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The End of All Things II

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Maglor looked up at the gloomy shadow in his tent's opening. Gloomy seemed an odd enough attribute to name a shadow with, but there it was. Shadows did not glower, either, but this one seemed to do precisely that. Perhaps he was letting his imagination run away with him, now that he was writing again. Or perhaps he simply knew his brother all too well.


"Did you write this?"

Maglor dared to look up at him, and though the sight might have cowed many of Eönwë's host gathered outside, Maglor had seen those eyes turned deadly-sharp with ire before today. And there was nothing for it, in any event. He had no intention of hiding from what he had done; indeed, that was the point of the whole thing.

Taking the paper from Maedhros, he motioned toward a barrel that served as a seat, and Maedhros sat down gruffly beside him. He did not need to read it, for he recognized the sheet at once. He had after all carried it folded in his pocket these last weeks and taken it out at every chance, including at every meal, and it carried the remnants of various sauces, tea, and any other number of things in the corner. He recognized, too, the crinkles from when he had balled it up in frustration.

Still, he read over the words with mock-care. Maedhros did not understand – perhaps could not, for who but a fellow artist could know this mad impulse? A thought struck him that in this of all things, he had more in common with his father than he ever would have thought possible. What was a craftsman but an artist working in a different medium? But Maglor had no doubt that Fëanor would have tolerated this creation. Would Maedhros?

"Aye, I wrote it," he said after a moment of long silence. "And Elrond will sing it on the morrow."

Maedhros blinked several times in quick succession, and Maglor was pleasantly surprised to see his expression softening. Had he succeeded in shocking his brother, the veteran of a thousand campaigns? When at last Maedhros spoke, his voice was softer, sadder, than Maglor could ever remember it. "He will betray us, too?"

Maglor laid the paper down and instead grasped his brother's hands in his own. "In this there is no us," he said softly. "Of the seven we alone are left, and Father is lost until the breaking of the world, as you heard Eönwë say. Mother is forever lost, too, or just as well; that damnable oath will keep us forever an ocean apart. And Elrond and Elros were never ours to lay claim on – for which I am grateful." He grasped Maedhros's hands with new purpose so that he looked up, their eyes meeting. "Would you kill me too, brother mine? Would you become the foulest of kin-slayers in truth?"

Maedhros started, leaning back on his seat. "I would never."

"But they" – he cocked his head toward the tent flap, meaning Eönwë's hosts, the great hordes of Thingol's folk, and all the rest – "they would not blanche at that thought."

"They do not know me," Maedhros said with a gentleness that surprised Maglor. "You do."

"I do," Maglor said, folding the paper and handing it back to Maedhros. "And you know me. You know that when my heart is set on something I cannot be gainsaid, any more than you can. We come by it honestly, I think." Maedhros opened his mouth to speak, but Maglor rushed on before Maedhros could interrupt him. "And I will not be gainsaid either, not in this. The host will not hear me sing of Alqualondë, but they will hear my words from a voice not yet tainted by our family's foul deeds."

Maedhros actually smiled at that. Wryly, bitterly, it was true, but a smile was still a smile. "Damned by your damnable oath."

"Mayhap the Valar have a sense of humor after all," he said. "But will they or no, this must be done. We both have blood on our hands – no, I know your arguments on this, but hear me out. Freely or otherwise, we unsheathed our swords beside Father's at Alqualondë, and too many of Olwë's folk fell by our actions. I would not make their death meaningless through my cowardice."

"You truly think you can atone for those deeds, to say nothing of all we have done since, with a song?"

Now it was Maglor's chance to smile as bitterly as Maedhros had. "I believe we are beyond atonement," he said. "I do not seek forgiveness. But purpose – that at least is still within my grasp. Growth. Completion." He looked down at his perennially ink-stained fingers and sighed to himself. "It is not enough, not nearly enough. But it is all I have to give."

Maedhros nodded at that and left the tent without another word. Maglor saw that he had left the parchment on the barrel where he had been sitting. Maglor would have written it again, if need be, but he was glad that he would not have to. Did Maedhros understood why this must be done? Perhaps, when Elrond sang the Noldolantë before Eönwë's host, Maedhros would stand at his side. Perhaps they would listen to that dark song together.