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Loopholes and Choices

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“We need to make sure we close every loophole,” Maitimo said, looking over the sheet of paper that Makalaurë and Fëanáro had been bending their heads over for the last three hours by the glass. The candlelight flickered around the room, but at the desk, a Fëanorian lamp burned blue to illuminate dozens of lines written down and as soon crossed out again. “There’s no point weaving an Oath to get the gems back if they fall into the hands of an Elda who throws them into the Sea, for instance, and then we are without recourse. There must be consequences.”

“Would not the promise of our revenge be enough consequence?” Tyelkormo, sitting nearby with one hand buried in Huan’s fur, spoke up. “For we would surely pursue them with woe, unto world’s ending!”

Fëanáro’s head snapped up from the page. “That’s good, Turko, we’ll put that in.”

“What kind of woe?” Maitimo asked. “We’re going to have to kill them, or threaten to, at least.”

“How about ‘Death we shall deal him ere Day’s ending, woe unto world’s end?” Makalaurë asked, furiously writing. “It’s a poetic use of day, not a literal day, since we don’t have those anymore. ‘Day’ meaning while the world lasts, while Arda exists. We have the rest of time to catch up with whoever keeps them from us, and we will not stop.”

Carnistir put his head into the room. “Father?” he said. “Mother’s here, she wants to speak with you.”

Fëanáro’s lips thinned as they did these days whenever Nerdanel was mentioned in his presence, but he stood up. “Very well, I’ll speak with her in the other room. Moryo, take my place, and carry on.” He left, and Carnistir sat down in his place.

“What are we doing?”

“Trying to come up with the proper wording for the vow to get the Silmarils back,” Maitimo said. “We’ve been at it for ages already, and we’ve only got a couple of lines so far.”

“We still need to define exactly who will face consequences for taking or keeping the Silmarils from us,” Makalaurë said.

“Surely, everyone except us?” Carnistir said.

“Yes, but you can’t just say, everyone except the eight of us,” Makalaurë pointed out. “Or we could end up in a situation where Tyelpë has them and we have to kill him for them.”

Carnistir recoiled. “No. I’d forswear rather than do that.”

“So would we all,” Tyelkormo said. “So we have to come up with better wording.”

“How about ‘Fëanáro, and Fëanáro’s kin,’” Carnistir said.

“That’s better!” Maitimo said. “And we leave open to interpretation who exactly Fëanáro’s kin is, so if any of our kin have children, or grandchildren, as long as they are kin to us, they are safe to hold a Silmaril.”

“That’s all very well,” Makalaurë said, “and quite right, but we need to determine, still, who gets consequences if they take a Silmaril.”

The door opened again, and Pityafinwë and Telufinwë, followed by Curufinwë, entered, and hastily shut it again. The sound of raised voices — both Fëanáro’s and Nerdanel’s — could be briefly heard. “Come in, come in,” Maitimo said, gesturing to the three of them. “Have a seat. Curvo, we could use your command of language here.”

Curufinwë sat down next to Tyelkormo, and the twins settled in on the low seat near the fireplace. “This is the trickiest thing I’ve ever tried to word,” Makalaurë said. “I’m glad you’re all here. Even Father and I were getting frustrated, and it wasn’t until Maitimo showed up that we started making progress.”

“What do you have so far?” Curufinwë asked.

“Whoso taketh or keepeth a Silmaril from the hands of Fëanáro and Fëanáro’s kin, death shall we deal him ere Day’s ending, woe unto world’s end!” Makalaurë frowned. “I know we’re missing a lot. We’ve crossed out even more.”

“Father wanted to make it an oath simply about Morgoth and his brood of foul creatures,” Maitimo said, “but then I pointed out that the Valar could take it from Morgoth and keep it for themselves, and we would have no recourse.”

“What chance have we against a Vala?” Pityafinwë asked.

“We’ve got to hope we have some chance,” Tyelkormo said, “or this enterprise is doomed before it begins.”

“I believe we have more than a chance,” Maitimo said. “And we have the right of it on our side, which counts for a great deal.”

“Very well said,” Curufinwë said, smiling over at Maitimo, “I agree with you, brother.” He crossed over to look at the paper. “Here’s how we do this. We have to cover everyone except ourselves, foul or clean, foe or friend.”

“That’s a good line,” Makalaurë said. “‘Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean…” He scribbled down the words.

“Who then would stand against us?” Curufinwë started counting off on his fingers. “Valar, Maiar, Eldar, any of Morgoth’s foul brood…”

“The Aftercomers?” Telufinwë put in. “They don’t exist yet, but they could certainly find or take a Silmaril.”

“Good, yes,” Maitimo said. “So ‘brood of Morgoth, Valar, Eldar, Maiar, Aftercomer…’”

“That doesn’t scan,” Makalaurë said. “Give me a minute.” He muttered under his breath for a few seconds. “How about “Brood of Morgoth or bright Vala / Elda or Maiar or Aftercomer / Man unborn yet upon Middle-earth…”

Fëanáro came back into the room as Makalaurë was speaking. His eyes were bright with the memory of anger, but he nodded approval. “Very good, I see you’ve made progress,” he said, glancing around the room. “I’m glad we’re all here.” Making his way over to Pityafinwë and Telufinwë, he sat down between them, wrapping an arm around them both, and pressing a kiss to each of their foreheads. “Carry on.”

“That’s all we have so far, other than woe unto world’s end,” Makalaurë said, smiling at his father.

Maitimo, who had been thinking for a moment with his head resting on his hand, sat up. “We need to consider what arguments people might use to spare themselves from our wrath.”

“They might say the law prohibits our vengeance,” Carnistir said.

“They might argue that they love us, or that we love them,” Fëanáro said, and it was clear that this very subject was uppermost in his mind. “I will not let a profession of love stand between me and what is mine. If they truly loved me, they would aid me.”

Maitimo, ever perceptive, got up and came over to Fëanáro, dropping down on his knees before the low seat and wrapping his arms around his father. Slowly, Fëanáro let go of the tight hold he had on Pityafinwë and Telufinwë, and hugged his eldest back. “It is plain to see I have all the love I need right here in this room.”

“You do, Father,” Carnistir said, “never doubt that. We will follow you into Darkness Everlasting if that is what it takes, and nothing shall come between ourselves and you, not dread nor danger, not Doom itself.”

Macalaurë sat up with a gasp. “Not to intrude upon the affection, but that’s really good, Moryo. “‘Neither law nor love / Not dread nor danger, nor Doom itself…’ It’s still missing something, though.”

“Armies,” Tyelkormo put in. “Battles. Wars. Swords….” He trailed off, trying to think. “People making an alliance to fight us.”

Fëanáro laughed. “Good point, Turko. Káno, how about ‘league of swords?’ I think that fits the scansion.”

“And adds some audacious alliteration!” Makalaurë said, to general laughter. After a moment he went on. “Well, then, so far we have: “Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean / Brood of Morgoth or bright Vala / Elda or Maia or Aftercomer / Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth / Neither law nor love nor league of swords / Dread nor danger, not Doom itself…’” He trailed off. “Something, something, whosoever taketh or keepeth a Silmaril from the hands of Fëanáro or Fëanáro’s kin /Death shall we deal him ere Day’s ending / Woe unto world’s end!’ There’s still something missing in the middle.”

“That bit about ‘from the hands of’ is really imprecise,” Telufinwë pointed out. “Technically speaking, the Silmarils weren’t taken from our hands.”

“They were taken from our metaphorical hands,” Makalaurë said. “And if we can have a metaphor about Day, we can surely have one about hands.”

Fëanáro shook his head. “No, I agree with Telvo,” he said. “‘Day’ as a unit of time measurement is already imprecise because there is no day now, but ‘hands’ is very specific.”

“Very well, I’ll cut that bit out.” Makalaurë turned back to the page, scoring out the line.

Carnistir tapped the paper. “How about changing this bit around, so that the consequences for keeping a Silmaril come immediately after the definition of what someone might do to keep it from us?”

“How do you mean?” Makalaurë looked confused.

“Now that I see it, it’s easy,” Carnistir said. “Just put ‘shall defend him’ in here…”

“Oh!” Makalaurë said. “I see…’from Fëanáro or Fëanáro’s kin…’ Then what?”

“Now, ‘whosoever taketh or keepeth a Silmaril…”

“Wait,” Tyelkormo said. “That leaves a lot of loopholes, though.” Maitimo, now sitting on the floor by the fire, nodded in agreement. “Someone might hide it somewhere, or put it in their hoard, or throw it away…”

“‘Whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh’ — there, Káno, you can have your hand metaphor after all — ‘finding keepeth or afar casteth a Silmaril.’” Fëanáro spoke the words slowly, with measured weight, and Makalaurë nodded, writing them down.

“So that leaves us with ‘…dread nor danger, not Doom itself / shall defend him from Fëanáro or Fëanáro’s kin, / whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh / Finding keepeth or afar casteth a Silmaril,’” Curufinwë said. “It doesn’t scan quite right.”

“Break the line before ‘a Silmaril,’’ Fëanáro said. “It seems right that my jewel should be set apart.”

Makalaurë frowned over the lines, then let out a chuckle. “We’re still missing something, and you’re going to laugh but I just realised what it is — the actual vow. We haven’t sworn anything yet!”

“The vow is what we’ll do to anyone who takes a Silmaril, isn’t it?” Pityafinwë asked. “I mean, that’s the part we have to make sure we carry out, right?”

“Exactly right, Pityo,” Fëanáro said. “Just make it straightforward. We already have the words for what we’ll do. ‘This swear we all.’”

“‘This swear we all: / Death we shall deal him ere Day’s ending / Woe unto world’s end!’” Carnistir said, trying the lines over. “It sounds good. It sounds very good.”

“It still is missing something big, though,” Makalaurë said. “Every vow must be balanced. If we are willing to deal out death then we must accept death or worse in failure.”

“But we have until world’s end to carry out the vow,” Telufinwë said. “How could we fail to achieve it, given that timescale?”

“And what do we do if we fail? We’re not going to kill each other?” Carnistir asked.

“No, of course not!” Fëanáro said, sounding a little horrified at the very thought. He glanced away for a moment, thinking. “You said something about Darkness everlasting earlier, and it sounded very poetic. What was it?”

“We would follow you into Darkness Everlasting?” Carnistir said.

“That would surely be enough of a consequence,” Fëanáro said lightly. “‘To the Everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.’ Nothing to worry about. It’s not going to fail. We are going to win our jewels back, and light up the benighted lands of Middle-earth, as Káno says, until Day’s ending.”

“This all sounds good so far,” Makalaurë said, reading the lines over to himself. “Who shall we swear to? Manwë and Varda?”

Fëanáro stood up and strode over to the desk, taking the much-abused paper from Macalaurë’s hand and reading it through himself. For a long moment he murmured softly under his breath, then finally looked up again, glancing around at each expectant face. “An oath such as this requires the highest authority to witness it, for it is as deep and solemn a vow as marriage — nay, even deeper, for I trust this will come first in all of our lives until it is fulfilled. We shall regain our own, and we shall have our vengeance! If any of you cannot pledge this, now is the time to decide, and to leave us.”

He looked at every one of them again in turn, the twins, fire burning in their pale eyes, Curufinwë, a fierce smile upon his face, Carnistir, frowning and defiant, his Turkafinwë, eyes alight with the expectation of battle, Makalaurë, eyes closed and face uplifted in a composer’s joy, Maitimo, sitting on the floor gazing back up at him, straight and steady, ready for anything. A smile, sweet and fierce, lit up Fëanáro’s face. “Oh my sons!” he cried out. “Has anyone ever had such sons? All of you are with me, and we will name the Name in our vow.” He set the paper back down before Makalaurë. “‘Our word hear thou, Eru Allfather!’” he said. “And let Manwë and Varda witness and remember, for this oath defies them too. The Valar shall not have the Silmarils in their keeping, not while I or any of you, my beloved ones, remain.”

He set the paper back down before Makalaurë. “Káno, write it out in full, and give us each a copy to memorise. And all of you, finish packing! We shall meet again in the Great Square in six hours, and I expect you all to be ready. Travel light, but bring with you your swords!”

Six hours later, Maitimo stood waiting in the foyer of the House of Finwë where they all had been staying, a bag slung over his shoulder, wearing his leather armour over his clothing and a plumed helmet on his head. His sword was strapped to his side, and a copper circlet adorned his brow. Frowning, he went through the mental list of what was in his bag: five sets of clothing, a second pair of boots, a few daggers, three or four pieces of his favourite jewellery — alas that most of it was either in Formenos, abandoned, or in his childhood home to the west of Tirion, all of it unreachable in time — a survival kit containing the supplies he tended to carry when they travelled afar in Valinor, and strangely, a carved toy horse made for his babyhood by his mother, and left behind in the palace when he grew too old for it.

Around him there was a frantic hustle: just outside, carriages being hitched up and boxes of food, clothing, and bedding taken out to be packed. Servants moved here and there, gathering things. In the glimmering of the streetlamps, hastily lit, Maitimo could see a familiar face, and waved to Findekáno, who came bounding over.

“It’s really happening then, Russandol?” Findekáno said, incredulity warring with excitement in his voice. “We’re really going?”

“Yes,” Maitimo said, feeling suddenly sober about the whole affair. “Come to the Great Square in a few minutes, and Father will explain the plan.”

Findekáno grinned at him as though they had never quarrelled. “I’ll be there,” he said, and then, taking a breath, “and so will Dad, if that’s all right?”

“Why shouldn’t it be?” Maitimo said. “The Morgoth killed his father too.”

“That is so,” Findekáno said carefully, and now they were back to the uneasy footing they’d been on for the last several years. “Farewell, Russandol, see you soon.” He turned, making his way through the crowd in the direction of his own home not far away.

Soon enough, Maitimo was joined by Curufinwë, holding Tyelperinquar by the hand. An expression of relief crossed his face when he saw Maitimo. “Could you look after him for a moment?” he said, and at Maitimo’s nod, rushed back into the house.

Maitimo pulled the toy horse out of his bag. “Here,” he said, kneeling down to get on Tyelpë’s level. “He’s mine, but you can borrow him for the journey.”

Tyelpë took the horse, but didn’t seem much inclined to play, instead holding it close protectively. “I’ll take good care of him for you,” he said, and then bit his lip worriedly. “The Orcs won’t get him.”

“Of course they won’t, my brave one,” Fëanáro said, appearing at that moment and tousling Tyelpë’s hair. “Maitimo, as usual, you are the only one on time!” He sounded fondly exasperated, as if they were late for a trip to the theatre rather than a journey to Middle-earth.

“I’m sure everyone will be here soon,” Maitimo said, and no sooner had he spoken than the twins came up, bags on their shoulders, swords strapped to their waists. Carnistir and his wife were not far behind, and then Curufinwë appeared from out of the house with his wife. She took Tyelpë into her arms with a smile and a word of thanks for Maitimo.

“So where are Turko and Káno?” Carnistir asked, looking around the group.

“Káno’s probably trying to decide which of his harps to bring,” Curufinwë muttered, “or how many musical instruments he can fit in.”

“I don’t know why,” Fëanáro said, frowning a little. “He made them all, he can make more.”

Makalaurë picked this moment to show up, thankfully carrying only one harp, but his bag bugled suspiciously, and Maitimo wondered just how many sets of clothing he’d foregone in favour of flutes.

“Good to see you, Káno,” Fëanáro said, and Makalaurë flushed, but then looked around the group, noting that Tyelkormo was still missing.

“Hasty to rise, but oft last to arrive,” he said. “Where in Tirion is Turko?”

“He’s fetching our horses,” Fëanáro said, and pointed downhill toward the stables, where Tyelkormo could just be seen emerging, mounted on his own white horse, followed by the rest of their personal favourite mounts, including Maitimo’s great black stallion with a star on his forehead.

In the forecourt of the house, servants were loading the last carts. Fëanáro made his way over and exchanged a few words with their head, and at his signal, the carts made their way out of the courtyard, heading toward the long winding path that horses went by to make their way out of Tirion toward Alqualondë.

Tyelkormo and the horses arrived as the carts were leaving, and everyone mounted, tying their bags to saddles. Tyelpë went with Tyelkormo, and both the women had their own horses to ride. Once everyone was mounted, and at Fëanáro’s command, they swept down from the courtyard into the Great Square and swiftly across it to the raised platform in the middle. People had already begun to gather on the other side, where a number of benches formed seats. A great shout went up as Fëanáro appeared, and he leapt from his dappled mare to the stage, handing her reins to Maitimo. He began to speak swiftly and immediately, as was ever his way.

“Why, oh people of the Noldor, why should we longer serve the jealous Valar, who cannot keep us or even their own realm secure from their Enemy?” His voice was loud, and from all sides of the square, people came running to hear him. Artanis, her hair unbound and flowing down her back, clad in a simple workday dress, her feet bare, was one of the first to appear, shortly followed by the rest of her family. Findecáno, too, came running, followed at a slower pace by Nolofinwë and Anairë, and behind them Turkáno with Elenwë bearing Itarille in her arms.

Fëanáro went on speaking, his voice carrying even beyond the Great Square. Maitimo and the rest dismounted, handing off their horses’ reins to followers and friends who took them eagerly. Tyelpë’s mother took him back, and made her way over to Irissë , her close friend, and together they spoke quietly under the tumult of Fëanáro’s words and the cheers that followed them.

Fëanáro’s sons stood behind him on the stage, their hands linked together, sometimes crying out approval when Fëanáro said something particularly eloquent. The square was alight with torchlight, and full of Elves now. Far at the back, Maitimo thought he could see his mother for a brief moment, her light brown hair blazing red in the light of the torches, despair and anger in her eyes, before she deliberately turned and left, the only person to leave the square while Fëanáro was speaking.

“…We and we alone shall be lords of the unsullied Light and master of the bliss and beauty of Arda. No other race shall oust us!” Fëanáro exclaimed, and his voice was full of power. “This we will swear, forever!”

Curufinwë was the first to leap to his side, seizing his hand, followed by Maitimo, who took his other hand, then Tyelkormo taking Curufinwë’s, and Carnistir taking Maitimo’s, the twins following Carnistir, and Macalaurë holding Tyelkormo’s. They were laughing as they got into place, and the words they had worked on, pored over, hashed out together, came easy to their mouths.

Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
Brood of Morgoth or bright Vala
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth,
Neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
Not dread nor danger, not Doom itself,
Shall defend him from Fëanáro, and Fëanáro’s kin,
Whoso hideth or hoardeth or in hand taketh,
Finding keepeth or afar casteth
A Silmaril.

There was a dreadful pause at this moment as they all drew breath, and Maitimo glanced out into the crowd, seeing Findekáno’s face, pale with shock, staring back at him. He was half a beat behind as they spoke the next words.

This swear we all:
Death we will deal him ere Day’s ending
Woe unto world’s end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness
And our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!

As they spoke the names of Manwë and Varda, a bright burst of lightning leaped down the mountain of Taniquetil, striking the highest tower of Finwë’s palace, outshining the torches and sending the smell of electricity through the air. It was followed by a crack of thunder so loud that all present covered their ears, save only those on the stage.

Fëanáro’s response was to draw his sword, immediately followed by all his sons drawing theirs, and raise it to the sky, toward the mountain of Taniquetil. “We have sworn,” he cried out, “and we shall not waver! Death we will deal to Morgoth and to any who keep our rightful creations from us! Come away, my people, come away!”

Nolofinwë hurried to the forefront of the gathered crowd and shouted, “You speak in over-haste, Fëanáro, though I do not disagree that go we must!”

Fëanáro looked down at his half-brother, bringing his sword down to point at him. “We have not a moment to lose!” he shouted. “Wouldst thou hinder us, Nolvo?”

“Not hinder, merely allow time to think it through!” Turkáno said from beside his father. Findekáno’s eyes were on his father and brother, and he crossed his arms, but did not speak.

Fëanáro’s lips went thin and his eyes blazed. “To delay is hinder, and to hinder is a coward’s act, Nolofinwë!” he said. “Stay behind and think it through at thy leisure, but I will go, and all valiant of the Noldor with me!” He looked back up at the crowd again, and a loud cheer arose.

“I am with thee!” came a woman’s voice from among the crowd, and Artanis pushed her way forward. “Let us be gone!”

Fëanáro smiled. “Valiant niece!” The words came easy to his lips, with no ‘half’ even thought. But Arafinwë put his arm around her shoulders, gently trying to encourage her away.

“I agree with Nolofinwë,” he said softly, so that people had to almost strain to hear him. “We would not hinder you, if go you must, but we must be prepared and ready, for Middle-earth is full of dangers, and the unguarded lands teem with wild things aplenty, and as we know there are Orcs. Too, spirits of the land abound and not all of them are friendly to Eldar as they are here. And the Children of Aüle may not be friendly.”

There was a slight gasp from Curufinwë, and he turned to whisper in Makalaurë’s ear. Maitimo, listening carefully, heard him say, “I cannot believe we forgot to put the dwarfkind in! And after all Maitimo’s talk of loopholes!”

Fëanáro clearly heard the whispered byplay but choose to ignore it in favour of responding to Arafinwë. “Dangers there may be, but do we not have our swords? And do we not have the fire of our will to send us forward? Think of those lands full of beauty, where wide realms can be ours! I have walked from one end of Aman to the other, and never have I seen a land I could rule without interference from the Valar. Would you rule a land where your decisions may be gainsaid? Would you rule a people when you could be overruled? Nay, it would be rulership in name only, a farce, a play at kingship! And we have been deceived, for even now the Valar would forbid me this city, my city, and this people, my people, who by right I should rule.”

“I say not that we should not go,” Arafinwë began, but Fëanáro spoke to the crowd, crying out, “Brave hearts of the Noldor, shall we stay and wait in bondage and slavery or shall we be gone without delay?”

“Let us be gone!” was heard from the crowd, and Maitimo glanced over at Findekáno, for it sounded like his voice that spoke, but immediately there was such a chorus of cheers in agreement that it was impossible to tell who had first spoken.

“To the Sea!” Fëanáro shouted, throwing his arms wide in an expansive gesture. “Join us on the shore!” He leaped down into the crowd, heading for the small knot of his own particular friends who stood near, embracing them with high spirits. The crowd dispersed, talking amongst themselves, some racing off to their own homes, some staying to chat with friends and family. Arafinwë stared around as if bewildered about what had happened, and Nolofinwë seemed to be arguing with his wife.

Findekáno caught up with Maitimo as he stepped down off the stage. “I just need to finish packing a few things!” he exclaimed eagerly. “I’ll be right behind you!”

Laughing at his eagerness, Maitimo reached forward and drew Findekáno into his arms for a brief hug. All would be well between them now. “Then I shall see you on the shores of the Sea,” he said.

Many Years Later

“So if my father was standing here right now with the Silmaril in his hand, you’d have to kill him?” Elrond asked, his face scrunched up in a frown of concentration.

Maedhros, leaning against the outer wall of the tower balcony in Amon Ereb, looked up at the bright star shining steady in the early evening sky. “Not just for holding the Silmaril,” he said. “We would at least ask for it back first.”

Maglor gave Elrond a sad sort of smile. “You see, ‘in hand taketh’ is a metaphor.”

“Seems pretty straightforward to me,” Elros said with a sniff. “Someone picks it up, and then you have to kill them.”

“It’s not just about the picking up,” Maglor said. “It’s about the intending to keep. You remember when your nurse told you about Beren and Lúthien and how Mablung Heavy-Hand picked up the Silmaril and handed it to Beren?”

Elros nodded. Elrond gave a look like he wanted to speak up, but Maglor carried on. “So he never intended to keep the Silmaril for himself, so there would be no reason for us to kill him. The Oath doesn’t apply to him.”

“That may be so,” Elrond said. “But our nurse told us that Mablung died fighting in Doriath to protect our mother when she was little.”

Maedhros gave a harsh bark of a laugh at that, and then abruptly cut it off, swinging around to face the twins and Maglor. “Well, bad example, there.”

“What about us?” Elrond asked. “If we had it?”

“Would you give it back if we asked for it?” Maedhros said.

Maglor gasped. “You can’t say that to them!” He turned back to Elros and Elrond. “You are our kin, remember, it said Fëanáro and Fëanáro’s kin? You are kin to us, so of course you can have it.”

Maedhros looked back up at the star again. “I think we can be glad that the Silmaril is up there,” he said. “For if Elrond and Elros are our kin, it is worth remembering who they are our kin through. And if they are our kin, so is he.” He pointed upward to the star, shining high above their heads.

“We made a decision, long ago,” Maglor said. “We could have said Fëanáro’s descendants, or just restricted it to us eight. But we said Fëanáro’s kin, and the descendants of his half-brother are certainly his kin. So then we can be glad, for the glory of our father’s work can now be seen by many, and yet it is secure from all evil.”

“A loophole, do you think?”

“No,” Maglor said, rising up from his seat and coming forward to stand next to his brother, “a choice, one of many that day, for good or ill.”

Elrond came to stand beside them. “I still don’t quite understand,” he said. “If all these things were choices, and some of them were good and some of them were bad, why did you choose to do the bad things? Couldn’t you have done all good things?”

Maglor thought for a moment before he answered. “It would be easy to say that the Oath was some strange force that compelled us to make, as you say, bad choices, but the truth is that’s not what happened. We made choices, and sometimes there are no good choices, no way to do good things. While making an Oath isn’t exactly casting a spell, it’s similar in that it’s the use of language to work your will upon the world. And what we did was make a threat, intended mainly for our Enemy, that went wide of the true mark. For we were afraid, and abandoned, and in the dark. All we had was the fire in our hearts, and we hoped to light a flame that would burn down everything that stood between us and our vengeance. For it was not just the Silmarils that the Morgoth took from us, but it was only the Silmarils which we could even have the slightest bit of hope of regaining from him.”

“What will you do now?” Elrond asked. “For Morgoth still has the other two. Will you go after them?”

“Will you abandon us, is that the question you are asking?” Maedhros said. At Elrond’s nod, he went on.”No, we will not abandon you. To assault Morgoth’s lair in force of arms is to die, and always has been. We will wait, and perhaps in time there will be an opportunity. We have, after all, until the end of the world.”