Maglor’s mournful song rang in his ears. Maedhros’ blood was boiling. The house of Elrond was grieving, and Maedhros longed to right the wrong which crippled his foster-son’s family. But it was not within his power. Maedhros craved to see black blood soaking the earth, to feel his sword in his hand and hear the blade singing; he wished to see orcs flee him and feel his blood pumping when he pursued them mercilessly.
Instead he was standing in Imladris and expressionlessly watching the rain outside while his brother sang in a low voice behind him. Maglor could have moved stones to tears, and Maedhros had never wished to be a rock more than he did now. He had no tears to shed.
The door opened quietly, and Erestor, Elrond’s chief advisor, entered. Maedhros gave him a passing glance.
“Elrohir and Elladan?” the redhead asked shortly.
“Still on the hunt.”
Maedhros frowned. For Elrond’s sake, he would have wished that they were here, but personally he understood their choice. Absent-mindedly he flexed his hand to feel the scarring. It wasn’t giving him any trouble – for now.
Erestor approached to stand some way behind his shoulder.
“You mustn’t leave,” he said. “Your mind is strong, but your body is not.”
Maedhros smiled humourlessly. “So certain are you of my death should I go out and take revenge?”
Erestor shrugged. “Eventually, yes. Spare Elrond further pain and remain where it is safe.”
Elrond’s advisor turned away. Maglor was still singing, his eyes unfocused. Their younger brothers used to make fun of that and say that Maglor was leaving harsh reality behind in favour of his music. Maedhros envied him for that talent.
“Will you join us tonight in the Hall of Fire for the evening meal?” Erestor inquired.
Maedhros glanced at his brother, but the bard did not return the look.
“Will Elrond be there?” Maedhros asked.
“He said so, yes. He sent me to ask whether you would join him and Arwen at the table.”
The redhead nodded. “Then we shall come. Is he in his chambers?”
“He’s taking a bath.”
“I will see you at dinner then.”
Erestor made to leave, but before he reached the door, Maglor abruptly turned to him.
“Would you ask Lindir to come up?”
Evidently he had come up with a composition to share with the younger bard.
The advisor nodded. “Certainly.”
The door closed behind him. Turning to Maglor, Maedhros said:
“Don’t you think that songs of mourning are too much? Celebrían isn’t actually dead, and Elrond and his children will see her again in Valinor.”
“And when will that be? Besides, we both know that she could still succumb on the journey, or in Valinor even. Grandmother did.”
“What happened to her was bad enough. Arda truly is marred.”
“So are we all who live here,” Maedhros replied, unmoved.
“It’s late, Elrond. You should be sleeping.”
Maedhros closed the door to Elrond’s study. He had been on his way back to his and Maglor’s room when he had seen the light in his foster-son’s office.
Elrond gave him only a brief glance over a scroll he was studying.
“I’m not a child, dear adar,” he replied.
“I had noticed. If you were, I would still be able to carry you.”
The half-elf snorted with some amusement. “Go to bed, Maedhros.”
Instead of leaving, the redhead took a seat on a settee diagonally across Elrond’s desk. If Elrond had planned to ignore him until the older elf left, he gave up quickly. With a sigh he put down the scroll.
“I’m serious. You need to rest. You’ve been working long into the night ever since Celebrían left, and don’t deny it, I asked Erestor and he confirmed it. I know her departure is a great loss; but you cannot deal with it by working yourself to your death.”
Elrond’s left hand, resting on the desk, clenched and opened agitatedly. His voice was calm by contrast as he said:
“Everyone deals with grief differently.”
Maedhros nodded. “True.”
He himself had dealt with grief differently each time. Tears when his grandfather died; devastation after his father was killed; rage nearing insanity after the Nírnaeth; numbness after Doriath; emptiness when Ambarussa and Ambarto fell.
At last Elrond sighed and rubbed a hand across his face.
“I cannot sleep in the bed we shared; it’s too empty, and I miss her...”
That was a feeling Maedhros had never had to deal with. He had always been without a mate and thus had never suffered this loss.
“I should have been able to do more,” Elrond continued.
“No,” Maedhros cut him off, rising to cross the room. He laid a hand on the lord’s shoulder. “You did everything you could. I know that; your children know that; everyone else knows that. Sometimes the pain is too great to heal, and naught but Valinor can help.”
Elrond chuckled humourlessly. “Valinor. Is it really that great? Does it really heal?”
The redhead squeezed his shoulder. “It is even greater,” he replied in a low voice. “Celebrían will find peace there, and one day soon you will see her, too. For now you are needed in Middle-earth, but the day will come when you will sail West, too.”
For a long while, Elrond remained expressionless. His eyes had a wet shine to them, but it might have been a trick of the light. Maedhros did not push him. At last, the half-elf mutely put his face into his hands.
Sometimes, living was harder than death. Sometimes, it required more strength to keep going than to surrender. Only when a man’s endurance was tested would it be revealed whether he would march on.
Maedhros had nearly given up once; he had had every intention to do so. But Elrond was different, and so were the circumstances. Decades had worn Maedhros down until he would have chosen a fiery death. Elrond, however, had many more decades to bear, and the half-elf would only temporarily need to search for new strength. He had his children for one. Sauron would be another. Elrond was not like Maedhros, who used hatred as fuel. The half-elf strove on purpose, and with his foresight he knew how important the battle against Sauron was. Not to mention that Elrond had invested too much into it to abandon it now.
At the moment, Elrond was perhaps not thinking of all this. Eventually, however, he would.
Elladan and Elrohir had still not returned. Nearly two months had gone by now since Celebrían’s journey to the havens on which her father and sons had accompanied her while Elrond and Arwen had remained behind. The lady had wanted them all to remain, but she had ultimately given in to Celeborn and the twins begging her.
While Maedhros had stood by Elrond’s side, Maglor had turned to Arwen. Elrond’s daughter had been devastated by the loss of her mother, and the bard had been a great support to her. ‘Daeradar‘ she called him, and she had wept in his arms when she had no longer been able to put on a strong face. The second son of Fëanor loved her as if she was his granddaughter by blood, and regularly played the harp or sang for her.
“Do you think you and your brother will ever sail?” she asked the singer as she gazed up at the stars coming out.
Maglor’s play faltered some, the elf startled by her question, and he ended the song.
“I do not know,” he replied quietly once the last note had faded. He had thought about it many times; he wondered whether they were allowed to return, whether the amnesty granted by the Valar after the War of Wrath had been meant for them, too.
“If you do, you will see mother there, won’t you?”
“We certainly would, yes. And so will you, Arwen.”
She did not answer. Her back was turned to the singer, and he could not tell what she was thinking. He rose from his seat.
“Child? What are you thinking?”
As he came to stand next to her, he took note of her eyes gazing into a distance which had little to do with this sphere.
“I do not believe I will see the Undying Lands myself.” Forestalling any questions, Arwen turned to him and said: “When you sail, promise me that you and Maedhros will look after my parents?”
Maglor swallowed. “Of course, Arwen.”
He did not ask how she came by the knowledge that she would not sail. Both Galadriel’s and thus Celebrían’s and Elrond’s blood was potent. Nor did he attempt to protest against the notion that he and his brother would one day return to Valinor.
She gazed at him. “Don’t tell Ada.”
It burdened his heart, but he nodded. “I won’t,” he promised.
The time came to leave. The sons of Fëanor had done what they could for Elrond and his daughter, but they could not remain forever: Imladris was not their home. While its lord welcomed them, most elves did so only reluctantly, and the brothers valued privacy and quiet. After decades of living with only a handful of people in a humble fortress, they did not enjoy the constant blabber of folk. Moreover, their own human people were ignorant as to the extent of the brothers’ deeds and crimes; in Imladris, there was no one thus blessed.
Maedhros mounted his horse, brushing his right arm against the scabbard of his sword. It had been a long time since he had last used it. He gazed back at Elrond and Arwen, who stood on the stairs to the Last Homely House with Erestor and some others to watch them leave. Maglor was on his horse next to him, and the twelve men who had accompanied them with Barandir as their leader were behind them.
Slowly they rode out of the courtyard. Maedhros considered the humans; they were hardy folk, strong in body and mind and experienced in a fight. Maglor shot him questioning glances, noting that his brother was preoccupied. Maedhros did not take the cue, instead waiting until he was certain that they were out of sight of Elrond’s home.
Pulling the reins, he stopped his horse and turned around in the saddle. To his brother he said in Quenya:
“You need not do this.”
Not awaiting an answer yet, he turned to the men.
“There are too many orcs and goblins in the mountains. I say let’s pay them a visit that they will rue in their nests! I force none to come with me. Return home, if you wish; I will not hold it against you, for death can find us just as well as the orcs.”
Barandir sneered and gripped the hilt of his sword.
“I follow you, my Lord. The dark lord’s creatures will not reign over us!” he exclaimed.
“Aye, they have forgotten a lesson they were taught long ago,” another man cried out. Impassioned, he drew his sword and pointed it at the sky.
The rest of the men quickly followed, roused by their Lord’s and their comrades’ words. It was risky, for Maedhros in particular. It had been many years since he had last set off on such a raid, and his hand was still not fully healed. However, he had considered the risks and thought them worth it. Elladan and Elrohir were in the mountains, and their father missed them.
At his side, Maglor drew his own sword and extended the blade towards him.
“I’m with you brother,” he said solemnly.
Fear for Maglor clutched at his heart only for an instant before joy quelled it, joy at having his brother next to him in this battle.
Maedhros pulled his sword and brought their blades together, giving him a grateful nod. In the end, they both came from the same father and the same mother. Fëanor’s fire lived in all of them, and once it burned, they could raze cities to the ground. The orcs would not soon forget this year.