[After the passage of four years, the forsaken wilds of Beleriand]
Another day ended in the anonymous wildness much as it had begun - weary and wary and without joy. The Fearnorians and their small band of faithful followers and distant relations kept a few days journey ahead of Morgoth's ever increasing reach by being mobile, tarrying in no place long enough to draw suspicion or attention. They regularly harassed orcs and other foul creatures as they could, reducing their fetid horde a single member at a time some days. It was futile, it was folly, yet it was all they could do save surrender or flee south to the island of Balar. But the sons of Feanor would not think to submit to Gil-galad's rule, although he certainly was counted as kin.
In public appreciation of Fingon's heroic rescue, Maedhros had long ago pronounced the line of Fingolfin as the true rulers of the Noldor in Middle-earth, and himself had given up all claim to the throne. This secretly acknowledged the bonds of love which none but they knew existed, and openly respected Fingon's burning wish to heal the rifts between the heirs of Finwe. In doing, so he had willingly accepted in the name of the sons of Feanor the title Mandos the grim had sentenced as their doom - the Dispossessed.
Finarfin and his heirs were another issue altogether. The youngest son of Finwe had forsaken the Exile and returned to Valinor on bended knee, begging the forgiveness of the Valar for his transgressions against their divine will. Maedhros was not quick to forget the disloyalty of kin, no matter the reasoning. If he had ever believed the line of Fingolfin would pass to Mandos' care before the end of this age without leaving a single male heir, he would have reconsidered his sweeping renouncement of royal rights.
However the matter was no longer his to decide, and at the fall of Gondolin and its ruler the title of High King had passed to the line of Finwe's youngest son.
Despite this uncertain environment, the sons of Earendil grew with the speed of eagles' flight, as normally did the Adan children of their age. With increased height also came greater strength, and a more obvious distance in disposition. Elros had never accepted their fate as wards of the Feanorians, considering himself as much a prisoner this day as he had that very first. Elrond had come to a place of peace in his mind and his heart, knowing well that his parents would have wished above all else for their sons to be safe and together. Maglor himself considered them both his fosterlings, and treated the boys as sons, at least to the degree Elros grudgingly permitted.
For now far more than temperament separated the heirs of Arvernien. Their appearance, once indistinguishable, was now unmistakably unlike, beginning with the unceasing hardness in Elros' eyes. The elder twin had cut his hair shorter than any Firstborn would ever dare, barely above his shoulders, in the style of the Adan of Arvernien. Elrond wore his hair at full length, the front adorned with sweeping, loosely looped braids in the distinctive personal style Maglor himself preferred. Maglor often explained that there was poetry in all things, even an act so seemingly simple as the braiding of one's hair. Elrond regularly aided Maglor in tending to the many wounded, learning much of the ancient art of healing at the Noldor's side. Elrond grew to see no difference between Maglor and the Eldar elders whose company he had so raptly savored in Arvernien before its fall. Elros saw nothing but blood spilt and the loss of his family and his home. Whereas the younger twin clearly held the future within his keen grasp, the elder mired in his obsession with the past.
It was in this unquenchable spirit of hope for the future that Elrond sat at the edge of the cliffside where the band camped this night, staring out at the western sky, toward the Blessed Lands his father had sought. Each night he silently did the very same, no matter where they pitched their oft-mended tents, hoping for a sign that his father's famed voyage in search of the Lady's aid in the fight against Morgoth's evil had not been in vain. He had told no one of his childish obsession, but he suspected Maglor, who seemed to know him better than he understood himself, was quietly aware.
A blustery breeze blew across the naked rock face, sending a shiver rippling through the boy's body. He brought his knees closer to his chest and wrapped his dirt-stained cloak more tightly around his lanky frame, yet the chill of the air and the desperation of his soul prevented any chance of comfort. As Anar's rays faded into the sapphire hues of twilight, Elrond sighed forlornly, his eyes reluctantly relinquishing their vigilant study of the heavens. With closed eyelids, his head rolled forward toward his chest, the hopelessness of his day-to-day life - nay, existence - crushing him despite his innate optimism. Ignoring the soft rustle of footprints clearly audible behind him, Elrond silently prayed whoever had unwittingly invaded his vigil would not break the silence, as he was not in the mood for the frivolity of conversation, no matter how well intentioned.
A voice strikingly similar to his own gasped in obvious awe, then uttered in wonder, "What strange star is that?"
Elrond instantly opened his eyes, a gasp of his own flying from his lips as he caught the reason for his brother's amazement. A brilliant beacon was visible, low in the western sky, its light steadier than any star and several times as bright. "'Tis no star the Lady has ever made," he offered in a hushed tone, rising to his feet.
The Feanorians rushed to where the twins stood, their eyes also trained skyward in wonder at the celestial sign. "Surely that is a Silmaril that shineth in the sky," Maedhros spoke slowly, his voice nearly trembling in its joy.
Maglor studied the singular star in silence for a moment, then nodded in agreement. "If it verily be that Silmaril that we saw cast into the sea that riseth again under the power of the Gods, then let us be glad; for its glory is seen now by many, and is yet secure from all evil."
"The Silmaril? Then Mother survived, just as I have always known," Elros triumphantly trumpeted.
"'Tis Father's ship which bears the jewel," Elrond added quietly, his eyes wide with wonder and hope. "Mother said it would appear on the horizon as a brilliant shining beacon of white in the light of Ithil."
"Then the Valar themselves must have given it the power to sail the heavens," Elros replied smugly in his prideful awe. "We are the sons of the brightest of the Lady's stars."
A hand grasped Elrond's shoulder from behind, and the younger twin turned his head to catch Maglor's smiling expression, and said, "So my father has found the Blessed Land, and the favor of the Valar, just as he promised Mother."
Maglor's smile brightened further than the boy had ever seen. "So it would seem."
"Then we are not forsaken by the Lady and her kind! The army of Valinor will surely come and aid us in our war against the darkness!"
Maedhros stood rock still, his eyes trained at the steady celestial beacon. "I pray it may be so," he muttered through his grimly-set jaw.
The Feanorians and their charges watched in wonder for moments and moments, then a solitary voice rose in delicate, mournful song.
Our gems are gone, our jewels ravished;
and the Three, my Three, thrice-enchanted
globes of crystal by gleam undying
illumined, lit by living splendour
and all hues' essence, their eager flame -
Morgoth has them in his monstrous hold,
My Silmarils. I swear here oaths,
unbreakable bonds to bind me ever,
by Timbrenting and the timeless halls
of Bredhil the Blessed that abides thereon -
may she hear and heed - to hunt endlessly
unwearying unwavering through world and sea,
through leaguered lands, lonely mountains,
over fens and forest and the fearful snows,
till I find those fair ones, where the fate is hid
of the folk of Elfland and their fortune locked,
where alone now lies the light divine.
Elrond listened in sorrow and wonder to this most melancholy of songs. Of all those he had heard Maglor sing over the past few years, none was as haunting, nor as plaintive.
"What manner of melody do you sing?" he whispered reverently.
"'Tis part of my remembrances of all we Exiles have suffered - the 'Noldolante,' the Fall of the Noldor."
"'Tis a sad song, the saddest my ears have yet heard," Elrond offered. He stared at his father's brilliant ship hovering in the twilight sky, its magnificence growing even greater as the darkness spread over the landscape. "Perhaps there will be some happiness in the end, now that my father has risen up against the darkness with the Valar's aid."
Maglor peered west and tightly squeezed Elrond's shoulder. "I pray it will be so, Lanthirant. For your sake, not for mine."
In silence, a mere step behind, the forgotten twin observed the obvious affection pass between his brother and his kidnapper with a scowl of disapproval tinged with jealousy.
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