Maglor walked slowly down to the beach, enjoying the cool freshness of the pre-dawn air. He loved this time of day best of all, when everything was so fresh and clean and quiet. The slightly coarse marsh grass had given way to smooth white sand that crunched under his sandals. He promptly shrugged out of his robe, tossing it over a berry bush near the footpath so it could air while he swam. He pulled his dark hair free of its sleeping braid and shook it loose over his shoulders, laughing as he did so.
As the sun rose, glinting gold off the dunes, he lifted his voice in song; each song was his personal prayer and praise to Eru, one that changed slightly, evolving to celebrate the new beginning of each day. Some days he brought his harp to the beach, letting the instrument sing for him while he merely hummed an accompaniment. Other times, like today, he sang however the spirit moved him, as softly as any lullaby or a soaring aria that filled the sky itself. Finishing on a single clear note, he stretched several times and took a deep breath before he made a shallow, running dive into the quiet surf.
As he surfaced, he noticed that he was no longer alone. It seemed that Maedhros had joined him for his morning swim. From the time he was a mere babe Maglor had thought that Maedhros was one of the Maiar, for surely only a Maia could be so tall, wise and all-knowing. That first impression had never quite changed. His elder brother stood on the shore with a towel wrapped loosely around his hips and had already kicked off his sandals. A sudden breeze caught his long red hair, making it stand out as if it were a banner.
“Are you afraid I will be late, brother?”
“No, I simply decided to join you. Surely that is permitted?”
Maedhros dropped his towel on the sand and ran into the sea. Maglor grinned and splashed a plume of water toward Maedhros. The water soaked his deep red hair, but a few drops caught and sparkled as if they were a crown. Maedhros laughed and reached over with his long arm to push Maglor under the surface, his eyes sparkling with laughter as Maglor sputtered his way to the surface once more. They swam for a bit longer, until the faint sound of the bell calling them to breakfast was heard. Reluctantly, they swam to shore and reached for their discarded clothing and shoes.
“You are being watched, you know,” Maedhros said conversationally as he tugged a shirt over his damp hair. “It seems you have an admirer.”
It was Maedhros who first discerned the music that lay hidden in his childish gurgles and spoon-banging and guided his baby brother to the renowned tutor, Dairon, who was able to further develop Maglor’s fledgling talent into a scholarship at the great music conservatory at Alqualondë.
“One of the younglings, I suppose.” Maglor grinned back. “Someone has been drawing in the sand behind that dune over there. I have seen the hyalma shells they use to decorate the outline.”
“Who is it?”
“I have no idea. All of the houses in the area have been taken over by our clan; it could be any of them.” He paused. “I do not think that Grandfather ever expected such a large family.”
Maedhros snorted but made no reply as they continued to walk in silence along the sandy path that led back to the houses. As they neared the gate to Father’s yard – a necessity to keep Celegorm’s hounds from roaming – and opened it, Maedhros stopped to give Maglor a sideways glance.
“Do you think that the reason Father wanted such a large family is because he wanted a girl?”
“What!” Maglor felt his jaw dropping in surprise. “Father wanting a girl!?”
“I often wonder what would have happened if I had been a girl, you know,” Maedhros continued in a thoughtful voice. “It might have just been you and I, with no other brothers.”
Maglor stopped and stared hard at his elder brother, wondering if this was some elaborate prank, but Maedhros was at his most enigmatic. Then Maedhros shrugged and winked at him, his fey mood gone as suddenly as it came.
“It doesn’t matter, I guess. We will have to wait and see what Mother decides.”
“What do you mean?” Maglor gasped. “You don’t mean to say she has barred her door!”
“Hardly.” Maedhros snorted in amusement once more. “Watch how often she catches Father’s eye as she wields her sewing scissors.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Maglor could not understand what Maedhros was driving at.
“Never mind, little brother.” Maedhros laughed and drew Maglor into a headlock, ruffling his hair. “You will understand one day.”
Glorfindel often came to the beach when he had an important decision to make. Since reaching his majority over a year ago, he had tried to decide what he wanted to do in life. Most Vanyar lived quiet, contemplative lives or devoted themselves to intellectual pursuits but neither path held any interest for Glorfindel. No, *he* took after his Noldorin grandsire. Only the Noldor seemed to have any interest in *doing* things and that was what Glorfindel loved.
The trouble was, he thought glumly, that he wasn’t good at much of anything other than training horses. And Nana and Atto were unable to help him; they would support his decision but they would not decide for him.
Taking care to hide in the dunes, he slowly sketched Maglor’s face in the sand as he listened to the dull swishing of the waves. To complicate matters further, Glorfindel accepted that while he liked women and thought of them as friends, he had no sexual feelings toward them. Instead, he was drawn to men, and the laws of the Vanyar strongly discouraged same-sex relationships. And this year, he had fallen in love for the very first time – with his law-cousin, Maglor Fëanorion.
Glorfindel dropped his head in his hands and sighed. It could have been worse, he supposed. How, he did not know. But he had a feeling that something strange was going to happen, and he was often right.
When he heard Maglor’s voice raised in song, Glorfindel realized he had lost track of time, and he might be spotted by Maglor. That would be terrible, for Maglor might ask him what he was doing and he had no idea what he could say. Hurriedly, he brushed the sketch away and lay flat on the ground. Granted, the beach was open to all, but most families had their preferred spots to relax, and this particular stretch of beach was frequented by the family of Fëanáro.
Grandfather’s celebrations were joyous occasions, and this was no different. Celegorm would have his official fiftieth begetting day celebration tomorrow but tonight there would be an informal party for the cousins.
Even Fëanor was on his best behavior for once, going so far as to bow courteously to his step-mother Indis, though his smile was a bit too harsh and failed to reach his eyes.
The crowd parted briefly and Maglor saw a handsome Vanyarin youth, barely past his majority if that with the most exquisite golden hair he had ever seen.
“Who is that?” Maglor whispered to Maedhros.
“One of Indis’ nephews – Glorfindel, I believe his name is.”
“A fine name,” Maglor murmured, as a song began to take shape in his mind. His fingers itched for his harp, but it was in the far corner, behind Grandfather’s chair. “A fitting name.” Maglor began to sidle toward his harp but Grandfather noticed this and beckoned to him.
“This is a celebration, Maglor. You do not have to sing for your supper tonight,” Finwë chided gently. “Come, sit beside me and tell me of your plans. Do you plan to follow your elder brother and join us at court?”
“No!” Maglor exclaimed, horrified at the very idea. He had spent a few miserable days at court on occasion, usually when Father questioned a decision of the council – which happened too frequently in his opinion. All of the resulting arguing and shouting gave him a headache. But his opinion did not matter; he was a prince, and Father was determined he would understand statecraft as well as his older brother.
Fëanor knew well the impact he made on others, for he was a law unto himself. Only Finwë and occasionally Nerdanel were able to change his mind or make him obey in the slightest. But in Finwë’s eyes, his beloved eldest son could do no wrong.
More than once he wondered how Maedhros and Grandfather could endure such chaos. He blushed as he met his Grandfather’s eyes, which twinkled in amusement at his outburst. Fortunately the crowd provided enough noise that no-one else had heard him. “I mean… that is to say…”
“No need to worry, my boy. I was but jesting. You need to be less serious.” Finwë smiled kindly at him. “We will dine shortly. Will you join my table?”
“Of course, grandfather.” Maglor was surprised by the request. Usually, Grandfather’s table was reserved for the older aunts and uncles, while the grandchildren were left to sit where and with whom they might choose.
“Wonderful.” Finwë looked around for a moment before escorting Maglor to a seat near the head of the table.
Maglor smiled quietly to himself. He didn’t often get first chance at the special courses that were a hallmark of Grandfather’s personal chef. Best of all, there would be lavish desserts that the lower tables seldom tasted. For once, he was actually looking forward to the festivities.
Maedhros heard the sudden interest in Maglor’s voice when he saw Glorfindel and decided it would be a good idea for the two to become acquainted. Maedhros had a gift for understanding alliances that would prove beneficial to people. The young Vanya had a kind heart and Maglor could use a friend, if not a lover – though perhaps love would blossom between them as well? It was a pleasant thought. Maglor needed someone special in his life, someone who might understand him.
Maedhros resolved to speak to the young man as soon as supper was over.
Glorfindel noticed Maedhros beginning to make his way to where he stood and looked around. Surely Prince Maedhros intended to talk to someone besides him. But when Maedhros caught his eye and smiled, Glorfindel froze in place, wondering what he had done to catch the prince’s attention. Maedhros was only slightly less intimidating than his sire, and he had an exceptionally forceful personality. But where Fëanor overwhelmed people into obedience, Maedhros charmed them instead.
“Glorfindel, isn’t it?” Maedhros’ deep voice was kind but commanding.
“Yes, my lord,” Glorfindel replied, bowing his head.
“You need not be so formal with me, little cousin.” Maedhros’ voice now held a faint trace of amusement, and Glorfindel blushed to think he had made a fool of himself. “Come, I wish to speak with you.”
“Yes, – “
“Maedhros will do.” He beckoned to Glorfindel. “Come, let us walk in the garden for a bit.”
“Yes, Maedhros.” Glorfindel shyly replied as he followed the taller man out of the hall.
Their passage was marked by a sudden hush and quiet stares. Many of the guests smiled and nodded to each other, imagining that the eldest son of Fëanor had chosen to court someone at last. Several men and women were consumed with jealousy at the sight.
Only Maglor noticed young Fingon’s reaction to the couple as they exited. Fingon was gazing at Glorfindel with clear malice in his eyes.
“Come, be seated.” Maedhros sat on a stone bench and gestured for Glorfindel to sit beside him.
Glorfindel seated himself awkwardly, feeling very self-conscious and still wondering why the prince had singled him out. If only it was Maglor... but that would be even worse in a way. “Tell me about yourself, Glorfindel.”
Under Maedhros’ skillful questioning, Glorfindel soon told the prince much more about himself than he ever intended, and a great many things he had never given much thought to before then. The prince knew how to actually listen and not interrupt, which was refreshing.
“So you see, I haven’t made any decisions yet. But I need to decide soon.”
“Things will work out, Glorfindel. They usually do.”
“I guess so.”
Maglor waited for his brother to return to the hall. He didn’t think that Maedhros had actually fallen in love with the youth, but he was curious why Glorfindel had been singled out. Looking carefully over his shoulder, Maglor slipped quietly into the garden. He had only gone a short way when his eyes perceived a tall shape in front of him.
“Brother.” He looked up as Maedhros placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “Were you waiting for me? You were welcome to join us, you know.”
“I know.” He looked at Glorfindel, not bothering to hide his curiosity and interest in the young Vanya.
“Perhaps I should make a formal introduction. Maglor, this is Glorfindel. Glorfindel, Maglor.”
“Hello,” the two echoed each other’s greeting and then smiled sheepishly.
Maedhros bit back an amused smile. Clearly they were smitten with each other but too shy to say or do anything in such a formal setting. It was time to help things along a bit.
“Excuse me while I bring some refreshments,” he said. “Would either of you like anything special?” When neither of them replied, he coughed lightly.
“Oh. Yes. Yes, you could bring me my harp,” Maglor replied. “Please.” He added as an afterthought.
“Ah, something to drink, perhaps?” he replied. “If it’s no bother, that is,” he added belatedly, realizing that he was talking to the prince and not one of the servants.
“It is no bother.” Maedhros excused himself and left the garden, and suddenly Maglor and Glorfindel realized they were alone.
They watched him go and continued to stand quietly. Now that they were alone, Maglor was berating himself for being so tongue-tied around the younger man. He was a prince; he had been trained from birth on how to conduct himself in all situations. But all he could do was stare at the Vanya.
Glorfindel, for his part, had no idea what to say or do. He was used to small, informal parties; his family lived quietly and seldom attended such large royal gatherings.
“Have I seen you before?” Maglor asked after a few moments. “You look very familiar.”
“Perhaps you have seen me with my family’s horses. I believe part of our lands adjoin yours,” Glorfindel replied, suddenly shy again. He felt his toes curling in embarrassment. Had his secret spot at the beach been discovered? “I am told I am a good rider.”
“Perhaps.” Maglor tilted his head, trying to remember where else he might have seen a flash of bright gold hair. “Though I…”
There was a light step on the path, and Maglor turned toward it, losing his train of thought.
“Here, brother.” Maedhros smiled, and handed him the small traveling harp he used. Fingon was there too, with a tray that held a wine bottle and two glasses. “The party will break up soon. If you wish for any quiet, you should go now. I will make your excuses, should anyone ask.”
“Yes, we should.” Maglor gave him a brilliant smile as he took the harp and settled it under his arm. “Good evening, brother. Fingon.”
“Wait,” Fingon piped up unexpectedly. “Aren’t you going to take the wine too?”
“Of course. Glorfindel, will you do the honors?”
“Thank you for bringing it, Maedhros.” Glorfindel smiled shyly at them as he took the bottle and the glasses before he stepped beside Maglor once again. Maglor laid his arm across Glorfindel’s shoulders, and then they walked away.
Maedhros and Fingon watched them leave. A few minutes later they saw them silhouetted briefly against the sky before disappearing to the beach.
“Why do they act so?” Fingon asked Maedhros.
“All who are in love act so,” came the soft reply.
“Oh.” Fingon thought about that for a few moments. “Does that mean they will be bound and be together forever?”
“Only they can answer that, little one.” Maedhros paused for a long time and sighed. “But they have today, and that is what matters.”