To see the twins run through the trees outside, laughing, or hear the sound of Curvo’s happy excited voice explaining some new idea to their father.

Maglor stood and looked, and felt himself very old. Something harsh and dark and dangerous, a worn and bitter menace out of Middle-earth, standing before this house that had been full of joy and children. He remembered the sword on his belt — of course, it was the habit of seven thousand years, impossible to think of, that one might go about without a sword — and yet he wished that he had left it behind .

The merry young ghosts hung thick about the house, though they could not be there. They were in the halls of Mandos, all of them; the children, their father, and his people, too. Here outside the house were only Finrod and Elrond, and they were old like Maglor, threaded through and marked with the grief and suffering of Middle-earth. You could see it in their eyes.

Maglor had meant to go to the front door, but Finrod led the way to the garden gate, instead. Of course he did, they had never used the front door, save for formal occasions. Family, whether resident or visiting unofficially, went in through the garden gate, and round the back.

The door to his mother’s workroom was on the ground floor, and closed, but not locked. Finrod knocked, then pulled the door open with the ease of one who was a habitual visitor — it still stuck a little, how could it stick like that? It could not possibly be the same door— and there was the long, bright-windowed room full of tools, and boxes of clay and blocks of stone. Maglor felt suddenly very grateful that at least none of the sculptures on display were at all familiar. His mother’s style of work had changed a good deal.

But she herself was utterly familiar, hurrying towards them from the corner of the cavernous work-room that she used as her informal sitting-room, her blazing red hair tied up uncharacteristically neatly and her face pale and strained so that her freckles stood out more than usual.

Maglor found that all the words had gone away.

She stopped in front of him, hands on hips, and looked up into his face. “I don’t know whether to say first ‘Why?’, ‘How could you?’ or ‘What took so long?’” she said. “But I think I’ll have to settle for the old fall-back; ‘Never ever do that again!’”

Maglor shook his head wordlessly. Tears were running down his face.

“Oh, come here!” she said, and folded her arms around him.

“Thank you for bringing him, Finrod,” she said, over his shoulder.

“Oh well,” Finrod said. “I only turned up at the end in my customarily inquisitive manner to poke my nose into the happy reunion. I can’t take any credit for it. That’s down to Elrond.”

Oh yes, Elrond. Maglor rubbed the tears from his face with a handkerchief helpfully supplied by Finrod, and turned to Elrond.

“Mother, this is Elrond Halfelven... Do you know about Elrond?”

“Well, I’ve heard of him, of course, one of the heroes of Middle-earth,” Nerdanel said, taking Elrond’s hand, a little confused, as Elrond greeted her courteously. “I thank you with all my heart for bringing my son back to me. I had not realised that you knew him so well.”

Maglor sighed. “I’d better tell you how we met, then. You aren’t going to like it.”

Nerdanel looked stern. “I liked very little of what I heard of what you did in Middle-earth. Or before that, either.”

“Perhaps I could tell the tale of how we met, then,” Elrond said, giving Maglor a smile. “The way Maglor tells it is not very kind to him or to Maedhros, and for once, it wasn’t a story with an entirely dark ending.”

“I’m not sure that I need the kinder version,” Nerdanel said, a little bitterly. “I have grown very accustomed to being disappointed in my sons.”

“You might as well let him tell it if he wants to,” Maglor said. “He says he wants to be an honorary grandson. You couldn’t ask for a better one. He might even go some way towards making up for us.”

Nerdanel looked in surprise at Elrond. “Really? That’s not something I expected to hear! All right. I can see there’s more to this than I know. Do come and sit down. And I think a cup of wine is definitely in order. I’m not sure if in celebration or consolation, or just to numb the pain, but wine, definitely.”

“Excellent!” Finrod said. “I knew there was a good reason you are my favorite aunt. Open a bottle and we’ll try all three reasons for drinking it, and see which works best!”

Nerdanel gave him a sceptical look over her shoulder as she led them to the corner where there were, still, settles draped in blankets patterned green and blue. “You call Anairë your favourite aunt all the time, Finrod!” she said.

“You are all my favourites!” Finrod said, grinning. “Well, apart from Findis, perhaps.”

Nerdanel grimaced, pouring wine into cups. She explained to Elrond; “My sister-in-law Findis was very much against any involvement in Middle-earth. She considers us all rather disreputable for offering any challenge to the Valar about it. Oh, don’t look like that, Maglor! I didn’t want you to go, and I certainly didn’t want you to swear that foul oath, but that doesn’t mean I turned my back! I went to the Valar several times to ask for help for you.”

“Did you?” Maglor said. “I thought not even the echo of our lamentations passed the mountains!”

“Well, yes, that was what they said at first. But there were a lot of protests from the Teleri about it, since, as they said, it meant they had no word of their kin, who had done nothing wrong at all. Eärwen did excellent work there, bless her, and soon we had regular news from the Eagles, and of course news of the Sindar meant news from the Noldor too. So when we heard of Dagor Bragollach, Anairë and I went to Manwë and appealed for him to send help. And then when Finrod came back to life, we tried again. I thought they might listen to him, since he had been there in the middle of it all.”

“I never thought they would,” Finrod said, shrugging. “There was no question that I should have been under the ban as much as Galadriel was. I was only in Valinor thanks to Lúthien, I suspect. But you never know until you try.”

“Anyway,” Nerdanel said, “They said no. That was when Finarfin began making stores of weapons again. By the time Eärendil and Elwing got here, we had all the gear for a great army prepared, hoping for the chance to use it. I hoped they would let me go to Middle-earth with the army, but it was not permitted. I suppose they thought I’d run off to find you and Maedhros. They didn’t let Finrod go, either: we had to stay here and look after Tirion: it was most frustrating. But Findis would have nothing to do with any of it.”

“She will insist on calling me Ingoldo, too,” Finrod said, disconsolate. “I hate to complain, but Middle-earth does change a person, and if I want my name to reflect that, then I can’t help feeling it’s rather rude to ignore my preference. But come on, Elrond! I want to hear your version of the Havens of Sirion. I’ve heard Maglor’s version, and it is dark and frankly, terribly disturbing. I’ve been comforting myself that it can’t possibly have been quite that bad or you would have chopped his head off long ago. ”

“I was six!” Elrond said, amused. “Men grow up faster than Elves, but not that fast. I can’t give you a full report; I’m sure Maglor has the details right. But I’ll tell you how it seemed to me, then and afterwards.”

“You met him as a kinslayer, when you were six?” Nerdanel asked. Her wiry red hair had begun to extricate itself from the neat ribbon already and started to form itself into the familiar wild wriggling shapes. “You are right, Maglor. I’m not going to like this at all.” She topped up her cup of wine, and then, on reflection, Maglor’s too. “Go on then, Elrond.”

. . . . .

So then there was much more talk, wine, and a few more tears,until the next difficult topic came up. But inevitably at last it did.

“Finrod said that you had married in Middle-earth?” his mother asked.

“Yes,” Maglor said, neutrally. “I’m sorry you could not be there for the wedding. No doubt Finrod has told you all about it.”

“He did, but that brought up more questions than it answered! I never thought you’d marry! You used to say you were in love with music.”

“Oh dear,” Maglor said. “What a horribly pretentious youth I was. I changed my mind.”

“Finrod said she was from Hithlum, but I don’t really know what that means. What is she like?”

Maglor thought about it and smiled out of long-ago memories. “Enthusiastic. Joyful. Imperious. No obstacle was too great, no foe too strong. She thought we were going to save Middle-earth and make a garden of Angband... She had long curling black hair. She was a better rider than I was; she could ride any horse. You’d come across some seventeen-hand monster that had never had anyone so much as sit on his back, and she’d mount and ride off as if she had had months to get to know him... ”

“So did she come home with you?” Nerdanel asked gently.

Maglor was a little startled at the question. “Oh no. Of course, Finrod would not have known, I suppose. She died not long after he did. Perhaps it was easier that way. She would have found what we did in Doriath very hard. And she would certainly have turned against us at the Havens. She would not wish to speak to me, now, I expect.”

“I like her already,” Nerdanel said.

“Yes,” Maglor said. “I think you would have.”

. . . . .

 

Finrod had invited Elrond and Maglor to stay at his house in Tirion, when they had decided to come to the city. Maglor had accepted gratefully, since the alternative was to arrange to stay with his mother, among the ghosts of his lost family. Finrod had built a new house for himself and Amárië. That would feel much safer: not so perilously familiar.

They had left Nerdanel’s house, and were walking through the city towards Finrod’s home, along one of the long raised walkways that ran between the close-packed white buildings ranged around the hill on which Tirion stood, when they heard raised voices outside on the road that lay below the walkway. Elrond cocked his head frowning. “What is that?”

Finrod went to a window in a white stone archway and peered out. The noise outside was growing. Finrod’s eyes widened in alarm. “I think they’ve heard you’re here,” he said to Maglor.

Outside in the street, already packed in many rows deep, the people of the old Fëanorian quarter of Tirion were assembling. More of them were pouring out of the workshops and studios, the potteries and foundries every moment. They called old watchwords to one another, greetings and shared memories.

And then someone caught sight of Maglor, and then all of them were looking. ‘Fëanor!’ someone shouted, and again, ‘Fëanor!’ and the whole crowd took up the call. Louder and louder, again and again, the old warcry of East Beleriand baying out across the city, a deep sound building like waves on the shore, but with a good deal more menace to it.

Maglor gave Finrod a pained look. “I thought you said that a quiet visit would cause no trouble!” he said.

Finrod made a face. “It seems I was wrong. You’ll have to talk to them. If I go out to them while they are shouting for Fëanor, I suspect they’ll try to tear me to pieces. And if we don’t stop it soon, then I wouldn’t put it past the old Gondolodrim to try to step in, if my own people don’t. That wouldn’t end well.”

Maglor shuddered. “All right,” he said. “But I’m relying on you to explain this to your father. And the Valar, for that matter.”

“I’ll do my best,” Finrod said. “Go on. Be princely. They won’t settle for anything less.”

Maglor went down the steps towards the archway that led down to the street. He took a deep breath, raised his head in long-remembered pride, and stepped out through the arch to the the warm golden sunlit stone steps outside. The crowd had sounded loud before, but it was nothing to the ground-shaking roar that went up when they saw him come out to them. He did not speak. He held one hand up, and stood and waited, there in the autumn sunlight, and after a moment, the shouting began to die down, until there was no sound left in the wide paved streets of the ancient city of Tirion, but only an expectant hush.

He let it go on for a few beats, then just as the silence began to become uncomfortable, he began to speak. He spoke to them of their long history, of their vanished lands in Beleriand, of their pride and their hope. There was a power to his voice as there had been in his father’s voice, long ago, but it was gentler than Fëanor’s had been, filled with longing, not with anger.

He spoke of battles won, honour upheld. A desperate long-fought defeat against a dreadful foe. Battles lost, and a border held against the darkness. Then, while they were they were carried high in the bright dreams of lost Beleriand, he turned his words and carried them back to Tirion, to their lost home, to return to the white city on the hill, their shining city that had always been at peace. To just honour that came from making and doing, not only from war.

They listened in silence, many in tears, and he met their eyes, one by one, as he wove them an aching, longing tale of home long-lost, and now, at last regained beyond hope. And at the end, he thanked them for their service, and bade them go home, and quietly, weeping, they went.

Finrod waited for the last of them to begin to move away, before he came out to join Maglor at the top of the steps. Elrond followed him. “Well, that was impressive,” Finrod said. “Not that I expected anything less.”

“It worked,” Maglor said, feeling tired and rather miserable. “That’s the main thing. They probably won’t do it again. I hope you weren’t expecting me to make them feel guilty as well. There are limits.”

“Are there? I’m glad to hear it!”

Maglor looked at Finrod. “I did that at your direct request. It wasn’t a power play.”

“Of course, that’s understood,” Finrod said, nodding.

“I’ve never seen you being a prince before,” Elrond said. “It is disconcerting.” He looked troubled, Maglor noted with concern. He gave him a smile that he hoped looked suitably disarming.

“If you think that was disconcerting, you should have seen his father do it,” Finrod told him, wrinkling his nose in distaste. “Or his brothers, for that matter. ‘Go home’ is probably the most benign message I’ve ever seen that particular technique used for. But it is very rarely used.” And never by us, the golden house of Finarfin; the unspoken message was very clear.

“Finrod, what did you expect me to do?” Maglor asked him, frustrated. “There were thousands of them. That wasn’t my name they were shouting. I could hardly ask them all to voice an opinion and listen to them reasonably! Or did you want me to wait until they decided that you were an enemy of our dispossessed house and came rushing up at you? If so, you could have mentioned it earlier!”

“I always prefer not to be torn to pieces, ” Finrod said wryly. “You can take that as read. I expected you to do exactly what you did. And now, although I admit I feel a sudden urge to hurry home to Amárië, I think we’d better go and talk to my father.”

“Please!” Maglor said. “I would much prefer to explain it myself.”

“Well, I hope you aren’t planning to try anything like that with him!” Finrod said laughing and then at Maglor’s expression. “Oh, all right! I know that’s not what you meant. Come on, we should be able to catch him at home today, I think.”

“Lord!” Two of the Noldor had turned back, seeing Maglor was still there, talking to Finrod and Elrond. “May we walk with you?”

Grey eyes, dark hair, one wearing an apron marked with paint, the other dressed for riding in clothes very much like those that Maglor was wearing himself. Names came back to him out of the very long ago, when both had been dressed in armour to ride the plains of Lothlann. “Bregolien, Elior,” he nodded in acknowledgement. “It would be best not. I am sorry.” If these two joined him, they would not be the only ones, and the last thing he wanted was to arrive at Finarfin’s house with a mob behind him.

“Can we not escort you, my lord?” Elior asked.

“Why would I need an escort in Tirion? That was for Beleriand,” he told them. It was so easy to fall back into the habit of authority, here in this place that seemed so familiar until you looked too closely, but he should not. “I’m not your lord. If you need something, you should speak to Finrod.”

“It wasn’t that we wanted anything,” Bregolien said. “We only thought we’d greet you.”

“I might have known that you two would ignore my polite request that everyone go home! Anyway, since when did you call me ‘my lord’ Elior?”

“It has been a very long time.” Elior said, and shrugged. “I thought I’d be polite before your friends.” He thought he’d make a point to Finrod, more likely. But Maglor did not think Elior had meant any harm by it.

“It’s very good to see you both at home and well again,” he said to them. There were about six dozen things that he should say and it was hard to think which to say first, or whether any of it would cause trouble. Instead, he introduced them as old friends to Elrond and to Finrod, who of course they had seen before, but did not know well.

“It would be good to catch up, one day,” Maglor said to them. “Perhaps not in Tirion, though. It was a little loud, just now.”

Elior made a face “It was just that everyone was so excited when they heard you had returned,” he said.

“Yes, we had noticed!” Finrod said. The street was almost empty now, and quiet. “We must go, Maglor.” Bregolien didn’t like that, from her expression, but at least she did not say so. “

“Of course,” Maglor said. “Goodbye, Elior, Bregolien.”

They walked through Tirion, through quiet streets of tall white-walled houses and wide squares planted with tall white trees, familiar and yet strange in the fading evening sunlight. Maglor could feel Elrond speaking to Finrod in thought, as a faint note chiming in the distance, guarded from him but, since Elrond did not know Finrod well, very distinct in the evening hush.

“Shall I step aside so you two can discuss me more privately?” he asked pointedly, and then felt churlish.

“I was trying to be tactful,” Elrond said, looking slightly hurt. “But if you’d prefer me to be more Fëanorian about it, I’ll just ask you. Was your wife there?”

“No,” Maglor said shortly.

“I made enquiries after I saw you on Tol Eressëa,” Finrod said. “I thought I’d leave it up to you if you wanted to tell your mother. Your wife hasn’t returned from the Halls of Mandos.”

Maglor stopped in surprise under a fountain that was more familiar than it had any right to be and looked at him. “Why? Surely nobody could blame her? She had nothing to do with anything we did in Doriath or the Havens. Or Alqualondë, for that matter.”

“She hasn’t chosen to return,” Finrod said, gently.

“Did she die in battle?” Maglor asked him. “Do you know that?”

Finrod looked shocked and distressed. “I don’t know,” he said. “You don’t either?”

“No. I never found out if she was killed at once, or was taken prisoner. Morgoth didn’t allow his thralls to touch minds with those outside the walls. Well, you know that better than most people. Most of the lost... We never found out. She was one of many. Elior and Bregolien died there too, but I knew about that. I saw them die. It was quick. All I know about my wife is that there was silence.”

“I’m sorry,” Elrond said.

Maglor shrugged. “It was long ago. She would not want me back, if she did return. I didn’t expect to see her. I know that she died and is in Mandos, now, at least. I hope Nienna is kind to her and she’s happy there, if she can be.”

“I’ll send and ask about her, if you’d like,” Finrod offered.

“I think it might be worse to know,” Maglor said. He looked at Elrond, and remembered Celebrían’s torment in the dens of the orcs. Fortunately, Maglor’s mind was carefully folded closed, as it had been since he had stepped out before the crowd, and he did not think that Elrond had caught the thought.

“It was long ago,” he said again, careful not to think of her, or of the thin broken bodies of the many thralls who had come struggling out of the ruins of Angband. “Is it this way still?”

......

Finarfin, King of the Noldor of Aman had built himself a new home — well, he had probably had several, in the many years since Maglor had last been in Tirion — but this one was all of white stone, with tall slender pillars elaborately carved with curling trees and ferns and stars, very much in the classical Noldor style, with not a hint of Vanyar or Teleri heritage to it. Surely that was very deliberate. The evening light was fading, and the front of the house was lit a pale blue with Fëanorian lamps suspended on slender silver chains between the arches.

Finarfin was among the trees in his garden when they found him, in what must surely be his oldest clothes, pruning hook in hand, his golden hair tied simply back and a pile of twigs beside him in a canvas bag. “Finrod!” he said cheerfully as he saw his son approaching. “I didn’t know you had got back!” Then he saw Maglor, and his face became careful and unreadable for a moment.

He turned to Elrond, smiling and took his hand. “Welcome Elrond! It has been such a long time since I last saw you. We have heard much of you, of course, from Celebrían. It’s good to see you in Tirion at long last. I’m sorry to have to greet you in my gardening clothes, Finrod did not mention he was bringing you or I would have prepared a better welcome!”

“Sorry to surprise you, father, but something has come up,” Finrod said “Entirely my fault. I misjudged the situation.”

Finarfin glanced at Maglor, then looked at Finrod with an expression filled with amused incredulity. “You come to me with the last of the sons of Fëanor, of all people, in tow, and say that you misjudged the situation. Of course you did. Aren’t you getting a little old for taking all the blame?”

“Never!” Finrod said grinning. “And particularly not when it really is my fault.”

“What has he done now then?” Finarfin asked, resigned. “Tell me he hasn’t killed anyone else. I’m assuming it was him.”

“Well, it was the Fëanorian quarter again...” Finrod began.

Maglor abruptly decided that he really could not stand there silently and listen to this. He stepped forward and went to his knees in front of Finarfin.

“The people who used to owe allegiance to my house heard that I was in Tirion and came out to greet me,” he said “They were excited, and began to call for my father. Finrod felt the situation was liable to provoke a confrontation, so at his request, I went out to speak to them and sent them home, intending no challenge to your authority. They meant no harm either."

“But nobody has been hurt and nothing burned?” Finarfin asked.

Maglor shook his head, still kneeling. "No. I have an apology to offer you for the death of your people guarding the Silmaril, too, but I am not sure if you would prefer me to offer that publicly. I meant to request a formal audience, but things ran on faster than I expected.”

Finarfin made a face. “Do get up, Maglor! I can hardly do anything to you when the Valar have pardoned you already.”

Maglor said, without moving, “Do you accept my apology?”

“Maglor,” Finarfin said, and sighed. “Much, I am sure, to the disappointment of us all, I am your king. And when your king orders you to stand up, you stand. Up.”

Maglor hastily got up.

“You have been pardoned by the Valar,” the king told him. “So far as I am concerned, that covers your acts towards all of the Noldor, and any public apology would certainly create further trouble. I would advise you to send your apologies to Olwë of Alqualondë by letter.”

“I think you’ll probably get complaints from the Gondolodrim tomorrow,” Finrod said. “We were in the Street of the Golden Lion. They will have heard the whole thing. There were thousands of people chanting ‘Fëanor’ at the top of their voices. ”

“Were there really? Well, at least nobody is dead.” the king said, philosophically. “We can cope with complaints.”

The sun had set now but the sky still had a pale green-blue glow. A yellow moon was riding in the sky above Finarfin’s garden, visible through the dark bare boughs of the apple trees to which a handful of yellowing leaves still clung.

“He did talk about what a good job they did in Beleriand,” Finrod said. “The Gondolodrim have taken offence at that sort of talk before now. And those from Nargothrond, too, though I can handle them, if they get past Orodreth. I’ll give them my sad reproachful look.”

“Our people did their duty to the end, in Beleriand,” Maglor said. “They deserved thanks for it. Particularly those who fell in Dagor Bragollach. They aren’t to blame for the crimes of those who led them. ”

“There lies a debate for the philosophers,” the king said. “But I assume the Valar must agree with that to some degree, since they have allowed most of the inhabitants of the Fëanorian Quarter to return from Mandos. You could, however, have chosen somewhere less provocative to deliver your thanks.”

“He could have,” Finrod said. “If it were not that they were all standing there shouting for Fëanor. Someone had to stop them. They were far more likely to listen to Maglor than to me. It honestly was my fault. I thought the partisan feeling had died down in the city. That’s what I told Maglor when he asked me if visiting his mother would cause a problem. They have been very quiet for a good long while now. I thought we might get a few people stopping him in passing to grumble about me, and I had planned to keep him well away from the Gondolodrim, of course. I was not expecting a growing riot in the Fëanorian Quarter itself.”

“Hm.” The king considered Maglor thoughtfully. “I’m tempted to banish you from Tirion, in the interests of keeping the peace.”

“That would certainly get the Fëanorian quarter up in arms once the word got around,” Finrod said, alarmed rubbing his fingers through his hair. The moon had taken the gold from it and left it pale. “Too close a similarity to Fëanor. Please don’t use the word ‘banish’ where I’ll have to deal with the consequences!”

“It would also seem rather unfair,” Elrond put in. “Not that it’s any of my business.”

“It seems as much your business as anyone’s,” the king said to Elrond. “You are my granddaughter’s husband; that makes Tirion your problem too, I am sure you’ll be pleased to hear. And didn’t you swear to answer for Maglor’s deeds?”

“Oh, did you?” Maglor said, turning to Elrond, eyebrows raised. “You didn’t mention that!”

“It was only a formality,” Elrond said, looking very distant and grave in the moonlight. “I trust you.”

Maglor laughed incredulously. “You do? You have terrible judgement, Elrond!”

A faint grin crept onto Elrond’s face. “Well, in that case I blame you. I always blame my misjudgements on my unfortunate Fëanorian upbringing.”

“Finally, I am blamed for something I am not responsible for,” Maglor said, grinning. “You can keep your misjudgements for yourself, thank you!”

“Enough,” Finarfin said, tolerantly. “Very well. Banishing Maglor would make more trouble than it solved with the Fëanorian Quarter. It would make the Gondolodrim louder, too, I do see that. So what is your suggestion, Finrod?”

“Mereth Aderthad,” Finrod said, cheerfully. Maglor looked at him in surprise.

Finarfin looked intrigued. “Hold a festival of reuniting, as my brother did, in Beleriand?” Maglor noted the phrase ‘my brother’ as if Finarfin had only one brother to mention, but could not entirely blame him for it.

“Not here in Tirion,” Finrod said hastily. “Somewhere with more space. We have thousands of the people of Fëanor who wish to greet Maglor, probably with considerable exuberance. We need them to live in peace with the Gondolodrim, and ideally, with all the peoples of Tirion, and what better way than to invite them all to a great feast together? It worked very well for Fingolfin. I’ve thought of it before, but there was always the worry that it would dissolve into a fight, with no lord to hold the Fëanorian faction in check. But Maglor can do that.”

“Can I?” Maglor said. “You were just talking about banishing me for doing just that!”

“Yes, but trust me to come up with a much better plan!” Finrod said. “And you’d get to sing for a huge audience, half of which would be wildly enthusiastic, and the other half of which would be a challenge. You’d love it.”

“Would I?” Maglor said. Finrod gave him a meaningful look. “Oh, all right. Of course I will do it.”

“Apologising to everyone one by one is taking you a long time,” Elrond observed, innocently. “Think how much more efficient it will be to do them all together!” Maglor gave him a reproving look and tried not to laugh.

“We could invite the Teleri,” Finarfin said. He looked thoughtfully at Elrond. “Even the Doriathrim too, perhaps. Thingol is still in the Halls of Mandos. I understand he is great friends with my father there. But Nimloth and Dior might come, if their grandson asked them.”

“It sounds an excellent plan to me,” Elrond said. “I’ll mention it when I visit them. I have a further suggestion. I wanted to talk to you about making a formal request for the return of the House of Fingolfin and your sister from the Halls of Mandos. I have already spoken to Galadriel and Gil-galad, and also to Frodo about it. Gandalf feels that a request which comes from all the houses of the Eldar, with the support of the Ringbearer, would be looked on favorably. That would also be a reunion well worth celebrating.”

Usually, Finarfin’s calm wise face, framed by rich golden hair, did not look at all like either of his brothers, but now, with almost all colour drained by the moonlight, and his face suddenly full of surprised delight, he looked so much like his brother Fëanor that Maglor was shaken.

“That would be a joy indeed! Let us go and speak to Eärwen about this,” Finarfin said eagerly. He led the way through the moonlight towards the warm yellow lamp-light that now streamed from the windows of the house.

Maglor had not really expected Elrond to ask the Valar to return his brothers. He had asked him about it more in hope than expectation, but he had resigned himself to knowing that they, and his father, were in the Halls of Mandos, and there, at least, they were safe. They had not been lost to the everlasting darkness, as he had feared for so long in Middle-earth, but they could not come home, either. There was nothing new about that.

But seeing his father reflected in Finarfin’s face had been a sharp reminder that the House of Fëanor was not like the other houses of the Noldor, and never again could be. He hesitated on the dark path that led to the house, wondering if he should follow the king into the house to speak with Eärwen of Alqualondë, or if he should wait outside.

Elrond touched him lightly on the shoulder. “Come on,” he said, with a half-smile. “You might as well get the next lot of apologies over with. I suspect that, since you are here, the House of Fingolfin may be permitted to return soon anyway, but once we’ve got them all to agree once, it will be easier to get them to do it again. I haven’t forgotten about Maedhros.”

“And will you swear to answer for his deeds too?”

“You think it unwise?”

“Nobody could possibly call it wise!”

“Oh good,” Elrond said, looking amused again. “I’ve had so many exciting years of war. I’d hate to think that things were going to become dull.”

“And what does Celebrían think to that?” Maglor asked him, refusing to take the bait and answer lightly. “Does she want to take such a risk?”

Elrond’s light-hearted smile dropped away into the grave expression that was more usual for him now. “She is afraid. That is only to be expected; she grew up with tales of your attack on Doriath. But she is courageous, too. She came to live with me in Rivendell, among the remnant of the kinslayers of Eregion, after all! And she welcomed you to her house. She only asked for time to get to know you first.”

“And you’re sure about that, are you?”

“Celebrían told me it was only right to want to help a friend. Are you saying you have changed your mind?”

“‘On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also,’” Maglor said soberly. “We are dispossessed for ever. I don’t want you and Celebrían getting caught up in that, Elrond, you know that. I would rather join the others in Mandos myself.”

”Understood. But, as usual, I am not following you! It seems a smaller risk than many I have taken. The wars are over, after all.”

Maglor ducked his head and gave Elrond a reluctant smile. “Thank you, Elrond. For all of it.”

“Well, I’m glad you said that. I was starting to think you would have been much happier if I’d left you in Middle-earth.”

“No. No, very much not! I am not eager to fade into a shadow of regret. And believe me, it is very good to have company again.” He gave Elrond a grin. “One day I shall run out of people to whom I owe apologies, too.”

“There must be an end to them eventually!” Elrond said, and laughed. “Anyway, they might agree to let you answer for Maedhros, so I don’t have to. You never know.”

Maglor snorted. “If they decide to let a kinslayer swear to answer for Maedhros, I’m not going to even think about wrestling Fingon for the honour. I’ll speak for Caranthir instead. He’s probably a safer bet, anyway.”

Finrod came back out of the house to look for them. “Come on, you two!” he said. “My father is so enraptured by the idea that Turgon might finally return to relieve him of responsibility for the Gondolodrim that he wants you to come to dinner. Yes, you too, Maglor! We can’t make this work without you.”