Written for Back to Middle-earth Month 2013; edited and posted for B2MeM 2016. The prompts were for B, Day 4: "Down the swift dark stream you go / Back to lands you once did know..." (The Hobbit, "Barrels Out of Bond") and I, Day 12: "For it seemed to her a thing strange and crooked in him, as indeed the Eldar ever since have deemed it: an evil fruit of the Kinslaying, whereby the shadow of the curse of Mandos fell upon the last hope of the Noldor." (The Silmarillion, "Of Maeglin")
I once saw a picture of Tuor wearing his swan-wing helmet, and it got me to thinking about similarities between him and the Swan Knight Lohengrin from Wagner’s opera. This fic is partly inspired by a scene in Lohengrin where the sorceress Ortrud tries to make Elsa doubt Lohengrin on the eve of her wedding to him. The title is taken from a line in that scene.
Idril arose with a glad heart. Today her betrothal to Tuor would be proclaimed before the people of Gondolin, and in her joy, she was awake with the dawn’s first light. She dressed quickly and went to the window. Stretching forth her arms, she sang a soft greeting to Arien, as the trees and flowers brightened little by little.
In the garden below, a dove broke away with a clap of wings. “Is someone there?” she called quietly. There was no answer, yet Idril suddenly felt she was not alone. She opened the door to the garden and descended the stair, stepping barefoot into the cool grass. “Who is there?” she repeated more sternly.
There was a pause, and then a darker shape stepped forward from among the green. “Maeglin?” she said in surprise.
“Cousin,” he greeted her unsmiling. His face was pale. The dew clung to his dark hair and the shoulders of his velvet tunic.
“How long have you been standing there?” she asked with some disquiet. “Come inside. You must be chilled.”
He shook his head and shrank back. “No. I did not come to see the King. I only wanted to tell you –” He hesitated.
“What did you wish to tell me, Maeglin?” She glanced back inside. “My maids will be here soon, to make me ready.”
“Do not solemnize this betrothal!” he burst out desperately. “At least, not without more thought. This mortal, this wanderer – what do you truly know of him and his kindred?”
“His father died to save mine,” Idril replied with a slight frown, “and is that not knowledge enough? But truly, I have known his kin, and so have you. Or have you forgotten that his father and his father’s brother dwelt here for a year? They were young in the years of Men, but even then they seemed to me brave and honorable, and Huor his father had a kind heart.”
Maeglin shook his head. “Listen,” he said urgently. “Mortals are not as we are. Did they themselves not say it: the hope and strength of Men soon wither? He will grow old and feeble in a handful of years. Better to pledge yourself to the scion of any noble house of Gondolin – rather than this.”
He lowered his eyes before Idril’s steady gaze. “And yet I do not love them,” she said, “and I will not pledge myself to anyone but Tuor, while I live. Be certain of that.”
“And yet,” Maeglin said in a low voice, “are you certain he feels the same? Hear me out, Idril. Supposing he loves you well – what then? In time he will be restless to depart, even as his kinsfolk were. On that day Gondolin will seem a cage to him, no matter how fair; he will take the dark river-passage under the mountain and go forth, seeking the lands he once knew. You may say that your father’s command will not be lifted for him – but did he not come here mysteriously, and under the protection of the Lord of Waters? If Ulmo called him away again, who could gainsay it?”
That gave Idril pause, if only for a moment. She felt a chill at heart, remembering how not long since she had found Tuor asleep beside a fountain. When she laughingly questioned him, he replied, “It is like the voice of the sea,” and his eyes were distant. The sea-longing was the only thing that perhaps could rival loyalty to Turgon and love for Idril in Tuor’s heart.
But soon she shook her head. “Tuor is constant of heart,” she said. “And whoever says otherwise belies him. Even had I not met his kindred, I know all that I need to from the man himself. He fled from the desolate wild and found refuge in this city, the loveliest in Middle-earth. He delights to learn our crafts and our lore, and he is pleased to dwell among us. He has sworn loyalty to my father – and to me. Enough, Maeglin. You are jealous, and that makes you ungenerous.”
Maeglin stiffened. “Jealous?” he demanded harshly. “What do you mean?”
“You fear perhaps that he will supplant you in my father’s favor.” Maeglin looked away. “But love has room for many,” Idril continued gently. “Your mother was dear to my father, and he still grieves her loss. He will not cease to show kindness to you, her son, without a strong cause.”
“Perhaps you think so,” Maeglin returned with quiet urgency. “That I am ungenerous and speak from hatred in my heart. But I am fearful for you, cousin. I know how quickly what we hold dear may slip away from us, in a manner unthought-of. I know how love may become choked with bitterness. I would use my sorrow to protect your happiness.”
Idril felt pity, as always when she considered her cousin’s loss and his strange upbringing. “I have lost my mother too,” she said. “But I have found comfort unlooked-for, as the sorrow was. And hear this: no sorrow will ever come to me through Tuor’s inconstancy.”
“For your sake, I hope you may be right, my cousin.” He hesitated. “Do not hold this morning’s speech against me, I beg you. Perhaps I am too doubtful. I am half a Dark Elf, after all. But if Tuor should ever pain you by his love of wandering, remember that Maeglin spoke true.”
She shook her head, smiling. “I do not fear it.” She took his hand; he started and would have pulled free, but she kept him beside her. “Your hand is cold as ice. Go inside and warm yourself. But first, will you not wish me joy, kinsman?”
“Joy be with you, my cousin,” he said unsteadily. He bent towards her, and for a moment she thought he would kiss her brow. But he turned away and strode off across the garden in his night-black velvet.
Chapter End Notes:
Maeglin’s (supposed) worries aren’t entirely without foundation. In The Book of Lost Tales 2, “The Fall of Gondolin,” it says of Tuor: “[B]ut 'tis said that many a time he would have stolen thence, growing weary of the concourses of folk, and thinking of empty forest and fell or hearing afar the sea-music of Ulmo, had his heart not been filled with love for a woman of the Gondothlim, and she was a daughter of the king.” And in an early version of the story, Tuor did finally leave Idril behind and sail into the West without her. I'm very glad Tolkien changed that detail!