Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their owners/creators. . .I'm just borrowing them for a spell. . .
Rating: PG-13, for themes.
Time Frame: About two years before the events in the first X-Men movie.
Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.
Dedication: To Sir Ian, for his masterful portrayals of an epic hero and an idealistic monster.
Author's Note: Reference is made to events described in "The Silmarillion"--some of this will be unfamiliar to those who haven't read it.
Magneto shifted restlessly in his bed. It had been a long day--Mystique had reported back to him that one of his favored candidates for recruitment had reacted negatively to first contact, and that it was her opinion that he would not see reason. He had regretfully given Mystique orders to recruit the young man or terminate him within forty-eight hours, and spent the rest of the day deciding how the decision would alter his plans. His mind raced, considering possibilities and contingencies--but at last his fatigue overcame his preoccupation, and he drifted off into sleep.
Magneto sat up and looked around. He was still in bed, and he saw no one. Had someone spoken to him, or was he just imagining it? He frowned, and rested his head back on his pillow.
"Eric, I would speak to you, if you would grant me an audience."
Magneto blinked--the voice was clearly audible now, and the wording was. . .odd. He sat up again, and stared in disbelief. He saw an old man in snowy white robes topped by a peaked hat, holding a gnarled staff in his right hand, and wearing a ring with a fiery red stone on his left. His eyes were dark, and they pierced Magneto like daggers as he asked gently, "Do you know who I am, Eric?"
* Of course * was Magneto's first reaction, but he restrained himself before the words crossed his lips. One of his few possessions in the camps had been a battered copy of "The Hobbit," which he had read repeatedly when he had time to himself: after the war, he learned that Professor Tolkien had written a continuation of the story, and he read "The Lord Of The Rings" with barely restrained enthusiasm. He had loved all of the characters, but it had been Gandalf he had always admired and identified with--and now that imposing being appeared to be standing in his bedroom. * I need to keep my composure--this could be a trick, rather than simply a dream or--heaven help me--exactly what it appears to be * He locked eyes with the image of legend and said simply, "You appear to be Gandalf the White--but appearances can be deceiving."
The figure waved his left hand, and suddenly Magneto found himself sitting on a balcony overlooking a waterfall--it was daylight, and Magneto could see wildlife below that was not native to North America, or anywhere else he was aware of. He turned to his visitor and commented, "Very impressive--but you could be exercising some kind of mental powers on me to make me think I'm seeing this. I need more."
The man nodded. "You have perfected techniques of blocking outside mental influences--use them now. Even if I represent a power too great to block, there should be a discernible effect that will alert you to any deception on my part."
Magneto frowned and nodded--the plan was a good one, and he saw no flaws in the man's reasoning. The Master of Magnetism concentrated, forming an aura of magnetic disruption that would scramble any incoming brain waves that could influence his perceptions or actions. When he had formed the aura, he opened his eyes. Gandalf sat across from him, smiling. Magneto stared again, and whispered, "I am surely dreaming, or mad, or--"
"Or things are as they seem." Gandalf's voice was calm as he poured Magneto a glass of water from a pitcher in front of him and handed it to him. Magneto accepted the drink, and noticed that he was fully dressed in street clothes, though his helmet was not present. Gandalf smiled and added, "If you are mad, your friends will undoubtedly come to your aid. If you are dreaming, why not enjoy it? If it is real. . .can you not spare a few moments to listen to an old friend?"
Magneto looked at Gandalf and shook his head in bewilderment. * He's right--regardless of what the reality of this situation is, it can't hurt to listen. * He grinned at the wizard and stated simply, "You have my complete attention, sir. If I may ask--how are things in Valinor?"
"Life has been good in recent years. Fingolfin and his sons have been released from Mandos--only Feanor and his sons remain under sentence for their crimes in the War of The Great Jewels. The Eldar are happy, and content to perfect their skills of art and craftsmanship. The Valar remain steadfast in their role as guardians of Ea. Bilbo is still writing some rather well received poetry." Gandalf spoke calmly, and laughed as he finished the last sentence. Magneto laughed as well--things were apparently much as he expected them to be. * As you would expect, if this is a dream * Magneto pushed the annoying thought away and listened as Gandalf continued, "As you might suspect, I have little to do in the way of offering counsel in this day and age--those of Valinor have not the need, and my days of meddling in the affairs of Middle Earth are over. It was this. . .lack in my life as it stands now that has caused me to seek others out, including you, Eric. It was obvious from an early age that you were an extraordinary individual, and I observed you with interest, hoping that in a moment of need I could offer you a perspective that you had not considered, or had rejected. I believe that time has come, Eric, and thus I have come to you, hoping you would be willing to listen."
"It would be ungrateful and foolish of me not to at least hear your words, Gandalf. Please tell me what is of concern to you." Magneto spoke softly, genuinely moved by the interest that the noble being in front of him had shown regarding his life, though he suspected that he might not like what he was about to hear.
Gandalf inclined his head, and replied, "Eric, I am aware of your struggles to make life better for people who, like you, are different by way of the changes that your world's environment has wrought in your basic structures. You have used peaceful methods, and have been rewarded with death and betrayal. You are ready to give up such moderate means, and move on to more dangerous and deadly methods. I come here to ask you to reconsider this path."
Magneto sighed. * I expected this * He took another sip of water, steeled himself, and stated quietly, "I understand your dismay that I would follow such a course, Gandalf, but I have weighed the options and find that I have no viable alternatives. If I believed it were possible to co-exist peacefully with mankind, without being hunted down to be killed or enslaved, I would continue to fight for that day; after all, I forsee that I will lose many friends and allies in this fight, and find myself opposed to others who I have called friend." He shook his head sadly. "Perhaps you should seek out my old acquaintance Charles Xavier--he is an idealist, and I have no doubt he will oppose me in what is to come."
"Your friend Charles is beyond my reach, I fear--he favors Sir Thomas Malory over Tolkien. . .not to mention the exploits of someone by the name of Dixon Hill. No accounting for taste, I suppose." Gandalf snorted, and studied Magneto--he could see the strain on the man's face, and searched for the words to move him. "Eric, you propose to stand against the entire human race--"
"And why shouldn't I?" cried Magneto, standing and staring at Gandalf with a frustrated expression on his face. "They're murdering my brothers and sisters--destroying any hope we have for a future! Would you have counseled Aragorn and Theoden to parley with the minions of Sauron?" Gandalf was silent, and Magneto set his jaw and turned away as he continued, "No, you would not have. They are savage, unprincipled, butchering children, Gandalf--if I exact a high enough price from them perhaps they will see reason."
"Eric--some of those children liberated the camps and set you free." Gandalf spoke softly, but the words made Magneto blink and look back at the wizard. Gandalf nodded, and continued: "Eric, you have been gifted with great power, and have proven capable and wise in its use--so far. But from among the humans you propose to make war on have come truly great things, which you have appreciated and admired over the years. . .including that which has given us the connection which has allowed me to come here and speak with you." Gandalf leaned forward, and there was a note of pleading in his voice as he added, "Would you destroy all that along with the ones who have tormented you?"
Magneto blinked, and Gandalf could see the pain in his eyes, though his voice remained firm as he replied, "Only if I have to, Gandalf. I wish for peace, but I forsee that it will not come without war, any more than Sauron or Hitler would have given up without a fight. Aragorn allowed the Men who had fought for the Dark Lord to live when they surrendered--I hope to be able to do the same for those who convince me they have abandoned the desire to destroy my people." He met Gandalf's gaze firmly and concluded, "I fear that is all I can promise you, old friend."
Gandalf looked downcast, but he did not turn away. "Perhaps there is one more thing, Eric. You have given orders to your lieutenant regarding a young man you have been trying to recruit--to either win him over or slay him. I ask, in the name of whatever I have meant to you, to spare his life unless and until he opposes you directly. Don't destroy an innocent life in the name of ideological purity."
Magneto felt a burst of anger, then calmed as he realized that Gandalf was willing to give him sound advice even in the face of failure. He sighed, and was silent for a moment before replying, "Very well, Gandalf. There is something to be said for showing good will--perhaps when the boy has a few more years to learn of the cruelty of humans towards mutants, he will join me then and be all the more loyal for it. I will call Mystique in the morning and rescind my order." He took another sip from his water and asked, "Do you have time to stay longer? You clearly are not going to join my cause, and I'd rather spend whatever time you have left speaking of more pleasant matters."
Gandalf shook his head sadly. "I cannot stay, alas. Perhaps on another occasion, if the One is merciful and the opportunity arises." He raised his hand and added, "I need to send you back, so that you may get a good night's sleep, and reflect on what we have discussed."
Gandalf started to gesture, but paused when Magneto called out, "Wait!" Gandalf frowned and raised a bushy eyebrow, and Magneto asked, "Could I just ask you one question?" Gandalf nodded, and Magneto asked, "Why didn't you just send Frodo to Mount Doom on one of the Eagles and destroy the Ring that way?"
Gandalf snorted and gestured, and Magneto saw the world fade away. Before he faded completely, he could have sworn he heard Gandalf mutter, "They always ask me that."
Magneto sat up in bed, looking around himself in confusion. He was in his bedclothes again, and there was no visible sign that he had left his bedroom. * A dream after all, then. It seemed so real * Magneto shook his head in self-deprecation. * Figures from heroic fantasy do not make house calls, not even to you, Magnus * He frowned. * Still, dream or not-- * He reached for the telephone and hit a speeddial button. After a moment, he had reached his party: "Mystique? Sorry to wake you--I've decided to let the boy live. Contact him again and give him the number for one of the untraceable cellphones in case he decides to reconsider. I suspect that he may have a change of heart, if he watches another year or so of news broadcasts." He listened to Mystique for a moment, then added, "You've done well on this assignment--we'll discuss future operations when you get back. Good night." He replaced the receiver, and fell asleep almost instantly.
* * * * *
Gandalf sat on the balcony, looking out over the falls. While he knew he had not failed completely, the knowledge of what had become of a bright young boy who dreamed of growing up to be a great hero pained him. Distracted, he failed to hear the soft footsteps behind him.
The voice was musical, and concerned. Gandalf turned, and as always in the presence of the Lady Galadriel, he understood the emotion that had overtaken Melian when she beheld Thingol for the first time, and which had so transformed the history of Beleriand. He saw the subtle smile on her face, and knew that as always she had perceived the fleeting thought and accepted it as a compliment before dismissing it as irrelevant to both of them. He bowed. "Galadriel--it is good to see you."
Galadriel smiled, and walked past him to look off the balcony. "Did your meeting with your young acquaintance go well? You seem troubled."
Gandalf sighed and walked next to her, trying to take comfort from the company and the beauty of the landscape. "He is determined to pursue the course he has chosen, but he seems willing--even glad--to moderate some of his methods. There is hope, but I worry about him, and his world."
Galadriel reached out and squeezed her old friend's arm. "Time will tell, and you have done all you can." Gandalf turned and nodded slowly, and Galadriel smiled mischievously and changed the subject. "I came to invite you to Bilbo's latest poetry reading. Varda was most insistent that you attend."
Gandalf involuntarily straightened. Refusing an invitation issued by the Lady of The Stars was simply not done. "Then I shall attend--what is Bilbo's latest effort about?"
Galadriel sobered slightly, though there was still a twinkle in her eye. "The fall of Fingolfin."
Gandalf snorted involuntarily. While the return of Fingolfin from Mandos had lessened the grief associated with his death, the subject of his duel with Morgoth had never been the subject of song or poetry by the Elves--Bilbo was trodding on unknown ground. He had a thought: "Will Fingolfin be there?"
Galadriel grinned wickedly. "Of course. Varda insisted." She offered Gandalf her arm. "Shall we go?"
Gandalf winced inwardly at the thought of Bilbo's expression when he saw the High King of the Noldor attending the reading of the account of his own demise, but he took Galadriel's arm and allowed her to lead him out.
The poem was up to Bilbo's usual standards of excellence, and when he had concluded all present applauded him, though one passage had Gandalf thinking of Eric and the fate that might await him:
"The armies had fallen, Ard-Galen burned;
The King wept, and knew despair;
Fury filled his heart, and a dread purpose ruled his soul;
Alone he visited the armory, donning mail and helm;
Girded Ringil to his side, and bade his people farewell;
He rode alone through the flames, his eyes burning like stars;
At the Black Gates he stopped, and called forth his Doom"
Gandalf bowed his head. "Eru help him." He dismissed the situation from his mind, and went forward to congratulate Bilbo.
AUTHOR'S CLOSING NOTES:
1) I'm not a poet, and I'm certainly not up to writing one that scans in both English and Quenya--apologies for the clunkiness of the wording. The full story of Fingolfin's confrontation with Morgoth can be found in "The Silmarillion", and a Google Images search using the two names is recommended--there are some nifty pictures of the epic confrontation floating around.
2) I couldn't resist the temptation to have a little fun by making Professor X a fan of Malory and the nonexistent Dixon Hill stories. Patrick Stewart, of course, played Guinevere's father in "Excalibur," and it was Jean-Luc Picard who was a rather big fan of the Dixon Hill stories. . .
3) Magneto's snarky question about why Gandalf didn't use the Eagles to destroy the Ring is an old chestnut at this point--I recommend that anyone interested in the discussion of what has become a famous plot hole conduct a Google search on the subject--it should prove quite amusing.
As always, comments are welcomed and desired