Here is how it starts. A man gives his wife his favourite books for her first birthday after their marriage. Those first few years are very busy and so it is only three years later that she finds the time to read the books. She is pregnant, you see. Their first child sucking her fingers inside, while her mother reads Tolkien. As she reads, the baby reads with her and twenty five years later, she sits in a cafe writing about her mother and Tolkien, the stories that really started a love for fantasy.
Reading Anandita’s story, I remember my father and my mother and how their love for books slipped into me. I think of Tolkien, so in love with language, that he created worlds from words. Then I think of Anandita, who writes this fanfiction for Silmarillion, using language, playing with it, in a way that would make Tolkien proud. I think of her sentences – how each word fits with the next, crafted the way a dwarf crafts a hammer – carefully and with love. I hope you read it with the same carefulness. I hope you find the same fierceness and love. I hope you learn from Tolkien and Anandita what it is to fall in love with a language, the words it whispers and the worlds it creates.The Fanfiction finder
“Aren’t you cold, Macalaurë?”
A voice in lilting Quenya, that he had not heard in Ages. A voice from the past, that’s what it was. And a second chance, he hoped against all reason. He drew his spirit from the fog of his memories, and woke up with a start.
The elf peering down at him startled at the sudden movement, pressing their hand over their heart, the blue-green-grey of their eyes widening comically. Not that they had any right to, not when Maglor’s breath had been knocked from his lungs at the sight of a Maia, with a blindingly golden mane and stunning features, soft and sharp in androgynous perfection.
“Who are you?” he demanded, at once regretting the fact that he had cast away his weapons for good in trying to repent for his sins.
“Me?” The Maia blinked owlishly at him, “Don’t you remember?”
“What? No! I’m Laurefindil! Of Gondolin?”
Maglor ran a hand through his hair, looking him and down groggily, mentally running through the list of all the blondes he knew in Aman and Arda, “Ah, you must be the one who died because you didn’t tie your hair up.”
He rolled his eyes, looking less pleased at being reminded of his fiery death, but nodded nevertheless, “Whatever aids your memory.”
Somewhere farther away from the cave that Maglor used as his night-time dwelling, someone called out impatiently, “Glorfindel! What’s taking you so long?”
Maglor cocked his head in the direction of the voice, and Glorfindel waved it off casually. “That’s just Erestor, he’s too pressed about schedules.”
“That’s well and good,” Maglor tried very diplomatically, if not for the sand in his mouth that made it very hard to speak without coughing, “But what brings you and this Erestor here?”
“We are sailing, to Aman.”
He nodded stiffly, feeling the familiar sting in his heart as he recalled the Doom, his past, and everything of choices he had made. The self-hatred came in waves but the loathing that hit him as his once-home was spoken of was really something else.
“Have a pleasant journey then.” he managed.
With a smile on his face that was eerily polite, he reached for Maglor’s hand, “You’re coming with us.”
“No, I’m not?”
“Yes, you are.”
With a fluid movement and still that infuriatingly cheerful smile, Glorfindel tugged at his arm and pulled him to his feet. “My companions don’t enjoy waiting, so grab your things quickly,”
He took a cursory look around the cave that contained absolutely nothing but a tortoiseshell lyre and a worn-out cloak; making the ancient Fëanorian feel embarrassed about his modest dwelling.
But despite the unnerving blue of Glorfindel’s eyes on his prized possessions, Maglor crossed his arms over his chest and stood his ground resolutely. “I am not going anywhere.”
So swiftly that Maglor was tempted to follow him only so that he could debunk this very obvious lie that Glorfindel was just an ordinary reborn elf and not a Maia of great power, the blonde grabbed the lyre and swaddled it loosely in the cloak, tugging impatiently at Maglor’s hand just as Elrond and Elros had Ages ago, insisting for playtime after their music lessons.
“Listen, I’m travelling with one dramatic King who barely made it this far, Erestor who will start howling any moment now, and Lord Celeborn, your dear cousin Artanis’ husband,” he drew in a breath, oblivious to the chill that racked through Maglor’s lean frame at the mention of Lady Galadriel, and continued with his tirade, “She will end you and me if we deliver him even a second late, so you’d better hurry up.”
All Maglor saw was red, that and his precious lyre in the grip of this insanely graceful elf. The same lyre of tortoise-shell that was his most prized possession, the one that he had procured by scamming a fisherman into believing that a particularly shiny crystal was the lesser-known fourth Silmaril. Unthinkingly, Maglor leapt at him in wild fury, making Glorfindel yelp in surprise as he tried to step away unsuccessfully.
“What are you doing?” he yelled, flailing wildly before Maglor wrestled him down into the sand, trying to grab his lyre with a ferocity that he had not felt in Ages.
His mouth full of sand (a feeling Maglor would never get used to despite its daily occurrence) and his grey eyes burning with rage, the Fëanorian growled, “I will not be carted off into a ship by a stranger against my will!”
Two hours later, Maglor found himself carted off into said ship by that very stranger.
He sat upon the deck to dry his hair that was drenched in all the seawater he had kicked up trying to run away. Beside him was Glorfindel, lounging cross-legged with his eyes closed as he basked in the sunlight of a delightfully warm afternoon.
It was unfair, Maglor felt, that despite both being High Elves who had been brawling in the sand for about ten minutes before being separated and tossed into the ship, Glorfindel could look very much the divine vision from when he had very rudely roused the Fëanorian while he was resigned to the stray-cat-caught-in-the-rain look.
“Is it that you don’t want to go yourself that you’ve brought me along?” Maglor grumbled, fidgeting with the robes loaned to him by Erestor.
“I want to go,” Glorfindel hummed, “And I want you to come with me.”
“Why is that?”
Glorfindel cracked one eye open, the impossible blue matching the hue of the cloudless sky, and offered him a crooked smile, “If I said that the Valar have willed it so and that I am nothing but their humble servant, would you believe me?”
Maglor scoffed, “As if they’d send some flower boy to escort me to eternal damnation.”
The remark was pointedly ignored by Glorfindel who sighed to himself, “Aren’t you weary of Arda? There’s nobody left for you on This Side, is there?”
“As if there’s anything but a mob waiting to stone me to death on the Other Side,”
Glorfindel stared at him in silence, the faint mirth bleeding into the disbelief etched upon his ethereal features, “You truly have no idea.”
“What of?” he demanded, pressing his nails into the soft flesh of his palm as if that would hold the flare of hope from making its way to his heart, to break his walls, and let the grief flood through.
“See for yourself,” He rose to his feet, the youthfulness of his smiling face fading to reveal the wisdom that said little and hid too much. “Look ahead.” Glorfindel walked past Maglor in long strides, brightening as he caught the eye of his dear friend, Thranduil who watched them warily from the cabin.
“Don’t speak to me in riddles, Laurefindil!” Maglor called out, knowing that his words would fall on deaf ears.
“This is too easy,” Maglor muttered to himself, stormy eyes fixed upon the land from where they had set sail, just a pinprick beyond the infinite span of azure that was the ocean. The evening had set in after yet another glorious day of no shipwrecks, storms, or circling ravens; the skies were clear, a hint of purple bleeding through the yellow and orange, the light of the sun peeking from beyond the pale pink of cotton-candy clouds, and the only bird of prey was a lone seagull that witnessed his ruminations in companionable silence.
It made no sense whatsoever, not how languidly the ship was floating over the waves, or the way that Maglor still stood in one piece, feet planted firmly upon the surface, not having been struck by lightning even once. The fact that that the Vala of Death, Námo himself had not announced his presence to warn them of what doom would befall if Maglor set foot upon the Blessed Lands was in itself a concerning miracle.
Ages ago, when the sun could neither rise nor set when the world had been clouded in eternal darkness, was when Maglor had left those Blessed Lands. There had been no hope of return, much less the will to, with the Doom upon him and his brothers and the oaths they had taken, determined to spend their lives chasing after the brightest of jewels, not knowing it was their lives that would be snuffed to darkness.
All he remembered of the day was the smell of smoke, the crazed glow in his father’s eyes, Maedhros’ stony silence as he gazed past the horizon, Ambarussa’s whispers as they asked after Naneth. They had left so many for dead, that day, so many that he had grown up with, then in the coming weeks, almost lost Amrod, then their father to Morgoth, and by the end of the Age, Maglor had lost count.
Some part of him was convinced that the only way across for him was freezing through the nightmare of Helcaraxë, where he had left his kin to die. There was nothing of a challenge this way, no test to prove that he deserved to find his way home, to heal and melt into his mother’s embrace, his childhood home, lay the ghosts haunting him to rest.
The sun was setting behind him, though Maglor didn’t care to look, each dawn that he rose to see, each passing day revealed the undeniable unbelievable fact that he was alive, that he, Maglor Fëanorian, doomed to have Valinor fenced against him, was sailing past that ocean he had crossed in rebellion to return home.
“It cannot end like this,” Maglor said with gritted teeth, fingers clenched into a fist that shook with fear, rather than fury.
“Did you say something?”
Again, it was Glorfindel who materialized by his; it didn’t startle Maglor anymore, not the jewel-bright eyes that made even the Silmarils seem like mere pebbles, nor the blinding smile he cast effortlessly, appearing like the sun at dawn even when night had fallen.
“Not to you,” Maglor muttered, glancing at him momentarily, Glorfindel who stood with his face to the setting sun, shoulders bumping against his without a care in the world.
“Who then? Are you truly so lost in the madness of grief as the stories say, Macalaurë, that you would converse with a bird?”
Then, to Maglor’s amusement, he reached a hand out to the bird that readily hopped upon his palm and stroked its little head idly. “What do you think? Has he gone insane?” he murmured to the bird, though his eyes never left Maglor’s face.
“Tell me something, Laurefindil,” Maglor spoke, his throat raw as if he had not spoken in a thousand years. “Why did you come looking for me?”
“I never meant to.”
He didn’t believe him, of course, that Glorfindel could have found Maglor wandering by the sea when countless others had set out searching and failed was impossible; but then why would he have wanted to look for him anyway?
“What reason have you to show me such kindness?”
“Have I, really? Shown you kindness?” he was laughing at Maglor, but even in that he was unbearably kind.
“You know, If I had ever let reason guide me,” Glorfindel’s eyes gleamed with mirth, “I would have neither died the first time nor lived the second.”
“You are kind to me, kinder than most people have been in a long time.” Maglor interrupted, “What do you want of me?”
“I want to be kind to you,” He said so simply, “Because I think you deserve it.”
Maglor shook his head, “You cannot fathom the shadow of death that follows, nor the blood on my hands, or what fate has befallen me.”
“Trust me, I can. Even I’ve heard the stories.”
“A long time has passed, don’t you think? When the life that you once lived becomes a story that has been told and retold?”
Maglor’s turned to look into the sea in his eyes, so great and vast that the boat they stood upon, the terribly long lives that they had lived, all melted to nothing at all.
“Would you believe me, Macalaurë, if I said that you’ve been forgotten in Arda?” he breathed out, “There is not a soul left behind who remembers your father’s name, or your brothers’ deeds, or the blood on your hands.
“What sins will you atone for then? Whose laments will you sing? There is nobody left on This Side of the Sea who will forgive you but yourself.”
Merely hours before sighting the shore, the ship was bursting with a nauseating melancholy. Out of the five of them, it appeared that only Glorfindel and Celeborn had made their peace with letting go and crossing over, of stepping forth across the threshold to their new lives. There was Erestor, who had never wanted to come in the first place, gripped by a fear of what awaited him on the Other Side; and Thranduil, who had left his heart buried among the roots of the great trees of Greenwood, to plant his feet in the soil of Aman.
And here was Maglor, who felt that he could live to his heart’s content on the little ship, an untraceable dot in the middle of nowhere, neither here nor there. He stood with his back to the West, staring ahead at the sun that had begun its fiery ascent into the overcast sky, the birds that appeared like shadows as they cawed and screeched, somersaulting somewhere far among the clouds.
“Aiya, do you plan to brood for the rest of eternity?” Glorfindel remarked much to Maglor’s annoyance, having crossed over from the cabin to the deck.
They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, Glorfindel facing the west, staring down at the waves that had been painted scarlet in the light of the rising sun and Maglor looking at the sun, the east, eyes still searching for the trace of Arda that had long since disappeared.
“Won’t you let me have a single moment to myself?” Maglor grumbled, “You’ve dragged me halfway to the one place that I don’t want to return to, and you won’t even leave me alone to think things through.”
“You’re lying,” Glorfindel laughed out loud, shaking his head.
“If you truly despised even the thought of returning to Aman, half as much as you claim to, you wouldn’t have boarded this ship in the first place.”
Maglor rolled his eyes, “You of all people should know I didn’t come by choice.”
The smile he was offered was shrouded in enigma, making Maglor’s heart catch in his throat for the fraction of a second, something telling him that Glorfindel would finally reveal the cards he had kept so close to his chest all this while.
“I don’t believe that in the slightest,” he began, index finger tapping idly at his chin, “I know, Maglor Fëanorian, that you want to return. It was not I who dragged you all the way, it was your hope. You want to return to what had been because you haven’t lost the hope in what might be.”
Maglor shoved him away roughly, “Don’t pretend like you know anything about me.”
Glorfindel bowed his head, taking the hit soundlessly as he stepped back for a moment as if to pacify his rage, then raised his eyes, timeless and golden, to meet Maglor’s gaze once again.
“You’re weary, Macalaurë, I know you are.”
He reached for Maglor, in a movement that had the other flinch. The warmth of his palm, his dancing fingers, the way the pad of his thumb brushed so tenderly over Maglor’s cheekbone, it was too much, it had been too long; he drew in a shuddering breath, feeling himself melt into the touch, shutting his eyes to the world.
“It’s so heavy,” he murmured, feeling the tears, the way that they burnt. “The weight of everything.”
“Won’t you let it go?”
“There is so much blood on my hands, it,” he choked out a strangled sob, “It burns. I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.”
He felt a hand reach for him, fingers that slotted effortlessly through his, cradle it as if he, a Kinslayer, was something so fragile, so precious.
“Where will I go? On both This Side and the Other, I am what I am,” he bit his lip, “A Kinslayer, a wanderer. There is no home left for me. It is the weight of my deeds that I cannot cast away, it will hold me back for the rest of eternity.”
“No Macalaurë, it is you. Only you can make that choice, you can hold onto your deeds, you can cast them away. No shadow of death follows you; no dark fate has befallen you; it is only you, your guilt and your sorrow, that have held you back.”
Glorfindel willed his eyes open, “The past has been gone a long time now. Don’t let yourself be blinded by it.
“It is home that awaits you, Macalaurë. Won’t you let yourself reach for the hope when it is right within your grasp?”
“What would you have me reach for? What is left for me to look at?” he demanded. The vision reflected in the luminescence of Glorfindel’s irises was of a man crazed with desperation, eyes of silver fog, sharpness and sorrow.
He felt the hand trail down to rest upon his shoulders, “See for yourself. Look ahead.”
And for once, Maglor stared right ahead. Through the glare of the sun, at the mirage of the land that had emerged from what had been nothing but the infinite sea. Through his tears, the world was a kaleidoscope, a melting pot of gold into which the purple and orange and blue of the clouds bled; he could not stop staring.
At the sky, at the six shadows that had all been coloured gold in, at the faces from his memories, with Naneth’s infectious grin and his Adar’s shining eyes. They were far away, still so far away, and yet Maglor could see the stormy grey of Maedhros’ eyes, the tip of Celegorm’s arm as he waved right at him, Carathir’s flushed face hidden in the crook of his elbow as tears gushed down, the grin that Curufin was trying so desperately to hide, and Ambarussa with their fiery hair.
For once, he let himself watch. Blind to everything but joy.
Glossary (via The One Wiki to Rule Them All)
Aman (Valinor, The Blessed Land): Aman (Quenya; “blessed realm”) was a continent that lay west of Middle-earth, across the great ocean Belegaer
Arda: The world in which all peoples of Middle-earth and of Valinor lived. (For the purpose of this work, Arda symbolises Middle-earth specifically, to differentiate it from Aman)
Artanis (Quenya): The father-given name of Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien, meaning ‘Noble Woman’
Eärendil: The half-elven son of Idril Celebrindal and Tuor of Gondolin, father of Elrond and Elros, carried a star across the sky
Fëanorian: Meaning ‘son of Feanor’ refers to the seven sons of Fëanor and Nerdanel: Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, and Amrod and Amras (referred to as Ambarussa)
Laurefindil (Quenya): Meaning ‘Golden-Haired’; an elf from Gondolin who died killing a Balrog and was reembodied
Maia (singular Maia): Primordial spirits created to help the Valar first shape the World. They were numerous, though not many were named. Their chiefs were Eönwë and Ilmarë.
Macalaurë (Quenya): The mother-given name of Maglor meaning ‘Gold-Cleaver’; Maglor is a Sindarian form of Macalaurë
Námo (also known as Mandos): A Vala who was responsible for the judgement of the Spirits (or Fëa) of all Elven dead; known to the Elves as Mandos after his sacred Halls of Mandos, over which he presided, and where Elves would go when slain.
Silmaril: Gems crafted by Fëanor from some essence of the Two Trees of Valinor, Laurelin and Telperion, before the First Age. They were objects that resulted in the wars that ended the First Age.
The Doom (of the Noldor): Also called the Doom of Mandos, it is the judgement of the Valar pronounced on the Elves that carried out the Kinslaying.
The Oath (of Fëanor): An oath taken by Fëanor and his seven sons to non-negotiable enmity against any person who would take a Silmaril or keep it from them, early in the First Age.
Valar (singular Vala): The Powers of Arda who shaped and ruled the world. They lived on the Western continent of Aman.