After the midnight, morning will greet us;
After the sadness, joy will appear;
After the tempest, sunlight will greet us;
After the jeering, praise we shall hear.
After the battle, peace will be given;
After the weeping, song there will be;
After the journey there will be heaven,-
Burdens will fall and we shall be free.
- James Rowe
[A brief refresher on the basics of The Silmarillian, in case you need it.]
Ilúvatar represents God. Arda is the earth. The Valar (or Powers) are sort of a cross between angels and Greek gods. There are fourteen of them, seven male and seven female. The ones in this story are Manwë (the leader, Lord of the Breath of Arda), Varda (Manwë's wife, Lady of the Stars), Ulmo (Lord of Waters), Námo (also called Mandos, Doomsman of the Valar, keeper of the House of the Dead), Tulkas (the Valiant), Oromë (Lord of Forests), and Yavanna (the Giver of Fruits). Morgoth is the bad guy. He once was one of the Valar, but because of his deeds, he lost that privilege. Fëanor was an Elf who made three jewels, the Silmarils. Morgoth stole them and destroyed the two trees that gave the earth light at that time. (That was when the sun and moon were created.) Fëanor and his seven sons took a vow to get the Silmarils back, no matter what. To make a long story short, they discovered that Morgoth was too powerful for them to defeat. When all seemed lost, the Valar sent help and Morgoth was exiled from the world. By then, one of the Silmarils had been taken from Morgoth, and Eärendil sailed in the sky with it (creating the star of Eärendil). Only two of Fëanor’s sons were still alive, Maethros and Maglor. They took the two Silmarils that were left, but because of the evil things they had done to get the jewels back, the Silmarils would not bear their touch and their hands were burned. Maethros cast himself into “a gaping chasm filled with fire” (whatever that means exactly – volcano?) with one of the jewels, and Maglor threw the other into the sea.
No one picnicked on Singer’s Beach. No children splashed in the ocean’s waves or gathered seashells or built castles in the sand. Grandparents warned their grandchildren to stay away, repeating stories told by their grandparents: those who once had the nerve to venture there heard a voice singing mournfully in a strange tongue on starlit nights. Although no one knew what it meant, rumors abounded. The ghost of an ancient sailor, even in death unwilling to leave the sea... A man whose wife and children drowned in a storm and who mourned his loss still...
The singer was no ghost at all, but an Elf, the last Elf who still dwelt on the shores of Middle Earth and one of the greatest singers ever to live, surpassed only by Daeron of Doriath. However, if anyone had dared to come to the beach now, they would have found that the singer sang no longer.
Ever since he cast his Silmaril into the sea, Maglor had wondered on the shore. At first, he sang in his grief and pain, but as time wore on, he fell more and more into silence. He now sat on a rock staring at the waves, his elbows on his knees and his chin cupped in his left hand. His hair remained as dark as in his youth in Valinor, and his eyes still shone piercingly gray, but pain and sadness had been permanently etched into his face and gaze. The years had not assuaged the guilt of the atrocities he and his brothers committed for the sake of three jewels. And when he finally held one of those jewels, he had thrown it as far into the ocean as he could, unable to bear the agony as it burned his hand.
He flexed his right hand and cringed; though the blisters had healed and even the scars had faded to faint white lines, the pain had never changed.
“Why, Ilúvatar?” Maglor whispered. “Why do you want me to stay here and endure this?” Of late, he had asked that question often. He wanted to give up the fight to live and leave his restless body so that his soul could rest in the Halls of Mandos, yet something prevented him, insisting there was still some purpose to his life. What it was he could not imagine.
Before his self-imposed exile from Valinor, he would not have dared to address Ilúvatar directly. However, when he felt he would go mad with no one but himself to talk to, he had timidly attempted it. He was not instantly struck down by lightening, so talking to the creator of Arda had gradually become habitual. He believed he was heard, for when he poured out his heavy heart, he was often filled with a peace that could be explained no other way. The seemingly one-sided conversations had brought him much comfort through the years.
The watch on the Walls of the World had grown lax. The Valar were weary of such a useless task: in all the time Morgoth dwelt in the Timeless Void, he never attempted to return to the world, and why should he now?
But Morgoth slept not.
He watched, plotted, planned. He saw the negligent guards and rejoiced. Perhaps now he could have his revenge on those who foiled his plans to have complete dominion over all Arda. Surely there dwelt still in remote corners of the world a remnant of the races of Orcs, Balrogs, and Dragons who had once served him. And there would be Men, of course; Men, always easily cowed into doing his will.
Through the Door of Night Morgoth crept, his entrance unmarked by the inattentive guards. The day would soon come when they would rue their lack of vigilance.
Maglor was uneasy. The trees and birds whispered of a strange shadow wandering the earth and stirring terror in the hearts of all it approached. Could it be one of Morgoth's servants? Maglor thought all the ones powerful enough to cause the kind of fear he heard in the voices of the earth had been destroyed long ago, but perhaps he was wrong.
Maglor sharpened his sword, which had lain neglected for centuries. If one of the Dark Lord’s servants now roamed the earth, there would be war and he wished to be prepared. He found that he could no longer use wield the sword with his right hand. A long time ago, he had learned to use his left hand a little to help his brother Maethros adjust when Maethros lost his right hand. He now found a use for the old skill.
Several months after he came through the Door of Night, Morgoth had collected his helpers: more orcs than he had expected and two dragons, though he found no living Balrogs. There was also a fierce tribe of Men he had discovered, isolated in a desert. He showed them how to make better weapons, stronger weapons, and they were ready, along with the orcs, to begin destroying and capturing other men.
One last task remained. Morgoth waited patiently for the right day.
Arien guided the vessel of the Sun with care, occasionally glancing at the earth far below, as she had done for untold ages. She did not see the shadow creeping up behind until too late. Though a Maia of great strength, Arien was no match for Morgoth. The Sun and its keeper plunged into the Sea.
Tilion, keeper of the Moon, gazed at the Sun longingly. He should not be in the sky this early, but that did not bother him. He wanted to watch Arien, drawn by her splendor. He saw the shadow pursuing her, and he cried out, but he could do nothing. When the shadow turned toward him, Tilion fled with no hope of escape.
Eärendil, as he sailed in his ship Vingilot high in the sky, saw Morgoth destroy the Sun and Moon. He flew down with all the speed he possessed, the Silmaril bound on his brow blazing with a righteous wrath. The power of Eärendil’s rage and the glory of the holy Silmaril drove Morgoth from the skies. He fled back to the earth, now cloaked in darkness save for the light of the stars, and Eärendil hastened to Valinor to warn the Valar.
From land, the fall of the Sun seemed a brilliant flash of fire, blinding to mortal eyes. Maglor, with his keen Elvish sight, saw the Moon’s fall also: a sliver flame swiftly extinguished. He watched the star of Eärendil descend upon the destroying shadow and drive it from the sky. Maglor now knew the shadow must be Morgoth; ever that Enemy had sought to destroy light and beauty, and none of his servants possessed such power.
Maglor gazed at the dark sky, fear chilling his heart. What would happen now? No doubt, Morgoth had evil plans. How would the Men survive? He knew there could be no hope of defeating Morgoth without the help of the Valar – he had learned that lesson too well.
As Maglor thought, the sea waves stirred, and out of them rose Ulmo, Lord of Waters. Maglor started, and Ulmo spoke: “I bring grave tidings, Maglor son of Fëanor. Morgoth has escaped from Timeless Void into the world. He has destroyed the Sun and Moon.”
“This I know, lord,” replied Maglor. “Why have you come to me?”
“I have come to request your help for the Men,” said Ulmo. “They have forgotten the great wars of old and will not understand what is happening. The Valar are readying themselves to come to Middle Earth to contend with Morgoth, but it will take time, for we were not prepared. If you can help even a few of the humans to hope and to hold out for just a little while, it will be a great deed.”
Maglor shook his head. “I am neither worthy nor fit for this task,” he said. “I have done much evil in my life. And men would not listen to me nor trust me. You yourself said they have forgotten the great wars; they have also forgotten Elves, have they not? They would have no reason to believe I could help them, even if they believe I am what I claim to be.”
“The question,” Ulmo responded, “is not whether you are worthy or fit for the task, but whether you are willing to attempt it. The other Valar were reluctant to ask you to do this, but you are the only one; all the other Elves have long ago come to live in Valinor. I have faith in you still, Maglor, despite your past deeds. Do you think you have dwelt beside my realm so long and I have learned nothing of your character?”
“If there is no one else, it seems I have no choice. I shall do my best,” said Maglor, and with those words he felt the beginnings of a confidence and strength his heart had not known for many an age.
“Good! That is all that can be expected of anyone, be he Vala or Elf of Man. I leave you now. Go to your task, and be not fearful! The blessings of all the Valar go with you.” Ulmo disappeared into the water.
Maglor lingered for a short while, in no hurry to leave the beach where he had lived so long. Still, he soon girded on his sword and set out for the nearest city of men; he knew its location from occasional wanderings, though it was long now since he had walked into the world.
When he entered the gates, he found the city in chaos. With no light to be seen, all around Maglor could hear sounds of people running, shouting, weeping. Is there no one here with the sense to stay calm? he wondered. He searched the streets, eventually rewarded by a glimpse of torchlight. The source was four or five men attempting to calm the people around them, with little success. They were led by a man whom Maglor judged to be neither old nor young by Men’s reckoning. He had golden hair and bright eyes, his face unnaturally pale in the feeble light. “Who are you?” he demanded of Maglor, his voice quavering yet defiant, as if angry with himself for his fear. “I do not know you. Are you the one who caused this?”
“Caused this? No! I am here to help, if I can. Maglor is my name. I am an Elf, and I know this enemy better than you do, though that will not defeat him. Rather, what I can tell you of him may destroy any hope you have; but I bring hope of a different kind.”
At the word “Elf”, the men had fallen back a step. Now their leader stepped forward again and peered at Maglor, suspicion in his face. “An Elf, you say? It has always been my understanding that Elves are nothing more than a children’s tale – pleasant to imagine, but no more tangible than a dream that fades as the sleeper wakes.”
“Your understanding is wrong, though perhaps your ignorance is forgivable, as it is shared by all your people. For an Elf I am, and I have seen more ages of the world pass by than you can fathom.”
The man’s shrewd eyes examined Maglor, and finally he nodded. “I believe you,” he decided. “My name is Ingold. You have knowledge of this enemy?”
“Aye, too much,” Maglor said grimly, and he told Ingold Ulmo’s words.
“How long will be before these Valar come to aid us?” Ingold asked.
“I know not. Perhaps days; perhaps months.”
Ingold nodded and considered the information. Maglor watched him. He already liked this man’s slow thoughts before complete dedication to quick actions. “I think the best thing to do would be to take you to the king.”
“Where is he?”
“His dwelling is several days’ journey northeast in the best circumstances.”
“Then we should set out as soon as possible.”
Ingold turned to his followers, who had listened intently. “Will you come?” he asked them. One by one, they spoke their willingness.
“Are there any others in this city who would help?” Maglor asked.
“I think not,” said Ingold. “We are the only ones.”
“Then let us go!”
“We are not prepared for a journey,” Ingold reminded him. “Give us half of an hour, and we will meet you outside the gate.”
When they met again, Ingold introduced his companions. Arador and Arantar were brothers whose bearing reminded Maglor of the Elf-friends of old. They were tall with dark hair and eyes, fair of both face and speech; here, perhaps, were a few in whom the blood of Luthien still flowed, if only faintly. Valacar seemed to be a man more accustomed to strength than wisdom. He was muscular and bore coarse features: a dangerous, if uncouth individual. Galador was like to Ingold in looks – though shorter and more heavy-set – but not in mood, for he was always cheerful and made frequent use of his hearty laugh.
Finally, Ingold introduced a person Maglor had not seen before. “This is my son, Borlad,” Ingold said, a trace of pride creeping into his voice. “I was wrong when I said there were no others who would help.” Maglor looked down into the eyes of a boy of about fifteen years who was growing into a counterpart of his father. His expression as he met Maglor’s gaze in the torchlight was direct, eager, and curious.
Maglor greeted the boy and returned his attention to Ingold. “Is all ready?” he asked, impatient to begin the journey. Ingold’s answer was affirmative, and they set off northeast along the road, Ingold leading with Maglor beside him, Borlad close behind, Valacar and Galador following him, and the brothers at the end. They walked in silence; the warm, unaccustomed darkness was too oppressive to allow chatter. As they went on, the noise of the ocean faded until even to Maglor’s ears it became inaudible. The absence of the sound that had been his constant companion for so long tore at Maglor’s heart. The softer noises that had been masked by the crash of waves assaulted his ears: the footsteps and breathing of his companions, the rustle of small nocturnal creatures in the grass, the mournful whispering of the breeze.
After they had been walking for several hours, Ingold spoke, startling them all. “We should probably rest for the night,” he said. They stopped and gathered close together.
“All is night now,” Arantar protested. “Should we not continue as long as we are able?”
“It would do no good to wear ourselves out, and we cannot go on forever without a rest,” said Galador. “Except, perhaps, for our Elf here,” he added with a twinkle in his eyes.
“I am not weary,” said Maglor. Save in heart, he thought. “But I had not expected to make the journey with no stops.”
“It would probably be night now if the Sun and Moon still lit the earth,” Ingold said. “We will camp now and continue with fresh strength in the morning, though morning comes not.”
“No more sunsets over the sea,” Maglor murmured to himself, gazing into the darkness with eyes that saw it not.
“We still have the stars,” said Borlad. Surprised, Maglor looked at the boy and then up. It was true: the stars still pricked holes in the blanket of dark sky. Maglor chanted softly:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
o menel palan-díriel
le nallon sí di-nguruthos.
A tiro nin, Fanuilos! 1
His companions looked at him quizzically. “What is that?” Borlad asked.
Tearing his gaze away from the heavens, Maglor replied, “It is a song to Varda, of all the Valar the one Elves love best, for she made the stars.” The men were satisfied, for they had heard Maglor’s explanation of the Valar before, but Borlad, who had heard only a hurried account from his father, still seemed confused. “Come!” said Maglor. “I will explain after we have prepared our camp.”
Maglor told Borlad of the Valar as they sat by a fire and Galador prepared a simple meal. At first, he stumbled over the phrases, for it was long since he had told a tale, but soon the words flowed easily across his tongue. Borlad listened eagerly to his account of the Valar and of Varda setting new stars in the sky just in time for the Elves to awaken. Then Maglor pointed out the constellations she had formed: Wilwarin, Telumendil, Soronúmë, Anarríma, Menelmacar the great Swordsman of the Sky in the south, and Valacirca the Sickle of the Valar in the north.
“Valacirca was set as a challenge to Morgoth,” Maglor said; “his fortress was in the north at that time.” Looking at the seven stars brought hope to his heart, and he felt certain of the Valar’s help for the first time. Borlad echoed his thoughts in a quiet voice.
“They will help us?”
“Yes,” Maglor whispered. “They will.”
Three more days of walking brought them to the king’s dwelling. The fortress-city surrounding it sat still and silent, the gate hunging and the streets deserted. “Do you think the king has left?” Valacar asked.
“He would not abandon his people,” Ingold replied, though he sounded less certain than his words.
Their fears were unfounded. At the gate of the king’s stronghold they were confronted by a young soldier who demanded to know their business. “We wish to see the king,” was Ingold’s simple reply.
“For what purpose?” the young man questioned sharply.
“Calm yourself, Marach,” said a new voice. “You must learn to keep your tongue civil in all circumstances.” The owner of the voice stepped into the circle of torchlight and Maglor immediately knew he must be the king. The gray in his dark hair suggested enough years to have learned wisdom, the sword at his side spoke of strength, and his deep blue eyes held both firmness and kindness. He was a leader, Maglor saw, whom men would follow for love.
The Men bowed, and after giving Maglor an inquisitive but not angry glance when he did not do the same, the king turned his attention to them. “You have something to say to me?”
“King Tarostar, we bring one who can explain this phenomenon of darkness,” Ingold said.
Tarostar looked at Maglor, correctly guessing that he was the one. “How?” he inquired.
“I am an Elf,” Maglor told him, head held high with a confidence he did not feel.
“An Elf!” Marach stepped forward from the king’s side, sword drawn. “What do you want with my king, Elf?” His tone was scornful.
Tarostar put his hand on the soldier’s shoulder, restraining him. “You must know how outlandish that seems to us; we have long believed elves were only a legend. Can you prove your claim?”
Maglor replied, “I cannot. Anything I could say that might be proof has long been forgotten by Men, You will either have to trust me or try to kill me, although I assure you, you will not succeed.”
Tarostar nodded slowly, a slight smile on his face. “A wise answer; a fraud would have attempted to impress me into belief with fabricated proofs. Marach, put away your sword.” The young man did so, reluctantly, his eyes saying that he trusted his king, not Maglor. “Come in, all of you. Marach, gather everyone into the banquet hall; I want all to hear what our guests have to say.”
Maglor told his story to the king, his wife Ivorwen, and a group of about fifty soldiers whose love for their lord had overcome their fear. When he finished, there was a long silence, broken by Marach. “Do not listen to him, my lord. Even if he is an elf, which I doubt, he cannot have good intentions.”
“What could anyone possibly gain by deceiving me so?” Tarostar asked Marach. The young man stuttered over an answer, but finally had to admit that he did not know. “That is an important question to ask yourself when judging someone’s integrity.” The king fell silent again and Maglor waited anxiously, wishing he had inherited his father’s persuasive speech. Maethros would have been better at this. Finally, the king looked directly at Maglor. “I believe you. Thank you for coming to share your knowledge. What do you suggest we do?”
Glad he had already considered that, Maglor replied, “This must be a defensive war, for our only hope is to hold out until the Valar come. I would advise you to gather everyone you can into your best stronghold. Collect supplies and arms for a long siege. Perhaps send out scouts to search for Morgoth’s army, for I have no doubt he has one.”
Tarostar nodded. “Good. I am putting you in charge of the scouts. Does anyone wish to go?” Ingold and several of the king’s men volunteered. “You may all go prepare. Marach, I want you to go as well.”
Marach looked horrified. “But I want to be here with you!”
“Are you questioning me?”
A pause. “No.”
“Good. I will have supplies prepared for all of you.”
Maglor had nearly reached the door when the king called him back and drew him aside. “Make certain Marach is taken good care of. He is my son.”
“Yes. You see, it is the custom for the king’s heir to serve several years as a common soldier. Ever since this darkness started, Marach has been ill at ease. It will do him good to be away for a while. However, I would like him to be safe.”
“Of course. I will send him with Ingold; I know he will watch out for your son.”
Maglor left the banquet hall and strode to where the men had gathered in the courtyard. “We will split into pairs and go different directions. Ingold, I think you should go with Marach.” Ingold opened his mouth to protest, and then snapped it shut. He did not mind the assignment, but he was accustomed to being in charge and being left out of the decisions had irked him. “Since I do not know the rest of you, you may choose your own companions.”
“May I go?” asked Borlad, who had followed them out unnoticed.
“No,” Ingold said.
“He could come with me,” Maglor added.
“It will be dangerous.”
“So would staying,” retorted Borlad.
“He has a point,” one of Tarostar’s soldiers said.
Ingold glared at the man. “I want to help,” Borlad said pleadingly.
Ingold sighed. “It seems everyone wishes to make my decisions for me today. You may go. But be careful, listen to Maglor, and remember all I have taught you.”
Borlad grinned. “I will, Father!”
“I’m sending Ingold and Marach east, other pairs of scouts north, south, and southeast, while Borlad and I will go northeast. I told them to search for two weeks at the most and then return to you, but I do not know where you will be,” Maglor told Tarostar.
“I am going to gather my people at Annonnen, a fortress between two mountains with a lake bearing the same name guarding the front.”
Maglor nodded. “Annonnen,” he repeated. “Sir, do you have a soldier you could spare to accompany Borlad and me? Borlad has traveled little, and it is many ages since I knew that land well.”
“Of course. I know just the man. He can be difficult to get along with, but he knows that area more thoroughly than anyone. I will send him to you.”
As the newly appointed scouts readied their horses, a man marched up to Maglor. “Are you Maglor?” he demanded.
Maglor examined him. He appeared to be old by human standards, but still hale. His head barely reached Maglor’s chin, his legs were bowed from a life spent on horseback, and his grizzled hair fell in lanky strands to his shoulders. With the way he managed to look down his nose at Maglor despite having to look up at him, he reminded Maglor of a bantam cock strutting among a flock of much bigger birds, unaware of his size. “Aye,” Maglor finally replied.
“King Tarostar tells me I am to travel with you. My name is Algund. Where is the rest of our group?” Maglor pointed out Borlad. “That scrawny young fellow?” Algund snorted. “He will be no good whatsoever. Ah, well, I have to work with what I am given. What supplies do you have ready?” As he showed Algund the provisions he was packing, Maglor had a feeling he had just lost control of this expedition.
As Maglor, Algund, and Borlad traveled northeast, Maglor struggled to keep Algund happy without giving authority to him completely while teaching Borlad everything he could about surviving in the wilderness. Borlad was a willing pupil, and he regarded Maglor with an esteem that disturbed Maglor, for it made him think of all the things he had done that did not deserve respect. He did not want the boy to have the wrong idea, so one night while Algund slept, he told Borlad of his part in the War of the Jewels. “You certainly did wrong,” Borlad said when he finished.
“Yes,” Maglor agreed. “I am not worthy of your admiration.”
Borlad looked at him with surprise. “You do not live that way anymore. You admit that you were wrong. If that is not worthy of admiration, I do not know what is.”
Maglor shook his head. “Get some sleep.” The words sounded gruffer than he intended, and Borlad looked hurt, so Maglor quickly added, “Thank you, Borlad.” Borlad smiled and nodded before crawling into his blankets.
Long after Borlad was asleep, Maglor pondered his words. He had spent so much time thinking of the evil he had done that he had never taken time to consider the good of turning away from it. “Is it true, Ilúvatar?” he whispered with bowed head. “Is that small good truly worthy of admiration when compared to all the wickedness in my life?”
“What is this place?” Marach asked as strange shapes loomed at the edge of the circle of light their torches provided.
Ingold breathed deeply. “It smells of pine. This forest is probably Taurthon, which means we are nearing the borders of our kingdom.”
As they rode into the thick forest the hooves of their horses crushed dead fir needles, sending the scent of pine drifting up to them. Suddenly Marach halted. “W-what was that?”
“What was what?”
“That noise. It sounded like breathing.”
“Was it me?”
Ingold halted and listened, and then he heard it also: heavy, frantic breathing.
He looked at Marach. “An animal?” Marach asked.
“I think not.” Ingold dismounted and crept forward silently into the darkness. Marach waited, his own breath shallow. After a few agonizing minutes, there were sounds of a scuffle, a cry of pain, and then Ingold reappeared, half-dragging a girl by her collar. Her black hair was tangled, her clothes disheveled, and fear gazed out of her dark eyes. A bruise was quickly forming on her right temple.
“Who is she?” Marach asked, wide-eyed and feeling foolish for being afraid of a mere girl.
“I do not know,” replied Ingold, bemused by his unexpected captive. “I think, however, that perhaps we should feed her.”
Marach nodded uncertainly. He slipped off his horse off his horse and found some bread in his saddlebag. He offered it to the girl, who snatched it and ate with the ferocity of one who has not touched food in days. When she finished, she said, “Thank you. You may release me; I will not run away.” She spoke with a strange, lilting accent.
Ingold seemed surprised to realize he was still holding the girl’s collar and quickly let go. “Who are you?”
“I am Míriel. I come from the East.”
“Why are you here?” Marach asked.
Pain lanced through her eyes. “Strange men destroyed my home. They are coming this way. I ran ahead of them. I thought to perhaps bring warning of their coming.”
Ingold and Marach’s eyes met over her head. “Do we go back?” asked Marach.
“We go back. We will take you to our king, Míriel. He will want to hear all you can tell him about these strange men.”
Maglor, Borlad, and Algund lay on their stomachs at the top of a steep hill, gazing at the army that filled the valley below. The darkness made counting difficult, but from glimpses in the light from their fires, Maglor guessed there were at least two hundred. He glanced at Borlad on his right. The boy’s face was white and his eyes were wide. That was not surprising; this was an enemy he had never encountered before. Maglor turned and made his way back to the bottom of the hill where they had left the horses. Algund and Borlad followed.
“What are they?” Borlad asked softly when they were out of hearing range, unable to keep the quaver out of his voice.
“Orcs,” answered Maglor grimly. “I think I also saw a dragon or two on the other side of the valley.”
“We will need to note which direction they take tomorrow before returning to report to King Tarostar,” Algund declared.
Maglor glared at him. “No. We will leave now. Morgoth is near; the earth shudders under his hated feet. I do not intend to stay here longer than necessary.”
“But if they are not headed toward our kingdom, we do not want to say they are and cause unnecessary fear.”
“You said there are only two entrances to that valley. The one in the southwest shows no signs of their passage. If they entered the other way, it is logical to assume they will exit this way.”
“They might turn after they are out.”
Maglor shook his head. “It would be better to bring an unnecessary warning than return too late to prepare for their attack.”
Algund attempted to protest, but Maglor stopped him with a raised hand. “I will not change my mind.”
“I think you are afraid,” Algund spat contemptuously.
The blood drained from Maglor’s face as he stared at the small man. “I am afraid,” he finally admitted, “but that is not my only reason for this decision.”
“You know best,” Algund huffed. “After all, I am only the guide.”
“Perhaps he is right,” Maglor murmured as Algund rode ahead, his feathers ruffled.
“I want to leave, too,” Borlad said.
The hill they had recently descended gradually dropped away behind them. “Morgoth’s treason brought about the death of my father and my brothers. How could I not be afraid?”
“Just give him time; he will get over it.”
Maglor and Ingold’s groups arrived at Annonnen within a few hours of each other. Tarostar had gathered many people and soldiers in the fortress. It was sheltered on three sides by tall, steep, smooth-sided mountains; taking an army over them would be nigh impossible. To the west, where the mountains did not protect it, there had once run a swift river, but after the fortress had been built, the river was dammed and a large lake formed, filling the gap between the mountains. Now the only practical way into Annonnen was by boat.
Tarostar listened to Míriel’s report of fierce Men from the far East and Maglor’s account of orcs and possible dragons, shook his head, and immediately ordered the battle preparations intensified. “I hope they do not arrive at the same time,” he said.
They waited. The rest of the scouts returned with nothing to report, and still they waited. “Will they ever come?” Valacar demanded, impatient for action.
“They will come,” Maglor assured him.
They came. The stars in the sky, the fires of the enemies’ camp, and the reflections of both in the lake combined to give the appearance that all heaven and earth were encamped against Annonnen. The people congregated on the battlements, apprehensively gazing across the water and murmuring amongst themselves. Tarostar and Maglor walked among them, offering what encouragement they could. Maglor saw Borlad and stopped to talk to him.
“Are they the orcs or the men?” Borlad asked.
“The orcs at least,” replied Maglor. “Morgoth is there.”
Borlad’s eyes went wide. “Are you sure?”
“Aye,” Maglor sighed.
For a moment, Borlad looked scared, but then he threw back his shoulders and grinned. “Perhaps I shall have a chance to test my archery skills.”
Maglor smiled sadly and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “You will. I have little doubt of that.”
”Maglor?” said Ingold about a week later. “Would you come see this?”
Maglor followed Ingold out a small door in the wall of the fortress to the edge of the lake; Borlad waited there, crouched behind a rock. “What is it?” Maglor asked.
“We think the lake is sinking,” Ingold said. “Look,” He showed the Elf where the water line had shifted.
“What could it be?” Borlad asked.
“There has not been much rain lately,” Maglor said hopefully, looking at Ingold.
Ingold shook his head. “The river is fed mainly by a spring. It would require a very long drought to make such a visible difference in the lake.”
“Then I would guess that they have diverted the river.”
“Even if only the orcs are there, there are enough that they could constantly have some working. The only thing that deters orcs is sunlight, and that is one thing we lack right now.”
The three of them, Elf, man, and boy, stared grimly at the water. Finally, Maglor stirred. “We should notify the king.”
Tarostar attempted to keep the news about the lake quiet, but it was not long before someone else noticed, and suddenly everyone knew. At the people’s insistence, the king sent men to see if anything could be done to repair the damage, but they encountered a guard of orcs and men and only three of the ten returned; the only thing they accomplished was to learn that the men Míriel had warned them of must have arrived. After that, they watched helplessly as the lake receded. At first, it required a sharp eye to see the difference, but then it sank so fast one could almost see the water moving. “What have they done?” Valacar wondered.
“Ruined the dam at the other end, most likely,” Galador replied cheerfully. “Now we will not have long to wait.”
Galador was right. Within a few days’ time, the lake was reduced to a muddy depression, which quickly filled with an army. The siege had begun in earnest.
Maglor pushed his bow open until his left arm was straight and his right thumb pressed into his cheek. He held the position for only an instant before loosing the shaft and dropping to his knees behind the parapet. The shot was rewarded by a cry and half a dozen arrows slicing the air above his head. They had pinpointed his position; it was time to move.
“Hello.” Borlad appeared beside him. “My turn.”
“The hour glass ran out.”
“All right. You should find a new position.”
Borlad nodded. Pairs of archers were taking turns manning the walls. They had been picking off the enemies wielding the battering ram, but it seemed to do little good; more simply took their places. The walls shook with the steady strokes against the door “How is the gate?” Maglor asked.
“Father says it probably has less than an hour left.”
“I am sorry, Borlad. I wish I could have done better.” He had tried so hard to help these people, to give them hope, and now, within a few hours, it would all be over.
The boy seemed to understand. “You did your best. That is all that can be expected of anyone. Anyway, I think I prefer being killed to starving to death.”
Maglor squeezed Borlad’s shoulder gratefully and left, leaving the boy his partially empty quiver of arrows.
Borlad paused to catch his breath. Since the gate had fallen, everything had become a nightmare: frightening enough, but not real. He had used all his arrows and since then had been kept busy cutting down ladders and grappling hooks as the enemy attempted to gain another entrance. Now there was a lull and he took the opportunity to look down into the courtyard of the fortress, picking out people he knew in the mass of bodies. Marach and Tarostar fought shoulder to shoulder. Galador and Valacar guarded the steps to the wall, Valacar methodical, Galador cheerful. Arador and Arantar were on opposite sides of the battle, doing fine. His father and Maglor stood back-to-back, unscathed and obliterating anything that came near them.
The thunk of a ladder hitting the wall redirected his attention outside the wall. As he pushed the ladder away, a light in the west caught his eye. The first thing it brought to mind was sunrise, but that was impossible, and anyway he was facing the wrong direction. An army perhaps? The Valar? He leaned over the wall, staining to see. The light drew closer until he knew he could not be imagining it. Then a horn sounded, clear and strong and proud, more beautiful and stirring than any instument heard among men. Borlad’s suspicions were confirmed. “The Valar!” he cried. “The Valar have come!” He spun around, wanting Maglor to know. “Maglor! The Valar are here!” An arrow, shot toward the sound of his voice, swept across the side of his right arm. He gasped and fell to his knees, grasping the wound, which quickly covered his hand with blood. The arrow had not done any serious damage, he thought, but it hurt more than anything he remembered. He leaned on the wall, cradling his arm and fighting nausea, lost to everything but the pain.
Borlad’s words swept through the armies, and combined with the song of the horn, which Maglor recognized as Valaróma, Oromë’s horn, they caused Morgoth’s troops to falter. Tarostar’s small army fought with renewed hope and vigor. Caught between two foes, Morgoth’s forces were destroyed, but it was still a long battle. It was complicated by the arrival of the two dragons, and they destroyed many of the Elves who had accompanied the Valar before they were slain by Oromë and Tulkas.
Maglor fought valiantly through the battle, but when the two armies met and the main fight had ended, he drifted into the background. He did not want to face those who would recognize him and remember his deeds. As small groups were dispatched to seek out enemies who had escaped and as the Valar prepared to capture Morgoth, he went to find Borlad. He had heard him shout, but did not know what happened to him after that. He found him on the wall where he had fallen, half-conscious. Maglor knelt by his side, gently exploring the wound with his fingers, and was relieved to find that the bleeding had nearly stopped. Borlad’s eyes opened at his touch. “Did we win?”
“I wish I could have helped more.”
“You did well,” Maglor assured him, bandaging the wound with a strip of cloth torn from Borlad’s cleaner shirt.
“Am I going to be all right?”
“You will be fine.”
“Why are you not out there?”
“I did not think I could face them,” Maglor admitted.
“Why not? Surely you have redeemed yourself.”
“They have not seen what I have done, and many of them would not consider it enough if they did know.”
“That is not what matters. If you know the truth, they can think whatever they like.”
“But I do not feel that it is enough either.”
Borlad caught Maglor’s eyes. “Then you must change that.”
“I know,” Maglor said, “but I do not know how. Come,” he added, helping Borlad to his feet. “We will find somewhere more comfortable for you to rest.”
Several days later, Maglor took a walk up the river, which had been restored to its original course. He wished to escape the condemning presence of the Elves the Valar had brought. Most of them pretended to be civil or at least ignored him, but he had seen the glances and heard the whispers, and he was not fooled. They knew who he was, what he had done, and they had not forgiven him.
He kicked a stone out of his path. This was one reason he had never returned to Valinor, and now, when he had finally begun to forgive himself, it seemed especially cruel.
Head bowed, lost in his thoughts, Maglor trudged on until he lost all track of time. Without warning, he stopped and froze.
It cannot be!
Right in front of him, abandoned in the middle of the path, so close that there could be no mistake, laid the Silmarils he and Maethros had abandoned.
Maglor’s mind spun. He attempted to decide what he should do, but his muddied thoughts offered no ideas. As he deliberated, he found himself surrounded by a presence he could only describe as overwhelming. He gasped, fell to his knees, and covered his face as if by so doing he could hide.
The presence spoke: “Maglor. Do not be afraid.” The voice was deeper than Ulmo’s oceans, higher than Varda’s stars, older than the Valar, younger than a newborn child, harsher than a slave driver, gentler than a mother.
It took all Maglor’s courage to summon his own voice, so weak and small in comparison. “Ilúvatar,” he whispered, having no doubt to whom the voice belonged. “What right have I to be in your presence?”
“None, Maglor, but that is no less than any of my children have.”
“But surely there are few who deserve it less than me!”
“My son, do you think I have ignored your many pleas for cleansing? Nay, I have heard and acted! When will you forgive yourself?”
“I try, Lord. I cannot do it.”
“Trust Me; I will help you. I will give you a sign: your body will no longer bear the scars of the evil your heart has long been cleansed of.”
“What do you mean?”
“You will see. I have a task for you, Maglor. It will be difficult, but if you follow me, you will find the strength you will need.”
“What would you have me do?”
“I want you to take the Silmarils to Valinor.”
Maglor stiffened. “Why me, Lord?”
“It must be done. With them, the Two Trees can be rekindled to give the earth light again; this world was never intended to be ruled by darkness. I have chosen you for the task for reasons of my own. Is that not enough?
For a moment Maglor did not answer, but his love overcame his fear and he replied, “It is enough. I will take them.”
“You need not fear, Maglor, my son. I will be with you; I will never forsake you. If you trust Me, all things I ask are possible.”
With those words, the presence faded away. Maglor opened his eyes and was surprised to find his surroundings unchanged. The river gurgled past on his right, he knelt on hard dirt, and the Silmarils lay in front of him, emitting a soft glow. He felt changed. His heart was lighter than it had been in years, but something else was different that at first he could not identify. Then he realized– He flexed the fingers of his right hand, and they moved without pain, the skin supple and smooth. Turning up his palm, he saw that even his scars had vanished.
Maglor leapt to his feet, joy filling his heart. “Thank you, Ilúvatar!” he shouted to the heavens before striding purposefully to the Silmarils and bending to pick them up. He hesitated but an instant. They would not burn him now, would they? No. Of course not. Ilúvatar had healed him. Trust me. The words echoed through his head. He picked them up, one in each hand. When they bore his touch, he said again, softly this time, “Thank you.”
Maglor returned to Annonnen with a long-lost spring returned to his step. The Silmarils he carried wrapped in his cloak; he did not wish to draw too much attention. As he walked through the Elves gathered in and around the fortress, he no longer kept his head down. Rather, his shoulders were thrown back confidently, and he smiled and nodded at anyone who met his gaze. He left a succession of puzzled faces in his wake, but he did not care about them. He was searching for one small figure. When he spied him sitting on the steps that led to the wall, he called, “Borlad!”
The boy looked up, and when Maglor got close he asked, “What has happened?”
Maglor smiled. “Up on the wall.”
Borlad nodded and scrambled to his feet. They ascended the stairs and found a spot where they would not be overheard. Borlad repeated his question.
Maglor leaned back on the battlements and said innocently, “I just wondered how your arm is healing.”
“My arm is fine! You know that! Tell me why you are smiling!” laughed Borlad.
Grinning, Maglor gave in. “If you insist.” He delivered his news solemnly. “Ilúvatar spoke to me.”
Borlad’s eyes widened. “He did?”
Maglor nodded. “He healed my hand.” He held it out for Borlad to see. “He also told me to go to Valinor.”
“Why?” Maglor did not answer right away, for he was not sure if he should tell about the Silmarils. Before he decided, however, Borlad guessed, “The Silmarils?”
Maglor shook his head. “You are too smart for your own good. Yes, the Silmarils.”
“May I see them?” Deciding it would not hurt, Maglor partially unwrapped them, revealing the radiant jewels to Borlad’s wondering gaze. “They are beautiful! With them the Two Trees can be relit?”
Maglor nodded. “You remember my stories.”
“Of course.” Borlad was silent for a few minutes before asking, “Will you come back?”
“Unless the Valar wish to punish me for my deeds.”
“It seems to me you have suffered enough.”
“They do not know me as you do.”
“I will miss you.”
“And I you.” Maglor put an arm around Borlad’s shoulders as they began to walk back to the stairs.
“I asked some of the Elves about you,” Borlad said suddenly.
“They said you were once a great singer.”
“I was. It has been long now since I have sung; I have not had the heart for it.”
“Will you sing for me when you return?”
“Do you wish me to?”
“Then I will.”
Maglor forced himself not to fidget as he stood silently under Manwë’s stern gaze. He was in Valinor after a long, slow journey. Morgoth had been imprisoned in the fastness of Mandos – permanently this time – and the Valar had finally found time to grant him an audience. They sat in a semi-circle in front of him, and behind him Elves were gathered. Aside from two or three of the Valar who seemed sympathetic, the whole assembly glared at him disapprovingly. Maglor sent a quick prayer for strength to Ilúvatar as Manwë began to speak.
“Why are you here, Maglor son of Fëanor?”
“I have come to do what I can to right the wrongs of myself and my family.”
“How do you intend to right such wrongs?”
In answer, Maglor unwrapped the Silmarils and held them up. Gasps of astonishment came from all sides. Yavanna leaned forward eagerly, ascertaining his intentions. Manwë alone remained unmoved. “It is my understanding,” Maglor said, “that with all three jewels the life of the Two Trees can be restored.”
“How did you get them back?” asked Manwë.
“Ilúvatar brought them to me.”
Once again, disbelief rippled through the crowd.
“Do you have proof of this?”
“Is not my holding them proof enough? How could I have them any other way? They were far out of my reach.”
“That is true. What do you wish to do with them?’
“I want to give them to you so Yavanna can heal the Trees.”
“What of your oath of long ago?”
“I am giving them away of my own free will; you will not be withholding them from me.”
There was silence again as Manwë studied him. “Why are you doing this, Maglor? You must know that we will likely punish you now that you are here. You could have kept the jewels, gone into hiding again, and lived until the end of the world in possession of what could be called your rightful inheritance.”
“I know,” replied Maglor. “I will willingly submit to any punishment you deem necessary. As to why…” He dropped his head and drew a deep breath before continuing. “For years I lived with guilt over my actions. Then you asked me to venture back into the world, and I found two things I never expected to know again: friendship and forgiveness. They have taught me that no life is ever ruined forever. I do not wish to be known only for my unwise choices. I could have kept the Silmarils for myself, but why should I when they will do me no real good and giving them up can help the whole world?” Looking up again, Maglor found that Manwë’s expression had finally softened.
After a moment, Ulmo spoke. “I do not believe any punishment will be necessary. He has learned his lesson thoroughly.” The Valar murmured their assent, and Manwë nodded.
Maglor offered the Silmarils. “Will you accept them, my lord?”
“Give them to Yavanna.” Maglor did so, and Yavanna clasped them enthusiastically, her eyes glowing with delight.
Soon after, they all gathered around Corolairë where the withered forms of Telperion and Laurelin stood. Eärendil had surrendered his Silmaril, the three jewels had been broken, and the light they contained collected in a bowl. Yavanna poured out the light at the bases of the Trees and began to sing. She sang of light, of life, of power, of beauty, and for a long time there was no sound but her voice. As she sang, the Trees began to come alive: drooping branches lifted, shriveled leaves flushed green, and buds and flowers formed.
Telperion was the first to come to full bloom, as when the Trees first blossomed. When his light was full, the stillness was broken by cheers. Joy so strong it could almost be tasted filled the air. Laughter, shouting, and weeping most of all sounded from every direction. They could now feel that the defeat of Morgoth was complete, for not only was he overcome, his goal of darkening the world had been thwarted.
With tears in his eyes, Maglor lifted his voice in song for the first time in many years. Words of joy and praise flowed from his heart, reminding those around him of the time when he was daily heard singing in Valinor.
What now can steal our joy?
Morgoth is conquered, darkness banished,
Yet the streets are filled with weeping,
For this happiness is too great for laughter
And too strong for smiles;
Tears must express it.
Arda has been granted peace
When she no longer hoped to find it.
The Father of All has blessed us beyond measure.
How will we thank him?
Our hearts must speak for our tongues,
For we have not the words, only emotions.
One of the Elves close to him clapped Maglor on the shoulder. “Thank you,” he said. “It took courage to come back; I am glad you were willing to take the risk.”
Maglor smiled at him. “It was my pleasure.”
Maglor stepped onto shore with a sigh of relief. Ulmo had been kind enough to transport his boat quickly across the ocean, but it had still been a long trip. It was a beautiful day. The sea and sky were endlessly blue, the sand golden, and the trees verdant green. Singer’s Beach. It was a lovely place and held thousands of years of memories, but it was not the reason he returned.
Turning his footsteps toward the nearest city, Maglor began to relax. It was good to be back, and good to be able to see the world again. He wondered what most of the Men attributed the abrupt changes to.
Although the Valar had told him he was welcome to stay in Valinor, Maglor had not even considered the offer. The Elves were kinder now, but he still did not feel at ease around them. He had friends in Middle Earth, and if nothing else, there was a certain promise he recalled making.
A short journey brought him in sight of his destination. He picked up his pace, eager to arrive. Soon a figure came running out the gates and over the fields toward him. Maglor grinned. Borlad had been watching for him.
When he reached him, Borlad threw his arms around Maglor, who laughed and returned the hug. “You came back!”
“Of course I did! I told you I would.”
“I thought you might change your mind and decide you liked it better there.”
Maglor shook his head. “There are too many painful memories there.”
“There are painful memories here, too.”
“True, but the world has changed so much, and my most resent memories here are anything but painful.”
Borlad smiled. “Did they forgive you?”
“I’m glad. I thought of you when the light came back.”
“And I thought of you.”
“Will you tell me about it?”
“Certainly. First, however, I believe I promised you a song….”
After the midnight, morning will greet us;
After the sadness, joy will appear;
After the tempest, sunlight will great us;
After the jeering, praise we shall hear.
After the battle, peace will be given;
After the weeping, song there will be;
After the journey there will be heaven,-
Burdens will fall and we shall be free.
- James Rowe
1 O Elbereth who lit the stars
from heaven gazing afar
to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death.
O look toward me, Everwhite!
(Translation from arwen-undomiel.com)