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Mandos and its endless halls... Maglor shuddered as he and his mother followed the solemn black liveried Maia through an arch that opened into a tall, long gallery where slender pillars separated chambers of white and black stone, upon the walls of which tapestries were displayed.
Nerdanel had been summoned hence twice before, returning to their home grieving anew, to tell him that first his father, and then his oath-sworn brothers, Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir, had been slain in Middle-earth, and were doomed to the Halls of Waiting until such time that Arda should die and be remade.
But this time, the summons came not only for Nerdanel, but also for him. Why me? And so they traveled to the Halls of Mandos; not to the Halls of Waiting, for only the dead dwelt there, but to where Lady Vairë and her handmaidens lived and worked, weaving, according to ancient stories and song, the history of Arda and all who lived into the intertwined threads of tapestries.
The chamber to which the Maia escorted them was octagonal in shape with elegant black benches set slightly away from the walls. She bade them be seated, and vanished, walking away and fading away into invisibility as she passed through the archway opposite the one through which they’d come.
He sat, as bid, next to his white-faced mother, and silently stared at the tapestry that hung directly across from them. The tiny figures of elves and men it depicted were fighting, but he didn’t recognize the city in the background at all. Curiosity stirred within him and he got to his feet and moved to stand before it.
A river woven of silver and blue threads poured into the sea, and the walls of the Haven were stained with blood. Bodies lay on the streets and fell through open doorways, each tragic, tiny figure clear and detailed. His eyes were drawn to a tall tower, at the base of which a tall, red-haired elf knelt by a pair of bodies that reminded him of his youngest brothers, and a pair of small, dark-haired boys lay slain by their side in the shadow of an overturned cart.
His blood ran cold, and he swayed on his feet as he remembered that Vairë’s loom wove the things that had actually been. In his heart, he knew as a surety that Amrod and Amras were now in Valinor; close but yet unreachable in the Halls of Waiting.
Grief welled up within him, worse than any he’d felt in his life.Maedhros is alone now… truly alone. And so am I. Even though he had not taken part in the Rebellion, and had even tried, at his mother’s request, to persuade his brothers to stay, he was still Fëanor’s son, and while the folk of Tirion would ask him to play and sing for their festivals and feasts, because of the long memory of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, none were willing to name him friend.
He dimly perceived the arrival of another into the room, but could not bring himself to turn away from the weaving. Silent tears ran down his cheeks as he reached out, his fingertips brushing the threads that were his siblings. I haven’t seen you since you swore Father’s oath, and set off, but at least I had the comfort of knowing you were somewhere over there, even though you were doomed to never again set foot in Aman. Now—-
“Maglor, son of Fëanor.”
The woman’s voice by his left ear made him start and he jerked his hand back from the weaving, and a loose bit of silver thread from Maedhros’ bloody sword snagged on his harp-calloused fingertip, and pulled out, dangling, glittering in the muted light of the chamber.
Guiltily, he whirled about, his face flushed with embarrassment as he realized that he faced Lady Vairë. He dropped to his knees before her, looking down at the embroidered hem of her gown. “I’m--I’m sorry,” he stammered.
“Come.” Her hand reached out to raise him up. “Walk with me.”
Obediently he did so, and discovered that Nerdanel no longer sat on the bench and he was alone with the Valië.
Vairë drew him to the first of the room’s six tapestries. He somehow wasn’t surprised to see that the first was a depiction of that day in the square before Finwë’s House in Tirion, where his father had been rousing the Noldor to forsake Valinor and return to Middle-earth to wrest the Silmarils back from Morgoth. There they were, standing about the fountain, their swords drawn and raised. The six of them looked beautiful and breathtaking in the torchlight as in his memory they repeated the Oath that their father had sworn. The oath he had not taken. He scanned the images of the crowd and found himself, turned away from them, following his heart and not the terrible charisma and persuasion of Fëanor.
In the weaving, he held not a sword, but his mithril-stringed harp, and Maglor found himself staring at one of the harp strings that had broken and dangled loosely from the cloth.
“Lady, what would have happened if I had--“ He swallowed hard, and let his gaze travel around the room, seeing in the other tapestries the dreadful actions of his kin, in Alqualondë, on a shore with burning ships, on broad plains beneath towering mountains, in palatial underground chambers, and again back to that last tapestry showing the grieving Maedhros amid the bloody aftermath of another Kinslaying.
As he looked back at the serene Weaver, Maglor asked, “What would have happened if I had sworn the Oath and gone with my father? Could I have made a difference, so that,“ he jerked his dark head towards the final scene, “wouldn’t have happened as it did?”
“The threads of our decisions travel onward,” Vairë told him, “and the slightest tug on them, as choices are made, twist them from one possible path to another. It is given to me to grant thee a boon. Thou’rt granted the right to change one single action or event in your life—-but there is no returning to what was before.”
“I wish....” Maglor bit off the words, and looked away, only to be caught up in the sorrowful tale that the tapestries told. He shook his head sharply and looked back to Vairë.
“Tell me thy wish, Son of Fëanor.” Vairë said.
He looked a final time at the image of the last of his brothers, and, despite knowing that he would be leaving his mother behind, reached for the broken harp string. “I wish....”
As he spoke his desire, he tugged hard on the thread and watched as first the harp, then he, himself, unraveled.
* * * * *
He dropped his sword and went to his knees by the corpses, reaching out to touch their still, blood spattered faces. “This is not what I wished for,” he whispered to himself. “This wasn’t supposed to happen!”
“We grieve later,” Maedhros said roughly. “Eärendil could return at any time, seeking to avenge his family. Have whoever is left in our service to bring them and we’ll bury them away from this place.” He turned away, still clenching his blood-stained sword in his left hand, to stare out at the foam crested waves of the Sea.
Maglor swallowed hard as a memory of an unraveling tapestry rose up in his mind’s eye--Amrod and Amras, laid exactly as they were now, next to the other bodies, the children--the children!
He looked up suddenly, from where he knelt, and met the terrified grey gazes of two small, dark-haired boys clad in the colors of Eärendil’s House, who huddled beneath the shelter of the overturned cart.
A/N: Inspired by the B2MeM challenge for the Doors of Night: Challenge: Your character has a chance to change a single event in his or her past, but doing such will forever alter the future. What will your character choose? What would they change, if anything? And how do you think his or her future would change?
A painting by Lyra showing a scene from this story can be found at http://pics.livejournal.com/oloriel/pic/0008zhk5
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