Two wanderers hopped a bent ocean and found the river with the most to mourn, and they followed it down to the delta. Centuries apart, the first one rowed with Northmen and stranded himself in the New World, a world superimposed on the ancient land of the gods. The forests there greeted him, since they didn’t know him, and they weren’t tired of his lovesick piping. Forests have long memories, long patient decades of incremental growth, but Daeron’s ceaseless grief wearied even them.
The second split when he heard Europe begin to boil, whistling high and urgent like a teakettle--War Is Coming. He’d seen enough wars, so he boarded a boat, too, but it was a steamboat, so he did no rowing at all--just harmonized with the hissing pipes, the great horn, the calliope he played so well none of the crew dared to kick him off the bench. One of the crew burned his hands in the steam, a careless mistake, and Maglor took one look at the blistered flesh and began to sing. The boy’s hands healed, all the way, overnight.
So they came to different Americas, sure, but they met up in the Delta as natural as anything, because where else would two Singers go when the Blues were bubbling up through the scum and soupbones of the South?
They met in a bar, of course, Maglor with his old Spanish guitar and Daeron quickly mastering the harmonica he’d bought from an Austrian ex-pat. A nod, one performer to another, and then a double-take. You. Accusations, grief, a little madness, ‘till they realized that here were two Eldar arguing in English, in the spoken word, and people were staring. Not at the place names--people in the States tended to assume Doriath was somewhere in, I dunno, Europe probably, that Maedhros was an Indian name, that “kinslayer” and “oath-taker” were some kind of Freemason thing.
No, they were staring because two men were holding instruments in a bar, and their bitterness, even spoken and not sung, sounded like music.
“What’s your name?” Maglor asked, hackles lowering, and Daeron knew what he meant.
“Ron. Full name David Ronald Woodburn. Don’t laugh. It gets tiring, changing your name. I go for the obvious whenever I can.”
“I think I might know what you mean. Mack. Or Laurie. Take your pick. I permit you to name me, Ronnie, as long as you play nice.” That infuriating smirk, glittering centerpiece of the Mereth Atherdad, crystalline charm of the exiled prince, the black hair and eyes like Italian marble, that smirk, and Daeron almost punched him.
“I like Laurie better.”
“David, I’m flattered. I thought you hated me and my kind so much that you could not even consent to admire a name of ours.” Maglor’s smirk was frozen in place, and Daeron realized what he was doing a beat late. Maglor was speaking of Noldor and Sindar, and rather obliquely of Thingol, but in this place, Maglor’s dark brown skin and coiled black hair gave his taunt a different meaning entirely. The bar-goers, almost all Black men and women, eyed Daeron, with his light -anned skin and straight hair, warily. Damn cocky Noldor and their power plays! Damn Maglor and his peerless ability to read a room!
“Laurie, it’s not your… kind I have issue with. It’s your family, and you specifically. You can understand why I might hold a grudge.”
Maglor shrugged, adjusting his guitar strap. “Sure, I understand. But the salient question here is not “will you ever forgive me”, which is frankly a pointless inquiry, given that I have yet to forgive myself. The real question is: David Ronald of the Burned Wood, will you play the Blues with me?”
The bar felt like the inside of a steam engine. If Daeron turned him down, the people in the bar would never look at him quite the same way. And he liked them, liked this bar. They listened to his heartbreak in a way that people hadn’t for… centuries, really, and they paid well enough. Daeron had never quite stopped swearing in Sindarin, no matter how many languages he learned, and the string of imprecations that flashed through his mind would have made the Sirion shrink back. Trapped in another impossible situation by another goddamn Son of Feanor!
But… Daeron found his gaze lingering on Maglor’s hand wrapped around the neck of the guitar, its calloused, scarred, elegance; the broad chest beneath straight shoulders that housed the most powerful voice of his kindred. The memories of the Mereth Atherdad nested around that hard, gleaming smirk, the giddiness of raising his voice to another that could meet it note for note. He wanted to sing the Blues with this… this kinslayer, this traitor, and in a flash he decided to let himself want something beyond the memory of Lúthien.
“Laurie of the Darkened Realm, it would be an honor to play the Blues with you.”
Maglor smiled, real this time, and the two took the stage.
Claps and whistles; Daeron was well-known, but he heard “Laurie!” shouted enough times that Maglor must also have a following. Maybe they’d shown up just for him. He must have loved that.
Maglor cleared his throat--an absurdly musical sound--and spoke into the microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, my old friend and colleague Ron on harmonica. Give it up for this pretty little slip of a thing! He sure can play that harp, huh?” Cheers, whistles. “Makes you think of a fairy playing a pan-pipe, doesn’t it?” Laughter, jeers. Daeron tried not to resent being called a fairy, for any number of reasons. “Well, this next one’s in… well, Ronnie, what key’s that harp of yours in?”
Maglor’s fingers moved over the neck of the guitar, and Daeron forced himself not to stare.
“Key of B, then! Y’all, it’s been a piece since we’ve last played together. Feels like centuries, doesn’t it, Ron?”
“Ha! You’re right about that. Okay, well this is a new number--Westward Traveling Blues.”
New? Daeron scoffed. Only as new as Orome’s summons. But that was the way of the Blues. The newest songs were the oldest, and reinvention was the mode of creation. After Ages spent singing on one theme and its million variations, it felt familiar. We lingerers were meant for this. These Secondborn, and their endless sorrows. Blues.
Maglor sure as hell knew how to groove on that old Spanish guitar, lovingly restrung with steel. The room would’ve been silent in Tirion or Menegroth, silent in Vienna or Istanbul; here, it came alive with the music, and Daeron blew through the first riff on his harp with a smile right out of his childhood on the Westward March, when singing belonged to the voice of anyone in hearing distance, to take up and to refigure, to improvise, to start right up with a theme of one’s own. Maglor knew how to groove, sure, but Daeron knew how to wail .
Maglor laughed when he picked out Daeron’s melody; it was from the one piece they’d composed together for that damn Feast. But not from the version they’d written down; it was the original melody Daeron had proposed, and Maglor had submitted to a barrage of alterations after declaring it “lacking something, perhaps a sense of order or stability”. What he’d really meant was that it was too microtonal and that it struck too close to the swirl of guilt and sorrow dammed up behind Maglor’s newly-exiled Valinorean cadences. Daeron had fought and spat and raged, and Maglor had cajoled and demanded and reasoned, until finally Daeron had given in and, secretly delighting in being questioned for once in his musical opinions, allowed Maglor to alter his tune, just a little. Just around the edges. The argument ended with the two embracing so long Daeron started joking about Thingol and Melian, and Maglor spluttered and blushed and that had been the end of that.
They brought down the house, of course. And then, in a couple centuries, Maglor brought down the halls around his ears, but Daeron was long gone by then.
Nobody holds a grudge like a Sinda, thought Daeron, and bent the metal reed of his harp into the wild spaces between the notes of the 12-tone scale. And Maglor couldn’t say a word, because he was bending his strings, sliding, lingering over each flattened blue note like a child he couldn’t bear to send away.
And then Maglor started to sing, and, well. Sure, he was making the lyrics up on the fly, but that was nothing to a Noldo raised on verbal battles over breakfast. What struck Daeron was the lyrics’ simplicity. He hadn’t thought Maglor would have it in him to trim down the elegant ornamentation that had one time marked his style. But maybe he’d learned something about repetition, rise and fall, rough and smooth, by the sea--he was making those lines swell and break like waves. His voice had all of its old power, but roughened, almost mortal, in its overtones. Daeron wondered if it was a change in his voice itself or merely an adopted vocal style. Part of him ached to hear the old swelling bass of the Mighty Singer, crystalline-clear and somehow warm all at once, like light imprisoned in a jewel.
But Daeron, for all his admiration, was a musician first, and a proud one. The Greatest, they’d called him, and who was Daeron to argue? He dropped the harp from his lips and took up the vocal melody, trusting Maglor’s musicianship to sense his intention and let him take the lead. Maglor, of course, did not disappoint. Sure, he was a murderer and a thief, but he wasn’t about to fuck up a Song.
Daeron may have been Mightiest Minstral of Elvennesse, but he knew that the voice was one area where the damn Noldo surpassed him. Still, that was only one instrument, and besides, this was his theme, dropped into his arms like an orphaned child. So Daeron sang, and he sang Maglor’s altered form of the line, but altered again, lower, slower, Blue.
Maglor laughed, an open joy on his face Daeron had not thought him capable of, and dropped his accompaniment low and dirty to showcase Daeron’s clear tenor. Verse. Verse. Turn. Harp raised again, Maglor playing his Spanish guitar with the steel strings like a catgut harp, flashing and earthen and limber. Final cadence, resolved and raised again, left shaking in the air like the last note of Creation, eternally unfinished, begging for another instrument to take it up again.
Riotous cheer, applause, whistles, a warm affection in Maglor’s dark, dark eyes, Ronnie, Daeron, I’ve missed you these millennia, I’ve missed our music,” and Mind-Speech delivered perfectly the plea-- play with me again. And Daeron, powerless to refuse, his own will screaming for a partner in Music, nodded once, and handed his harp to the ancient enemy.
“You always had a harp on you, Laurie. I know you can play. Give me that Spanish behemoth and we’ll see what happens.” So Maglor harped, and Daeron strummed, and this was dancing music, Luthien’s music, and couples coalesced on the dance floor. Maglor played harmonica like he’d held the Gap; reckless-bold, but backed by deadly skill and the grace to weave around any number of certain defeats, feline, Elven. He played himself into impossible corners, and then at the moment you thought he’d falter, give in, he’d pull out a riff so brilliant you wondered how you hadn’t seen it coming. He played chromatic runs just because he could, jumped in and out of keys on Daeron’s shitty diatonic harp, and he made the inexorable progression of Daeron’s dancing Blues walk his own animal to ride as he pleased. What a Noldo , Daeron thought, surprising himself with fondness, and he started singing in Sindarin just because. And because, what was the point of being an Elda if you couldn’t dazzle the Secondborn a bit, he wove a Glamor over his lyrics: Lúthien dancing in a smoky bar, long hair bound into braids. Maglor gave him a raised eyebrow, the smirking bastard, but Daeron ignored him, and Maglor played along good-naturedly, matching his music to dream-Lúthien’s movements. Lúthien danced Morgoth to sleep, and Maglor added the holy polyphonies set in the Iron Crown with a twang of ironic reverence. Such a sentiment would have scorched a Vanya’s ears, but the Blues drank it in as a matter of course.
The song came to a crashing climax like the Foe falling drunk off his chair, and the door swung open to reveal three panting musicians dragging cases behind them. “We heard there was magic here,” said the one carrying a guitar.
“Y’all need a drummer?” asked the woman with a stack of round cases.
“And a bassist?” added someone wearing a red velvet suit and fedora.
Daeron laughed, and Maglor motioned them over. “Of course, of course! Ladies and gents, one night only, Ron and Laurie and these fine musicians gonna play some Blues. Now we need a name, but I’m no good at naming, so Ronnie? Why don’t you do the honors?”
Daeron was tempted to say “Noldolantë” just to be contrary, but Maglor had asked him to play nice, and the music had him in a generous mood. “How ‘bout the Wanderers?” he said, smiling at their new bandmates and sending Maglor the Mind-speech equivalent of a friendly shove.
And Maglor was thinking, Cousin Findaráto, if you could see me now. Playing harp with the Secondborn.
And they played all night, of course, because neither Elves nor Blues musicians need sleep, and in the morning the club owner offered them a gig the next night, and the red velvet wearing bassist offered to stick around and play “oh, whatever y’all need, I’m told I’m a bit of a virtuoso”, and that was that.
The velvet-wearer’s name was Rachel, but she liked to keep that quiet and asked them to call her Ray. She had far too many girlfriends to be known as Rachel in public, and Maglor smirked in congratulation. “My family was known as a bit queer, back in the day. My oldest brother was… well, he was never very happy, but he was certainly gay enough when his friend came to visit. My, they were inseparable.”
Daeron had heard the rumors, of course, but he’d never known whether to believe them.
“Maedhros? Really?” Daeron questioned when he and Maglor were alone.
“Oh, yes. Why d’you think he escaped Valinor unmarried? I envy him, sometimes.”
“You’re married?” Daeron ignored the twist in his gut.
“Not anymore. I felt the annulment shortly after… well, after Doriath. We had only a few decades together before I left. I don’t blame her, not wanting to tie her fea to a Fëanorian.”
“Didn’t it… doesn’t that kind of thing break the heart? Beyond repair, sometimes?”
“Right, I forget you were never married, with how you moon over Beren’s wife.” Daeron bristled, but Maglor went on, ignoring him. “But it broke you nonetheless, didn’t it? Well, if you can be unmarried and heartbroken, I can be married and un-broken when it ends. I suppose I had greater griefs to manage. We’re both fuck-ups, my dear Ronnie,” said Maglor with a crooked grin. He’d thought he hated that smile, hated its insouciance, its irreverence, but now he was realizing that what it called up in him was not anger. What it was, though, he couldn’t name.
Daeron had been thinking about marriage so abstractly since then, trying to parse his emotions, that it was almost a surprise when Rachel asked if either of them would perform a marriage between her and Marlene, her current girlfriend and, to hear her tell it, an angel sent straight from heaven to heal her weary soul. Marlene was also white, so the whole thing was doubly illegal. Maglor, who had quite a bit of experience with breaking laws of every kind, offered to do the ceremony without batting an eye. He was, of course, ordained, because, as he put it, “makes things a whole lot simpler when you have those holy letters behind your name. People forgive a little clerical transgression.”
Maglor and Daeron composed a wedding march and played it on the piano in the back room of the bar where the wedding was held. It was a four-handed piece; two of the hands played in a classical, wedding-march style, and the other two played the same melody and variations and improvisations in Blue, but the two hands didn’t always belong to the same person. The hands crossed, and traded, and danced around the same theme, winding higher and softer and blending, bending into the between like a dancer. Neither Daeron nor Maglor could shake the feeling that this was the closest to perfect intimacy either of them had felt in millennia.
Daeron cried with Maglor pronounced them wife and wife in the sight of God, Eru Ilúvatar hiding behind the English like a shadow. Their two and two hands intertwined, then their two and two lips, and the crowd clapped and cheered like this was the final, lingering chord. Not a return to tonic stability; a dominant. A demand for continuation, for response. Daeron searched Maglor’s eyes and found tears there, too, but no bitterness. Hope, even.
He smiled at Daeron, I know you’re onto me but know you know I know , because not even millennia of exile could make Maglor less of a little shit.
They played at the reception, of course, Rachel singing a song to her new spouse and then Maglor taking over the mic so that the newlyweds could dance. Daeron on keys, a minor drone, and then that golden voice soared and, shit, Daeron knew when to drop out and let the song continue. Maglor had, for a few bars, left the Blues and pulled up melodies from Beleriand, drowned and beloved. He sang like an Elda, like a Firstborn of the Great Conductor, like the blue, blue ocean that held his grief.
Daeron knew this melody. It was Iathrin, a traditional wedding song. Daeron hadn’t taught it to him, but he knew it, of course. Luthien probably sang it to Beren. She was probably singing it now beyond the world, and here was Daeron, bound within it. Her dancing was never for him. Now, watching Rachel and Marlene dropped low in each others’ arms, mortal and married and moving to the backbeat of love, Daeron didn’t need to clutch her memory like the neck of an unstrung guitar, a cold battered harmonica, a blown vacuum tube that would never speak again. There was another, graceful like a warrior, jewel-dark and smiling, whose body’s music he’d rather know.
He joined Maglor on the chorus, and what a duet they could make, the sea and forest, earth and water, the moss on the riverbanks and the crows who knew how to make unloveliness sing. The songbirds that echoed, purer, knife-high and lilting. Something beyond birds and matter; the acoustics of guilt, the wave interference patterns of un-looked-for grace. They rose and fell, nearing, separating, and here’s the thing: love isn’t the closest interval, the nearest unison; love is the gleeful dissonance of suspension, of drawing near to leap away, of wandering lines that end together in harmony, or in sweet disunion that winks and makes no promises but always, always shadows resolution. If not in this song, then in the next, or in the Song itself.
Rachel caught Daeron’s eye, winked, and pulled Marlene by the waist up to the stage. Maglor looked around, dazed, like the music still had him by the ankles, and Daeron dragged him onto the dance floor by his collar.
“Let’s let Ron and Laurie have a dance or two, what do y’all think?” Marlene demurred, but allowed herself to be steered to the piano bench, where she proved herself to be both classically trained and Blue at the soul. Rachel surveyed the instruments like Mablung in an armory before settling on the first instrument of Creation and stepping back to the microphone.
Tispy laughter; good-natured whistles. One man was leaning against his lover, a broad man who looked fully capable of propping him up like a trellis. He shouted, slurred but enthusiastic, “you two kiss already!” Daeron blushed like he hadn’t blushed in centuries, not since that Carthagean priest had called him a “blessed virgin” and tried to seduce him with the Song of Songs.
Maglor seemed unmoved, but then, he was good at stoic unconcern, and if he was blushing, his skin was too dark to tell. Blasted Fëanorian complexion , Daeron thought, and remembered the dark feathers of nightingales in shadow. Daeron found himself frozen, locked into that stoic, implacable, infuriating face. Maglor bowed, courtly and so damn Noldorin Daeron wanted to kick him. “Daeron,” he began, so softly only another Elf could hear, “will you suffer a kinslayer to dance with you?”
“I’ll suffer this one; I’ve been suffering him long enough,” replied Daeron, smug as ever his partner had been at a point scored.
Maglor took one step closer, almost reluctant. “Will you forgive me?”
Daeron sighed. “Maglor, I haven’t hated you in Ages, if I ever did. You destroyed my home, yes, but a home I had forsaken. You did evil, and yet to me you have only ever been music. You gave me a new theme; let me embellish. Let me improvise.” He leaned closer, closer, and Maglor did not retreat. Daeron kissed him, just once, lightly, on the lips.
The leaning man cheered, and his longsuffering partner kissed the crown of his head.
“Now let’s dance.”
“I’m no Lúthien,” said Maglor, and it sounded almost sincere.
“I know. And you’re not the Enemy. I promise not to confuse you with either.”
They danced, and it didn’t make the Doomsman weep, but it did dampen a few mortal handkerchiefs, and it was enough for them.
They set up together on the same street as Ray and Marlene. If anyone got too nosey, Maglor would be seen holding hands with Rachel at the grocery store, and Daeron and Marlene would sit together in church, and that was that.
And they played the Blues, of course. All over the Delta, piled into Marlene’s van, Daeron bitching about the smell of gasoline and Maglor nearly shorting out the radio with enthusiastic harmonies. Marlene turning to the classical station, her fingers twitching on the wheel, the open adoration in Rachel’s eyes. The trip to Birmingham, when Daeron caved and bought a flute from a thrift store, and Maglor made eyes at a Celtic harp until Daeron shoved it into his arms and marched him to the counter.
“I could’ve made a better one,” muttered Maglor in the back seat, re-stringing the ancient thing while the highway skipped by.
“Damn Noldo,” Daeron answered, with no heat at all. They played a duet with their long legs folded up over suitcases, wild Wood-elf music of Ossiriand.
“That right there? That’s some goddamn fae music. You two ain’t human, you know that?” jibed Rachel good-naturedly.
“Fairy music, more like,” said Daeron, winking at Maglor, who puffed out his chest and played a flourish on his harp that could have come from any concert hall in Europe.
“Fairies make the best music,” said Maglor, mildly.
“Damn right,” said Rachel, and launched into Prove it On Me. Maglor picked out an accompaniment on his harp, the notes laughing at themselves and at their player. Daeron played harmonica riffs on his new, battered flute, and Marlene cursed them all for their portable instruments.
“Shit. You two sure you ain’t sold your souls like Robert?” Rachel said.
Maglor answered gravely, “who do you think he sold it to?” Marlene and Rachel laughed, but Daeron sent, really?
The man was looking to get rid of his soul any way he could. I just made sure he gave it to someone who wouldn’t break it.
You’re not really the devil, Maglor.
That’s sweet, coming from you.
Did you do anything to him?
No. He didn’t need the Devil to play. I just made him believe he had him already.
Reports of the piety of the Calaquendi appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Maglor snorted, and went back to fiddling with his harp.
A man or two in a tweed suit offered them a record deal, but Rachel took one look at each of them and shook her head like a dog had just puked on her carpet. Marlene asked her why, the first time.
“They’re all crooked, Marley. To a man. Can’t you see the dollar signs behind them piggy eyes? They’ll use us up ‘till we’re ghosts,” Rachel said.
“Shadow-haunting, dropping vain tears into the thankless sea,” added Maglor.
“Goddamn sellouts,” said Daeron, unbuttoning his sleeves.
“But don’t you want to make it big?” pled Marlene, her fingers twitching on the keys of a phantom grand piano, the old bruises on her wrists no less there for all they’d faded to barely anything.
Maglor straightened up, that long-bean sonofagun, and said, “Let me tell you about making it big. You set your sights on a priceless treasure, and you still end up in the gutter with the Blues.”
“Laurie’s an expert in the particulars of falling from grace,” needled Daeron, throwing an arm around Maglor’s shoulder.
“Wrote the book on it,” Maglor deadpanned.
“You oughta play it for us some day,” said Daeron, and what he meant was, we should tell them what kind of thing we are, which Maglor heard, of course, that clever disaster of an Elda.
“Maybe I will,” mused Maglor. “And you oughta spill about Lucy.”
“Ooooooh,” taunted Rachel. “ Lucy ? You runnin’ around on Laurie? Trouble in paradise?”
“Paradise is always troubled,” said Maglor with great dignity and personal conviction. “But no. Lucy was before my time. Right, Ronnie?”
“You know as well as I that nothing is ever wholly the past. Not memory, not loss. Not pain.”
Maglor, in an uncharacteristic display of affection, scooped Daeron off the ground into an embrace that was part caress, part restraint. But then, maybe not so uncharacteristic. Maglor’s people had always known how to hold precious things close.
The truth came out, of course, in the Blues. It was a joint effort, Maglor and Daeron riffing on each others’ lyrics as Rachel walked the bassline over drowned continents and Marlene’s chords spiraled in firey columns up to the clouds, and what came out was the “Fae-Hearted Blues”. One look, and they let their voices free, their Voices, and that Blues poetry took on Glamor. They sang the story of their meeting at the Mereth Atherdad, their families’ strife, the end of the world and the years of wandering, and the years of meeting.
The last chord spiraled off somewhere, and Rachel and Marlene stared twin questions at them.
“You’re always asking if we’re even human,” began Daeron.
“There’s your answer,” finished Maglor.
Rachel snorted, then started giggling uncontrollably. “Y’all. You’re fairies .”
“Would you believe that’s not the first time someone’s made that joke,” said Daeron, elbowing Maglor.
“Elves, to be specific. I was ready for a more precise explanation, but I was expecting a little more initial incredulity.”
Marlene shrugged, swinging her legs over the piano bench to face them. “I’ve always kind of believed in the fae. Didn’t know they played the Blues, but makes sense. Well, and you’re a little taller than I expected.”
Rachel continued. “Look, fellas, I am a damn talented instrumentalist. I can play near about anything you put in front of me. My lady wife is a pianist of the highest order. But you two are on some kind of other plane, y’know? I know magic when I see it, and you two got it.”
Maglor’s face fell a tiny bit, almost imperceptible.
“I think Laurie was looking forward to convincing you. He comes from a family of argumentative assholes.”
Maglor, feeling the need, even after all the millennia and several large-scale murders, to defend his family, retorted, “Ronnie doesn’t have a grandfather!”
Marlene was unimpressed. “I ain’t got a grandfather either, honey. Shot hisself with his police revolver.”
“No, I mean, he never had one. He’s the second generation of Elves to exist in the world. It’s the reason he can grow a beard.”
“What! No shit! That’s amazing! Ronnie… okay, there’s no way you’re name’s really Ronnie,” said Rachel.
“His name is Daeron,” Maglor said, the Sindarin a caress. “Daeron of Doriath.”
“And this piece of work is Maglor Fëanorion.”
“Kanafinwë Makalaurë Fëanárion,” said Maglor, his Quenya falling like comets, trailing light.
“And, yes, he has always been this much of a show-off.”
Maglor’s bearing turned solemn, subdued. “And I’ve murdered hundreds of innocent people. I took an Oath, and in the service of our madness, I sowed evil in the world. So you have no illusions about me.”
Marlene was still unimpressed. “So did my grandfather. S’why he shot hisself. You changed your ways, Laur...Maglor?”
Maglor was silent long enough that Daeron cut in for him. “Long centuries of repentance he has endured. He--”
“I cannot disavow Makalaurë, the Oath-taker. But I no longer live by that name.”
Rachel nodded. “I was born Harrietta. Harrietta’s dead.”
“Ray has the death certificate.”
“I’m Harrietta’s ‘cousin’.”
“There was some forgery involved.”
“So what I’m saying, gentlemen, is that I, Rachel, am a fugitive from the law, and the man I killed was declared innocent of what I later killed him for when he was guilty as sin because he was white and his Daddy’s rich. One secret for another, right?”
“Leaves before the wind,” Maglor muttered dreamily.
“Don’t worry,” said Daeron, when Maglor gave no sign of offering reassurance, “we’re no strangers to the dodgy side of the law. Or multiple aliases.”
Marlene looked at Rachel, a private couples’ look, and they laughed. “This is unbelievable,” said Rachel. “Why do I believe it?”
“We’re a light-skinned woman and a dark-skinned woman who love each other. You ask some people, that’s impossible, too.”
Rachel looked thoughtful. “Yeah, you’re… hey! Maglor! How come you look African? If you’re, y’know…”
“Not from Africa?” finished Maglor. “No. Valinor. Which, though it is not Africa, is also not Western Europe. People believe what they want to believe.”
Marlene jumped in. “So, were you two musicians in your… First lives, I guess?”
“Were we musicians! Well, I don’t know, the songs agree I was the Mightiest Minstrel of Elvennesse, but I don’t know about this one,” Daeron teased.
Maglor, of course, took the bait. “In songs from the Sindarin-speaking world! Of course they would say that: you were theirs and I was the devil who killed their families over jewelry. Even they do me the courtesy of second place! And Noldorin songs make a point of mentioning my skill with harp and voice.”
“So, not all elves are as scary good as you two?”
“No!” they said in unison.
“We were the best,” said Daeron.
“Are the best,” added Maglor, absurdly cheerful. “Everyone else is long gone.”
“We used to play for our people in crowds of thousands under the stars.”
“We swayed hearts, called forth life and beauty from the darkness.”
“We were bound to the fates of our people.”
“Still are,” said Maglor, looking to the sea.
“And now you’re playing Blues in the back room of a bar with two mortals?” mused Marlene.
“Seems right to me,” said Rachel, and, the time being full, picked up her instrument and dove back into the music.
Mortals don’t stick around, and Marlene and Rachel moved out west to live on a ranch and play the Blues for as many children they could take in. Maglor and Daeron’s parting gift included official, legitimate-as-can-be papers for one Raymond Barnabas Woodburn, unrelated by strange coincidence to the man of the same name who had sauntered into the county clerk’s office and started singing. The dazed clerk later recalled a second singing figure, darker, strumming of all things a harp , but he dismissed it as a hallucination. The bank teller recalled a similar delirium, and he could have sworn the ledgers looked different the previous week, but everything seemed to be in order. Except, of course, for the twenty grand in cash that had grown legs and walked away, but he didn’t know about that.
“This must be why Great Grandma Doyle was always goin’ on about stayin’ on the good side of the Fair Folk,” said Marlene.
“Wise woman,” declared Maglor, bowing.
“You sure you can’t come with us? We’d love to have you,” offered Rachel, not for the first time.
“Maglor doesn’t like to be too far from the sea,” said Daeron.
“Daeron doesn’t do well without trees,” said Maglor. Neither of them met the women’s eyes, and neither of them spoke the truth they both knew: watching Marlene and Rachel age and die would hurt like hell, and they were running out of skin for scars.
“Sure as hell gonna miss you two,” said Marlene.
“We’ll miss you longer,” said Maglor, and Marlene laughed. Death was a marvellous joke to Marlene, who’d held a gun to her head enough times the thrill had worn off a bit, and now she was prepared to wait a whole lifetime to tackle the Grim Reaper. She and Maglor primarily communicated through gallows humor and uncomfortable truths.
She spoke one of those truths now. “World ain’t gonna sing the Blues much longer. Folks always will, but the world won’t. What will you do after we’re gone?”
“Find a new song, I guess,” said Maglor, catching Daeron’s eye. Don’t you think it’s time?
Daeron nodded agreement. “Yeah. A new song.”