Silence echoed in the heights of Thangorodrim. The clean winds of Manwë never reached here, but the heat and noisome mists of Morgoth hissed upward and sent tendrils snaking from the crevasses, scouring and brutal. There was no escape; Maedhros discovered that quickly. No escape, save one — but he was Maedhros, son of Fëanor, and the murderer of his father and his father's father, the rapist of Aman and thief of the Silmarils, would not get the satisfaction of his soul fleeing his body. The pain and the anguish would not drive him to the arms of Mandos. And so he endured.
The Enemy taunted and tormented him at first, but the rising of the sun had presented Morgoth with other things to dwell upon. The trumpets of Fingolfin's people had sounded even to Thangorodrim, and Maedhros had called out to them, though he had not been heard. And even confined as he was, the mountains brought echoes to his sharp ears, and so he heard the rumour of the coming of Men, and from time to time the clash of arms, and he espied the reasons that he was forgotten.
Forgotten by the Enemy, am I also forgotten by my kinsmen? He had heard the ultimatum they were presented, and would not have them buy his life in such a way, even if they would. Nor had he any hope that they should overthrow the Enemy in so little time. Only do not forget me, my brothers.
He would not forget them — the sounds of their voices and the music of their home. In the absence of the Enemy's torment, memories were his chief succour. The new sun was hot on his skin, hunger and thirst howled through him; his body screamed its own tortures in his ear, shrill and insistent. In desperation, he set his thoughts to happier times — his grandfather's hammer ringing on the anvil as he held the tongs — hair like fire, you are destined for this as I was, Mahtan had said with a smile. His brothers' jubilant horns echoing in the forest — You are elder, but we will be faster! Amras had laughed, bright and chiming. The soft music of the trees — Laurelin at its wane, Telperion mingling its light with its sister's, the trees of the forest casting soft shadows as he lay with Fingon his friend, and there were no words.
Ah, Fingon, tyenya. Do you yet live amongst those of your father's people who have come upon these shores? Can you forgive me the love of my father, that I did not stay his hand that burnt the ships which should have borne you hence?
The days blurred, a dull hum blending one into another with little to tell between them. He cried down curses on the head of the Enemy and all his hosts, his voice growing rough and weak. But if the Enemy wanted cries for mercy, the wait would be in vain.
The pulse of life thrummed through him, more tenacious than the hell-wrought iron binding him to the precipice; but his body grew weaker as time wore on, where the fetters did not. He thought perhaps he grew feverish, but his hand and his brow were equally hot, and there was no one else to ask.
They say your father has a spirit of fire in him, Fingon teased him. Have you got this burning skin from him?
No, he answered, from you. And Fingon laughed.
In waking, he knew these were but echoes of the past, but he woke less and less frequently, and could only count it a blessing. In his mind, he was not a captive — he laughed with his brothers, and his mother's teachings were soft in his ears. His father's voice rang in the glittering halls of Tirion upon Túna, and he sang joyful songs with Fingon in the dusk of Valinor.
And woke, and found Fingon singing still.
Fingon's armour was cool against his skin, and the rushing whisper of the wind brought a welcome chill. He shivered and could not stop, and Fingon held him close, murmuring to him. "Oh, my love, my brother, stay with me, you are safe."
He sighed into Fingon's chest. "Nowhere is safe. It would have been safer to leave me."
"Perhaps," he retorted. "It would equally have been safer never to have left the Blessed Realm. For what reason did you leave, if not to keep precious things safe from Him?"
Maedhros sighed again, but had no answer.
In Mithrim they were parted. The healers scurried around him, binding his arm and mending his wounds as best they could. He endured their attentions and gentle hands and voices, and drank their draughts with no complaint; but the greatest healing was to wake, and to see Fingon by his bedside.
"I thought you were a dream, when I heard your song." He fumbled one hand from the blankets, and Fingon grasped it.
"I am no dream." He smiled, but there was a sadness to it.
"I had never thought to see you again." He closed his eyes in pain more than physical. "When I found the boats were not to be sent back…" He gripped Fingon's hand as tightly as his weakened body would allow, remembering the roar of the flames. "Can you forgive me, even now?"
There was a shadow of pain in Fingon's face, but his eyes were clear. "We endured much to make our way to this place. But a poor friend would I be, if I held you accountable for the actions of your father. Though there are some among my people who would do so," he cautioned.
"Nor would they be entirely wrong in that." Maedhros shook his head. "If you will forgive me, then I am content for my part. For your people — Tyenya, will you ask your father to come to me?"
"Your brothers are not all of your mind." Fingon's voice was low, and his hands caressed Maedhros's arm for a moment before returning to their task.
Maedhros thinned his lips. "Kingship of the Noldor I have relinquished; the leadership of my father's house I have not. They will follow my will or be further dispossessed." He tightened his grasp, the dagger slipping and singing against Fingon's sleeve as Maedhros moved it through its paces.
"Stubborn." Fingon made a noise of disgust and steadied him again.
"They will see the wisdom of it." Maedhros smiled grimly. "And I will fight again."
Whether the former would come to pass, he could not say for certain. But the latter, he would guarantee. A dagger first, but soon it would be a sword, and his right arm was as strong as ever, and able to bear shield. He demanded a brush and a desk, and set about the designs for the changes he would need to make in his weaponry. The bristles scratched clumsily along the parchment at first, but his letters improved, and his mind was as sharp as ever, and both good and discarded papers soon littered the floor around his chair.
"You should not strive for so much so quickly," Fingon chided him gently.
"Will the Enemy bide his time for me to heal?" He set his mouth grimly and took another shaky step, leaning heavily upon Fingon's shoulder and cursing his own infirmity.
Fingon shook his head. "If you fall walking from your bed to table, how much longer will it take to heal then?"
"I will not fall." Sweating and trembling, he made it to his bed. "I must not."
Fingon's cool fingers caressed his face. "Nor will you, if I can help it. Rest now."
But his rest was filled with silent pain and heat, and soon he was rising again, devising arms and war equipment and encampments that could withstand concerted attack. He curved his hand around smooth daggers and rough lengths of wood until he could lift a sword again, pulled himself from bed to chair to grassy hillside.
His brothers encouraged him distantly, save for Maglor, who sat by him under the trees and sang of healing and beauty, his voice cool as the breeze across the water, one soothing his mind and the other his skin. "You are still too thin, brother." He put away his harp once more, the strings still chiming faintly, and made to return to their dwellings across the lake. They embraced, and he pressed Maedhros' hand. "Grow healthy and strong; I will bear your instructions to our house, and know that you are well cared for here." He gazed knowingly at the path down which Fingon had wandered.
Maedhros thought long after his brother left, as the shadows lengthened towards dusk, until Fingon returned. He knelt to offer Maedhros a hand, and he took it with a sigh. "You are a prince of our people, not a nursemaid."
"So may I not help a friend?" He raised an eyebrow.
Maedhros shook his head, gazing at him wonderingly. "You have already helped me beyond anything that I could repay."
"And you have given me, in time, the kingship of our people. Let us never speak of debts between us, Tyenya."
"A curse as much as a blessing, as well you know."
"I will forgive you that for now."
As Maedhros's strength grew, he chafed at the attentions of the healers. Maglor dropped gentle suggestions that his more direct leadership would not go amiss, and Maedhros knew his brothers and his duty waited.
He lay in the cool night, his legs stretched out along the grass, and leaned against Fingon as they sat under a strong oak. Fingon sang softly, his voice a thread of sound in the night air, his chest humming with the notes. If their fates had been otherwise, Maedhros would have stayed. He closed his eyes and lay his head upon Fingon's shoulder, searching for the words he needed.
Fingon's lips brushed his forehead and his song trailed away. "There are troubles enough in this world; do not purchase others. You must return to your house, and I must stay with mine. But now, at least, there can be peace between them, for a time, and we need not be estranged."
"To you we owe that blessing." Maedhros turned into his arms. "And it is a blessing indeed." He kissed him softly. "Tomorrow I will return. For tonight, will you sing with me?"
Fingon smiled, and the murmur of the wind and the creatures of the evening mingled with their own sounds in the sweetest music of all.