Firstly, this is Silmarillion-based, therefore Middle-Earth history knowledge handy.
There'll be a bigger one when the story's through - in the meantime, I must only give you one very important pointer.
Read the story with this in mind - would there have been a story if Alqualonde wasn't destroyed?
The thing he knew would haunt him all his days was the smell of it all.
Once there was pride shining in the towers of the port-city of Alqualonde, once there was pure white in its water and light in the eyes of its people, once it stretched across the coastline reaching for the stars. Once there was glory in Alqualonde, and the laughter of children and songs of the joyful.
Once there were dreams in Alqualonde, once, before the Kinslaying.
Now on the blackened and darkened, shattered and silent Alqualonde, Maglor the storyteller, son of Feanor the creator of the Silmarils and destroyer of the Swanhaven, stood and tried to breathe.
It came with an effort; easier when he closed his eyes and willed himself blinded, deaf, unaware. The air was hot with the remnants of fire, and smoke trailed lazily from white ships crafted with love. It burned his throat and brought tears to his eyes.
He blinked the tears away and looked across the sacked city with a clear gaze.
There was nothing to be seen but ruins, nothing but the ruins of Alqualonde, visible for many a mile, the charred, jagged walls barring the view of the sea, standing against the sky like the edges of a broken blade. Smoke rose from a hundred different places, in some of them there was still the red spark of the mad fire the Kinslayers brought with them. In others, nothing was left but pillars of smoke, rising in a silent outcry to the unknowing heavens.
There was no sound in the empty Alqualonde, not even the cries of the gulls, much less the cries of Elves.
But it was not like that merely hours ago...
Maglor shut his eyes and threw his head back, trying to breathe.
The air was foul with the dizzying aroma of destruction, of shattered glass and molten metal, of burning wood and something else, burning, something he did not want to think of. In it mingled ashes and the soft winds from Valinor, bringing the scent of flowers and rain, and from farther down the shore the smells of newly kindled fires as the Kinslayers prepared to rest a while.
When he opened his eyes he saw the blue sky, a strange color he was not yet used to. It stood stark against the ruins of Alqualonde, and the sun shone high with the radiance of Laurelin, bright as a Silmaril.
Slowly Maglor began to walk the empty streets of Alqualonde, the Swanhaven.
Here was a wall that once stood strong, towering against the sky once lit with softer, gentler light, as eternal and proud as its builders, as gray as the endless sea. Once it was built to last by loving hands, and small plants had covered it, and enclosed behind it someone lived, someone sang and played and crafted, and wrote books. Maglor could smell the burned paper.
And something else, something he tried to bury.
He kicked a corner of the wall, now scorched and crumbling, soon to fall and bury all memories beneath it. Small stones fell, then larger ones, and with a crashing sound a whole section collapsed to the ground. Nothing was behind it; nothing else was left but the wall, the defiant wall.
Absently he wandered away.
He looked up; once there were towers, and in every tower, someone was watching to the sea, singing soft songs to it. And the sea replied with songs of its own, mysterious rhymes of land far and dark and wondrous. Once there were legends, and questions asked and stories told to answer, and a desire to someday sail away, see what lies beyond.
No more towers stood proud in Alqualonde, and no one will ever sing from it to the sea, never again, nor into the vast distance of Aman, from whence the Kinslayers came.
He kneeled by a tower and next to a pile of shards of shattered glass. Scattered on the burned, blackened ground, they became tiny mirrors, reflecting the city that once was glorious. He could see his image in them like a shadow, falling over the image that seemed to gasp as preserving something that was already gone.
In the air stood the smell of molten glass, and something else.
Maglor smiled a smile that was bitter and crooked, and innocently awed.
He stood and looked across the ruins of Alqualonde, the Swanhaven.
Against the shoreline, some white ships were lying, their graceful bodies, their wooden wings seared and broken in places, like hollow bones of birds or like a twig that just began to grow. Everywhere was white debris, and black debris, and a thousand different shades of gray, depending how close the fire got.
Dead swans were lying against the shores of Alqualonde.
And Maglor smiled, struck by the sheer horror.
He turned his back to them, and walked down a street.
There were workshops once in Alqualonde, and many a lovely house, and many a garden. And burned trees still stood in the streets, a strange monument, black and leafless but standing, alive yet no so, like fingers pointing upward in accusation. There were flowers once in Alqualonde, grown with love and care, trampled now and crushed, their many colors mingling freely, invading each other as did the blood and ash and water on the ground. There once was fresh air in Alqualonde, and sea wind.
The air smelled of salt and rot and the burning of living plants, and of something else.
Trampled flowers, pages torn from books and shreds of clothes covered the streets of Alqualonde in a carpet of a sort, protecting the ground below from the cruel feet of the Kinslayers. All that even though the ground took nothing into it but the blood of those who cherished it.
And Maglor smiled at that thought, which seemed proper somehow.
There was once life in Alqualonde. There were once Elves on the streets, many hundreds, thousands.
Alone he strode through the empty, silent streets of Alqualonde.
The hordes of the Kinslayers were no longer there, had long left the tortured city to eat and rest and prepare themselves for the rest of the journey to Arda. Soon they will depart, leaving these shores forevermore, knowing well they could never return. They would leave behind them tales and songs and legends in Tirion, hushed whispers that will last countless ages. And those will immortalize Alqualonde, give it the eternity denied its people, even when those walls will crumble to dust, and the rain will wash the blood away, and the air will be clear once more.
For now, he indulged in the sight, in a painful sort of way; indulged in the grace of destruction, in the memories of the heat of battle, in the feeling of power.
Maglor marched down the streets of Alqualonde, and sang a song of the bravery of the defenders of the city, which would never have been discovered in all its glory if it weren’t for the Kinslaying.
He sang songs of the broken glass, and the beauty of the shattered ships, beauty so grand and intoxicating it was worth killing and dying for. He sang songs, sad and full of longing, of the broken towers and all those who will no longer look to the sea. Of the crumbling wall he sang, of how it will stand forever, as the empty city will, a silent testimony, its air foul, smelling of blood, salt, smoke, tears.
And something else.
So he sang until he consumed his voice, and breathed in deeply, and smelled the burned Elven flesh.
He fell to his knees in dizziness and nausea, for a moment simply wanted to retch, wishing he would lose consciousness. But blessed darkness did not come to take him away until it was over, nor hide the beauty of the ruins.
Blinking rapidly, he glanced up. Over him Maedhros was standing, looking at him with a strange expression. Quickly he kneeled to support his brother until Maglor could breath again, muttering soft words of comfort.
“Of course, I understand... it is much easier when in the heat of battle... we all feel this way, yet we both know there was no choice... as horrid as it may look now...”
Maglor gasped. Horrid? Was that the word he sought in the ruins?
“No...” he breathed. “No, it is magnificent...!”
Still he had to lean on his brother as they both climbed to their feet, making their way slowly through the ruins of Alqualonde and to the campsite of the Kinslayers. The smell of burned flesh was heavy in the air, drowning out everything else. The smell of victory and a noble struggle, of glorious deaths and steadfast hope. They went through the ruins with open eyes, and the sights were beautiful one and all, beautiful as was the rage of battle. In their own way, in their own terrible way, far more beautiful than the lost peace of Alqualonde, far more beautiful than the lazy routine, the orderly, quickly fleeting days. It will be forever remembered, if in reverence or horror. Immortality was bestowed upon Alqualonde, the city that rose to stand against the Kinslayers.
In the campsite, Maedhros lay his brother down by the fire and sat by him in silence, watching the sea. They spoke not a word, yet there was understanding of sorts between them. Somewhere between them, the memories lingered, and will linger forever, as something that is worth remembering.
Across the campsite they looked, seeing the Kinslayers huddled together in uncomfortable icy silence enveloping all. Most of them did not come back to view the ruins. Perhaps they feared something would be changed in their shame.
But there was one standing apart from them, paying them no mind, and it seemed the two brothers alone saw that. On the golden-red sands of the shores of Aman stood Feanor the Master-Smith, watching at the sea and beyond it. They could not see his expression, but they saw his stance â€“ pride was in it, and a sort of satisfaction.
“This will make for far better songs than the happy days of Tirion,” he said to the endless sea alone, and spoke no more.
Longer author’s note:
This came out... different, not at all like I imagined. It didn’t start as an individual story alone, rather a scene from a longer one I’m writing. Somehow it developed a life of its own.
The theme of this story was the clash between ethics and aesthetics, which I find to be one of the most fascinating conflicts ever to exist. The dilemma was simple - happiness simply doesn’t make for a good drama. How can we choose?
That was the reason Maglor was chosen as the POV character - he was known as a bard and storyteller, and if there is beauty to be found in inferno, it felt right that he would find it. This story is, therefore, dedicated to Deborah, who made me view Maglor as more than the Valar-damned bastard who ruined Elrond’s life. Thanks for the insight.
It... was difficult, writing this, somehow, I don’t know. You may think I Didn’t get the message through, or that I’m babbling or... I don’t know what You’ll think. I find the theme disturbing, meant to shaken and even hurt, but I can’t guarantee I got it right.
Please tell me if I did. And if I didn’t, tell me louder.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.