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Mereth Aderthad : Once More: With Feeling

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A warm day for so late in the autumn, one of those still golden days when the sky is a deep clear blue. The shadows were long and cold, heralding the winter to come, but the sun on the grass still remembered summer. Somewhere in the distance, gulls were crying.

Elrond stopped in surprise on his way through the sheltered, stone-paved courtyard behind Celebrían’s house. “What are you doing, Maglor?”

“I am peeling potatoes,” Maglor said, brandishing a potato at him. He was sitting on a stone bench in a sunny corner, next to a large basket of potatoes. The last few brilliant orange nasturtian flowers spilling out from a great stone pot flamed in the sunshine around his feet.

“I see that...why?”

“Because you have invited Gil-galad and some enormous number of his people to visit, and this, I am told, requires a great many potatoes to be peeled,” Maglor informed him cheerfully.

“That is true, but I am a little surprised it is you who is peeling them!”

“Well, someone must. Your household doesn’t need another swordsman, and it certainly doesn’t need yet another harpist. It does, currently, need an extra person to peel the potatoes, and that is a skill I have, so I have volunteered. I did offer to do the washing up, but it seemed to make Fingaeril nervous to have me wandering around the kitchen. I don’t know why, her family were Caranthir’s people from Thargelion.”

“Possibly,” Elrond suggested, looking amused, “when the brother of her father’s prince offers to do the washing up, it disconcerts her.”

”Possible. Also, I think she feels that singing plates clean is a frivolous use of authority. I took the potatoes instead. I can do those out here in the sun.” He gave Elrond a bright smile.

“You’re enjoying yourself then?”

“I certainly am,” Maglor said, resuming peeling. “I am very tired of being strange, distant and terrible. Do you know how long it has been since I had potatoes to peel, or people waiting to do things with the potatoes once they are peeled?”

“I don’t remember you ever peeling potatoes in Beleriand,” Elrond admitted.

“Well, there you go. There are no orcs, spiders, trolls, wraiths or dragons to worry about. I have no raids to organise, no reports to read. I don’t have to go hunting or forage for food. If it rains tonight, I don’t care because I can sleep inside a house. The Valar have... if not forgiven me, at least pardoned me, which makes it seem there is little point chewing over old mistakes yet again. I have already written far too many songs and have none that feel like they must be written today. The most urgent thing I have to do is peel potatoes. It is a matter of great joy.”

“I see your point. Can I do one?” Elrond said, laughing.

Maglor looked mock-reprovingly at him. “I don’t know. You probably have all sorts of other things you should be doing.”

“I don’t, as it happens. Frodo is reading, Bilbo is asleep, and everyone else on Tol Eressëa seems enormously healthy and quite without need of my skills just now. Celebrían is baking something very complicated and must not be disturbed. I only had half a shipload of people come with me from Rivendell, and they are all now settled in and have all they need. I was only wandering up to visit the orchard for lack of other demands on my time. And much enjoying the lack of orcs and reports too.”

Rivendell, Maglor noted. Not Imladris. That meant Elrond was feeling unusually Half-elven, and despite everything, missing home.

“In that case,” Maglor told him, holding one out, “You may have a potato.”

Elrond took the potato, sat down and began to peel it carefully with the knife from his belt. “So how long has it been since you peeled a potato then?”

“Since Formenos, I think,” Maglor told him. “I don’t think I peeled a potato in all my time in Middle-earth. Carrots, yes. Wild carrots grow on the coasts of Lindon, but not potatoes. I think perhaps potatoes require gardens, or fields... Amrod would know. But we did not have many people with us at Formenos, and in those days I was a terrible cook. I always ended up peeling the potatoes. Celegorm said that if I only peeled them, at least I was not burning them! He did a lot of the cooking while we were there, him, Amrod and Amras. Quite a change from Tirion.”

“Are you going to go back to live in Tirion, now you can at last?” Elrond asked. “I know you missed it.”

“I miss the Tirion of my youth,” Maglor said. “But there’s no way back now across the River Sirion. I’m not what I was, and the white city on the hill is not what it was either. If I went back to live there, it would make things very difficult for poor Finrod, who has worked so hard there. I see why people still speak admiringly of Nargothrond.”

“You don’t think he’d rather hand some of the work over to you?”

“I can’t see that going down well in Alqualondë, can you? Or with Finarfin the king. And Finrod is so much better at it than I would be. It would be terribly sad to see them all realising it and being disappointed... I thought of writing a song about Finrod’s work in Tirion, but I’m not sure how to convey sincere admiration in a way that could not be twisted into a satire. Anyway, he’d probably consider it a joke. I’ve made too many songs full of tears. I need to practice before I can make one properly joyous again.”

He looked at the potato in his hand and smiled. “I’d prefer to stay here and peel potatoes, if you can put up with me.” That way, too, Elrond could keep an eye on him. But they both knew that.

“You are very welcome to stay as long as you like,” Elrond said, looking pleased. “I hoped you might. I would have liked to ask you to come to Rivendell, before, but...”

“But you were facing Morgoth’s greatest servant, armed with much of Celebrimbor’s art, and could not risk inviting division, the Doom of the Noldor, or yet more Fëanorian weapons directed at your head. I did not come to you for the same reasons, though it was not easy to hear that you and Elladan and Elrohir were going into peril and stay still. It gave me a great respect for Celebrían; orcs and reports would have been greatly preferable. I was glad you had Glorfindel. Can he peel potatoes though?”

“I peeled a few myself in Eriador. ” Elrond said. “I don’t know about Glorfindel! It never came up. When he comes back from Middle-earth, I must ask him.” Elrond had made one very long delicate spiral of the potato skin, which he placed with an air of arranging an elegant sculpture atop the pile of peelings.

Maglor looked at it incredulously and laughed. “Is there anything you don’t do well?”

Elrond took another potato and considered. “Drinking,” he said at last. “At least by the standards of the Greenwood. Never drink with Thranduil! He likes his wine unwatered and in large quantities. I slept like a Man and woke up with such a headache. He seemed quite untouched. His son is the same.”

“It seems unlikely I will have the chance. Thranduil stayed in Middle-earth, didn’t he?” Maglor tossed a potato into the bowl and took another from the basket.

“Yes. I suppose he might sail west one day, but I would not be surprised if Thranduil was one of those to stay in Middle-earth until the end of days, fading out of sight among his trees. No doubt still with a cup of wine in his hand... His son Legolas will come though, one day. He was one of the Company of the Ring; he caught the sea-longing, campaigning in Lebennin. The last I saw of him, he was singing of gulls on the shore. But for now he has stayed with Aragorn, and Arwen... You might get along with him, actually.” Elrond put his potato in the bowl and took another.

“With the grandson of Oropher of Doriath?” Maglor was doubtful.

“Legolas doesn’t remember Doriath. And he is something of a rebel himself. He wants to bring his Dwarf friend with him across the Sea.”

“Oropher’s grandson has a friend who is a Dwarf? I thought none of the Doriathrim spoke to the Dwarves any more, after Thingol’s death?”

“Gimli son of Glóin was another of the Company — one of the Longbeards of Khazad-dûm,” Elrond explained, peeling carefully. “He’s not of the line of Nogrod. Though I’m honestly not sure if that would mean anything to Legolas anyway; he calls himself Silvan, not Sindar or Doriathrim.”

“And he wants to bring his Longbeard friend to Tol Eressëa?” Maglor grinned and took another potato. “Well, I would certainly offer them both a drink if he manages that. Surely it would not be permitted, though, would it, for a Dwarf to come into the West?”

“Galadriel is all in favour. Gimli is a dear friend of hers. Frodo’s too, for that matter. She plans to appeal to the Valar to ask them to allow it. I assume that Aulë will support her, don’t you think?”

“Who knows?” Maglor had a thought. “I could write to my grandfather Mahtan and ask him to speak of it. He and Aulë are still great friends, I believe. I have been thinking I should write to him anyway. This would be a much less awkward topic than most of those I’ve thought of! I’m sure he’d love to meet one of the Longbeards.”

“Could you? That would be helpful. I’ve said I will support Galadriel’s request and will beg Ulmo to speak in favour, in return for Galadriel’s support for an appeal for Maedhros. But if your grandfather would speak of it too, that would help. Both to convince the Valar, and perhaps more difficult, Galadriel.”

“You’d support this Gimli anyway though, surely?” Maglor threw his peeled potato into the bowl and took another.

“Well, of course. I like dwarves visiting. It makes it seem more like home. And Gimli is a great hero, as well as being the son of an old friend: we all owe him a great deal and if he wants to come here I can see no justification for stopping him. But I wanted some token to convince Galadriel she should offer to help me in return! This way, she can feel she has good reason to put aside old suspicions.”

“Hm.” Maglor gave him a dubious look.

Elrond met his eyes. “I don’t know what complex game of old Valinorean protocol you are playing with Galadriel,” he said placing a potato peel neatly on top of the pile. “I assume it makes some sense to the pair of you. But I hope you aren’t planning to do the same with Gil-galad. He was born in Middle-earth, like me. You are both my oldest friends; I would like you to be able to talk to one another.”

“I certainly don’t wish to offend Gil-galad, if he isn’t offended already,” Maglor said. “What do you want me to do?”

“Just come to dinner and greet him,” Elrond said. “I’ve talked to him, and so has my father. He knows you are staying here. He won’t be difficult about it.”

“That’s not what you said in Lindon,” Maglor said, a little doubtful.

“That was a very long time ago, and he’s not High King any more. He has said to me that it was Eärendil who was Lord of the Havens, and if my father has forgiven you, he has no business holding grudges. You don’t need to apologise to him.”

“That’s very good of him.” Maglor put the last peeled potato into the bowl, and smiled.

. . . . . .

Ereinion Gil-galad, arriving that evening dressed magnificently in blue velvet set with silver stars, with shining sapphires in his hair, greeted Elrond and Celebrían and was presented to their hobbit guests. Both the hobbits were wearing new waistcoats which had been made for them by the delighted Elves of Avallónë for the occasion.

The little white city of Avallónë was quite definitely excited to have two such notable persons as the Ringbearers settled in the Isle of Exiles, and determined to show that not Tirion of the Noldor, not even Valimar itself could offer such a suitable and enthusiastic welcome. Bilbo’s waistcoat sparkled with golden dragons and purple mountains, but Frodo’s was a subtler green, marked with a delicate design of woods and fields and little rivers, and each had buttons made from tiny pearly shells that shimmered in the lamplight.

Life on Tol Eressëa agreed with Bilbo. He still slept a great deal and walked slowly with a stick, but his bright eyes were clear, and his mind was sharp again, as it had not been when Maglor had first met him at the Grey Havens of Lindon.

Gil-galad greeted the hobbits and did them great honour. Then he introduced them to some of the people he had brought with him, many of whom had lived long in Lindon, and had known the hobbits’ Shire in earlier days. Bilbo was most intrigued to discover that one of them had known his great-grand-uncle Bandobras Took, known as the Bullroarer.

Then Gil-galad turned to Maglor and, almost as if no grief had ever fallen between them, greeted him as a cousin.

“I remember you from Hithlum, when I was a child. Shall we assume that we should have been friends, if it were not for the Enemy, and begin again?” Gil-galad’s eyes were wide and honest, and he smiled, apparently without a hint of difficulty.

“I remember you too, of course,” Maglor said. Ereinion in Hithlum, before Morgoth had broken the peace with fire and grief at the Dagor Bragollach, had been a merry child, beloved by visiting cousins. Fifty years later, the Kinslaying at Menegroth had made him an enemy, and by the third Kinslaying, he had been High King of the Noldor of Middle-earth, and a dangerous and implacable foe. He now looked alarmingly like Fingolfin. Maglor bowed low. “I am honoured,” he said.

 

. . . . . .

 

The company shone in the lamplight, a joyous gathering of Elves with gems on their wrists, with gold and silver bright around their necks and in their long shining hair that caught the yellow lamplight. Celebrían’s long carved wooden hall was filled with fair joyful voices. It did not look much like Tirion: the room of dark carved wood had something distinctly Middle-earth about it. But it could have been some gathering in Hithlum long ago, if you did not look too closely at the faces and their worn, experienced eyes. Few of them shone with the reflected light of the Trees of Valinor any more.

There would be singing later, but for now there was food and drink and a good deal of talk, for many of those present had not seen one another since the battles of the Last Alliance. Those who had died and gone to the Halls of Mandos with Gil-galad, or who had been wounded and passed across the Sea now had a chance to speak again with their friends who had only lately sailed with Elrond from Imladris.

But not all the talk was of catching up with old friends. There was other gossip, too, and discussion of everyone who had sailed to Tol Eressëa with Elrond and Galadriel.

“They say Fëanor burned his own son alive, and did not even weep,” someone said after a while, quite distinctly, from further down the table. It sounded as if he had meant to be heard, though the voice was a little slurred, and probably somewhat drunk.

“Well, of course he did. He was quite mad,” someone Maglor could not see said, chuckling offensively.

“He cared for nothing but his jewels!” someone else said, and that was worse than the others, because she was looking sympathetically at Maglor, as if to take all blame from him and heap it on his father.

Maglor had not worn any jewel or bright ribbon or embroidery to this feast. He had remembered ‘they care for nothing but jewels’ from long ago, and had thought that he would head it off. Now he wished he had borrowed Celebrían’s brightest gem and worn it on his forehead.

He took a deep breath, and looked down for a moment at his hands. Then he looked up and gave the first speaker a merry smile. “Do tell us more!” he said. “I really had no idea.”

His words cut through the murmur like a blade of ice. People pulled back in their seats as they heard it. Frodo looked at him, startled.

“Come,” Maglor said, in a voice that had a shine on the edges like a knife. “You tell me that my father burned my youngest brother to ashes, do you? I am only a little surprised, since I was there to see both die. I would have sworn that my father Fëanor, who, I thought, loved all his sons dearly, died first by several hundred years of the Sun. It seems I was mistaken. Perhaps I mixed them up.”

He stood up. His voice filled the long room with little effort. “Many things have been said of the House of Fëanor, but it will not be said that my father slew his sons, nor that he cared only for jewels.” His voice carried power, and he felt them all sway before it.

“It will not be said that my brother Amrod, who fought the darkness for so long, sought to flee, craven, and died before his battle could begin. I will not hear it!” The whole bright company gave way before his word, as if he had cleft through them with a sword.

“Maglor?” Elrond said, in a quiet voice through the sharp silence that Maglor’s voice had cut.

Maglor was pulled up short, abruptly ashamed. Very likely all of them had lost someone: some perhaps to Maglor’s own blade. Elrond himself had lost his brother, and the Hobbits too had fathers long dead. The dead of Men went out beyond the world, as Elros had, and Arwen would. But Maglor’s brothers and his father were only in the Halls of Awaiting, where foolish words could not hurt them.

Even words that told the story wrong. Even words about his father.

It was neither wise nor necessary for him to order the people of Avallónë what they could or could not say.

He bowed to the people who had spoken of his father. “I am sorry,” he said, with an effort, holding back the anger that still burned below the surface. “I am out of the habit of speaking lightly. I spoke more sternly than I should.”

The first speaker sat silent, wide-eyed and terrified, and Maglor silently cursed himself. He probably had not spoken to be heard. The one who had spoken of his father caring for nothing but jewels was braver. She had the strength to stammer her own apology for careless speech.

“Please don’t think of it,” he said. “I am sure you intended no offence.” That sounded like a threat again. He sought in his mind for words that would fall light and easy, but the rage still burned, and he found only the Noldolantë.

“Well, not to worry,” Bilbo said loudly and undiplomatically, into the silence. It seemed that words that could silence Elves had little hold on hobbits. “None of us likes to hear untrue things said about our families, I am sure. Least said, soonest mended, as we say in the Shire.”

“But Bilbo!” Frodo replied, loyally playing up to him. “That is not always the case. You love hearing terrible things about some of your family! What was Inglor telling you about Bandobras the Bullroarer just now?”

“Ah, but that was true!” Bilbo told him. “Anyway, great-grand-uncles are quite a different matter. Maglor, I have just thought of a verse about the Bullroarer. Will you give me your opinion on it?”

“Of course,” Maglor said, thankfully. He gave Elrond and Celebrían an apologetic look. Elrond’s face was watchful, but Celebrían looked pale and worried. Maglor went over to sit by Bilbo, and tried to become invisible.

. . . . .

“Stupid of me,” he said, later, to Elrond, once Bilbo had gone back to bed. Maglor had offered to help the old hobbit back to his bedroom. Elrond had caught up with him as Maglor closed the door leaving Bilbo asleep. “I became too comfortable. I forgot. I let myself forget what I had done, and allowed myself to become angry, when I had no right to.”

“You think it unreasonable for you to object to people who are drunk speaking ill of your family? I don’t.”

“For most people, no. For me though... perhaps it’s best if I leave here. If I went up the coast towards Araman, I would be well clear of the Falmari there. Clear of everyone. I doubt anyone lives all the way up there, even now.”

Elrond closed his eyes and rubbed his face with both hands. “Maglor, please do not go away and sleep alone on the shore in the rain again.”

“But I am not sure that any of the Sons of Fëanor should come back among the Elves,” Maglor said unhappily. “That wasn’t the Oath that stood there, holding the room to my will with my voice. That was me.”

“Yes, and then you stopped. You told them they were wrong, and then you sat down.”

“Only because you stopped me.”

“It only took a word. Maglor, when I asked you to come here, I was not expecting you to walk about quietly and not say a word to anyone no matter what insult they offered, dress more humbly than any of my household and peel potatoes! I wasn’t even expecting you to act as my foster-father from Beleriand would. You weren’t well, then. I’d like you to be well.”

“I wasn’t your foster-father. Try kidnapper, that’s closer.”

“Don’t tell me what words to use!” Elrond said, quietly, but with a sharp warning note to his voice. “I can tell that part of the story for myself. If you will have me look ahead, I say to you now: no-one is ever going to think you anything but a prince of the Noldor, not if you walk the shore for ten thousand more years alone. Not even when you are wearing Tithen’s fifth-best coat! There is no point pretending you are a candle-flame when you burn like a beacon. They cannot think it strange for you to be Makalaurë again, as you used to be, from time to time.”

“Oh well,” Maglor said, and laughed, a little bitterly. “You don’t want Makalaurë. He might not have been a killer, but he was a dangerous fool. ”

“If you say so!” Elrond said. “I never met him. But I expect him to show through from time to time.”

“Showing a little pride would be one thing. Using my will to force the domination of others, that is something else. My father... never mind.” He turned away. “I’ll go.”

“Don’t. Please. That was something you didn’t do. Nobody was hurt. You have a great power of your own, yes, but so do I, so do Galadriel, Gil-galad and Finrod...”

“None of whom have trained their will to dominate others.”

“I think you’d be surprised at what Galadriel has done,” Elrond said. “Or me, for that matter. And Gil-galad was a king! Not every king of Middle-earth is Finrod... We have had some desperate times. But it’s all over now. You have given those foolish drunken elves a shock, but that is the risk they took, dancing too near the flames. Celebrían and Gil-galad were not surprised.”

“I’m sure Gil-galad was not surprised,” Maglor said, chagrined. “I’ve confirmed his worst suspicions.”

“No. In fact, he was surprised you stopped. He was expecting swords and is much relieved.”

“I’m not that much of a fool.”

“Good.”

“I am sorry I alarmed Celebrían,” Maglor said. “I should have thought of that much, if nothing else.”

“Celebrían was taken aback, but she is not so easily alarmed. It’s not the first time she’s heard voices raised about that story about Amrod; if you had not spoken, probably someone from Eregion would have — though not with such authority! Celebrían sent me to ask that you come and play for her. Play something about Amrod, if you really must get everyone thinking about the Havens of Sirion, or about Fëanor if you prefer: nobody will object. I must go back; they’ll be wondering where I am. Are you coming?”

Please don’t vanish along the shore again, his mind said again, very clearly, but Elrond did not put it into words.

“All right. I’ll play the song that Círdan made about my father, about how he came to Middle-earth and rescued Brithombar and Eglarest from Morgoth’s armies. That should offend no-one, and will confuse them all enormously.”

Elrond smiled. “Very diplomatic. Instructive and yet from an entirely unexceptionable source. I don’t think I’ve heard it, either.”

“I shall not change Tithen’s fifth-best coat. It’s very comfortable. And I don’t see why I should not peel potatoes. I think you’re jealous because I peel them faster than you!” Maglor said, and forced a laugh. “But if I play the harp that Finrod gave me, nobody could possibly call that too plain. Its enamelled inlays have jewelled inlays!”

 

. . . . . .

Sometimes, Gil-galad thought, it seemed that cousin Finrod made his own life unnecessarily difficult. They were meeting in the elegant, white-columned central room of Finrod’s summer residence in Avallónë, which had become a temporary centre of operations for the organisation of Finrod’s new Feast of Reuniting.

“Would it not be easier to hold this festival on the mainland?” he asked, looking at Finrod across a table strewn with papers and plans. “It would be quicker for the people to come and go, if they can arrive on foot.”

“But Tol Eressëa is ideal. It’s neither Noldor nor Falmari, nor even quite in Valinor.” Finrod said, frowning at a list of supplies, pen in hand. “The symbolism of a new Mereth Aderthad held on the Isle of Exiles is perfect. Also, the views are excellent, the sound of the sea will calm everyone down, and there is plenty of space.”

“If it’s held on Tol Eressëa, then far more of the Falmari will come, if only to show off their ships,” Eärwen said. “They don’t care to travel far inland, on the whole. Well, most of us don’t. Some of us just have to put up with it, and live in the city. The things I do for love!”

“You don’t think that transporting all the Fëanorian faction from Tirion might become a little fraught?” Gil-galad asked her.

“This festival is supposed to be all about reuniting, after all,” Eärwen said. She reached down and rubbed the long silky white ears of the hound that followed her everywhere. “I am confident that the Falmari will provide the ships and crew them with good grace, if the Fëanorian Noldor can cope with boarding them.” She looked at her eldest son. “You’re in charge of them, Finrod. Will they do it?”

“If they feel uncomfortable getting onto Teleri ships to travel to the island, they have only themselves to blame for that,” Finrod said, and grinned wickedly. “But I think they will manage to endure it somehow or other. They’ll have to, if they want to see their prince and hear him sing, since Maglor seems determined not to come to Tirion as they would like him to. They are very keen to come.”

“Also,” Eärwen said, “If the festival is held on Tol Eressëa, then Círdan and his people can come, Gil-galad. He will not land in Valinor itself, in case the Valar do not let him leave again. But Tol Eressëa belongs to Ulmo. Ulmo won’t tell Círdan what he should and should not do, and if Mandos tries to suggest some rule is being broken, Ulmo will baffle him with talk of tides. Mandos does not approve of tides, or so I’m told. He finds them unruly.” She laughed. The dog, Sand, smiled up at her and wagged his tail.

“Very well then,” Gil-galad said, abandoning the argument. “I thought we could bring ships in to Tavrobel as well as Avallónë, Eärwen. The quays at Avallónë are larger, of course, and in better repair, but if the festival is not until next year, I shall have time to get people to sort out the old wharf at Tavrobel, and we can use that for the smaller craft. It’s a good deal closer to Alqualondë, and more sheltered too. We can store supplies and tents here, well out of the way, in Alalminórë.” He unrolled a map and pointed. “Eärendil wants to bring Vingilot, so I thought we would make it part of the plan, and have her anchor here, above the tower of Koromas.”

Finrod raised his golden eyebrows. “For someone who was unconvinced that it should be held on Tol Eressëa at all, you seem to have thought about all of this terribly carefully.”

“I like to plan out all my campaigns,” Gil-galad told him. “Even those that don’t come to fruition. That way, you always have another plan, if you really need one.”

He had, after all, far more experience of campaigning in Middle-earth than Finrod, even if Finrod was uncomfortably legendary, and one of the few living representatives of those shining people who had led the Noldor to Middle-earth. There was no need to feel intimidated that Finrod had suddenly descended on Tol Eressëa out of Tirion, like a golden thunderbolt of energy and ideas.

But if there was going to be a Festival of Reuniting on Tol Eressëa, particularly since it seemed likely that festival would be attended by Gil-galad’s father and the House of Fingolfin, returned at last from the Halls of Mandos, then that festival was going to be planned to the finest detail and every contingency would be taken into account, if Gil-galad had anything to do with it.

“Is Eärendil bringing the Silmaril?” Eärwen wondered. “That seems a little risky.”

Gil-galad shrugged. “Elrond and Eärendil both seem convinced it is safe enough.”

“I am also convinced it would be entirely safe, if by safe, you mean that Maglor will not try to steal it,” Finrod said. Of course, Finrod was an old friend of Maglor son of Fëanor: he would say that. “But it might make things just a touch awkward for Maglor, don’t you think? Half the island staring at the jewel and then at him, waiting for him to do something unwise. It might provoke unfortunate comments.”

“Maglor son of Fëanor won’t respond well to provocation,” Gil-galad said dryly. “Someone made a comment about Fëanor, when I was at Elrond’s house. Maglor went white and almost brought the ceiling down with words of power. I thought he was going to start the Kinslaying all over again. Fortunately, it is clear that Elrond can control him.”

Finrod sighed. “Well, that’s the Sons of Fëanor for you. Never talk about their father, and if they speak of him, just nod... They simply can’t be reasonable about him, I’m afraid. Although I honestly do think that Maglor has been trying.”

“You think so?” Gil-galad let his doubts show in his voice. “I went there to greet him, as Elrond had asked me, and — you know the paintings of the Fall of the Trees, that they have in the great hall at Alqualondë?”

“The ones by Eldacalië?” Eärwen asked. “Yes, of course.” Finrod nodded.

“Well, you remember the one that shows Fëanor making peace with his brother Fingolfin before the Throne of Manwë, at the high feast just before the Darkening? Fingolfin dressed all in silks and jewels for the feast, smiling politely and Fëanor wearing plain black and looking daggers at him? That was exactly how we must have looked. Right down to Maglor’s expression. He was wearing plain black without a single gem. He looked at me as if I was something he’d just scraped off his shoe and said he was honoured! I have a lot of faith in Elrond. If I didn’t, and if it would not have been impolite to the Ringbearers, I would have left. Then, after the feast, he came in, sang a song about Fëanor, spoke to no-one but Celebrían and Frodo, and left again. I feel for Elrond and Celebrían. It can’t be easy having him staying there.”

Finrod laughed. “Oh dear,” he said. “Gil-galad, I am sorry. If it helps, I don’t suppose either Maglor or Elrond has ever seen that painting, and so far as I can remember, Fëanor was actually wearing brown. I am almost sure that Maglor did not mean to offer you an insult. Maglor is all right: he just found himself in a very difficult situation with no way out. Well, he’s all right as long as you aren’t rude about his father, anyway. ”

“He made that face at me, too,” Eärwen said, making a sympathetic face at Gil-galad. “But I think it was embarrassment. He was apologising at the time. He seemed more like a real person and less like a statue, afterwards. And there was a time when he was a nice enough boy, though admittedly, that was a very long time ago, and he has done some foul things since.”

“He was embarrassed,” Finrod said to his mother. “It can’t have been easy to face you. Or you, either, Gil-galad! He might find you just a little intimidating.”

“Me?” Gil-galad was taken aback. “Why me?”

“Well, you were High King, and the one who did so much to pull Middle-earth back together after Morgoth ripped it apart. Maglor did a fair bit of the ripping himself, and nothing to help put things back together. And then, you fought Sauron and deprived him of the weapon he made with the assistance of the House of Fëanor.”

“You can’t blame poor Celebrimbor for that!” Gil-galad said, outraged.

“I’m glad to hear that I shouldn’t. I was fond of Celebrimbor, too. But I’m not of the House of Fëanor. Maglor feels guilty about it.”

“I can see you like him,” Gil-galad observed. Presumably Finrod must have some reason for it.

Finrod shrugged. “I suppose I shouldn’t, and yet... You know, he was always terrible at the formal practicalities. Maedhros and Caranthir did all his paperwork for him. He’s always late, and usually, as you saw, underdressed. He never got around to building a stronghold in Beleriand, he just turned up unannounced at Himring or Rerir if he needed such a thing. Yet somehow he held the Gap very competently, and it wasn’t easy land to hold. The Fëanorian Quarter still adore him to a quite embarrassing degree, and would happily die again for him and Maedhros. Because of a smile or a drink, or he helped them move a box or sang them a song... Most of them followed them right to the death, the rotten curs! Yet there were only ten in Nargothrond prepared to die for me! Honestly, Maglor can be perfectly infuriating, but you can’t help liking him, once you get to know him. Perhaps it would be better if you met him somewhere less public and I got a few drinks into him first.”

Gil-galad considered this for a moment. “I feel no great wish to like Maglor son of Fëanor,” he said, at last. “For you, he is one of your own, of course, and Elrond has his own reasons. But that is not the case for me. The Havens of Sirion, once he had finished with them... I remember his own people lying in their blood with ours, where they had tried to stop him, him and his brother. The memory of trying to heal the wounds he made is still all too clear. ”

Finrod winced and looked away. Eärwen said, playing with her dog’s ears, “I remember my people’s blood at Alqualondë too. But Morgoth’s evil cannot be undone. We can only go on. And from what Finrod tells me, not all of it was Maglor’s choice.”

“I know he did not entirely choose it. But still, it was by his hand.”

“You do want a reconciliation, Gil-galad?” Finrod asked. He looked distressed.

“Of course. I have greeted Maglor publicly as my cousin, and I intend to forget the blood at the Havens, if it can be done. It is the best path to lasting peace. But there is a difference between the public and the private. In private, I don’t have to like him.”

Finrod sighed. “Fair enough. I will try to find some tactful words to say to Maglor about the unwisdom of overhearing gossip, though I must admit, I’m struggling to think how to word it. I’ll ask Celebrian. She seems to be exempt from Fëanorian fury.”

“It does sound as though it might be best for Eärendil not to bring the Silmaril, though,” Eärwen said.

Finrod nodded. “I am relying on Maglor to be able to restrain the Fëanorian faction if they should become overexcited. That will all go horribly wrong if Maglor gets in a rage himself. Might you be able to quietly persuade Eärendil to leave it somewhere safe, Gil-galad? I know you and Eärendil are friends.”

“I’ll talk to Eärendil about it,” Gil-galad said. “Now, in terms of food preparation, I’ve made a list of gear that will be needed, but we shall need to bring in cooks as well. I thought if we recruited half from Tirion, and half from Alqualondë, that might be best.”

“That seems a good plan,” Finrod agreed. “ I will find the people we will need from Tirion: give me the numbers, and then, Mother, perhaps you can get someone to find those we need from Alqualondë?”

. . . . . .

A fine midsummer morning, sun on the grass, a clear blue sky and larks high above singing, almost invisible against the blue. Fingon, who had long ago been High King of the Noldor, if only for a handful of years, was riding out of the West, out over the green land of Aman among a great company of his kin: both those who had dwelt long in the Halls of Mandos, and those who had come to greet them.

They were leaving behind the Halls of Awaiting, and moving out into the land of life where there were deeds to do, words to speak, and songs to sing: where there would be making and doing, not only watching and being.

The horse moving smoothly under him, the harsh touch of its mane on his hands, the warmth of sun on his face, the smell of the green land, the lark song, all came together as a joy of life renewed, almost too much to bear.

He took a deep, joyful breath, and looked out across the land, sunlit now as he had never seen it before in life, down to the very distant line on the horizon that told of the sea. He looked back at his father and mother, riding side by side at last, with Aunt Lalwen next to them, at Turgon and Elenwë, and Aredhel riding side by side with Galadriel, Angrod and Finrod with Amarië a little behind, and grinned.

“Race you!” he called, and kneed the horse on, and behind him heard the sound of hooves on the grass quicken as his father’s great warhorse Rochallor broke into the gallop, and then high whoop of Aredhel’s voice somewhere behind him, as Fingon’s horse lengthened its stride to stay ahead, and he called out in his turn, a wordless cry like the cry of a gull. Behind them, that whole great company, with their bright banners streaming, followed him, as if into battle, but with no reason for it but love of life and the warm grass-scented wind in their hair, and as they rode, they sang for the joy of it.

The wild, joyful riders came down at last after many days of travelling to the haven of Alqualondë, and there they met with Finarfin the king, Eärwen of Alqualondë, and her father Olwë. The reunion of Finarfin with his brother Fingolfin after two long ages of the world was full of laughter and of tears.

There at Alqualondë they left their horses, all save Rochallor, who Fingolfin insisted must not be left behind. With a great company of the Noldor of Tirion, the Falmari of Alqualondë and many other of the Elves of Aman, they took ship.

The swan-ships of Alqualondë were gone forever, burned and lost long ago upon the vanished shores of Losgar. But in their place were tall white ships of every other kind, with sails of brilliant sapphire, emerald, ruby and amber that glowed and shone against the sparkling tide. They were not the ships they should have been, but still, they were very fair.

Rochallor stepped proudly onto the deck of Olwë’s great flag-ship, with garlands of blue flowers strung around his neck, and all that great company set sail across the blue waters of the Bay of Eldamar to the Lonely Isle.

Among the ships, the friends of the Falmari, the porpoises and dolphins danced through the green waves, following the Lady Uinen, who walked among the waves between the ships, smiling. High above them, many great white birds flew, and above them all sailed proudly the gleaming sky-ship Vingilot.

When the white ships came in to land at Avallónë there were many more greetings to be made. There were those, like Olwë, Círdan and Eärendil who had seen each other now and again across the long years, yet met again in great delight. Many more had not seen one another since the days of Beleriand long ago, and now met again at last beyond the world.

And there were those, among them many of the People of the Jewel-smiths of Eregion, who wished to greet the Ringbearers, and (much to Frodo’s obvious embarrassment) thank Frodo, weeping for his great courage beyond hope.

. . . . .

It was some days, among all the singing and the dancing, the weeping and the food and drink, before Fingon managed to find his cousin Maglor and be uninterrupted for long enough to speak with him privately.

It was late evening, high on the cliffs above the bay of Avallónë. The sky overhead deepening to a deep velvet blue and one by one the stars coming out. One star, of course, was missing, because its pilot was getting drunk with Círdan, Nerdanel, king Olwë of Alqualondë, and Fingon’s Aunt Lalwen, somewhere further up the cliff, but Menelvagor the Swordsman of the Sky and his friends seemed determined to make up for his absence, burning bright against the darkness.

Maglor was sitting with friends who Fingon recognised from long ago as riders from Lothlann and Himring, looking out East across the water towards Middle-earth. Rather to Fingon’s surprise, Galadriel’s friend, the hobbit Frodo was there too, but on seeing Fingon approach, Maglor got up and came over to meet him.

“A long time, since the last one!” Maglor said, and smiled, a little tentatively.

“It certainly has been,” Fingon said, smiling broadly back. Maglor looked rather worn, he thought, but then Maglor had been living in the world all this time. Life was not joyfully new to him. It was to Fingon, and so he flung a cousinly arm around Maglor’s shoulder. “We shouldn’t leave it so long, next time. Though this one is rather larger in scale than the last, of course.”

“I think it is a better venue, too,” Maglor said, and grinned. “No northern neighbours, to complain about the noise.”

“Our northern neighbour should have no complaints about the noise where he is, now! He’ll find the Void quiet enough, I imagine. Long may he stay there. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I have some messages for you. From Caranthir, Amrod, Amras, and from Maedhros...”

“You’ve seen them? Are they all right? Is Maedhros all right?” Maglor asked him, urgently.

“Caranthir and Amras are fine, and annoyed they could not come! Amrod is not too bad. And Maedhros is much better than he was.”

“I still can’t decide if I want to hug Maedhros for not falling into everlasting darkness, or hit him for deserting me. Maybe both.”

Fingon laughed. “That’s pretty much what he thought you’d say! He sent his apologies with me. I can tell you the whole elaborate thing if you want, but..”

“I can imagine. I have made enough apologies myself. I’m rather hoarse with them, in fact. I’ll take Maedhros’s as read... I am so glad to hear he is better.”

“I have a message from your father, too,” Fingon said.

“You do?” Maglor looked startled. “I didn’t think you’d speak with him.”

“There has been some time for reconcilation in the Halls of Mandos, too,” Fingon said, shrugging. In truth, Fëanor would never be his favorite uncle, but Maglor had been alone for a long time, and Fingon was not one to carry a grudge more than was needful. “Only a short message. He asked me to tell you he is sorry, and he sent you his love.”

Far below the cliff on the dark strand, against which the white shapes of wave-tops could just be seen, sighing softly against the shore, a flame lit up, and then a fizzing white light, as Gandalf began to send fireworks up into the midnight sky, to dance among the stars and send brilliant slivers of scattered light across the dark water.