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LET THE SONGBIRD SING: 1. AT THE POOLS OF IVRIN
Maglor noticed how the air smelled of distant pine and fresh river water as he rode alongside Maedhros. Their horses kept a slow, languorous pace trotting through the foothills of the Ered Wethrin. They were traveling to the Pools of Ivrin where the River Narog began and where Fingolfin's great feast was to be held. But the second son of Fëanor was sad of heart and not in the mood for rejoicing.
He had only once spoken of his sorrow to his older brother, an unusual thing in itself because Maedhros had always been his closest friend and confidante. Maglor struggled with dreadful regret that weighed upon his conscience like a stone upon a spiderweb, and he felt just as downcast and low. He had felt the pressure of a steely hand gripping his heart as if trying to destroy it when he had witnessed the horrific death of his father. For many nights afterward he could not sleep for the turmoil in his mind. He felt the hopelessness of the oathtaking then, at that time of calamity, and he worried constantly about the doom that he sensed was to befall the remnant of his family. But he never before had spoken of that doom to Maedhros.
Maedhros, whom he and his other brothers used to call "Maitimo" or "Nelyo," noticed how glum Maglor had become on this trip, and spoke to him of his feelings. "Macalaure, I have not seen you smile since we began this journey," he remarked with concern, staring long at Maglor with deep green eyes expressing sadness. Worry for his brother showed in the lines on his face.
Maglor sighed and answered, "Nor will you. Would you have me smile, a sign that my heart is happy, when our father is so terribly, horribly dead? Can you imagine that the sight of his ruin would have any other effect on me, Nelyo? Not the least of my agonies is also the memory of the fell work that has been our most notorious accomplishment thus far – the slaying of our own kin!"
Maedhros and Maglor had not spoken to each other of their individual feelings about both the oathtaking and the kinslaying in the twenty years or so since Fëanor's death, but over Maedhros's imprisonment upon Thangorodrim and eventual rescue by their cousin they had shed many tears. It was obvious to all of the brothers that Maglor was not as committed to the oath they, and that he struggled with his conscience daily. Maedhros could see the pain in his brother's face. He could not answer that question, and he did not speak to Maglor about his gloomy appearance again for a long time.
As they rode toward the Pools among their contingent of warriors from Himlad, the brothers could see many other Elves also riding through the green valley. They could feel the unusual serenity that hung in the air of that region, a feeling different from that of their home in the colder regions of Middle-earth. And yet the calmness and beauty of their surroundings did nothing to improve Maglor's morose spirit.
Maedhros glanced his way as they rode into the area of the Pools, a look of worry permanently etched upon his fine features. Fingolfin had erected an elaborate encampment where the feast was to take place, and they traveled past several checkpoints and guides until they reached their destination. After they had arrived, dismounted and were on their way into their uncle's tent to greet him, Maedhros leaned over to say a few words into Maglor's ear. Maglor suddenly leaned away from his brother and pulled up the high collar of his black cloak up around his ears, rebuffing Maedhros in a gesture of irritation.
"Macalaure," advised Maedhros, speaking his brother's Quenya name in a low hiss. "Please try to gather your nerves at least and try to enjoy yourself while we are here. For too long you have been in this despairing mood. Now it is time to let your emotions settle, fraternize with our kinsmen, and try to assimilate some joy if you can."
Maglor gave a look of warning and stalked silently into Fingolfin's tent beside Maedhros. He forced himself to make pleasantries and small talk with his relatives. It had been a long time since Maedhros and Fingon, once best of friends, had seen each other and after a greeting of broad grins and delighted hugs, the two walked off together. Maglor excused himself and went outside after exchanging a few words with Fingolfin, who told him that he hoped his nephew would grace the gathering later on with a song in his famously rich and far-carrying voice. The minstrel mumbled a few words of reluctant agreement and left the tent.
His mood was dark, but he wished to shake it. He did not desire to lower the mood of anyone else he chanced to meet, and so he decided to walk to the water's edge in hope of having his spirits lifted by the soothing crystal waves of this lovely place. He bent down to pick up a long, sturdy branch that had fallen on the ground to use as a walking stick. As he moved slowly along, winding his way through green pathways between pools until he came to a waterfall, he inhaled deeply of the fragrant air infused with the mist that arose from the falls, and relished the sound of the gently falling water that drowned out all other noise. He sat down upon a rock by the water's edge and drew imaginary musical scales on the ground with the stick. Soon he became lost in devising a tune that matched the lilt and cadence of the falling water, and before long he was humming and composing, oblivious to all else around him.
At length, after Maglor had been immersed in his musical exercise for some time, he was joined by another Elf who had wandered up behind him unnoticed and stood still without interrupting the Noldorin minstrel as he sang and composed his song. This strange Elf stood listening intently to Maglor's melody and watched him draw his notes and scales on the ground. And then he began to sing also, in his own language.
Maglor's voice was a deep, rich baritone that, when he wished to sing at full volume, would easily carry over the soft, rustling sound of the falls to be heard clearly over the entire lands of Mithrim. But this new Elf possessed a voice of such melodic sweetness, clear tone and hypnotic quality, that it caused all those who heard it to stop what they were doing and stand still to listen, transfixed. The two Elves thus sang a duet together for a brief moment, their two distinct voices mingling perfectly, one deep and resonating, the other high, melodic and exquisitely clear.
Startled out of his deep concentration, Maglor turned around suddenly and beheld his visitor. It was a Sindarin Elf, he could see, grey-cloaked and simply dressed in tight-fitting clothing. He was smaller in stature, with fine, light-brown hair blowing in the breeze and large, sad-looking eyes. "Forgive me," said Maglor, stuttering in his surprise. "I – I was lost for a moment." The stranger smiled then with a puzzled look, and Maglor beheld his youthful face, almost girlish in its wide-eyed sweetness. "Your voice is breathtaking," the Noldo continued. "Quite unlike anything I have ever heard."
This Elf spoke a different language, yet Maglor could understand it partially if he concentrated hard on the words. He repeated some of them to the Sinda, mixed with his own Quenya. The Sinda looked a little puzzled, but struggled to understand what Maglor said. Together they persisted long at trying to learn each other's language until Maglor at last had learned enough of the Sindarin structure for them to converse more easily.
"Your voice has a unique quality," said the Sinda. "And I confess that I was intrigued as I stood here watching you compose. Your work is quick and concise. Its simplicity is deceiving. The song contains a haunting melody of an intoxicating sadness. I detected that the underlying melancholy runs deeper than the ordinary listener would discern."
"You are very astute. Do you also compose music?" asked Maglor.
"Yes. Please forgive me. My name is Daeron. I am minstrel to King Thingol of Doriath and also one of his loremasters." Daeron then held out his hand and Maglor stood and grasped it.
"Daeron! Word has reached me of your musical skills, and your fame in devising the Cirth is well known in Himlad. I am Maglor, son of –" and he stopped abruptly, his gaze faltering, as he knew not how to continue.
"I would have guessed your name, for your fame as a singer and composer has also reached Doriath," said Daeron. "Do not worry," he added as he noticed Maglor's discomfort. "I do not concern myself with matters of war. A warrior I am not, and have no interest in fighting. My concern is with music foremost, and also lore and history among my own people. I do not wish to involve myself in past conflicts. Is it not the aim of this gathering to establish friendly relations among all the people of Beleriand?"
"You are wise as well as skilled," remarked Maglor as he let Daeron's hand drop finally. "Do you travel here alone or have you a companion?"
"Yes, I have come with Mablung, who is one of the marchwardens of our realm. Now HE is a warrior, and quite a fierce one when he wants to be," Daeron said, and he laughed.
"I see," said Maglor, looking at Daeron curiously. He could detect that there was something fey about the Sindarin minstrel, and it strangely intrigued him. "Are you close to him?"
Daeron looked startled by Maglor's bluntness, immediately discerning his meaning. "No. My interests of the heart lie elsewhere, as do his," he said with seriousness. "Alas. No. My own romantic desire is unlikely to be realized, as the one I love is unreachable."
Maglor's curiosity was further piqued by this strange minstrel with the fey appearance, but he abruptly changed the subject, not wishing to cause Daeron any distress. "Would you like to finish composing this song with me?" he asked. "Then when it is complete I was thinking that we could sing it together at the feast this evening. Uncle Nolofin- er – Fingolfin has asked me to sing tonight, but I think it would be a sign of our peoples' new and friendly cohabitation if you and I were to do it together."
"It would be my great pleasure," replied Daeron, beaming radiantly. "To compose and then sing a duet with the great Maglor of the house of Fëanor is a dream beyond the reaches of my imagination."
Maglor stared hard at Daeron once more, intrigued by his appearance of obsequiousness, yet he was sure that was not Daeron's meaning. But as the two Elves sat together and composed both music and lyrics for their song, Maglor's spirits began to lift. He felt as if a heavy cloak were removed from his shoulders, or as if he were emerging from beneath the oppression of a bleak winter into the fresh warm sunshine of a green spring.
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