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The Voice of Rage and Ruin - Part 1

Title: The Voice of Rage and Ruin - Part 1
Rating: Mature
Pairing: Maglor/Finrod
Genre: Slash, Horror, Drama
For Burning_Nightingale

Written for the Ardor in August fic swap. Read more great stories here: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/2014_AinA/works


Thanks to Thranduil Oropherion Redux for the beta.

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. - Gandalf

~~****~~


Maglor gazed with wide eyes at the twinkling profusion of stars overhead. His breath came in small, choking gasps, his fingers clawed the grass at his sides. He closed his eyes, half opened, closed them again. His head fell back, his throat bared to the unyielding night. A devious hand snaked over his hip and up his side. Fingernails lightly scratched his ribs and nipple. He shuddered in delight but then a low growl sent shockwaves through him, wringing a helpless cry from his throat. Behind his eyelids stars exploded in a burst of multicolored light.

He threw his arm over his face, panting heavily before raising his head and looking down into Finrod’s roguish gaze. Maglor watched Finrod stalk slowly up his body, a feral gleam in his eyes. His cock half rose as though trying to beckon those magic lips back. Finrod pressed slowly against him as he moved forward, and Maglor felt the sensation of heat and muscle and silken skin envelop him. Finrod paused at Maglor’s neck to plant a domineering love bite before taking his lips in a kiss that lingered pleasantly. Maglor stroked his lover’s golden hair, teasing his tongue into Finrod’s willing mouth.

Maglor snapped awake from the dream, his eyes burning with tears, his heart aching for days long past. The howl of a hunting wolf broke the silence of the early dawn. Maglor realized the sound was what had awakened him. He had a particular antipathy toward the beasts since. . . Now the tears flowed freely. He sat up and dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, willing the memories away, memories too painful to endure.

Only in dreams were his memories pure, without sorrow or pain. He craved these dreams, nourished his withered soul with them. Dreams were his only respite in this harsh world. If he could he would lay himself down in the gardens of Lórien and never awaken. Finrod would be ever at his side, and they would be hunting or singing or making love. He considered himself twice a fool. Once for taking the oath, and again for allowing Finrod to fulfill his oath to Barahir, though how he could have stopped the man short of kidnapping him and locking him up he did not know. What did it matter now anyway? It was done, all oaths fulfilled, all the greatness of the Noldor in Middle-earth fading into the mists of time and memory.

Once he had lamented this, to see the glory of their works fall to ruin, the remaining Elves content to linger under the trees, or to put their small boats to sea on a handful of tiny islands to fish and commune with Ulmo in their own way. There was no exploration anymore, nothing of real import for the Elves to turn their hands to, nor was there any impetus for them to do so. Those remaining had no desire for great works, lofty towers or high kings. They were content to live off the land as they had before the arrival of the Exiles, and he was content to live as one of them.

He became aware of the coolness of the air on his sweaty body, rank with hollow passion. Rising, he lit the fire and put on a pot of water to heat. A nice hot bath would be welcome on what promised to be a chilly autumn day. He would have to check for the wolf’s tracks and perhaps hunt the beast. It was far too close to the settlement and they could ill afford to lose any livestock with winter looming.

Maglor bathed and dressed in the simple homespun garments he made himself. He could have bartered for clothing with those more proficient in the art but he liked being as self-sufficient as possible. Though not initially skilled in multiple disciplines like some of his brothers, he had found there were few devices he could not master with a bit of practice. This aided him a great deal as he rarely stayed in any one place for long. The settlements where he occasionally made his home, when the need for human contact forced him to tarry, usually welcomed any laborer or craftsman. He had found the ability to perform a variety of tasks eased the natural suspicion the arrival of a stranger always brought.

He put on a cloak and left his hut, casting about for the wolf’s tracks, finding them easily enough. They came from the direction of the village, paused beneath his window then continued on, disappearing into the trees of the surrounding wood. Perhaps it had been just passing through but Maglor had an ill feeling all the same. A wolf without fear was a dangerous animal indeed.

The first thin rays of dawn crept through the trees into the clearing. Already the nights were longer and colder as autumn waned. A chill breeze blew from the north, turning his cheeks pink as he walked.

He headed for the market with a bag of wool he intended to barter for some fresh vegetables. His garden was bare and he had put aside few stores for the winter, still undecided if he was going to stay until spring. He had to resolve the dilemma before the weather made his decision for him, but put his worries aside for the moment. The day was too beautiful to spoil with such thoughts.

Walking in the bracing air cleared his head and on impulse he turned toward Galathwen’s cottage. He stood outside her door admiring the flower boxes at her windows, still lush with flowers. No need to go to the market when she was just as likely to have what he was looking for. She was the best gardener in the settlement. Why, she could ‘coax a stone to sprout’ as the locals liked to say. She grew much more than she could use and took the rest to market. He was taking a chance visiting so early because she might be gone already, but it wasn’t really out of his way, and a woman alone could always use a little company. At least that’s what he told himself. The truth was it was he who could use some cheering up.

He knocked on her door. She answered after a moment, her face brightening to see it was him.

“Daelir, how good to see you. Won’t you come in?” she said in her melodious voice.

She was a comely woman of Telerin and Noldorin descent with thick dark hair that hung to her waist when it was down, though she most often wore it pinned up, and eyes the grey of a dove’s breast. Maglor sensed a tragic past, he had grown adept at that, but he would never consider asking. Though they had known each other for almost two years, and he considered her a good friend, he knew little about her personally and she knew as little of him. The remaining Elves did not question each other much about the past, for which he was grateful.

“Gladly, my dear,” he replied. “How are you this fine morning?”

“I couldn’t be better. I was just preparing to make some jam. Now that the weather has turned cool it’s the perfect time, and winter is just around the corner.”

“It is indeed, which is why I stopped by. My own garden is depleted and I was hoping to make a trade, but I fear I’ve caught you at a bad time.” Maglor saw the steam from the pot rising on the stove.

“Not at all. We can chat while the first batch boils. What did you bring to trade?”

“I don’t know if you can use it, but I have quite a bit of wool left over from the spring shearing.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful! I need wool for a new cloak. My old one is quite threadbare. You can take anything you need in return. I have quite a store set aside, which is why I haven’t been to the market the past few days. I’m going to put up all that’s left for trade later.”

“Perhaps in exchange for helping you I could also have a jar of that jam?”

“You can have as many as you like, with or without the help, though the help would certainly be welcome.”

Maglor saw the shine in her eyes, an echo of the trees, and noted how she leaned slightly toward him as she spoke. She was flirting again. He was both touched and saddened by this, though he wasn’t even certain if she wanted more than his gallant attention. It was wicked of him to encourage her but he could not bring himself to discourage her either. The truth was she was the reason he had lingered here and the reason he was now hesitant to move on. With her he felt less lonely than he had in a very long time.

He smiled in return and followed her to the kitchen where bowls of ripe fruit were laid out. He began to prepare the fruit while she took the jars off the stove. Soon they were bantering and laughing. They were just finishing up with the elderberries and were starting on the blackberries when someone pounded on the door.

She went to answer it and Maglor stayed back by the table, lining up the newly sealed jars.

Galathwen wiped her hands on her apron and opened the door. It was Lebednel, the fletcher, and he was clearly agitated. “Two of Hinnith’s sheep were killed last night, by a wolf from the look of it. The council has called a meeting tonight to put together a hunting party. Until then you might want to stay indoors.”

Galathwen went pale. She took a step back, her hand going to her throat. “Are they certain it was. . .? I mean, how can they be sure?”

Lebednel looked down and shuffled his feet. “I would rather not say. It is not fit for a lady.”

Maglor sighed and stepped forward. Galathwen was visibly upset and he wanted to get the story.

“Mae Govannen, Lebednel,” he said. “Perhaps you could tell us what happened. I saw a wolf’s tracks outside my cottage this morning. I know I should have alerted the council but was unaware of the damage. We must take swift action to prevent more loss.”

“Indeed we must. Hinnith discovered the kills this morning when he went to pasture the flock. The beast had gotten into the paddock somehow and savaged them. He could not tell how it happened. The wall is high and his dogs are always on guard. He could not find the dogs at first light but they came slinking back a short while later with their tails between their legs, whimpering. Something put a scare in them. They didn’t even bark a warning.”

“How odd,” Maglor said. The sense of unease crept over him again. He turned to Galathwen who looked to be on the verge of fainting.

“I will come to the meeting, but the lady is distressed and should not hear more. Thank you for spreading the word.”

“Forgive me for upsetting you, Galathwen.” He turned to Maglor. “I will see you there, Daelir. Thank you for coming.” Then, with a last sympathetic glance at Galathwen, he departed.

When he had left, Maglor helped Galathwen to a chair and went to fix her a cup of peppermint tea. “What’s wrong? Certainly the news is troubling but you look as though you have seen Bannoth.”

“Perhaps I have,” she said, her eyes far away. She shook herself and looked up at him with a nervous smile. “You’re right, Daelir. I’m being silly. It’s just that there hasn’t been a wolf sighting near the settlement in many years.”

“And there is nothing else?” He laid a kind hand on her arm.

She looked at him, deeply into his eyes, weighing some secret thought. She glanced down and clasped his hand like a lifeline. “Not now, Daelir. Once the wolf is dead I will tell you, but not now. I can’t.”

“Don’t worry, my lady. I will not press you.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“My lady,” she repeated, her eyes filling with tears. “If only. . . Forgive me, Daelir. I am spooked by shadows today.” She wiped her eyes with the hem of her apron. “Let me get you the jam I promised.”

Maglor had to hold his tongue as she bustled around, full of nervous energy, gathering everything within reach and handing him jar after jar of jam until his arms were all but overflowing.

“Galathwen, this is too much. . .” he began.

“No, please, let me do this for you, my dear Daelir,” she insisted. “Please, it is much more than I need, and now you must go.”

She hustled him out and closed the door quickly, their visit clearly over.

Maglor was not sure what to think. Galathwen did have secrets after all, perhaps dark ones. He and Galathwen had spent many happy hours together since he had arrived here and it broke his heart that darkness had ever touched her. Her cheery personality, radiant smile, and gentle, generous spirit touched him in ways he thought no longer possible.

Forced from a rough lean-to on the seashore by Ulmo’s incessant call and the pain of unendurable memory, he had wandered Arda for half an age. Chance had brought him to this small settlement. He had not planned to stay yet he had, and he had been happy here, had found a measure of peace, but he would never know peace. He did not deserve it and he did not want it. Now he had let his guard down, grown to care for someone, and his whole world might be on the verge of collapse.

He returned to his cottage and stowed his treasures then took up his bow and went outside to study the tracks he had found. The wolf was large but there was only one set of tracks so it was unlikely there was a pack to contend with, though it was unusual for one wolf to kill two sheep in one night. He followed the paw prints into the woods for a short way to see what direction it was heading then turned back to the settlement. The trail was clear so it should not be difficult to find the lair. The trick was to get there before the moon rose and the wolf left to hunt again.

Maglor went to the heart of the settlement to find a group of men and women already milling about talking of the wolf. Hinnith said he would be keeping watch over his flock all night in case the wolf returned. Celebior, the silversmith, was saying he would be willing to volunteer for a hunting party.

Mithdor, the hunter, said he was not a good enough shot and that a smaller party would be best.

“I suggest a party of no more than three or four,” he said. “A lot of people tramping around in the woods will drive it to ground, perhaps for days or weeks, but will not eliminate the threat.”

“Mithdor is right,” Silivor, the baker said. “He is the best bowman in the province, and an excellent tracker as well. His aim is uncanny, and I have seen him track deer when all others lost the trail.”

“Thank you for your confidence in my skill,” Mithdor said. “I will do my best, but a wolf is not as easy to take as a deer.” He saw Maglor approaching and called out, “Now, Daelir here is an excellent hunter. Did he not feed half the settlement on the venison he shared last winter? If he is willing, I would have him accompany me.”

“Here I come to offer my services in hunting the wolf and find my friend Mithdor has volunteered me already,” Maglor joked. He addressed the council. “I saw the tracks outside my window this morning. The wolf is large, but I believe it to be a loner.”

“You saw tracks at your place?” Telieniel, the weaver, said with a shudder. “It is terrifying to think it is sniffing around our houses.”

“Obviously it does not fear human dwellings,” Maglor said. “That is very disturbing. From the look of the tracks, the beast came into the settlement from the north side and exited just past my cottage to the south.”

“I saw the trail as well,” Mithdor said. “I think the party should split up. One group can take the north trail and backtrack while the other takes the trail to the south. My hope is to find the lair before it comes out to hunt at moonrise.”

“Then two to the north and two to the south,” Lebednel said. “I will volunteer to join the hunt.”

“And I,” said Gaerion, the tanner. “I would like to have the pelt unless one of the other hunters wants to lay claim. In that case I will make a handsome trade for it.”

“You are welcome to it, for my part,” Mithdor said. “I have no desire for such a trophy.”

“No trophy for me either,” Gaerion said. “I intend to make good use of it this winter. A wolf hide makes a warm blanket.”

“Warmer than me?” his wife said with a wicked grin.

Gaerion grinned and hugged her around her waist. “Especially warm when it’s big enough to share.”

Everyone chuckled at this. Gaerion and his wife were the heart of the settlement, a sort of matriarch and patriarch of their little community. They had been living here at the end of the Third Age when other wandering Elves began to filter in and build their homes here. Maglor could not imagine this place without them.

He and Mithdor left Lebednel and Gaerion to take the north trail while they went south. Maglor could not help notice Galathwen’s absence at the council and was troubled by it. He wondered how she was faring.

He told Mithdor about their conversation earlier. Mithdor was one of the few he trusted with personal matters, though he trusted him with few. The hunter had come to the settlement last fall from Eryn Lasgalen before the first snows fell and quickly became essential for his hunting prowess and generosity. He often supplied the market with meat he took no trade for, saying he had everything he needed. While not as solitary as Maglor, he did not always attend the council meetings and seemed close with only Gaerion and his wife.

Maglor had been hunting with him a few times. There was plenty of time for conversation during the hunt and on one occasion Mithdor shared that he had been living with Thranduil’s people. He had grown restless having lived in the Greenwood for most of the Third age and had gone wandering. Mithdor claimed a Sindarin heritage but Maglor thought he detected a bit of Noldorin ancestry as well. He was tall, stalwart, and clever with dark hair he always wore in a single braid down his back. His face reflected the beauty of a Noldorin noble except for his eyes, which were hooded by heavy dark brows. His eyes were also unusual in that one was grey and the other blue. He had a scar on his neck that Maglor romanticized as due to a run in with a jealous husband, though he knew the more likely reason was an angry beast.

“I did not understand why Galathwen was so frightened,” he said to Mithdor, “and she wouldn’t tell me. She said she would when the wolf was killed.”

“Her behavior is strange. Wolves rarely hunt people, and then only when they enter their territory. I guess you will find out tomorrow when we bring the carcass in,” Mithdor said.

“I hope so. Now how do you suggest we proceed?”

“How are you at tracking?”

“Probably not as good as you.” Maglor thought of hunting trips in his youth. Celegorm, of course, had been the tracker, trained by Oromë no less. True, he had more experience now by far than he did then. “The tracks were quite plain. It will be more difficult in the forest but as long as the light is with us I should be fine.”

“Then follow my lead,” Mithdor said with a shrug. “If we find the lair, we’ll keep watch until the wolf emerges. Just remember to take a shot only if you are certain of a kill. A wounded wolf is not something you want to tangle with.”

“I have hunted wolf in my youth, which is to say it’s been a long time. I hope my skills haven’t deserted me.”

They entered the wood, easily following the tracks in the soft earth, Mithdor in the lead and Maglor a slight distance behind. The late afternoon sun dappled the forest floor with a rich gold and Maglor could not help but feel cheerful in the embrace of the forest. He remembered his youthful hunting trips with his brothers and cousins where the goal was more about enjoying the company rather than bringing home a kill. Of course his favorite memories were of the times he spent with Finrod. He put those memories from his mind for the moment to focus on the task at hand.

They had no trouble finding the tracks at first and both stalked silently along as the dusk deepened around them. Then, suddenly, the trail simply disappeared. They both cast about for a time trying to pick it up, a disturbance in the carpet of leaves on the forest floor, a bent twig or hairs on the undergrowth, but no sign could they find.

“How could the trail grow cold so fast?” Maglor asked. “A wolf can’t simply vanish.”

“I don’t know, but we had better split up and see if we can pick up the trail again. Its lair cannot be far from the settlement.”

“If either of us finds it, we will let the other know with a bird call.”

“What bird?”

“Can you do a nightingale?” Maglor asked.

Mithdor just smiled and gave an uncannily accurate rendition. Maglor could not follow a performance like that but his call was a passable imitation.

“And what if we don’t find the trail in, say, an hour?” Mithdor asked.

“Then we will meet again right here beneath this oak to make another plan.”

They split up and Maglor scanned every inch of every leaf and fern, stone and bush his eyes encountered. He found nothing. He was just about to give up when a blinding pain behind his eyes caught him off guard and he fell to his knees, dropping his bow and clutching his head. A scream of agony and terror ripped at his mind such as he had never felt before. He knelt helpless for many long minutes then bent over and retched onto the roots of a tree.

Dazed, he took up his bow and got slowly to his feet, the throbbing in his head threatening to make him gag. He stumbled back to the meeting place, leaning against the sturdy oak for support just as Mithdor was returning.

“I couldn’t find a thing. . .” he began, then saw the state Maglor was in. He hurried over and put Maglor’s arm around his shoulder to support him. “What happened to you, Daelir? You look ill.”

“Someone tore into my thoughts. It has been a long time since I’ve encountered anyone with the ability to project their thoughts, let alone so intensely. Whoever it was, their pain was so strong it was like being struck by a falling stone. I could feel every thought and emotion. . .

"Galathwen!” He pushed away from the tree and Mithdor, stumbling through the wood. He picked up speed when he cleared the trees, running full out, sick with dread.

Mithdor ran after him, pleading for an explanation all the way but getting none. Maglor raced to Galathwen’s door to find it standing open. He hesitated and that’s when Mithdor caught up with him.

“Daelir, what is it? Tell me what’s wrong.”

Ignoring him, Maglor entered the cottage slowly, like a sleepwalker, and saw Galathwen lying next to the kitchen table. Shaking, he went closer, almost retching again at the sight before him.

Galathwen was lying on the floor with her throat torn out amongst a profusion of broken jam jars, her sightless eyes filled with terror.

Maglor took a step back, his hand to his mouth as Mithdor came up beside him. “Belain be cursed!” he said when he took in the mess. He put a hand on Maglor’s shoulder and helped him to a chair.

“How could this have happened?” Maglor said. “Who could have done this?”

“I don’t know, Daelir. It is horrible. We must warn the council at once.”

“Will you see to it? I would like to stay with her.”

“Are you sure. . .”

“Yes, I will wait for the council before I clean up but I can’t just leave her lying here with no one. . .” He broke off, his eyes filling with tears.

Mithdor patted him on the back and left. Maglor sat deep in thought, replaying their conversation from earlier in the day. She had been so frightened at the thought of the wolf and would not say why. What had she been hiding?

He worked up the courage to go examine the body. Her throat was ripped open and the blood was already starting to congeal. The edges of the wound showed the clean lacerations of sharp teeth. His mind reeled at the thought that while he and Mithdor were out hunting, their prey had come back into the settlement and savaged Galathwen. But then why had her door been open? Surely a wolf did not open the door. And why would she open her door at night when she was so frightened?

What was the secret she had refused to tell him? Now he would never know.

He felt guilty for doing it but looked around her cottage for clues. Near the sleeping area he found a small box and a few books. The box contained only a few pieces of cheap jewelry, a promise stone, and an eagle feather. He picked up one of the books and a letter fluttered to the floor. He looked around to make sure he was alone then opened the letter and scanned it. A love letter from a suitor, very old, lovingly preserved. The writer talked of rebellion against the Valar, of leaving Aman and defying his father to follow the Fëanorians, of undying love for a maiden named Móriel. Maglor put the letter back and was still piecing together its meaning when the council arrived.

They entered with weapons drawn, grim and silent. Elves in hunting mode. They took in the sight of Galathwen’s body and registered the shock and horror Maglor was just beginning to sort out in his own mind.

“What could have done this?” Celebrior said. “A wolf?”

“That’s what it looks like,” Lebednel said, bending down for a better look. He and Gaerion had returned earlier when they lost the trail, just as Maglor and Mithdor had.

“Perhaps orcs have returned to the woods,” Gaerion said. He was pale and appeared as shaky as Maglor felt.

“There have been no orcs in the north for eight hundred years,” Silivor scoffed. “If orcs were lurking anywhere about, we’d have spotted them. There is no missing those foul creatures.”

“Why would Galathwen be targeted? It doesn’t make sense,” Celebrior said.

“When I mentioned the wolf today, she fell apart,” Lebednel said. “I think she knew this was going to happen. Daelir saw it too.”

Maglor cursed under his breath. Lebednel would have to bring that up in front of the council. He had to respond but tried to keep it neutral. “Yes, the news upset her, but she wouldn’t tell me why. It was almost like she’d had a premonition.”

“We won’t solve the mystery tonight. Let’s take care of the body and spread the word about the attack so folks can take precautions,” Mithdor said.

When Gaerion and the others went to prepare Galathwen for transport, Maglor, on impulse, removed the letter from the book and slipped it into his pocket. Then he went to help.

It was a horrid business but they saw to Galathwen, removing her on a litter to Gaerion’s house, to be buried in the morning. Maglor helped carry her, his heart as heavy as her body was light. When the council split up, Mithdor lingered to speak with Maglor.

“I did not mention what happened to you in the woods,” he said. “I hope I did the right thing.”

“I am grateful that you didn’t,” Maglor said. “I couldn’t face a lot of questions tonight.”

“There are few Elves left with the ability to project their thoughts and few with the ability to receive them. I know it is an unspoken rule that we not bring up the past, but if you ever need to talk. . . That is, if you have anything you need to get off your chest that you do not want repeated, well, I can lend a discreet ear, that’s all.”

“Thank you, Mithdor. Perhaps one day I will take you up on that.”

Maglor returned to his cabin, his mind in turmoil. The moon had risen, full and round above the trees. A hunter’s moon. He undressed, sitting on the edge of the bed with the letter in his hand. He read it again. The name of the suitor stirred a vague memory but it fled as quickly as it came, crowded out by memories and everlasting remorse for his own terrible deeds.

So many mistakes, so many missed opportunities. There was a time when he actually thought he and his brothers could defeat Morgoth and carve a home for themselves from these beautiful untamed lands. For him the oath had never been about the Silmarils, it had been about freedom, it had been about Finrod. Finrod, who he had promptly abandoned, albeit unwittingly, at Alqualondë. Finrod, who he had not followed to Nargothrond, though he had wanted to, at the insistence of Maedhros and his own sense of responsibility to the oath. Things would have been different if he had followed his heart. At least he believed that they would have.

He wept, as he had so many times, over the past, and cared not for the future. If he had the courage of Maedhros he would have ended it all long ago. Yet cowardice was not the only reason keeping him alive. Someone must own the oath, bear the unforgiven sins, remain as a sacrifice in Middle-earth until the world’s end to give Finrod the chance for a blessed life in Aman, far away from his tainted soul.

In the end, he tumbled into bed as he did every night, exhausted, paralyzed in mind and body, falling into an almost instant, deep sleep.

Continue to Part 2

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