For TreeFriend and Baranduin for their birthdays. Beta by RiverOtter.
Maglor stood upon the hillside looking down on the distant quays of Mithlond, watching the swanship fill. Most of those who went aboard were Elves he did not know, tall and fair as morning; but two of the figures he saw were quite small. Halflings--Periain--Hobbits, they called themselves. He watched them with wonder, that two mortals might be allowed to enter the bliss of the Undying Lands.
It had been Elrond, lapped about by the blue glow of the ring he wore, washed clean by the elements of Ulmo, who’d stood by the first, smaller figure as the small creature had crossed the gangplank. Elrond--who had been one of the sons of his heart! Elrond, whose knees he had bandaged when he’d fallen and skinned them. Whose fingers he’d guided as he’d learned to play the harp. Whose hands he’d instructed as he learned to wield a sword. Whose heart he had broken when he and Maedhros returned the two sons of Eärendil and Elwing to the keeping of Ereinion Gil-galad. The reports of whose wisdom and courage and humility and skill he’d prided himself upon for more than two ages of the Sun!
And Elrond had taken one of these remarkable ones into his own home--had succored and nurtured him, accepted this one’s poetry and wisdom and humor with delight, or so word had it. Maglor smiled sadly.
He should have been there to see the joy of the day Elrond took his bride, and on the days he saw his children born into this world. He should have stood by his fosterling’s side when he bade his brother farewell beyond the boundaries of Arda, or when he brought his beloved aboard the grey ship that bore her, it was to be hoped, to healing in Aman. He should have been by him when he fostered others as he himself had been fostered. He should have heard the child Arwen’s first song and seen her first begin to dance. He should have seen the twins learn to use bow and sword and knife; he should have taught them their first songs; he should have ridden at their shoulders to seek vengeance on those creatures who’d taken and so wounded their mother!
And here he was, today, standing upon a hillside, without the courage to stand as did those three small ones upon the wharf, weeping without shame as they watched two they loved part from them forever!
It was the Istar who led the other Hobbit aboard, white robes glowing golden red in the sunset, the sunset refracted through the great gem of the Ring he now wore openly upon his hand, as if a great red flame shone about him not in destruction and consumption but in warmth and guarding, inspiring the faltering heart of his wounded companion to keep beating. A very few times Maglor had encountered the Grey Pilgrim, and ever he’d felt wary, recognizing Olórin in the old Man’s seeming and fearful of further threat of punishment from the Powers to be uttered against him. But instead Olórin had been gentle, compassionate in his speech and actions, throwing the Elf out of his reckoning.
Now the Ringbearer approached the great white figure of Artanis as she stood upon the deck of the ship, and she took his hand to lead him to the aft rail. Artanis--his cousin, clad as ever in white, pure and shining as the light of the Ring upon her hand, ilmun almost dripping from her as it had so long ago, in the time of his youth, from the boughs of Telperion. She’d never trusted his father and had been cautious in her dealings with the sons of Fëanor and Nerdanel. But she’d listened as enraptured as any other when Macalaurë had sung before the hosts of Aman and the faces of the Valar, and had smiled on him in pride when he’d taken the laurels, he yet little more than a child!
And then there was the Ringbearer himself. He wore no ring now, for that he’d borne had been taken from him by violence. No realm had he carved from the lands of Middle Earth, although none would stand now if it had not been for him. The golden Ring he’d carried had left Its mark upon him; the dark fires that had directed Its forging had locked his fëa within a sphere of ice, left white scars of Its burning upon his breast, encircling his heart. Even now those dark flames still almost froze him.
Both fire and ice can burn one, he thought, looking down at the small figure standing so straight and tall, surrounded by so many who rose above him, yet so very alone and seeming to tower over all the rest.
“To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone,” he heard in his heart, and knew with a thrill of shock that Galadriel Artanis was aware he watched, and even now wished good things for him.
Good things? And what good things could come to him? He was accursed, still bound to Ennor by a vow he could not fulfill, a vow he ought never to have joined in to begin with, a vow that had led him to betray too many of his own people to their deaths and Námo’s halls, a vow that had cost him wife and child and home and eventually his parents and brothers as well, a vow that had set him apart even as Aulendil’s artifice had done the same by the small one who stood by his cousin.
He drew out his harp without even realizing it, swiftly tuned it. A soft east wind played about the stays of the ship and the Ringbearer was looking up as if in recognition to listen. The ropes were being cast off, and the ship was being drawn away by the tide.
Maglor began to play, a few notes, and then more. He had not the facility he’d known before his hand was burned by the Silmaril he’d given to the Sea, but still there was power there, there in his song. His music strengthened as he wove air into the tune, and the wind blew the stronger about the lines and the sheets even now being shaken out. He added into his song the rhythms of the sea, and the waves slapped against the ship’s bow, a song of peace and promise. The Ringbearer for a moment closed his eyes and briefly a smile touched his lips, and Maglor realized he heard it! That small one heard his song, and was gladdened by it! He played more strongly, hoping to give that one strength to bear the separation from those who stood upon the quay, weeping that he must go from them. And for a moment the blue flame that encircled his beloved Elrond flared, and he paused in the act of going below decks as he, too, turned to listen to this last farewell to Middle Earth, and Maglor rejoiced that his fosterling heard this last lullaby from the one who’d loved him as a small child.
The Ringbearer thrust his hand within his garments, and he brought out something, kissed it gently, blessing it, then held it up, a reassurance to his friends, a benediction upon the one who played his harp upon the hillside.
Maglor did not falter in his playing, but now he wept as he played, for this one carried away with him the Light of the Silmarils, back to Aman.
How now could he ever fulfill that foul oath?