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Songs of Fire

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He froze when he first saw her, at night in the starlight. She was like a star herself, one that had fallen to earth and now jumped and whirled and flew from one spot to another in an unearthly dance, with darkness streaming after her like a banner of night without stars. He didn't think at the time of what a strange association that was, to consider the darkness and not associate it first with Morgoth and his monsters - especially he, who had always been surrounded by light and was only slowly becoming accustomed to the darkness of the world and the pale light of the newmade moon. It was at least beautiful enough in its own way, but it was cold and remote, and when compared against the memory of the fires of Telperion it faded into nothingness. Watching, she made him forget that. She took the darkness and removed its dread, and instead made it holy.

“A!”

The music and the dance stopped, it seemed to him midstep, though he supposed he knew more of music than of dancing. Makalaurë blinked several times as though dazed, and shook his head as though to clear it.

“Man ceril?” came the clear voice of the figure posed like a deer ready to fly, and everything he had cobbled together of the tongue these people spoke left his head. He and Curvo had made some beginning, not that you’d know it to look at him now, as he scrambled to remember diphthongs and grammatic variations and vowel differentials and the variations in pronunciation.

“Pedil edhellen?” came another voice, deeper and not so sweet, nor half as friendly as the first.

Makalaurë’s mind finally caught up. “Ma! Yes. Yes I do. I’m... Istan. Goheno nin.” The words felt clumsy on his tongue, but the star-girl smiled. That was another strange thing, because she was a thing of star and shadow, and he did not understand how her smile could break like dawn over the horizon.

-

“All enemies of The Enemy may find refuge here,” the King had said, gracious and condescending, and they had bowed each in turn, and Makalaurë - or Maglor he was, here - had brought out his harp to play songs of Aman, and to learn songs that were sung here. It had been sweet, to lose himself again in the music; he hadn’t had time for such pastimes of late. There was not room for too much music in the tents of war, where councils must be kept quietly and too much noise could give an advantage to the enemy. He could almost forget of all that had happened when he sang and lost himself instead in memories of the pastures and forests and mountains of home, and the high thrones of the Valar, until he came to songs of the ocean, and then his fingers slipped and tangled in the strings. He quickly excused himself from the group, then. There was no blood on his hands, he knew there wasn't, he still found himself scrubbing at them as he walked away.

It had been for the best, he told himself. The only thing he’d done was show loyalty to his kin, to his father and his brothers, and surely there were none who could have asked any different of any honorable elf, even the Valar themselves.

He had held his hands to the light to consider them, and they were clean, when a musical voice said something at his elbow; he couldn't catch the words of this new language without paying more attention to its meaning, not yet.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he turned, “could you say that again?” And then he stopped, and very nearly stared, because it was the star girl again.

She smiled at him, and almost seemed to laugh. “I said,” she said, speaking somewhat more slowly, “that those songs were lovely, until you stopped. I was hoping you might teach me some, and perhaps Daeron. But I believe he would love to learn anything that you and your people may teach, he loves knowledge for its own sake more than any I know.”

“But not you?”

“Oh, not me. I do enjoy knowing things, but I would much rather dance. What if we trade? I sing a song for you, and you play a song for me?”

He had bowed and she had smiled and laughed and taken him by the hand.

“After all, aren’t we relatives? You’re the cousin of my cousin.”

He tried not to think of the blood at Alqualondë.

-

“You never say anything about your wife. Is she beautiful? Do you think she misses you?” The question hung in the air like a black mist, heavy and pressing, and the silence stretched out into itself.

“I’m sorry. If there’s a reason you never talk about her...”

Blood on a white beach strewn with pearls, he thought, and swans trumpeting as though in mourning, and his sword heavy in his hand and blood dripping from it-

“It’s fine. She is-” he very nearly said was, but caught himself, “very beautiful. I don’t know if she misses me, we did not...”

Lúthien’s grey eyes, bright as stars, peered up at him.

“We didn’t part on the best terms.”

“But you love her?”

Maglor flexed his hands and then curled them into fists. “I thought I did. But...”

“Well, what changed?”

An oath, and the theft of gems as bright as stars. He shook his head.

“If you were there, would you say you still loved her?”

He paused and searched for the answer. Twenty years ago he wouldn’t have had to, but twenty years ago he had never left. “Yes.”

“Good. So you love her. Does she love you?”

“I don’t know.”

“If she married you, she must. Even if you did disagree, that will always be there.” She smiled, then, somewhat slyly. “Besides, you could always sing for her. I can’t imagine that wouldn’t get her to forgive you.” Maglor didn’t know if he wanted to sob or laugh.

“My voice isn’t anything to yours,” he finally managed.

“Oh, well, no one’s is,” she said with casual arrogance, and her answer took him so by surprise that he burst out laughing. “Except, perhaps, Mother’s,” she hastily amended, and he only laughed harder. She let him laugh for a few moments longer, then wadded up her handkerchief and threw it at him.

“I’ll braid your hair into your bed frame if you don’t let up,” she said with some heat, and that made him start to laugh again, just as he’d almost stopped.

“Oh, but I believe I needed that,” he gasped when he finally regained control of himself. He picked up her handkerchief and offered it to her again, and she took it from him with wounded dignity that lasted until she had folded it and put it away.

“You can always practice what you’ll play now, to make it up. Play a song for me.” The question killed what remained of his mirth, but he picked up his harp anyway, and Lúthien danced under the trees between the bars of sunlight like a leaf on the wind, and flowers grew from her footsteps.

-

News of the ban reached them when they were abroad, and Maglor did not touch his harp for some days, and then sang one of the Sindarin songs that Lúthien had taught him. He tried as he did not to wonder how many family members his decision to follow his father would lose - mother, father, wife, and now a girl who wasn’t related at all but who had somehow made herself one of them nonetheless, sister more than cousin. He did not regret his decision, but he regretted its fruits.

Aredhel joined them and rode with them for some time, talking mainly with his brothers, for it was them more than he that she had ridden with before their exile. She looked both like and unlike Lúthien when she shook out her raven hair, but the two of them could not have been more different. A part of him was glad. Aredhel was a creature of sunlight, but Lúthien was one of the stars.

-

He’d almost killed Celegorm and Curufin. It was hard to even pinpoint why, whether because they’d had her and hadn’t told him, or had her and planned to keep her whether she willed or no. It shouldn't have mattered, it was long enough ago that he’d played for the bright-eyed girl, but she shouldn’t be in a cage. Even more, she should not have been let to go north.

-

And, impossibly, she took a Silmaril.

-

The King was killed, and Maedhros did not send aid against the dwarves - he said that they couldn’t defend any who kept a silmaril against them and said, correctly, that Thingol had never sent aid to the plea of the sons of Fëanor. It was fair. Maglor did not argue. He did ask that they wait in the fulfillment of their oath, and this was granted, and envoys were sent with demands for the jewel.

-

Fire climbed through Doriath, as fire had climbed through the stolen white ships. Maglor felt sick at the sight, and that was only made worse when he discovered the bodies of his brothers, next to an elf, or perhaps man, who could only have been the child of Lúthien. Children he had, Eluréd and Elurín and Elwing. Elwing had been given the Silmaril, but her brothers had done their family no wrong.

They’d been left in the woods to starve. The idea of that left him sicker yet, and oh so tired of this battle, which at the moment looked as though it could have no end.

-

Elwing still had the silmaril, and so to the Havens they went. They chased her to a cliff and there she stood, night-dark hair whipping around her face in the wind off the ocean and her white dress snapping around her legs as they stepped closer with their red swords drawn and dripping. She looked very like her grandmother, Maglor thought in despair as he closed in, but her eyes were full of terror instead of full of stars.

“Only give us the silmaril,” he shouted over the wind off the sea, but she darted back like a minnow, and then in sudden resolve leapt as though to make that the truth. And, Maglor wondered as his hand grasped at air and he stared at the space where she once had stood, was there ever any other way for this to end?